Anyone who misnamed them (/.^., called them by their real names) had to forfeit a shilling, or else be carried behind the lady, shoulder high on the wooden horse, round the May Pole. If they still refused to pay the forfeit, their hats were taken in lieu of pay- ment. Many University men would come over from Oxford to ride the wooden horse for the fun of the thing, and frequent fights took place between them and the morrice-dancers when they would not pay forfeit.
The great day of the Feast was Whit Sunday, when crowds would come in to Woodstock from the villages round about.
It was said that if the Feast were not kept up, a turnpike could be put up across the road from Woodstock to Bladon, and this — so I am told — was done when the Feast was discontinued.
The last May Pole was put up some fifty-five years ago, and after remaining up for twelve months or more was bought by a Mr. HoUoway, of Woodstock, as a relic ; but the yeomanry being in the town pulled it down one night and destroyed it.
[After the above was written, I found in Mr. A. Ballard's Chronicles of the Royal Borough of Woodstock (Oxford, 1896), p. 80, a short account of the Whitsun Ale which agrees almost exactly with my own. Mr. Ballard adds that the wooden horse was known as " My lady's palfrey," and that the same penalty was inflicted on anyone who miscalled it as on those who miscalled the "■ parrot" and the " nut-crackers." He also quotes an entry from the Corporation Accounts of 1614 : "given to EUinor Collins our Whitsuntide lady, one apron cloth by the Mayor's appointment."
I take the following from Confessiofis of an Oxonian, by Thomas Little (3 vols. 8vo, 1826), vol. i., pp. 169-73. The Oxonian is walking one evening in Blenheim Park :
" I was suddenly roused from my reflections by the sound of tabors, flutes, pipes, tambourines, and fiddles, mingled with shouts of merriment and rustic songs, all indicative of glee and rural festivity ; and having now passed the gates of the park, I was able to discern the quarter whence the sounds of this merrymaking proceeded. On inquiry, I learned from an honest, chubby-looking clod-pole, that the present occasion was one of no small import- ance in the vicinity of Woodstock, since it recurred once only in the space of seven long years ; that the period of its celebration was always at Whitsuntide, and that it was denominated by the ancient appellation of an ale.