Have a look on YouTube at the excellent video of the St Neot Oak Apple Day celebrations here in the village. This very good film has been done Pip Critten from St Budeaux Devon
There are a number of other Oak Apple Day videos on view by the side of this film on Youtube.
The Oak Apple Day celebration was started in 1660 when King Charles II was invited back as our King after 11 years of “Puritan” rule by Cromwell and his son (1649 - 1660). During that period no singing, dancing, theatre or any public frivolity including colourful fashionable clothes was allowed! Imagine that in today’s society. The King entered London on his 30th birthday and this day was fixed as a holiday. He was not actually crowned until 23rd April 1661. It is called Oak Apple Day to commemorate the King’s successful evasion of the Roundheads by hiding in an Oak Tree.
The 29th May was one of the few public holidays the majority of ordinary working people had as relief from continual 7 days toil per week! This public holiday lasted from 1660 to 1859. The day is still celebrated in a very few villages in the country.
Jill Thomas has recently found records in the Church Wardens accounts. This takes the origins of the event back to at least 1694.
As can be seen Oak Apple Day was celebrated by ringing the bells in the church. See last line in above image, this entry is in the Church Wardens Accounts for 1800.
St Neot Historians are continuing their research into the heritage of the custom of the Oak Apple Day celebrations. The Church Wardens accounts provide useful evidence of the longevity of the event. See the chart below I have produced from studying the books.
In the 1893 “Frith” postcard of the Village Church an Oak Bough can clearly be seen on top of the tower proving the continuation of the custom here in St Neot. Try Googling "Oak Apple Day” and see what comes up.
There is a very comprehensive collection of "Frith" postcards available to buy online at www.francifrith.com
The photo below shows Jack Cawrse, Eric Bunt, Russell Rowe and Joe Bunt carrying the Oak Bough to the Church. If you are reasonably sure of the exact date of this photo please let us know.
There are still residents of St Neot who wear a sprig of “red” oak in the morning and after midday wear a small sprig of “Boys Love” sometimes called “Lads Love” and by Herbalists “Southernwood”, its Latin name is Artemisia Abrotanum. If you don’t wear these sprigs, you used to risk, as a punishment, being stung by nettles! Centuries ago Boys Love was hidden in bouquets of flowers that boys gave to their sweethearts as it was believed to increase virility, sometimes also put under maidens pillows for the same effect, hence the name!
The Ceremony in St Neot
Our St Neot ceremony starts with a procession through the village by the Vicar Andrew Balfour carrying the Cross followed by the Tower Captain Andrew Bunt carrying the Oak Bough. Many villagers and visitors follow passing the village Institute, crossing the medieval bridge over the Loveny going up the main street past the Cott Barn Resource Centre and the London Inn to the Church. At the Church just by the Tower, William Taylor recounts the story and history of the ceremony to the assembled crowd.
Weather permitting quite a crowd gather to watch the event.
Blessing the Oak Bough
After the story the old Oak bough is thrown from the top of the Tower by the Captain and after blessing the new bough, it is hauled up by villagers and when it reaches near to the top by the Tower Captain. After this everyone is invited to the vicarage grounds where a barbecue and other refreshments are available.
Tower Captain hauling the new bough up the last few feet.
This year (2013) a Heritage Lottery Fund grant has been obtained to provide period costumes, food and music to entertain the public. During the month of May many of the clubs and organisation and individuals will record and archive this event and other happenings in the village to preserve the tradition for the future. We have purchased equipment to digitise and store this heritage for future generations to enjoy.
CAN YOU HELP?
Do you know anyone in this photo, if you do can you date the photo? The procession is passing the Vicarage entrance oposite Dye House Cottages.
Vesting Day Celebrations at Cott Barn
Click here to view photos
There was a “Vesting Day” on the 22nd June when all of the 30+ organisations wishing to lodge documents and digitised copies of their May recordings in the St Neot Archive brought their box to the Archive room in Cott Barn. We made an event of this presentation. Each organisation have their own box for storage of the records they want kept. This is a village archive for the whole of St Neot and Warleggan/Mount.
There will be free sessions for those who want to learn to scan and copy their organisations documents for digitisation, again this is covered by the grant.
Subsequently further documents may be stored by the organisations in their own boxes. As this storage facility will be in the village archive there will be public access to this material for future study and reference. The St Neot Local Historians and the Digital Camera Club have made their equipment available for the whole community to use under supervision.
The St Neot Archive Room has large screen TV for displaying your images and for use in exhibitions and for small groups interested in local history. A lot of cataloguing, digitising and database input has already been undertaken and at the present is continuing, this is being carried out by Isobel Harvey, Maggie Smith, Barbara and Chris Timms; all of this can be viewed on the screen.
Have you heard the song "Shick Shack" by The Straw Horses, listen to the words.