Hobby horses, giant puppets and a dragon

Waking the dragon at Little Moreton Hall © National Trust

Waking the dragon at Little Moreton Hall

Latest update 26.03.2013 09:32

As the Longest Day approaches in what so far has been a very wet summer, staff and volunteers at Little Moreton Hall are gearing up for a weekend of Midsummer celebrations – Tudor style – as part of the National Trust’s Summer of Celebration.

'Tudor festivals played a major role in 16th-century life' says Rachel Costigan, Little Moreton’s Visitor Experience Officer. 'They gave our Tudor ancestors something to look forward to in their everyday life. Midsummer was a mix of celebrations which took place between St John’s Night and the Feast of St Peter and St Paul. It also marks the Summer Solstice, and was considered by Tudor people to mark the middle of summer, which started on May Day and finished with the first harvest or ‘Lammas’ at the beginning of August.'

At Little Moreton Hall, Trust volunteers have been busily making wreaths for the Midsummer weekend. 'It was traditional to decorate your house – and in particular the front door – with garlands', says Rachel. 'The circular shape of the wreaths suggested both the sun and the cyclical nature of the seasons. Birch and fennel were used, and St John’s Wort, whose yellow flowers, seen as an emblem of the sun, were thought to have magical powers. Fern spores collected at Midsummer, gave you miraculous knowledge and power and could even make you invisible. All herbs were particularly potent under the midsummer sun, so it was a great time for making lotions and medicines.'

Giant puppets and hobby horses went through the streets on ‘Marching Watches’ and throughout June visitors have been making a giant figure of St George and a fabulous green dragon ready for our very own Marching Watch parades over the Midsummer weekend. The origins of the hobby horse go back at least to Medieval times when they were used for jousting practice, and were also thought to bring good luck to festivals.

Traditional music group PIVA will be entertaining us with music from the 16th century and, provided we get some midsummer weather, they’ll also be accompanying our Parades. So get ready to ‘ride’ our hobby horses and join in with a serpent dance around the orchard.

The Tudor Midsummer celebrations take place on Sat 23 and Sun 24 June, 11–4pm.