An April custom: St George’s Day

by Ross Parish 

St George’s Day nationwide appears to be having a comeback and Nottinghamshire has shown that it too is supporting this tradition. According to a correspondent of the NFWI states that at Ranby where a Mr Mason, went to the local school and tell the story of St. George and the Dragon. In Saint John’s School Mansfield St George’s Day was observed:

“1925 Today by St. George’s Day, the flag had been hoisted out the commencement of ….so our visitor (Mr J. E. Davis from Australia originally Bulwell) had the pleasure of seeing it flying in the breeze invitingly on his arrival to the playground.”

Nottingham St Peter’s Church is reported to have had a St. George’s Day sermon endowed in the 1950s, however upon investigation there appears to be no record of its foundation and of course it has not survived.  In Newark in the 1920s it appears that the Lord Mayor would attend a special service of remembrance on St. George’s Day but this surprisingly considering the survival of similar customs in the town has died out.

The most obvious manifestation of the celebration of the feast has been processions. Before the 2000s these appear to be mainly undertaken by the scouting movement and a number of processions are recorded. The biggest of which would that at Southwell. Undertaken on the Sunday nearest, 100s if not 1000s of Scouts, Cubs, Beavers and Explorers attend with Brownies and Guides also. Assembling at the Burbage the collected group is quite impressive and their parade from there around the town and to the Minster is similarly striking – all of Southwell lines the street to see the colourful spectacle. The packed service at the Minster is the opportunity for them to renew their pledges and includes awards and recognition of its members. In Nottingham until 2006, a similar parade was the city’s only recognition. Scouts still parade on the nearest weekend, but firmly affixed to the day is a very colourful St George’s Day procession headed by St. George and other knights on horseback and a dragon, followed by St George’s groups. Associated events are have been medieval market and bands in the market square.

Started the same year, is the very colourful modern tradition established at Ollerton by the village’s Residents Association and a later established St. George’s Day celebration Group on the Sunday nearest. The first year included amongst other aspects stalls, jugglers, sword dancers and a play called ‘An Ollerton Romp’ in a village fete, subsequent years have included St George on his horse, knights and large dragon parading through the street. The day ends with a battle between the Knights, and the burning of the dragon. Recently all stall holders dress in medieval themed costumes and themes for the parade have been introduced and Rattlejag and Forester Morris have been involved.

This is undertaken by the CRaPPPs as a new initiative to celebrate the day, although it is also enacted at Southwell on the Gate to Southwell in June. It was constructed from existing St. George’s Play texts with additional text and characters from their Calverton Plough Play. It was first performed on the 23rd April at the Gleaners, Calverton in 2012 and has been performed around Blidworth and Woodborough at the following weekend.

Unlike other calendar customs which could be seen in decline, St George’s Day observations are doing the opposite. Their revival and invention shows that calendar customs are still a desirable occupation for communities and their residents.

Ross is still continuing to compile the definitive guide to calendar customs and traditions of the county for publication this year!


St George’s Day Celebrations at Southwell, Nottinghamshire- Photo Credit: RB Parish.

st george ollerton

St George’s Day Celebrations at Ollerton, Nottinghamshire- Photo Credit: RB Parish.


St George’s Day Celebrations in Nottingham’s Old Market Square- Photo Credit: RB Parish.


Calverton Mummers Performing the St George’s Play, Calverton, Nottinghamshire- Photo Credit: RB Parish.


Calverton Mummers Performing the St George’s Play, Calverton, Nottinghamshire- Photo Credit: RB Parish.


About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
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