There were a lot of pious folk complaining about the pastimes of the poor after the Reformation, but Maypoles seem to have been a particular focus for their wrath, though seldom explained why. This is from Thomas Hall, Pastor of King’s Norton, in a pamphlet ‘The Downfall of May Games, published, ironically, in 1660 when such were about to be revived:
Most of these May-poles are stollen; yet they give out that the poles are given to them; when, upon throw examination, ’twill be found that most of them are stollen. There were two May-poles set up in my parish; the one was stollen and the other was given by a protest papist. That which was stollen was said to be given; when it was proved to their faces that it was stollen; and they made to acne owl edge their offence: this pole was rated at 5 shillings. If all the poles, one with another were so rated which were stollen this May, what a considerable sums it would amount to“…
“Flora, hold out thy hand; thou are here invited by he name of Flora, the city of rome in the county of Babylon for that thou, contrary to the peace of our sovereign lord, his corn and dignity, has brought in a pack of practical fanaticks; viz., ignorants, atheists, papists, drunkards, swearers, swash-buckers, maid-marrions, mortice-dancers, maskers, mummers, May-pole stealers, health-drinkers, gamesters, lewd men, right women, contemners of magistrates, affronts of ministers, rebellious to masters, disobedient to parents, misgenders of time and abusers of the creature &c.
I am fascinated by this. Who stole the maypoles, from whom, and what had they been before they were maypoles? I have read that a lot of them were converted to ladders when the celebrations were suppressed, but what were they before? Just trees? Or have we got some complicated system of evolution/re-use here?