Castleton Customs

This village is mainly known for the spectacular annual event which is Christmas at Castleton, but there are also lots of other little time honoured rituals, special events which take place in a manner which you would expect from a place of such tradition and heritage.

Oak Apple day is a special day in the Castleton calendar, a national holiday celebrated in England every year on 29th May to commemorate the restoration of the monarchy in Great Britain and Ireland, which occurred in May 1660. Often called Shick Shack day or Arbour Day, it is to celebrate the return to the throne of Charles II.

Parliament declared this day a public holiday in 1660, saying,’ Parliament has ordered 29 May, the King’s birthday, to be forever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the Kings return to his government,  entering London that day.’

The celebrations which honoured the event entail the people of the village wearing oak apples, which were a type of plant gall, also known in some parts of the country as a Shick Shack, hence the alternative name. Sprigs of oak leaves were worn in reference after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, when the future Charles II escaped the Roundhead Army by hiding in an oak tree near Boscable House.

Castleton commemorates the holiday every single year, one of the select few places that still do. The ancient Castleton ceremony of garlanding takes place, a day of huge colour and a fun one, a time of pageantry with people dressing up in Stuart fashions or choosing to dress as a king or queen for the day. A huge garland of wildflowers is created and the Castleton ‘Garland King and Queen’ parade around the village on horseback, leading a procession through the village with dancing and singing with everyone officially welcoming the summer. Oak apple day traditionally celebrates the pagan rite for the symbolic ending of winter.

The Garland is approximately 3 feet high and made from a wooden frame, wound with string with bunches of wild flowers and leaves attached for the King. The Queen has a tiny wreath called the ‘Queen’, made from garden flowers and put on the top. The King is draped in the Garland, which will raise approximately 56lbs and is hurled ceremoniously onto the shoulders of the King for the day at the beginning of the ceremony, covering from the waist up. Starting off from the Cheshire Cheese Inn, the couple trek through Castleton, stopping off at every pub. Castleton schoolchildren dress up and dance for the occasion.

The final destination is the main square in Castleton, when the tour of the village has been completed, complemented by a procession and a live band and the King is then relieved of the garland which is placed on top of the tower, where it is left to naturally wither and die. The Queen’s wreath is placed around the Castleton War Memorial and in the Castleton marketplace. There is Morris dancing and singing, followed by a lot of drinking and festivities capping off a very enjoyable family day out.

Castleton Museum contains a display of Garland memorabilia which includes an outfit worn by a King 200 years ago.