When: 21st June 2014
Where: Appleton Thorn, Cheshire
What is it?
Appleton Thorn is the only village in England where the annual Bawming of the Thorn ceremony takes place. A traditional custom that was revived in 1973, the ‘bawming’ or decorating of the village thorn tree with flowers and ribbons takes place every June. The Bawming of the Thorn ceremony is accompanied by singing, dancing and a parade.
Legend has it that the thorn tree, which stands beside the church, is an offshoot of the Glastonbury Thorn. The bawming event is said to date back to when landowner Adam de Dutton brought back the thorn cutting in the 12th century. The Glastonbury Thorn is a form of Common Hawthorn and flowers twice a year. According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea visited Glastonbury with the Holy Grail and thrust his staff into Wearyall Hill. This is said to have then grown into a thorn tree.
Bawming means decorating with flowers and ribbons. The Appleton Thorn tree is adorned each year, whilst local school children dance and sing The Bawming Song. Below are the traditional lyrics to the song:
The Maypole in spring merry maidens adorn,
Our midsummer May-Day means Bawming the Thorn.
On her garlanded throne sits the May Queen alone,
Here each Appleton lad has a Queen of his own
Up with fresh garlands this Midsummer morn,
Up with red ribbons on Appleton Thorn.
Come lasses and lads to the Thorn Tree today
To Bawm it and shout as ye Bawm it, Hooray!
The oak in its strength is the pride of the wood,
The birch bears a twig that made naughty boys good,
But there grows not a tree which in splendour can vie
With our thorn tree when Bawmed in the month of July.
Kissing under the rose is when nobody sees,
You may under the mistletoe kiss when you please;
But no kiss can be sweet as that stolen one be
Which is snatched from a sweetheart when Bawming the Tree.
Ye Appleton Lads I can promise you this;
When her lips you have pressed with a true lover’s kiss,
Woo’ed her and won her and made her your bride
Thenceforth shall she ne’er be a thorn in your side.
So long as this Thorn Tree o’ershadows the ground
May sweethearts to Bawm it in plenty be found.
And a thousand years hence when tis gone and is dead
May there stand here a Thorn to be Bawmed in its stead.
Watch coverage of the Bawming of the Thorn ceremony at Appleton Thorn, featuring short interviews with local historian Mark Olly and organiser Nora Carlin from Arleys Angels.
More info: www.appletonthorn.org.uk/bawming-day