The first time I visited the hamlet village of Nun Monkton, 8 miles NWW (not “8 miles north”, as wikipedia currently cites it) of York was by accident, during quite a dark period of our family history. This morning, after a pawing over maps in bed for a while, looking for something interesting to visit, partially influenced by a requirement to go to the York Designer* Outlet for school shoes from Clarks for the kids, we packed a lunch and set out to revisit somewhere I’d always earmarked as a ‘must go back for an explore there someday’ destination.
When we got there, we parked out of the village and walked in (as per the request of local signs politely requesting ‘no parking on the green’, which seems to be utterly respected and upheld by the locals, so when in Rome..). The first two things that strike you are – the massive Maypole, and the quintessentially English, village green complete with resplendent chocolate box duck pond. We headed straight for the Maypole before winding our way around various public right of way paths out of the village. Foals, orchards, blobby hedges, an ancient looking steam roller, lots of different types of cattle and a strange almost total lack of people (given the acreage of the place) were the main things I observed (or didn’t as the case may be).
Fellow ‘map heads’ will note (here’s a link to the Bing map, which I use because of it’s got a full UK Ordinance Survey 1:25000 built in), a couple of interesting features. Firstly, there are very few contour lines – it’s very flat. It’s nestled in the western edge of the Vale of York, and secondly, it is situated at the confluence of two major Yorkshire rivers – the River Nidd and the River Ouse. This looked fairly fascinating in top down on the map, I wanted to see it in elevation mode. Here’s how it looked.
Like many of the blog posts I write, I often research the subject (believe it or not) and piece things together things to make ‘a story’ from various sources of information. Aside from factoids like Nun Monkton has reportedly got the tallest Maypole in England, measuring 27m, and, The novelist Anne Brontë used to teach the rector’s children in Nun Monkton there’s one story that stands out…
The story of Rising Peter
A now defunct (sadly) for the past 130 years tradition, used to take place each year on St. Peter’s Day; June 29th. Manifest as what seemed like a week long party, punctuated at either end by first the digging up of an effigy of St. Peter, “clothed in a fantastic fashion ” (wrote a Daily Herald correspondent in 1868) then parading him around before displaying him in the pub for a week. At the end of the week, (of feasting, and frolics, by the sound of it) there was a further parade which culminated in the re burying of St Peter. “Dancing, sports, and suppers took place in the village every day while the Feast lasted and the young men went through the Village with large baskets for the purpose of collecting tarts and cheese cakes and eggs for mulled ale, all being consumed at the above ceremonies” and at the big festival closing party, no doubt. There was also rumor of ‘dancing in a barn’, and ‘assembling fiddlers and players on other instruments that could be mustered’.
This was all far too much fun for one vicar who accused it of being a pagan survival and stopped some when before 1868. (I didn’t think the Daily Mail was in circulation back then either). I for one think the termination of this festival, a bit of a shame. I think the people of Nun Monkton should bring back the annual festival, bring back the quirky folk of old. Bring back the St. Peter.
It did make me think.. I wonder if the statue of St Peter is still interred there, somewhere, under the green…. A project for a local historian and a bunch of kids with well guided shovels, just waiting to happen.
*As an aside – the phrase ‘designer’ as in ‘designer glasses’ and ‘designer outlet’ bugs me. Are we saying that if your spectacles are not ‘designer’ then a designer was not employed in the making of the aforementioned ocular enhancements? Did they just randomly form in to existence without any of the human process we call design? All glasses have surely had input from a designer (is my point). Anyhoo.