May Ladying at Robert Arkenstall School, Haddenham

Mary Humphreys

Decorated boxes for May Ladying
Mary Humphreys
May Ladying at Haddenham
Mary Humphreys

Pupils in Comet class were told about the old tradition of May Ladying that use to occur in Haddenham and other villages in Cambridgeshire until the 1950s. The folklorist Mabel Demaine described the custom on a recording made in 1978, which is available in the Cambridgeshire Archives. She used to come into Robert Arkenstall Primary school to talk to the children about local customs, and is pictured on the Haddenham and Aldreth local history website.

Decorating boxes

Children used to get their favourite doll, put it in a box and decorate the box with flowers and anything else that came to hand. The box was then covered over. The children went out and knocked on neighbours’ doors and asked for pennies to take the covers off their dolls. They would spend the money on treats and sweeets. This tradition died out but Haddenham pupils revived the decorated boxes in February 2014 – a little early, but in plenty of time to practice for May Day. Pictured are some of the decorated boxes.

See also