Bletchingley has had an annual May Queen since before the second world war. The present festival was founded in 1949 in association with the London and Merrie England May Queen Festival, and it has continued as a colourful part of village life ever since.
Who Can Join?
Girls aged between four and nine years of age are eligible to join the Bletchingley May Queen Festival. Since promotion leading eventually to becoming a May Queen is purely by seniority, the younger the better.
How Much Does It Cost?
There is a small annual subscription (currently £15.00 a year). All the costumes are provided free of charge, except for the May Queen herself.
What Does The May Queen Do?
There are only a few events during the year which everyone must attend:
- Dress Fitting: The Festival provides all the costumes free of charge, but it is essential that you attend the fitting on the agreed date to be fitted & collect your costume.
- Crowning Day: this is always the second Saturday in May. The group processes down the High Street to the parish church where the new Queen is crowned. The group then goes walkabout, paying tribute at the War Memorial, and presenting flowers to the elderly residents of the village. They then go to Hayes Common where they take part with many other ‘realms’ in the festivities attending the crowning of the London and Merrie England May Queen.
- BletchingleyVillage Fair: the May Queen processes through the village and assists at the opening of the Fair.
- Remembrance Sunday: the May Queen lays a wreath on the War Memorial.
- Fund raising: because we only have token subscriptions, we rely totally on fund-raising to keep going. To this end we usually try to hold one or two fund-raising events during the course of the year, including running a stall at the Bletchingley Village Fair where participation & help is required from all!
What Happens If I Move Away?
Generally the committee may agree to you remaining in the group, but you must continue to attend May Queen events.
History of the London and Merrie England May Queen Festival
In 1913, Mr. J. Deedy dreamed of a National May Queen Festival. The first world war prevented this, but after the war he revived it on a more local basis for South East London and the villages of Kent and Surrey. He devised the seniority rules which have ensured the stability of the organisation, and it was his idea that each realm should have its own colour and flower for trimming their dresses. Bletchingley’s colour is red, and their flower the polyanthus. He also wrote an elaborate ceremony for the crowning of the London May Queen which has been used ever since.
Who to contact if you are interested?