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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

May,   pp. [unnumbered]-714 PDF (97.6 MB)


Page 576

MAlI-POLES.
THE BOOK
the high-roofed hall of this house,' says he,
*sometime stood a large fir pole, which reached
to the roof thereof,-a pole of forty feet long, and
fifteen inches about, fabled to be the justing
staff of Gerard the Giant.' A carved wooden
figure of this giant, pole in hand, stood over the
gate of this old inn, until March 1832, when the
whole building was demolished for city improve-
ments.
The most renowned London May-pole, and the
latest in existence, was that erected in the
Strand, immediately after the Restoration. Its
history is altogether curious. The Parliament
of 1641 had ordained that ' all and singular May-
poles that are or shall be erected, shall be taken
down,' and had enforced their decree by penalties
that effectually carried out their gloomy desires.
When the populace gave again vent to their
May-day jollity in 1661, they determined on
planting the tallest of these poles in the most
conspicuous part of the Strand, bringing it in
triumph, with drums beating, flags flying, and
music playing, from Scotland Yard to the opening
of Little Drury Lane, opposite Somerset House,
where it was erected, and which lane was after
termed 'May-pole Alley' in consequence. 'That
stately cedar erected in the Strand, 134 feet high,'
as it is glowingly termed by a contemporary
author, was considered as a type of ' golden days'
about to return with the Stuarts. It was raised
by seamen, expressly sent for the purpose by the
Duke of York, and decorated with three gilt
crowns and other enrichments. It is frequently
alluded to by authors. Pope wrote-
'Where the tall May-pole once o'erlooked the Strand.'
Our cut, exhibiting its features a short while
before its demolition, is a portion of a long
print by Vertue representing the procession of
the members of both Houses of Parliament to
St Paul's Cathedral to render thanks for the
Peace of Utrecht, July 7th, 1713.    On this
occasion the London charity children were
ranged on scaffolds, erected on the north side of
576
OF DAYS.                          MAY-POLES.
the Strand, and the cut represents a portion of
one of these scaffolds, terminating at the opening
to Little Drury Lane, and including the pole,
which is surmounted by a globe, and has a long
streamer floating beneath it. Four years after-
wards, this famed pole, having grown old and
decayed, was taken down. Sir Isaac Newton
arranged for its purchase with the parish, and it
was carried to Wanstead, in Essex, and used as
a support to the great telescope (124 feet in
length), which had been presented to the Royal
Society by the French astronomer, M. Hugon.
Its celebrity rendered its memory to be popularly
preserved longer than falls to the lot of such
, tx


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