Please note that due to the uncertainties posed by COVID-19 the decision has been made NOT to plan a Kilburn Feast for 2021. We hope to re-start in 2022.
Kilburn Feast Chairman
The annual Kilburn Feast, which originated hundreds of years ago, takes place on the Sunday after July 6th, which in the Old Style Calendar (succeeded by the New Style in 1752) is June 24th, St. John Baptist's Day, Midsummer, and in the past lasted up to four days; Saturday to Tuesday. The student of folklore may find that essential elements of the Feast are a compound of winter, spring and midsummer fertility rites dating back to the dawn of history (Ref. 2).
It is famous for its Lord Mayor and "Lady" Mayoress and for being a traditional family-fun village fete.
Kilburn Feast Background
The Lord Mayor, appointed for just one day, tours the village in top hat and sash of office, accompanied by the “Lady” Mayoress (a young man in female clothing and makeup). Proclaiming his authority, he also inflicts small fines on householders and visitors alike for any misdemeanour, real or invented. The Feast has evolved and changed over the years and now includes a renowned 7-mile road race, a duck race and stalls and games.
All funds raised go to support local charities.
Kilburn Feast has existed from time immemorial. Historically it started on the Saturday during which the men played quoits in the Square and children ran races in the cricket field. On the Sunday there was an open air service in the Square. On the Monday evening there was horse trotting and later, sulky (two-wheeled carriage) and motor-cycle races around the cricket field, the evening ending in a dance at the village hall. On the Tuesday, celebrations were of a local nature and enshrined the most ancient features of the Feast.
The Lord Mayor, accompanied by the “Lady” Mayoress, toured the village proclaiming his authority for a year and a day, inflicting small fines on householders for the poor state of their gardens. Buns and tarts were collected from the householders and these were taken to the Forresters Arms for the merrymaking later.
Meanwhile, the Mayoress was very active chasing the females and kissing all he could embrace. The Feast ended, naturally, at the Forresters Arms, where the landlord was appropriately fined a barrel of beer. The merrymaking continued with the singing of a strange song about Old Grimy, to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Free beer from the barrel was available to all, and the final of the quoits match ended the Feast.
It survives as one of the most significant events in the life of the Kilburn Villagers.
Looking back to the Millennium Feast you will see that little has really changed in the last 20 to 30 years……………
Kilburn Feast 2000
A game of rounders, fifty or so local people cheering 200 plastic ducks down the beck, betting on six 'mice' being propelled across a wooden board, and driving to various local pubs to collect playing cards for a hand of poker, may be a far cry from the thousands flocking to the cricket field to watch anything from motor cycles, greyhounds and racing sulkies, to carthorses competing in musical chairs, or women chasing cockerels, but some elements of Kilburn Feast still remain after many, many years.
Although, with the exception of the outdoor service; which may be surprising in these days of falling church attendances, it is these very traditional aspects of the Feast which are proving most difficult to continue into this century. There are almost insufficient numbers of children to make the 'Sports' viable, and the quoits was only saved at the last minute after no-one with the knowledge was prepared to run it, but it is the event which gives the Feast its quaint uniqueness which is the one most likely to prove its downfall. Without the Lord Mayor's Parade, the Feast becomes almost pointless, and tradition dictates that the Lord Mayor's Lady Mayoress is a young man of the village; unfortunately, whilst there are several young men living in present day Kilburn, none of them has the courage to put a frock on.
It is the custom that the Lord Mayor, resplendent in top hat and frock coat, is empowered to tour the village in his man-pulled carriage lavishly decorated in flowers of all sorts in order to extract fines from villagers and passers-by. He fines the landlord a barrel of ale, which duly appears and is consumed by the throng. Meanwhile the Lady Mayoress, heavily made up in lipstick, is chasing the ladies of the village in order to deliver the seal of her approval. Both of them dispense sweets for the children as they ride the high street. In terms of general amusement the Feast hardly gets on the first rung of the ladder, but in these days of housing estates and boxed entertainment we are surely privileged to live in a village that can boast a tradition which has existed 'from time immemorial' and if, in the process of organising a couple of days local fun, £600 can be raised for good causes in our area, such as preserving the White Horse, Vale watch, Hospitals, and the Sunday School, it must be worthwhile.
An Address given by the Revd. L F Petter, Vicar of Kilburn 1955-70 at the open-air Kilburn Feast Service, Sunday July 12th 1970
We all know that our Feast has a very long pedigree, however, much it may have altered in detail over the centuries, but I doubt if many realise its original significance. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that it is a combination of elements derived from celebrations at various seasons, coming to a climax at Midsummer.
Note that it starts on the Saturday following July 6th: July 6th in the Old-Style Calendar until 1752 was June 24th, St. John the Baptist's day, Midsummer Day
As Nature seemed to die and was mourned at Midwinter, so her re-birth in Spring and flourishing at Midsummer has always been celebrated with rejoicing “Thou shalt rejoice in thy feast". I am certain that the essential and basic features of the Feast trace back to the fertility rites common in ancient times (which go back, in fact, to the very dawn of Man's history thousands of years ago). Fertility rites designed to secure from the always fickle 'gods' favourable weather, strong flocks and herds, and abundant harvests.
So, the Feast emphasises the age-old link between religion and the land.
The 'Lord Mayor' is the representative, however heavily disguised, of the old god of Peace and Plenty, who in the Christian Middle Ages reappears as the Mock King or the Lord of Misrule.
The 'Lady Mayoress' likewise represents the old Earth Goddess, who in the Middle Ages reappears, among other guises, as the May Queen.
Festivals like this, varying in detail from age to age and from place to place, used to be observed with the greatest enthusiasm in almost every village in England. Many have now disappeared; many have sadly degenerated, so it is all the more important to maintain a Feast such as Kilburn's.
For it gives identity, personality and distinctiveness to the village and its inhabitants: it helps us to keep up some of the old ways in a sturdy independent spirit., and we've got to work hard today to preserve our personality and independence. So "Thou shalt rejoice in thy feast"
The Feast is Kilburn's oldest public observance; the Church set in the centre of the village is our oldest public building, where for eight centuries at least the Will and the Word of the True God, the All Father, have been set forth, where our village forefathers were taught how to live their earthly life (so often, as the elders here can testify, rough, hard and precarious), and where they learned to prepare for the life beyond. May the old Church still help us in these things today.
May you always appreciate and preserve your heritage in this lovely place. Long may Kilburn flourish as the best kind of English village, holding to the best of the old ways, keeping the Feast year by year.