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The annual Kilburn Feast, which originated hundreds of years ago, takes place on the weekend with the first Sunday after July 6th, in one of the prettiest villages in North Yorkshire, England. 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.  It started on the Saturday after July 6th.  Formerly, on the Saturday, 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.

Kilburn Feast Background

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.