Monday, May 2, 2016

18C May Day celebration at Weybridge near London

This painting is a copy of a painted wooden overmantle, possibly showing the village of Weybridge c 1699-1801. In 1571, commissioners were appointed to report on the condition of the bridge across the Wey. They stated that for some years it had been so decayed as to be "unsafe for passengers, and that it was now ruinous...if the queen (Elizabeth I of England) should be at her house at Oatlands and the waters should rise, 'as often they do,' she could not pass to her forest to hunt."  It was accordingly ordered that a new bridge – a horse-bridge like the last – should be built, wood being used for its construction, as stonework would be too costly. The expense was to be born by the queen, as the land on either side belonged to her.  In this painting, many figures in 18C costume are depicted dancing around a painted wooden maypole. The painting is alleged to show the maypole set up on near the Ship Inn with the High Street in background.  Until the late 18C, Weybridge was as a very small village with a river crossing, seed milling to make flour & nurseries which would continue to provide the major source of home-grown income for the village until the 20C.

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