BOOK ROCHESTER HOTELS

Join in

Send page to a friend

6339 views since 13th April 2007

Featured Destination

September 2019: Autumn in the Southern Chilterns

We feel an autumn break should be about embracing the beauty of the season rather than trying to escape it in the search for year-round ...More
More Uk destinations

Events in Kent

Rochester Sweeps

An event in May in Kent
Rochester
Kent
| Update this listing
write a review | more events | add an event

for Rochester Sweeps as your favourite British event.

Mayday is celebrated in a multitude of ways in Britain, often with obvious links to pagan times. Such was the Sweeps’ Festival held for years in Rochester until Victorian prudery saw it end. Men who had spent most of the year in dark and dirty work were out in the light, bringing a giant figure covered in greenery into the town, not the subtlest of imagery. Happily the event was revived in the town in the 1980s. The current festival is a five day celebration of folk traditions, the biggest Morris dancing event of the year. The original lasted just the one day, traditionally the sole day of rest for the always-in-demand chimney sweeps. The rarity of leisure time meant they were hell-bent on enjoying it and not in a sedate manner either. The climbing boys, the poor lads who had to crawl through dirty chimneys to clean them, would begin at dawn (as is the custom with the current festival), awakening the Jack-in-the-Green, a figure of great stature bedecked in greenery to symbolise the new growth of the fresh spring. That it should be sweeps ushering in new growth is doubly significant, they were regarded as lucky in part because their work ushered in freshness to the houses whose chimneys they cleaned, just as May heralded the freshness of summer. Making garlands for May Day was a great English tradition, and it is said that the trade guilds in London competed to create the most spectacular, with the sweeps renowned for their version covering a man from head to toe, rather than the delicate head-dresses their rivals produced. The youngsters in the older version of the festival would dance and drink plenty of beer, another aspect of the tradition Morris Men are keen to devote themselves to, behaviour that was frowned on in staid Victorian times. When in 1868 legislation was passed to outlaw the use of children up chimneys there were suddenly fewer boys to dance and to accompany Jack-in-the-Green, so the various sweeps’ festivals around the country died out before the end of the century. The modern day Sweeps’ Festival in Rochester retains the awakening of the Jack-in-the-Green, has a sweeps’ ball, and a sweeps’ parade, with real chimney sweeps and children dressed like them taking part. A further aspect of the celebrations that outraged Victorians was that sweeps were keen to remind ladies that it is good luck to meet them, and better to give them a kiss, yet another aspect modern participants are happy to continue. The Rochester festival is a good way to see British folk customs in action, and to hear folk music in the pubs and on the street. Long may it continue.

If you have been to this event in the past please review it for us here

More Events in Kent in October

Halloween Horrors, Chatham

Wrotham Fireworks, Wrotham Cricket Ground, Wrotham

Half Term Fun, The Hop Farm Country Park, Paddock Wood

Apple Weekend, Kent Life, Maidstone

Insect Week, Kent Wildlife Trust, Maidstone

Canterbury Festival, Various venues, Canterbury

Autumn Glory Festival, Leeds Castle, Maidstone

Terrible Tales!, The Canterbury Tales, Canterbury

National Fruit Show, Kent County Showground, Detling

Brogdale Farm Apple Festival, Brogdale Farm, Faversham

Apple & Cider Fayre , Kent Life, Maidstone

Tenterden Folk Festival, Tenterden

Annual Apple Fayre, Perry Court Farm, Ashford

Faversham Carnival, Recreation Ground, Faversham

Apple & Cider Festival, Museum of Kent Life, Maidstone

Brit Quote:
There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them - George Orwell
More Quotes

On this day:
First Manned Balloon Flight - 1783, The Great Storm - 1987, Andy Green breaks sound barrier on land - 1997
More dates from British history

click here to view all the British counties

County Pages