October 17, 2021

Midsummer watch parade

Wikipedia tells meIn 1564 the midsummer watch parade included: 4 gyants, 1 unikorne, 1 dromodarye, 1 luce, 1 camell, 1 dragon, 6 hobbyhorses and 16 naked boys. The naked boys have gone into hiding but most of the others are still around at the parade – giants, dragons, camels and dromedaries (the single-humped camel) hobbyhorses (and elephants)… perhaps the luce too, whatever they are…

This is the midsummer watch parade at Chester, a ritual believed to have begun in 1498, with the outstanding features of the show (being) the Giants – enormous structures made of buckram and pasteboard and carried by two or more men. Somewhat disturbingly, the naked boys feature here as well – there were also fantastic giant Beasts including the Unicorn, the Elephant, the Camel and the Dragon. Originally the Dragon was beaten by six naked boys, but this practice was banned in the late 16th century. Thank god for Victorian morality.

Enter the dragon…

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The drummer girl…

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A clown in the audience…


And finally, the fire-eater…


And so it happened that I set out for Wales bright and early one Saturday morning in June. But British weather being what it is – viz. the only unpredictable thing about the country, the day got progressively duller and I found myself in Chester instead. Chester is a pretty town close to the Wales border, one of the several towns the Romans marched through, leaving behind them walls and wells for the later-day Britons to convert into brown-boarded sights of attraction for unsuspecting tourists. Also scattered through the town are original Tudor style buildings, with their stark black and whites and sharp angles.

The cathedral is a must-visit; the records show a church on that spot since the early tenth century (907) though this cathedral with its magnificent stained glass windows was built sometime around 1092.

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The best way to see Chester is by walking around; the Roman walls stretch through the town for miles and miles and the walk along the river Dee is also the perfect way to spend a pleasant afternoon. Alternatively, take a boat ride lasting from half an hour to a few hours on the Dee, also taking in nearby towns and the picture-perfect English countryside which always inspires a sense of deja-vu in the foreign visitor; I mean, come, on, did you really ever expect to see daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze? or fat sheep grazing away on emerald green meadows along the road?

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Although Chester is not compelling enough for you to visit if you only have a few days in hand, I would recommend it if you are around the area anyway. If Roman ruins do not attract you, remember, Chester is the only place where you find a road-side shack selling fried Mars bars. Now, if you find that a reason to stay away, don’t blame me – I liked Chester.

[Chester photographs on flickr]

3 thoughts on “Midsummer watch parade

  1. Lovely, lovely! How much beauty is tucked away in tiny places… On an aside, I was surprised to see the Cathedral at Chester – I have an almost similar snap. but of the Conciergerie palace at Paris!

  2. How awesome to see pictures and read about someone discovering our parade. 🙂 Im glad you liked it. Though, as a 17yr old girl i rather disagree about the naked boys.

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