Ickwell May Queen

May Day is a traditional event that dates back to ancient times when Romans celebrated the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring and when Celtic people celebrated the festival of Beltane to mark the halfway point between spring and summer. May Day customs include  Morris dancing and dancing around the maypole.

In Ickwell, Bedfordshire, the first documented account of celebrating May Day in the Parish of Northill can be found in the Church Wardens’ Accounts of c1565.   Payments are listed for the purchase of shoes for the dancers, of bells for the shoes, food and drink.  Payments were also made to various people for their paynes (efforts) and to mysnstrells.  

Ickwell May Queen, 1951

In 1951, my mum’s cousin Pat Smith was Ickwell May Queen. Her picture appeared in the Biggleswade Chronicle, where it was written she had been chosen to be May Queen by her school friends.

Biggleswade Chronicle 11 May 1951.
Biggleswade Chronicle, 11 May 1951.

A further article appeared in the Biggleswade Chronicle on 25 May 1951. It describes the murmur of the crowds, the steady beat of the drums and the sound of bugles in the distance, the humming bees and the fragrant horse chestnut trees and the sound of leather hitting the willow as spectators watched a cricket match.  It was reported that apple trees laden with blossom, against a backdrop of old world cottages, provided a perfect setting for May Day activities. 

The Queen led by her loyal subjects was led by the band of the Corps of Drums and as a company of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment arrived, the Queen surrounded by her attendants, sat on a flower bedecked throne drawn by a gaily decorated tractor.  The traditional song ‘Oh lovely, lovely, May’ was sung and hand bells were rung by Mr W Wagstaff. Then the ceremony of crowning the Queen was performed by Betty Lloyd, the previous years Queen, who placed a crown of flowers on the new Queens head and presentations of a garland of flowers and a sceptre were made.

As music struck up, girls dressed as may flowers, skipped over the buttercup-studded grass to the may pole, curtsied to the Queen and then formed a Guard of Honour.  Later the Queen, with  her Pages and Maids of Honour holding her long gold and green train, paraded around the arena before the Queen returned to her throne to graciously watch the proceedings. 

Modern day Ickwell

While May Day is still celebrated across Britain, what may well be unique to Ickwell is that they have a team of adults, ‘the Old Scholars’, who dance around the maypole too.  Almost without exception they are former pupils of the village school and some of them have children and even grandchildren also performing on the day. And in May 2020, fifty former May Queens attended Ickwell May Day celebrations.  The presentation of the locket to the May Queen 2000, Stephanie Turner was made by Mrs Vera Randall (nee Wagstaff), who had been May Queen in 1920.  

Further information 

Walter Abram

Walter Abram was born in  1896 in Northamptonshire. The 1891 census shows him living at 75, Lower Hester Street, Northampton, Kingsthorpe and the 1901 census, aged 14 at Station Road, Earl’s Barton. His occupation is shown as a shoe machine operative.

Northampton Mercury: 21 July 1916

In July 1916 a piece appeared in the Northampton Mercury which records that Walter had written to my great great grandparents advising he was in hospital at Didsbury suffering from shell shock, having enlisted in in 1914 and going to France in 1915.  

Walter and Mabel.

I believe that Walter married his wife Mabel in 1920 and on the 1939 register they can be found living together at Rusholme Northampton Road, Earl’s Barton. Walter’s occupation is recorded as a puller over in the boot trade.





William Abram

William Abram was born in All Saints, Northamptonshire in 1888.  The 1891 census shows him aged three living at Great Holme Street, Leicester, aged 13 at 75, Lower Hester Street, Northampton, Kingsthorpe and aged 23 at Station Road, Earl’s Barton.

William Abram

Alice Abram

In 1939, William can be found living at 50 Doddington Road, Earl’s Barton, married to Alice C Abram. His occupation is given as a console master (boot trade).







Amelia A Abram was born in Northampton in 1884.   The 1891 census shows her aged seven at Great Holme Street, Leicester.  Aged 17, she can be found on the 1901 census at 75, Lower Hester Street, Northampton working as a shoe fitter and aged 27 an Amelia Ann Abram can be found boarding at 43 Stanley Road, Northampton, Dallington St James.

Francis George Abram

Francis G Abram was born in Northampton in 1881.   The census for that year shows him aged less than one year old, at 12, William Street, Northampton St Sepulchre, Northampton.

In 1891 the family can be found at Great Holme Street, Leicester and it now includes my great grandfather Joseph Charles, Amelia A, Theresa, William and Albert V.  I have been unable to find Francis on the 1901 census but the 1911 census records a Francis George Abram living at 27 Lawrence Street, Northampton.  Now aged 30 he is married to Annie Elizabeth who was born in London. Her occupation is given as Hotters Furrier. The couple have two children, a son named George Thomas and a daughter named Gladys Kate. 

The 1939 register shows Francis and Annie living at 84 Northcote Street, Nothampton.  Francis is recorded as a builders labourer (heavy worker) and Annie is recorded as undertaking unpaid domestic duties.

Albert Victor Abram

Albert V Abram was born in Leicester in 1891.   The census for that year shows him aged less than one year old, at Great Holme Street, Leicester.

Albert Abram with Kit, Gwen and Sonny.

In 1901 the family can be found at 75, Lower Hester Street, Northampton, Kingsthorpe where Albert, aged ten, is living with eight brothers and sisters.  In 1911, aged 20, Albert can be found living at Station Road, Earl’s Barton, working as a shoe machine operative.

Albert can still be found living in the UK in 1939, at 24 St Peters Avenue, Rusden where he lives with Kate Abram and Gwendoline Taylor (nee Abram). Albert’s occupation is given as a Heel Scourer Boot and  Shoe Operative. 

On 25 February 1952, aged 61, Albert travelled from London to Melbourne on the Strathnaver with wife Kate and daughter Josephine.


Reginald James Abram

Reginald James Abram was born in Northampton in 1903.   The 1911 census shows him, aged eight, living at Station Road, Earl’s Barton.


Reginald J Abraham is recorded as leaving London for Australia on 5 December 1922, travelling on the Esperance Bay with 290 other people.




Kathleen Rose

Kathleen Rose Abram was born in Northampton in 1899.  The 1901 census shows Kathleen, aged two at 75, Lower Hester Street, Northampton, Kingsthorpe. The 1911 census shows her living at Station Road, Earls Barton.

In 1919 Kathleen went to live in Australia, with her husband, an Australian soldier.


Violet May

Violet May Abram was the youngest child of my great great grandparents Charles and Emily. She was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire in 1907. Emily lived into her nineties and daughter Violet lived to celebrate her 100th birthday in 2006.

Violet May Abram.

After the war, my great grandfather Charlie and his wife Milly May settled in England but other family members went to Australia.  Aged 18, Violet went too, leaving from London on 31 December 1924 and arriving in Melbourne, Australia on 9 February 1925.  They sailed aboard the Ship Esperance Bay on it’s maiden voyage, with 268 others. The ship was later turned into a battle ship in the Second World War and sunk. 

Passenger list.

Five years later, in 1930, Violet married Hugh Smith Wilson in Victoria, Australia. 

Violet & Hugh