THE LICHFIELD GREENHILL BOWER
The Greenhill Bower is an annual procession around Lichfield City. Originally held on Whit Monday, it is now held on Spring Bank Holiday Monday and, in 2008, it was held on 26 May. Starting shortly after the Court of Arraye or View of Men at Arms, which dates back to the twelfth Century, the event has become similar to carnival days in other parts of the country with the crowning of the Bower Queen and a procession of floats.
The day begins with the cutting of bowers on Cannock Chase (right above). Between 20 and 40 pairs are cut depending on estimates of numbers of dancers. Originally, elm was cut for the bowers but it has become scarce and so silver birch is used together with one oak set reserved for the Green Man who leads our dance (left). At the same time, arrangements are in process to prepare food for the gathering of Morris men, their guests and families later in the day.
Starting on Greenhill, south of the City centre, in the late morning, we lead the parade into the City, past the Guildhall in front of the City dignitaries, some of whom join the procession (right) and then in a circle past the Cathedral (left) and back towards Greenhill. Just before the finish of the procession we provide a guard of honour for the City dignitaries and then have our chance to see the rest of the pageant as it files past.
Our music (right) consists of accordions, melodeon, concertina and, especially when other parts of the procession become too loud, we depend on the tabor and side-drum to provide the beat. Two very similar tunes are played, each associated with one of the two figures of the dance. The first figure involves a side-step and turn and is danced in line. In the second figure the two lines of dancers cross to their opposite sides. The tunes are closely similar to the tune for the Lichfield dance, the Vandals of Hammerwich.
Later in the afternoon we dance in the City. In 2008 the Lichfield MP, Michael Fabricant, danced the Bower with the Morris men and then participated in a dance in the city (left). (Pictures; F. Stradling)
After the dancing is done, we make our way to our refreshment and social gathering. Food and drink follows.
In 2008 the weather threatened but the pageant went ahead without problems. The day was windy and rain arrived in the late afternoon. Although we were finished, the fun fair and other attractions had to put up with less-than-perfect conditions.
Here are three pictures from the Illustrated London News of 25 May 1850 describing the Lichfield Bower. You can see bigger versions of the pictures if you click on the thumbnails (new window will open).
Update for 2015
This was the 60th anniversary of Green Man leading the procession and we were well supported by our members and friends.
The picture shows the morris group about a third of the way round the procession route (picture by Maggie Easton).
Peter Taylor wrote an article for the programme and you can download the full double-page spread by clicking on the image (separate tab opens, Adobe Acrobat Reader required, file is 3.7 MB).