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Bawming the thorn, Cheshire

Appleton Thorn lies a couple of miles south of Warrington . In the centre of the village is a hawthorn tree, the current one of fairly recent vintage, but the successor to others over the centuries. Legend has it that the original was taken from the Glastonbury tree that itself was made when Joseph of Aramathea’s staff took root on Wearyall Hill. As that staff in turn was supposedly grown from the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head at the crucifixion, Appleton’s thorn tree claims a very distinguished line.
On the closest Saturday to Midsummer’s Day the village holds a fete and parade , with these days the children but in earlier times all and sundry dancing around the tree and decorating it with flags and garlands, bright pieces of cloth and ribbons. The origin of the word bawming, now taken to mean decorate, is obscure, but it cannot be too fanciful to see the word having the same root as baumeln in German, meaning to dangle.
The tradition does not have an unbroken history, the current version having been revived in the 1970s, and the antiquity of the event is far from clear. As is so often the case some see in it a pagan tradition, in this case druidic tree-worship perhaps, but clear evidence of bawming taking place is lacking before the early 19th century. Locals claim the event goes back to a lord of the manor who brought back a cutting of the Glastonbury thorn in the 12th century. Although that cannot be proved, it is a more tempting story than the tradition just being part of a Wakes week, and the incorporation of the word Thorn in the village name surely indicates the importance of the event there.

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