The 2015 Midsummer Watch Parade has been organised by Cheshire West and Chester Council, Changing Gear and The Friends of the Watch, supported by Chester Freemen and Guilds, Light Blue Touch Paper Arts Group and many local youth and community groups. Parade Route Abbey Gateway - Town Hall Sq. - St.Werburgh Street - Eastgate Street. - Bridge Street - Pepper Street - St. John’s Street - Eastgate Street - Northgate Street - Abbey Sq.
Chester’s Midsummer Watch is one of Britain’s oldest festivals – a tradition reflecting 500 years of the city’s history. We depend upon the continued support and involvement of local people to keep this exciting Parade alive, as a major mid-summer spectacle.
In Medieval and Tudor times, Chester’s magnificent Midsummer Watch Parade was renowned throughout the country. First held during the mayoralty of Richard Goodman in 1498, it was organised by the City Guilds and took place in the years when the famous Chester Mystery Plays were not performed. The outstanding features of the show were the Giants – enormous structures made of buckram and pasteboard and carried by two or more men. Giants were a common feature of Tudor pageantry in England and Europe, but Chester was unique in that the city paraded a whole family of Giants – the Father, the Mother and two Daughters. 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.
The Giants were accompanied by hobby horses, musicians, guildsmen, fools, children in costume – angels, goblins and green men. There were enormous moving floats called the “Mounts”; the most famous, the Merchants Mount, was in the form of a ship – a reminder that in those days, Chester was an important port. The whole procession was headed by a small boy, chosen each year, and the “Ancient” city drum. The Midsummer Watch Parade survived much longer than the now world-famous Mystery Plays, which were banned in 1575 and not revived until recent times. In 1599, Mayor Henry Hardware prohibited the Parade and ordered the Giants to be broken up. However, so popular was the show that it was revived the next year and continued until the 1670s.