Diarist Anthony Wood (1632-95). He also styled himself Anthony à Wood.
Taunting with maypoles
People used to play April Fool tricks on May Morning. Anthony Wood, the great diarist of 17th-century Oxford, refers more than once to ‘may games’ as practical jokes.
also indicates that a Maypole might be set up by a householder as a may game – especially to wind up the local Puritans. For the summer of 1641 Wood reports that ‘a most licentious and profane fellow’ in the parish of Holywell set up a Maypole
and fixed to it the picture of a Roundhead, specifically a Puritan steward of one of the Oxford colleges. With his companions, ‘making themselves mad-merry about it’, they brought muskets and other weapons to shoot at the effigy.
hit the picture, ‘at which the said master did fall a-laughing extremely, and on a sudden sunk down, falling into a long, sharp and terrible convulsion-fit, and so continued a long time after very sick and in great pain and misery; but whether he be
since alive or dead, I am uncertain.’
Again, on May 1 1660: ‘A maypole against the Bear in Allhallows parish, set up on purpose to vex the Presbyterians and Independents. Dr John Conant, then vice-chancellor, came with his beadles and servants
to have it sawed down, but before he had entered an inch into it, he and his party were forced to leave that place.’
On May 12, 1670, a Maypole was set up to make a particularly obscure point: ‘Holy Thursday, a Maypole set up at the upper
end of Catte Street in St Peter’s parish in the East by Short the coffee- man, churchwarden; a paper set up on it noting that the street should as anciently be called Gratian Street, which is false.’