Oak Apple Day is a little-known traditional celebration, and The Commandery in Worcester is one of the few places in the country that brings the 350 year old festival back to life each year on the late May bank holiday weekend.
At the joyful, historic spring celebrations, you can immerse yourself in a 17th century living history camp, enjoy traditional treats of small beer and plum pudding, have a go at Morris dancing and meet the King himself on Sunday 27th and Monday 28th May. The stunning medieval Great Hall will be bedecked in oak leaves.
This year, there will also be a collaborative project with a paper-based artist creating artworks and pamphlets inspired by the English Civil War, and a one-off opportunity to see Civil War Stories, a live performance like no other, weaving true tales of politics, religion, monarchy and conflict, written especially for The Commandery.
Worcester and The Commandery have a special connection to the tale of Oak Apple Day, for it was in an enormous oak tree that Charles Stuart, the future Charles II, chose to hide in 1651 as he was pursued by Parliamentarian troops. A portion of this oak tree from Boscobel is on display in The Commandery's Civil War experience.
Charles was fleeing after the fateful loss of the Royalist cause at the Battle of Worcester, the final battle of the English Civil War, during which time The Commandery served as the Royalist battle headquarters. Next to The Commandery the Royalists constructed Fort Royal on a hill that overlooked the city.
Charles returned from exile to be restored to the English throne on his thirtieth birthday, the 29th May 1660, and Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that the day was ‘to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny, and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day’.
As part of the celebration, children and adults would adorn their clothes with oak leaves and ‘oak apples’, a small round gall found on oak branches made by wasps. People who didn’t show support by wearing their sprig of oak would risk being pinched, pelted with birds’ eggs or thrashed with nettles! Over the years, the popularity waned and the public holiday was eventually abolished in 1859.
The Commandery itself was re-launched in 2017 with a new experience focusing on Worcester’s Civil War Story, in which visitors can discover a stunning mural that depicts Charles’ escape from the Battle of Worcester, inspired by 17th century engravings.