Village all set for historic return of kern baby tradition

Sir Benjamin Stones photograph of the Kern Baby in Whalton, which was taken in 1902.
Sir Benjamin Stones photograph of the Kern Baby in Whalton, which was taken in 1902.
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A very special visitor is returning to a Northumberland village next week.

In 1902, famous British photographer Sir Benjamin Stone came to Whalton as part of his scheme to capture local customs for posterity.

He photographed the famous July 4 Bale (Baal) Fire, as well as a giant Kern Baby – also known as a corn dolly – which used to be commonly celebrated.

Inspired by Sir Benjamin’s photographs, and with financial assistance from the Arts Council, artist Faye Claridge made a contemporary version of the Whalton Kern Baby.

It has been on display at the prestigious Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

Now arrangements have been made for the five-metre-high dolly to come to Whalton. It will be outside the village hall from Thursday, June 9, until just after the Bale Fire.

Sheila Lough, chairman of the village hall committee, said: “We received an email last summer to inform us that the artwork had been made and it so happened that where I was staying for a visit a few weeks later was near Compton Verney.

“I went along to see her and it is an impressive piece. We then contacted Faye Claridge and arranged for the Kern Baby to be brought ‘home’.

“There was a village meeting to discuss where she would be placed and we decided that outside the hall would be best as it’s a central location and close to where the Bale Fire will be on the opposite side of the road.

“She will make quite an impression. Due to her size, we felt that a month is the right amount of time for it to be on display in Whalton.”

The village will unite these two traditions with a newly-choreographed dance for the local first school and a revival by the children of corn dolly making, under tuition from the Guild of Straw Craftsmen.