The dawn of another May Morning broke over Oxford to the sound of the Hymnus Eucharisticus and the peal of bells ringing out from the Great Tower of Magdalen College.

A forecast of rain in the early hours did not materialise and, buoyed by blue skies, a record crowd of 27,000 packed out Magdalen Bridge and High Street to mark the historic event.

May Morning as it happened

Spectators keen to grab a prime spot for the main event at 6am were outside Magdalen College from 4am, or in some cases even earlier, eager to catch a glimpse of the choristers.

Among the early birds were Brian and Carolyn Enquist who were visiting Oxford from Tucson, Arizona, in the United States.

Mrs Enquist said: “We read about May Morning in the paper and heard it was one of the highlights that Oxford goes all out with.

“It has become less of a traditions elsewhere but Oxford has managed to maintain it.

“I am not sure what to expect but I hear that with the choir singing it can be very ephemeral.”

Further back in the crowd on Magdalen Bridge were Carole Dew and John Hiles, who had travelled down from Darlington in County Durham.

Mr Hiles was a regular visitor to May Morning when he lived in Oxford, but it was Ms Dew’s first time at the event.

She said: “I am looking forward to it but I am not 100 per cent sure what to expect.

“It is just amazing being out here with such a good crowd, it is a really positive atmosphere”

At 6am the crowd fell silent for the choir, before praying together and then dispersing towards the city centre as 20 minutes of bell ringing began.

In High Street the crowds enjoyed tunes from community street band Horns Aplenty, accompanied by Samba dancers and Morris men.

Rebecca Nelder from Chipping Norton joined in the carnival atmosphere in a striking green dress, accompanied by her partner Philip Shefford.

The 50-year-old, who was at her 20th May Morning, said: “It’s just a lovely atmosphere with people coming together.

“The forecast was for a downpour. We were going to come anyway, but it’s been lovely.

“It’s just great that Oxford keeps this going. There are so many towns that don’t do this so it’s nice the city keeps this tradition.”

Nearby in Catte Street bagpipes accompanied more Morris dancers and others who took it upon themselves to get involved with the festivities.

Kylie Murray 35, took her friend Hannah Boschen, 36, out for her very first May Morning.

Ms Murray, of East Oxford, said: “The diversity is amazing. The whole town comes out.

“I think it’s better than Christmas. It’s one day for all men and you don’t get people as jolly at Christmas as you do on May Morning. 

“There’s so much good will. You can come out looking strange and nobody minds and however strange you look there’ll always be somebody who looks stranger.

“I’m a medievalist so I’m very interested in May as the time when things come back to life – a celebration of being alive.”

On the steps of the Clarendon Building dad-of-two Bill Frizzell was out with his wife and children performing with The Whirlies.

The 59-year-old, who lives off Donnington Bridge, said: “I’ve been coming back to these steps for the past 12 years and it was happening before I started.

“It’s great to see the whole community of Oxford come out. There’s always so much happening in town.

“May means different things to different people but it doesn’t matter as long as they come out and have a good time. Forget your politics and embrace everybody.

“After the third year The Whirlies played at May Morning it was called a tradition. Once it’s new, twice it’s fun, third time it’s a tradition.”

Oxford City Council said the morning’s events passed off successfully.

Events officer Rachel Capell said: "It's the Bank Holiday weekend and we had a break with the weather so it was very busy.

"We've had another year where people had the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful, magical moment.

“It’s all been very positive and I think everybody worked really well together this year in terms of the planning group.”