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Morris Dancers in
the Cotswolds

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Morris Dancers

Stow on the Wold

Deserted Cotswold Villages

Cotswold Place Names

The Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold 1646

Tracks and Roads across the Cotswolds

The Cotswold Lion

An Early Cotswold Visit

The History of Bourton-on-the-Water

Cotswold Roofs

Cotswold Dry Stone Walls

Cotswold Ridge and Furrows

The Rollright Stones

The Gypsy Horse Fair at Stow-on-the-Wold

The Cotswolds - In the Beginning

Ralph Green

Ralph Green lives in Bourton-on-the-Water and used to work for many years at the Stow-on-the-Wold Visitor Information Centre.

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Cotswold Morris Dancers

Morris dancing can be found in many parts of England but it is in the Cotswold that it is particularly associated and where it can be seen at its most developed. This form of English folk dance can be traced back to the 13th century, but many think it goes back to an even earlier pre-Christian time. It is a part of ritual dancing found throughout most of Europe and particularly with Moorish dancing from Spain. From Moorish, we get Morris.

Morris Dancers in the Cotswolds 

It is an outdoor dance performed by men wearing costumes consisting of white shirt and trousers, and a hat adorned with flowers and ribbon. Garters are worn around the legs and these have bells attached. Handkerchiefs or sticks are used in the dance, and fiddle or concertina provides the music. The dance often illustrates a legend or a rural activity such as sowing and harvesting and the bells and handkerchiefs are to ward of evil spirits and to ensure fertility of the crops for the coming year. In the Cotswolds the dance is usually performed by six men known as a side and includes a fool or sometimes a beast. In the north of England the style is different, a side could include eight or more with the men wearing clogs and swinging coloured slings. Most Cotswold villages had their own individual dances and tunes but by the 1880s, the tradition began to die out.

Morris Dancers at Bourton-on-the-Water

In late Victorian England a ‘back to the land’ movement began in an attempt to emphasise traditional values and the benefits of rural living. It was a reaction against industrialism and the expanding urban society. This stimulated a great interest in rural crafts and traditions and included for example lacemaking, quilting and folk music. This in turn created other movements such as ramblers groups and conservation societies that were to grow into the National Trust. Among these groups was one dedicated to the preservation of Morris dancing.

Cotswold Morris Dancers

Cecil Sharp was a music teacher who in 1902 published a book of British songs. Recognising the importance of traditional English music and song, he continued to carry out further research, and in 1904, he published Folk Songs from Somerset, which aroused great interest. Because of this, he was invited to join the committee of the Folk Song Society. He led the movement to trace and record threatened folk songs for posterity and in 1907, published two volumes of English Folk Songs. Subsequent searches took him to the United States and particularly the Appalachian Mountains were he collected songs of English origin.

Cotswold Morris Men

Cecil Sharp’s other main interest was in dance and in this, he was a pioneer. He researched country-dance, sword and Morris and in 1911, he founded the English Folk Dance Society. By bringing together traditional song and dance, he awakened a modern interest in Morris. This summer we will be able to see Gloucestershire Morris dancers perform with much enthusiasm and vibrancy in our Cotswold town squares and on our village greens, ensuring this fine old English tradition lives forever. 

Video of Morris Dancers

For more information about - Morris dancing linked to Crop Fertility Rites.

Cotswold Morris Dancers

This page last modified Monday, 24-Jul-2023 11:24:18 CEST