The Adderbury Morris Men

Squire: David Gunby Foreman: Steve Priest Fool: Philip Le Mare Bag: Jason Walker

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    I don't know what's going on either....


    The Background...

    For those who think morris dancing a quaint survival it is a remarkable fact that there is probably more morris danced today than at any time in its past history! On a Saturday in late April residents and visitors alike are able to watch exponents of North Oxfordshire’s own contribution to ‘World Dance’ performing round the village. It is a great spectacle but why in Adderbury?


    The opening dance, "Sweet Jenny Jones", outside the Old Wheatsheaf, Day of Dance April 2002. The squire the leads the set off in "Shepherds Away" at the end of the first spot.

    A Little History

    Morris dancing is a traditional or 'roots' dance form which belongs especially to the Midland counties of England. Nobody is quite sure when and where it started but there is no evidence at all to link it with pagan customs or fertility rituals!

    Researchers largely believe that it began in Spain in the 12th century as a performance to celebrate the liberation of Spain from Moslem occupation, hence the term 'Moorish Dancing'. It became popular in the royal courts of Europe and eventually arrived in England as a courtly entertainment in the late 14th century. Eventually it fell out of fashion in Royal circles but was taken up in the 15th and 16th, centuries by civic authorities who included Morris dances in their processions and pageants.

    The church was not slow to see the fund raising potential of the spectacle of Morris dancing and many parishes kept their own sets of costumes in church to be brought out for the annual Whitsun Ale celebrations.

    By the start of the 17th. century Morris dancing was in decline, a process hastened by the rantings of puritan sects who condemned it because of the associated rowdy behaviour and drunkenness.

    At this point it seems to have gone underground and almost vanishes from history for 200 years. In fact Morris dancing had migrated to the rural communities where there were few people to record its passing.
    Because of the social conditions prevalent at the time dancers were usually male although there are records of female dancers participating too. By the early years of the 20th. century Morris was once again about to transform itself

    During the mid-nineteenth century most local villages would have had their own team of morris dancers performing a programme of dance unique to their community. By the end of the century morris dancing was losing support in the face of competition from other, less demanding, forms of popular entertainment and the carnage of the First World War all but delivered its death blow. Fortunately the tradition was maintained in one or two out of the way places and information about other dances was recorded by early students of folk-lore. In the early years of this revival people got hold of the idea that morris dancing was a survival of some kind of pagan fertility ritual and only danced by men. History reveals no evidence for this at all and the flowering of morris dancing in the twentieth century has seen new teams formed some for men, some for women and some mixed.

    Morris around Banbury

    There are several reports of Morris dancing in Banbury from years gone by. Puritans in the seventeenth century complained about Morris dancers and their ungodly ways. (Be warned some people still do!) Towards the end of the eighteenth century local teams were recorded at Ayhno, Bicester, Brackley, Croughton, Kings Sutton, Middleton Cheney. During the nineteenth century sides were known to be active in Adderbury, Badby, Bloxham, Brackley ,Bucknell, Deddington, Kings Sutton

    Teams regularly used to dance at Banbury Fair and the well known Banbury eccentric, William 'Old Mettle' Castle was fool for the Adderbury team in the last century. During the nineteenth century the village had two or possibly three teams performing although the practice had died out by the 1880's

    In Adderbury the dances were recorded from the last surviving member of the original team, William Walton, in such detail by Janet Blunt and others that the dances could still be performed by newly formed revival teams despite the tradition dying out in Adderbury itself after a brief flourish in the early years of the twentieth century. Adderbury became popular with groups of dancers from as far afield as the United States and Australia.

    The Revival

    In 1974 the dances came back to Adderbury when the tradition was revived by two local dancers: Tim Radford and Brian Sheppard, who recruited a team, some of whom are still dancing today. For another view of the revival visit the article in the Internet morris magazine "Shave the Donkey"

    The revival team has now been dancing for over a quarter of a century and as it enters the new millennium it is as strongly supported as ever. It is particularly noted for the near legendary 'Adderbury Big Band' sound with a large pool of experienced musicians to draw on. We are particularly pleased at the number of young people who are prepared to put in the effort required to ensure that the team survives for the future. For the sake of posterity we made a contribution to the village's Millennium Time Capsule

    The Adderbury 'Big Band'

    The team tries to maintain a reasonable balance between regular committments to dancing out and having a life. In that respect we do not do as much as many teams. Our annual calandar begins with stick stripping usually in March in preparation for the day of dance in late April, we very rarely dance between Christmas and then. After the Day of Dance we can often be seen at a range of local traditional events which we support including May Day in Oxford, Whit Monday at Bampton, Kirtlington Lamb Ale, the Banbury Hobby Horse Festival and our charity tour of Stratford. The season has tended to end in October with a performance at the Bnabury Folk Festival. Occasionally we take paid bookings and do one or two local fetes together with the odd pub tour with other local teams.

    Dancing outside St. John's College, Oxford May Morning 2004


    Practices are normally held between November and April on alternate second and fourth Wednesdays from 8.00 until 9.30 in the hut on the Lucy Plackett Sports Field. The team's spiritual home is the Bell Inn where they can generally be found after practice. We always welcome new members to practices and beyond!


    These are kept on a separate page, please contact us with suggestions or enquiries for bookings. We normally charge a small fee for an appearance.

    Dancing "the Bell" outside The Bell, Adderbury High Street, Day of Dancing April 2000.



    .The Adderbury Tune Bank

    Almost all the Adderbury tunes played by Stephen Wass on the melodeon plus two bonus tracks of Chris Leslie playing his own compositions: "Anniversary Jig" and "Le Halle Place". I use a Quicktime Plug-in to run these MP3 but you will probably have your own favourite MP3 player. As ever comments and suggestions (polite ones please) welcome.

    Listen here


    The Adderbury Log Books

    For the first six years following its refounding in 1975 the team appointed a number of log book keepers with the result that a fairly comprehensive record of the side's early years exists. We made some of this material available for a temporary exhibition at the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Oxford in 2009. for After a quarter of a century these folders are now in a fairly fragile state. At some point I guess we will house the logs and other material in Adderbury Library in the care of Oxfordshire County Council but until then it seems a good idea to make digital copies to keep electronically. The originals are currently kept by Keith Norton in Adderbury..

    Click here to view the opening pages



    Dancer and Bagman
    Died after a brief illness June 19th 2011
    'One of the best'