Our Tradition

Charlbury Morris dances in the Cotswold Morris style that is based on dance traditions from villages and towns as recorded by the legendary Cecil Sharp in the early 20th century. Of the various local traditions we dance primarily the Fieldtown tradition, which is one of the most common traditions danced by sides around the world, but for us it is our local tradition.

Fieldtown is the collective name for a group of villages around Leafield, including Finstock and Minster Lovell. Named La Felde by the Normans, Leafield did not acquire its current name until the 18th century and no longer has a Morris side. Today Charlbury Morris is the only active side in the Fieldtown district and it rightly endeavours to uphold that tradition while also dancing a variety of other traditions, particularly those from nearby villages and towns such as Adderbury, Ascott-under-Wychwood, Bampton, among others.

What are the origins of Morris? Although the origins are obscure and disputed, Morris dancing in England dates back to the 15th century and probably has roots in a style of dancing called Moorish (from the Moors) that emerged in Europe even earlier. Volumes have been written on the origins of Morris dancing, but for a quick summary we would refer you to the Wikipedia entry linked from our links page.

The Dances

Charlbury is a vigorous side (or tries to be) favouring dances with strong rhythms and a good pace. To the untrained eye Morris dances may all look the same but the traditions differ markedly in both their overall patterns and the details of the stepping, stick clashing and hanky action. Listed below under their respective traditions are the dances that we currently do.

Fieldtown Six-man dances with sticks or hankies. Considered a "more graceful" style it can be quite vigorous in our hands. Characterised by high-leaping, loose banks.jpgflowing arm movements and complex figures that require good teamwork.

  • Balance the straw
  • Young Collins
  • Skirmish
  • Country Gardens
  • Banks of the Dee

Ascott-under-Wychwood All are six-man dances with sticks or hankies, through we do only two hanky dances. This tradition is closely related to the Fieldtown tradition.

  • The Valentine
  • Boys of the Bunch

Adderbury Six-man stick or hanky dances characterised by distinctive arm movements with both sticks and hankies. Adderbury dances often include parts of a song and can also be recognised but the characteristic 'processional' figures in the middle of the dance.

  • Black Joke
  • Lads a' Bunchum
  • Shooting

Bampton-in-the-Bush An ancient tradition of almost exclusively six-man hanky dances. Bampton has three active Morris sides with slightly different styles though generally characterised by sharp and slightly syncopated hanky movements. We dance Bonny Green as taught to us by the Ancient Men (Oxford) and Rose Tree in the style of the Traditional Bampton Morris Dancers, with whom we have close ties.

  • Bonny Green Garters
  • The Rose Tree

Headington Quarry An early and large, but evolving tradition of generally brisk, six-man dances. We have put our own twist into Bean Setting and we do Constant Billy in the style of the Ancient Men.

  • Bean Setting
  • Constant Billy

Hinton-in-the-Hedges A small tradition of four surviving six-man dances, of which we dance one hanky dance. The hanky dances are characterised by sweeping up and down movements throughout the dance and relatively simple stepping.

  • Getting Upstairs

Lichfield Eight-man stick dances characterised by vigorous and complex stick movements. vandals2.jpgToward the end of each dance comes the Lichfield hey,which appears to be a frenetic swapping of places among the dancers. That is exactly what it is.

  • Vandals of Hammerwich
  • Ring o' Bells
  • Jenny Lind

Upton-upon-Severn A nearly extinct tradition that survives in only a couple of six-man dances that are open to wide variations in interpretation.upton1.jpg Characterised by vigorous and changing sticking and what looks like a lot of spinning around on the pitch. Sometimes mistaken for brawling, especially when done outside a pub.

  • Upton-on-Severn Stick Dance

Charlbury Not a tradition as much as our creation with hints of some of the different traditions we dance. Named after what was once our favourite pub in town, but sadly no longer extant. This is often our exit dance.

  • The White Hart

When he is dancing, the true Morris-man is serious of countenance, yet gay of heart; vigorous yet restrained; a strong man rejoicing in his strength, yet graceful, controlled, and perfectly dignified withal.

Cecil Sharp

On one occasion some forty-three years ago, dancers from five different villages met at Minster Lovel to decide their supremacy, when Leafield was victorious. These contests, tho' friendly enough at first, often ended, after a drinking bout, in a free-fight, in which the sticks carried by the dancers were answerable for not a few broken heads.

Percy Manning, M.A., F.S.A.

Some Oxfordshire Seasonal Festivals: With notes on Morris-dancing in Oxfordshire.
(Read at meeting of 16th March, 1897.)
Folklore, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Dec., 1897), p.319

Not us, but you remember these chaps.