(or The Wychwood Morrises)
NW of Witney
Brief History of Tradition
The Wychwood Forest, which was once the hunting
ground of Plantagenet Kings, is now less than half the size
it used to be in the 14thC.
The forest supported many occupations and social customs such
as the Whit Hunt, Forest Fair and Ales that involved the Morris.
The Wychwood Whit Hunt began at sunrise on Whit-Monday and
continued until noon of each day until 4 deer were caught.
After the hunt there was an Ale and the Morris was danced
around the villages. A Forest Fair was also held in
Disafforestation between 1856-58 brought an
end to these events and the Morris similarly declined after
that period. The appearance of the railway was coincident
with major changes in social conditions.
Early references to Morris in the area start
at Witney (1646), Woodstock (1705, 1727) and Churchill (1721)
but none of the other Wychwood villages were mentioned before
By the 19thC
the Wychwood Forest area had become the hub of the Cotswold
Morris, with as many as 17 villages and even hamlets having
a Morris team within a 10 mile radius of Leafield
(locally known as Fieldtown) itself. No mention of a Fieldtown
team was made before 1847 when dancing took place in the village
to celebrate Lord Churchill's wedding.
The Wychwood Morrises represent the most developed
form of the Morris in the mid. 19thC
and Fieldtown, together with Sherbourne, were regarded as
the 'pick of the Morris villages'.
Morris dancing in
the forrest villages/hamlets like Field Assarts, Asthall Leigh,
Minster Lovell, Ascott and Leafield (Fieldtown) was dominated
by certain families. The Fieldtown Side from which our
dance information comes were dominated by the Eeles family
who had an earlier link with Field Assarts through Richard
Eeles, Squire of Field Assarts and whose son Richard was Fieldtown
Squire. The evolution of the dances probably represents
a strong 'family' influence, unlike a larger village tradition,
e.g., Bampton or Abingdon.
Our present knowledge
of Fieldtown comes through Henry Franklin, a member of the
side then in his 20's, who spoke to Sharp when he was 81.
Sharp collected 15 dances and jigs from Henry Franklin, 12
dances from George Steptoe (some of them different from Franklin's
and 6 dances from Alec Franklin. From these records it is
clear that dancers, families and musicians extended links
throughout a number of the above sides and the emergent styles
owed more to the teacher or musician than location.
Our Side currently
performs 10 of these dances.
to Mike Heaney & Keith Chandler for information used in
the historical notes)
Dances Performed by Our Side
of the Dee
Shepherd's Hey / Signposts
The Rose (Circle Dance)
Walk of the Twopenny Postman
Old Molly Oxford / Stepback
Balance the Straw
Country Gardens / Bobby and Joan
Old Mother Oxford