Brief History of Tradition
On Whit-Mondays the ancient ceremony of equipping
the Knights of the city with armour took place in Lichfield
Guildhall. This was followed by the Bower Processional
traditionally dominated by Morris dancing. In particular
from ca. 1897 to 1914 Stafford Siemens' Morris Dancers appeared
annually to perform this task.
They danced North-west Morris, however, with
characteristic dress of that style, and in multiples of 4
(& at least 8). They ceased dancing in 1914 but
although there were other sides in Silverdale, Betley and
Stafford that took their place, all these sides were of the
North -west style; all dancing ceased in 1938.
Fortunately, in 1898 three ladies had begun
noting down the dances but alas one set of notes was lost
in a fire. The story re-starts again in 1953 when the
Men of Mercia participated in the Lichfield Bower Processional
for the Coronation, and collected details of the dance from one
Thomas Skelton in 1947, and the tune and processional details
from other sources.
The remaining dances
were collected piecemeal. A 73 year-old patient of St. Matthews
Psychiatric Hospital (Burntwood) recalled 8 men dancing and
pushing each other away with the soles of their feet.
He conveyed this information to the Men of Mercia (Bill Everett)
and Nuts in May was reborn!!!
A public appeal
for more information in the Lichfield Mercury produced
data for Vandals of Hammerwich and Sheriffs' Ride
and further manuscripts were sent to Jack Brown to work out
the practical details, music being provided by Helen Manning.
Some embellishment of the dances appears to
have occurred along with some inventive sourcing of tunes
locally. By 1955, 7 set dances had been deduced, 1
three-man jig and 1 one-man jig.
Although the Men of Mercia split in 1955,
Jack Brown through the Stafford Morris Men and John Venables
through Green Man's Morris Men have largely propagated the
Lichfield tradition. Alex Helm first published the dances and
authentic material in the E.F.D.S.S. Journal (1957).
Roy Judge has recently questioned the authenticity of the
Lichfield tradition and the integrity of the material collected.
Icknield Way Morris Men were one of the first
sides to incorporate the 'rediscovered' Lichfield dances into
their repertoire, introduced by Mary
Shunn in the early 1960's.
Dances Performed by Our Side
Vandals of Hammerwich