(Leafield) NW of Witne
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 the evenings.
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 1750.
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.
(Acknowledgements to Mike Heaney & Keith Chandler for information used in the historical notes)
Dances Performed by Our Side
|Banks of the Dee
The Rose (Circle Dance)
Walk of the Twopenny Postman
Old Molly Oxford
|Balance the Straw
Country Gardens / Bobby and Joan
|Old Mother Oxford|
Characteristic Features of Tradition
|Notation||Glossary of Terms|
|Style||Lines of set must move body and arms together. Capers - springy and high|
|Normal figures||FU/FD, HG, BB, R, WH|
|Hand/Arm Movements||Arm movements are 'floaty' down & up on the anacrusis; i.e. slightly hurried before the beat or foot going down. 'Wristy' movements in the balance position|
|Sticking||Sticks are held semi-horizontal or 'relaxed' when not in use. In stick dances, evens always strike first.|
|Start||Outside foot start in 'short' Fieldtown; inside foot start for 'long' Fieldtown|
|Galley (G)||A characteristic feature of this tradition, used to make turns during the dance. The knee is kept parallel with the ground, as 2 circular movements are made with relaxed foot whilst hopping on supporting foot|
|Hop-backs (hb)||Hop-backs lead in to all figures turning feet out (ankle movement). 'Long' Fieldtown - inside foot back first; 'short' Fieldtown - outside foot back first. Arms balance is holding handkerchiefs about 12" out from body at hip height, turning wrists back|
|Side-Step (sso) - Open||Turn body slightly forward to right foot, tuck left foot behind right, then reverse, arms float down. Long versions have a double step in between right and left moves|
|Side Step (sso) - Closed||Turn body slightly left; right foot in front of left, right arm up and float down|
|Upright Capers (UC)
a) right foot behind left, hands balance;
b) jump off both feet, hands rising above head;
c) land on both feet, hands falling;
d) caper to right foot, hands to balance
|Fore Caper (FC)||4 beats
a) right foot step forward, hands balance;
b) caper off right foot, hands lifting above head;
c) land on left foot, arms falling;
d) caper to right, hands to balance.
|Foot Up (FU)/Foot Down (FD||Should not travel far and should be stationary where possible. Turn out - 'short' Fieldtown. Turn in - 'long' Fieldtown|
|Half-Gip (HG)||Move well passed partners but maintain straight lines. Pass right shoulders and return same side. Repeat left shoulders|
|Back-to-Back (BB)||Move well passed partners, maintaining straight lines. Pass right shoulders, cross over, and returning left shoulders back. Repeat, this time passing left shoulders|
|Half Rounds (hR)||Rounds are half rounds, starting on right foot moving into centre for 4 bars, jump together then turn and back 4 bars (The Rose is an exception).|
|Whole Hey (WH||Always a ss hey, tucking the trailing foot in, leading hand shoots up and floats down before foot moves. Leading limb is determined from set facing in. Individual route is slightly circular facing along the set and hb into place|