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
|Sheriffs Ride||Ring of Bells
Vandals of Hammerwich
Characteristic Features of Tradition
|Notation||Glossary of Terms|
|Style||Set dances are for 8. Movements are strong and bold. In all Lichfield dances look along the lines in the forward movements to check for straightness throughout the dance.|
|Normal figures||Sticks Strong, no tapping|
|Hand/Arm Movements||Arm movements are 'down & up' on the anacrusis.|
|Start||Swagger Round. Odds go nearest the music leading clockwise, evens anti-clockwise crossing first inside then outside (tracing an oval pattern)|
|Stepping||Right foot lead. All double step except Ring o' Bells (single step).|
|Hocklebacks||High-kicking backwards foot movement in which the legs are swung sideways out and attempt to kick the 'behind'.|
|Capers (PC)||Hop right, hop left, hop left kicking bum with right, capering forward onto right (reverse legs & repeat)|
|Heading-Up (HU), and Down (HD)||Movement either Up (left diagram) to or Down (right diagram) from the music. Track as shown
|Side-by-Side (SS)||Advance one step into line, dance in place, swing back steps back to place. Right shoulders first, then left.|
|Back-to-Back (BB)||Essentially one move forward, then move right into line and swing back steps into place. Right shoulders first, then left.|
|Lichfield Hey (H)||Track as shown, pass right shoulders going across, left shoulder on outside. ¾ turn out before crossing at ends. 1 & 4 and 5 & 8 are first corners for dancers in these positions. 2 & 3 and 6 & 7, the second corners.
To help remember movements, some men may be heard to mutter the following:'First corner, second corner
On the spot, cross over'
'First corner, second corner