Welcome to Bampton Morris. This is not the site to tell you everything there is to know about Bampton Morris dancing, but simply to be a quick guide to the three (yes, three) teams of Morris dancers in Bampton, Oxfordshire. Wikipedia calls this “disambiguation” and we hope this will be useful if you are thinking about visiting Bampton on Whit Monday to watch the famous and ancient traditional day of dancing. (There are resources listed below if you want to learn more about Bampton Morris dancing.)
Bampton Traditional Morris Dancers
Squire: Craig Godwin
Largest of the three sides in Bampton, the Bampton Traditional Morris Dancers trace their lineage back to the original Bampton Morris Dancers shown in the header photo. Their dancing is said to embody a Bampton style that has evolved over the years yet captures the spirit of the ancient Bampton dances. The Bampton Traditional Morris Dancers can often be seen at national festivals. Their home pub is the Horse Shoe, and they can be found in the digital world at https://www.bamptontraditionalmorris.co.uk/
Traditional Bampton Morris Dancers
Squire: Lawrence Adams
Sharing the same ancient lineage as its larger sibling, the Traditional Bampton Morris Dancers are distinctive by being the most formally attired of the Bampton sides with neckties and matching yellow, red, and blue (hat) ribbons. They dance a Bampton style that closely follows what their founding Squire Arnold Woodley learned as a boy dancing with the side in the 1930s, which can be seen in the use of a ‘cast hey’ that can be seen in pre-war films of Bampton dancing but has largely been replaced by the ‘Morris hey’ elsewhere. They are occasionally seen outside Bampton at local fairs and Morris events. Their home pub is The Talbot Hotel and they reside in the digital world at traditionalbamptonmorris.co.uk
Bampton Morris Men
Squire: Matthew Green
The newest of the Bampton sides, formed in 1974 when a group young men from the Traditional Bampton Morris Dancers were dismissed from the side by then Squire Arnold Woodley because of a sartorial contretemps during an important London tour. They dance a relaxed Bampton style nearer to the BTMD manner, and they most definitely do not wear ties (at least not around their necks). The Bampton Morris Men are rarely seen except on the Whitsun day of dance. Their home pub is the Morris Clown and they have not yet entered the digital world, but probably can be contacted via the well-known folk band Magpie Lane, of which Squire Matthew Green is a founding member.
Whit Monday Day of dance
Next one: 27th May 2024
In olden days Morris dancing was part of the extended festivities associated with Whitsuntide, primarily on Whit Monday. Now stripped of its religious connections the day of dance is the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May. The three sides (teams) begin dancing around 8:30-9:00 in the morning and proceed around the town stopping to dance at pubs, public spaces and private gardens until late afternoon. In the evening invited guest sides join the host sides for dancing into the evening, mainly at Bampton’s pubs. In earlier days, when Bampton boasted about a dozen pubs, this went late into the evening, but now, with only three (at last count) pubs the evening dancing winds up by 9:00 pm followed by music sessions in the pubs. The individual sides will post their schedule on their websites and the British Legion usually has printed schedules and locations for all three sides available for a small donation (at a table outside the town hall, or in the Morris Clown pub). And if you don’t have a schedule, just listen for the music and bells.
For more information on Bampton Morris dancing…
For a quick overview of Bampton Morris history you can consult the history page of the Traditional Bampton Morris Dancers web site. A recent posting on the TradFolk website has a nice overview of the Whit Monday dancing tradition including an interview with Bampton Morris Men squire Matt Green. A local video company TWitney has produced a short but informative video entitled “A 3 Way Rivalry” about all three Bampton sides (filmed in 2011).
Scholars will probably know were to look for even more detail, but for starters one can consult the works of Keith Chandler (for example, Morris Dancing in the English South Midlands, 1660-1900: A Chronological Gazetteer) of for a comprehensive history of Morris Dancing there is the just published The Ancient English Morris Dance by Michael Heaney.