Rose & Castle Morris
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History

Like most Morris, traditional and ritual dances, the Morris of the North West of England is believed to be pagan in origin, although the exact details are lost in antiquity. It is certain that they were incorporated into Christian religious festivals, and by the early 19th century played an important role in the annual ceremonies associated with the changing of rush flooring in the churches of the area.

Saddleworth Rushcart 2016

New rushes were generally loaded onto a cart, which was often specially made for the occasion, and taken in procession to the church. The dancers accompanied the cart and performed their dances along the way, in some areas pulling the cart themselves. Upon arrival at the church the rushes would be changed with due ceremony and the old rushes would be burnt, cart and all, amid further celebrations.

Towards the end of the 19th century, improvements in church flooring led to a decline of the rush cart processions, but the dances continued in their own right. With the increasing industrialisation of the North West, communities became greatly enlarged and inter-community rivalry commonplace. Morris thrived under these conditions and developed new steps, formations and more refined and elaborate costumes. Clogs of course were common footwear for mill workers and have become a feature of the dances from that area. The First World War dramatically ended these halcyon days and the tradition gradually declined.

The last forty years or so has seen a great revival of Morris dancing and interest in English traditions. Many sides carry on the long tradition of Morris dancing throughout the year.


Rose and castle Morris