The Dolphin Morrismen and Bradmore

How we came to know about the Bradmore Morris Dancers. Bob Hine We know about the Bradmore dancers through church records, though it was absolutely not their intention to preserve and celebrate this aspect of village life in the 1600’s, as will become clear! Firstly though, where is Bradmore? Bradmore and its neighbour Bunny, are small redbrick villages in the bit of Nottinghamshire that lies just to the south of the River Trent – about 5 miles south of Trent Bridge, for cricketing fans. To the east and the south of the villages rises the gentle escarpment of the Leicestershire Wolds and to the west is a wetland drained only in the last century and probably a watery wilderness in the 17th century. On the other side of the wetland is the village of Gotham, celebrated for its canny residents who successfully performed bizarre acts to persuade the visiting taxman that they were too crazy to pay any levies. The nearby villages - as they then were - of Ruddington, Wysall and Clifton were also involved in the story of the dancers. Local records suggest that morris dancing was an integral part of the social life of south Nottinghamshire in the 1500’s. Morris dancers took part in annual Whitsuntide procession known as The Gate to Southwell in 1530, as documented in the Nottingham council accounts, for example. Gradually however some public authorities began to take a harder line. By the 1600’s there was increased pressure by puritan magistrates and church officials to reform the Sabbath and growing harassment by them of the sports of the ordinary people. In May 1618 James I had issued his Book of Sports in which were allowed “...May games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris dances, and the setting up of Maypoles and other sports therewith used; so as the same to be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or neglect of divine service.” In Nottinghamshire the church courts certainly show signs of a growing crack-down in the years preceding 1618, but although there are cases in later years, thereafter they seem to peter out. (This is an impression rather than a quantitative judgement, cases against working on the Sabbath still occur). Not just Morris dancers, but football players and games players of all sorts were ‘presented’, that is, told to account for their behaviour before a church court and to amend their ways on pain of ex-communication. This is what the records have to say about the Bradmore men. “I the churchwarden of Bradmore doe psent Hugh Longley, Gervis Goldinge, John Butler, Hugh Ffoster for morris dauncers and Harold Maples, Richard Roberts and Antonie Truman of Ruddington and Ralph Lees of Wisall for ppaning the Sabaoth daye beinge and since Whitsundaye laste paste.” Thomas Bond, his marke. Item dated 21st October, 1618, in the ‘Archdeaconry MSS. Presentment Bill. 295.’ Here’s how the court dealt with them over the next couple of months: Hugh Longley of Bradmore ‘for prophanynge the Sabaoth by morris dauncinge.’ Pen. Reserved. Gervase Goldinge of the same ‘for the like’. His father Richard Gervase pleaded guilty for him. John Butler of the same ‘for the like’. Pleaded guilty. Dismissed. Harold Maples of Bradmore ‘for prophaning the Sabaoth’. v. et m. Richard Roberdes of the same ‘for the same’. Pleaded guilty. Dismissed with a warning. Anthony Trewman of Ruddington ‘for pyping at the same’. Excommunicated Ralph Lees of Wisaw ‘for the same’. To be cited afresh for that day fortnight. Register 27. f. 140d. 7th November, 1618. Ralph Lees of Wisawe. Excommunicated. f. 152d. 25th December, 1618. (P.S. no Christmas spirit here!).

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