A brief history of Morris Dancing in the Lymm area

Geoff Bibby

[Note: For space reasons the photographs appearing in the book are not reproduced here]

Before the turn of the century there were two troupes of Morris Dancers in the area, one based in Lymm and one in Oughtrington. Only the Oughtrington Troupe survived into the 1900's.

The leader of both troupes of dancers dressed as a woman and carried a wooden ladle for collecting money. Lymm Morris dancers were led by Thomas "Dossey" Brooks who died in 1897. Tom Holt led the Oughtrington dancers before 1900, and John Robert Downward in the early 1900's.

Most of these early dancers were fustian cutters in local cottage industries, cutting lengths of velveteen into ribbon, and this abundant availability of ribbon is reflected in the kit they wore.

These early Morris troupes originally danced in the Rushbearing Processions which took place in Lymm and Statham in August, when carts fully laden with rushes were drawn by horses to the church and the rushes spread on the cold floors for winter insulation. The Lymm rushcart was always drawn by "Lymm Greys" and the Statham cart by "Statham Blacks" - horses which were bred in the villages. This custom died out in the early 1880's.

Although Whitsuntide festivals were established in both Lymm and Statham in the early part of this century: - Fred Lockyer had established the Statham Whit Monday Festival in 1911, and Lymm had already established a Whit Thursday Festival - there is little evidence of Morris dancing on these occasions until Ned Rowles taught the "old dance" for the boys of Statham to perform at the 1920 Whit Monday revels.

The old Morris dance was thence performed annually, but in 1928 the Morris dancers were no longer taught the old dance by Ned; the troupe was a mixed troupe of boys and girls trained in a modern style.

In 1929 the Morris troupe was all-girl, which had rapidly become the fashion. The maypole and garland dancers who performed in 1923 were: Annie Rushworth, May Manning, Dolly Struthers, Lizzie Wibberley, Margery Manning, Edith Hinton, Olive Clare, Eva Clare, Marion Finney, Gladys Drinkwater, Edith Thomason, May Field, Dora Watts, Amy Hartley, F. Owen, Mildred Manning, Mildred Riley, Edna Phillips, Celia Phillips, Lily Bell, Margery Hinton, Daisy Field, Dorothy Field, Mollie Stirton, Edith Gilbert, Beaty Burrows, and the Rose Queen was Mary Davies.

There were other Morris teams during the 1920's and 30's but information is difficult to come by.

After the Second World War Ted Edwards and his wife were mainly responsible for re-establishing the May Queen celebrations in Statham in 1946.

Alice Walker (née Higgins) and her brother Bill Higgins both danced in the Morris troupe in Statham from 1928 on, and they created and trained the Broomedge Morris Dancers who later became the Broomedge Blue Streamers entertaining troupe.

Pauline Doorbar (née Ratcliffe), Pamela Carter (née Beddows), Eilleen Pownall (née Poole), Shirley Bancroft (née Higgins), Margaret Mills (née Hankey) and Fran Hall (née Matulko) have all helped greatly in supplying information and photographs of Morris dancing since the Second World War, including Broomedge, The Lymmtonians and the Lymmtoniettes, Embassy, Lymmdale and The Sherenades.

Information and photographic records of The Heatley Boys Morris Troupe and The May Queen Acrobatic Dancers is still being sought.

Some important dates in the history of the dancing in Lymm & District


Lymm Morris Dancers in a painting which is now in York Museum.


Lymm Morris Dancers led by Thomas "Dossey" Brooks (d 1897 aged 56)
Oughtrington Morris Dancers led by Thomas Holt.


Only the Oughtrington Dancers exist, led by John Robert (Bob) Downward.


Ned Rowles is the leader of the Morris Dancers.
The Morris Dancers did not reform after the First World War.


Statham Boys Morris Dancers taught the old dance by Ned Rowles.


Statham became a mixed troupe and in 1929 all-girl.

Late 1920's

Heatley Boys Morris Dancers taught by a 'Mrs. Hankey'.
May Queen Acrobatic Dancers taught by an 'Arthur Sutton'.
'Lymmettes' trained by a 'Mrs. Bradburn'.


Jack Gilbert is overheard by his headmaster reciting some odd bits of rhyming dialogue and the Lymm Solecaking Play (Jack had learned it all from his Granddad!) is revived and performed by the school children.


Maud Karpeles visits only the surviving members of the 1900 team: John "Downwood", his brother-in-law John Wilkinson the musician, Abraham Wilson and Charles Simpson, to note down the old dance.


May Queen celebrations re-started in Statham and Lymm.
An invented revival of the old dance is performed using country dance figures. Edith Russell (nee Leather) was the 'Maid Marian'.
A garland dance was performed with decorated hooped garlands.


Broomedge Morris Dancing Troupe formed and trained by Alice Walker (nee Higgins) and later run by her brother Bill Higgins.
The Lymmtonians and The Lymmtoniettes formed by Mrs. Higham.
The Embassy Entertainers formed by Mrs. Shaw.


The Pamela Stars formed by Pamela Carter's (nee Beddows) father.


Lymmdale Entertainers formed by Fran Hall (nee Matulko).


Thelwall Morris Men formed.


Lymmdale ceased to be and The Sherenades formed by Pauline Doorbar.


The Lymm/Statham dance revived and danced by Thelwall Morris Men.


Black Bear Morris Dancers (ladies team) established in Latchford

John Downward died aged 84 in 1947; Charles Simpson died aged 78 in 1948; Ned Rowles died aged 73 also in 1948; Abraham Wilson died aged 76 in 1950

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