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This is an extract from the third of a series of talks by Roy Dommett at Sidmouth International Folk Festival, Devon (August 1979 - Tuesday).  The full lecture and the others in the series can be found at http://www.chezfred.org.uk/for/pdf/1979RoyDommettDocument.pdf
Dancing & Folk Customs - A series of talks

In the Autumn of 1885 D'Arcy Ferris, then living at Cheltenham, began the well known revival of the Bidford morris.  In the 1880's Ferris was involved in organising "revels" up and down the country : in 1886 he was Master of the Pageant for the Ripon Millenary Pageant which brought the Kirkby Malzeard long sword team to fame, and also, Julian Pilling claimed, included a Lancashire Morris although no reference has been found documented. His first attempt in raising a morris was a troupe of boys for revels at Lord Wantage's in August 1884. From subsequent events it can be deduced that it was hardly a proper morris, probably with no attention given at all to tradition. It is likely that this episode was well received, yet criticised for not being "morris", as he almost immediately set to the task of obtaining genuine dances. With the aid of Dr. Fosbrooke-Powers he found in the autumn of 1885 William Trotman, then aged forty five, who came from Idbury near Bledington and who had danced the morris in his youth.

Ferris was the first person to write down morris dance detail and tunes, with all the attendent difficulties of being a pioneer. Much of his manuscript is now in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. To help improve the dancing standard of the troupe of youths, Ferris contacted many morris men in Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. The evidence from letters covers Bledington, Brackley, Bucknell, Idbury, Ilmington, Longborough, and Wheatley, and his address list included Blackwell, Brailes, Honington, Newbold Pacey, and Preston-on-Stour. It is impressive that in 1885 he could find a dozen places which had or recently had a morris. Harry Taylor had been,

... asked to dance for 'em at Jubilee time for a week, but squire wouldn't let him, he said it was all nonsense.

By 22nd January 1886 the youths from Bidford were ready to perform at the Bidford School Room with Ferris lecturing and dressed in his costume as "Lord of Misrule" from the Billesley Old English Fete of 1885, see The Pictorial World for the 4th of February 1886. They danced to an old tabor bought from Tim Howard a Brackley dancer and to Robbins on a fiddle. The episode was repeated at Alcester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Evesham and other near villages and later at Cheltenham, Bath, Clifton and London. The "circus" paid for itself and allowed a small wage for the dancers. Harry Taylor did not think much of the Bidford dancers : they were too clumsy and too heavy on the ground.

The Bidford men danced occasionally after 1886 - for certain in 1887 and 1896 - but in 1904 they were approached by the secretary of the Shakespearean Celebrations for that year, then a Mr Evans, a vet working in Stratford-upon-Avon. Evans also collected local songs and oral history using an early Edison phonograph. This Bidford side was still comprised of some the men who had starting dancing in 1886-7 and was seen by Sharp and MacIlwaine when dancing at Redditch in 1906. That was the first time they tried to collect dances from active traditional dancers. Before then, the Headington dances had been taught directly to the young women of the Esperance Club and then notated from the dancing of the chief instructress Miss Florrie Warren. Ferris has received a bad press from the early days of the Revival, yet without him realising the possibilities inherent in the growing antiquarian interest in folk lore there might not have been a Revival. He seems to have coincided with the start of the modern habit of reviving old customs and traditions for national celebrations, thereby making them respectable, as at Queen Victoria's Jubilees. The interest aroused was decisive in maintaining the Ilmington tradition. It is uncertain if it played any part in Percy Manning involvement and the Headington Quarry morris renewal in 1897 and hence its discovery of Cecil Sharp on Boxing Day 1899.