The History of Morris Dancing around Kingston-upon-Thames from 1502 to the present
 

There is a story to be told here, of the rise, fall and rise again of morris dancing.  The rise supported first by royal patronage, then as time went by, the wealthy church, prosperous merchant guilds and then the towns and villages.  There was decline through the protestant reformation and rise again in the 20th century.  The sources quoted cover the old Parish of Kingston upon Thames included Hook, Kew, New Malden, Petersham, Richmond (and therefore also Twickenham) and Surbiton.  It's worth noting that Morris was not danced continuously in Kingston from 1502 to the present day, and that what few references there are before the 20th century give little evidence but are worthy of mention.
 
The eariest reference is in John Leland's Colletanea[a] who notes the inclusion of morris dancing in the celebration at Richmond during the proxy marriage of Princess Margaret and James IV King of Scotland on 25 January 1502.
Incontinent after the Pryses were given, there was in the Hall a goodly Pageant, curiously wrought with Fenestrallis, having many Lights brenning in the same, in Manner of a Lantron out of wich sorted divers Sortes of Morisks. Also very goodly Disguising of Six Gentlemen and Six Gentlewomen, which danced divers Dances.
The Account Books of John Heron[b] shows money paid for morris dancing there is a payment on 4 February 1502 to "one Lewes for a mores daunce" that probabaly refers to the Pageant. 
 
The Churchwardens Records of Kingston Parish Church mention Morris in entries from 1507 until 1538 when the records are discontinued [1]. Robin Aitken of Spring Grove Morris Men's excellent investigation is [here].
 
Hall's Chronicle[2] of 1548 - page 517 describes an entertainment that includes a morris dance.
"Agaynste the. xii. daye of the daye of the Epiphanie at nighte, before the banket in the Hall at Richemond, was a pageant deuised like a mountayne, glisteringe by night, as though it had bene all of golde and set with stones, on top of which mountayne was a tree of golde, the braunches and bowes frysed with gold, spredynge on euery side ower the mountayne, with Roses and Pomegarnettes, the which mountayne was with vices brought vp towards the kyng, & out of thesame came a ladye, appareiled in cloth of golde, and the chyldren of honor called the Henchemen, whiche were freshly disguised, and daunced a Morice before the Kyng.  And that done, reentred the mountaine and then it was drawen backe, and then was the wassail of banket brought in, and so brake vp Christmas."
 
Morris Dancers by the Thames at Richmond
 
 
 Morris dancers are depicted in a painting from around 1620 described as
 
 "View of Richmond Palace, with some of the buildings towards Petersham. With Morris dancers" [3].
 
 
 
John Ashton's Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign recorded in Epsom in 1702
At Epsom Old Wells... on Whitson Tuesday will be Moris Dancing Set against Set, for Lac'd Hats, at 10 a clock, with other diversions.[c] 
A Lac'd Hat or lace-edged hat would have been a hat edged with a brocade or metal lace trim, and could be silk, cotton, silver or gold; a technique call passementerie.
 
One further 18th century reference is in a commentary on a play The Sad Shepherd by Ben Jonson written by FG Waldron in 1783 [4], that refers to a comment on the nature and use of a bladder on a stick by a fool in the play (page 255 - Additions and Corrections).

"Mr. Waldron has informed us that he saw in the summer of 1783, at Richmond in Surrey, a Company of Morrice-Dancers from Abington(sic), accompanied by a fool in a motley-jacket, who carried in his hand a staff or truncheon, about two feet long, having a blown-up bladder fastened to one end of it; with which he either buffeted the crowd to keep them at a proper distance from the dancers, or played tricks for the spectators' diversion. The dancers and the fool were Berkshire husbandmen taking an annual circuit, collecting money from whoever would give them any; and (I apprehend) had derived the appendage of the bladder from custom immemoriall; not from Old Plays, or the commentaries theron."

Back now to Kingston and its most loved mayor Dr Finny who researched the medieval fairs [5].  He recorded two old Kingstonians who remembered the Pleasure fair (the old Whitsun fair) before it was “abolished as a nuisance” in 1889 [6] . This evidence is thought to refer to around 1870-80 and the "traditional" "jerky dances which the people called 'gigs'" are Morris dances.

One Old Kingstonian, who is now nearly eighty, remembers when as a boy he and seven others, with "Jack in Green" and a piper who also beat a drum, dressed themselves up and "went about the town 'gigging ' on May Day."  They went from house to house and did simple traditional dances which he learnt from the others, and they sang:

The first of May is Gala Day,

Give us a penny and we'll go away.

A lady who is over ninety-one years remembers the maypole being carried through the Market Place and put up for May Day in the Apple Market, the whole of one side of which opened on to what was then a lane or roadway called Gig Hill, which at that time extended from the south end of the Market Place towards Heathen Street. Horner's map of Kingston-upon-Thames in 1813 shows Gig Hill all along the south side of the Apple Market with no division between them. The lady also remembers that the dancers were dressed up fantastically and had long waving streamers and coloured ribbons from their hats and costumes, and that they had a man with them who played a pipe and beat a drum, while they danced around the maypole, and did jerky dances which the people called "gigs."

Although not Morris Dancing, it is worth noting the last appearance of this indigenous culture when the Jack-in-the-Green makes an appearance in Richmond in 1893 as reported by a letter to The Times:
I saw a Jack in the Green in Richmond, Surrey at Easter 1893. As far as I can remember, his cage was covered with yew trimmings. His arms were inside it and he looked out through a round hole. He was accompanied by a girl, whom a bystander described as "a Maid Marian", and by a man with a pipe to whose music Jack in the Green and Maid Marian danced while a boy collected pennies.
The plans for the Millenary celebration of the coronation of Edward I in May 1902 included Morris and Maypole Dancing.  With the indigenous dancing no longer practiced Mrs Peter Davey visited Knutsford and transplanted their Royal May Day traditions of procession, May Queen, Morris and Maypole Dancing, though the Surrey Comet reports what befell that day,
Rain descended as the children began their old-world Morris dance in front of the stage...the shower assumed the proportions of a deluge, and the breeze stiffened into a hurricane...
The dancing never took place and Kingston had to wait another 9 years before Dr Finny took the opportunity of George V's coronation to organise the 1911 Coronation Pageant at which Morris Dancing was revived.
 
 
Text at the bottom of Kingston Museum's iconic copy of the Betley Window [8] that reads as follows
 
"This window (founded on a 16th Century window) was unveiled by Alderman George Huckle, JP, Mayor, to commemorate the coronation on the 22nd June 1911 of King George V and Queen Mary, and the revival on that occasion of the old Kingston-upon -Thames may-pole and morris dances."
The research on the Betley window by the late John Price of St Alban's Morris Men [website]
 
Though not in Kingston, it is interesting to note that between 1900 and The Great War only two Morris sides are recorded as having been founded. Thaxted Morris Men [website] started in 1911 and danced at their local coronation celebration, and Cambridge Morris Men [website] also started in 1911.
 
Children continued to be taught Morris Dancing, and during the first National Health Week there was a performance at the Royal County Theatre on Saturday 4th May 1912 with St John's Girls' School and Miss Collins pupils' performing two sets of morris dances and a set of maypole dances [11].

Other Morris activity has been noted, for example from the Oxford University Morris Men's history [website].

"15 March 1912. The inaugural meeting of the Oxford Branch of the EFDS was held in the Corn Exchange. William Hamilton Fyfe of Merton occupied the Chair, and Mr Sharp gave a short lecture. He said this was a red-letter day in his life, as on it he welcomed the first child in the provinces born to the London parent society, and a fine large child it was. He considered it highly creditable that it had already turned out a Morris of men that could dance a jig that was very good Morris."

Morris stayed as part of the Oxford University Dance Society until 1926 when the Morris separated off to form OUMM.

Sheffield Pageant 1911
It is by no means certain that a revival of Morris Dancing meant a side of adults dancing. At the Coronation Pageant in Sheffield 1500 children from local schools danced a programme of morris, maypole and country dances in Bramall Lane football ground - the home of Sheffield United FC.
Maypole and May Queen Procession
A picture that has recently come to light is print from a Magic Lantern slide labeled "Maypole Procession at Kingston-upon-Thames". This is probably from the 1911 Coronation Pageant in Home Park (Hampton Court Park).
 
In the foreground is a May Queen dressed in white in a white four wheel trap pulled by 10 costumed people and preceded by at least one more person in costume.
 
In the mid-ground is a four foot high, 50 foot wide stage with a 20 high maypole erected in the middle and two people holding ribbons.
 
In the background a crowd of perhaps 200 people and a seven foot high, six foot wide stage behind the crowd, on which there is a man and what might be a camera.
 
Roy Judge looked at Morris from 1800-1880[9]. He found that the title of Morris was given to a number of dance activities and that young girls may-pole dancing had been described as "may-pole and Morris dancing".
 
It would be nice if I could also find evidence of what we know as Morris, but at least this picture supports the evidence that maypole dancing was taking place in Kingston in the early 1900s.
 

From this point on the Morris revival takes hold in Surrey with independent Morris sides starting up around Kingston. 

East Surrey Morris Men

 In 1926 East Surrey Morris Men, started 7 miles south-east of Kingston in Sutton, and in the same year Greensleeves Morris Men was founded in Camden Town.  Read the story of how East Surrey started [website].

 
 More significantly to Morris in Kingston is The Curfew Morris that was based 10 miles west of Kingston in Chertsey (named after Chertsey's Curfew Bell). It isn't clear when the side was founded but they were sufficiently competent to dance into the Morris Ring at their 14th meeting in Stow-on the-Wold 17th September 1938. It is likely that The Curfew Morris danced in Kingston though there is no evidence of where they performed. There is no information about The Curfew Morris after September 1938 except that Thames Valley Morris Men (TVMM) note that "Curfew Morris last danced in the 1930s."
 
In the same year that Curfew danced into the Ring, in Kingston the 15th June 1938 Civic Festival included Maypole and other Dancing with Tableaux.  The programme has the following:
St John's school - Tableau; May Revels and Dances,
Richmond Road Junior Mixed School - Dance: The Blue-Eyed Stranger
A dance known only as a Morris Dance; other schools performed country dances.
 
Many sides suspended their activities at the end of the 1930s due to the Second World War and were then unable to restart once the war was over. East Surrey re-started in 1948 and the log book of Greensleeves has this towards the end of 1940:
"Forced to abandon meetings owing to enemy action etc."
 Greensleeves did continue though it was six years before they met as a side again, read their side's history [website].
 
Thames Valley Morris Men
In 1952 four ex-Curfew formed the core of a new Morris side 5 miles south of Kingston in Claygate, The Mid-Surrey Men's Morris.  They were led by Christopher Penton, who learnt his morris with St Alban's Morris Men, a side started and taught by Kenworthy Schofield, who in his turn had been taught by Cecil Sharp.  A year latter they adopted the name Thames Valley Morris Men, who provide the next evidence of Morris in Kingston. Their log book entry under 1953 is written as follows:

"On Whit Monday 25th May at Tiffins School, Kingston, on a sweltering hot afternoon we performed the Morris."

 and on 21st September 1957 they hosted the 61st meeting of the Morris Ring in Kingston.
"All members of the Side had carried out 'recces' for the eight tours arranged and the plan was carried out fully as set out in the attached programme. Kings College, Newcastle, attended after the programme was printed. Morley College and Farnborough Men were unable to come. Rain stopped at about 10am and the weather held fine but dull. 150 men attended and danced in Canbury Gardens, Kingston. The feast was a success and was attended by the Mayor of Kingston (Miss Anderson), Alderman and Mrs Lines, Mrs Penton and Mr Constantinedes as guests. Bill Cassie, Squire of the [Morris] Ring presided and [Morris] Ring Bagman, Russell Wortley also came."
For more information there is the 1957 Ring Meeting's hand-out, and the Morris Ring's report of the Kingston Ring Meeting.  The log book of the first 25 years of TVMM with more details about their origins is [website], and a brief summary of their Kingston appearances is here.
 
Sometime around 1953/4[12] Tony Pegram established Heston Boys Morris at Heston Secondary Modern School.  Though a boys side, they danced with the local men's clubs, and along with other events danced at the Albert Hall in 1960, attended the Ring Meeting at Thaxted in June 1966, toured Rye at Whitsun 1970 and were considered one of the best sides in the country.  From Heston Boys, Heston Morris Men was set-up in 1977, dancing until 1980, and individuals continued to attend Spring Grove's annual Day of Dance for many years after they stopped dancing as a side.  Read more about Heston Morris and Tony Pegram here.
 
Between 1956 and 1958 Mr Rowbotham set up a morris side in Fortescue House School for Boys in Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, and in 1959 Thames Valley MM danced at the school where John Glaister, founder member of Thames Valley MM, worked; TVMM's log book records "where John Glaister teaches the boys morris and sword".

The Fighting Cocks Rapper, a mixed gender side, was established at the Fighting Cocks pub in Kingston in the early 1970s, and continued to dance into the 1980s.
  
Greensleeves Morris Men
 In the mid to late 1970s Greensleeves moved from North London to Wimbledon 4 miles east of Kingston.  






TVMM continued to visit Kingston and in 1977 they helped to start Kingston's own Morris side, the Spring Grove Morris Men, who regularly appear at Kingston's fairs, festivals and carnivals.  Read about Spring Grove's origins here.
 
Two years later in 1979 TVMM also helped start Ewell St Mary's Morris Men 6 miles south of Kingston in Ewell.
 
 
 
 
References: 

[a] Leland, Collectanea, iv. 263.  Joannis Lelandi Antiquarii De Rebus Britannicis Collectanea
[b] Account Books of John Heron, Treasurer of the Chamber
[c] John Ashton, Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign, Volume I, 1882, p324
[1] Original manuscript of the Churchwardens' Accounts for Kingston Parish Church, held by Kingston Local History Room and Archives that covers the latter part of the reign of King Henry VII and the greater part of the reign of King Henry VIII, up to the Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries when the Accounts cease. We would also like to acknowledge the help obtained from transcripts of the original manuscripts that were typed out in May 1931 by Miss D.L. Powell who was a local archivist and historian.
[2] Hall's Chronicle: containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods.
[3] Vinkenboom. [View of Richmond Palace, with some of the buildings towards Petersham. With Morris dancers.]
Vinkenboom Pinx. Godfrey Sculp. Dedicated to Viscountess Fitz-Williams, who owned the painting from which the print was engraved. Published by S. Hooper, 1774.
Beneath the dedication are three lines describing the ownership and the whereabouts of the painting and continues: 'It was painted by Vinkenboom & most probably done in the beginning of the Reign of Charles the 1st., the Dresses of the figures point to this … … The state of the Buildings, the Dresses of the Morice Dancers, The Coach the Boats &c are portraits curious as matter of Antiquity.
At the centre is a ferry crossing, now the position of the bridge.
Well coloured at a later date.
The painting is now at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, named after the founder, Viscount Fitzwilliam of Meryon. The spelling of the Fitz-Williams in the tile of the print is probably a mistake, and she was married to the founder.
[4] The Sad Shepherd: or, A Tale of Robin Hood, a fragment, written by Ben Jonson. with A Continuation, Notes and an Appendix by Francis Godolphin Waldron. London, Printed for J. Nichols, Red-Lion Passage, Fleet Street, and sold by C. Dilly, in the Poultry. 1783.
[5] Finny, W.E.St.L, 'Mediaeval Games and Gaderyngs at Kingston-upon-Thames', in Surrey Archaeological Collections, Vol 44, pp 102-136 (1936)
[6] 'Kingston-upon-Thames: Introduction and borough', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3 (1911), pp. 487-501.
[7]  Letter to the Times 6 May 1930
[8] Colonist, Volume XLV, Issue 10437, 17 June 1902, Page 4, a New Zealand news paper
[9] Kingston's copy of the Betley Window is installed at Kingston Museum, 2 Fairfield West Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 2NP
[10] "The Old English Morris Dance": Theatrical Morris 1801-1880 by Roy Judge; Folk Music Journal, Vol. 7 No. 3(1997), pp. 311-350
[11] Royal County Theatre poster "National Health Week - 30 March 1912" held at Kingston Museum
[12] EFDSS 1960 New Year Festival included in the Saturday matinee "Morris Dances by Heston Boys"