Nineteenth Century

From the memories of one old dancer, Joseph Evans, whose forefathers had danced, we can reasonably infer a tradition of Morris dancing going back to the first half of the nineteenth century and lasting continuously into the twentieth.

The first documentary evidence we have is a brief report in the Oxford Chronicle for 17 May 1856 which tells us that 'on the Wednesday some of the villagers entertained the inhabitants with morris dancing'. This was 14 May, the Wednesday of Whit Week, the tradtional dancing season.

Five years later the Bampton correspondent of Jackson's Oxford Journal reported on 26 January 1861 that 'Last week we were amused by the appearance of a novelty in the shape of a party of morris dancers, formed of frozen-out individuals from Ensham. They were well requited not, so much, we imagine, for the gracefulness of their saltatory powers, as in approval of their efforts to obtain an "honest penny" '. Bampton -- which has and had then its own team of morris dancers -- is about nine miles from Eynsham. Although unusual, it is not unknown for dancers to dance out of season to earn money, and Eynsham seem to have made a habit of it. (Morris dancing was 'discovered' by Cecil Sharp on Boxing Day, 1899, when he encountered the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers similarly dancing out of season through being out of work because of the frost.)

Feathers Russell c. 1901