Ever since I accidentally bought a book about British folk traditions on Amazon a few years ago, I’ve been making an effort to attend a few of the more interesting ones. In the past two years I’ve been to the Haxey Hood Game, the Burning of Old Bartle in West Witton, Preston Guild Fair, and the York Mystery Plays.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, in and around the Staffordshire village of Abbots Bromley.
The event takes place every year on Wakes Monday in early September. Twelve dancers play different roles (including Maid Marian, The Fool, The Hobby Horse, and 6 carrying the horns) and spend the whole day touring and performing around Abbots Bromley and surrounding villages. The dance itself is similar to other English folk dances, but simpler, probably due to the weight and danger of the dancers’ loads. However, with the horns moving around and rearing up and down, it’s an impressive sight.
It’s one of the more ancient traditions of Britain, recorded in the 16th century, but probably even older than that. The stags’ antlers used in the dance are the originals, and have been carbon dated to the 11th century, making the event possibly a thousand years old.
Finding the dancers was unexpectedly easy, as they literally danced out into the road in front of me as I approached the village (a police officer had already stopped the traffic). I parked, and followed them to their next destination, Blithfield Hall, the local manor. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to take my camera, so the best I can provide is a few grainy phone pictures. Also, I neglected to buy one of the pamphlets on the history of the dance that were being sold in the village, so I can’t add anything to the information available online.
Here are some more pictures of the dancers at Blithfield Hall.