HISTORY OF SALISBURY MORRIS       

 

                      

"That St Christopher's Self, all my readers may see when he comes thro' Close Gate, to Hold High Justice" - Christopher the Giant with Morris Dancers 1838

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The City of Salisbury has one of the oldest documented references to Morris Dancing, dating back to 1564. The records of the Tailors Guild show expenditure for Morris costumes “at thys assembly was receyuyd for the puttynge owt of the Morrys Cots (Coats) iii s iv d and yt ys agreyd that Gregory Clerke shall have the kepynge of the five morrys-cots, with xxti dosyn Myllan-bells, for the space of xii yere.

At this time, 3 shillings and four pence (payable per annum) was a considerable sum of money. In addition, this shows that at this time there were only five dancers. Morris dancing traditionally accompanied the Salisbury Giant, Christopher,  and the tourney hobbyhorse, Hob-Nob, which were also owned by the Tailors Guild. In 1611 the warden of the Tailors Company was committed to prison for patronising the morris dancers on a Sunday. Of further interest is a reference in the Guild records for 1633, At this assemblie a fine of five shillings of current English money is imposed and sett vpon pofer Smith one of the bretheren of this companye for deriding and scoffinge Augustine Creed and Thomas Jervis, Wardens of this Companye, by vteringe theis words following, vitz ‚¬“Praie make an order that eury one of this companye may wear belles on their leggs

It would appear to be one of the first instances of anti-morris sentiment. Something that would become all too common in future Puritan times. In 1709 an inventory showed the tailors guild to possess the Gyant and what belongs to him, the Hobby Horse and his accoutrements, and ffive Suits of Clothes for Maurice daunsers. 

References to morris dancing continue sporadically through the Guild records until the Guild closed in 1869 and the Giant and Hob-Nob passed to Salisbury Corporation. 

  • 1856 Morris dancers accompany Giant and Hob-Nob on a peace parade following the end of The Crimean war.
  • 1863 a parade as above to celebrate the wedding of The Prince of Wales.
  • 1887 Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria was celebrated by parade involving great pomp and pageantry
  • 1893 wedding of The Duke of York. Morris dancers wore gold floral jackets, black and white striped knee breeches.
  • 1897 Queen Victoria Diamond jubilee. Three morris men wore dark jackets, knee breeches, and large bush hats. The three women wore light dresses, white petticoats, and large bonnets with flowers around the brim.
  • 1902 a rather muted procession of Giant, Hob-Nob and six morris dancers to celebrate King Edward VII's Coronation, (it was muted as the coronation had been postponed for six months because of the King's appendicitis).

     

    The last recorded appearance of a side was at the time of King George's Coronation in 1911, although a side did attempt to keep the tradition alive for the Children's Peace pageant in 1919.


    Left: This photograph dates from the 19th century and is a Copyright Photograph Courtesy of Peter Daniels