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
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.