The Millbrook (Stalybridge) Morris Dance -- (1 of 4)

Research notes from D. Howison, collected in October 1957

As described and shown by James A. Sykes (7 Beechwood Lane, Heyrod, Stalybridge), and Arthur Allen (who lives at a farm further up the same road)

Sykes and Allen learnt the dance from their fathers, while they were still at school (St. James's School, Millbrook). Sykes was born in 1887, and Allen is about the-same age, so it was probably for the 1897 Jubilee that they first learnt the dance. Other members of the team were Bob Farrington of Millbrook, Frank Sharples of 421 Huddersfield Road, Millbrook (both still alive), and Jim Richardson, who emigrated to the U.S.A. They were trained by four dancers of the previous generation - Sykes' father, Farrington's father, Sharples' father, and a man called Lawson. Sykes' father took the part of Besom Bet. They would meet about once a week when they were working up for a show. Although the fathers had danced when they were young, the dance had been in abeyance since then.

The team subsequently danced at the Coronations in 1902 and 1911 (the photograph reproduced in the Reporter 19:10:56 is their team) and probably met again a few times after the 1914 war, though they didn't seem very sure about this. At the 1902 Coronation they danced alternately with the Godley Hill team (who were wearing clogs) at Stalybridge. They used to march from one place to the next, and then do the dance standing still; or else they would do the First Figure moving forwards all the time, and stop for the second figure. They danced regularly at Stalybridge Wakes, and at Millbrook fair (April or May). They used to go to Uppermill and Delph for engagements, and once went to Hurst and Ashton, finishing at Stalybridge. If there was any fund that needed money they would give their takings to it, otherwise they were shared out among the dancers.

In 1903 ("The year after the Coronation") there was a rush-cart at the Wakes - "The only one I ever see". It used to be taken down to the canal every night and soaked with water to keep the rushes alive while it was being built.

Allen was asked if he would train a team of boys for the Stalybridge Centenary in 1957, and agreed. However, the Corporation were unable to get the boys, so asked Allen if he would train a team of girls instead, but he refused saying "No - it isn't a girls' job."

Sykes had seen the Mossley dancers several times, and said that they were "quite different - quite a different style from ours". He had also seen the Godley dancers, and recognised them too, as different, saying that they were "more in the Mossley style".

They had twenty dancers - "five sets with four in a set". The four tallest dancers were always in the front set, and each dancer always danced in the same position in his set.

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