Welcome to the web page for Mr Hemmings Traditional Abingdon Mor
Old Black & white Pictures
Early Pictures of Mr Hemmings Morris dancers
Mr Hemmings Traditional Abingdon Morris Dancers
Mr Hemmings Traditional Abingdon Morris Dancers.
New website: http://mrhemmings.org.uk/
The team was formed in 1978, this was with local men who had previously danced with the Abingdon Morris and also with other men who were either born locally or have resided in the town for many years. The team has connections with a long line of Abingdon Morris dancers going back many generations and decided to take their name from an earlier dancer "Tom Hemmings", it is in recognition of his effort and contribution to the Abingdon Morris that the present team decided to call themselves “Mr Hemmings Traditional Abingdon Morris Dancers”.
There is a current repertoire of twelve dances including a solo jig.
The Princes Royal.
The Girl I Left Behind Me.
The Curly Headed Ploughboy.
Maid of the Mill.
The Duke of Marlborough.
The Squire’s Dance.
Jockey to the Fair.
Shepherds Star and Shepherds Hey (Jig)
Also documented are “Royal” versions of Maid of the Mill and Jocky to the fair, these were performed at Sidmouth Folk Festival in 1983.
The team performs during the summer months from May to September, usually at local fetes, pubs and with other morris sides around the area. On May the 6th, we dance along Ock Street to celebrate Tom Hemmings’ birthday. During the summer, we have a day of dance around Abingdon with other morris sides often joining us on the day.
Please see the calender for this years events.
Should you require any further information regarding our team and the Abingdon Morris tradition or maybe you feel you would like to give it a try, then please do contact us.
Les our Secretary email: TallyHois4me#aol.com
Tel: 01235 520812
Andy our Chairman email: apdab#tesco.net
Tel: 01566 779574(please replace the # with the @ symbol this is to prevent spam)
A Short History
The origin’s of Morris dancing goes far back into the dark distant past that one can only speculate as to it true beginning’s. Some people believe that the dances are based on pre-Christian fertility rites, whilst others contend that they are from the time of the crusades, or maybe an imitation of dances performed by the Moor’s hence the term “Moorish” (These were the people of northern Africa and southern Spain). This is all part of the mystery surrounding these old-dancing rituals and not knowing the truth only adds to their mystique.
Abingdon’s association with the Morris has been traced back through the parish records where it mentions “Morres” dancing in the mid 16th century and was linked with the May Revels. Unfortunately we do not know how similar these dances are with those that we perform today. This type of dancing was mainly confined to the Cotswold/Oxfordshire area and each village had its own distinct style, Abingdon is one of the few places where the tradition has survived, this is mainly due to a long association with the Hemmings family of Abingdon.
The Hemmings family of Abingdon.
The first known mention of a Hemmings is in connection with a local tradition; in the year of 1700 an ox roast was being held in the Bury (now the Market Place).
A fight broke out between the men from Ock Street and the men from the Vineyard end of the town to see who could gain possession of the horns. Apparently a local man named Hemmings secured the Horns with the aid of a cudgel and the Ock Street men retained them. These Horns have long been connected with Abingdon’s famous twin traditions of Morris dancing and the annual ceremony of electing the Mayor of Ock Street.
There are various old documents that mention the Morris dancing, it was once reported that the Abingdon “morrice-dancers” were seen on their annual tour of Richmond Surrey in the summer of1783. A Fool wearing a Motley jacket accompanied them and he carried an inflated Bladder attached to a stick.
We know that in the following century the Mayor of Ock Street was a Thomas Hemmings and that he died in1885. After Thomas’ death his son William was elected mayor he also was the musician. Later in 1930 when he died the position passed to his brother James. The dancing was performed by members of the Hemmings family and was mainly in the Ock Street area where they lived, up to 1900 this one street boasted of at least twenty pubs so there was very little reason to leave it! The dancers did not appear in public after 1902 until interest was revived when a Miss Mary Neal of the Esperance Morris
Guild visited James and William in 1910 and collected details of the tradition from them. Cecil Sharp also visited them in 1910 and 1922 and included details about the Abingdon Morris Tradition in his Morris Books the first and third volumes. Unfortunately the 1914-1918 war caused another lapse in dancing as a number of dancers never returned.
Although the steps and dances continued to be practiced by the family it was not until the coronation celebrations in 1937 that a dancing side appeared again. An army Major Frances Fryer from Wargrave Hall took an interest in the team; he played the music for them and would also take them in his van so they could perform further afield. James’s son, Tom Hemmings played an active part in teaching the dances and there was six of the Hemmings family in the side as well as other local men. James’ younger brother Henry was Mayor until 1942 and after the second world war Tom Hemmings was elected Mayor of Ock Street and remained as Mayor until his death in1960, he had more than 50 years of involvement with the Abingdon Morris Tradition. The team danced at the Royal Albert hall in 1952 and in 1956 they danced when her Majesty visited Abingdon town. Tom’s nephew Ray followed Tom as mayor until 1963 when he had to retire due to ill health. A local Man Charlie Brett was then elected and he kept this post until his death in 1978. In 1948 Brian Clark a grandson of Tom Hemmings joined the team, he danced with them until 1970 when he ceased dancing. It was in 1978 that he returned to dancing when he helped in forming the current team.
Mr Hemmings Traditional Abingdon Morris Dancers.
Mr Hemmings Traditional Abingdon Morris Dancers was formed in 1978 with local men who had danced previously with the Abingdon Morris and also other men who were born locally. The team includes Tom Hemmings’ grandson’s The Team decided to take their name after Tom Hemmings; it is in recognition of his effort and contribution to the Abingdon Morris Tradition that we are named after him.
There is a current repertoire of 12 dances including a solo jig. The most recent dance is called “Gentleman Jack” and was created by Mike Badcock in honour of Jack Hyde, a past bagmen of the Abingdon Morris. We perform during the summer months from May to September, usually at local fetes, pubs and with other Morris sides around the area. On May the 6th or the nearest Saturday we dance along Ock Street to celebrate Tom Hemmings Birthday this is also a day of dance around Abingdon with other Morris sides often joining us on this day.
This short history about the Abingdon Morris was compiled and written by the current chairman a member of the team since 1981. Thanks go to those for their help in supplying information to enable this website to materialise:
Text and photographs are copyright © to MrHTAMD
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