Bagthorpe (SK4751), Nottinghamshire

S.R. (1924)

S. R. (Auth.)
Nottingham Guardian, 7th Jan.1924, No.21151, p.3 b-c

The theories on the origins of Mummers' plays propounded by Cecil Sharpe and R.J.E.Tiddy (1923) are briefly reviewed. There is a detailed description with most of the text of a Selston play (collected by Capt. J.P.Scothorne from boys at Bagthorpe). This includes the characters; Fool, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub and Devil Doubt. Fragments are also quoted from the East Retford play published by E.Sutton (1912) but here only located as "North Notts." The characters given are; Herald, Hero, St. George and Doctor. Mention is also made of relic plays in Nottingham suburbs and also of a plough procession in East Bridgford, Notts.

S.Race Collection (1924, J.P.Scothorne)

[Capt. J. P. Scothorne] (Col.); Sydney Race (Col.)
Selston Version [Christmas Play from Bagthorpe, Notts.]
S.Race Collection, Col. about Jan.1924

Typescript of a Christmas play text (62 lines), with the characters were; Fool, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Belzebub/Beelzebub and Devil Doubt. The typescript has been marked up for publication, and a hand written five line song at the end may not have been part of the original.

There is little identification with the text, although it clearly tallies with the text quoted extensively in S.R. (1924). The hand written heading on the text gives its location as Selston, and in his publications, S.Race also describes it coming from Selston. However, S.R. (1924) says that the text was taken down by Capt. Scothorne from pupils of the school in Bagthorpe, Notts., at which he was teaching. Selston is a neighbouring village, and it seems unlikely that children from Selston would have gone to school in Bagthorpe. S.R. (1924) states that the custom was still current, so it would have been the version performed in 1923.

In the collection, this text is attached to the manuscript of a short article intended for publication in a newspaper. This is annotated "Wkly 2/2/46", but no published version has yet been found (see S.Race, 1946).

S.Race (1946)

*Sydney Race (Auth.)
*Mummers [The Mummers' Play: Notts versions for Plough Monday.]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 2nd Feb.1946

*The S.Race Collection contains a manuscript of the above article, to which is attached the typescript of a "Selston" play text (see S.Race Collection, 1924, J.P.Scothorne). This is annotated "Wkly 2/2/46". However, no copy of an actual publication has yet been located. "Wkly" most probably refers to the weekly edition of the Nottinghamshire Guardian. The article states;

"Almost as familiar in Victorian times as the carols of Christmas was the Mummers' Play & its popularity was widespread. Thomas Hardy in one of his Wessex stories describes a performance, & there are versions of it in print which come from Cornwall, Devon & Hampshire, from Oxford & Warwickshire, from Lancashire & the neighbouring counties, & even from northern Ireland.

It had a firm hold in Nottinghamshire, particularly in the district around Retford & in the villages near to the Vale of Belvoir. A newspaper of January 1871 states that 'a party of Mummers lately visited the towns & villages of North Notts and highly diverted the inhabitants by their dancing, singing of old songs, & the play of the Hobby Horse'. Mrs Chaworth Musters in her story of 'A Cavalier Stronghold' printed a version for Plough Monday which she had collected from Cropwell.

In the years between the two wars, there was a great revival of interest in the play, & quite probably in this first Christmas of the peace there have been places in which it has again been seen.

There are many versions of the play & Here is one, a little abbreviated, which was obtained in the Selston district, twenty years ago."

P.T.Millington Collection (1971, T.Thorpe)

Mr. Tom Thorpe (Perf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 30th Jan.1971

Brief text (41 lines) of a Christmas play performed by Guysers in Bagthorpe and Underwood, Notts. The itinerary included Felley Priory, Notts. The characters were Opener In, Saint George, Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub and Devil Dout. Text recorded on audio cassette.

P.T.Millington Collection (1971k)

Anon. (Perf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 24th Dec.1971

Full text of a short (26 lines) Christmas Guysers play, noted down at its performance in Brinsley, Notts. The itinerary also included Underwood and Bagthorpe, Notts. The three characters were Beelzebub, Saint George and Doctor.

P.T.Millington Collection (1971c)

Anon. (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. Jan.1971

Brief note as follows:-

"Recorded from the barman of the 'Shepherds Rest' Bagthorpe in January 1971.

The informant described the visits of Bullguysers to the pub at Christmas in 1970. The boys had blackened faces and wore their coats inside out, and carried wooden swords. Characters included a First Man, Bullguy, Beelzebub, Doctor and Molly Mop.

The informant was not sure where the Bull Guysers came from, but thought they came from Brinsley. The characters are more in keeping with the Selston version."

P.T.Millington Collection (1972, K.Smith)

Mr. K. Smith (Inf.)
[Christmas, Guysers play from Underwood, Notts.]
P.T.Millington Collection, Com. 15th Jan. 1972

Text of a Christmas Guysers play from Underwood, Notts. performed about 1943. This was also performed at Felley Priory, Bagthorpe and Annesley, Notts. The characters are Opener, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Belzebub and Little Devil Doubt.

P.T.Millington Collection (1972, M.E.Sisson)

Miss M. E. Sisson (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Com. 16th Jan.1972

The text (74 lines) of a Guisers play performed in the Underwood, Bagthorpe and Brinsley districts of Notts. The characters were Door-man (played by Alan Gill), St. George (played by the informant's youngest brother), Slasher, Tom Slasher (Slasher's father), Doctor, Beelzebub, and Little Devil Doubt. M.W.Barley arranged for the B.B.C. to record a performance in 1953, and this was broadcast on the 13th Jan.1954.

R.W.Storer (1975)

R. W. Storer (Auth.)
Victorian Selston [includes Bull Guysing fragment]
Selston: Worker's Education Association, 1975, p.54

This is a general local history of the Parish of Selston, Notts., which includes Bagthorpe, Underwood and Jacksdale. The following appears on page 54;

"Older children and adults took the mumming plays or 'Bull Guysing' to the public houses and for a few of the better-off houses. These plays had their origin in Mediaeval Times and the acting or spoken word portrayed either the Christian Festivals, the New Year, the Saints, etc. Some older readers may well remember the cheery character of the blackened face of Bel-zebub and his final lines at the Christmas play:-

In comes owd Bel-zebub,
On me back a' carry me club,
In me 'and a dripping pan,
Don't yo'u think I'm a jolly old man,
If yo'u don't, I do.
Plum puddings hot, Plum puddings cow'd,
Plum puddings in the pot nine days owd,
If you think I'm a fool and got no sense,
put yo'ur hand in yo'ur pocket and gimme a few pence.

These plays have survived in certain parts of the country and in particular in the Erewash valley until recent times."

I.T.Jones Collection (1981, I.M.O'Brien)

Mrs. I. M. O'Brien (Inf.)
Underwood/Selston/Bagthorpe, Notts: Questionnaire from Mrs I.M.O'Brien
I.T.Jones Collection, 7th Feb 1981, Ref.K9-4

Questionnaire from Mrs O'Brien, age 60, who was born in Selston and now lives in Underwood giving some of her recollections and some from Mrs R. Kirk. 63 lines of text given from the Bagthorpe area with characters Announcer, St. George, Slasher, Father, Doctor, Beelzebub and Little Devil Doubt. 7 Lines of text given from the play performed in Selston. Performances remembered up to 1944 in Underwood. Players referred to locally as 'Guysers' or 'Bull guysers'

Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes (1989)

Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes (Comp.)
The Nottinghamshire Village Book: Compiled by the Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes from notes and illustrations sent by Institutes in the County [Includes notes on Plough Monday, Bullguysers and other customs]
Newbury: Countryside Books, & Newark, NFWI, 1989, 1-85306-057-7, 191pp.

This book is compilation of short pieces on about 148 Notts., villages giving descriptions, histories and reminiscences. There are numerous mentions of customs, legends and ghosts. The following are of particular interest.

Caunton (p.41) quotes S.R.Hole's (1901) description of the Rang-Tang.

From Kirklington (pp.98-99) we have;

"Plough Monday was always kept on the second Monday in January when the farmworkers of the village went the rounds of the village and acted a play in every house where they were invited. They were given mince pies and ale or money. The exit lines of the play were:

'We are the country plough lads
That go from door to door
Good Master and Good Mistress
As you sit by your fire
Remember us good plough lads
That work through mud and mire
So bring us out a good pork pie
And a jug of your best beer
We wish you all good night
And another Happy Year'"

At Laxton (p.106) it states; "On the first Monday in January, Plough Monday, ancient Mummer plays were enacted, a tradition which has sadly disappeared."

A frontispiece signed D.A.Shaw (p.8) illustrates "Plough Sunday at Tithby", and the text says;

"Despite attuning to the needs of the present day, old customs and rites are not forgotten and are practised. One farmer breeds and works Suffolk Punches, another farmer maintains a herd of Highland cattle, and on Plough Sunday the plough is still brought into Holy Trinity Church to be blessed." (p.163)

There is a good description from Underwood with Bagthorpe (p.167);

"Mummer's plays were a feature of life in the area until the Second World War. Dressed in bizarre costumes and with blackened faces, local youths with a pretended show of force, would gatecrash Christmas gatherings in houses and pubs to re-enact the age-old story of the triumph of life over death in Nature, the origins of which go back beyond pre-Christian times. Over the centuries the performances had become pure knock-about farce. However, there existed an instinctive respect for their antiquity and no door was ever barred against the Bullguysers. Unfortunately, to safeguard the blackout in the war years, the police had to insist that the Mummers should play no more and another age-old custom was lost."

From Woodborough (pp.86-87), several speeches are quoted from a Plough Monday play, seeming to comprise a complete but brief text (18 lines). Characters mentioned are Easom Squeesom, Big Belly Ben, a Soldier and Doctor.

P.T.Millington Collection (1991, T.Thorpe)

Tom Thorpe (Perf.)
[Guysers Play from Bagthorpe, Notts.]
P.T.Millington Collection, Written 21st Jan.1991

Full text (37 lines) of a Guysers play performed in the 1930s in Bagthorpe, Notts. The characters are; Opener In, Saint George, Slasher, Doctor, Belzibub and Devildowt. The itinerary included Felley Priory.

Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser (1993a)

Anon. (Auth.)
GUISER'S STAGE A COMEBACK [in Underwood, Notts.]
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 31st Dec.1993, Vol.94, No.5205, p.2e-h

Description of the revival of the Christmas Guisers' or Mummers play originally performed by five of the six performers as children in the 1940s in Underwood, Notts. The characters were; Opener In, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Belgebub [misprint for Belzebub] and Devildoubt. Performances were given to the Haggs Farm Preservation Society (because of an interest arising from D.H.Lawrence mentioning the play in "The White Peacock"), and venues in Bagthorpe, Underwood and Brinsley. A list of the actors is included.

Evening Post [Nottingham] (1994b)

Anon. (Auth.)
NEIGHBOURHOOD NEWS: Reporting on NUTHALL, KIMBERLEY, EASTWOOD, HEANOR, RIPLEY and ALFRETON: Going back to folklore: Friends bid to revive guiser plays [in Underwood, Notts.]
Evening Post [Nottingham, 18th Jan.1994, No.35699, p.1Bd-h

An account of the revival of the Underwood guiser play by five men who originally performed it as children in the 1940s. Maurice Holmes adapted several local scripts. A photo shows six characters. Five named in the article are; Opener, St George, Slasher, Doctor and Devildoubt. The other character in the photo is Beelzebub. Performances were given at Underwood, Bagthorpe and Brinsley, Notts., and for the Haggs Farm Preservation Society. Planned venues included Newstead Abbey and Nottingham Castle.

* indicates data that not yet been validated against the original source and/or has yet to be completely indexed.