Caunton (SK7460), Nottinghamshire

S.R.Hole (1901)

Dean S. Reynolds Hole (Auth.)
THEN AND NOW [7th ed.]
London: Hutchinson & Co., 1901, pp.142-158

The chapter on "Recreations" includes descriptions of Plough Monday, club feasts, harvest homes and harvest suppers, a dance game called "Prinkum prankum", and a song - "Colonel Kelly's Son". These all relate to the time the author lived in Caunton, Notts.

The description of Plough Monday (pp.150-152) has been much reprinted and cited by later authors. It reads;

"... I remember the morris dancers paying their annual visit on 'Plough Monday' - so-called because on that day the farm labourer went back to his work after the holiday of Christmas - walking round the big kitchen with their faces raddled and a few bits of ribbon and coloured rags sewn on their smocks by their wives and sweethearts, and favouring us as they passed by with brief notes as to their personal history.

First Rustic (carrying bow and arrow, with peacock's feathers in his hat):-

Here come I, bold Robin Hood
As used to shoot the deer i' th' wood.

Second Rustic (similarly adorned and armed):-

And here comes I. I'm Little John,
I'm Robin Hood's compan-i-on.

Third Rustic (large labourer in woman's attire - bonnet and shawl, and hobnailed boots appearing below scanty skirt):-

And here comes I, a lively dame;
Maid Marion it is my name.

Fourth Rustic (supposed, with good reason, to be a fool or clown):-

And here comes I, as it is fit,
With my great head and little wit.

Then they danced, shaking a tin box, which contained the coins they had collected, and calling out 'Largesse, largesse!' received additional donations, were refreshed with ale, not having tasted that beverage for a period of twenty minutes, and with cheers and a bow, and a curtsey from Maid Marion which brought down the house, they took their departure."

P.Herring (1926)

Paul Herring (Auth.)
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 9th Jan.1926, No.4208, p.1 a-b,e-f

This extensive feature article describes Plough Monday activities of Plough Bullocks, Guisers and Plough-licks in Notts., the East Midlands and Norfolk using information derived from published sources.

A Notts. Plough Bullocks' play is described, with textual fragments, and the characters; [an Introducer], St. George, Turkish Knight, Doctor, Old Squire, Beelzebub. This seems to be taken from C.Brown (1891) and W.Hone (1837).

Plough Bullocks collecting money in Nottingham are mentioned.

S.R.Hole's (1902) account of morris dancers at Caunton, Notts. is extensively quoted. including the play with characters; Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marion and Fool.

A description of the trailing of a Fool Plough, with its attendant dancers and Bessy, also seems to be taken from W.Hone (1837).

Finally there is a brief account of the plough boys' daily life, taken from Gervase Markham's (1653) "Farewell to husbandry", and J.Prior's novel "Forest Folk"

[I recollect having seen the actual newspaper containing this article at one time, and thought I saw two illustrations taken from W.Hone (1837). However, these are lacking from the clippings in Notts. County Library's folklore box. On the other hand these illustrations are included with clippings of M.W.M. (1926a & 1926b) where they appear to be a little out of context. I suspect a mix up.]

P.H. (1932)

P. H. (Auth.)
*LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: "Plough Boys" at Newark [and Caunton, Notts.]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 2nd Apr.1932

*Cites S.R.Hole's (1901) account of Plough Monday at Caunton, Notts.

D.H.Brooksbank (1936)

Dora H. Brooksbank (Auth.)
*Memories Of Old World Village: Sliding Down Bannisters Of Life (Part 2)
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 29th Aug.1936, pp.1,6

This two-part article concerns Caunton, Notts. The first part gives anecdotes concerning the authoress's move to the village, and mentions some of the village characters. The second part gives details of some village customs and an adventure in the floods. The customs mentioned include; giving an egg, bread and salt to a baby on its first visit to another house, Plough Monday mummers, St. Thomas's Day "a-begging", the Passing bell, and visits to Nottingham's Goose Fair. The mummers had a repertoire of two plays - "Alexander and the King of Egypt" and a mock trial of Sir John Barleycorn.

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1939a)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
The End Of Plough Mondays
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 7th Jan.1939

A general description of Plough Monday, with quotations on the disrepute of the custom through malicious ploughing, from W. Howitt (1834). S.R.Hole (1901) and Chaworth-Musters (1890) are also cited. Mentions "guisers", and the characters Robin Hood and Maid Marion.

Places in Notts., listed as having seen the custom within living memory are; Newark, Mansfield, Southwell, Bulwell, Radford, Wiverton, Cropwell, and Tithby (1890), Caunton (1900), and East Markham.

M.W.Barley Collection (1954, Parker)

Mrs. Parker (Inf.)
Plough Monday [Plough Monday play given by Mrs. Parker of Caunton]
M.W.Barley Collection, Dated Feb.1954, Ref.BaP 1/15

Full text (107 lines) of a Plough Monday play from Caunton, Notts. The characters are; No 1/Tom Fool/Tommy, No 2/Recruiting Sergeant, No 3/Lady Bright & Gay, No 4/Old Dame Jane/Old Woman, No 5/Eesum Squeezum/Easum Squeezum/Belzy, and No 6/Doctor.

A footnote reads; "Given by Mrs Parker of Caunton

There should be another character Beelzebub, who has two lines to say, but as Mrs P. says these are 'rude' she has omitted them. ..."

[According to her entry to the Notts. Local History Council essay competition "Memories of Newark" (1962), Mrs. B.D. Crowden says she collected this text for Prof. Barley.]

"J.Granby" (1960a)

"John Granby" (Auth.)
*LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: Old customs still exist - but some have a "new look" [Plough Monday in Notts.]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 12th Mar.1960

Article on extant customs in Nottinghamshire.

"The Monday closest to that date (January 6) is Plough Monday, the day on which the plough was taken round a parish by youths and men, who probably never knew that the money collected from cottagers and others was originally for the maintenance of the farmers' light in church and pocketed it for themselves.

This lingered long into the Victorian era at Radford and Bulwell, but roughness crept in and it was generally abandoned, though the accompanying folk-drama and mumming seem never to have quite died out locally. Mrs. Chaworth-Musters's 'Cavalier Stronghold' gives full details of the play as performed at Wiverton 50 years ago; early in the present century it was flourishing at Caunton, and since then it has been revived at Tollerton and East Markham and perhaps elsewhere."

Other customs mentioned include ringing the pancake-bell on Shrove Tuesday, sports and games on hills on the same day, Mothering Sunday, simnel cakes, and clipping the church.

"J.Granby" (1960b)

"John Granby" (Auth.)
LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: Old Christmas customs still survive in Notts.
*Nottingham Guardian Journal, 24th Dec.1960

Article on Christmas customs extant in Nottinghamshire.

"...until recently musicians and *'guisers' in fantastic attire were to be heard and seen at Weston-on-Trent as the mummers were in the Norwell district on Christmas Eve."

"*'GUYSER' – Here we see the use of the word 'Guiser.' It was used by W.H.Lawrence [sic] in the story he wrote around this custom of dressing up and which appeared in the Weekly Guardian of 1907 under the name of Jessie Chambers of Haggs Farm. It was Lawrence's first published work – and the story submitted in his own name was returned. He used this ruse to submit more than one entry because the conditions of the competition stipulated one only. The story was reprinted in the Christmas Weekly of December 1949. 'Guyser' is the form used by Lawrence."


Plough Monday falls on the Monday after Twelfth Night and although villagers no longer perambulate with a plough in quest of pence for the maintenance of the 'ploughman's light' in their parish church the custom has been revived in modernised form in which the old folk-drama has been retained.

About half-a-century ago Mrs. L. Chaworth-Musters reintroduced it at Wiverton, Caunton copied it; in 1935 the Boy Scouts performed the traditional play at East Markham and in 1939 it was resuscitated at Tollerton. The plough is represented by pieces of shaped paper, the actors are lavishly tricked out with beribboned fancy costumes, 'Bessie' is still a boy in feminine guise; the quack doctor restores the slain man to life, and wooden swords and humorous buffonery prevailed as of yore."

'W.H.Lawrence' is evidently a misprint for D.H.Lawrence.

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1963, W.Pinder)

Miss W. Pinder (Inf.)
[Plough Monday at Caunton, Notts.]
Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Com. 26th Feb.1963, Ref.DD/121/3/11

This is an entry to the essay competition "Memories of Newark".

Miss Pinder had lived in Caunton, Notts, and judging from internal evidence was born about the turn of the century. She remembered Newark's town crier, and a wart charmer, who stuck an appropriate number of pins in a piece of raw meat, which was then buried to decay along with the warts. She also gives the following;

"... Plough Monday was a great event in rural areas, the players would meet for weeks & practice in a barn. Many of the characters I have forgotten but there was the Dr. & one appear who used to say. "In comes I Heezum Squeezum, on my back I carry a besom, in my hand a frying pan, dont you think I'm a funny old man, if you don't - I do" They were considered great fun & were well received, especially at outlying farms where there was not much diversion. ..."

[Nottinghamshire Archives' online catalogue gives Ref.DD/121/14 for Miss Pinder's essay.]

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1963, B.D.Crowden)

Mrs. B. D. Crowden (Col.)
"Memories of Newark" [Plough Monday at Caunton]
Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Com. 28th Apr.1963, Ref.DD121/3/13

One of 16 essays entered for a competition. It is a historical description of bygone Newark, but not really from personal memory. It includes the following passage;

"I do remember Plough Boys calling at my home to 'act their little piece' as they put it. I saved the Plough Monday Play at Caunton and gave it to Mr. Maurice Barley MA, of Nottingham University."

[A manuscript text of a Caunton play dated 1954 is in the M.W.Barley Collection. There was clearly an intermediate collector, who is not identified.]

[Nottinghamshire Archives' online catalogue gives Ref.DD/121/7 for "Miss" Crowden's essay.]

P.T.Millington Collection (1970, G.Elvidge)

George Elvidge (Perf.)
*P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 1970

Full text of a Plough Monday, Plough Boying play (58 lines) performed in Caunton, Notts., about 1945. The characters were; Farmers Boy, 2, Lady Bright and Gay, 3/Vintner, 4/Beast, 5/Doctor, 6/Farmers Boy/Tommy and 7/Forman.

I.T.Jones (1981b)

I. T. Jones (Auth.)
The Owd Oss Mummers: PLOUGH MONDAY
The Bramley, Apr.1981, No.68, p.6e-f

Follow up letter regarding an appeal for information on Plough Monday in the Jan.1981 issue (I.T.Jones, 1981a). Mr. Steemson provided words of a play performed in Oxton until the 1890s. Mr. Ralph Brooke had the scrap book compiled by Miss L.F.Milner containing the play performed in Kirklington up to the First War. Mrs. Olifent and Mr. Robinson provided the play performed between the wars in Farnsfield, and recently revived at annual Plough Monday suppers. Mr. Jack Smith (via his daughter Mrs. Marshall) gave details of the Plough Bullocking play that he and others had revived in 1980 in Blidworth. This had been performed right up to the Second World War. Mr. Ernest Parkin remembered his father's Plough Bullocking in Edingley about 1891. Further locations mentioned where Plough Monday had been celebrated, but for not detailed information was available were Averham, Kneesall, Norwell and Southwell. The author had also obtained a copy of a Caunton text performed until about 1945.

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.

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