Cropwell Bishop (SK6835), Nottinghamshire

S.Race Collection (1924, E.R.Granger)

Mr. E. R. Granger (Col.)
Plough Monday Play [from Cropwell Bishop, Notts., etc.]
S.Race Collection, Com. 13th Jan.1924 & 16th Jan.1924

Two letters mainly concerning a Plough Monday play from Cropwell Bishop, Notts. The first replies to S.Race's enquiry after information, and says little, other than that the play had been performed up to the First World War and then discontinued. Two other points are of note;

"A friend of mine here who then lived at Hickling can also remember a party of players coming every year from Broughton. He says he was only a lad at the time, & that they were generally very frightened - & that the players generally got quite drunk on the proceeds of the play - & painted the place red before they went home."

"One interesting Plough Monday custom on old lady neighbour of mine told me last night. On that date the lads used to remove all mops & brooms from the back doors, & hold them to ransom on the church wall."

"The old lady tells me that a party used to come every year from Harby when she was a girl. They called them then 'Molly dancers'. - evidently a corruption of Morris"

The second letter contains the text (95 lines) of the play, including the tune to the final song in doh-ray-me form. The characters were; Tom Fool, Bold Tom, Recruiting Sergeant/Flasher, Farmer's Man, Beelzebub, Easem Squeasem, Dame Jane and Doctor. Evidently some lines were omitted. Reference is made to information quoted in the "Guardian" - i.e. the Nottinghamshire Guardian - probably E.M. (1924). The writer's enquiries prompted an immediate revival of the play by four young men.

I.T.Jones Collection (1926, A.H.)

Mr. Jack N. Smith (Inf.)
Blidworth, Notts: Press cutting supplied by Mr Smith
I.T.Jones Collection, Col. 9th Feb.1981

Copy of A.H. (1926) - TD00055 - supplied by Mr. Smith during the visit on 9/2/81.The article contains the text of the play from Cropwell Bishop and the part of the Farmer's Man has been marked in ink on the copy with the name Stan.

M.O.T. (1939)

M. O. T. (Cartoonist)
*Nottinghamshire Countryside, Jan.1939, p.26

A cartoon relating to the revived Plough Boys play at Cropwell Bishop, Notts. The Plough Boy Night characters are listed as; Fiddler, Doctor, Farmer's Man, Threshing Blade, Recruit, Recruiting Sergeant, Beelzebub, Hopper Joe, Dame Jane, Lady, Tom Fool and Eezum Squeezum.

Nottingham Journal (1941a)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Tom Fool and Beelzebub: PLOUGH MONDAY PLAYS IN NOTTS.?
Nottingham Journal, 10th Jan.1941, No.35888, p.3c

General article describing plough plays in Nottinghamshire, including the following paragraphs:

"The Notts. villages where the text of such plays is still preserved are Scarrington, Farnsfield, Bothamsall, Lowdham, Cropwell Bishop, Blidworth, Norwell and Thorney."

"The last performance of a play recalled by Mr. E.E.Neale, of the Notts. Rural Community Council, was at Cropwell Bishop in 1938."

The words of the final song at Blidworth are quoted.

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1943)

*[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Cropwell Bishop Plough Play
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 23rd Jan. 1943

"On several evenings recently a group of schoolboys at Cropwell Bishop have revived the ancient plough-boys' play in the village.

It had been the custom to give the old play at Cropwell Bishop but it lapsed some years ago. It was a relic here, as in many other places in England, of the celebration of Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Day, so called because it was the end of the Christmas holidays and the day when men returned to the plough, or daily work.

It was the custom for the 'stot plough' as it was called, and sometimes 'fond,' 'fool' or 'white' plough, to be drawn from door to door, with much mummery by gaily decorated labourers, to solicit 'plough money' to spend on frolic.

The boys at Cropwell Bishop have been putting on an excellent show which resulted in the collection of œ8 10s. for Mrs. Churchill's Aid to Russia Fund."

The historical information seems to have been drawn from folklore books rather than from sources in Cropwell Bishop.

Nottingham Journal (1947)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
No 'Plough Monday' Revival [at Tollerton]
Nottingham Journal, 13th Jan.1947, No.37749, p.2h

General article concerning Plough Monday in Notts.

Mr.A.H.Brown of Hall Farm is quoted as saying that the play was performed in Tollerton until the early years of the war and he hoped to revive it the next year.

The play was performed in the Cropwell Bishop area until 1939.

S.R. (1947)

S. R. (Auth.)
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 18th Jan.1947, No.5305, p.3 c-e

A review of the origins of Mummers' Plays and Plough Monday Plays. Race regards as fanciful the idea that the Mummers' Plays were a survival from pagan times, on grounds of lack of evidence. Although it may have originated in the 18th century, it really became popular in the early 19th century, under the influence of such books such as "Hone's Year Book for 1826". Chapbooks were an important factor later in the century. He cites a chapbook published in Belper in 1846, and chapbooks published by Heywoods of Manchester in the 1860s to 1880s. The Plough Monday play evolved from the Mummers' Play in the mid 19th century. He cites E.K.Chambers' (1933) feeling that the Plough Monday plays were confined to Lincs., and adjacent districts.

Texts from Clayworth (R.J.E.Tiddy, 1923) and Cropwell (Chaworth Musters, 1890) are compared. The characters for the Clayworth play are given as; Bold Tom, Recruiting Sergeant, Farmer's Man, Lady Bright and Gay, old Eazum Squeezum and the Doctor. The Cropwell characters are given as; Tom the Fool, Recruiting Sergeant, Ribboner, Doctor, Lady, Beelzebub, Dame Jane and the Farmer's Men. The text from Chaworth Musters (1890) is also compared with another text from Cropwell Bishop collected later by Race (S.Race Collection, 1924, E.R.Granger). In the latter play, the Lady had been lost, and Beelzebub had been replaced by Easem Squeasem. Other plays mentioned include a team from Harby, Leics., which used to visit Cropwell Bishop regularly, and a Retford troupe in the 19th century, one of whose members wore an animal's head.

Race concludes by posing the question, "Why should the observance of Plough Monday be so general in the countryside, and its play confined to an area comparatively small?"

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1960, E.B.Scott)

Mrs. Ethel Beatrice Scott (Auth.)
Competition: Memories of a Villager [Plough Monday at Cropwell Bishop, Notts.]
Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Written 29th Mar.1960, Ref.DD/121/1/22, 4pp.

Entry to an essay competition on old village life at Cropwell Bishop, Notts. The author was born about 1910. It states on page 3;

"On Plough Mondays villagers went round with faces blacked singing and acting their songs and we welcomed them to our homes for drinks etc."

Evening Post [Nottingham] (1975a)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Mummers in action [Owd Oss Mummers at Cropwell]
*Evening Post [Nottingham], 13th Jan 1975, p.18

States; "A group of actors - the Owd Oss Mummers group - are bringing a touch of times past to Cropwell Bishop and Cropwell Butler.

In olden days farm labourers in Nottinghamshire used to tour local farm houses performing short plays in return for money and refreshments.

The group, which specialises in performing folk plays, has researched the custom in the Cropwell Bishop area and returned there last night to reconstruct a 15-minute version of the play. Today, Plough Monday, two more local public houses are being visited."

Newark Advertiser (1976a)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Cropwell revival
*Newark Advertiser, 10th Jan.1976, p.28

Describes the revival of the Cropwell Bishop Plough Monday play by the local Youth Club, coached by the Owd Oss Mummers.

South Notts Advertiser (1976a)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Cropwell revival [Plough Monday Play]
*South Notts Advertiser, 10th Jan.1976, p.28

Describes the revival of the Cropwell Bishop Plough Monday play by the local Youth Club, coached by the Owd Oss Mummers.

A.Rattenbury (1977)

Arnold Rattenbury (Auth.)
CLOWNING: June 11 to September 4 1977: An exhibition designed and catalogued for Nottingham Festival 1977 by Arnold Rattenbury
Nottingham: Nottingham Castle Museum, 1977, exhibit 23, 2 photos

*Catalogue of an exhibition on the history of English fools and clowns. It starts with the fools associated with folk plays and other customs, then works through court jesters, entertainers at fairs, pantomimes of various ages (with particular emphasis on Joe Grimaldi), and ending with circus clowns.

A number of folk play costumes were exhibited - mostly on loan from the Folk-lore Society. Among the photos in the catalogue are details of the costume for Hopper Joe from the Plough Bullock's play of Cropwell Bishop, Notts. [This is the costume which was donated by Mrs. Chaworth-Musters to T.F.Ordish, and exhibited by him when he presented his 1893 paper.]

P.Spratley (1977) pp.18-26

Philip Spratley (Auth.)
P.Spratley (1977), pp.front cover,ii,18-26

The full text (143 lines & 3 tunes) of a Ploughboys, Plough Monday play from Cropwell Bishop, Notts. The characters are; Tom Fool/Bold Tom, Recruiting Sergeant, Ribboner, Lady, Threshing Blade, Hopper Joe/Sankey-Benny, Farmer's Man, Dame Jane, Beelzebub/Beelzie, and Doctor.

The text and photo were provided by Mrs. Mary Windey (nee Elnor), who had organised revivals of the play in 1937 (Nottingham University), and in 1942 (with the help of Harold Smith). An original performer, Harry Knight, took part in the 1937 revival. Tony Carter, who had taken part in the 1942 revival was involved in the retrieval of this text. The cover photo is of the 1937 revival. At least one of the songs was collected by Eric Swift. Philip Spratley also organised a revival by the Belvoir High School Company in Long Clawson Parish Church on 15th Dec.1975. A list of the performers is included.

A revival by the "Owd Hoss Mummers" in wrongly assigned to 1970. It should be 1975. From the Owd Oss Mummers' contacts with Mrs. Windey, we know that she copied the text for her revivals from Chaworth-Musters (1890), and certainly the two texts tally. This is not noted by Philip Spratley.

An incident is related (courtesy of Harold Smith) from the 1860s when the Ploughboys ploughed up the lawn of the Canal Inn, having been thrown out by the landlord.

J.Whitelaw & P.Barber (1980)

'Squire' John Whitelaw (Auth.); 'Bagman' Phil Barber (Auth.)
Who are the owd 'oss mummers?
*Nottingham Topic, Jul.1980

Profile of the Nottingham revival folk play side the Owd Oss Mummers. It including 3 photos of them performing a Gloucestershire play with the characters Tom Pinney, Doctor, Maid Marion, Tanner, Little John and Robin Hood. A further photo shows them in the costumes of a St. George play. The article mentions plays being performed at Christmas and Plough Monday in the East Midlands, and also mentions the Owd 'Oss play from Mansfield after which they were named. The article recounts the revival of a play in Cropwell Bishop and Cropwell Butler in 1975. It also gives one or two anecdotes of performances.

R.W.Morrell (1991)

R. W. Morrell (Auth.)
Hidden History, 1991, Vol.3, No.2&3, pp.44-51

This is rambling mystical description of Plough Monday plays and customs, in Nottinghamshire, interpreting them as relics of some pagan fertility ritual. No sources are cited, but the information given appears to come from secondary or tertiary sources, apart from:

p.51 "In January 1942 the Cropwell Bishop plough play was briefly revived by a group of schoolchildren to raise money for the Aid to Russia Fund."

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