Eastwood (SK4646), Nottinghamshire

"J.Chambers" (1907)

"Jessie Chambers" (Auth.); [David Herbert Lawrence] (Auth.)
AN ENJOYABLE CHRISTMAS: A PRELUDE: "Sweet pleasure after pain..." [D.H.Lawrence short story featuring a Christmas Guysers play]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 7th Dec.1907, p.17a-e

A Christmas short story set in the Notts. coalfield. It features a three-man Guysers play. The characters St. George and Beelzebub are mentioned, and there is some description of costumes. One of the ilustrations shows two Guysers making up in front of a mirror.

This was one of three short stories written by D.H.Lawrence for Christmas competition run by the newspaper. He got his friend to submit it under her name to circumvent the rule of one entry per author. It won the competition and became his first published work.

The story is probably based on his experiences of Guysers in his home town of Eastwood, Notts.

D.H.Lawrence (1915)

*D. H. Lawrence (Auth.)
*The Rainbow [Christmas Guysers Play]
*London: Methuen, 1915

*This novel briefly mentions a Christmas Guysers play, with the characters Beelzebub and Saint George. The episode is probably based on the author's childhood experiences in Eastwood, Notts.

P.S.Smith Collection (1967, J.G.Storr & J.Sharrard)

J. G. Storr (Inf.); J. Sharrard (Inf.)
CHRISTMAS FOLK DRAMA [Bull Guisers in Selston, Notts.]
P.S.Smith Collection, Col. Summer 1967

Front of 5 inch by 8 inch record card reads:

At Christmas, 'bull guisers' used to go round from door to door in Selston reciting rhymes and acting short plays. This was also common in the Eastwood area and mention is made of the guisers in 'The Rainbow' by D.H. Lawrence. I am not sure whether the practice still continues, but within my memory guisers from this area have performed at an inn in Nuthall, my previous home (about five miles from Selston). A popular play performed by the mummers of the Selston area was about Saint George. The B.B.C. once recorded it.
---> over
J.G.Storr Living in Sheffield, born Nuthall, Notts.

Retired collier 65-70 Selston (Underwood)

As a boy in Selston

Summer 1967 18.1.70"

The reverse of the record card reads:

" Boys used to go round in groups of four or five, bang open the
door and say 'I open the door, I enter in
I beg our pardon to be in
Whether I stand or sit or fall
I'll do my duty to please you all
A room! A room! (or words to that effect).
Then 'Bull Guy' would enter. Sometimes, for mischief, they would begin: 'I open the door, I enter in,
I'll fight your father to begin.' etc."

D.H.Lawrence (1971)

D. H. Lawrence (Auth.)
The Rainbow [Christmas Guysers Play]
Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1971, pp.140,279

The following passages in this novel briefly mention a Christmas Guysers' play. The description was probably based on the author's childhood experiences in Eastwood, Notts.

p.140; "The wake departed, and the guysers came. There was loud applause, and shouting and excitement as the old mystery play of St George, in which every man present had acted as a boy, proceeded, with banging and thumping of club and dripping pan.

'By Jove, I got a crack once, when I was playin' Beelzebub.' said Tom Brangwen. his eyes full of water with laughing. 'It knocked all th' sense out of me as you'd crack an egg. But I tell, when I come to, I played Old Johnny Roger with St George, I did that.'

He was shaking with laughter. Another knock came at the door. There was a hush."

p.279; "Gradually there gathered the feeling of expectation. Christmas was coming. In the shed, at nights, a secret candle was burning, a sound of veiled voices was heard. The boys were learning the old mystery play of St George and Beelzebub." ...

"In the cow-shed the boys were blacking their faces for a dress-rehearsal; the turkey hung dead, with opened, speckled wings, in the dairy. The time was come to make pies in readiness."

P.T.Millington Collection (1971d)

Anon. (Perf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 30th Jan.1971

Brief note as follows:-

"Recorded on the 30th January 1971 from an unnamed informant at the 'Robin Hood,' Brinsley, Notts.

The informant, who was a former resident of Victoria Street in Eastwood, took part in a Guysers play in 1940, playing the part of Beelzebub. He remembered that they had blackened faces and that one of the other characters was a Doctor. Only two lines of the text were remember, and these were not noted."

P.T.Millington Collection (1971, R.Wilkinson)

Mr. R. Wilkinson (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. Jul.1971

Brief note as follows:-

"Recorded in July 1971 from R. Wilkinson of Eastwood.

A 'Saint George and Dragon play' was still performed by children in the pubs at Christmas. The play ended with one coming in wearing a top hat and a long coat, and singing a song threatening to curse the ale if no money was given.

The same informant also stated that children also performed a 'Guy Fawkes play' about November the 4th."

P.T.Millington Collection (1971, A.Dakin)

Arthur Dakin (Perf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 22nd Dec.1971

Text (52 lines) of a Guysers play from Underwood, Notts., performed before 1914 at Christmas. The words were taken from a chapbook purchased from Eastwood, Notts. The characters were Saint George, Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub and Devil Doubt. Paper-covered costumes were worn.

A.Coleman (1972)

Arthur Coleman (Auth.)
*Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 21st Jan.1972, Vol.75, No.4065

A letter of thanks to people who sent in information on "Plough Bullockers" or Guyser plays [following the appeal in P.T.Millington (1972a)]. Also includes an open invitation to Mr. Millington to help stage a specially prepared "Eastwood" version in aid of charity during Christmas 1972, and for the Eastwood Festival 1972.

P.T.Millington Collection (1972, Eastwood Historical Society)

[Anon.] (Inf.)
[Guysers from around Eastwood, Notts.]
P.T.Millington Collection, Com. 17th Jan. 1972

A letter postmarked Eastwood, Notts. responding to a newspaper appeal for information on Guysers. It gives the lines for Belzibub.

P.T.Millington Collection (1973, Wellington Inn)

[Anon.] (Inf.)
CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS SURVEY [Guisers at Eastwood, Notts.]
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. Jan.1973

Reply from the Wellington Inn, Eastwood, Notts., to a questionnaire sent to pubs in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire border district in December 1972. The pub was visited by carol singers - both children and the church/chapel choir. Although the reply says no play was performed, the comment is added "Children Guisers usually Blacked Faces."

P.T.Millington Collection (1973, M.J.Stanton)

Michael J. Stanton (Inf.)
CHRISTMAS CUSTOMS SURVEY [Bull Guising at Eastwood, Notts., 1972]
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. Jan.1973

Reply from the Miners Arms, Eastwood, Notts., to a questionnaire sent to pubs in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire border district in December 1972. The reply simply says that people cale round performing a play in 1972, and that it was called Bull Guising. Child carol singers are also reported

P.T.Millington Collection (1975, P.Wragg)

Mrs. P. Wragg (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 1975

Annotated typescript plus further notes of a Christmas Guysers play performed by Eastwood Festival Committee in 1973 and 1974, in Eastwood, Hilltop and Newthorpe, Notts. The text (28 lines) was provided by Clr.K.J.Davis, who had performed it as a boy in Selston, Notts. The characters were Gypsy, Fairy, Opener, Bull-Guy, St. George, Doctor Brown and Belzebub.

P.S.Smith & M.G.Smith Collection (1975, Eastwood Community Association)

Eastwood Community Association (Perf.)
EASTWOOD [Christmas Bull Guyzing Play]
P.S.Smith & M.G.Smith Collection, Col. 1976

Full text (49 lines) of the Bull Guyzing play as adapted for performances at Christmas 1975 by members of the Eastwood Community Association, Notts. The characters are; Opener, Bullguy, St. George, Doctor, Bellsibub.

I.T.Jones Collection (1982, A.Pratt - b)

Mrs. Ann Pratt (Inf.)
Radio Nottingham Phone-In: Ann Frett – follow-on phone call from Peter Millington
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 13th Jan.1982, Ref.L1-7

Further information from a telephone conversation with P.T.Millington following the Radio Nottingham phone-in - Mrs. Ann Pratt, Nuthall.

Taught play by her mother Mrs. Agnes Smith who did the play in Tillicoultry. Mrs. Pratt was aged c.5 years when she performed the play at Nitshill, Glasgow about 1918. They then lived in the Darnley fire station & performed the play at Halloween in the fire houses and in the hospital opposite. Being the youngest, she played the part of the Doctor. Shortly after, the family moved to Eastwood, Notts and tried to continue the custom there, but it did not catch on.

See P.T.Millington Collection for Agnes Smith's text.

Notes recorded by Idwal Jones in his collection incorrectly gives the surname Frett instead of Pratt.

P.T.Millington (1991a)

Peter Millington (Auth.)
IN YOUR VIEW: DO GUYSERS STILL EXIST? [in the area around Eastwood, Notts.]
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 18th Jan.1991, Vol.94, No.5052, p.9 c-d

Article reads;


Twenty year ago, I wrote an article for the Advertiser with the above title, and asking your readers about the local custom of Guysing or Bullguysing.

These short rhymed plays, with St. George, Beelzebub, the Doctor, and a host of other possible characters, were traditionally performed around Christmas time by children going from house to house.

My worry at the time was that custom was dying out.

The response from your readers was very rewarding, and several people sent vivid details of their own performances in the 1930s and 1940s. Fortunately Guysing had not died.

I was able to record Bullguysers in Brinsley in 1971 and 1972, and the Eastwood Community Association performed the play to raise funds for Eastwood Festival in the mid 1970s.

However, the last performances I have heard of were recorded about 1980 by Dr.Ian Russell of Sheffield University in Jacksdale and Selston.

Do Guysers still exist?

I would dearly like to know if any of your readers saw or performed a Guysers' play this year, and if so where. Of course, I would still be interested in any other information people can give me on their Guysing experiences, and I will pass this on to local libraries for posterity.

I feel that it would be a pity to see this centuries-old custom disappear. I would like to think that information from your readers will not only keep a record for future generations, but perhaps inspire continued performances into the Twenty First Century.

232 College Street,
Long Eaton,
Nottingham, NG10 4GW"

The heading on my original letter to the editor was headed "Out Goes I St. George?"

P.T.Millington Collection (1991, G.S.Bennieston)

Mr. G. S. Bennieston (Perf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. Feb.1991

Information about a Guysers play performed in Underwood, Notts., between 1953 and 1958 or 1959. The characters were; Opener, Little Devil Doubt, Saint George, Doctor Brown and Beelzebub. The fight was between Little Devil Doubt and Saint George, and Saint George lost. There were three teams operating in Underwood at the time. The itinerary (on foot) covered Underwood, Annesley, Moorgreen, Newthorpe, Kimberley, Eastwood, Jacksdale and Selston. They performed Christmas Eve, Christmas Night and Boxing Night. They had a standing engagement on Christmas Night at Felley Priory.

P.Millington (1991b)

Peter Millington (Auth.)
Do Guysers still exist? [West Notts., plays]
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 20th Dec.1991, Vol.94, No.5099, p.14 a-b

Description of accounts communicated following an appeal for information on Christmas Guysers earlier in 1991. There is a description of the play performed by Mr. Tom Thorpe in Bagthorpe in the 1930s. This had the characters; Opener In, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Belzibub and Devildowt. Belzibub's speech is quoted. In the 1950s, Mr.G.S.Bennieston performed in a team in Underwood. They also went to Annesley, Moorgreen, Newthorpe, Kimberley, Eastwood, Jacksdale, Selston and Felley Priory. There is a long description of Mrs. Barbara Faulconbridge's experiences with Bullguysers in Selston, in which she also mentions one of her sons seeing Guysers performing in Awsworth in 1990. The Selston teams eventually took to going to Somercotes, Derbys. Finally, there is a mention of the annual Guysing performed by the Ripley Morris Men in Ripley, Derbys. Syd Barber collected their play from Mr. Percy Cook of Ripley.

P.Millington (1991c)

Peter Millington (Auth.)
*Do Guysers still exist? [West Notts., plays]
*Ripley & Heanor News, 21st Dec.1991, Vol.102

Syndicated article - see P.Millington (1991b).

R.Faulks (2004/2005)

Ron Faulks (Auth.)
Lawrence and 'The Guysers', Peter Millington 10th November 2004
D.H.Lawrence Society Newsletter, Autumn/Winter 2004/2005, No.75, p.14

Report of a lecture given to the D.H.Lawrence Society at Eastwood, Notts., on the Christmas Guysers portrayed in the works of D.H.Lawrence and how they compare to the actual local tradition.

F.Skillington (2004/2005)

Fred Skillington (Auth.)
"Dun Yer Want Guisers"
D.H.Lawrence Society Newsletter, Autumn/Winter 2004/2005, No.75, pp.14-15

Another report of a lecture given to the D.H.Lawrence Society at Eastwood, Notts., on the Christmas Guysers portrayed in the works of D.H.Lawrence and how they compare to the actual local tradition. One reponse states "Don Brown remembered them performing at Langley."

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