Mansfield (SK5361), Nottinghamshire

A.Helm Collection (No date, N.M.Lane & S.Beazley)

*N. M. Lane (Inf.); *Mr. S. Beazley (Inf.)
*Plough Monday Play - Mansfield
*A.Helm Collection, Col. 1948, Vol.2, pp.335-338

Full text (55 lines) of a Plough Monday play performed in Mansfield, Notts., about 1878. The characters are; St. George, Bold Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub, Mickeybent, the Snake and Molly Mop.

A.Helm Collection (No date, J.Harrop-White - b)

*J. Harrop-White (Inf.)
*Mummers Play, Mansfield
*A.Helm Collection, Vol.2, pp.331-332

Partial text of a Mummers Play from Mansfield, Notts. The characters are; Father Xmas, Doctor and St. George. Sub-heading reads; "Tune of St. George and Dragon (Cornish)"

A.Helm Collection (No date, J.Harrop-White - a)

*J. Harrop-White (Inf.)
Ploughboys Play - Mansfield
*A.Helm Collection, Vol.2, pp.332-335

Full text (45 lines) of a Ploughboys play from Mansfield, Notts. The characters are; Prologuer, St. George, Bold Slasher, Doctor, a Rake, Sally Mop and Belsebub. If no money was given, retribution was taken.

A.S.Buxton Collection (No Date - c)

Albert Sorby Buxton (Col.)
*Mansfield version [Plough Bullocks' play]
A.S.Buxton Collection, Buff notebook, pp.1-7,106-107,and Insert pp.1-7,between notebook pp.110-111

*Full text (69 lines) of the a Plough Monday Plough Bullocks play from Mansfield, Notts., ceased before 1914, and revived 1922. The characters are: Courtier, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub, Mickey Bent, Molly Mop, and Tommy Tup.

In fact that are two Mansfield texts in this notebook, and they have yet to be checked to see if they are the same or not. Separate notes on pp.106-107 read: "The version on page 1 of the Plough Monday play was given in Mansfield regularly up to about 1875, then it gradually died out. Up to about 1840 it used to be played by men who carried a plough with them, then it got to be played by boys only.

Many old inhabitants, in 1921, could remember their fathers and mothers telling of having seen the plough used to plough up the ground in front of the houses of people who refused to give anything. Even where the boys played the play this custom of annoying non-contributors was kept up & many can remember turning over water butts, tying the front door knob to the railings or throwing mud at the windows of people who refused to give them anything. In some houses however the occupants made war on the boys & to-day many can remember how in these houses they used to heat the poker in the fire & as soon as the lads appeared run them out pf the street with this instrument."

A.S.Buxton Collection (No Date - d)

*Albert Sorby Buxton (Col.)
*The Christmas Play of the "poor owd oss" [Cuckney, Mansfield & Elksley, Notts.]
A.S.Buxton Collection, Buff notebook, pp.33A-42

*Source states:

"The play of the 'Poor owd oss' was played in Mansfield at Christmas time up to about 1870, it then died out and to-day even the words seem lost except for an odd time or two. Previous to the War, 1914, however it was played each Christmas at Cuckney and at Christmas 1921 it was again revived for the entertainment of the village children at their school party. The words which follow were obtained from the man who has played the part of the horse's head for some years. The custom was for several men to go round to the houses & public houses and when they had entered to repeat the first three verses then they fetched in the 'owd oss', a gruesome figure, being a horse's head fastened to a stick and carried by a man draped with a dark cloth. The play is more or less suggested by the words.

In the last verse a blacksmith was summoned and he attempted to shoe the horse. Rather rough bye-play followed when the blacksmith was kicked over by the horse. Drinks were then called for by the company, and after all had been supplied, the server approached the horse and said 'Could th'owd oss manage at drink". The jaws of the horse were so arranged that a glass could be put in them and so the player got his refreshment without taking off his things.

The play varied slightly as to the words in the different towns and villages but in the main was the same. for instance at Elksley they said"

'And where do ye think he took me Sir?
He took me down a suff and where do you think he landed?
Against the blacksmith's shop.'"

There then follows the full text of the Cuckney version, comprising eight verses, amounting to 48 lines.

L.Jewitt (1853)

Llewellynn Jewitt (Auth.)
*Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 1853, Vol.8, pp.229-240

A rambling general summary of customs in Notts. It followed two similar papers concerning Cheshire and Derbyshire, and a certain amount of extrapolation from these counties is evident.

Among the customs covered are; drawing lots for Valentines near Mansfield, the blessing of St. Ann's Well, Nottingham on Easter Monday and of another well at Newark, a May-pole at Hucknall Folkard [presumably meant to be Hucknall Torkard], divination on All Hallows at Lenton, the perambulation of crib called a Wassail Cup at Christmas, and Groaning Cakes & Cheeses - a birth custom.

He quotes Deering's description of the Midsummer's Eve watch at Nottingham.

The description of Christmas says "... the mummers, or guisors, pass from house to house, and still perform their play of St. George..."

Also; "On Plough Monday, as well as during the Christmas holidays, the plough bullocks are still to be seen in various parts of the country. This extremely picturesque and popular custom, - with its plough, drawn by farmer's men, gaily dressed in ribbands, its drivers, with their long wands and bladders, its sword-dancers, its fool and its celebrated Bessy, and hobby-horse, - I have described in my Derbyshire paper; it will therefore be sufficient to say, that amongst other places the neighbourhoods of Newstead, Mansfield, and Southwell, are still famous for its observance, and that it has been well described by Washington Irving in his Newstead Abbey."

A.S.Buxton (1922/23)

Mr. A. S. Buxton (Auth.)
Reprints of Papers of the Old Mansfield Society, Winter Session 1922-1923, pp.3-4

This is a short paper read to introduce a revived performance of a Plough Bullocks' Plough Monday play from Mansfield, Notts., arranged by Councillor Beazley. The original custom had died out about 1890, and the characters St. George, Slasher, Beelzebub and Doctor are mentioned. A brief history of Plough Monday, Plough Lights, plough trailing and plays is given alluding to Mansfield, and stylistic parallels are drawn between mediaeval mystery plays and modern folk plays. Comparing the Mansfield text with one from Selston, Notts. (collected by Miss Manners), and an unidentified Cornish version, the author notes their overall similarity. Only fragments of text are quoted.

Old Mansfield Society (1922)

*Old Mansfield Society (Auth.)
*"Plough Monday" - Bygone Days and Scenes Recalled
*Mansfield Recorder, 9th Jan.1922

*An account of a meeting of the Old Mansfield Society at which Councillor Beazley organised a revival performance of the local Plough Bullocks Plough Monday play that had ceased in 1914.

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.

F.W.Beazley (1946)

F. W. Beazley (Auth.)
Bulletin of the Nottinghamshire Schools Rural Science Panel, Dec.1946, No.19, pp.2-6

The full text (54 lines) of a Plough Bullock Night play from Mansfield, Notts., collected from the author's father Mr.S.Beazley. The characters are; St. George, Bold Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub, Molly Mop, Mickey Bent, Polly Flinders and a Rake.

Mentions that at Clayworth, Notts., Beelzebub went by the name of Old Eezum Squeezum. Covers plough trailing, malicious ploughing and Plough lights with the usual quotes, probably derived from Chaworth-Musters (1890) which the author cites. The Cropwell cast is given as; Tom the Fool, Recruiting Sergeant, Ribboner or Recruit, Doctor, Lady, Ploughman, Hopper Joe and Threshing Blade. The final song is given.

M.W.Barley (1951)

M. W. Barley (Auth.); E. F. H. D. (Col.)
Plough Plays in Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire Countryside, Oct.1951, Vol.13, No.2, pp.1-2

This is a request for information on Plough monday plays. Brief descriptions are given of the sort of information wanted, together with outlines of the possible historical implications of Plough Monday and of the questions it is hoped to answer. The names Plough Boys, or Jacks, or Jags, or Stots, or Bullocks are mentioned. He particularly asks for information on plough trailing, sword dances, and customs from western Notts., similar to those found in Derbys. & Yorks., such as Christmas Mummers, sword dances and Morris dances. In a brief mention of Hobby Horses, he notes the Christmas play of the "Poor Owd 'Oss" from Mansfield in the A.S.Buxton Collection, and other occurrences at Cuckney and Elkesley. He already had information on Plough Monday plays from the Notts. villages of; Blidworth, Mansfield, East Bridgford, Bothamsall, Cropwell, Clayworth, Flintham, Selston, Walesby, Whatton, Worksop, Norwell, Averham, Tollerton, and North Leverton.

Appended is the final song of a play from Blidworth, Notts., collected in 1925 by E.F.H.D. This was in fact first published in 1948 (E.F.H.D., 1948).

"J.Granby" (1951)

"John Granby" (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 15th Dec.1951

Source states:

"RUSTIC wassailing was not yet extinct, but the excesses of disgruntled plough-bullockers had put them out of favour. Mummers or guisers entertained villagers with their play of St. George into the later years of the century.

At Mansfield, the hobby-horse performance was represented by the 'Poor old 'oss' until about 1870. Still later at Sutton-in-Ashfield a man was accustomed to parade the streets at four o'clock in the morning ringing a bell to summon people to awake and prepare for Christmas.

Children at Hucknall continued to carry about a glass-topped box in which dolls representing the Virgin and infant Babe lay among ivy and holly.

At each house of call the covering cloth was withdrawn, the images viewed, and it was deemed unlucky to let the children depart without a gift.

The Education Act of 1870 helped to put an end to old customs, but some struggled on to disappear completely during the war of 1914-18.

It is significant of the hold Christmas customs obtained upon the public that present conditions of life have not killed them all. Some of the more domestic celebrations still exist. Others have lately been revived."

"J.Granby" (1952b)

"John Granby" (Auth.)
Local Notes and Queries: PLOUGH MONDAY'S PLAYS.: Part II
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 12th Jan.1952, No.5565, p.11 b

Crams a lot into three paragraphs. Says that the hobby horse was common on Plough Monday at Mansfield, Cuckney and Elkesley, Notts., until about 1870. Summarises M.W.Barley (1951) - again mis-cited as M.W.Bramley. Mentions the Cropwell/Wiverton play in Chaworth-Musters (1890), recent observances at East Markham and Weston-on-Trent, and the likelihood of Newstead and Southwell as good areas to collect. Ends by citing P.Crawford's (1938) "In England Still"

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1962, E.A.Booth)

*Mrs. Edith Ann Booth (Perf.)
*Memories of Mansfield [Saint Thomas's Day and Plough Bullock Night]
*Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Com. 7th Mar.1962, Ref.DD/121/2/7

*This entry to an essay competition includes two items of folklore:-


Mr. Hollington used to give away oat meal to any body who fetched it on Saint Thomas' day at Hollington's Mill (Kings Mill) on Sutton Road.

Because people were poor, they used to go round early in the morning banging loudly on the doors of all the houses to rouse people up. As they went they shouted.

Hip-Hip hurray,
Saint Thomas' Day
Fetch a bit,
And leave a bit,
Hip-Hip hurray."


When we dressed up in all sorts of disguise and our faces blacked (with soot) we would go out to the houses where we knew where we get most coppers, knock on the door and go in reciting,

I open these doors I enter in,
I seek a favour to begin,
Whether I stand o do my part to please you all. etc. etc.

Then would follow all the different characters, but what a night, what pleasure we had especially if we got 6d."

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1962, W.A.Baggaley)

*Miss W. A. Baggaley (Inf.)
*Memories of Mansfield [Plough Bullock Night play]
*Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Com. 1962, Ref.DD/121/2/6

*This entry to an essay competition includes the following item of folklore:-

"Plough Monday (or Plough Bullock Night) as it was called. Boys came to the houses offering to do a sketch for money. In it was Saint George, and I think a fight, as a Doctor came to the assistance of the victim. It is many years ago, I do not know the meaning of it, but it was after Christmas, about (January 6th epiphany time.)"

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1962, J.H.Shipsides)

*Mr. J. H. Shipsides (Perf.)
*Memories of Mansfield [Plough Mondy play]
*Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Com. 1962, Ref.DD/121/2/21

*This entry to an essay competition includes the following item of folklore:-


We used to go round the houses with faces black and they allways expecting us and dashing in the houses. One would go in first and say.

In comes bold Slasher,
Bold Slasher is my name,
My body is made of brass,
And my arms is made of steel,
And I do declare no man can make me feel,
I can make you feel bold Slasher,
So put up your sword and let us to
And I will turn thy body into Irish stew."

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1962, F.W.Car)

*F. W. Carr (Inf.)
*Memories of Mansfield [The Duke of Shirebrook]
*Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Com. 1962, Ref.DD/121/2/10

*This entry to an essay competition includes the following item of folklore:-

"If you had been in Mansfield Market place or there-abouts on any fine day fourty or so years ago, you would no doubt have seen a wizzened little man, brown skinned, with his fingers full of rings. He usually wore a faded top hat and equally faded tails, and spent a good deal of his time ogling the local mill girls. No one took him seriously, indeed he was the cause of a lot of harmless fun.

Legend grew up around this diminutive figure. He was said to have led a cow through the market place on the end of a piece of rope, and on being stopped by the police, said he didn't know there was a cow on the other end. Whether this story is true or not, the Duke of Shirebrook as he was known, will be well known and remembered by Mansfield's older residents. What his real name was, and how he came by it, or where he lived, no one seemed to know."

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1962, R.W.Foster)

*Mr. R. W. Foster (Inf.)
*Memories of Mansfield [Oak Apple Day and Bonfire Night]
*Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Com. 1962, Ref.DD/121/2/15

*This entry to an essay competition includes the following items of folklore:-


May 29th Oak Apple Day, nettles used on people without a spray of leaves.

The wise boy wore his oak leaves, armed himselves with a stinging nettle and carried a few dock leaves for first aid just in case.


Wood collecting for Bonfire Night children would sing,

Bonfire Night, stars shine bright,
Three little angels dressed in white,
Can you eat a biscuit, can you smoke a pipe,
Can you go a courting at ten O'clock at night."

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1962, G.Tansley)

*Mr. G. Tansley (Inf.)
*Memories of Mansfield [Recipes and May 29th Oak Day]
*Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Com. 1962, Ref.DD/121/2/22

*This entry to an essay competition includes the following items of folklore:-


Barm Dumplings with treacle

Risen dough, size of cricket balls placed in a pan of boiling water for 15 - 20 minutes then ready to serve.


Say 1 or 2 lbs of wheat placed in a dish with water in hot oven until grains of wheat swelled and Burst Open then served with milk and sugar.


May 29th. Oak Day. Children with a sprig of Oak pinned to them meeting each other would say 'Show your oak,' in their hands holding a stinging nettle. If they failed to conform.

South Notts Advertiser (1971)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
A play for mummers
*South Notts Advertiser, 13th Feb. 1971

Report of a Plough Play performed at Newark Folk Club by an eight-man troupe from Mansfield. Malicious ploughing is mentioned.

P.T.Millington Collection (1971g)

Anon. (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 4th Feb.1971

Brief note as follows:-

"Recorded on the 4th February 1971 from an unknown informant at the White Swan, Pleasley.

The informant remembered plays performed by participants with blackened faces and costumes and involving Saint George, a Doctor and possibly Beelzebub. He was familiar with both the terms Plough Bullocks and Guysers. The latter probably has something to do with the visits of New Houghton Guysers to Pleasley, and the former to visiting Mansfield Plough Bullocks, but it is also probable that Pleasley had a play of its own, but which type cannot yet be said."

P.T.Millington Collection (1971, Anon. & S.Richards)

Anon. (Perf.); Sam Richards (Perf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 25th Feb.1971

Text (29 lines) of a Christmas, Guysers play performed in the 1930s, from New Houghton, Derbys. This text was collected by interview. The same informant later also wrote down the text, with slight differences (see separate record). The characters are; Saint George, Turkish Knight, Doctor and Beelsi Bub. A detailed itinerary includes locations in New Houghton & Glapwell, Derbys., and Pleasley, Mansfield & Shirebrook, Notts. In the late 1950s, a team also took the play to Chesterfield, Derbys.

Nottingham Traditional Music Club (1972)

Nottingham Traditional Music Club (Research Group) (Auth.)
Centuries-old custom that is fading from memory [Plough Monday]
Mansfield & North Nottinghamshire Chronicle Advertiser, 20th Jan.1972, No.5249 (New Series 1033), p.7 h-i

This article gives a potted history of the activities of Plough Bullocks on Plough Monday or Plough Bullock Night around Mansfield, Notts., and asks for information.

Plough blessing is mentioned (at Newark, East Drayton and Gotham, Notts.), as is malicious ploughing. Fragments of play text are given, characters being: [an Introducer], Saint George, Slasher/Soldier, Doctor, Beelzebub, Mickey Bent, Rake, Molly Mop, Tommy Tup, and Polly Flinders.

The author on behalf of the club was P.T.Millington - There was no response.

P.Mayfield (1976)

Pat Mayfield (Auth.)
Legends of Nottinghamshire
Clapham: Dalesman Books, 1976, 0-85206-352-0

This book concerns the folklore and traditions of Notts. The chapter headings are; "1 Nottinghamshire Legends", "2 Religious Folklore", "3 Legends and Love Trysts", "4 Witches and Ghosts", "5 Sherwood Legends", "6 Legends from Town and Village", "7 Legendary Characters", and "8 Plays and Games". There are a number of items relating plays.

Washington Irving's (1835) description of Plough Monday Plough Bullocking at Newstead Abbey, Notts. is mentioned. However a play text is appended which, although attributed to Newstead Abbey, is the same as the South Notts. text given by C.Brown (1874) and J.P.Briscoe (1876). This attribution therefore seems very dubious. The text (48 lines) has the characters; Anthony, King of England, Prince George, Selina, and Doctor.

The text of a Mansfield play is mentioned, provided by Mr.E.W.Mellors, which includes the characters; Beelzebub, Courtier, Mickey Bent, Molly Mop, Tommy Tupp and Slasher. A further text (50 lines) from Mr.Mellors is reproduced in full. This is a Christmas play entitled "Poor owd 'oss" which was apparently still alive in the 1860s. It featured a horse and a blacksmith. Both these texts seem to be from the A.S.Buxton Collection.

Plough Lights are mentioned. Plough Trailing and malicious ploughing at Shelford are described. Again identical to the accounts of C.Brown and J.P.Briscoe. Maid Marian and Robin Hood are mentioned as appearing in some plays.

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.

Chad: Mansfield Chronicle Advertiser (1984)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Festive revival for 'Poor Owd 'Oss' custom [at Mansfield, Notts.]
Chad: Mansfield Chronicle Advertiser, 5th Jan. 1984, No.5857 (New Series 1628), p.5 e-f

A.S.Buxton & D.J.Bradbury (1987)

A. S. Buxton (Auth.); D. J. Bradbury (Comp.)
Early Mansfield [including Plough Monday plays]
Mansfield: Wheel Publications, 1987

This book is compilation of the writings on the history of Mansfield, Notts., by A.S.Buxton, mostly published in the 1920s. Appendix 1 covers Mansfield customs, dialect and folklore. Customs mentioned include; "Going a Gooding" or "Going a Corning" on St. Thomas' Day, drawing lots for Valentines on Valentine Day, and the Cheese and Statute Fairs. There is also a glossary explaining some 40 dialect terms.

Most of the appendix is taken up with a description of Plough Bullocks' Plough Monday plays, [taken from A.S.Buxton (1922).] This includes a brief history of Plough Lights and plough trailing. Malicious ploughing is mentioned, and a more detailed description of alternative tricks played in Mansfield. Potential victims ran the Plough Bullocks out of the street with a red hot poker. Fragments of text are quoted, and the characters St. George, Slasher, Doctor and Beelzebub are mentioned. Comparisons are made with an unidentified Cornish Christmas play and a Selston play collected by Miss Manners.

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