Newstead Abbey (SK5453), Nottinghamshire

W.Irving (1835)

*[Washington Irving] (Auth.)
*Miscellanies: Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey
*London: Murray, 1835, pp.162-165

This is a somewhat florid yet brief description of Plough Monday at Newstead Abbey, Notts., and Christmas at Barlborough Hall, Derbys. It is prominent in that it has been much reprinted and cited by later authors.

The Plough Monday "antics" included some sort of play, involving the recitation of "...the old ballad of St. George and the Dragon..." This was followed by "...a set of morrice dancers..." with Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Beelzebub, and Bessy. The trailing of a "fool plough" is mentioned by way of background information, but does not appear to be ascribed to any particular location.

The description of Christmas at Barlborough Hall mentions the "Yule Clog" being put on the fire on Christmas Eve, the wassail bowl and the singing of carols. "We had mummers and mimers, too, with ballads and traditional dialogues, and the famous old interlude of the Hobby Horse..." There were also sword dancers.

According to his published letters, Irving stayed at Barlborough Hall at the end of 1831, making a day trip to Newstead Abbey on the 29th Oct.1831. This was followed in Jan.1832 with a stay of several weeks at Newstead Abbey. Irving returned to the U.S.A. in April 1832, and the miscellanies were first published in 1835.

J.P.Briscoe (1876)

John Potter Briscoe (Ed.)
Nottingham: Shepherd Bros., 1876, pp.6-8

This small miscellany on Nottinghamshire includes a description of Plough Bullocking (plough trailing), in Shelford, a text from South Notts., (previously published by C.Brown, 1874), and quotes Washington Irving's (1835) description of Plough Monday at Newstead Abbey. The South Notts., text has the characters; Bold Anthony, King of England, Prince George, Selina, and Doctor.

N.b. the "first edition" was not published separately, but as part of a Shepherd's Almanac.

Nottinghamshire Weekly Express (1892)

*[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Weekly Express, 7th Jan.1892

Extract from W.Irving's (1835) account of Plough Monday at Newstead Abbey, Notts., and Christmas at Barlboro Hall, Derbys. The Plough Monday account mentions a clown or fool, a leader reciting the old ballad of St.George and the Dragon, to which the others attempted to act. Morris Dancers followed with the characters Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Beelzebub and Bessy. Mummers are mentioned in the Christmas account.

Nottinghamshire Weekly Express (1903)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Weekly Express, 16th Jan.1903

Article concerning January customs. In the part dealing with Twelfth Night there are quotations from "Notts Gleanings" p. 59 by J.Potter Briscoe.

The Plough Monday section also quotes from Briscoe writing in 1877 but it is unclear if it is the same source. It refers to Plough Bullock Day in Shelford where youngsters go round during the day with hats decorated with strips of coloured paper and red-ochred faces, asking: "Please can you remember the Plough Bullocks?". In the evening youths go out with blackened faces and are followed later by men drawing a plough and saying "My back is made of iron, my body's made of steel, And if you don't believe it, put on your hands and feel". The article goes on to refer to Washington Irving's account of Plough Monday at Newstead Abbey. It also refers to ploughmen keeping plough-lights burning in church in pre-Reformation days.

Finally, an article from the Telegraph on the previous Tuesday is quoted as follows:

"'Plow Monday' in other times, when agriculture was really the greatest interest in the country was the date when the labourers returned to work after the Christmas holidays. It is still marked in the City by a very ancient ceremony - a renewal of certain obligations - which gives the Corporation an extra body of constables, who may be called on at any time the interests of peace in the City require their services. Over 200 officials, headed by the City Marshal, and including the officers of the City Courts and markets and the beadles, are annually placed on this emergency roll, where some of them now figure for the thirtieth time.Accordingly, the Lord Mayor yesterday attended in State at the Guildhall to receive this ready allegiance. A civic officer is by the ceremony entitled to act as a police-constable. For instance, the Lord Mayor is always preceded by the City Marshal and two police outriders and it sometimes happens that the driver of a vehicle is not always disposed to delay his business out of respect for authority, and will try to dash out of a bye-street behind the mounted constables and in front of the mayoral carriage into the official route. In that case the City Marshal has simply to raise his hand just as an ordainary constable does, and the impatient driver, if he declines the warning, has to answer for the offence of endeavouring to pass a policeman who is 'holding him up'. It is not often that this impressive warning is disregarded, and, indeed, the respect in which the chief magistrate is held is so implanted in the Londoner that is is rarely given. In the evening the Lord Mayor extended the hospitality at the Mansion House to his household and the staff of the Corporation, and a very numerous company sat down to dinner."

W.Page (1910)

William Page (Auth.)
London: Constable and Company Limited, 1910, Vol.2, pp.410-413

The chapter on "Old-Time Sports" gives details of a number of Notts., customs taken from published accounts. These include; Bull-baiting, Bear-baiting, Badger-baiting, and Cock-fighting, throwing at the cock and thrashing the fat hen at Shrovetide, May-poles and May-day customs, Oak and Nettle Day, the Eakring Ball-play on Easter Tuesday, Midsummer's Eve bonfires, wrestling and the St. Ann's Well Shepherd's Race or maze.

The description of Plough Monday or Plough Bullock Day covers plough trailing and malicious ploughing. A fragment is given from a play from South Notts, with the characters; bold Anthony, St. George, Selina and a doctor. Washington Irving's (1835) account of a Plough Monday and Morris Dancers at Newstead Abbey is also quoted.

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1911)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 14th Jan.1911

An extract from W.Irving's (1835) 'Sketch Book' giving an account of Plough Monday at Newstead Abbey, Notts. The activities included; a play with St. George and the Dragon, and morrice dancers, with Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Beelzebub and Bessy. The trailing of a 'Fool Plough' is also mentioned, as the origin of Plough Monday customs.

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1930b)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES : Plough Monday at Newstead Abbey
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 25th Jan.1930

Article based on Washington Irving's observations of Plough Monday at Newstead Abbey.

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1935b)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
*LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: Plough Monday In Old Notts
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 19th Jan.1935

A description of Plough Monday or Plough Bullock Day, taken from J.P.Briscoe (1876). It repeats the descriptions of Shelford Plough Bullocking, and the quotation of W.Irving's (1835) description of Plough Monday at Newstead Abbey, Notts. This mentions the recitation of the old ballad St. George and the Dragon, and a set of Morris-dancers, which included the characters; Robin Hood, Marian, Beelzebub and Bessy. The trailing of the "Fool Plough" is also mentioned in general terms.

Nottingham Evening Post (1950)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Nottingham Evening Post, 6th Jan.1950

Announcement about the performance of a Plough Monday play revived at Tollerton, Notts., by the recently deceased Mr.A.H.Brown, and being organised for 1950 by his widow. It also mentions house visiting on Plough Bullock Day in Shelford, Notts., "less than a hundred years ago". Youngsters went round during the day, and youths in the evening. Additionally it mentions ploughing up the ground around the doors of non-contributors, and mentions a play and a "plough fool" at Newstead Abbey.

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.

R.Coope (1991)

Rosalys Coope (Auth.)
Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire, 1991, Vol.XCV, pp.50-66

An account of the Wildman family, and the occupancy of Newstead Abbey, Notts., by Thomas Wildman during the first half of the Nineteenth Century. It mentions the Plough Monday activities seen by Washington Irving (1835) at Newstead Abbey as an example of the self-conscious feudal revivals popular among some newly established landowners.

Evening Post [Nottingham] (1994a)

Anon. (Auth.)
Young-at-heart guiser gang [play revival in Underwood, Notts.]
Evening Post [Nottingham], 14th Jan.1994, No.35695, p.5g-h

An account of the revival of the Underwood guiser play by Maurice Holmes and Keith Simpson, who originally performed it as children in the 1940s. Revival performances are mentioned for the D.H.Lawrence Society, and at Nottingham Castle and Newstead Abbey. The characters included; Slasher, St George and Devildoubt. The performance had been captured on video.

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.