[Not located], Nottinghamshire

S.J.Coleman (no date)

S. Jackson Coleman (Auth.)
*Quaint lore of Nottinghamshire, Treasury of County Folklore IV
*[Douglas]: Folklore Fellowship, [c.1950], [19pp.]

Mimeographed pamphlet designed to encourage schoolchildren to study local folklore. It covers a wide range of customs, superstitions, tales, etc.


Plough Monday was an agricultural festival celebrated in most Notts. villages until a couple of generations ago. It was regarded as a 'red letter day' by the village boys, who, adorned with paper finery, and with their cheeks dyed a deep red, paraded the lanes soliciting contributions with requests to 'Remember the Plough Bullocks'. As the evening approached, the turn of the farm labourers came. These excelled the efforts of the juveniles so far as their persona[l] adornment was concerned. Paints, feathers, strange clothes and other articles were brought into requisition. The men generally met at some appointed place and then visited the residences of the tradesmen and farmers. After being admitted into the kitchen the 'mummers' - as they were termed - would clear the furniture aside and prepare to enact a traditional play in which St. George and a Turkish Knight took the leading part, a circumstance which readily suggests that it was at least as old as the Crusades. An exciting encounter ended in the Turkish Knight being struck down by St. George. Other characters introduced into the Notts. version included the old Squire and Beelzebub. At the end of the performance one of the men stepped forward, and, rattling a collection box, made the declaration:

Ladies and Gentlemen, or story is ended,
Our money box is recommended,
Four or five shillings will do us no harm.

'The plough bullocks' then proceeded to other farm houses to repeat the performance, winding up the day with a supper and jollifications at the nearest public house."

The copy in Nottingham Central Library only as 17 pages and lacks any reference to the Folklore Fellowship. It may therefore be incomplete.

"North Notts." (Auth.)

"North Notts." (Auth.)
Newark Herald, 3rd Sep.1887, No.792, p.5a

"A CORRESPONDENT, who signs himself 'North Notts.,' writes in the Daily News that a recent article in that paper reminds him of a similar custom which 25 or 30 years ago prevailed in the county of Notts., and which he has, as a boy, frequently taken an active part. He adds - The last load of corn brought home from the fields was the occasion for the boys of the village to have a ride and to shout 'Harvest Home' for the farmers. This load would generally consist of the rakings of the field, and therefore not very valuable. Previous to our mounting the load for our ride we were careful to arm ourselves with branches of trees, the purpose for which will presently appear. On our journey from the field to the farmer's yard, the usual hurrahs would be lustily given, and at intervals of a few minutes a well-known speech or ditty would be recited by the leading boys, two of which I can yet remember:

God bless these horses which trail us home,
They've had many a wet and weary bone.
We've rent our clothes, and torn our skin,
All for to get this harvest in.
So hip, hip, hip hurrah.

In another the name of the farmer would be brought in this:-

Mr. Smith he is a good man,
He lets us ride home on his harvest van.
He gives us bread, and cheese, and ale,
And we hope his heart will never fail.
So hip, hip, hip hurrah.

Then, Sir, curious and barbarous as it may seem, as we drew near to houses, it was the custom to bring out water and throw it upon us as we passed along, and from which we defended ourselves with the branches of trees. If we arrived safely home without a dowsing of water, the occasion was shorn of half the fun for the boys, but that was not the worst calamity. It was supposed that farmer Smith's yield of corn would not be so good. After arrival home apples would be distributed to the boys for their labour in shouting 'Harvest Home.'"

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

*[Anon.] (Inf.)
*A Notts Harvest Home
*A.S.Buxton Collection, No Date, Black & red notebook, p.21

*Two verses of a Harvest Home song, sung in Notts.:

Mr he is a good man
in letting us ride on his harvest dam
Well mown, well sown
We've got our harvest home at last,
Never thrown over nor yet stuck fast,
We've got our harvest home at last,
Hip, Hip hooray.
Mr he is a good man
For letting us ride in his harvest dam,
He gives us beer, he gives us ale,
I hope his heart will never fail,
God bless these horses that trail us
They've had many a weary bone
They've torn their cloathes rent their skin
All for to get this harvest in.
Hip, Hip hooray.

It is possible that this is a copy of the Harvest Home song in the E.L.Guilford Collection, Ref.M/9910/8, that may come from Laxton, Notts. (See TD00796).

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1851)

*[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 16th Jan.1851

*Article states:- "We are pleased to learn that this vulgar and demoralising festival of the lower grades of our community has, through the exertions of the police, supported by the magistrates and influential private individuals, passed over this year in the villages round about us generally, with fewer outrages on public decency than on almost any former occasion."

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."

M.H.Mason (1877)

M. H. Mason (Auth.)
NURSERY RHYMES AND Country Songs: BOTH TUNES AND WORDS FROM TRADITION [The Old Horse: Christmas Play from Notts.]
London: Metzler & Co., 1877, pp.49-50

This includes a song headed "The Old Horse: CHRISTMAS PLAY". There are two songs with tunes, one headed "Prologue" (12 lines in 3 stanzas), and the headed "Enter the Old Horse" (20 lines in 4 verses). A footnote reads:-

"It is an old Christmas custom in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to go from house to house with the skull of a horse, painted black and red, and supported on a wooden fore-leg. A man in a stooping posture, and covered with a cloth, represents the body of the horse, and, from the inside, snaps its formidable jaws at the company. The custom also survives in South Wales, but the tune is different. There are many variations in the words. This is a Nottinghamshire version."

Marianne Mason lived at Morton Hall near Ranby, Notts., from 1869. As she collected the songs in this book from her family and the people around her, it seems likely that this play came from the vicinity of Morton Hall.

C.C.B. (1892)

C. C. B. (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 30th Dec.1892

*Article describing a wide range of Christmas customs. Unfortunately the copy available is difficult to read. It concludes with the sentence: "After Christmas came Plough Monday (the first Monday after Twelfth Day) but of the rites proper thereto we were spectators only."

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1897b)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES. No.807: OLD OBSERVANCES [Plough Monday Play at Wyverton Hall, Notts.]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 9th Apr.1897

Extracts from P.H.Ditchfield (1896) and other sources concerning various customs from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. These include: hanging a Kissing Bunch at Christmas in Derbys., Wassailing in Notts., the Maypole at Wellow, Oak and Nettle Day in Notts., maidens' garlands in Derbyshire churches, and a long passage on Derbys' well dressing. The following is quoted from Ditchfield:

"'The Plough Monday play', one of the few remaining specimens of English folk drama, still survives. It resembles in some ways the Christmas and Easter play but has several distinguishing features. In the Plough Monday play there is no St. George and the principal feature is the sword dance. The play, as performed recently at Wyverton Hall, Nottinghamshire is printed in Mrs Musters's 'A Cavalier Stronghold'"

M.H.Mason (1908)

M. H. Mason (Auth.)
NURSERY RHYMES AND Country Songs: BOTH TUNES AND WORDS FROM TRADITION [2nd ed. - The Old Horse: Christmas Play from Notts.]
London: Metzler & Co., 1908, pp.49-50

2nd edition of M.H.Mason (1877), which includes a dramatised song headed "The Old Horse: CHRISTMAS PLAY". The footnote is extended as follows:-

"...Mr. Dixon prints, he says, for the first time, a version of these words, without the prologue, in his 'Songs of the Peasantry.' He thinks the 'Old Horse' to be of Scandinavian origin, a reminiscence of Odin's Sleipnor. The horse's head is, or was, however, used in Ireland in connection with customs most probably Phenician. It is placed at the end of a double row of bonfires, between which the people run up to it."

The reference is to James Henry Dixon, "Ancient poems ballads and songs of the peasantry of England", London: Percy Society, 1846

Mason is likely to have collected this play from the vicinity of Morton Hall near Ranby, Notts., where she lived from 1869.

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.

T.Ratcliffe (1914)

Thos. Ratcliffe (Auth.)
LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: No. 28: Mummings and mysteries.
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 10th Jan.1914

Cites the East Retford mummers' play published by E.Sutton (1913). Gives the speeches for Betsy Beelzebub and Devil Dowt from a Derbys., St. George play. Also briefly describes two other plays from Notts., and Derbys., - "Th' Owd Hoss" and "The Darby Tup"

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.

Nottinghamshire Weekly Express (1916)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Weekly Express, 15th Dec.1916

Article describing various Christmas customs, concluding with the following:

"Our own district had the full share of mumming and other seasonable customs, many of which have been described in this column in past years. People yet living can remember wassailing, but their number is, it is to be feared growing fewer each year. A chatty account of Yuletide customs is to be found in Ditchfield's 'Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time,'to which readers interested in the subject may refer with advantage. There has, during recent years, been some local attempt to revive May customs. It would be surprising and it would be agreeable, if after the war some of the better of the old customs of Christmas were revived in our midst, but mumming would scarcely be one of them."

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1918)

*[Anon.] (Auth.)
Local Notes and Queries: The Old-Time Ploughmen's Guild: Notts Mumming Play Revived.
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 16th Feb.1918

Blurb taken from P.H.Ditchfield (1896) about ploughs being trailed round on Plough Monday to support plough lights, and plough up the doorsteps of those who did not contribute. Mentions Lincs., Plough-bullocks, Yorks., Plough-stots and the City of London's Plough Monday banquet. Re-quotes Ditchfield's quotation relating to Mrs. Chaworth-Musters' account of the play at Wyverton Hall, Notts.

T.Ratcliffe (1922)

Thos. Ratcliffe (Auth.)
LOCAL NOTES & QUERIES: Christmas Mummers
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 15th Dec.1922

"Do Christmas waits, guisers and mummers still go round in Notts. and Derbyshire villages? I scarcely know which come first in my memory, for they seem to crowd upon the other. The waits, however, recall the most pleasant memories. The guisers and mummers were more or less a terror to me. I expect it was the dress and make-up - for instance, that of Devil Doubt. Are they still known in the district?"

E.L.Guilford Collection (1922)

*[Anon.] (Inf.)
*[Song Sung at a Notts. Harvest Home]
*E.L.Guilford Collection, 1922(?), Ref.M/9910/08

*A manuscript giving the words of the song sung during the Harvest Home at an unidentified location in Notts.

The other papers included under Ref.M99 10 all relate to Laxton, and are dated 1922. This song may therefore also be from there. If so, it could have come from either of the informants in the other papers - C.B.Collinson (see TD00517) or Frank Willis (see TD00767).

It is possible that the Harvest Home song in the A.S.Buxton Collection is a copy of this song (see TD00794).

Notts. Free Press (1924)

*[Unknown] (Auth.)
*[Plough Monday and/or Folk Plays]
*Notts. Free Press, 11th Jan.1924

*Typescript copy in M.W.Barley Collection, Notts. County Library. Subject matter not checked, but the M.W.Barley Collection relates to Plough Monday and/or plays in Notts.

G.Richardson (1925a)

George Richardson (Auth.)
LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: Plough Monday [Play from Lincs.]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 17th Jan.1925, p.2 illus.

Details of Plough Monday from W.Hone (1837), including the woodcut and the quotation about Plough Lights from Blomefield (1775). The first part of the full text (136 lines) of a Plough Boys or Morris Dancers play is given from Lincs. This is concluded in G.Richardson (1925b). The characters are; Tom Fool, Recruiting Sergeant, Ribboner/Recruit, Lady, Threshing Blade, Hopper Joe, Old Dame Jane, Farmer's Man, Beelzebub and Doctor. The ploughing up of lawns in mentioned.

A.H. (1926)

A. H. (Auth.)
PLOUGH BULLOCK NIGHT: A Merry Old Village Custom of Bygone Days
Nottingham Journal, 8th Jan 1926, No.31232, p.4 d-f

Mention of Plough Bullocks in records of the Old Mansfield Society, evidently meaning A.S.Buxton (1922/23). Also gives the usual general guff about plough trailing and the ploughing up of doorsteps in Notts., Lincs., and Leics., and about plough lights, taken from W.Hone (1837) by way of Chaworth-Musters (1890).

The full text is reprinted of the play from Cropwell, Notts., published by Mrs. Chaworth-Musters. This gives the characters as; Tom Fool/Bold Tom/Tommy, Recruiting Sergeant, Ribboner, Lady, Threshing Blade, Hopper Joe/Sanky-Benny, Farmer's Man, Dame Jane, Beelzebub and Doctor.

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.]

E.B. (1929)

E. B. (Auth.)
*LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: Plough Bullocks Prohibited
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 26th Jan.1929

Source states: "Although the custom of 'plough bullocks' going round with a plough is generally referred to 'as an old English custom' it may be of interest to note that Sir John Markham of Notts., in the reign of Henry VII, was one of 'his Majesty's visitors to the clergy and laity of the deanery of Rochester' who prohibited the observances of 'Plough Monday' and other practices (?)"

"Old Timer" (1929)

"Old Timer" (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 19th Jan.1929

"The first Monday after Twelfth Day, was until recent times kept as a rustic festival throughout the entire country, and called Plough Monday, the reference being to the resumption of ploughing and farm labour after the long Christmas holidays.

A plough was dressed up with ribbons, and called 'the Fool Plough.' It was drawn by farm labourers also dressed up and in some cases ochred and ruddled. In Notts they were known as 'plough bullocks,' and in Lincolnshire there was a good deal of cowhorn blowing. Merry mummers sometimes performed a traditional play, and never failed to go round with the traditional money-box.

According to old authorities, the money so collected was in ancient times used to maintain a 'ploughman's light' in the village church. But in time the procession degenerated and when it died out on the outskirts of Nottingham about 50 years ago, it was merely a pretext for collecting money for a 'booze up' at the nearest public-house. The so-called 'plough bullocks' rubbed their faces with soot and went round with lanterns and sticks looking more like foot-pads than mummers"

A.Sharp (1929)

*Arthur Sharp (Auth.)
Nottingham Evening Post, 3rd Jan.1929, No.15762, p.3 f

*Article on "mumming" and its putative ritual origins. A typical play is said to have the characters; St. George, Fool, Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub and Devil Doubt. "A version that was popular in the Midlands during the last century" had the characters; Herald, Hero, St. George and Doctor. This would appear to refer to E.Sutton's (1912) play from East Retford. Other characters and fragments are given from Chambers (presumably 1903). These include; Father Christmas, Grand Turk/Turkish Knight and Dragon. Other Notts., fragments are also quoted, the plays being current. "The Owd Hoss" or "Hooden Horse" is mentioned from North Notts.

Some doubt as to the correctness of the author. A.Sharp may just be a cited author.

A.Sharp (1936)

*Arthur Sharp (Auth.)
OLD REVELS OF TWELFTH NIGHT AND PLOUGH MONDAY: Notts Versions of Ancient Mummer's Play: "Hooden Horse" That Sang Verses in Villages
Nottingham Evening Post, 30th Dec.1936, No.18246, p.6 a-b

Brief description of Twelfth Night customs, including the Twelfth Cake and King of the Bean. The description of Plough Monday Mummers' plays mentions the characters of Selston, Notts.; Fool, Saint George, Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub, and Devil Doubt. A North Notts., version (evidently E.Sutton, 1912) had the characters; Herald, Hero, St. George and Doctor, and a couple of fragments of text are quoted. Another custom was the Hooden Horse or Owd 'Oss, which the author appears to have performed in himself. He calls the performers "hoodeners", and the play used to be found in both Notts., and Derbys. Discussing the origins of Plough Monday, mention is made of Plough Lights, and the trailing of a "Fool Plough" by Plough Bullockers, and accompanied by Morris Dancers and a "Bessy". Mention is also made of the horn dance at Pagets Bromley in Staffs. This is another name for Abbots Bromley

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1942b)

*[Unknown] (Auth.)
*[Appeal for information on Plough Monday]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 7th Jan.1942

*This is an appeal for information. The Doubleday Index has an incomplete clipping. This reads;

"Sir, - I am doing some work on the history and customs of Plough Monday. I was staying in Nottinghamshire some years ago, when I picked up one or two interesting points from county people whom I met, but as I have now lost touch with them, I should be most grateful if some of your readers can tell me amy Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire or Lincolnshire observances of the festival which has been recorded within the last 20 years."

E.L.Guilford (1942)

E. L. Guilford (Auth.)
Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 1942, Vol.XLVI, pp.73-79

*This glossary for the letter "P" includes entries for;

"Plough-bullocking. The act of taking part in the 'Plough Monday' rites and observances. 'I expect I shall have to go a plough-bullockin' to Mr. S's' (L.C.M.). 'Shan't yer coom a plough-bullockin' wee us tonight?' (J.P.K.)"

"Plough-bullocks. Farm-servants or plough-men performing in the 'Plough Monday' observances. So called at Ratcliffe. (E.P.). (L.C.M.). 'In the old days a plough highly decorated was drawn through the streets, and the true plough bullocks were no doubt the young men who harnessed themselves to it and pulled it along.' (J.P.K.)."

"Plough-Monday. The first Monday after Twelfth Day. (L.C.M., J.P.K.)."

"Plough-money. The money given to the 'Plough-bullocks' on 'Plough Monday.'"

Sources include; J.Prior-Kirk - Blidworth locality, Mrs. Chaworth-Musters - Annesley. [These sources need verifying. E.P. not yet identified.]

S.J.Coleman (1942)

*Mr. S. Jackson Coleman (Auth.)
*[Appeal for information on Notts. folklore]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 26th Sep.1942

Appeal by the Folklore Fellowship for information on Notts folklore. It mentions Goose Fair, the ballad of the "King and Miller of Mansfield", Medlar Jelly, Colwick cheese, venison pasty and Mansfield gooseberry pie.

"Historicus" (1943)

"Historicus" (Auth.)
*Old Notts. Christmas Customs [including St. Thomas's Day]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 25th Dec.1943

Details of various charitable customs associated with Christmas in Notts., at different times from 1103 onwards. It mentions the dole at Clifton, called "Plum-pudding money". Thomasing - collecting food and money on St. Thomas's Day is described, and a passing mention of mummers on Plough Monday.

A.Sharp (1944)

Arthur Sharp (Auth.)
*Nottingham Guardian [?], 23rd Dec.1944

*Mostly describes very cold Christmases but part relates to the "Owd 'oss" in Notts. and Derbys., and quotes 2 lines. The actors are also called "hoodeners". It finishes by saying that "No Christmas in the North Notts. village would have been complete without a visit from the 'plough bullockers,'..."

Nottingham Evening News (1945)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Newsman's Notebook: PLOUGH MONDAY
Nottingham Evening News, 15th Jan.1945, No.18435, pp.2g-h

"The first Monday following Twelfth Day, which this year falls today, had from time immemorial been known as Plough or Plow Monday. In agricultural districts it still is regarded as marking the end of the land workers' Christmas holiday and the traditional opening of the plough season of the New Year.

Formerly the anniversary was celebrated by a ceremony known as 'Blessing the Plough' conducted over an implement taken into the village church. This was followed by a procession of ploughmen and farm labourers who hauled a plough from door to door in the parish and collected contributions for rustic festivities, merry-making, and refreshment which were enjoyed until late at night. A few years ago the custom was revived in some parts of Nottinghamshire and might have been continued had not the war intervened."

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1945b)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Decay of Christmas Customs
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 22nd Dec.1945

Article quoting William Howitt (1834) and Llewellyn Jewitt (1853)

"WILLIAM HOWITT, the local writer of a century ago, lamented the decay of Christmas customs in his time, noting, however, that Plough Monday celebrations had become so depraved that no-one could regret their cessation."

"...Llewellyn Jewitt writing a quarter of a century later found a fair number of customs being observed in Notts. and Derbyshire. 'Christmas festivities in Notts'. he said 'are nearly synonymous with those at Derby; ...the mummers or guisers pass from house to house and still perform their play of St. George with all the precision and care of a band of regularly organised strolling players."

Other Christmas customs are also discussed, including a 'Wassail Bowl' house-visiting custom in the Hucknall district up to 1873.

Nottingham Guardian (1946)

*[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Notts Christmas customs & charities [Including St. Thomas's Day at Codnor]
*Nottingham Guardian, 21st Dec.1946

Details of various Christmas charities and associated customs in Notts. It mentions visiting farms for wheat on St. Thomas's day at Codnor, Derbys., as well as Guising, and the perambulation by women and girls of boxes containing representations of the Holy Family.

"J.Chambers" (1949)

"Jessie Chambers" (Auth.); [David Herbert Lawrence] (Auth.)
AN ENJOYABLE CHRISTMAS: A PRELUDE: "Sweet pleasure after pain..." : D.H.Lawrence's story [features a Notts. Christmas Guysers play]
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 10th Dec.1949, pp.12a-e,9

Reprint of "J.Chambers" (1907) - 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.

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).

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1951a)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 20th Jan.1951

The piece is headed "Extract from the Nottinghamshire Guardian, Thurs. evening, Jan. 16, 1851", and consists of the following:-

"PLOUGH MONDAY - We are pleased to learn that this vulgar and demoralising festival of the lower grades of our community has, through the exertions of the police, supported by the magistrates and influential private individuals, passed over this year in the villages round about us generally, with fewer outrages on public decency than on almost any former occasion."

Nottinghamshire Guardian (1951)

*[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Christmas in Notts in 1851
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 22nd Dec.1951

Historical views of Christmas customs and hospitality taken from a number of books; W.Irving's (1819) "Sketch Book", William Howitt (about 1835), Thomas Miller and Tennyson. Mummers and plough-bullockers play are mentioned only.

H.J.Smith (1952)

*H. J. Smith (Auth.)
*[Appeal for Information on Plough Plays.]
*Nottingham Evening News, 10th Jan.1952

*An appeal for information on Plough Plays and celebrations on the border of Notts. and Derbys.

[From a note in the M.W.Barley Collection]

M.W.Barley (1953)

M. W. Barley (Auth.)
Journal of the English Folk Dance & Song Society, Dec.1953, Vol.7, No.2, pp.68-95

This is the most important single paper ever written on East Midlands folk drama. Starting from the base of E.K.Chambers (1933) "English Folk Play", he discusses 41 additional texts and other information from Lincs., Notts., Leics. and Rutland. The approach is very methodical and academically sound - as one would expect from a trained archaeologist.

There is an excellent review of early records of Plough Monday, Plough Lights and related customs from various archives. He draws particular attention to the cast of a play from Donington, Lincs. Concerning the much studied play from Revesby, Lincs., he adds that Sir Joseph Banks, the famous botanist, must have had some involvement. This is followed by details of a number of large households who were visited by Plough Monday teams. He compares the early nineteenth Century Lincs., plays published by C.R.Baskervill (1924) and modern plays from the same areas, noting marked differences in the "wooing" scenes. Comparative details are enumerated of; rewards received by the teams, malicious ploughing, trailed ploughs, and costumes. Regarding music, Barley notes the lack of recorded tunes, but is able to give three variants (including one from South Scarle, Notts.) There is brief description of the vestiges of dances present, and of Hobby Horses in North Lincs. He extensively discusses regional variations in the plays, noting differences in characters and lines, much in the manner of E.K.Chambers.

The Appendix lists around 70 records of plays. There is also a distribution map. The list does not include a number of references in the text, and these too are not to be found in the Barley's collection. Notts., examples are; Averham, Orston, and Sutton-on-Trent.

It was very commendable that Barley did not attempt to speculate on the origins of the plays, except for an unsuccessful search for possible links with Denmark. It is unforgivable therefore that P.D.Kennedy felt obliged to add a massive and patronising footnote giving the E.F.D.S.S. Establishment doctrine about the supposed ritual and symbolical origins of the plays.

"J.Granby" (1953)

"John Granby" (Auth.)
LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: Nottinghamshire's Plough Mondays
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 10th Jan.1953, No.5617, p.10 a-b

Presents extracts from an account of Plough Monday plough trailing by Thomas Miller in his "Country Year Book", probably dating from the period 1830 to 1850 in Notts. This seems to be a miscitation of Millers' "Year-Book of Country Life" (1855), as his "Country Year Book" does not mention Plough Monday. His proposed dates are also likely to be wrong.

Also quotes an account [from F.M.E.W. (1923)] of Plough Monday, Plough Bullocks (plough trailing, 1870), and Christmas, Guisers (1872) at Bulwell Kilnyards, Notts. The play featured; St. George, Doctor, Beelzebub, Bess and Jack. Finally, briefly mentions Chaworth-Musters' (1890) text of the Cropwell and Tithby Plough-Bullocks play.

Nottingham Evening News (1953b)

*[Anon.] (Auth.)
*Nottingham Evening News, 20th Nov.1953

The response of A.Roberts to the allegation by the National Folk-lore Society (sic.) that there is complete apathy to folklore in Notts. It mentions collecting Mummers' plays, "Robin Hood's Garland", the Bozart or Marsh Spirit at Thurgarton, the sturgeon in the Trent as an omen for the Clifton family, and ghosts at Scratton Wood and Rufford Abbey. Up to 1827 people went to Westhorpe Dumble between Oxton and Southwell to hear the church bells of the lost village of Raleigh.

M.W.Barley (1955)

M. W. Barley (Auth.)
Journal of the English Folk Dance & Song Society, Dec.1955, Vol.7, No.4, pp.249-252

This supplement to M.W.Barley (1953) gives an additional list of sources for East Midlands Plough Monday plays, Morris Dancers and plough trailing customs. These cover; 4 Leics. villages, 12 Lincs. villages, 8 Notts. villages, and Oakham, Rutland. There are also extracts on costumes from the manuscripts of Mabel Peacock

Nottinghamshire Countryside (1959/60)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Editorial [and] COMPETITION ENTRY FORM: Essay on "Memories of a Villager"]
Nottinghamshire Countryside, Winter 1959/1960, Vol.20, No.4, pp.6,10

Requirements and entry form for the Notts. Local History Council competition "Memories of a Villager", the aim of which was to gather a much factual information of happenings in villages as possible. A list of suitable topics included "local customs, sports and games". One sentence reads; "Material about special festivals and feasts - and especially about Plough Monday plays - will be particularly welcome." As a result, many entries mentioned Plough Monday. See A.Cossens (1962) and O.P.Scott (1960/61).

A.Cossons (1962)

Arthur Cossons (Auth.)
Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 1962, Vol.66, pp.67-82

Summarises information contained in entries to an essay competition run by the Nottinghamshire Local History Society in 1960 (see Nottinghamshire Countryside, 1959/1960). The essays entitled "The memories of a villager" were to be based on the entrants' own recollections of Notts., village life. The 66 entries are deposited in the Nottinghamshire Archives Office.

Information is described under the following headings; Agriculture, Crafts Trades Industries, Transport, The Squire, Domestic Life, Customs, Houses, Field Names, Education, Miscellaneous and Material Remains.

The customs mentioned include; Shrove Tuesday customs, Rantanning or Tinpanning, and Mumping on St. Thomas's Day. The competition announcement had particularly asked for information on Plough Monday, and a list is given of 24 places where this was mentioned. Places getting a more detailed mention were plays at Blidworth, Cropwell Butler (where the characters were Tom the Fool, Soldier, Lady Dame Jane, Beelzebub and Doctor), Ranby (Horse's Head and Morris Dancing), and Shelford (Plough trailing).

R.A.Harris (1966)

R. A. Harris (Auth.)
Letters to the Editor [Appeal for Notts., folk songs and plays]
*Nottinghamshire Countryside, 1966, pp.13-14

This letter is primarily an appeal for information on folk songs in Notts., and Derbys. Harris also mentions a number of other traditions he is interested in hearing about - Mumming plays, Guising, Tupping, Plough Monday, Riding the Stang, Wassailing, and the "Poor old Horse".

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 (1971)

Peter T. Millington (Auth.)
OUT GOES I SAINT GEORGE? [Notts. & Derbys. Guysers]
Heanor Observer & Langley Mill Chronicle, 30th Dec.1971, No.4021, p.4 d

This article aims to make readers aware of the decline of Christmas Guysers' plays on the Notts./Derby border, and the reasons for it. Ways are suggested in which the continuance of the plays can be encouraged. The need to keep a written and photographic record of the plays for future generations is stated, and information requested. This article was originally submitted to the 'Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser', but was also syndicated to this sister newspaper.

P.T.Millington (1972a)

Peter T. Millington (Auth.)
OUT GOES I SAINT GEORGE? [Notts. & Derbys. Guysers]
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 14th Jan.1972, Vol.75, No.4064, p.4 f

This article aims to make readers aware of the decline of Christmas Guysers' plays on the Notts./Derby border, and the reasons for it. Ways are suggested in which the continuance of the plays can be encouraged. The need to keep a written and photographic record of the plays for future generations is stated, and information requested.

Nottingham Evening Post (1974b)

*[Anon.] (Auth.)
*NOTTS ORAL HISTORY GROUP [Inaugural meeting, with performance by the Owd Oss Mummers]
*Nottingham Evening Post, 22nd Nov.1974

Details of the inaugural meeting of the Nottinghamshire Oral History Group, with the "Old 'Oss Mummers" as guests. The aims of the group are given.

Nottingham Evening Post (1974c)

*[Anon.] (Auth.); *Mr. Peter Millington (Col.)
*OWD OSS MUMMERS [Appeal for information on Plough Monday plays]
*Nottingham Evening Post, 27th Nov.1974

Appeal for information by Nottingham's Owd Oss Mummers for the play they planned to take round Arnold on Plough Monday 1975.

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.

P.Spratley (1977) pp.27-28

Philip Spratley (Auth.)
"THE POOR 'OWD HOSS" Christmas Play
P.Spratley (1977), pp.27-28

Full text (32 lines) with two tunes of an Old Horse play, apparently from Notts. It is seems to be a straight copy of M.H.Mason (1877), though probably via intermediate sources. There was an introducer, the horse and other singers.

P.T.Millington (1978)

Peter T. Millington (Auth.)
*Traditional Drama 1978, a one day conference, University of Sheffield, 21st Oct.1978

*Description of mathematical methods of analysing folk play data, illustrated using a sample of Notts. casts.

P.T.Millington (1980)

P. T. Millington (Auth.)
Long Eaton: P.T.Millington, 1980

This list includes the following:- (a) details of 206 folk plays and related customs from Nottinghamshire, (b) a bibliography of 64 publications relating to Notts. folk drama, (c) addresses for 13 manuscript collections of folk plays, (d) indexes for times of occurrence, names for customs, character names and dates, and (e) a distribution map. Most of the non-play entries refer to Plough Monday customs. The plays were mostly performed at Christmas or Plough Monday.

S.M.Cooke (1980)

Sheila M. Cooke (Ed.)
D.H.Lawrence and Nottinghamshire 1885-1910 [includes facsimile of "J.Chambers" (1949) - D.H.Lawrence's short story on Guysers]
[Nottingham]: Nottinghamshire County Council, Leisure Services/Libraries, 1980, 0-902751-10-7, Item 5

A source folder of photos and facsimile documents realting to the author D.H.Lawrence. It includes a facsimile of the 1949 reprint of his 1907 short story "A Prelude" published under the pseudonym "Jessie Chambers". The story features a performance of a Christmas Guysers play in the Notts coalfield. It includes an illustration of the Guysers making up.

I.T.Jones Collection (1980, Notts Federation of Women's Institutes)

Mr. Idwal Tudor Jones (Col.)
General: Letter to Notts Federation of Women's Institutes 31/10/80
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 31st Oct.1980, Ref.K1-1

Letter asking for list of local branches of the Notts Federation of Women's Institutes

Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes (1980)

Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes (Auth.)
Year Book 1980-81 [Notts. Women's Institutes]
[Newark]: Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes, [1980]

Handbook giving contact details of all local branches of the Notts Federation of Women's Institutes. Used by Idwal Jones in his survey of W.I.s regarding folk plays and Plough Monday.

I.T.Jones Collection (1980, Notts Women's Institutes - a)

Mr. Idwal Tudor Jones (Col.)
General: Letter to each of 147 Notts Women's Institutes 16/12/80
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 16th Dec.1980, Ref.K1-3

Letter asking for any information about traditional folk plays or Plough Monday customs remembered by the branch members or other people in the area.

I.T.Jones Collection (1980, Notts Women's Institutes - b)

Mr. Idwal Tudor Jones (Col.)
General: Questionnaire accompanying K1-3
I.T.Jones Collection, Dec. 1980, Ref.K1-4

Questionnaire accompanying the letter (TD00603) sent in December 1980 to the 147 branches of the Notts Women's Institute asking for details of informant, where and when the custom was performed and as much description of the custom as possible.

I.T.Jones (1981a)

I. T. Jones (Auth.)
The Bramley, Jan.1981, No.65, p.5 e-f

An appeal for information on Notts. Plough Monday customs, especially plays.

I.T.Jones Collection (1981, J.Pickerill - a)

Mrs. Jenny Pickerill (Inf.)
General: Letter from Mrs Jenny Pickerill 1/1/81
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 1st Jan.1981, Ref.K1-5

Mrs Pickerill, secretary of the Southwell branch of the W.I., wrote in reply to my letter of 16th December 1980 (TD00603). She suggested that I contact Mrs Anne Wood, the editor of The Bramley, a local monthly newspaper. As local correspondent to the Mansfield Chronicle Advertiser, she would also ask them to publish a plea for information.

I.T.Jones Collection (1981, A.Wood - a)

Mrs. Anne Wood (Editor)
General: Letter to Mrs Anne Wood, editor of The Bramley 6/1/81
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 6th Jan.1981, Ref.K1-6

Letter asking for a plea for information on Plough Monday customs to be published.

I.T.Jones Collection (1981, J.Pickerill - b)

Mr. Idwal Tudor Jones (Col.)
General: Letter to Mrs Jenny pickerill 6/1/81
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 6th Jan.1981, Ref.K1-7

Transcript of letter thanking Mrs Pickerill for her letter.

I.T.Jones Collection (1981, A.Wood - b)

Mrs. Anne Wood (Editor)
General: Letter to Mrs Anne Wood, editor of The Bramley 17/3/81
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 17th Mar.1981, Ref.K1-9

Transcript of letter summarising the responses received to the plea for information published in The Bramley in January 1981 (I.T.Jones, 1981a). This letter was published in The Bramley in April 1981 (I.T.Jones, 1981b).

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.

P.Howat (1991)

Polly Howat (Auth.); Don Osmond (Illus.)
Tales of Old Nottinghamshire
Newbury: Countryside Books, 1991, 1-85306-160-3, pp.113-115

A book of miscellaneous Nottinghamshire facts and folklore, with the following chapter headings; The Nottingham Goose Fair, The Battle Of East Stoke, Footpads And Highwaymen, The Wrestling Baronet, The Shepherd's Race, The Bramley Apple, Robin Hood, The Fools From Gotham, Ned Ludd, Twist Fever, The Gypsy And The Lady, Old Sherwood Forest, Cries Of Old Nottingham, Pins And Kitty Hudson, The Rufford Mine Disaster, One Month With Nurse Thatcher, The Mothering Sunday Revival, Putting The Pig On Harrison, Mad Bad And Dangerous To Know, Of Flood And Tempest, Beating The Bounds, The Whipping Judge, Riding The Stang, The Roeites Of Calverton, The Miller Of Mansfield, Plough Bullocks, The Bessie Sheppard Stone, The Boy of Nottingham.

Material for this book appears to have been almost solely taken from previously published sources - particularly those of J.P.Briscoe.

The chapter on Plough Bullocks quotes a verse on Plough Monday by the poet Thomas Tusser (1524-1580), and mentions house visiting, mummers plays and malicious ploughing. It quotes J.P.Briscoe - probably his 1876 description of Shelford Plough Bullocks. The word of a verse of the final song of a Plough Bullock Day play are given.

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."

A.M. (1993)

A. M. (Illus.)
[Reprint of Guysers illustration from D.H.Lawrence's "A Prelude"]
Haggs Farm Preservation Society Newsletter, Jun.1993, No.12, p.5

"One of the original illustrations to the story 'A Prelude' in the Christmas 'Nottinghamshire Guardian', 1907, and again in their Dec. 10th. issue, 1949, and as a facsimile in the source folder 'D.H.Lawrence and Nottinghamshire 1885-1910', Nottinghamshire County Council Libraries. (Courtesy of the 'Nottingham Evening Post')".

This half tone illustration shows two people making up for a Guysers play. It is captioned;

"His brothers were roaring with laughter before the mirror. They were smeared with red and black."

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