Worksop (SK5879), Nottinghamshire

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1874)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 26th Dec.1874, No.295, p.5d-f

Article about Christmas customs including the following section:

"Nor do the 'guisers' or 'mummers' perform as they used to do. I remember when I was a lad that the mumming plays of 'St. George' or 'The King of Egypt' was performed in a very different style to what they are now. The players made a more serious matter of it, and 'guised' away with thorough earnestness. The plays performed in these Christmas rounds have become so altered that they can only by a few words here and there be recognised. 'Th'Owd Tup' and 'Th'Owd Hoss' in a very degenerate shape from the originals, appears to be the highest game the present young idea can shoot at. And then instead of going to respectable private houses, the lads take 'the publics,' getting that which is not good for them, and find inducements to turn that which is really an innocent enjoyment into something very much worse."

Worksop and District Notes appear under the Worksop Weekly News section of the newspaper, of which Mr. T.Ratcliffe and Mr. Belfit are named as the appointed agents. It is likely that Thomas Ratcliffe is the author of this article.

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1875)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 24th Dec.1875, No.347, p.8a

"ONE OR TWO CHRISTMAS NOTES will not be out of place, for everyone takes an interest in something that relates to Father Christmas, the younger brother of Father Time.

'MUMMING' is being got ready on all sides. Some of those wrongly called 'mummers' have been out on their rounds for a week or more, and when one has heard their performance, there steals over one the devout wish that they were indeed 'mum'. This Christmas amusement has of late years sadly degenerated, and it is now a sad hashment of ribaldry and obscenity, which, luckily, everyone can't understand when they hear it. I give the opening of one of the best plays which will be taken round this week and next. Those who perform can give the play no name except MUMMERING."

There follows 27 lines of text from characters Betsy Beelzebub, Venture In and St. George. Reference is also made to the Doctor and Devil Doubt.

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1876)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
THE MORRIS DANCERS AT WORKSOP [from Elkington and Beighton]
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 1st Jan.1876, No.348, p.8 b

Source as follows; "THE MORRIS DANCERS AT WORKSOP - Some stir was occasioned on Monday by the appearance of a company of Morris Dancers in the Streets of Worksop. The dancers, who were from the neighbourhood of Elkington and Beighton in Derbyshire, went through the old and quaint performance in a very pleasing manner." Monday will have been the 27th Dec.1875.

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1879)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 26th Dec.1879, No.504, p.5c-d

Article about Christmas customs including the following:

"'Mummering' appears to be going out of fashion too. Where there used to be half a dozen sets of 'actors' flitting from door to door there is now but one set, and that generally of a very inferior sort. This gradual passing away of things old and the introduction of things new is a matter of deep regret to many. Several of these sets of actors might be seen outside and heard inside the public-houses. Visiting private houses does not appear to pay the 'mummers' of today."

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1884)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Worksop Weekly News: CHRISTMAS AT THE WORKHOUSE [Mummering Worksop, Notts.]
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 26th Dec.1884, No.765, p.5e

Description of the Christmas feast at the workhouse. The building was decorated and various patrons attended.

"The lads in the house did not forget their old traditions, but went into the 'mummering' business in a manner which showed that they quite appreciated the thing, even if they did not understand it. They decked themselves out for the play, and he that was not 'St. George' was the 'Doctor' or if not 'Beelzebub' was 'Devil Doubt' and so on. They had a merry time and perhaps they sang:

'God rest you merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. For Christ our Lord, the Saviour was born on Christmas Day'"

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1886)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 1st Jan.1886, No.818, p.3b

Description of activities in Worksop on the previous Christmas eve, including the following:

"During the earlier part of the night the mummers went about with their play of 'St. George', the play being almost unrecognisable as that which was performed 30 years ago. Other lads had the 'Old Horse' in hand while more carried 'Th'Owd Tup' about, all acting their several parts in these plays (or rather relics of plays), with more noise than skill."

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1887b)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 22nd Jan.1887, No.922, p.5e

Description of the bank holiday in Worksop on the previous Monday (26th December.) The article relates that everything was very quiet in the town and includes the following sentence: "In Worksop there was not an attraction worth a rush, unless indeed we except a fight between two men in Carlton-road, a dog fight in the same spot a little later on, a second dog fight in Bridge Place, the march out of the Salvation Army, the mummers who went about, the old horse and the 'Owdtup', several bands of music, and a number of bands of singers"

T.Ratcliffe (1898)

Thos. Ratcliffe (Auth.)
Notes & Queries (Series 9), 24th Dec.1898, Vol.II, p.511

Description of plays variously known as the "Christmas-Tup", "The Derby Ram", "Darby Tup", "t'owd tup" and "a little tup", performed by Guisers in Derbys., North Notts. (implying Worksop), and Yorks. Several verses of the texts are given, and quotes from Llewellynn Jewitt's (1867) "Ballads and Songs of Derbyshire". The "mummering play" incorporating dialogue is also described, which had five characters besides "t'tup", including a woman, the owner, a butcher, and a female devil - Betsy Belzebub. Additionally, "th'poor owd hoss" is also mentioned as being taken round Worksop and parts of Derbys., at Christmas.

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1898)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 7th Jan.1898, No.1447, p.2a

Article lamenting the changes in Christmas customs from previous years. Initially it talks about 'Christmas singing' and then continues as follows:

"The 'mummers' still go about, but in a different style, and neither 'St. George,' the 'King of Spain,' the 'Doctor,' nor 'Devil Doubt' with his grimy ace and stubbly broom, are the same. The 'Owd Tup' and 'T'Owd Hoss' still go about under a changed aspect, but the dear old 'Morris Dancers' are all dead. At any rate Worksop knows them not. It is some years since the last set of 'Morris Dancers' performed in the Golden Ball square, and their interesting and really clever dance did not seem to be greatly appreciated. The Morris Dance is still kept up in some of the rural districts of Derbyshire, where old customs seem to linger longer than in other parts.

By the way, mention of the 'Owd Tup' - or as the lads here have it 'a little tup' - reminds me that the verses which are sung when the 'Little Tup' comes to this door, are a very-much-hashed version of 'The Darby Ram,' or 'The Darby Tup,'as given in the hilly county and supposed to be a true version. The verses are to be found in Jewitt's 'Ballads and Songs of Derbyshire,' and are too long for quotation here. However, I may say that the Worksop lads who take the 'Little Tup' round give many of the wonderful details of this remarkable 'Derby Ram' and on the whole what they say is well worth listening to, although sadly mutilated. The 'Owd Hoss' has also lost many of its best features, and the only one who I ever met who could give a fair rendering of the old rhymes was an inmate of the Workhouse, who died some years ago. He was good enough to write out his version for me, and I found that even he - the old stager that he was - had mixed up parts of the 'Tup' and the 'Ran-Tan' with it. The fact is, nothing remains as it was."

Retford & Gainsborough Times (1900)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
WORKSOP COMMENTS [Christmas Morris Dance and Mummers]
Retford & Gainsborough Times, 5th Jan.1900, No.1549, p.7a-b

"Most of the Christmas customs have been observed this year at Worksop, but it is evident that many of them are dying out. Christmas used to begin on St. Thomas's Day, when women went about with baskets asking for contributions. Only a few were at it this year. The doles were paid out as usual at the Priory Church - at least I don't know that this custom has been abolished since last year. The 'mummers' had their round as usual but this old custom has fallen into the hands of very small boys, who murder St. George, the Slasher and all else in a frightful manner. Th'Owd Hoss and T'Little Tup are done for in the same way, and those Christmas pleasantries are now almost devoid of interest because of the way in which they are done. Time was when 'big chaps' gave their performances at Christmas. Many of the bands were not only effectively dressed but considerable talent was shown. The striking and artistic Morris Dance has all but disappeared with the close of the century. 'Waits' and carol singers had no little amount of pride in their work. But the fiddles, bases and reed instruments have been 'hung up' and a vile concertina or mouth organ has taken their places.

Christmas and New Year customs at the beginning of the century were different from those at the close. There is not a soul living in North Notts to tell us how Christmas and the New Year were spent in the cottage homes in the year 1800. In fact, it would be impossible to keep Christmas now as it was then, because the whole of our surroundings have totally changed. Nothing remains the same except roast beef, plum pudding, holly, ivy and mistletoe."

Retford, Gainsborough & Worksop Times (1901)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
WORKSOP COMMENTS [Christmas Plays]
Retford, Gainsborough & Worksop Times, 4th Jan.1901, No.1601, p.2a

"At this season of the year there is always a good deal of 'noting' about old Christmas customs, and of these things there is more said about the 'mumming' than anything else. In this district the lads go about with 'St. George,' which has also other names. There are a many readings, or rather should I say playings, of this piece, and it is impossible to get a version which anyone can call the correct one. Of the dozen or so which I have noted, there does not appear to be a complete one, and most of them are mixed up with other matter. But it is an interesting subject all the same, and I should like to see a printed copy a hundred years old. Then the lads have 'T'Owd Tup' which is a much garnished version of 'The Derby Tup' or 'Ram', for in the county either name holds good. The tup as given by the lads here is a very broad rendering of the Darby ditty, and even the good 'fowk o' Darby' do not know which rendering is the right one. It is the same with 'T'Owd Hoss' and though I have tried scores of times I cannot get a clear version of it. I have a quantity of mangled remains of 'T'Owd Hoss' out of which it is impossible to make a whole animal. These are the Christmassy things among the curious items known in connection with this season of the year."

Retford, Gainsborough & Worksop Times (1905)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
SOMETHING ABOUT OLD TIME DOINGS (SPECIAL) [Christmas Owd Hoss at Worksop, Notts.]
Retford, Gainsborough & Worksop Times, 3th Jan.1905, No.1968, p.2 c

Article about Twelfth Day and St. Distaff's day customs, including the following:

"At this time of the month it would appear that some of the old Christmas pastimes came into being, for in some places a man wearing on his head a dried horse's head went through the villages snapping his jaws together. He was attended by others wearing heads of various animals. Contributions were levied at each house for the purpose of buying cakes and ale with which to make merry when the circuit of the houses had been completed. From this has no doubt come the saying 'cakes and ale' of speaking at the present time of a feast which has been enjoyed. And it seems most likely that 'Th'owd hoss' which lads still take round at this season, is a relic of the old Twelfth Day customs."

Retford, Gainsborough & Worksop Times (1911)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
Retford, Gainsborough & Worksop Times, 13th Jan.1911, No.2306, p.9 d

Several folklore items; including the myth that someone runs round the church three times whilst the clock chimes the hour of midnight on New Year's Eve, Plough Monday (described in general, but mentions Gateford, Notts.), and "chucking out" Christmas on Twelfth Day at Midnight.

T.Ratcliffe (1914a)

Thos. Ratcliffe (Auth.)
LOCAL NOTES AND QUERIES: No. 27: Worksop and Derbyshire Variants
*Nottinghamshire Guardian, 3rd Jan.1914

"Some of the lads about here used to give a 'nominy' made up out of 'St. George,' 'Th' Owd Hoss,' and 'The Darby Tup'; a frightful mixture enough to give one a nightmare a month long.

The characters that I have known are Betsy Beelzebub, Fool, St. George, Knight, or Slasher (a man of many parts in the play), the Doctor, and Devil Doubt, or Dowt. Betsy Beelzebub and Devil Dowt are one and the same; one a female devil, the other a male ditto.

The 'Morrises' or 'Sword Dancers' is quite a different matter; all sword play and dance, with no dialogue, yet a bit of carolling. 'Th' Owd Hoss' is a sort of rough play in uncouth language; and 'The Darby Tup,' or 'Ram,' is a version of an old song well known in the town and shire. It, too, has variations, one of which is in Jewitt's 'Songs and Ballads of Derbyshire.' It begins:-

As I was going to Darby, sir,
All on a market day.
I met the finest tup, sir,
That ever was fed on hay.
Fa-fa, lal-a.

Given in dialect the broadest Derbyshire, with gestures and in costumes, it is a most remarkable composition, and introduces a lot of characters besides the one who is 'Th' Owd Tup.'

I have a number of items, odd-bits, rants and verses, very distinct from the ballad itself, which would take some dealing with and occupy too much space.

T.Ratcliffe was based in Worksop, Notts.

T.Ratcliffe Collection (1915)

*Thomas Ratcliffe (Auth.)
*The owd Hoss [from Whitwell and Barlborough, Derbys.]
T.Ratcliffe Collection, Dec.1915

*Detailed description of the play of "Th' Owd Hoss", performed in 1895 by farm lads from the Whitwell and Barlborough district, Derbys., and also performed in Worksop, Notts. The characters included the Horse and Betty or Bet.

This information comes from a manuscript in Nottingham Central Library, Local History Section. It gives the source as "From early 20th mss in possession of A.Cockburn". Although Thomas Ratcliffe is not named, Anne Cockburn is known to have done research on a notebook of Ratcliffe's which she had acquired. The subject matter, and the Worksop also ties in with his other publications.

A.S.Buxton Collection (1922)

Albert Sorby Buxton (Col.)
Plough Monday Play: Worksop Version
A.S.Buxton Collection, Perf. 1922, Black & red notebook, pp.30-37

Full text (100 lines) of a play with the characters: Ploughboy, St. George, Doctor, Black Prince of Paradise/Black Morocco King, Little Soldier/Bold Slasher, and Beelzebub/Betsy Belzebub. The preamble states: "The following is the Worksop version of the play as performed in Worksop, Plough Monday 1922."

Worksop Guardian (1924)

[Anon.] (Auth.)
PLOUGH MONDAY: ONCE UPON A TIME IN NOTTS. [Plays in Worksop and North Notts.]
Worksop Guardian, 11th Jan. 1924, p.9 a-b

General blurb and extracts from plays, mentioning two casts (1) Worksop, Notts., with St. George, Slasher, Beelzebub, Devil Doubt and the Fool [also Doctor], and (2) an unlocated version [North Notts.] with St. George, Doctor, Herald and the Hero.

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).

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