Morris Dancing has a long, and very ancient, history. So ancient, in fact, that its origins are lost in the mists of time. It is traditional to England, and may have had connections with early pagan rituals, to encourage the earth to be fertile. These fertility rites were performed by men from two or three families within the community, the tradition having been handed down from father to son.
Performances were usually given on May Day, Whitsun, Boxing Day, and any other notable dates during the year. Nowadays, the Morris is performed all the year round to entertain the public, preserve the tradition, and because we enjoy performing the dances and playing the tunes.
Up to the end of the 19th century, many Cotswold villages had their own Morris dance side, thus called because it usually comprised a team of six dancers and a musician. Occasionally, a side would have a Fool and a Hobby Horse to complement the dancers’ performance, keep the crowd under control, and add to the entertainment. The Ilmington hobby horse, which was made in 1899, is still going strong.
Only a few villages have continued their Morris tradition to the presernt day. As well as Ilmington, they include Abingdon, Adderbury, Bampton, Brackley, Chipping Campden and Headington Quarry.