The National Association of Men's Morris & Sword Dance Clubs

North West Morris - Lancashire and Cheshire

Millbrook (Stalybridge) Moris Men 1902

The North West Morris, from Lancashire and north Cheshire, has its origins in the industrial towns of the region. In the 19th century the dances often accompanied the local rushcarts or Rose Queen carnivals, or were performed during Wakes Weeks, when the local mills closed for the week. Danced with multiples of four dancers in two long lines, and a Leader at the front of the set, the dancers processed along the road, stopping at appropriate intervals and performing a figure or two. The costumes are visually striking with broad sashes and generously flowered hats. The majority of current teams wear clogs, with irons nailed to soles and heels although this was not always the case as can be seen in the the above photo taken of a celebration of Edward VII's coronation. Rather than the handkerchiefs or long sticks used by Cotswold teams, dancers carry decorated short sticks, mollies, tiddlers, or slings (depending on which town/suburb the dance is from) ; or occasionally hooped garlands.

The dances involve much stepping, and the clogs add to the rhythm provided by the band, generally playing popular tunes from the 19th century. Bands can be quite large ; and for major events, it was quite normal for the town brass band to play for the morris. Although figures are still called out by the leader, current teams have adapted the dances, so that they can also be shown ‘on the spot, without processing.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the NW dances were researched and revived, using information collected from those who had danced between the wars, or even before WW1 ; and by the mid 1970s many communities saw the re-birth of their local morris team - Horwich, Leyland , Mossley, Preston, Saddleworth and Stockport to name a few

Horwich Prize Medal Morris Men

 

Several rushcarts have also been revived in the region, and North-west teams can be seen accompanying these ‘carts in late summer.See Rush-Bearing