Sunday, 20 May 2018

Whitsun In Whaddon

So there I was on a bright sunny May morning trundling my bicycle along a quiet lane expecting to find some Morris dancers. I felt very like Cecil Sharp as he cycled around the Cotswolds collecting this almost vanished tradition back in the early years of the twentieth century.

And here they were, the Devil's Dyke Morris Men, doing their dances for just a handful of spectators, of which I was happy to be one. After several dances they assembled to sing a song....

Now Whitsuntide is come you very well do know;
Come, serve the Lord we must before we do go;
Come, serve him truly with all your mind and heart,
And then from heaven your soul shall never depart.

Now we may bring you the royal branch of oak;
God bless Elizabeth, our Queen, and all the royal folk;
God bless Elizabeth and all this world beside,
Then the Lord he will send us all a merry Whitsuntide.

The "royal branch of oak" once played an even more important part in this custom, which is unique to the village of Whaddon. Before the practice died out towards the end of Victoria's reign the young men would go around the village leaving oak boughs on the doorstep of each house to remind them of Whitsun the following day. (Whitsun or Whit Sunday is the British name for Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter). Then on Whit Monday they would walk through the village singing the song, the first and last verses of which are printed above.

We walked along the lane then towards the village and met the ladies of Manor Mill Clog Morris who'd been entertaining folks here.

Then along the lane came the jangling bells of the White Rose Morris Men.
"Have you come far?"
"Aye, Yorkshire!"
And indeed they had for they hail from Huddersfield and come down to help with the celebrations.

Then, after another rendition of the Whaddon Whitsun Song, our ever-growing company strolled to the road junction for more dances. It's not recorded that dancing played any part in proceedings originally but it's not unreasonable to suppose that it once did.

Next stop was the Village Hall where there was more dancing from all three sides.

Then it was time to make our way across the field to the church where there was to be a short service.

I'd long wanted to have a peek inside the church (which is usually locked) since my cousin told me that our great-great-great-great-grandparents, William and Susannah, were married there back in 1770*, so, although not really dressed for the occasion, I thought I'd join them for the service. The closing hymn was, appropriately, Lord Of The Dance

*Senior moment I'm afraid. Although I was correct about William and Susannah getting married in 1770 I'm afraid I got the wrong church! William's father, John, may have been the John Hagger who was baptised at Whaddon in 1707 though.

Then, rather unexpectedly, there was Morris dancing in the church. Lots of other people were taking photos, so I thought I would too.

You can find out more here: - on the village website - a slightly different version of the village song, sung in typically uncompromising fashion by the Young Tradition. - Devil's Dyke Morris Men - White Rose Morris Men

Take care.


  1. Goodness me it was all happening John, what fun to see! Excellent opportunity for you to see inside the church where your 4 times great grandparents were married too, amazing to think of them right there all those years ago! Did everyone end up at the pub after all that dancing ☺

  2. I love this post and to see traditional dancing is still going on, and to see some young'uns dancing too, hope for the future of these traditions. Decades ago my husband and I were in Padstow on May 1 and the dancing and hobby horse were very festive.

  3. A wonderful tradition and they are all clearly enjoying it!

  4. Nice to see and you got a chance to see the inside of the church. How wonderful and special that must have been to see where your 4 time great grandparents got married.

  5. Love those Morris dances. And am glad you knew the background of the oak branches as well. And they were dancing even in church! Heavens!

  6. You always find something interesting John. Wonderful photos as always!

  7. You do find the most beautiful places to explore and the most interesting gatherings of village people. So much enthusiasm, joy, and exuberance. I love that you spent time in a church where your great-great-great-great grandparents were married. I don't even know where I'd have to go to have that experience. Although, I think it might be in Kiev. Wonderful photos!

  8. Who knew there was so much fun to be had?? :-)

  9. So that's the church! How nice to see it. And connections--my brother Tom is a morris dancer here, perhaps continuing an old family tradition?

  10. Lucky you to run into those dancers!

  11. Hi John - brilliant to know the history - but what fun to be able to get inside the church where your great-x-4-grandparents were married ... and lovely photos - cheers Hilary

  12. Walking where our ancestors walked--no better feeling than that. Thanks for sharing the pictures with us across the pond.


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