'The Tanglewood' by Amber Caspian

'The Tanglewood' by Amber Caspian

Thursday 14 July 2011

Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

I was brought up in the wonderful market town of Thaxted in Essex, which is home to the Thaxted Morris Men who are the oldest revival morris side in the country.  One of their specialities is my particular favourite, the performance of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. To quote from their website (http://thaxtedmorris.org/) 'the long continuity of Thaxted’s dances in the hands of just a very few teachers and leaders of the side has meant that Thaxted performs in a distinctive style evolved from early versions of the dances. This is particularly noticeable in the haunting Thaxted version of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance based on the Wheelwright Robinson tune performed as the climax to the Saturday evening displays at the annual Thaxted Ring Meeting and the Patronal Festival a few weeks later'.

The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is an English folk dance that started in Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire.  The earliest records mention it back in 1686 but it thought to be older than that.

Performed either at the great church or down in front of the guildhall, it is very atmospheric and harks back to simpler times. 

At dusk a lone fiddle can be heard and eventually appears in his colourful rags leading the side in a long winding line. 

The first six carry beautiful carved wooden deer heads adorned with stag horns, followed by the hobby horse/oss, a robin hood/archer/hunter character, Maid Marion who is always a man and one other who plays a note on a triangle every few seconds. There is a Fool character in the dance when performed at Barthelmy Fair at Abbots Bromley but I don't recall seeing one at the Thaxted dance.


The place is vertually silent, the atmosphere caught up in the magic, the side move gracefully through the woven pattern of steps, leaving the tune to stick in your mind and haunt your dreams...

Flash photography detracts from the atmosphere

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