Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Morris Men of Hidcote Manor

Its quite hard to believe that just yesterday we were walking barefoot on the grass of Berkeley Square enjoying the most delicious gelato. Whilst we basked in glorious late summer sunshine, floating upon a sea of tinted wayfarers, it felt like the summer sprites had returned to add some final freckles upon my nose. So waking this morning to dreary skies in the most sombre shade of gruel was quite the comedown to my seasonal effervescent mood.

But fear not sunbeam lovers, as I am armed with a plethora of green and floriferous imagery from my summer travels around England to extend those halcyon days throughout the month of September. Put down those thermal underpants and woolly jumpers, fix yourself a jug of Pimms and turn on the sounds of the summer. First stop on our magical tour is Chipping Campden in the glorious Cotswolds. Home to one of the most infamous, shining stars in the English garden repertoire, the magical Hidcote Manor.

We moseyed along a few weeks ago for an afternoon of peace, tranquility and delicious gossip exchange only to be rudely interrupted by a large group of hairy men wearing flowers in their hats, skipping along to the beat of their drums, shouting and bellowing at each other, whilst waving handkerchiefs in the air or as we like to call it, just your average day in the Cotswolds

Click to Enlarge 

Morris dancing has been performed for over six hundreds years up and down the length of England and is a tradition steeped in history. Its popularity has now spread to the four corners of the globe. The Chipping Campden Morris 'side' can be traced back to the 1700s. The origin of the dance is thought to be a means of solving a dispute and includes handkerchief, professional, stick, hand clapping and jig dances. A team consists of six dancers, a musician, a 'fool' or animal character and a treasurer who collects donations from onlookers. It is considered lucky to donate to the Morris Men and to receive a small piece of cake in return but I am still waiting for my cake! 

As odd as it may look, I have a soft spot for this unique, eccentric tradition. Morris men remind me of my childhood holidays. My sister and I would watch the folk singers and hippies strumming their guitars by the beach in Broadstairs during the summer folk week and we would wait to hear the sound of the bells alerting us to the Morris mens arrival. I never really knew what on earth was going on, just that it was totally fun, totally bonkers, totally barmy and totally British!

Hidcote Manor Garden
Hidcote Bartrim
Near Chipping Campden
GL55 6LR


  1. Just about to depart for a Cotswold fete myself where no doubt there will be ubiquitous Morris Men jumping up and down.
    I did notice that you too discovered the wonderful Cardiocrinum giganteum hidden away in that shady glade at Hidcote.

  2. SIR PAUL....I have a request. But first I must say that I LOVED this post. Why? I just DIG the Cotswolds. The cottages, the gardens, everything. And now the Morrismen! But your description of the place, the HAIRY MEN...teeheee just made me laugh. What a great way to spend a waning summer's day. What on earth do you do besides run a business so that you can scamper about the countryside on holiday?


    WOuld you be willing to record your voice, narrating your fabulous prose? I'm over here loving your writing style, but I would enjoy it so much if I could hear YOU, a BRIT narrate it for this YANK over here! PLEASE? What do you think my freckled friend who gets about in a magic egg?

  3. How fun! And totally British. I have heard of the Morrismen somewhere but don't think I've ever seen them perform. The gardens are beautiful. It looks like an idyllic place on a summer's day.

  4. The UK may be a "small Island" ( as another European nation said) but the UK have the best Gardens, best Country Estates, the greenest lawns and the best performing Morris Men, although they probably don't drink Vodka while dancing right? You should have joined them and wore flowers on your head on this lovely Summer's day. The garden here at Hidcote Manor is divine. I would enjoy walking around the gardens and discovering every nook. May your Country stay small and beautiful! Enjoy the last days of summer!

  5. Awesome dude! It takes a lot for heterosexual men to dance with tassels on.

  6. Paul, I love the way this started with the wooly underwear and all! Wish I could send you some heat. We are approaching 100 again this weekend!! Sweet about you and your sister watching as a kid. Love those childhood memories!

    I had the the delight in staying at Broad Campden once near Chipping Campden at a place called The Malt House. One of my best memories. The Cotswolds is magical to me. Sorry I missed the Morris Men! HIdcote looks gorgeous. That long wall of hedges and the last photo are beautiful!

    Enjoy your weekend dear Paul! Don't get the woolies out yet! I'm beaming some sun to you!!


  7. Helllooooooo,
    I love Morris Dancers. They always bring out the Pagan in me :-)

    Have you photographed your goodies yet? I meant your shop goodies, wreaths and the like - LOL!

  8. Boyfriend-- how delightful! I'd be loving every minute of this fun and frolic! The gardens are stunning- aren't all the gardens on your side of the pond just beautiful? Another wonderful day spent among all the things you love best--- I'm thinking I might have just joined in with the dancing :)


  9. Ooooooh, what fun!!! Look at them having such a jolly time! I sure would like to join in :) Just let me grab my hat and hanky.

  10. Totally barmy, totally British - you have to have a lot of confidence to go about the countryside in ribbons and bells, and that's totally British!!! I do enjoy your posts.....

  11. Dear Paul,
    such a lovely post! It reminds me of my best friend Anne's and my "Bed and Breakfast for garden lovers" - tour years ago (we outlined our destinations in the Cotswolds ourselves, but are utterly indebted to our host, Wendy Dare, who showed us around and gave us access also to private gardens, because she is a garden juror too), and of course Hidcote was on our agenda. How time flies! Though this year Anne and I indulged in the Chelsea Flower Show - and found a lot of other highlight gardens - but no morris dancers. Means: it must be the Cotswold again.

  12. PS: And please: don't ask her if she remembers us (though she might) - it would make us appear older than we are, hahaha.

  13. Glad to hear you are stretching your Summer, and it what fun manner too! Those colored tassels are mesmerizing and the "dance" sems to involve quite a bit of hopping. Hope you finally got your cake.

  14. Paul, I will be in England with the family next August - this is on the must see list!
    All best,

  15. Paul, I am looking forward to your extend Summer adventures but honestly with the heat here still reaching the mid-90's I am so ready for cool weather.

    Chipping Camden is one of my favorite places to visit! I love it there, romantic, cute and great people. Sadly the Morris men were not something that I saw while there, oh well a good reason to return!

    Have a great week and I second Anita's request...a video please of your tales!

  16. Hello! Another lovely post, with lovely pictures!I love Morris dancing. When I first came to live in England, I shared a Victorian school house with a girl from Lancashire, who was a teacher, but also a Morris dancer! She probably still remembers me, because I once threw her Martini down the drain thinking it was water and she cried!

    I still remember going to this pub, with her, before the Martini episode, where her group were going to perform! I had actually never seen a washboard, and someone was actually playing a really old one and the sound which came out of it was incredible! And the music... incredible!

    The rhythm was unbelievable and reminded me of all those old Hollywood movies, where beautiful girls and boys tapped their way down incredibly long staircases.

    Three years ago, I was in the town of Sheringham, in Norfolk, where, to my surprise, they were holding a national Morris Dancing Convention. The whole centre of the lively seaside town was filled with groups of dancers of all ages. One of them was wearing huge wings, like those of an owl, his face painted black, and he "flew" from one end of the street to the other, to the sound of wonderful music. It was very moving.

    Though Morris Dancing is known to be a very British form of expression, I once watched a show on BBC, according to which the words "Morris" actually is a modern form of the word "Moors" or "Moorish"and that Morris Dancing actually originates from the Moors, which also explains why lots of Morris dancers paint their faces black!

    BYE, PAUL!


  17. Ahhh Hidcote, such a beautiful place! I think we played croquet on the lawn last time we visited. So many happy memories! Such fun visiting and seeing the Morris dancers. I heard a lot about them, but have never actually seen them myself. Where you invited to dance along or is the dance too difficult ;-)!

    Hoped to see you on the photographs, but alas......... :-)

    Thank you for your very flattering comments on my blog. They made my day ;-)!!

    Happy week!

    Madelief x

  18. It looks a little hot for jumping in all those clothes!

  19. Can't wait to see one of these performances. I think I'll start a rumor that it's good luck to make donations to me :)