The Story of The King's Morris
The Morris Dancing team of King's Lynn, THE KING'S MORRIS was formed in 1978. Like most modern teams, they are a revival side; that is; a team formed in a town that does not have a tradition of Morris Dancing. THE KING'S MORRIS are a Cotswold Mens team who perform jigs and dances mainly from the Bledington, Fieldtown, Bampton, Bucknell and Adderbury 'traditions'.
The team performs in public from May until September, usually on Friday or Saturday evenings. Displays are normally given outside pubs in North West Norfolk, the evening often finishing with folk music in the bar. On Bank Holidays the team normally presents dancing tours, travelling further afield in Norfolk and performing during the day. Displays are often given at fetes, galas and other less well defined places and sometimes the team travels to various parts of England to dance with other teams.
The team has a tradition of dancing in the King's Lynn area on Boxing Day, but probably the most important day of the year is the First of May (the real May Day); the team begins it by "Dancing the Dawn Up" (a ceremonial dance to celebrate the coming of Summer and promote fertility in field, flock and mankind) at 5.20am on the roundabout at Knights Hill (the highest point in the Boriugh of King's Lynn).
At mid-day The Kings Morris carry the King's Lynn May Garland around the town, an old custom, performed originally by the children of the town, and revived by the dancers in 1983.
The KING'S MORRIS wear grey top hats, and their white shirts and trousers are adorned with baldrics and bellpads in the teams' colours of royal blue and golden yellow. The shields which the teams wear on their livery are the ancient coat of arms of King's Lynn and are presented to a dancer when he is considered to be competent.
Current members of The King's Morris
Musician and Bagman. Probably the most well
known character in the side, mainly for his aprés-
dance musical renditions
Current Squire and longest serving
dancing member of the side
Ian Heighton, current Foreman, defunct Squire,
Webmaster and Universal 6th Morrisman
Greaves, past Foreman,
product of Silkeborg Morris, Denmark
via Hammersmith. The most technically
correct dancer we have.
Certified Fool and our own
6 million pound man, at least that's what he
says he's spent on beer.
may be better known for
the saying "Mad Bobs and Englishmen
go out in the midday sun".
Mark Warrell, Treasurer, enthusiastically
dancing in his 5th year with the side
Maythan, better known as "The
reputed to have brought the average age of
the side to below 50 (ish)
Says he doesn't like
Humphreys, ex Cambridge Morris, now
residing in Norfolk
Johnson, ex-White Rose Morris, also
talented musician who has
had links with Devils Dyke and Kemps
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What is Morris Dancing?
English Morris Dancing may be the modern survival of a primitive pre-Christian ceremonial of ritual dance and drama ensuring and celebrating the renewal of Spring. This rite once flourished all over Europe and even today dances similar to the Morris can be seen in parts of France, Spain, Rumania and Portugal.
The origin of the word 'Morris' is lost in obscurity. The earliest documentary references are mainly from Church accounts in the early 1500's - "Silver paper for the Mores-dawncers - 7d". "for VI peyre of shones for ye Mors dauncers - 4d" (1509/1510). It was certainly thriving in Shakespeare's time; Will Kemp's 'Nine Daies Wonder' was a Morris marathon from London to Norwich in 1600.
One popular theory is that when the original name and meaning of the rite were no longer remembered, the dance was called Moorish or Morris because the current word, at that time for black men was Moor. One school of thought claims the dances came from Spain having been introduced by the invading Moors. Another theory points to evidence of similar dances in England, long before the Moors, derived from the Druids' Maris dances, in celebration of the god Maris.
Certainly by Elizabethan times, the Morris was already known as an 'ancient custom', and had become established in many areas, mainly the Cotswolds, the Welsh Borders and the North West of England. It was also a favourite entertainment at Court.
These types of Morris dancing can be sub-divided into "Traditions". These "Traditions" are different styles of dancing practised by the original dance team normally based in a particular village; for example, Bledington in Gloucestershire and Brackley in Northamptonshire. Thus a team could perform dances which were unique, or they might perform dances known to many Morris teams, but dance them in their own style. Many traditions have died out and Morris sides now try to recreate these styles as recorded by the collectors of folk history at the turn of the century, in order to keep alive the old traditions. A dance team may also feature a "Fool" or an "Animal" (a dancer in disguise, often as a dragon or hobby horse).
Some of the best traditional music has been preserved by the Morris Men. The pipe and tabor have been in use since ancient times; The fiddle was introduced in the 18th Century; and the concertina and the melodeon arrived in the early 19th Century.
An important Morris tradition is a good monetary contribution to the bag; this brings good luck and strengthens the bond between onlookers and dancers. It also helps to buy charcoal for the dragon, hay for the hobby horse and shelter for the dancers during the winter practice season.
The Officers of a Morris team are the Squire (leader), Bagman (secretary) and the Foreman (dance instructor)
Boxing Day: Mid-day : Dancing outside two village pubs near King's Lynn.
13th January: Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival:
16th April (Easter Monday): 11.30am - 2.00 pm : Dancing outside 3 village pubs on the North West Norfolk Coast (Hunstanton area)
1st May (May Day) 5.15 am : "Dancing the dawn up" - Knights' Hill Roundabout, South Wooton, King's Lynn followed at 12 noon by the King's Lynn May Garland Procession - Starting at St Margarets Church and then into King's Lynn own centre for 2 hours.
The King's Morris revived this old tradition in 1983, and aways presents it on the REAL May Day. A large garland of flowers, greenery and beads surrounding a doll is mounted on a pole and carried about the town, accompanied by the blowing of ox horns (and Cotswold Morris dancing by ourselves).
7th May (Bank Holiday) Tour of North West Norfolk coast 11.30 am - 2.00 pm : Dancing outside 3 village pubs on the North West Norfolk Coast (Wells-next-the-Sea area)
Spring Bank Holiday Monday Tour of North West Norfolk coast 11.30 am- Dancing outside 3 village pubs on the North West Norfolk Coast (Wells-next-the-Sea area)
Saturday 8th September Wisbech Folk Fayre, 10.00 am : Wisbech
Sunday 9th September 11.30 am : King's Morris World Famous "Walking Tour" (all three pubs in Thornham (N.W. Norfolk) on the same day) : 11.30 - The Old Coach house, 12.15 - The Kings Head, 1.00 - The Lifeboat Inn, with guests and other spurious bodies who wish to sample the delights of the Norfolk air. Followed by Folk Music in the Lifeboat Inn.
Wednesday 26th December (Boxing Day) Mid-day : Dancing outside two village pubs near King's Lynn.
In addition to the major events listed above, The King's Morris dance at West Norfolk pubs on some Friday evenings during the summer months.
Pictures of The King's Morris inaction (or in action)
The Kings Morris during their recording for
'Feet First' (Anglia TV) 1999
2 novices had to be taught to dance in public in 6 hours
Could have been retitled '2 left feet first'
Wisbech Folk Fayre September 1995 - The Horsefair Wisbech (Photo : EDP)
We think that this is the only conclusive evidence of a Morris side having all their feet off the floor at the same time(Tantric flying). This goes with our other claim to fame as being the only Morris side to be thrown into a pub (but that's yet another story)
Front: Ian Heighton, Ian Price (Current Squire)
Middle: Charles Schaal, Martin Greaves
Back: Peter Brown, Bob Edgar
The King's Morris World Famous
"Walking Tour"of Thornham
takes place on the second Sunday in September (this year it's the 10th). We start at 11.30 am and dance at The Old Coach House (formally the Chequers), The Kings Head and the Lifeboat on the same day with a number of guest sides joining us (some arrive by charabanc) and usually concludes with a lively pub music session in the Lifeboat (not for the faint hearted).
"Dancing the Dawn Up"
(Photo: John Hocknell, EDP)
5.25 am Knights Hill, Kings Lynn
(Highest point in the Borough)
1st May 2000
with the Kings Lynn May Garland
The King's Morris at the Silkeborg (Denmark) Ring Meeting 1995.
Spot the loony on the left - our dragon, Izeels (draggin' 'is 'eels?) with guests
If you want further information about The King's Morris activities
please contact our
David Jackson, 9 Edward Street, King's Lynn, Norfolk, PE 30 5QS
or by e-mail to
Why not join us?
If you feel the desire to join in, have a desire to dress in strange attire, desport yourself with wild abandon and drink copious amounts of good ale, please contact our Bagman, David Jackson, on 01553 768930, before you get locked up by the authorities." (anon.)
New members are always welcome.
The King's Morris gratefully acknowledge financial support from The Borough Council
Last revised: October 30, 2000.