Saturday, 13 September 2014

Horns, bells and pointy sticks.

As a lover of anything to do with folklore and airy fairy nonsense I jumped at the chance to visit the annual Horn Dance at nearby Abbots Bromley last week. Mr K was relieved to hear that the plans did not include him. Not that he wouldn't love to watch a group of grown men don bizarre costumes and bash their batons together (!) but to do so would probably require a copious amount of alcohol and some form of matrimonial threat.

So with a skip in my step and a song in my heart my pals and I set off along the gorgeous country lanes until we crossed the beautiful Blithfield reservoir (not my photograph I'm afraid - I was earthbound).

 Several years ago I attended a talk given by an author who collected local ghost stories. The one that stayed with me featured a taxi driver who, one dark and wintry night, had dropped off his fare at Abbots Bromley and was returning to his base in the nearby town of Rugeley.  As he neared the half way point of the reservoir he glanced in his rear view mirror and saw a face. So convinced was he that he had forgotten to drop off a further passenger that he spoke to him. When there was no reply the driver pulled over and checked the back of the car. THERE WAS NO ONE THERE! Bom bom BOMMMMMM! Of course I waited until our return journey in the dark to relay this tale. And then spent the rest of the journey unable to look over my shoulder.

Abbots Bromley itself is a pretty village, full pretty houses and olde worlde charm. As we entered the village there was a festival atmosphere.

Various stalls were set up on the village green - this one took my eye.

No end of Morris dancing paraphernalia for sale. I decided against purchasing a CD for Mr K.

The sign outside the gorgeous half timbered Goats Head on the village green gives a brief outline of the dance.

And Wikipedia tells us more about the dancers:
There are 12 dancers. Six carry the horns and they are accompanied by a musician playing an accordion (a violin in former times), Maid Marian (a man in a dress), the Hobby-horse, the Fool (or Jester), a youngster with a bow and arrow, and another youngster with a triangle. Traditionally, the dancers are all male, although in recent years girls have been seen carrying the triangle and bow and arrow.
Until the end of the 19th century the dancers were all members of the Bentley family. The dance passed to the related Fowell family in the early 20th century; this has continued to this day, though due to rising house prices none of them live in the village any longer; many live in nearby towns. They have been known to allow visitors to "dance in" if asked politely, and will often invite musicians and others to take part when necessary.

We were told that we had 'just missed' the performance on the green and the dancers had wandered up into the lanes to continue in the surrounding fields.

So we had a wander.

And I'm afraid from this point on I have no idea as to what has happened to my page colour or indeed how to fix it!

Inside the church there was a small exhibition which gave further details of the dance - including this lovely tribute to one of it's performers.

Sorry about the quality here - it's been super duper zoomed.

Then there were the racks that hold the antlers

Alongside a rather spooky hobby horse that looks like it was put out to pasture many years ago.

In complete contrast the other side of the church housed a steel statue portraying Jesus and a disciple that was commissioned to celebrate the millennium.

Back outside we wandered up the high street. Still no sign of any dancing but plenty of time to take in the surroundings.

A life size dolls house!

The grandest of door frames

And a very polite notice as to what not to do with my motor!

We sat and we waited.

We waited and we wondered.

And just as the light started to fade we heard a distinct tinkle!

First came the clog dancers in a whirl of green

Then the Morris men and their pointy sticks

And finally the Horn Dance  itself

Apologies again for the picture quality but considering the weight of the antlers these men were quite nifty!

And then they were gone.

Time for a warm drink and return across the haunted reservoir!

A great evening and wonderful to have been part of something that has entertained so many people over the centuries.


P.S. So remember when driving late at night and spotting a face in your rear view mirror don't worry - it's just A GHOST!


  1. Oh I do love to read about village traditions. This was a lovely post. Its nice to know they carry on down the years for generation after generation.

  2. Loved this post, I remember being very scared of the Horsey thing when i was small...!
    bestest d x

  3. It looks like such a fun time was had by all, glad you did not pick up a ghost on the way home.

  4. I do love a bit of Morris and late night spooky tales.
    Jacqui x

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your brilliant post about village traditions.
    It seems a wonderful time was had by all.


  6. What a fun post full of old traditions and spooky tales! I've been to the village and seen the displays associated with the Horn Dance in the church but have never been to the actual event so it was lovely to see it through your eyes:)

  7. Bom, bom, BOMMM! Love this post! Great story, great tradition, and a fun day out with the pals!

  8. I've enjoyed seeing your excellent reporting. Isn't it grand that these traditions are still being carried forward? I laughed a bit at your words, "and then they were gone," I was reminded of what some folks recently wrote about viewing the Tour de France. Another tradition.

    I agree about that horse being spooky, and the cab driver's tale is a good one.


  9. After reading this, I'm feeling really annoyed with myself! I can't believe I forgot about this event on the one year I could have gone, grrrr! As it's always just after we go back to school, I've never been able to attend this one myself, though I always want to - this year, when I'm unemployed, I totally forgot and haven't heard anything about it on the net to remind me. Oh well, your photos are great and I really enjoyed seeing it through your blog!

  10. What a fun time you've had! Gosh I do love these traditions, they are so interesting, fun, strange and gorgeous all at once! Chrissie x


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