Up to about the mid-19th century, a number of villages in south Northamptonshire had Morris dance teams who performed each spring and early summer as part of their local customs. This ancient English tradition, considered to be very old even at the time of Elizabeth I, was common throughout the area of the Cotswolds and into Northamptonshire. The changes brought about by the enclosures, industrialisation and the railways all changed rural life dramatically. Many of the traditional Morris dance teams just stopped dancing, and their dances were forgotten and lost for ever.
Badby had a tradition of Morris dancing, and village men still danced till about the 1870s. They too broke up about then, some moving off to find work. Without new recruits, the dancing stopped.
The dances of Badby might have been lost too, but about 1911 a folk song and dance collector called Cecil Sharp visited the Daventry area with George Butterworth, a fellow collector. They sought older villagers who could remember the Morris and the names of those men involved in it. The team costume was described as all white with pleated shirts with epaulettes and decorated with red, white and blue rosettes, two white silk scarves were worn crossed over shoulders to opposite waist side over the shirts. They wore bells on their legs and a “scotch” glengarries type of hat with ribbons at the back. The dances they did were named: First Morris; Second Morris; Balance the Straw; Beauxs of London City (stick dance); Broad Cupid; Shepherds Hey (stick dance); Cuckoo’s Nest; Shepherds Hey (hand clapping dance); Flowers of Edinburgh; Bobbing Joe; Old Black Joe; Trunkles; and Saturday Night.
The dances are particularly energetic and flowing in style, with beautiful tunes. Most current Morris teams dance at least one Badby dance, usually “Beauxs of London City”. The local team Moulton Morris Men have revived the whole Badby dance tradition, as they specialise in Northamptonshire Morris dances. Badby is fortunate to have such a valuable history of local folklore and its own village folk music tunes.
Barry Care MBE, Moulton
Badby Fayre Programme 2004