The Horn Dance....this Monday!

The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is an English folk dance
which dates back to the Middle Ages. The dance takes place each 
year in Abbots Bromley, a village in Staffordshire, England. The modern 
version of the dance involves reindeer antlers, a hobby horse, Maid Marian
and a Fool. The Horn Dance takes place on Wakes Monday, the day following 
Wakes Sunday, which is the first Sunday after 4 September...this year it is next
Monday 9 September. There are no recorded references to the horn dance prior to  
Robert Plot's 'Natural History of Staffordshire', written in 1686. However, there is a
record of the hobby horse being used in Abbots Bromley as early as 1532, and it is 
possible that the horn dance component of the custom was also present at that
time but not commented upon by the writer. A carbon analysis discovered
that the antlers used in the dance date to the 11th century - though
these may well have replaced an even older set

The players in the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, ca. 1900

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. The dance itself 
is simple, since the antlers themselves have some weight 
to them and are large and bulky

The original medieval hobby horse, photographed in the mid-1970s. 
It has since been replaced by a more realistic carving. The term hobby horse
is used, principally by folklorists, to refer to the costumed characters that feature
in some traditional seasonal customs, processions and similar observances
around the world. They are particularly associated with May Day
celebrations,Mummers Plays and the Morris dance in the UK.

  ...the hobby horse from the photo above

Photo by Homer Sykes, 1970s

Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.
Images from the J. Benjamin Stone Collection

The Horn Dance outside the Bagot Arms, 2006

The dance, above  Blithfield Reservoir in 2006

 Please, click on the images to enlarge
and please, go here and see more
vintage photos...