June 11 2011: The Morris and Sword Dances of England by Arthur Peck (The Morris Ring, 1974)

We’ve lived in our present house in Sneinton, Nottingham, for four years, and this year marks the first time we’re actually anticipating the procession of Morris dancers down our road today rather than just being surprised by them, as usual. They’ll come in a long procession after collecting the ‘Southwell Pence’ from the Lord Mayor of Nottingham in Old Market Square, playing music and jingling bells as they go. 

Sometime around 9am, they’ll gather on Hermitage Square, where a member of the Sneinton Environmental Society will perform a proclamation speech, which will be greeted – if previous years are anything to go by – with rousing cheers. They’ll then be escorted to the Sneinton boundaries and make their way, via Burton Joyce and a long list of pubs, to Southwell.

The Southwell Gateway has coincided with a major folk festival since 2007, but the current version of the Gateway To Southwell procession was revived by the Dolphin Morris in 1981, and before that is traceable back to 1109, when a permission – preserved in the 13th Century compendium The White Book of Southwell – was granted by Archbishop Thomas II to “allow the Pentecostal procession at Southwell instead of York”.

Soon afterwards, a connection was made between the procession and the raising of money from surrounding towns to build Southwell Minster: this is the tradition from which the 1981 revival took its bearings. Despite this rich history, the sudden appearance – each Summer – of this procession on our own street remained a mystery and only this year did we think to do a bit of research and find out when it might next appear.

Now we know they’ll be here in the morning, bright and early, and for once we’ll be ready.

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