A Brief History of Alton Morris

Alton Morris started life back in the summer of 1979 as an all male side dancing Cotswold morris. The side was shown how to dance by Dave Cooper, the music provided by Ivor Mercer on Fiddle.

Alton Morris Men danced out for the first time in the spring of 1980 at the Queens Hotel, Selbourne.

The side's first invitation was to join Winchester Morris Men for a walking tour. Other invitations were to dance at the Lord Mayors Show in Pater Noster Square. and a City of London tour.

Kit for the side comprised of a red coronnetted floppy woollen hat - as worn traditionally by master brewers in the area some 50 years before, white long sleeved shirts, green tabbards, plain front with a gold lion surrounded by hops on the back, black breeches, red socks, black shoes and a 16 bell pad for each leg.

Around 1982 the side applied to join the Morris Ring and danced into the Ring during an invitation with Yateley Morris Men tour (Ring meeting) in the gardens of the Redgrave Theatre, Farnham.

In the first twelve years Alton Morris Men danced Cotswold Morris, the side had 6 Squires each serving two years, David Cooper, Pat Sopp, Keith Robinson, Gordon Frater, Pat Quigley and Steve Palmer.

Winter 1991 saw the side visiting Vadu Isini in Romania for a Winter Folk festival. In June 1992 the side hosted a group of Romanians to visit Alton and dance at that years Bowerdecking at Oakhanger and Wimborne Folk festival.

In 1991 the side had struggled with declining numbers and Steve Palmer proposed that the side changed to become a mixed side dancing Border dances. The proposal was accepted and soon the side membership had tripled. Since this time the side has maintained a regular strength of around 20-30 dancers and musicians, and performed at most of the main festivals around the south of England, including Rochester, Winchester, Wimborne, Chippenham and Sidmouth.

Steve Palmer remained as Squire until around 1994, with Don Hammond taking over as Squire. From the time the side changed to dancing border until 1997 the mainstay of the music was Paul Tabbush on Melodeon and Bob Shatwell on fiddle.

In 1997 the side were invited to dance at Sidmouth Folk Festival as a town side for the week. We managed to keep a side of 16 - 22 dancers/musicians for the whole week.

1999 saw an invitation for the side to dance in Italy. Alton town began the process of twinning with Montecchio Maggiore in Northern Italy and Alton Morris were the first organisation to visit Italy from Alton. The side took a total contingent of 38 people including 24 Dancers & Musicians and danced in Montecchio, Vicenza and Bassano for 5 days during the week after Easter.

The side were a great hit with the Italians who had never seen anything like us. We drew large crowds wherever we danced and achieved a Saturday evening television appearance for our performance in the square in front of the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza. Evenings were spent being hosted by various organisations in Montecchio, in return we entertained with a mixture of song, music, social and Morris dance.

2000 saw us join together with Minden Rose to organise a weekend of dance at the beginning of July, the weekend was a great success with some 16 sides attending. The Ceilidh on the Saturday evening with the Committee Band went down a storm. The Nurdling Cup was won by New Esperance.



To contact Alton Morris send us an email

last updated 7 September, 2001

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