There are a number of interesting dances for 6 or 8 dancers in circulation generically called "Much Wenluck" but with little evidence of being based on collected material. The dance collected by Maud Karpeles in 1937 and seen again in 1949 was very simple.



Collected by Maud Karpeles from Baden Minton, a miner, then aged 37 on 30.3.1937, when Mr Minton, as the melodian player, came to the Raven Hotel in the evening with 3 dancers, two stick men and a tambourinist, to show the dance.



Various tunes, including jigs. The band consisted of melodian, bones, triangle and tambourine, depending on numbers available.



stick 14" long and 4" in circumference, not decorated.



The dance came from Homer a mile away in the 1880's. The old team last came out before WW1 and Mr Minton danced with them. He revived the dancing in 1926 involving workers from the limestone quarries where he used to work. They used to come out first on Christmas Eve and dance from 6pm till midnight, then again on Boxing Day, and sometimes every day afterwards until the New Year. They believed the dance was to celebrate the birth of Christ. Dr Cawte met George Walters on 29.5.57 who joined the side in 1917 and Nick Rowlands on 29/30.5.57 who joined in 1897. These dancers originally wore tags of cloth on their ordinary clothes, then later the tags were of paper and finally they went to fancy dress with top hats because the boys used to set the paper tags alight.



All blacked their faces and hands, and no one wore bells. They wore any fancy dress, such as that of an Italian clown, King Jester, and Sambo the Black. Some dancers dressed as women, which idea Mr Minton said he had introduced. There is a photograph of the team in the Shrewsbury Chronical of Friday 5th April 1935 under the headline "Wenlock Tells the World".



The dance could be performed by from 5 to 8 dancers, There were always two "standards", a bones and a melodian player, who did not dance.


When 8 in troupe : there were 4 stick dancers and 2 tambourine players who danced in a set of 6.

When 7 in troupe : there were 2 stick dancers and 2 tambourine players who danced, and a triangle player who did not dance.

When 6 in troupe : there was no triangle player.

When 5 in troupe : there were 2 stick dancers and triangle player who did not dance, but no tambourine player.


Thus the set for the dance was either,


(top) (bottom) or (top) (bottom) or (top) (bottom)


Bars 1/4


Partners cross over, passing left shoulders, and take a half turn to the right to face back.

Bars 5/8


Partners cross back, passing left shoulders to places, and then arm once around with the left arms linked, to end in place.

The tambourines are held up and shaken during the crossing. The "step" during the above was something between a run and a walk. In jig time, the dancers put in occasional fancy steps, such as a cross step and a hockle step, but only indeterminately. Dr Cawte was told that for part of the dance they used a clumsy single shuffle as we know for the rapper dance. When in the streets, the dancers progress slightly in these movements, by making their track slightly diagonal. They are then headed by the melodian and the bones.

Bars 9/16


Stick Tapping : Partners stand still, facing each other. The even stick dancers hold their sticks still in a vertical position whilst the odds hit the tips if the even's sticks alternately from right to left and left to right with their tips to the rhythm / x x x x / and finish with / x . x . //.

The strikers sticks are also held almost vertically and the tapping is done mainly by a movement of the wrist.

The tambourine players beat time and the bones player, who has hitherto been silent, joins in.

Bars 17/32


The above is repeated but the evens hit the odds.


Whole dance continues ad lib.

The same men as seen by Maud Karpeles performed in 1949 when some were living at Stretton Westwood as reported by Geoffrey Mendham in "Encounters with the Morris Dance in Shropshire" in English Dance and Song Dec/Jan 1953/4 p.100.

The Westwood Morris Men, five of them, met in August 1948. Dressed in fancy dress mostly modelled on circus clown costume. One wore a tightly fitting blue costume, wide waisted and tightly banded at wrist and ankle - carried two pairs of bones. Another wore top hat and tail coat and was almost immaculate - with a tambourine. Other three in coloured pyjama like suits. Two has short sticks one foot long - third had a small melodian. A full team included two more stick men. All had blackened faces.

Four dancers stood in a square 12 feet wide, with musician in middle - reading sunwise - tambourine, stick, stick, bones - musician played 16 bar tune loud, fast and inaccurately. Second tune was recognisably as "Three Jolly Sheepskins". largely as at Sleights - this because Sharp's "Sleights" came frorn John Locke of Leominster!

During first strain the three in motley moved rapidly round each other in a serpentine track, apparently arbitarily - came occasionally near a hey for three. Step was a rapid rolling walk - as if a hurry to get somewhere. Meanwhile the top hatted tambourinist moved fairly slowly anticlockwise round the set and performed a variety of polka and rant steps in an almost sitting position. At the end of 3 bars all back to position, except stick men now within reach.

One held his stick very rigidly vertically at arms length. The other beat it from side to side with great vigour, four times in each of first six bars, twice in bar seven and three times, in eigth. Tambourine and bones did same rhythm, both facing away from centre, the bones at head level, the tambourine at knee level. All instruments played with extreme vigour. Sequence done three or four times, stick men change roles each time. Dance ended on second strain. Usually performed at Xmas."

© 1990 R L Dommett