Original ERD - Preparation of the List

Compiled by E.C.Cawte, A.Helm & N.Peacock. Online ed.: P.T.Millington

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OF all things subject to error, place names fare the worst. There are variations in spelling, and one county may have more than one place of the same name, for example there are five Newbiggins in Northumberland. Possibly more confusing, the same name may occur in different parts of the country, and distort a pattern of distribution unless the district is made clear. To attain uniformity and avoid confusion in this list, we have given places the spelling shown on the one-inch Ordnance Survey Maps of the country, and have shown a Full Kilometre Grid Reference. This provides an easy method of locating any place on the post-war Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain. The letters refer to the 100 Km squares and a key to these is supplied with all one-inch maps. [1] The figures which refer to sub-divisions of these squares, should be divided into two pairs: the first pair should be read from west to east along the bottom or top of the map and the second pair from south to north up the side of the map. On a quarter-inch map only the first of each pair of figures is printed along the edge, the other has to be estimated. Instructions on the use of grid references are given at the bottom of each Ordnance Survey map, but in the instructions given on the one-inch maps the estimation of a third figure in each direction should be ignored for the present purpose. The four figure references which we use, define the position of each place to the nearest kilometre. This permanent accurate identification is essential because a village with a flourishing tradition in the nineteenth century may disappear in the urbanisation of the twentieth, and it is important to have these on record.

When a source refers to a parish which has no village of that name (e.g. Antrobus, Cheshire), we give the Grid Reference of the parish church or of the parish name on an Ordnance Survey map. A place is normally listed under the county in which it lies; when it is in a municipal or county borough, it is shown under the geographical county to which the borough belongs, even though the boundary may have enclosed part of a neighbouring county (e.g. Northenden, formerly in Cheshire, and now part of Manchester, is included under Lancashire). [2]

A number of references are to plays for which no exact location is known: it is often the practice for writers, particularly in serial publications, to refer to, for example, 'A Gloucestershire Play' or 'A Wessex Play'. Others, vaguer still, simply refer to 'A Mumming Play'. In such instances, where the text is supported by an essay of interest to the subject as a whole, or where the text itself is unusual, they have been included either under the relevant county or in the general Unlocated section of the Table. It has been possible to identify some unlocated texts by information concerning the writer's whereabouts at the time of writing. This information has been discovered in such works of reference as Medical Directories, Crockford's Clerical Directory, and The Dictionary of National Biography, and is acknowledged in footnotes to the Table. Errors are possible, and we welcome other suggestions.

Locations in Ireland are given on the Irish Grid, which is similar to, though not coincident with, the British one. The Irish Ordnance Survey maps are our standard for Irish place names, but those from elsewhere are copied from the source quoted. We have not mapped the distribution of the Play outside the British Isles, because the number of locations is small.


This is the last known date of performance. When a writer refers to a custom still in existence we have given the date of the season preceding the date of publication (see also INCLUSION, p.15). [3]


In our MS Index we have recorded the time of appearance as given in the source, but here we only indicate the season in general terms, e.g. Christmas, New Year, Plough Monday, Easter, or All Souls' Tide. When no time of appearance is given in the source, but the season is mentioned in the text (e.g. 'We wish you a Merry Christmas'), we have given this. There has been some inevitable confusion over the time of appearance of the Wooing plays. Many we know took place on Plough Monday, in others the text refers to Christmas, and in some instances we know the play was performed throughout both seasons, so that some inconsistency is unavoidable with information which is incomplete. In many sources when the season is not given we could make a reasonable guess, but this we have not done, preferring to depend exclusively on the statements in our authorities.


Although every effort has been made to obtain texts wherever possible, we have included places where no text is available, provided we can be sure there was a play. Although the text is the safest guide to the basic 'action' on which the classification depends, it is sometimes possible to establish a type by the background description even though no dialogue has survived. No classification has been possible for the two examples known to have been performed in silence—Bromborough, Cheshire, and Mullion, Cornwall: it is clear that the mime related to the Play, but it is not clear from the descriptions to which type. Intermediate examples are also known. On Holy Island until a few years ago, and possibly still, children visited houses at Christmas, made a recitation, and collected money. Their text was very similar to the texts of several Northumbrian plays (though not quite complete), but with no acting, no combat, and no taking of parts. This had not changed in the previous ninety years. Similarly, at Bagworth and Ratby in Leicestershire, the 'Plough Boys' took parts and recited standard play fragments (Beelzebub, Doctor, I that's never been before) but with no acting, and the normal plot entirely lost. A similar performance is recorded at Great Gransden in Huntingdonshire.


The authors and titles are copied from the title page, or the head of the article in a periodical. These are followed by publisher, and place and date of publication. Only relevant page numbers are listed, though where the whole book is relevant (e.g. Tiddy, 1923), these are omitted. The columns in newspapers are indicated by consecutive letters after the page number, as in the Indices for The Times. Additional information from the same source is given in round brackets, and from other sources in square brackets. Each reference is allocated a code for convenience in drawing up the Tables. [5]

A number of people who have passed information to us are not regular collectors, and have kept no note of their findings so far as we know. Some of these communications are included under the symbols Cawte Coll., Helm Coll., and Peacock Coll., which do not exclusively represent personal collections in the field.

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1. The one-inch and quarter-inch to the mile maps are no longer published by the Ordnance Survey. Their metric equivalents are the 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 series respectively. These continue to use National Grid References.

2. Local government reorganisation in the United Kingdom in 1974 resulted in radical changes to county boundaries and names, and there have been several adminstrative changes since. Many people find the new counties and authorities confusing, and continue to use the "traditional" counties in daily life. The pre-1974 county names used in the original ERD are retained in this edition.

3. While it was useful to give the latest date on which a given play was known to be extant, in retrospect it would also have been useful to have given the earliest date.

4. Journal titles have been standardised in the new Journal Index. 'The' at the start of a title has been retained, but inverted, for what would otherwise be single-word titles (e.g. "Times, The"), but has been dropped from multi-word titles. Journal titles have however been left unaltered in the bibliographic listings.

5. These are the four-letter codes referred in the Preface that have been replaced here with Harvard-style author-year citations.

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© 2007, E.C.Cawte, N.Peacock & P.Millington ( Rev. 22-Nov-2007