Bagthorpe (SK4751), Nottinghamshire
S. R. (Auth.)
PLOUGH MONDAY: THE MUMMERS' PLAY: RELIC OF AN OLD CUSTOM: NOTTINGHAMSHIRE VERSIONS
7th Jan.1924, No.21151, p.3 b-c
The theories on the origins of Mummers' plays propounded by Cecil Sharpe and
R.J.E.Tiddy (1923) are briefly reviewed. There is a detailed description with
most of the text of a Selston play (collected by Capt. J.P.Scothorne from boys
at Bagthorpe). This includes the characters; Fool, St. George, Slasher, Doctor,
Beelzebub and Devil Doubt. Fragments are also quoted from the East Retford play
published by E.Sutton (1912) but here only located as "North Notts." The
characters given are; Herald, Hero, St. George and Doctor. Mention is also made
of relic plays in Nottingham suburbs and also of a plough procession in East
S.Race Collection (1924, J.P.Scothorne)
[Capt. J. P. Scothorne] (Col.); Sydney Race (Col.)
Selston Version [Christmas Play from Bagthorpe, Notts.]
Col. about Jan.1924
Typescript of a Christmas play text (62 lines), with the characters were;
Fool, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Belzebub/Beelzebub and Devil Doubt. The
typescript has been marked up for publication, and a hand written five line
song at the end may not have been part of the original.
There is little identification with the text, although it clearly tallies with
the text quoted extensively in S.R. (1924). The hand written heading on the
text gives its location as Selston, and in his publications, S.Race also
describes it coming from Selston. However, S.R. (1924) says that the text was
taken down by Capt. Scothorne from pupils of the school in Bagthorpe, Notts.,
at which he was teaching. Selston is a neighbouring village, and it seems
unlikely that children from Selston would have gone to school in
Bagthorpe. S.R. (1924) states that the custom was still current, so it would
have been the version performed in 1923.
In the collection, this text is attached to the manuscript of a short article
intended for publication in a newspaper. This is annotated "Wkly 2/2/46", but
no published version has yet been found (see S.Race, 1946).
*Sydney Race (Auth.)
*Mummers [The Mummers' Play: Notts versions for Plough Monday.]
*The S.Race Collection contains a manuscript of the above article, to which
is attached the typescript of a "Selston" play text (see S.Race Collection,
1924, J.P.Scothorne). This is annotated "Wkly 2/2/46". However, no copy of
an actual publication has yet been located. "Wkly" most probably refers to the
weekly edition of the Nottinghamshire Guardian. The article states;
"Almost as familiar in Victorian times as the carols of Christmas was the
Mummers' Play & its popularity was widespread. Thomas Hardy in one of his
Wessex stories describes a performance, & there are versions of it in print
which come from Cornwall, Devon & Hampshire, from Oxford & Warwickshire, from
Lancashire & the neighbouring counties, & even from northern Ireland.
It had a firm hold in Nottinghamshire, particularly in the district around
Retford & in the villages near to the Vale of Belvoir. A newspaper of January
1871 states that 'a party of Mummers lately visited the towns & villages of
North Notts and highly diverted the inhabitants by their dancing, singing of
old songs, & the play of the Hobby Horse'. Mrs Chaworth Musters in her story
of 'A Cavalier Stronghold' printed a version for Plough Monday which she had
collected from Cropwell.
In the years between the two wars, there was a great revival of interest in the
play, & quite probably in this first Christmas of the peace there have been
places in which it has again been seen.
There are many versions of the play & Here is one, a little abbreviated, which
was obtained in the Selston district, twenty years ago."
P.T.Millington Collection (1971, T.Thorpe)
Mr. Tom Thorpe (Perf.)
BAGTHORPE/UNDERWOOD - CHRISTMAS GUYSERS PLAY
Col. 30th Jan.1971
Brief text (41 lines) of a Christmas play performed by Guysers in Bagthorpe
and Underwood, Notts. The itinerary included Felley Priory, Notts. The
characters were Opener In, Saint George, Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub and Devil
Dout. Text recorded on audio cassette.
P.T.Millington Collection (1971k)
BRINSLEY - GUYSERS PLAY
Col. 24th Dec.1971
Full text of a short (26 lines) Christmas Guysers play, noted down at its
performance in Brinsley, Notts. The itinerary also included Underwood and
Bagthorpe, Notts. The three characters were Beelzebub, Saint George and
P.T.Millington Collection (1971c)
MISCELLANEOUS NOTES ON NOTTINGHAMSHIRE AND DERBYSHIRE FOLK DRAMA RECORDED BY PETER T. MILLINGTON: SELSTON Notts SK 4652
Brief note as follows:-
"Recorded from the barman of the 'Shepherds Rest' Bagthorpe in January 1971.
The informant described the visits of Bullguysers to the pub at Christmas in
1970. The boys had blackened faces and wore their coats inside out, and carried
wooden swords. Characters included a First Man, Bullguy, Beelzebub, Doctor and
The informant was not sure where the Bull Guysers came from, but thought they
came from Brinsley. The characters are more in keeping with the Selston
P.T.Millington Collection (1972, K.Smith)
Mr. K. Smith (Inf.)
[Christmas, Guysers play from Underwood, Notts.]
Com. 15th Jan. 1972
Text of a Christmas Guysers play from Underwood, Notts. performed about 1943.
This was also performed at Felley Priory, Bagthorpe and Annesley, Notts. The
characters are Opener, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Belzebub and Little Devil
P.T.Millington Collection (1972, M.E.Sisson)
Miss M. E. Sisson (Inf.)
UNDERWOOD VERSION OF "THE GUISERS" (AS BROADCAST ON JAN 13TH 1954)
Com. 16th Jan.1972
The text (74 lines) of a Guisers play performed in the Underwood, Bagthorpe
and Brinsley districts of Notts. The characters were Door-man (played by Alan
Gill), St. George (played by the informant's youngest brother), Slasher, Tom
Slasher (Slasher's father), Doctor, Beelzebub, and Little Devil Doubt.
M.W.Barley arranged for the B.B.C. to record a performance in 1953, and this was
broadcast on the 13th Jan.1954.
R. W. Storer (Auth.)
Victorian Selston [includes Bull Guysing fragment]
Selston: Worker's Education Association, 1975, p.54
This is a general local history of the Parish of Selston, Notts., which
includes Bagthorpe, Underwood and Jacksdale. The following appears on page 54;
"Older children and adults took the mumming plays or 'Bull Guysing' to the
public houses and for a few of the better-off houses. These plays had their
origin in Mediaeval Times and the acting or spoken word portrayed either the
Christian Festivals, the New Year, the Saints, etc. Some older readers may well
remember the cheery character of the blackened face of Bel-zebub and his final
lines at the Christmas play:-
In comes owd Bel-zebub,
On me back a' carry me club,
In me 'and a dripping pan,
Don't yo'u think I'm a jolly old man,
If yo'u don't, I do.
Plum puddings hot, Plum puddings cow'd,
Plum puddings in the pot nine days owd,
If you think I'm a fool and got no sense,
put yo'ur hand in yo'ur pocket and gimme a few pence.
These plays have survived in certain parts of the country and in particular in
the Erewash valley until recent times."
I.T.Jones Collection (1981, I.M.O'Brien)
Mrs. I. M. O'Brien (Inf.)
Underwood/Selston/Bagthorpe, Notts: Questionnaire from Mrs I.M.O'Brien
7th Feb 1981, Ref.K9-4
Questionnaire from Mrs O'Brien, age 60, who was born in Selston and now
lives in Underwood giving some of her recollections and some from Mrs
R. Kirk. 63 lines of text given from the Bagthorpe area with characters
Announcer, St. George, Slasher, Father, Doctor, Beelzebub and Little Devil
Doubt. 7 Lines of text given from the play performed in Selston. Performances
remembered up to 1944 in Underwood. Players referred to locally as 'Guysers'
or 'Bull guysers'
Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes (1989)
Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes (Comp.)
The Nottinghamshire Village Book: Compiled by the Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes from notes and illustrations sent by Institutes in the County [Includes notes on Plough Monday, Bullguysers and other customs]
Newbury: Countryside Books, & Newark, NFWI, 1989, 1-85306-057-7, 191pp.
This book is compilation of short pieces on about 148 Notts., villages giving
descriptions, histories and reminiscences. There are numerous mentions of
customs, legends and ghosts. The following are of particular interest.
Caunton (p.41) quotes S.R.Hole's (1901) description of the Rang-Tang.
From Kirklington (pp.98-99) we have;
"Plough Monday was always kept on the second Monday in January when the
farmworkers of the village went the rounds of the village and acted a play in
every house where they were invited. They were given mince pies and ale or
money. The exit lines of the play were:
'We are the country plough lads
That go from door to door
Good Master and Good Mistress
As you sit by your fire
Remember us good plough lads
That work through mud and mire
So bring us out a good pork pie
And a jug of your best beer
We wish you all good night
And another Happy Year'"
At Laxton (p.106) it states; "On the first Monday in January, Plough Monday,
ancient Mummer plays were enacted, a tradition which has sadly disappeared."
A frontispiece signed D.A.Shaw (p.8) illustrates "Plough Sunday at Tithby", and
the text says;
"Despite attuning to the needs of the present day, old customs and rites are not
forgotten and are practised. One farmer breeds and works Suffolk Punches,
another farmer maintains a herd of Highland cattle, and on Plough Sunday the
plough is still brought into Holy Trinity Church to be blessed." (p.163)
There is a good description from Underwood with Bagthorpe (p.167);
"Mummer's plays were a feature of life in the area until the Second World War.
Dressed in bizarre costumes and with blackened faces, local youths with a
pretended show of force, would gatecrash Christmas gatherings in houses and pubs
to re-enact the age-old story of the triumph of life over death in Nature, the
origins of which go back beyond pre-Christian times. Over the centuries the
performances had become pure knock-about farce. However, there existed an
instinctive respect for their antiquity and no door was ever barred against the
Bullguysers. Unfortunately, to safeguard the blackout in the war years, the
police had to insist that the Mummers should play no more and another age-old
custom was lost."
From Woodborough (pp.86-87), several speeches are quoted from a Plough Monday
play, seeming to comprise a complete but brief text (18 lines). Characters
mentioned are Easom Squeesom, Big Belly Ben, a Soldier and Doctor.
P.T.Millington Collection (1991, T.Thorpe)
Tom Thorpe (Perf.)
[Guysers Play from Bagthorpe, Notts.]
Written 21st Jan.1991
Full text (37 lines) of a Guysers play performed in the 1930s in Bagthorpe,
Notts. The characters are; Opener In, Saint George, Slasher, Doctor, Belzibub
and Devildowt. The itinerary included Felley Priory.
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser (1993a)
GUISER'S STAGE A COMEBACK [in Underwood, Notts.]
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser,
31st Dec.1993, Vol.94, No.5205, p.2e-h
Description of the revival of the Christmas Guisers' or Mummers play
originally performed by five of the six performers as children in the
1940s in Underwood, Notts. The characters were; Opener In, St. George, Slasher,
Doctor, Belgebub [misprint for Belzebub] and Devildoubt. Performances were
given to the Haggs Farm Preservation Society (because of an interest arising
from D.H.Lawrence mentioning the play in "The White Peacock"), and venues in
Bagthorpe, Underwood and Brinsley. A list of the actors is included.
Evening Post [Nottingham] (1994b)
NEIGHBOURHOOD NEWS: Reporting on NUTHALL, KIMBERLEY, EASTWOOD, HEANOR, RIPLEY and ALFRETON: Going back to folklore: Friends bid to revive guiser plays [in Underwood, Notts.]
Evening Post [Nottingham,
18th Jan.1994, No.35699, p.1Bd-h
An account of the revival of the Underwood guiser play by five men
who originally performed it as children in the 1940s. Maurice Holmes
adapted several local scripts. A photo shows six characters. Five
named in the article are; Opener, St George, Slasher, Doctor and
Devildoubt. The other character in the photo is Beelzebub. Performances
were given at Underwood, Bagthorpe and Brinsley, Notts., and for the Haggs
Farm Preservation Society. Planned venues included Newstead Abbey and
* indicates data that not yet been validated against the original source and/or has yet to be completely indexed.