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The Story of Thaxted Morris Men

Thaxted Morris was founded in 1911, early in the revival of interest in Morris dancing begun by Cecil Sharp and Mary Neal. In 1905, Mary Neal invited two traditional dancers from Headington Quarry to teach Morris dancing to the young women of the Espérance Club in London. Soon after their arrival in Thaxted in 1910, Conrad Noel, Vicar of Thaxted, and his wife Miriam, invited the Espérance Club to send someone to teach Morris dancing to the young people of the town. Mary Neal appointed Blanche Payling to the task, and for a week in December 1910, she taught Morris Dancing to local girls and boys, women and men, giving rise to the Thaxted Morris Dance Company.  Their first public performance was for the local celebrations of the coronation of King George V on 22nd June 1911. Thaxted is the oldest surviving revival side in the country.

After the First World War, the Thaxted dancers established a close friendship with another group in Letchworth.  In 1927, this developed into a larger meeting of Morris Dance groups, which became an annual gathering.  

In 1934 six Morris clubs — under the leadership of Joseph Needham, Squire of Cambridge Morris Men —formed a federation of Morris clubs which became known as The Morris Ring. The six founder clubs were Cambridge, Oxford, Letchworth, Thaxted, East Surrey and Greensleeves. 

On 2 June 1934, at the Thaxted Morris Weekend Meeting, representatives of five of the six clubs met round the kitchen table of Mrs. King’s house — 32 Newbiggen Street — and approved a draft constitution. Alec Hunter, Squire of Thaxted Morris Men, outlined the proposal to all the men present. This was followed by a meeting of club representatives, at which the Morris Ring was declared constituted. The Inaugural Meeting of the Ring took place at Cecil Sharp House on 20 October 1934. 

There has been a meeting of Morris clubs in Thaxted every year since, apart from the war years and during Covid.

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