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St Albans Morris Men

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The Betley Windows

Two Nineteenth Century Views

A nineteenth century account of mid seventeenth century morris dancing can be found in "Walford's Antiquarian: A Magazine and Bibliographical Review" Volume IX January-June 1886. It refers to many of the above characters, including the hobby-horse, fool, friar, maypole and Maid Marian.

An article in The Saturday Magazine of 29th April 1837, focuses on The Betley Window and on the Robin Hood legend.

The authenticity of these accounts is unclear, especially as sources of information are not usually given. Nevertheless, these articles are interesting as reflecting nineteenth century journalistic views, and clearly the authors have read other works on the subject.

I note that in the Saturday Magazine, the descriptions of the characters follow a boustrophedon track down the Window (left-to-right, then right-to-left, etc., like a team of oxen ploughing successive furrows in a field). Tollet also used this sequence, but in his case moving upwards. The order of description only becomes significant if the figures are seen as forming a procession or ranking. Tollet says: "A gentleman of the highest class in historical literature apprehends that the representation upon my window is that of a Morris dance procession about a May-pole: and he inclines to think, yet with many doubts of its propriety in a modern painting, that the personages in it rank in the boustrophedon form. By this arrangement, says he, the piece seems to form a regular whole, and the train is begun and ended by a fool ... I have reversed this gentleman's arrangement, by which, in either way, the train begins and ends with a fool: but I will not assert that such a disposition was designedly observed by the painter."

Arrow Guided Tour: Finally, why not have a look at the European dimensions of morris and its origins?

Index of pages on this "Betley Windows" site:


Original Betley window   Kingston-upon-Thames copy   Betley Court copy   Alison Bailey copy   Ruth Dodworth copy   Susan McKenney copy

Characters in the Windows     Conclusions?   Two 19th Century Views of Morris   Foreign connections

References and Acknowledgements

John Price 2006. Comments to St Albans Morris Men's webslave

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