Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

I call on the esteemed members of this forum for your best knowledge of clog dancing in Lancashire & any history (oral, written, &/or otherwise) which those of you residing in the region; or more familiar with it than myself might have…what is the history?

It’s not an easy question. Though I would appreciate hearing from those most knowledgeable. How far back can one go in sussing out the association between cotton mill workers of the early 19th c. & the extant Lancashire steps in latter clog dances during the late 19th/early 20th c. ? It may not be feasible to ask. Though here I am, asking exactly that.

Thanks in advance. I don’t know if it’s too hopeful to ask so much from a time period with lots of stories already. So, whatever comes is that much more from which to learn.
AB

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

"I call on the esteemed members of this forum for your best knowledge of clog dancing in Lancashire"’…….
Well Ben, firstly I seriously doubt that I am an ‘esteemed’ member of this forum, but I’ll answer anyway. Coming from the place, I am a dedicated enthusiast of my family roots, and as a kid my first ambition in life was to be an archaeological specialist in industrial revolution Lancashire. I did my first dig (unauthorised) when I was 13. I since became an archaeologist in Australia, but not only was my heart not in it, but the history of the Aboriginal nations since colonisation is absolutely soul destroying (so I got out). But anyway, to address the question, I certainly remember clogs, but never in my life in England did I ever see anybody do clog dancing. I saw step dancing, but to me (and everybody else) that was Irish. Beyond that,… why are we suddenly focusing on Lancashire? It bothered me in that previous thread. As I tried to emphasise in that thread, Irish music and culture has been extremely relevant to Lancashire history, but why focus on Lancashire on this site? The Irish moved everywhere.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Perhaps a better place to start looking would be the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS). I’m sure their quarterly magazine and their yearly journal would have articles. Another place to look would be the Morris Dance Discussion List (MDDL).

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

I agree with Paul draper, his suggestions are probably your best bet. I imagine the muster board gang would be more in to sean nos dancing and sets. Good luck!

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

If you want to ‘talk’ online to people about it try mudcat.org It’s not their main thing either but there will be people there who know something about it.

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

By the way David, I think your suggestion(from the previous thread) that the clog dancing could have been introduced to the mill workers by the Irish stepdancers is quite feasible.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Playing for Lancashire clog dancer ? Been there, done that - see home page, bottom left 🙂
[ PS - and no, it was not "risk-assessed ].

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Several suggestions:-
1. Have a look at this thread on mudcat:-
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=69591

2. See if you can track down books by the Fletts , or by Prue Boswell. Dunno if they have been put on the web or not

3. Some North-West Morris sides have historical information, so could be worth looking for a North-West side nearer to your location

4. The Morris Federation have some material https://www.morrisfed.org.uk/resources/archive-and-library/ but I don’t know how accessible it is to non-UK residents

5. EFDSS Vaughan Williams library has loads of stuff, as already suggested by Paul Draper, but again I don’t know how accessible it is to non-UK residents

6. The clog step-dancing worlds and the North-West Morris [clog Morris] worlds overlap * - dancers & musicians familiar with one of the genres may also be involved in the other genre - so don’t keep your search too narrow. * At least in the UK.

7. On your side of the Atlantic, CDSS have covered some of this in their journal, and this ref might give you a start
https://www.cdss.org/programs/cdss-news-publications/cdss-news/167-cdss-news-spring-2021/1962-marlboro-ale-archive-project

Hope this gives you a start - let us know how you get on.

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Thanks for the replies.
Gobby, I too was uncomfortable with ‘the other thread’ about songs in Lancashire. I appreciate your input on each of these discussions.
Just to be clear, there was a connection between cotton mill workers and dancing in the early time period.
It’s a legitimate question (the OP) considering there were Irish workers in the mills. It’s as legitimate as asking about Irish workers in London during the 1950s playing sessions in pubs. We can talk about the history of Irish dancers here.
It does not need to be limited to "clogging". Irish dancers &/or Irish dancing, &/or Irish dance tunes all can be considered in your answers if you have knowledge (history) about that.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

May I suggest you contact the Instep Group (https:// instep. co uk) who are a group who research all aspects of step dancing in the England and its ties over seas. There are in particular several researchers who specialise in what is popularly called " Lancashire Clog" But remember Clog dancing is found in many areas of UK . I am sure that there will be someone who will be willing to answer your questions
At 87 I am now beyond my dancing days though the memory of the steps I learned as a youngster remain clear in my mind, just do not seem to reach my feet any more!

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

I can’t think of a single reason to think that the origins of Lancashire clog dancing is from Irish mill workers. None at all. Clogs were worn everywhere, dancing was something people did. They did it in clogs as they had no other shoes in a lot of cases, that’s about the end of that. There were revival folk dance movements particularly after the first world war as a way of helping traumatised soldiers and they sprang up all over the place. Much of modern morris is cobbled together from that time as I understand it. Pit workers, often very young, were allowed by their betters to practice folk dance as recreation between compulsory church and 6 day weeks as were many other apprentice boys and workers of the period you query. All part of the noble peasant, honest worker tradition that has been used to exploit us for centuries.

Battering in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

I’m not interested in Morris clogging. Not at all. So perhaps I’m using too specific of a terminology by calling it clogging. I’ll drop that. But one last question & only about Irish mill workers or just Irish workers outside of Ireland "battering" i.e. ~ anything like the following being done in Lancashire about 200 years ago; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FN-rvKuBHU

Yes, battering, that’s what I’m on about!
https://www.rte.ie/archives/2016/0210/766882-beat-of-the-feet/

Posted by .

Log Out

Kenny, that advice comes from your real world experiences. For better or worse the internet gives everyone access at the click of a finger.
🙁
Bye.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Even if you’re not interested in Morris the teams are still a good source of information as many of them will include solo clog displays as part of their performances. Even the sword teams in Sheffield, who danced in clogs, included solo step clog displays.

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

@ Steve T, re:- "I can’t think of a single reason to think that the origins of Lancashire clog dancing is from Irish mill workers. None at all. Clogs were worn everywhere, dancing was something people did." …….
Yeah Steve, but there is a difference between dancing in clogs and what we now see as clog dancing. There is a lot of testemony that clog dancing as we know it only emerged in England during the industrial revolution (people had worn clogs for about 3 centuries prior to that). I don’t know either way about the Irish influence, but it seems a reasonable coincidence that they introduced a form of step dancing to clog wearing people.
I also wouldn’t shrug off Ben’s posting in the previous discussion about people dancing to the rhythm of the machinery. I have two reasons to say this, the first is from personal experience; I once worked (in the 80’s) 12 hour night shifts at a nickel processing plant, and by about 2.00 am in the morning the sounds of the machinery began to sound so much like music that I began to enjoy it. It was indeed a hallucination, but all the same I could tap my feet to the pulse and sometimes hum a tune in my head. The second thing is that what differentiates folk dancing with clogs on from straight out ‘clog dancing’ is that clog dancing is danced ‘on the spot’, or at least it used to be, i.e, the same as sailors used to dance on the top of a barrel. The purpose is to not move spatially. I can easily imagine how this would be totally entertaining to mill workers (as well as bargee’s and the rest of the unknowing revolutionists. It’s all recorded). Sure, I don’t know of the true extent of the Irish influence to clog dancing. My own feeling is that it was a big influence, but if we are to argue the point, then do it with evidence,

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Sorry to have upset AB by suggesting that the quote he gave in the other thread would, if it came from Ireland, have included mention of the little people. To me it reads too much like a ‘just so story’ to take it as fact rather than a ‘good yarn’ (that might be Lancashire speak) that someone might use as an introduction.

AB’s quote comes from an undergraduate thesis from a college in the USA. Pick a phrase and Google will find it. It’s OK for what it is, but it only lists 8 references to earlier work, 7 from the USA and one from Ireland. The inner quote about the workers tapping their feet is from a history of tap dancing. From the same source we get the quote that "the word ‘clog’ is derived from the Gaelic word meaning ‘time’ and refers to the keeping of time by the feet," Interesting. The OED says that for the things people wear on their feet ‘clog’ is Middle English.

Until proved otherwise I’m inclined agree with Steve T (above) that "Clogs were worn everywhere, dancing was something people did." I referred in the other thread to the suggestion that Irish mill workers introduced stepping to Lancashire, but I did say it was quoted (by someone else) from an Irish source (Helen Brennan, The Story of Irish Dance).

How do we know the tradition didn’t move the other way? Irish step dancing being influenced by something (like the polka, mazurka and Country & Western music) brought in? For example "The hornpipe also began in the mid 1700’s and evolved from English stage acts." ( https://claddaghschool.com/history-irish-step-dancing )

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

I’m glad no-one posted my undergraduate thesis on the web!

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Cheers, Gobby. 🙂

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

What’s called ‘battering’ in that video is not, to my layman’s eye, any different from what I’ve known as ‘step-dancing’ for about as long as I can remember. My impression is that it was once common, with some variation, in North America, and, um, "those islands", and everywhere else in the Anglo/Celt world(s) at least. Not to say it didn’t start somewhere and spread - but I would be skeptical of any claims to knowledge of that hypothetical starting point.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

"How do we know the tradition didn’t move the other way? "…. Good point David.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

FWIW my primary focus is to ask for information about a specific time and about Irish workers in the cotton mills. The time period is from about 1820-1830, or whenever cotton mills in Lancashire were taking advantage of the latest inventions. Demographically, when cotton workers were moving from remote areas to urban cities to find jobs. This would be what I meant in the other thread when I mentioned one point of origin (Lancashire) for clog dancing; not the oldest time period of clog dancing (or dancing with clogs on) but one place at a very specific time just before the dance spread throughout England & came to be popular & known as Clog Dancing.

Were there roots then for the steps which came later in the 19th c. The problem I’m finding is the stories don’t distinguish one time period from another. Obviously clog dancing became competitive in the 2nd half of the 19th c. That was on a much larger scale than anything cotton mill workers may have done during their breaks, if they even had enough time to go out on the street, much less be competitive with other workers. I have not made any conclusion but I have not written off all the stories, just how the bits are packed together regardless of the actual chronology. So my question, and it is curiosity not conclusion, is about who & when. The who are the Irish women working in the cotton mills. The when is ~ 1820 - 1830.

I know they wore clogs. I personally think they tapped their feet rhythmically while working. I don’t think they broke into dance steps at their work stations. I imagine, don’t know, that some of those workers came up with dance steps. Where they did this, who saw them, whether it influenced Lancashire dancers I don’t have any notion nor hard evidence. Which leaves me right where I was when I carefully wrote the OP.

That’s all from me.
Cheers!
AB

Yes, polka & mazurka influenced Irish dance. That’s how these things happen. Duh?!

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Well one definite point in time for this whole cultural phenomenon is 1843. Robert Clarke is said to have invented his first Tin Whistle in Coney Watson, Suffolk. In their history of the Clarke Whistle, Clarke Whistle say he decided there were great opportunities for a whistle-maker in Lancaster and set out walking there. Exactly when needs to be clarified, and whether he walked the nearly 260 miles to Lancaster, or stopped at Manchester, approximately 220 miles, and exactly how long this journey took, with stopping off to ´smith whistles´, at villages along the way to cover his living expenses. It´s hard for me to imagine the popularity of his invention to exist in isolation from ´the Dance´. I have heard one tale that he danced as he whistled to busk and hawk his wares in the village market places.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

I just found there were 106,000 Irish-born residents in Lancashire in 1841.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Ben, give a look at this video :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGRn1XDYIVc&feature=emb_imp_woyt

About a revival of clog dancing in Portmadoc, Wales. In some ways it is kind of ´cheesey´, but one important point that got tossed out was the transplanting and cross-pollination of various ´steps´ learned by sailors and brought to their ports of call. Manchester and Tyneside spring to mind. I am confident that some forms of the ´Buck´ and ´Wing´ could have come in on the cotton trade from the Southern US.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Great clip postie.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

"I just found there were 106,000 Irish-born residents in Lancashire in 1841".
Every time someone makes an unsupported statement like that, my immediate reaction is "who counted them ?"

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Thanks for that link, - you learn something every day.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Kenny, here is a link to the specific document I was reading when I replied to postie. Sorry for not substantiating the 106,000 figure earlier. It is rounded up from the census record. I am searching different articles & frequently see numbers from certain years which I am familiar with as the same years of census taking.

I’m not trying to give the census any more credit for accuracy than it deserves, though the year 1841 is in some ways more thorough than previous records. For the sake of what I’m interested in the census returns do help trace trends over the decades; particularly between 1801-1861. My point is not how many Irish-born were in Lancashire but simply it was alot. FWIW I’m reading a number of articles from JSTOR, some of them also reference early 19th c. census numbers & they do more critical analysis of those records than I think is necessary for this thread. However I could give links if anyone thinks I should.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4326681/

"Emaciated, Exhausted and Excited: The Bodies and Minds of the Irish in Nineteenth-Century Lancashire Asylums"
Catherine Cox, Hilary Marland, and Sarah York

"Irish migration to Lancashire"

"Irish migration to England pre-dated the Great Famine (1845-51) and the 1841 census listed nearly 290,000 Irish-born people as resident in England and Wales, 106,000 of them concentrated in Lancashire."¹⁷

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4326681/#R17

Posted by .

Sycamore or alder?

Postie, I just saw the video you posted. It is cheesy in the production though I can appreciate it on other levels. I am a woodworker so seeing John Edwards carving the soles caught my attention. A bit off discussion but I could not help looking for more about using alder vs sycamore. Did they use sycamore in Lancashire back in the day?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCQgkJJz_tI

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Well, Ben, we are getting a bit far afield. 🙂 I have no idea about Sycamore for clogs in Lancashire. Google tells me the sycamores in Lancashire aren´t really sycamores, but flowering maples, acer pseudoplanatus. But, in the spirit of going further afield, you might take a short side trip to Yorkshire, and read this article http://chrisbrady.itgo.com/clogmaker/clogmaker3.htm about Walkley´s Clogs,https://www.clogs.co.uk/
Take note they mention using beech for clogs as well.
The crucial thing about clogs seems to be that they are durable and supremely waterproof with an extremely low-tech welt. Any well cobbled ´hard shoe´ can be fitted with ´runners´ or ´irons´ (taps) and could be pressed into service as a dance shoe, but if you are a poor factory worker working on the sodden floors of the textile mills, you´ll be wearing clogs.

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Nice clip postie (less frightening link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDZQZCHAzLI ). That lady seems to have done her research and highlights something I was wondering about.


I once went to a talk by about what working people wore in about 1800. The speaker had used records of local charitable payments to find the cost of fitting out an orphan boy for his first job. Leather boots cost more than everything else combined by a long way.

As she says - clogs were much cheaper than leather boots and cheaper to repair. Clogs were what people who worked outdoors or in factories wore. So I suspect cotton workers didn’t wear them any more than anyone else.

The one anecdote I recall not mentioned in the video is children (including my dad) being told off for ‘sparking’ their clog irons on the cobbles - it wears the irons and can split the clogs.

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Step dancing was once widespread, and can still be found in places, East Anglia and Dartmoor in particular. In areas where clogs were commonly worn these had obvious percussive qualities, but in other areas ordinary shoes and boots were worn. There is no reason to think the Irish had anything to do with introducing it to Lancashire, although as with other elements of the tradition incomers and travellers no doubt brought new ideas and techniques with them, and took some away.

I agree this is probably not the most suitable forum to find the information you are seeking and suggest you look for more local sources. This website covers the folk scene in Lancashire, including modern clog sides who can probably point you to historical sources. https://www.lancashirefolk.co.uk/clog-step. Chris Brady’s website http://chrisbrady.itgo.com/dance/stepdance/trad_step_dancing.htm has some historical information and a list of sources.

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

That American video is interesting. It makes a lot of good points but there’s a bit of romantic illusion weaved in there too. I’ve heard it in its fuller form too, where the claim is made that Lancashire clog dancing originated from workers stepping in front of their factory looms.

Have you ever stood next to a 19th century power loom whilst it’s running? I have, though it was of no great hardship to me. This is the power loom at the Bradford Industrial Museum; though this wove wool instead of cotton. The clicking, whirring, the thumping of the shuttle, the rattling of the transmission … the sound is impressive and bewildering.

Now imagine a mill floor with 400 of these looms, not sychronised of course, and the noise would have been pretty overwhelming.

People couldn’t hear each other shout let alone talk, workers went deaf over the years, hence their use of lip reading. The comedian Les Dawson grew up in a Lancashire mill town and the lip reading of his characters was drawn from life.

Now image that you are a worker, where you would have had something between 5 and 8 looms to tend in long shifts. You can’t do this half-heartedly, it needs your full attention to tend each loom; which you remember are not synchronised. Out of the window goes the romantic idea of someone in clogs, standing in front of a power loom, tapping out dance steps.

You also have to wonder what the carders, drawers, spinners etc. were meant to be up to? (NB. Iron shod clogs wouldn’t have been worn in the spinning sheds for fire safety reasons).

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

Thank you, Trish! 😀

Posted by .

Re: Dance in NW England during first 1/2 of the 19th c. ?

"I’ve heard it in its fuller form too, where the claim is made that Lancashire clog dancing originated from workers stepping in front of their factory looms."

Where did you hear this, Andrew? I don’t doubt you but the most I’ve found are inferences that workers
may have been tapping a foot to the rhythm of a loom. True, some of those descriptions instantly relate this
(rhythm-keeping) to subsequent stepdances, clogging, competition dancing, etc. outside the large mills.
So far though I cannot find a source which states cotton mill workers were dancing steps in the factory
as they operated machinery.

Posted by .