The name ‘Morris’ may be derived from ‘Moorish’ (a similar dance, the ‘Morisco’, was known in medieval Spain). Payments to ‘Moryshe dauncers’ were first recorded in London in 1448, and there were performances at royal and civic festivities before 1500. By 1600 Morris dancing had become a popular pastime in many villages, and the name gradually became used to describe a wider range of English traditional dances.
The Morris is England’s oldest surviving tradition. For at least five and a half centuries (perhaps much longer), it has been performed to welcome the spring and to mark the turning of the year at midsummer and midwinter. One version was danced in Hexham until the 19th century, when – like many other rural customs – it fell into decline.
The revival of Morris dancing in Hexham began in November 1977 and in the towns folk club Hexham Morris was born. The team started slowly, but over the years grew to incorporate Hexhamshire Lasses.
The two closely associated teams of dancers are one of the most experienced, versatile, and accomplished exponents of the ancient art of English Morris Dancing. Equally at home in Hexham or Hungary, the teams dance separately, but mostly appear together to entertain and bring traditional English dances to Hexham and further afield. The men perform dances mainly from the Cotswolds and the areas near the Welsh Border. The Lasses dance in their own style a variety of traditional dances.