Dave Bathe Collection of Derbyshire Traditional Dance and Drama

Ref: ACT/97-003

Title: The Dave Bathe Collection of Derbyshire Traditional Dance and Drama

Scope: The collection consists of printed and manuscript items, black & white and colour photographs, audio-cassettes and artefacts amassed as part of Dave Bathe’s researches on Derbyshire mumming/guising traditions and the morris dance performed by members of the Taddington Oddfellows’ Lodge. The collection also contains a number of items relating to his interest in traditional custom, song and dance.

Dates: 1973-1992
10 boxes
Name of creator:
Dave Bathe

Administrative / biographical history:

The collection consists of printed and manuscript items, black & white and colour photographs, audio-cassettes and artefacts amassed as part of Dave Bathe’s researches on Derbyshire mumming/guising traditions and the morris dance performed by members of the Taddington Oddfellows’ Lodge. The collection also contains a number of items relating to his interest in traditional custom, song and dance.

David George Bathe (1944-1993) was born and brought up in Tolleshunt Knights, Maldon, Essex, the only child of George and Olive Bathe. He attended school in Chelmsford, and in the late 1960s studied Economics and Social History at Hull University. Following the break-up of his first marriage, Dave (the name he always used) lived in Sheffield for a while, but in the early 1970s moved to Reading to be nearer his daughter and other family members. Here he was employed as a town and country planner for the Royal County of Berkshire, working on urban design projects. As a Labour Party member he became heavily involved in local politics, and stood for a council seat in Reading.

During his time in Reading Dave Bathe became increasingly interested in traditional music and customs, joining the English Folk Dance and Song Society, attending events and festivals, and making the acquaintance of Doc Rowe, documenter of traditional British customary events, and Keith Chandler, morris dance researcher. With a growing interest in singing unaccompanied traditional songs, Dave helped organise the Wellington Arms folk club in Reading, and through this he met members of the Kennet Morris Men. He practised with this side but, as far as is known, never danced with them at any public events.

In 1976 Dave Bathe moved to Matlock to start a new job with the General Improvement Areas section of Derbyshire County Council’s Planning Department. In later years he was to work for the Council on countryside projects and reclamation schemes. The move to Derbyshire led to a blossoming of his interest in traditional customs, dance and music. He was a regular at the folk club then held in the Barley Mow pub, in Saltergate, Chesterfield, where he became acquainted with the organisers of the Stainsby Folk Festival. In 1977, along with members of this group, he helped form the Chesterfield Morris Men, and by way of helping the morris side to develop, researched the Adderbury Dances and attended dance workshops. In the same year he responded to an initiative promoted by Roy Witham and other Winster residents to restart Winster Morris Dancers. This traditional morris side had not danced since the 1950s, but the celebrations for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee gave an impetus to the revival, and the new team danced in the village celebrations that year. From 1977 to the demise of the Chesterfield Morris Men in 1989, Dave Bathe was a member of both sides, always insisting on, and proud of, their separate identities and individual qualities.

Through Chesterfield’s twinning with the German town of Darmstadt, Chesterfield Morris Men began to meet foreign dancers. From the start Dave Bathe was an enthusiastic promoter of exchange visits, both with this town and those of Troyes in France and Alkmaar in Holland. When, in 1986, Winster Morris Dancers were invited to Derbyshire’s twin county of Ascoli Piceno in Italy, here too Dave was a willing participant. This visit led to the eventual twinning of Winster with the Italian village of Monterubbiano, and a series of exchange visits. In the early 1990s he also danced with Winster Morris Dancers in France and Poland.

Dave Bathe’s connection with the village of Winster also extended to an involvement in the formation of Winster Guisers (in 1980). This group revived, in reconstructed form, a mumming play traditionally performed as a house-visiting custom in the village throughout the Christmas period. Such ‘Hero-Combat’ plays involve a number of characters, including ‘King/St. George’, ‘Beelzebub’ and ‘Doctor’, enacting a death and revival drama that has a number of variants throughout the British Isles. Dave’s interest in this area of traditional drama had already been stimulated by his familiarity with a photograph of a group of guisers, taken some time around 1875 outside Winster Hall. In forming Winster Guisers, he recreated the unusual costumes and props shown in this photograph, and the characters visible were interpreted and given names and lines based on those of the Antrobus Soulcakers’ play, still performed in Cheshire. As he later explained, this involvement with Winster Guisers led to his researching Derbyshire mumming traditions more broadly:

“I became interested in guising and mumming some eight years ago, when together with some friends in Winster, we resurrected the old Winster play...On our first excursions in Christmas 1980, many older (and not so old) people told us that they had performed in plays as children or young adults, and this sparked me off into several years of keen research...During the course of my research I corresponded with about 150 people, mainly contacted through letters to newspapers, interviewed about 30, and spent much time looking through old copies of newspapers and magazines in the County Library.”

A large proportion of this work was undertaken between 1980 and 1984, with the ultimate aim being “to both complete a ‘gazetteer’ of mumming and guising plays within (and around) Derbyshire, and to work towards a history of the plays and the people who performed them.” He felt it was “very important to record people’s recollections of this fascinating aspect of ‘life in the old days’ before all memories of the customs are lost.”

Between 1982 and 1984 this work overlapped with his studying for a Certificate in English Cultural Tradition at the University of Sheffield’s Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language. This series of evening classes, led by John Widdowson and offering students an introduction to all aspects of English folklore, was of considerable help in developing and extending his research methodology. A dissertation had to be submitted as part of the course requirements and, neatly drawing on his interests in local history, custom and traditional dance, Dave chose to write a study on the Taddington Oddfellows’ Lodge and their performance of a Derbyshire morris dance. He had first found out about this subject through archive research of local newspapers.

Such lodges formed part of the Friendly Society Movement, and provided - in return for weekly or monthly contributions - financial relief to local people in times of unemployment and sickness. They also offered payments for burials and for widows and orphans, to whom a small pension might be given. The Oddfellows’ Club Feast Day, held annually in Taddington on Whit Tuesday, involved the procession of lodge officials and the lodge’s banner through the village. Wearing sashes of office, these men performed a morris dance, to the accompaniment of a silver/brass band. This was also the time for the lodge’s annual general meeting, a club feast with associated speeches, and further dancing involving the whole community. Such lodges were in existence throughout Derbyshire up until the 1930s, and, while two world wars adversely affected the societies’ membership and activities, it was with the coming of the National Health Service and the payment of state benefits that their role really diminished, and many disappeared. Dave Bathe photographed the modern-day processions of surviving Oddfellows’ lodges in Hartington and Parwich, and these 45 colour prints (ref. P683y-727y), taken in the early 1980s, were deposited in the Archives of Cultural Tradition at the same time as he submitted his dissertation.

It was in the morris dance aspect of the custom that Dave Bathe was particularly interested. As with his mumming research, this involved both tape recording interviews with local people and a search through newspapers held in local archives and libraries for any relevant historical references. Dave also drew on evidence contained in photographs, in particular those owned by one of his informants, Bill Needham, dating from the time when the dance had last been performed by the Oddfellows’ lodge (c. 1930s). With the help of Winster Morris Dancers, Dave interpreted Bill Needham’s account and the photographic evidence.

The dissertation, entitled ‘Oddfellows and Morris Dancing in a Peak District Village’, was successfully completed in October 1984. In the following year Dave Bathe published an article in the Folk Music Journal, based on his work on the Taddington dance. Some of this research material was also incorporated into an exhibition, mounted for Derbyshire Museums Service, which toured the county in 1986 and 1987.

The parallel researches which Dave Bathe undertook in the early 1980s, and his methods of collecting and recording information, should be seen in relation to the development of the Traditional Drama Research Group (TDRG). The stimulus for the growth of this group in the late 1970s and early 1980s came from the interest and work of Paul Smith (then based in Sheffield at the Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language), Peter Millington and Steve Roud in developing consistent methodologies for the recording of all aspects of traditional drama (play texts, contextual information, related material, biographical information and related customs). The Group’s work led to the publication of several Research Guides, a journal Roomer, regular Group meetings in Sheffield, Nottingham, London and Cheshire, and annual conferences held at the University of Sheffield. Dave Bathe followed many of these developments, attended TDRG conferences, and looked to implement the methods of collection in his researches. Indeed, his work was cited in TDRG publications as an example of “good practice”. The correspondence survey he undertook as part of his research into Derbyshire mumming traditions involved writing letters to a considerable number of local newspapers, with a healthy response from readers generating a mass of letters. Dave replied to all of these, and in some instances followed this up with personal visits to people and the tape recording of their recollections. At the same time he was also surveying back copies of local newspapers, reading academic articles and collecting related photographic, printed and manuscript material. His Taddington Oddfellows research followed much the same pattern, although his correspondence survey was smaller.

Following the death of his parents (within a few months of each other, in 1984), and with the money from their estate, Dave Bathe was able to realise a long-held ambition when, in 1985, he bought a house in Winster village. From this point on his research work became more intermittent, and only in 1992 did he return to research on Derbyshire guising and mumming. At this time he also made contact with a new group of friends in Sheffield City Morris. It was on his way to a team practice in Sheffield that he was killed in a car crash north of the village of Edensor in Derbyshire. Dave Bathe is buried in Winster cemetery. Winster Morris Dancers now perform ‘The Rose of Taddington’, a dance written in his memory.

The collection comprises printed and manuscript items, black and white and colour photographs, 72 audio-cassettes and three artefacts amassed as part of his researches on Derbyshire mumming/guising traditions and the morris dance performed by members of the Taddington Oddfellows’ Lodge. The collection also contains a number of miscellaneous items relating to his interest in traditional custom, song and dance.

A large proportion of the paper material contained in the collection comprises correspondence received in response to the letters Dave Bathe sent to local Derbyshire newspapers. The majority are handwritten (although there are some typed items) and accompanied by their original envelopes. The latter have been retained because Dave Bathe’s markings on them show how he arranged his correspondence. All accompanying items sent to him by readers (play texts, newspaper articles, photocopied articles) are likewise retained with the original letters. Further manuscript items comprise Dave Bathe’s fieldwork notes detailing information on informants he visited or intended to visit, transcripts of tape-recorded interviews (with in some cases typed versions of play texts recited to him) and notes made at traditional drama, traditional dance and fieldwork conferences and day schools.

Dave Bathe collected printed articles and newspaper cuttings, pamphlets, church and community magazines, conference material, handouts/fliers and other ephemera, and these are in evidence throughout the whole collection. A large proportion of the newspaper articles are photocopies of originals dated between 1830 and 1950. Further printed items relate to the Traditional Drama Research Group, and include Research Guides, indexing manuals and worksheets. Some of the latter have been filled in by Dave Bathe with information obtained through his own fieldwork.

The black and white photographs in the collection are, with one exception, copies of original prints loaned to Dave Bathe. The majority of these relate to his research on the Oddfellows’ Lodge in Taddington, showing dancers, crowd/street scenes and musicians during the period 1900-1930. In some cases he had multiple copies of these prints made, in a variety of sizes, and used them within his interviews as a way of stimulating recollections of particular events and identifying the people taking part. The series of colour prints of modern-day Oddfellows’ processions were taken by Dave Bathe and a friend, and are assumed to be the originals.

Dave Bathe recorded all his fieldwork interviews onto C60 and C90 audio-cassettes. The majority of these involve Derbyshire people talking in their own homes about guising traditions or the Taddington Oddfellows. Handwritten transcriptions accompany most of the Oddfellow tape recordings. There is also a small number of recordings of morris dance and guising performances by Crookham Mummers (recorded from a B.B.C. Radio 4 broadcast), Winster Guisers, Bampton Mummers and Headington Quarry Mummers, as well as recordings of the Cakin’ Night custom made in pubs in Stannington, Sheffield, and several BBC Radio 4 programmes on calendar customs.

The collection also contains the Taddington Oddfellows’ Lodge Dispensation, dated December 1836. This paper item, measuring 19½" by 25", handwritten in ink and bearing nine wax seals, confirms an agreement to establish the Taddington Lodge ‘Loyal Adventurers’ in the Baslow district of Derbyshire. This document remains in particularly good condition, although the wax seals have all cracked to some degree. It is unclear how Dave Bathe acquired this item. Further items gifted to Dave Bathe, and contained in the collection, are two velvet and braid sashes worn by Oddfellow officers, and a leather carrying case measuring 11" x 8" x 3".

  • Source: The collection was bequeathed to the Archives of Cultural Tradition in Dave Bathe’s will and, following his death, was delivered to the Centre in two instalments during the latter part of 1993.
  • System of arrangement: By category
  • Subjects: Morris dance; Mumming
  • Names: Bathe, David George (1944-1993)
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: According to document
  • Finding aids: Listed