the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

England: history of the pipe and tabor

Cotswold morris dance

1830 The Duke and Duchess of St. Albans gave a grand fete champetre, at Holly Lodge...
‘There was likewise a company of moms dancers, who perambulated the grounds with the pipe and tabour.’
Star (London) - Monday 03 May 1830
18331833 theatre dancersMorning Post - Saturday 18 May 1833
1837 1837Oxford Journal - Saturday 06 May 1837
1840 ‘Pittville the Centenary Fete’1840Cheltenham Examiner - Wednesday 19 August 1840
1842 1842Cheltenham Journal and Gloucestershire Fashionable Weekly Gazette. - Monday 23 May 1842
1843 Whitsuntide1843Cheltenham Journal and Gloucestershire Fashionable Weekly Gazette. - Monday 12 June 1843
18441844 painting by Danby at Stowe House, Buckingham

1844 Buckingham:
Festivities on the Coming of Age of the Marquis of Chandos1844Bucks Herald - Saturday 14 September 1844

1844 Whitesunale at Woodstock
“An old custom which occurred every seven years ...On Monday morning, (say 1844)...a set of ‘morris dancers’ dressed in
clean white trousers ... the merry dance was engaged in during the week in the bower to the time of the tabor and pipe.”

Banbury Guardian - Thursday 29 May 1884

18451845Northampton Mercury - Saturday 11 January 1845
1845 fete

Weekly Chronicle (London) - 
Sunday 24 August 1845

1846 newspaper report “The Whitsuntide Festivities”1846Cheltenham Journal and Gloucestershire Fashionable Weekly Gazette. - Monday 08 June 1846

“ a very few years before, he witnessed "a numerous retinue of morris-dancers, remarkably well habited, skilfully performing their evolutions to the tune of a tabor and pipe, in the streets of Oxford University ;”

Lytell Geste of Robin Hode, Gutch," 1847, note, p. 365. in Rush Bearing, Alfred Burton, 1891

1850 Greenhill Bower in Lichfield, Staffordshire, on Whit Monday, consisted of a Court Leet followed by a procession that included a pipe and tabor and morris men. 1850 processionWolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser - Wednesday 29 May 1850

The Illustrated London News of Saturday 25 May 1850 also listed those in the procession: 1850 Lichfield

Lichfield player1850 Lichfield procession

In 1853 the order at the front of the procession was: 1853Derby Mercury - Wednesday 25 May 1853

1851 WOOTTON, William ('Old Piper') 1768 - 1851

"An inquest was held on the 14th inst., at the Locomotive Inn, in this place, by R. Weston, Esq., Coroner, on view of the body of William Wootton, mason, aged 81 years. The deceased was well known in the neighbouring villages, as the "Old Piper." It appears he retired to bed at 7 o'clock in the evening as usual, and about 6 o'clock next morning he spoke to a boy, who left his room about that time, and at half past 8 was found dead in his bed. Verdict - "Visitation of God."

The Banbury Guardian 24 April 1851

Mid 19th century - John Potter of Sutton, Oxfordshire
One of the best known and respected morris dance musicians in west Oxfordshire during the middle decades of the nineteenth century was John Potter, of Sutton, a village adjacent to Stanton Harcourt.  He was renowned over a wide area for playing the instrumental combination of three-holed pipe and tabor drum

At Ilmington, Warwickshire, for most of the nineteenth century the local morris was danced to a pipe and tabor: three generations of the same family, from the founder George Arthur (1769-1836) from Snowshill, Warwickshire, through his son Tom (1802-1890), a mason and grandson James (1828-1906), a carpenter.
“the pipe and tabor player, James Arthur, son of the original player, became too old to play, and as there was no one to take his place, the dancing came to an abrupt conclusion”. Cecil Sharp. In 1908 a letter was written to the Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press with a history of Ilmington Morris, including the fact that:

1908 newspaper cutting

The pipe and taborer Nelson, got so drunk once that he had to be tied upright to a tree so he could continue playing. He performed with several sides in north Oxfordshire. Good musicians were much in demand and sometimes played on a strictly commercial basis for a sum of money agreed before-hand.

1860's the quoted fees for a pair of pipe and tabor players at Finstock were 5s. and 7s. per day

Sharp MSS, Folk Dance Notes, vol. 2, ff. 42-43

James Simpson, alias McDonald, aka 'Jim the Laddie', of Sherborne, Gloucestershire

James Simpson was widely known by the nickname 'Jim the Laddie,' which is easily explained once his Scottish origin is considered.  At what age he learned to play the three-holed pipe and tabor drum is unrecorded, but his reputation as a player was widespread across an extensive area of east Gloucestershire and west Oxfordshire.  He accompanied the Sherborne Morris set, but in addition probably also went out with the side from Northleach (Glos), and possibly that based at Great Rissington (Glos). ...
'He used to play it at most of the Morrises for Miles Round.'
In 1856 " Thirty years ago come the Whitsun week he had been round the country to the club feasts with his boys, as he called the dancers, and in a stable at Bourton-on-the-Water, with his tabor and pipe in his hand, poor Jim the Laddie lay down and died."
"the Dub ie Tabour Cannot be found at Present. It was seen among some Rubbish some 4 years Back but if it is found we shall be sure to get it." (Pitt Rivers Museum)

pipe & tabor belonging to Thomas Humphries (1806-1886) of Oxfordshire, who played at most of the morris dances in that county for almost 40 years. Humphries pipe and tabor    

The pipe and tabor of John Fathers (1789-1873) born at Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, had a sticky end:

"He Played the Whittle and Dub for the different Morris round about - the wife of his son .. told me that she gave her Children the Whittle and Dub to Play with and she remembers them Breaking them to Pieces."

[Manning d.200:74]


1854 political comment in a newspaper printed in the Republic of Ireland:: 1854Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail - Saturday 11 November 1854

1856 a love poem ‘Celebrated Women No. 3 Fair Rosamund’: 1856Commercial Journal - Saturday 19 July 1856 [Dublin]    
1856 poem 'The Death of the Old Year':1856Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser - Tuesday 30 December 1856 for more on Jesters and the coxcomb hood and asses ears see here  
1858 story 1858South London Times and Lambeth Observer - Saturday 27 February 1858

1858 May-Day 1858Leamington Spa Courier - Saturday 01 May 1858

1863 play

“ But this is a day of enjoyment; away with business, and let the time be spent in pleasure. [Pipe and tabor without.]
Ah! here come the morris dancers; you see I have not forgotten your taste for rural sports, my dear.
Sir Michael. You forget nothing, Lady Audley, that can minister to my amusement.
[He leads her to a garden seat, R. ]
Enter VILLAGERS, followed by MORRIS DANCERS, C., who perform a dance and exeunt

LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET first produced at the Royal Victoria Theatre, London, 25 May 1863


"Finstock Morris danced to tunes played by Stephen Dore and Thomas Langford on the Pipe and Tabor and that they were in demand with other sides including Ascott-underWychwood in 1864 and even played for Bampton."

1864 taborer1864 playing for mummers
at Chilworth, Hampshire

The Era - Sunday 28 August 1859 1859 newspaper report

1880's?c.1880's Joe Powell (1845-1937) and Bucknell Morris Men taborand stickJoe Powell's tabor and stick
Photog Phil Day

This tabor is a fairly standard C19th shallow morris tabor, constructed from a cheese box with second-hand parchment heads. 

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

1901 Oxford University Antiquarian Society annual meeting1901Oxford Times - Saturday 22 June 1901

1882, 13 May

"the minstrelsy of tuneful tabor, pipe, and horn the motley morrice dancers merrily mingling the throng! "

Staffordshire Advertiser

1884 An exhibition of antique artefacts was shown at the Newbury Art and Industrial Exhibition:1884Newbury Weekly News and General Advertiser - Thursday 25 September 1884
18911891 Whitson
drawn as though it
was the 17th century
in Rush Bearing, by
Alfred Burton, 1891

Victorian North Leigh, Oxfordshire
"The Ale started with a procession round the village to the Lord's Hall,.... The procession was completed by the Morris with a ‘pipe and taborer’."

LichfieldLichfield, newspaper picture
1886 ‘Revival of the Morris Dance at Bidford’. The “first performance for many years, in this district, of the ancient Morris Dance.”1886
1886 Bidford Shakesperian Morris Dancers1886Bristol Times and Mirror - Wednesday 03 March 1886
1886 Bidford Morris Men contributed towards a “Carefully arranged and extremely picturesque May Revels” performed at the Agricultural Halls in Islington, London. 1886 performance1886 Bidford MorrisMorning Post - Monday 10 May 1886
1886 A talk and demonstration of morris dance was given by Mr D’arcy Ferris in Cheltenham Assembly Room  with a 100 year-old tabor.  He also showed an old pipe which was unserviceable.1886Cheltenham Examiner - Wednesday 10 March 1886
1886 Talk and demonstration at the Victoria Rooms, Clifton1886Western Daily Press - Monday 08 March 1886
1886 ‘The May Queen at Islington, London’ 1886Morning Post - Monday 10 May 1886
1886 Ilmington morris 1886Oxfordshire Weekly News - Wednesday 09 June 1886

1886 Ilmington morris newspaper advertisement: 1886 ilmington morrisAlcester Chronicle - Saturday 19 June 1886

1886 Rose Show at Malvern: 1886Worcestershire Chronicle - Saturday 03 July 1886
1887 ‘The Flute – Interesting Lecture at Alderley Edge’1887Alderley & Wilmslow Advertiser - Friday 28 October 1887
1888 ‘The King’s Head, Walworth Road’, Lambeth, London1888South London Chronicle - Saturday 16 June 1888
1888 A newspaper correspondent remembered his childhood: 1888John Bull - Saturday 25 August 1888
1888 Christmas Entertainment at Olympia: 1888Daily News (London) - Monday 24 December 1888
1890 May Revel,extracts from letter to the editor: 1890Gloucestershire Echo - Friday 02 May 1890
18901890Bridport News - Friday 23 May 1890
1891 - as reported in the Monmouthshire Beacon - Saturday 09 May 1891.
As part of the May Day Revels the procession included 'Taborer Mr J Cumbley' followed by named morris dancers.


"In every parish they raised a May-pole hung with garlands and ribbons;.... And there was morris-dancing, with Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Little John, Tom the Piper, and Tom the Fool, with hobby-horses, pipe and tabor, mummers and devils, and I know not what;"

London by Walter Besant

1894 during the Festival of Village Choirs at Eaton Hall ‘The Merry Men of Sherwood Forest’ a pastoral operetta was performed,
with words and music by W H Birch.
The cast performed a ‘lively morris dance to the pipe and tabor

Crewe Chronicle - Saturday 31 March 1894

1896 18961896Cork Examiner - Friday 11 December 1896 [Republic of Ireland]

1897 Arthur Sullivan's ballet ‘Victoria & Merrie England’ :

"Morrice Dancers and 6 lady morris dancers arrive and perform to a very attractive jaunty 6/8 theme in which The Era again
noted clever use of 'pipe and tabor' effects"

1897The Era - Saturday 29 May 1897

1898 ‘The Corporation Concerts at Wister Gardens by the Royal Marines Band.  Leslie Stuart's march ‘The Dandy Fifth’
“suggests the morris tabor and pipe

Cheltenham Examiner - Wednesday 12 October 1898

1899 In a newspaper review entitled ‘Exhibition of morris dancing – an interesting revival’ at the Corn Exchange in Oxford,
the reviewer noted :

“During the interval Mr Manning exhibited the pipe, tabor (drum) and bells used by the Headington Morris Dancers
upwards of 70 years ago.”

Oxford Journal - Saturday 18 March 1899

By1900 the practice of Morris dancing in a traditional context was almost defunct in the south Midlands region of England, after more than three centuries during which it had been a widespread element in working class cultural activity

for other types of dance see :
dance of death
18th century dance
Regency dance
folk customs


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