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The Travels of the Ashfield Morris Dancing Troupe, Altrincham

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

The Ashfield Morris Dancers and their associated entertaining troupes travelled considerable distances to attend carnivals and other celebrations. At these events the troupe(s) sometimes just took part in a procession and performed a display routine. On other occasions they took part in the dancing competitions, in addition to carrying out these other duties.

It is known from newspaper reports that the Ashfield Morris Dancers ventured well beyond the very local events at Sale and Altrincham. They regularly attended the local Cheshire circuit of carnivals and Rose Queen coronations, such as those at Alderley Edge, Chester, Congleton, Crewe, Disley, Holmes Chapel, Knutsford, Macclesfield, Nantwich, Northwich, Stockport, Weaverham, Wheelock, Wilmslow and Winnington. They also travelled considerably further afield to more distant venues included Buxton in Derbyshire, Kidsgrove, Leek and Stafford in Staffordshire, and Newport in Shropshire. The Ashfield entertaining troupes danced at Market Drayton and a recent discovery finds them at Whitchurch in Shropshire, and Abbey Hulton, Kidsgrove, Hanley, and Stafford (almost 50 miles from Altrincham) in Staffordshire. These were quite a distance from their home in Altrincham and it would have taken quite a time to get to them. Remarkably, the troupes were often fresh enough after such a journey to take the first prize.

Surprisingly, no evidence has yet been found for the Ashfield troupes dancing anywhere in Lancashire or in Manchester. Indeed, it was rare for any of the Trafford troupes to venture North. The Bensonian, Linotype and Stamford troupes all appeared at Morecombe Carnival and the Bensonians made a couple of trips to Chorley Rag Day, but even Gorse Hill Morris from Stretford, a Lancashire troupe, only had the occasional appearance in Lancashire beyond their home town, and these were all in nearby townships such as Eccles or Wythenshawe.

The most recently located find is that the Ashfield Morris Dancers gave displays, along with Alderley Edge Morris Dancers, at the Wallasey Village Festival in 1930, at the extreme Western edge of Cheshire (Liverpool Daily Post, 1 Jul 1930, p.5). The Ashfield Morris Dancers and the Altrincham entertaining troupe, the Accordiana Cabaret Girls, were featured in the procession and gave a display after the crowning of the Rose Queen at the same event in 1932 (Liverpool Daily Post, 20 Jun 1932, p.5). The following picture of the Ashfield Prize Morris troupe in full flight appeared in 1932 on page 10 of the 20 June issue:

What was the motivation for all this travel? These regular trips must have been quite an adventure for the dancers whose families probably were not in a position to afford to own and run a motor vehicle. There would also have been satisfaction to gain from public performances after all the hard work taken to get the dances into shape. However, it is likely that the pursuit of prize money was the prime source of motivation.

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