Bampton Folklore

by John Blair

Since the late nineteenth century the small Oxfordshire town of Bampton has had a national reputation as a centre of traditional folk-culture. Its morris-dancing,  held on May Bank Holiday, is famous: traffic is restricted, normal activities cease, and three teams dance in streets and gardens throughout the day, joined in the evening by visiting teams from England and abroad. On Christmas Eve a group of mummers go through the town, performing their play in houses and pubs from early to late evening.

More than most places today, Bampton can claim a genuine tradition of indigenous performance, which is a survival rather than a revival. In the late 19th century the morris-dancing was sustained by the Wells and Tanner families, whose descendants dance to this day. Some version of the mummers’ sword-combat was being performed in 1800 and since the present team revived it in 1946 with the help of old men who had played up to 1939 they can lay a fair claim to antiquity. Bampton has been lucky in the recording of its traditions, thanks above all to Dr J.A. Giles, who was curate there between 1846 and 1854, and the Revd Percy Manning (1870–1917), a noted Oxfordshire archaeologist and folklore collector. Now Dr John Blair, a history tutor at Queen's College, Oxford, who has worked on the history and archaeology of Bampton for many years, has brought together material assembled by Giles, Manning and others to present a new and very readable account of the parish's folklore.

The illustrated paperback describes morris-dancing, mumming and other traditions in Bampton (including several ghost stories), and will be of great interest to both local residents and folklorists.

browse alphabeticallyarrow

browse English local historyarrow


ISBN: 1 898937 50 8

48 pp illustrated