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June 2012 

The Broadwood Men

 Harry's 'Orrible Histories

Founder Broadwood member Harry Mousdell first experienced English Morris Dancing at an International Youth Rally in Dobriach, Austria. He promised himself the he would learn to dance the Morris, but it was not until 11 years later, when he moved to Horsham, that he joined Chanctonbury Ring Morris.

In 1971 Harry was approached by Jim Hills of Horsham Youth Club. They wanted to make maximum use of their facilities in Hurst Road and asked Harry to do 'something folky' on Thursday Evenings. Notices were sent out to Horsham and Crawley folk groups and the local papers. The aim was to get more people interested in Morris Dancing and possibly some new recruits for Chanctonbury. In September 1971 the first meeting took place. Harry cannot remember how many were there, but the first person he met was Dennis Salt. Having been dancing the Morris for some time with a Staffordshire side and also Thames Valley Morris, Dennis had more experience than Harry.

Christmas 1971 saw two Boxing Days, by a quirk of the calendar. On the first one, Chanctonbury Ring Morris came up to Horsham to dance with and give encouragement to the dancers Harry and Dennis had been teaching. The following day, the second Boxing day, and now on their own, the embryonic Morris dancers went up to Rusper, where they danced and performed the Mummers Play, possibly in the same location where Lucy Broadwood had seen it a century before. Chanctonbury were delighted that such dancing and musical ability had been realised, but thought that the number of new dancers would swamp their experienced dancers. So, with their blessing, it was decided to form a new side.

In the early 70s the mecca for all folkies in the region was the Black Horse, Nuthurst. Hence on a quiet evening in January 1972, the Hurst Road Youth Club practices culminated in a new Morris side being founded. Dennis became the Squire and Harry the Bagman. But what would the side be called? Harry thought back to the writings of Tony Wales, about Lucy Broadwood and Vaughan Williams collecting folk material in the area, as well as copies of Lucy Broadwood's letters that he had obtained when researching the Mummers Play.

It was with this in mind that the virgin side realised what a debt was owed to the Broadwood family for folk music heritage in the Horsham and Crawley locality. Therefore what else could the side be called but Broadwood? What really clinched it was Lucy's letter to one of her contemporaries in which she describes seeing a man dancing at Lyne House on May morning in the 1870s. At the bottom she drew a little sketch of a dancer and wrote, "I later realised I may have seen my one and only Sussex Morris caperer."  At the time Martyn Wyndham Read, one of the founder members, was living in a cottage on the Broadwood estate and was thereby able to arrange a meeting for Ian Hill, himself and Harry to meet Captain Broadwood at Lyne House to get his permission to use the family name and the family crest for the Baldric badge. Captain Broadwood readily agreed because he believed his Aunt had not received due recognition for her contribution to the English folk music, and Broadwood Morris would reintroduce the family name into the modern folk scene.

From Roy Dommet's notes, which Harry had collected at an advanced Morris weekend at Halsway Manor, details of traditional Cotswold Morris Costumes were studied. But it was decided not to wear the almost stereotypical outfit of black knee breeches and straw hat. Harry suggested that the kit be based on what the Longborough Men had worn. Moleskin was traditional but costly and not readily available.

However corduroy trousers could be bought at Baldocks in Park Street, Horsham; they just had to be converted into breeches. Delicia (Ian's wife) and Ruth (Dennis's wife) made up the baldrics and sashes. Harry contacted Moss Bros in London for reject black top hats from their hire dept. The response was marvellous. Whilst black toppers were very scarce, they would be pleased to supply us with whatever number and size of grey topper we required (Cost 15 shillings each as far as Harry can remember). Two of the side picked up 19 toppers on their way to a Morris workshop at Cecil Sharp House.

Dennis, as headmaster of St Mary's School in Horsham, arranged for the first public performance by Broadwood to be in the chancel of Horsham parish church (probably the first dancing inside the church in its 900 year history). The side danced "Ring o' Bells" in May '72 and Captain Broadwood erected a marquee on the lawn at Lyne house where his Aunt had seen her "Morris caperer" ... he invited friends and family to see his Morris side perform. It was at this ceremony that he presented Dennis with the Broadwood Squire's staff made by Jim Pitts. In the years since many names have been added to the Squire's staff and many friends made. We raise our tankards to them all.

Keith Haynes - Squire, Broadwood Morris