Although the Beadnell side have played only a comparatively minor role in the history and development of the rapper dance, they are nonetheless of great historical interest as their foundation is something of a mystery. Beadnell is a remote fishing village, 50 miles north of Newcastle, outside the coal mining area and 20 miles from Longhoughton, the nearest village with an associated rapper side. How the rapper dance ever reached here is a mystery, and if it can ever be reliably explained, it may shed light on the origins and development of rapper in general.

Photo of Beadnell
The Beadnell sword dancers in 1910

The Beadnell dancers were all fishermen from the village, and their costume was adopted from the working clothes of a fisherman, while the costumes of other sides were derived from the working clothes of a pitman. The team performed in blue jerseys, navy trousers and wore a pink sash over one shoulder. The team had two Bessies, one carrying a parasol (an item with no useful purpose in Beadnell!). The team usually performed on New Year's Day.

The Beadnell dance was collected by Cecil Sharp in 1910, and published in the second volume of The Sword Dances of Northern England. It is a very simple dance with a few basic figures, which suggests that it had not evolved much over the years and might therefore give a good idea of what the rapper dance was like in the mid-nineteenth century.

The simplicity and historical interest of the Beadnell tradition makes it an enthusiast's dance rather than a crowd-pleaser, but it is still performed today by Sallyport, Thrale's and Mabel Gubbins.

Further information