William Henderson’s description
But a Christmas in the North would be quite incomplete without a visit from the sword-dancers, and this may be yet looked for in most of our towns from the Humber to the Cheviot Hills. There are some trifling local variations both in dance and song: the latter has altered with the times; the former is plainly a relic of the war-dances of our Danish and Saxon ancestors. I had the opportunity last spring of making enquiries into the mysteries of sword-dancing from a pitman of Houghton Colliery, Houghton-le-Spring, Joseph Brown by name, and will simply relate what I heard from him on the subject. He was well qualified to speak, having acted as a sword-dancer during the past twelve years, in company with eight other men, nine being the number always employed. Five are dancers, one a clothes-carrier, two clowns and one a fiddler.
There are two sets of verses used near Durham, termed the old and new styles. The old verses are certainly of the date of a hundred years back; they were always used till about ten years ago, and are still sung in turn with the modern ones.
William Henderson, Notes on the Folk Lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders. London, 1866, pp.51-53.