Revesby Sword Play

The Revesby sword-dance play was a mummer's play which was performed at Revesby Abbey in southern Lindsey (Lincolnshire) in 1779. It included a few sword dance figures, which have not been notated in any detail, but such notation that is available suggest that at least one of the figures is a linked-swords figure similar to a single-over in a longsword dance. The original recording of the play is held by the British Library and includes the following introduction:

October ye 20. 1779 the Morrice Dancers (named in Dramatis Personae) acted their merry dancing &c. at Revesby in their Ribbon dresses and two men from Kirtley sung the song of the Landlord and Tenant.

John Ironmonger acted the Landlord, & John Clarkson the Tenant.

The characters in the play were The Fool, Pickle Herring, Blue Breeches, Pepper Breeches, Ginger Breeches, Mr Allspice, the Fiddler and one man-woman character, Cicely. During the play a sword lock is placed around the head of the Fool, who makes his will and is then mock executed by the sudden withdrawal of the swords.

As Anthony Barrand notes in Ivor Allsop's Longsword Dances, it is obvious that the performers are not from Revesby, and there is no place called Kirtley in Lincolnshire. It is therefore possible that the dancers were from Yorkshire, Northumberland or Durham.

The sword dance figures are integral to the play, as they are in the longsword dances of Ampleforth and Greatham, rather than appended to the play as in most longsword and most rapper dances. This, together with geography, suggest a Yorkshire link to be more likely than a Northumberland or Durham link.