Swalwell is a village on the south bank of the Tyne, about a mile from Winlaton and just next to the Gateshead Metrocentre. The rapper team here was known to have existed since 1850 at the earliest, and was one of the traditional dances collected by Cecil Sharp in 1910.

Photo of Swalwell
The Swalwell sword dancers in 1910

The dancers wore white shirts decorated with rosettes, a red tie, red sash and black trousers, but until around 1860 they wore black breeches instead of trousers. The Captain wore bright coloured clothes rather than the formal appearance adopted by many other sides, and the Betty was dressed similarly gaudy in women's clothing.

The side traditionally performed in public on Christmas Eve and the following days, and would race their local rivals Winlaton to reach the pubs and big houses first and beat them to the drinks on offer.

Although there is no longer a team in the village, the Swalwell dance is still performed locally by Sallyport and Addison, as well as some other rapper sides outside the area, including Stevenage Sword and Black Rigg Rapper.

Further information