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Friday, 1 January 2016

The 'New Year' Mummers at Symondsbury

The Symondsbury Mummers in 2009
Towards the end of the last 19th century many English villages had their Yuletide mummers. A number of young men would form themselves into a company, usually of five to eleven members, according to the size of the play. Some plays were much longer than others.

The Symondsbury Mumming Play is the most complete of any of these plays. This play has eleven characters, Father Christmas, Room, King of Egypt, St. George, St. Patrick, a Doctor, four warriors, Servant-man, Dame Dorothy and Tommy the Pony. The traditional dress of the warriors was usually a soldier's uniform, decked with ribbons, streamers and sashes. The head-dress was in the form of a helmet with ribbons falling to mask the face completely from view.

The Ilchester Arms, Symondsbury
Symondsbury Mummers are still in existence today, their play being performed on New Year's Day every year in the car park of the local village inn The Ilchester Arms at around 8.00pm.

Staffordshire born, John Symonds Udal who lived at the Symondsbury Manor, took a keen interest in Dorset's folklore, customs and traditions. He wrote the following article printed in Folk-Lore Record, (Vol.III Pt. I, 1880, pp.87-116) and later reprinted in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' (published in 1922), with regards to the custom of mumming including a transcript of the play that is performed at Symondsbury.

For more information about this play visit www.darkdorset.co.uk

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