For one day in September, the pretty Staffordshire village of Abbots Bromley becomes the venue for one of England’s oldest surviving ritual dances and quirkiest processions.
Take six men in reindeer antlers, add a Maid Marian – who is always male – mix in a Hobby Horse and accompany with music, and Staffordshire’s annual Horn Dance, in Abbots Bromley, proves an eccentric annual draw for visitors far and wide.
It’s a procession that has taken place almost every year since around 1226 and always held on Wakes Monday “the Monday following the first Sunday after the fourth of September”.
For this year, this peculiarly English rural custom takes place on Monday, September 12th.
Believed to date back to the Berthelmy Fair granted to the Abbots of Burton by Henry III in 1226, six men in colourful costumes carry reindeer antlers – believed to date from around 1065 – and are accompanied around the village by Maid Marian, the Hobby Horse, the Jester, a boy carrying a bow and arrow, another carrying a triangle, and a musician.
The Horn Dance starts from St Nicholas Church at around 7am, and follows a set route around the village as crowds watch, while attractions also include exhibitions and craft stalls. The dancers usually return to the church at around 8.30pm.
Covering a route of around 10 miles around Abbots Bromley, an attractive village boasting an ancient church and several typical Staffordshire half-timbered cottages, the Horn Dance has apparently only been cancelled once, in the 1920s, because the musician was ill and one of the dancers had died.
For an added eccentric twist, head to the village’s 16th century Goat’s Head pub where there is still a room named after highwayman Dick Turpin, who apparently stayed overnight after he stole “Black Bess” from nearby Rugeley Horsefair.
For more details about the Horn dance, see www.abbotsbromley.com/horn_dance.
For details of where to stay and more things to do in Staffordshire, visit http://www.enjoystaffordshire.com.