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In September 2007 Mike Neild, a stalwart of the Lord Conyers Morris Men and the Kiveton Park Folk Club sent me an article he had compiled regarding the Trysting Tree, "which stands in Bluebell Wood on the right of Kiveton Lane just before the road enters Todwick.". This is his small slice of Kiveton history:


At the beginning of the twentieth century at Todwick in South Yorkshire, an ancient oak known as the Trysting Tree blew down in a gale. This tree was connected to the legend of Robin Hood and is mentioned in Sir Walter Scott's classic novel 'Ivanhoe'. The Duke of Leeds decided to replace the stricken tree, both to mark the turn of the century and to celebrate the birth of his son and heir, the Marquis of Carmarthen, and on the 3rd October 1901 he planted a sapling grown from an acorn which had fallen from the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. The day was declared a holiday and all the people from the Duke's estate were invited to the ceremony. A sit-down meal was provided for the guests in a large marquee and in return the villagers then presented the Duke with a silver rose bowl to mark the birth of his son.

And there it stood, at the edge of Bluebell Wood at Kiveton Hall Farm, until 1973 when the council, in their infinite wisdom, decided to cut down the tree whilst widening the road nearby. Then, a Mr Bishop, who was at that time tenant of Kiveton Hall Farm, planted a third oak complete with iron fence to protect the young sapling; the Trysting Tree was back again.

Then the Kiveton Park Folk Club erected a stone post furbished with a brass plaque nearby, the occasion being commemorated by G.F. Young, the Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire, and the legend was back also. On the 18th May 1974 the folk club held a trysting fair with music, dance and song; stalls, working craftsmen, and, of course, the marquee with food and drink....

The legend of the trysting tree is now in the safe hands of Lord Conyers Morris Men who have danced at the site every May Eve at dusk and every May Day at dawn without fail since 1974.

Conyers Morris Men

Above: Some of Lord Conyers Morris Men pictured at the Trysting Tree where they perform the unique and mysterious Abbots Bromley Horn Dance from Staffordshire every May eve, and again on the last Saturday before Christmas. On May Day morning at approximately half-past-five, at this same site, they dance in the dawn and welcome in the summer....

Hal-an-tow, jolly rumble-O!
We were up long before the day-O!
To welcome in the Summer, to welcome in the May-O!
For Summer is a-coming in and Winter's gone away-O! (Traditional)

Thanks are due to Philip Taylor, dancer and musician with Lord Conyers Morris Men, and John Wells, founder member of Kiveton Park Folk Club, from whose knowledge the above notes were taken.

Mike also kindly sent me this whimsical account that records a twice-yearly local event. The dancers mentioned being Lord Conyers Morris Men of Kiveton Park. The dance they are performing is the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance from Staffordshire. Lord Conyers Morris Men perform this dance twice yearly, at dusk, at the same spot on May Eve and again on the last Saturday before Christmas.


(As witnessed by one Tobias Jugg around 16:40)

Passing through the South Yorkshire village of Todwick during the late afternoon of the last Saturday before Christmas, a strange sight befell us. My companion and I, weary and tired of the road as we headed south towards Newstead, stumbled across a small crowd of like travellers, numbering about twenty-five in all, and gathered by the wayside. Each did gaze silently into the nearby wood, close to the site where Robin Hood's Trysting Tree does stand.

It was dusk. It was cold, and it was damp and misty. We dismounted to see what the crowd were looking at but could see nothing; only the dark outline of trees against the grey mist. Just then, strains of music emanating from deep within the wood began to reach our ears; a strange mediaeval-sounding tune being played on a solo fiddle. Some minutes later a group of figures began to emerge from out of the dank mist as the music became louder. The crowd we had joined, their eyes transfixed on the scene before them, stayed silent as if in awe and there was an unearthly atmosphere about the place to which the music only added.

Six men, three bearing huge red-deer antlers and the remaining three bearing those of the smaller fallow deer, processed slowly towards us, closely followed by four other figures: a Bowman, a Man-Woman, a Hobby-horse and a Fool. These were followed by the musician.

At intervals during the procession the dancers would form themselves into two lines and face-to-face for a simple set dance, whereupon the two lines would advance upon each other as if in battle then retreat again. As they danced to and fro the grey mist swirled around each of the figures, appearing as if written into the dance thereby adding what seemed like magic to the mystery. After two or three times the lines would cross over; the larger horns being raised at the very last moment to prevent clashing with the smaller, and quickly lowered again before becoming hopelessly entangled with the leafless branches above. After crossing over, the two lines would turn to face each other and the same advance and retreating movements would again take place from opposite sides before falling back into a procession. The dance itself appeared to reach a chilling climax as it approached the Trysting Tree, at which point the procession turned and headed slowly back from whence it came. One by one the dancers melted away into the mist, leaving us spellbound until the last haunting notes of the fiddle died away into the distance.


If you want to know more of the Lord Conyers Morris Men of Kiveton/Wales see their website. Nearby Harthill has its own merry band of Morris men too at Harthill Morris.

Copyright 2007

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