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Article MT285


traditional music and dancing in this north Norfolk village

Hindringham is a large, spread-out village in north Norfolk, approximately half way between the market town of Fakenham and the coastal town of Wells.  The village and its surrounding area were once very rich in traditional music and dance.  Jennifer Millest, visiting the area in the early 1970s, recorded that "We came across step dancers who live or lived (in the area), ranging from those who died seven or eight years ago in their late seventies and eighties, their fathers from whom they learned, and their sons and daughters, now in their fifties and sixties, who learned from them, to those who had picked it up or taught themselves, now in their sixties and seventies.1

"Most of the older dancers danced in their working boots - often their only boots - which had tips and clates2, but irons on working boots went out when tractors came, because of safety.  Some, however, danced in light walking-out shoes without tips.  Clog boots were worn up to forty years ago on the railways and in the breweries, but were too heavy for dancing, though some dancers had tried them.  Nowadays they dance in ordinary shoes, some dancers using tips and others not.  They normally dance on the brick floors of the pubs and do not use boards (though some had done so when dancing in other places), and dancing mats seemed unknown."

In Hindringham the Allison family were renowned as step dancers, particularly Walter Allison (1869 - c1950), known as "Dollycock." His granddaughter Edna Jordan (b.1928) remembered that "My grandfather Allison used to step dance.  Him and my Jack's older sister.  They step danced at our wedding ...  Jack's sister Dorothy did the lady's way."3

There seems to have been no one style as such, dancers learning from others and then adapting to suit themselves.  Jennifer Millest: "The older dancers and their descendants used their heels as well as their toes and two dancers who learned from their fathers demonstrated steps having consecutive toe, "middle" (ball of foot), and heel beats - "You can't dance on your heels!" They did not use a formal sequence of steps each of a certain numbers of bars, but a series of figures, each of which might be repeated several times, fitting them together to suit the music, so they did not do the same thing every time, nor would someone who learned a certain dancer's figures fit them together in the same way.  Some dancers were able to demonstrate the figures separately and teach them to us.  The style of dance varied considerably.  The older dancers lifted their legs well up, though other "toe and heel" dancers told us it was "more of a shuffle and you don't bend your knees."

Edna's husband Jacky (1924 - 2009) was a highly regarded step dancer from Wells.4  He commented that "to be honest, we all had our individual step.  None of us were taught, so you done what came naturally," although he conceded that his style came from "partly my old man (William Jordan).  He was quite good ...  They mostly danced by theirselves; but most men done a little bit of stepping years ago."

Step dancing was very often the preserve of men, being associated with public houses, but Hindringham is perhaps unusual in that several well-remembered dancers were women.  Edna Jordan recalled of her father, "Cause, my dad, (George Yarham; 1895 - 1969) he'd like to drink, but he weren't a dancer.  There weren't many pubs he weren't known round about, cause he was (part of a) horse team for the Wrights for years, and they travelled all over to the fairs and the big horse shows and things like that.  But he don't dance; but he liked his pint."  Certainly the interest in step dancing didn't travel down the male line and, as well as Walter, the other renowned step dancing Allison was his cousin Angelina (1867 - 1948), who in turn learned to dance from her aunt Angelina Long (1838 - 1919).

In the mid 1970s, Peter Clifton and Ann-Marie Hulme visited the area to conduct extensive research into social dancing, and found Hindringham a rich village indeed.5  Of Angelina's dancing they wrote, "Angelina had learned to step from her aunt, an Allison - Angelina Long.  She danced in ordinary house shoes (like nurses' shoes) but sometimes stepped in clogs or patterns.  She used these only for stepping and did not work in them.  She had danced until she was eighty.  Lotte (one of her daughters), who had learned to step, remembered that her mother danced very fast and preferred two or three particular tunes.  Her steps seemed to involve pas de basques.  The man dancing opposite would dance more complicated and fancy steps sometimes involving heel clicks ...  Lotte and Millie (Angelina's daughters) told us of the Step Dance.  In this dance two people would start by stepping to each other, then they would link arms and change places, making taps as they went and start again ...  Angelina danced opposite Walter Allison, "Uncle Dollycock," regularly for the step dance."

This couple step dancing seems to have been commonplace in the village, but not elsewhere.  Edna Jordan remembered that "when we had our little wedding at Hindringham, my grandfather was there and his (Jacky's) sister Dorothy did the lady's step dance to the old-fashioned step dance my grandfather did."

In Hindringham the step dancing generally took place in the two pubs which encouraged such activity, The Duke's Head and The Red Lion.  Peter Clifton and Ann-Marie Hulme recorded that "The Red Lion had a long room which could be opened up for dancing by removing a partition and rearranging the furniture.  The bar itself was quite small.  There were two long tables with benches either side.  The landlord came to the table to serve, fetching the beer from the cellar which was on a lower level.  Later hand pumps were installed." Not just step dancing took place in The Red Lion: "Before the Institute was opened in 1911 the long room at The Red Lion was opened up for dances.  "Uncle Sweetpeg" (Allison; 1836 - 1909) would M.C.  and, playing his one-string fiddle, would also lead the musicians.  They danced the Long Dance and polkas including the Heel and Toe polka.  He would call to "Liney" (Angelina) to lead the set for the Long Dance.  Individuals sang a song or gave the company a step dance." Edna Jordan commented of The Duke "that was my mother's home," so that may have been a reason why step dancing was encouraged there, although later on other landlords seem to have done so too: "My granddad, he used to step dance in The Duke and The Lion at Hindringham.  The Lion in them days was kept by Mr and Mrs Tufts and The Duke by Mr and Mrs Barnes."

Edna Jordan had fond memories of music and dancing with her grandmother Harriet Allison at home, often while the men were in the pub: "We used to waltz together; we used to polka around the living room.  She used to put her records on.  But Granny wouldn't go in the pub much ...  we used to sing together Sunday afternoons when she used to play her accordion, and night times ...  We didn't sing songs on Sundays; we had to sing hymns! She used to play it Saturday nights while the men had gone to The Duke.  We used to have a sing-song."6

Very often step dancers would come from quite further afield to visit pubs renowned for step dancing.  Jennifer Millest recorded that "Dancers became widely known even before people had cars.  One dancer and his family of ten would hire a bus for themselves and others in the row to go on outings to the seaside, and they would play, sing and step dance in pubs on the way back.  Dancers would bicycle such distances as Bale to Wells and Hindringham to Cley for evenings out, stopping and dancing at pubs along the road, and darts tournaments took people further afield to pubs where there were step dancers."

As well as darts tournaments, quoits matches were very popular and teams of eight players travelled to the various pubs in the league.  Peter Clifton and Ann-Marie Hulme wrote that "The Duke had two quoits beds and The Red Lion four.  Matches were held on a Saturday night during the summer and were well publicised.  They attracted a large number of spectators, not only from Hindringham but also supporters of the visiting team.  It was customary for dancing to follow the matches and this drew local musicians such as Dick Temple (1882 - 1958) and also musicians from further afield." Dulcimer players often seem to have accompanied quoits teams, Herbert Remmington the Briston one, Jack Rutland that from Wells, and, in a similar way, Walter Jeary the darts team from Gunthorpe.7

"When the match was over Angelina and her daughters (Lotte, Gladys and Millie) would join the men inside the public house.  They were not well thought of for doing so, as until the Second World War, few women were seen in public houses.  It was usual to find music, singing and step dancing in most public houses in Norfolk at this time.  In Hindringham the presence of Angelina and her daughters resulted in the dancing of the Long Dance and the Heel and Toe Polka.  The Howells8 were atypical in ignoring accepted behaviour: "dancing was their whole life and they loved it."

In Hindringham, as well as in the two pubs, dancing took place regularly after 1911 in the Institute.  Women certainly would not be frowned upon for attending these occasions in a church-owned venue, especially as there was no alcohol involved, although Edna Jordan recalled of a similar event in a nearby village: "I know one time of day when the dance hall opened and there wasn't a pub, we used to run down to Brinton or the next village, get a drink and run back again!" Once again, these dances would be polkas, schottisches, the Long Dance and a few others such as The Lancers, as well as individual contributions with song and step dance.

Peter Clifton and Ann-Marie Hulme's researches into dancing in the village have shown that there was a considerable amount for such events as harvest frolics.  As usual, the dances were mainly the Long Dance, polkas and schottisches, as well as the step dancing, and occasionally the Broom Dance9, performed to Cock o'the North.  Music was provided by village musicians: "Uncle Sweetpeg" Allison, Leopold Drake and Harcourt Daplyn in the early years of the Twentieth Century, Dick Temple later on and, later still, his daughter Ina Temple (1914 - 1999), the melodeon replacing fiddle and one-string fiddle as instrument of choice.  Traditionally Whit Monday was a time for village amusements.  Jacky Jordan was known for his athletic prowess and agility as well as his step dancing.  Edna Jordan recalled, "At Hindringham on a Whit Monday he used to win all the races; enough money for us to go out on the Monday night ...  then we'd all finish up in the Institute."

Gradually over the years the old dances such as the Long Dance were replaced with newer ones and fewer people took up step dancing in the village.  To cater for newer tastes, Ina Temple discarded the melodeon for piano accordion, in the same way as seasoned musican Walter Newstead from nearby Cockthorpe did so.10  By the time of Peter Clifton and Ann-Marie Hulme's researches in the mid 1970s it was the memories of older inhabitants which recalled the dancing.  After the Second World War, a great many public houses began to be closed, further reducing the opportunities for traditional social dancing.  The Duke's Head closed on 24.05.1965 and The Red Lion on 23.07.1969, bringing to a close the long village history of traditional social music and dancing.

Chris Holderness - 29.5.13
Rig-a-Jig-Jig: A Norfolk Music History Project



The Hindringham version of the Long Dance, as collected by Peter Clifton and Ann-Marie Hulme and printed in the Folk Music Journal, as above.  The tune has also been published in Hawk and Harnser: A Compilation of Traditional Norfolk Dance Tunes by Alan Helsdon; Quanting Publications; 2004.

Article MT285

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