The most frequently asked question of someone who likes a bit of morris dancing is “why?”. After that has been tackled people usually ask “so where does that come from then?” The answer to that question is that no one really knows for sure.
Recent popular belief is that the dance form originated in Spain in the 12 th century, invented by or depicting the Moors (hence Moorish dancing) arriving in English courts in 14 th century as entertainment for royalty. When this had played its course and fell out of fashion with the nobility, the practice continued in rural England.
Glimpses of what morris dancing once was exist in the odd painting, stained glass window and church records (the church seized opportunities to use morris dancing for fundraising), but the form as we now know it follows a period of collection and notation by amateur historians in the late 1800’s.
During the mid 19 th Century many villages were host to their own ‘tradition’, steps and patterns varying slightly from those of the villages next door. As this too declined in popularity early students of folk-lore set about visiting those villages to make notations of what they saw or to collect stories of what once was.