The Origins of St Albans Morris
Dr R Kenworthy Schofield arrived in St Albans from Cambridge, to work at the Rothamsted Research Station. As he said, it was his custom to be actively associated with a morris club, and he would gladly act as leader, teacher and musician “for the love of the thing”.
Some ten men, including Donald Cassels and Humphrey Moreton, eagerly accepted his offer, and St Albans Morris Men was founded in early 1930. The club practised in the Abbey Institute, then moved to the Market Hall.
The first recorded show was at the Hertfordshire Branch (of the EFDSS) Festival at Hatfield House, on 5th July 1930. The dances were Winster Processional and Reel, Askham Richard sword, Rigs o’Marlow, Blue Eyed Stranger and Fool’s Jig.
St Albans joined The Morris Ring at the Inaugural Meeting at Cecil Sharp House, on 20th October 1934, dancing Constant Billy (Adderbury) as our first “show” dance.
Kenworthy Schofield was elected Squire of the Ring in February 1936, and took up his duties at the Grasmere Ring Meeting that September.
Most pre-1939 morris took the form of displays at one-off events, but in July and August 1939, the club began the tradition of village tours (on Wednesday nights) which survive as our Monday night programme, and it was on 19th July that Miss I M Du Cane (“Mollie”) first played for the Club.
Throughout the War, practice was irregular, but the club was able to put on a show whenever it was requested. Pictures show men wearing bells and baldricks over their everyday shirts and trousers.
May 19th, 1948 saw St Albans appear live on BBC Television’s “Picture Page”, thanks to a piece of astute promotion by Humphrey Moreton, then the Bagman. He had invited the BBC to televise a village tour show, but Outside Broadcast equipment was primitive and inflexible, so the club went to Alexandra Palace instead.
Later that summer, the Club played a prominent part in the St Albans Millenary Pageant, wearing some distinctly dodgy “Elizabethan” costumes, with hats! Kenworthy in particular looked very fetching in striped britches and plumed billycock.
In 1949, St Albans Morris Men was the first club to organise a “modern” Ring Meeting*, based on our home ground – until then, clubs had come together in “neutral” areas of interest. The invitation to visiting Men suggested that they might like to bring their bicycles for a tour.
– Sandy Glover, Recorder
(*The format of a Ring Meeting weekend is understood to have been devised by Humphrey Moreton and has scarcely changed since then.)
2016 saw the most significant change in its history when St Albans Morris became a mixed side, welcoming women members for the first time and revitalising the side for the 21st century.