Scope and Content

'Oxford has a particular importance in the history of the revival of Morris dancing, because of the meeting between Cecil Sharp and William Kimber at Sandfield Cottage in Headington on Boxing Day 1899' (Archive Volume 1)

The Side was founded in 1938 and admitted to the Morris Ring in March 1939. During WW2, despite the departure of some members to join the armed forces, new members were recruited from others stationed in the area. Even women were allowed to join (for the duration - in the late-1980s the Side had its first female Bagman, Alison Blake) and the Side continued to dance in public, particularly the May Morning celebrations. After the war the Oxford Morris Men were one of the more active groups in the Morris Ring. William Kimber frequently played concertina for the Side during this period. After 1951 the Side became dormant. Len Bardwell remained the sole member, Squire and Bagman, maintaining the club's membership of the Morris Ring and dancing solo jigs at the annual May Morning celebrations (for which he became known as 'the Oxford Morris Man')

A key figure in the revival (1957-8) was Lawrie Wilson who danced with the University Side. The lack of meetings outside term time prompted him to call a meeting of 'Oxford (Would-be) Morris Men' to revive the old Side at the OU Scout Den in Pembroke Street at 6.30 pm on Wed 11th Dec 1957. Lawrie Wilson became the Side's new Bagman and laid down the tradition of scrupulous record-keeping. The Bagman's Files, arranged annually, are a core element of the collection and contain many fascinating documents and memorabilia illustrating the Side's evolution and history. In Sep 1959 the Side was granted the right to bear the City's Arms and were henceforth known as the Oxford City Morris Men (OCMM).

Some of the most interesting and poignant memories of the side are contained in the correspondence and memoirs of former and current members in the Bagman's Files. For example, the 1966 file contains a letter from Len Bardwell from the Osler Hospital, with interesting accounts of his stay in hospital and reminiscences. Len died in Feb 1967 and the file for that year contains a letter from his widow.

The Side itself clearly had a strong sense of its own historical development and desire to preserve a full and detailed record of its members and activities. It has thus produced a full, coherent history of its own in a series of archive volumes containing a photographic narrative in chronological order. The archive volumes are largely the work of two later Bagmen, Mike Heaney and Ivan Wright, although the project was started by John White when he was Bagman around 1968. Initially retrospective, the archive volumes became a continuing journal or log of the Side's activities. Indeed, the keeping of a log was an early tradition of the Side: Lawrie Wilson's files of 1957-8 contain a letter from Len Bardwell referring to the OMM Log Book for 11 Oct 1946 to 31 Dec 1947, and all archive volumes from 1957 contain logbook accounts. They were created as a means of recording and summarising the Side's activities during the year and were often presented to the membership at the annual general meeting (usually in October). These 'seasonal accounts' were later supplemented by separate accounts of the 'annual tours' and are very amusing as well as informative.

In Oct 1973, the Group went to Germany as part of an official visit to Bonn on the 25th anniversary of the Oxford/Bonn link. This was the first of many annual visits to the continent and the start of a long-standing relationship with German folk dance group, Bruckenberger Trachtengruppe. Log book accounts and archive volumes record in great detail and with photographs the annual tours and other activities in which the Side has engaged.

Oxford City Morris Men continue to dance at many pubs and events in and around Oxford and their contact details can be found online.

The Archive was originally deposited at ORO in February 2002 and given accession number 4955

Catalogued by Christian Gilliam, Oct 2010

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