Sword-dance and play which could date back centuries performed in North-East village

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

AN ancient custom once widespread across the north was recreated today (Wednesday, December 26).

Redcar Sword Dancers perform the traditional Greatham sword dance in the village, near Hartlepool, each year, along with an associated mummers play.

The Greatham play and dance involve the “beheading” of one of the actors and his miraculous cure by a doctor.

The play had been performed each year for at least 100 years until the last one in 1922, but it could date back centuries. In 1967 the Redcar Sword Dancers revived it and now more than 100 people come to watch each Boxing Day.

The Greatham sword dance was recently featured in the BBC4 programme, A Very English Winter, about English winter customs and traditions, which was broadcast on Sunday, December 16.

Traditional long sword dances were once performed in mid-winter across Yorkshire and the custom could pre-date Christianity and have a ritual significance.

Locally there were teams of dancers at Loftus, Boosbeck, Lingdale, Skelton and North Skelton.

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