In Comes I, Old Father Christmas
"In Comes I, Old Father Christmas"

The Mummers Play

The mummers play was collected by Lucy Broadwood from Sussex 'Tipteers' or 'Tipteerers' at her family home at Lyne near Rusper. this was in 1880 and 1881 after which time the play lapsed.

Lucy entitled the play 'St George, the Turk, and the seven Champions of Christendom', but these days it is usually just called the 'Horsham' play.

The play originally came to the Broadwood Morris men from Margeret Dean-Smith, the well known folklorist and was first performed by us at Christmas in 1971. By 1973 so many men wanted to take part that 'Mince Pie' from the Cocking play and 'Beezebub' from the Comptom play were added, and the part of 'Twing-Twang' was extended from the Comptom play.

in the past characters were added or taken away from the play according to the number of actors available when the play was performed. The smaller the cast the more money for each player at the end of the performance.

Most mummers plays end with a song or carol and this is when the collection is made. In Sussex the mummers plays were usually performed on St Stephen's day, when most people went around collecting their Christmas boxes. The Broadwood Morris Men still go out each Boxing Day in Rusper Village.

Lucy Broadwood wrote, "They clustered together, wooden swords in hand, at the close of their play St George and the Turk, and sang, wholly unconscious of the contrast between the solemnity of the carol and the grotesqueness of their appearance."

The dress of the mummers was described as "dresses of coloured calico, shreds of ribbons and gaudy paper fringes, together with old high hats bedecked with odd ornaments."

Whilst many mummers plays were performed in Sussex, the only other one in the Horsham area came from Newdigate. It was last performed in 1850, and no text has survived.