The term “Border Morris” was originally coined by Dr EC Cawte, in his 1963 paper “The Morris dance in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire”. At the time it was merely a useful handle to use in an academic paper which described the Morris dances of those three counties, but it was to take on a life of its own.
Although Cecil Sharp, the great folk song and dance collector, had seen some of these dances in the early years of the twentieth century, they had largely been ignored by the folk revival. This was in no small part due to Sharp’s view that the dances represented a ‘degenerate’ form, as opposed to the, more complex, Cotswold Morris. Sharp believed that the dances he had collected from Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties, were close to the ‘original’ Morris in form and that the styles he had seen elsewhere were simplified, and less ‘authentic’. This view did not stand up to close academic scrutiny, but this was not to be applied until the 1970s.
Eventually, people decided to see if there was anything worth dancing from their own locality. This led to an upsurge in non-Cotswold teams. Several people in the Welsh border counties started teams with the specific aim of reviving their local traditions.
While many dances were collected, by Cecil Sharp and later collectors, border Morris was largely neglected by revival Morris sides until late in the 20th century. The Silurian Morris Men of Ledbury, Herefordshire (see picture) included Border dances in performances from the early 1970s and changed exclusively to Border Morris in 1979, and the Shropshire Bedlams were founded in 1975; both became pioneers of a resurgence of Border Morris among revival sides in the following decades.