Stroud Wassail

Styx of Stroud Border Morris is the host side for Stroud Wassail, an annual gathering of wassail singers, mummers, musicians and morris dancers of all kinds. The first Stroud Wassail took place in January 2014, organised by local folklorist and musician Steve Rowley, Stroud’s Museum in the Park and Styx of Stroud. Local children made their own versions of the ‘Broad’ (a kind of totemic cow figure traditionally used in Gloucestershire wassails), Styx performed a few dances, and a sapling apple tree in the Museum’s walled garden was wassailed.

The Styxers gather on a bright and crisp winter day for the first ever Stroud Wassail at Stroud's Museum in the Park.
The Styxers gather on a bright and crisp winter day for the first ever Stroud Wassail at Stroud’s Museum in the Park.

Apple wassailing isn’t a Gloucestershire tradition, however. Our local tradition is to wassail homes and farms, so in 2015 we took our wassail into the town centre and re-enacted a house wassail at the Subscription Rooms, and processed around the town with a new ‘Broad’, based on old photographs from an early 20th century Gloucestershire wassail. We invited all the local morris sides to join us and we danced throughout the town, magically turning a cold and rainy morning into a sunny day packed full of music, dance, song and laughter – plus a few beers of course. Needless to say, and a great time was had by all. Click here for a documentary feature of the day by Philip Booth of Stroud Community TV.

Beasties
Strange creatures are let loose on the streets on Wassail day.

Since then, Stroud Wassail has grown and grown and then grown some more. We now have visiting sides from Devon, Wales, Leicestershire, Birmingham, Oxfordshire, all over the place really… as well as our home-grown Gloucestershire Border and Cotswold sides. And mummers plays, street musicians, mediaeval dancers, circus acts… all kinds of entertainment. Not to mention the hobby horses, mari lwyds, dragons, giant sheep and other creatures that prowl the streets.

And then we have another Wassail re-enactment outside the Museum in the Park. Very popular with children, this features mummers, morris and musicians knocking at the door of the museum, to be greeted by the Master and Mistress in Victorian costume.

mummers museum
Brafront Guisers entertain the master and mistress of the house outside Stroud’s Museum in the Park.

All this is followed by the Revels in the evening, a kind of variety performance, which has featured singers, storytellers, psychic ducks, cancan dancers with electric flashing knickers, magicians, mummers – all interspersed with a bit of ceilidh dancing. What’s not to like?

We’re always on the look-out for new acts to join us – whether you’re morris, mummers or street performer, all you need is a willingness to turn out on a January day and join in the fun. Contact us for more information.

A more detailed overview and the latest updates on Stroud Wassail can be found at the Stroud Wassail website.

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