The Mumming Play

On Christmas Boxing Day the Old Mumming Play is performed throughout the village of Headington Quarry, Oxford.

In the past the mummers dressed in odd kinds of garments, begged or borrowed from sisters or sweethearts, and very strange figures they were.

In recent years the play has been performed by members of HQMD and has been joined by

the Oxfordshire Folk Dance Association Hand Bell Ringers and the HQMD Rapper team.

The performances usually start at the (now closed) Crown & Thistle pub on the corner of Old Road and Titup Hall Drive, then we go to Quarry Hill, to the Six Bells, The Chequers Inn and finally The Mason's Arms. The timings of performances at the Six Bells and the Chequers is usually swapped year on year.

The play itself is a version of an old one, "ST. George and the Turkish Knight".

Some sources claim that versions date back to 1780.


The Oldest British Folk Play

Folklore Forum, 1973, Vol.VI, No.3, pp.168-174)

E.Jones published a very similar version, called the Oxfordshire Christmas Mummers Play, in 1794.

(E. Jones

Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards [New ed.]

London, [Edward Jones], 1794, p.108, footnote 9)

J.A.Atkinson sourced a play of the same name from Longsight in Lancashire in which the outcome was different to the play we perform at the Quarry. Atkinson's version was published in around 1885.

(J.Augustus Atkinson

St. George and the Turkish Knight: A Ryghte Auncient and Tragicale Christmas Drama, as represented at St. John's School, Longsight.

Manchester, John Heywood, [1885?])