Fox, George

Dancer

Collection date: Feb 1913

Area: Yorkshire


George Fox of Ampleforth sword dance (1844-?): Ampleforth is 20 miles N of York. Sharp met George Fox, aged 68, on two occasions, the second being on 17 Feb 1913. His notes of the interviews are transcribed in Folk Dance Notes 3/20-24. George had been an Ampleforth sword dancer in his youth like his father and grandfather before him but had left the village to travel 18 miles to the South to Newton-on-Ouse, where he taught the dance to the men there - he was in Newton (aged 27) in the 1871 census. He told Sharp that the Newton men had danced continuously for 20 years then stopped 20 years ago (i.e.1893).

He went on to explain that there were 6 dancers, a clown dressed as a woman, a flagbearer, a Queen, a fiddler, drummer and 2 beggars. He could not, however, remember the Ampleforth play that accompanied the dance but thought his younger brother Thomas, who had remained in Ampleforth, might recall the lines. In the end Sharp obtained the play from George Wright in Darlington (see profile for Mr G.Wright). He published the play and dance in 'Sword Dances of Northern England' Book 3 (Novello 1913 pp50-76). 

George Fox was baptized in Ampleforth on 5/4/1844, 3rd of 4 children of John Fox, agricultural labourer (1802-77), and his wife Hannah (née Maw). George was an apprentice shoemaker with John Atkinson in Ampleforth (1861 census) then took up with Nicholas Marrell, a shoemaker in Newton-on-Ouse (1871 census). George married Ann Burton in January qr 1873 (Easingwold 9d 577) and the couple moved to her native village of Linton-on-Ouse, a mile away. George left off shoemaking and became a builder’s labourer and finally a ‘roadman’. The couple had 4 children and remained in Linton for the rest of their lives. George’s date of death is yet to be confirmed.

The Ampleforth Village website has some historical background including some old photographs https://ampleforth.ryedaleconnect.org.uk/ampleforth-sword-dance/

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