Hill, John


Collection date: Jul 1913

Area: Yorkshire

Mr John Hill for the Goathland sword dance: Goathland is 9 miles inland from Whitby, a few stops on the Whitby-Pickering railway line in Sharp's day (now re-opened as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway heritage line).

Regarding the Goathland sword dance team, Sharp noted on 14 July 1913 from Mr Hill of Goathland (age 72) that ‘it was 1868 or about then since they last went round; he described the dance very roughly, from which I gathered it was very much the same as the Sleights (dance)’. Sleights was 5 miles north, towards Whitby.

Sharp’s notes were transcribed by Maud Karpeles into Folk Dance Notes 3/131-137 – this was the time when Sharp was afflicted by neuritis and Maud acted as his amanuensis whenever she could. All the field notes are in Sharp's handwriting but on return to London Maud did the transcribing. Goathland was actually the very last sword dance that Sharp collected and he had already produced his third and final Sword Dance Book, so Goathland was never published.

The ‘Mr Hill’ referred to by Sharp was John Hill, the owner of the Goathland Hotel* for the previous 20 years. The hotel was near the train station, which had opened in 1865 and was closed in 1965.

John Hill was born c1841, son of John Hill Snr, butcher, and his wife Christiana. John Snr (b1814 Goathland) was himself son of John Hill, a grandfather born 1776 in Goathland. John Hill, the informant, was running the ‘Cross Pipes’ pub in Goathland in the 1881 census, aged 39, with his wife Margaret. They had taken over the Goathland Hotel by 1891 census. They had 4 sons, who helped to run the hotel in later years. The 1921 census shows the hotel being run by Walter Donaldson Hill (aged 40). See also profile of Bill Peirson.

*The Goathland Hotel was the 'Aidensfield Arms' in the 'Heartbeat' TV series.

The revival of the Goathland Plough Stots was commenced by Frank Dowson in 1923 and continues today - it is performed on occasions other than Plough Monday. Francis Wrightson Dowson was born in Goathland on 5/12/1872, son of Levi Dowson, road labourer. He became a schoolteacher and returned to live in the area and promote the sword dance. The 1921 census may provide further details. Dowson was in touch with Sharp about the Goathland tradition and his book 'Goathland in History and Folk-lore' was published in 1947 (Hull).

See also Geoffrey Ridden: 'The Goathland Plough Monday Customs' - Folk Music Journal vol2 no.5 (EFDSS 1974) pp352-388. For background information on Plough Monday celebrations more widely, see Ronald Hutton 'The Stations of the Sun' OUP 1996 pp124-133.


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