Southworth, John T

Dancer

Collection date: Mar 1911

Area: Lancashire


John Thomas Southworth (1878-1917) of Mawdesley morris: Mawdesley is a village 12 miles S of Preston and 7 miles S of Leyland. Sharp wrote ‘Maudesley’ in his notes but this has been mis-archived as ‘Mandesley’.

Sharp met JT Southworth, age 32, ‘by appointment’ at Keswick on Sat 4 March 1911, noting straightaway that Southworth, ‘a Mawdesley man’ had taught his dances to the Keswick schoolchildren some time previously*. Sharp made ‘live’ notes (presumably of children actually dancing) in his field notebook (words) and transcribed these into his Folk Dance Notes vol2 pp17-29. Sharp was wholly positive about the ‘processional’ and the ‘stage’ dances that he witnessed and his notes were extensive. Perhaps because the Keswick dances were not Cotswold dances for sets of 6, Sharp was not too ‘ideological’ about them.

The children used the processional dance at the annual Band of Hope May Festival at Keswick when up to 500 children from the surrounding district paraded through the town to a stage where a maypole was set up and further morris dancing could take place.

John Thomas Southworth was born in October qr 1878 (Chorley 8e 551), eldest of 5 children of Ralph Southworth, a basket-maker, and his wife Elizabeth. In 1881 census the family were in Ridley Lane, Mawdesley and in 1891 they were in the High St, Mawdesley; John had by then already taken up basket-making at age 12. They were in New St, Mawdesley in 1901 census (ref RG13/3940 f48 p3).

In April qr 1904 John Southworth married Jane Iddon, daughter of Robert Iddon, who was also a basket-maker. Her two brothers Harry and Jack were in the ‘second wave’ of Mawdesley morris dancers, performing between 1901-03. Mr Hugh Barron (b1884) was another of these dancers and he married Jane Iddon’s sister Ellen in 1906. Hugh Barron, in his late ‘80s, was interviewed by Roy Smith c1970 and commented that the second Mawdesley side was a close-knit affair -  ‘no outsiders’! John Southworth was acknowledged as the leader of this ‘second’ side and one reason why the side petered out may be John’s 1904 marriage and the imminent birth of his son Robert Iddon Southworth on 1/9/1905.

It has been suggested that John Southworth actually moved up to the Keswick area before imparting the Mawdesley dances to Miss Marshall. This is possible but unlikely. There was no ‘John Southworth’ (or even Southwaite) living in the Keswick area in the 1911 census. When Sharp met Southworth in March 1911 ‘by appointment’, it seems more feasible that the latter had merely taken the relatively easy 98-mile train journey from Preston to Keswick**. Certainly in the April 1911 census John Thomas Southworth, basketmaker, aged 32, was listed as living in New St, Mawdesley with wife Jane, son Robert and daughter Clara (b Feb 1909 Mawdesley).

The final sad episode of Southworth’s life is that in 1917, worried about the war, he took his own life. The report was in the Liverpool Echo 26 Jan 1917: ‘…touching the death of John Thomas Southworth, foreman basket-maker, who was drowned in a rain tub on Tuesday morning.’ His burial at Mawdesley church on 27 January, aged 38, stated: ’interred under coroner’s order’.

* The likely date for the teaching of the dances was November 1909, according to the notes of Miss Helen Marshall.

**The Penrith-Keswick-Cockermouth line was then in operation (opened 1865, closed 1972).

The link between the Mawdesley and Keswick dances is complex - please see profiles of Miss Frances Hayes, Miss Helen Marshall and Mr Richard Clayton, and note the various references quoted there.

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