Morris - Betley Window

The Betley Window

Apology

I have no hard facts about the location or symbolism of the Betley Window, so what appears here is largely opinion. I am interested in learning more about the window, so if you have facts about location, dates, maker, patron or whatever, please let me know. I am also very interested in obtaining a color picture of the window.

Description

The Betley Window, shown below, is alleged to have been made sometime between 1509 and 1536. It shows what looks like a Morris Team consisting of six dancers, a Fool, a Hobbyhorse, a Pipe & Tabor player, plus some ancillary characters who might be a May Queen and a Friar. In the center is Maypole with a banner carrying the words "A MERY MAY" [sic].

The Betley Window

Publication

In his book Illustrations of Shakspeare, and of ancient manners: with dissertations on the clowns and fools of Shakspeare; on the collection of popular tales entitled Gesta Romanorum; and on the English Morris dance, published in London in 1807, Francis Douce (1757-1834) wrote:
The painted glass window belonging to George Tollett, Esq., at Betley, in Staffordshire, exhibits, in all probability, the most curious as well as the oldest representation of an English May game and morris dance, that is any where to be found. The learned possessor of this curiosity, ... has supposed that the window might have been painted in the youthful days of Henry the Eighth, when he delighted in May games; but it must be observed that the dresses and costume of some of the figures are certainly of an older period, and may, without much hazard, be pronounced to belong to the reign of Edward the Fourth.
The book features engravings on wood by J. Berryman, and the various panes in the window are numbered and discussed at length in the text. "A New Edition" published in 1839 claims engravings on wood by Jackson.

Miscellanea

Three of the dancers on whom it might be visible are wearing codpieces. Is there some kit possibility there? (Rock Creek take note!)
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Corrections, additions or comments?
Send email (if supported by your browser) to the author, ijs@mit.edu.
Original March 1995
Last modified: Jan 30 22:24 1996 / ijs@eddie.mit.edu