Plough Monday in the Fens

Heritage Lottery FundFollowing from my last post, we have received more suggestions about events in the area. Here I would like to showcase the fantastic Fen traditions of Plough Monday and Molly Dancing. The following information and photos were kindly provided by Norfolk Our World Festival Ltd.

Molly dancers on the bridge at Welney

Molly dancers on the bridge at Welney

Plough Monday has been an important ritual for agricultural workers in the East of England for centuries, highlighting the start of the agricultural year. Traditionally, Plough Monday was held at the first Monday after Epiphany, or Twelfth Night. This was the first day after Christmas that farm-workers were meant to return to work; instead they decorated a plough and pushed it round the village, calling at the houses of the well-off villagers to beg for money, to help them get through the difficult winter period. In Cambridgeshire and Norfolk the ploughboys performed a dance known as Molly Dancing. Read more about Plough Monday traditions and Molly Dancing at and

Ramsey Plough Monday

Ramsey Plough Monday. Note the Straw Bear

The Plough Monday celebrations can be experienced in the wider Fens area over the next few weeks.

The Mepal Molly Men, for instance, have been visiting lots of local towns this week (see for instance here). The following events, altough not strictly within the Ouse Washes area, will also give you a good flavour of these celebrations which would have been more widespread in the past. Come and see the festivities for yourself here:

* Sat 12 January (tomorrow): Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival is well known. The Ouse Washes Molly Dancers will also be here.

Mon January 14th. Ramsey Plough Monday. Several hundred school children process through the town with a Straw Bear (instead of a plough); and The Ouse Washes Molly Dancers followed by Molly Dancing on Abbey Green. Procession leaves Ramsey Junior School at 1.00pm.
* Sat 26th January. The Mark Jones Day of Molly Dance. 150 molly dancers
from around the country gather to celebrate Plough Monday traditions in the places where they originated. 11am The Cutter, Ely, 1pm The Anchor, Little Downham, 1.30pm The Plough, Little Downham, 3.30pm The Five Miles Inn, Upware.

This entry was posted in Events, Farming, Heritage, History, Theme 2-Hidden Heritage, Theme 3-Fen Folk & Legends, Traditions and tagged , , , , , , by markatousewasheslps. Bookmark the permalink.

About markatousewasheslps

I am currently coordinating a partnership-led bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (for a circa £600K Heritage Grant bid) focusing on strengthening the unique yet vulnerable natural heritage in the Cambridgeshire Fens surrounding the Old west River, the new 'New Life on the Old West' project. Until recently I was the Programme Manager for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, leading on the 1-year development and 3-year delivery phases of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant-aided Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) scheme (from Dec 2012 until March 2017), on behalf of and in close cooperation with a wide range of local, regional and national partner organisations. The Ouse Washes LP's portfolio of 51 projects have focused on: conservation works to historic and natural environmental assets; improving community participation & engagement with the landscape and its heritage; increasing access and learning opportunities; and providing more opportunities for training in traditional land management skills. The overall aim has been to leave a long-term legacy for this fascinating and unique landscape, in the process creating tangible improvements to social, economic and environmental aspects of this landscape, its heritage and communities.