Dancers cross swords in Spen

Spen Valley Longswords on their Boxing Day tour 2011
Spen Valley Longswords on their Boxing Day tour 2011

DANCERS crossed swords when they performed in pubs in Spen over the festive period.

Spen Valley Longswords took part in their annual Boxing Day Dance tour, appearing at the Wickham Arms in Cleckheaton and the Saw in Gomersal.

Longsword dancing is one of the county’s lesser known traditions but was once part of village life in many areas of Yorkshire.

The origin is rather obscure but said to be connected with mid-winter ritual sacrifice, encouraging the sun to return from the solstice.

The dancers each carry a sword one meter long and perform a series of intertwining movements, passing over and under the swords, and ending by locking the swords together and displaying them to the crowd.

Records dating back to 1700 tell of dance teams in locations all over the county, but increasing urbanisation and two world wars almost wiped out the tradition.

In the 1970s there was something of a revival and in 1974, the Spen Valley Longsword team was formed.

It has danced every year since then bringing pleasure to audiences around the Spen Valley.