The Ron Shuttleworth Collection

This Collection aims to hold photocopies of everything significant that has been written about Folk Plays & related subjects.
There is no attempt to be selective & everything which could be read by anyone is considered, good or bad.
Besides folklorists, the subject has attracted writers from other disciplines such as English Studies, Theatre & Drama Studies, etc., & all these are included.

Not specifically covered are:

  • Simple references to teams appearing, etc.
  • Texts in general. Exceptions include Longsword & Robin Hood plays, chapbook texts, any with interesting features, & non-traditional, collated & written ones.

The Collection contains all published specialist books & booklets, together with ephemera & trivia, some video & audio tapes; also listings of other collections, of which some microfilm can be accessed. The copies are assembled loose into volumes by subject, & could thus save future researchers effort, time & money.

Broad categories are:

General.                            Hero-Combat Plays
Wooing Plays.                   Longsword Plays
Derby Tup Plays.               Hobby Horse Plays.
Robin Hood Plays.            Miscellania
Folk Plays & Other Arts.   Unpublished Works.
Single Subject Volumes.   Single Traditional Teams

The special section for unpublished works- Theses, Papers, Dissertations, Essays, etc, is unique in scope & presently contains more than 100 items.
It is no longer practical to count the number of pages or items but they are contained in 214 volumes and the controlling databse contains 8200 lines. The Collection is being actively developed & expanded and a database provides bibliographic details unmatched anywhere.
I can now say that, to the best of my belief & within the stated parameters, this Collection holds more material than any other which is publicly accessible! If anyone can challenge this claim, or is following a like interest, I shall be delighted to hear from them as kindred spirits are few & we could probably collaborate to mutual advantage. The fact that new ‘old’ material seems to have more or less dried up suggests that I may be close to getting most of it.
Access, including evenings & weekends, can be accorded to any serious enquirer by arrangement. Accommodation can often be provided.
Enquiries by post are accepted. Subject to copyright law, photocopies of much of the material can be supplied to members of Ring clubs & often to others. Donations of material will be received with gratitude & delight- & payment if required.



When I first started collecting, photocopiers (often very crude) were considered hi-tech and just becoming common. Their advantage was that they offered an integrity sometimes missing from the previous hand-copied records – what you get is what there is, everything there is and only what there is. So my ambition to “collect everything written about Mumming” involved identifying items, tracking them down and then storing the copies according to subject while keeping traceable records in a card index. This resulted in long wall of shelves full of ‘volumes’, binders, wallets and folders and a long portable box of 8”x5” record cards. Then came the computer, and my trusty Amstrad PCW to make things easier, leading, when I changed to a PC, to changing the card-index to my Access databases. This is vitally essential as its powerful sorts and filters enable me to track down almost any item, which would be impossible without them. Although items from old sources still turn up occasionally, I think that I have got, or at least know about, just about everything there is to get. The future must lie mainly with what is being produced now.


The long-term future of paper collections is a world-wide problem as the conditions under which they should be housed become more rigorous and the institutions which might do so run out of space. The problems encountered by the Morris Ring with their general archive, still unresolved, convinced me that the future of my stuff was bleak and it would probably end up in a skip. I came to the conclusion that the only way forward was to try to digitise everything and so I acquired a light commercial scanner (Canon DR-1210C) and set about feeding everything into its automatic document feed (ADF). I now had in effect two collections – the Paper Collection and the Digital Collection. Because I did not expect the Paper Collection to survive, virtually all additions from this point were, and still are, recorded in digital form only as pdfs in Acrobat.
Then, in the Autumn of 2014, everything changed. I was advised to contact Jackie Hodgson, head of the Special Collections Department at the University of Sheffield who visited me, liked what she saw and agreed to house it alongside the records of the University’s defunct National Centre for English Cultural Tradition. The Ring agreed that this was too good an offer to pass up and we arranged a form of joint ownership. I then set about getting everything ready for transfer. This was a lot harder than I had envisaged, but after six months it was ready. They collected it all in July 2015, including all the books booklets, ephemera and artefacts. I retained a few reference works which I need to service the Digital Archive which I continue to expand and develop from Coventry.


The impact has been profound. E-mail gives me fast, easy and accurate contact with correspondents and allows me to share items with those who might be interested at the touch of a button. The Internet itself has provided, and continues to provide, all sorts of stuff including items I would be unlikely to have heard about by other means. BUT it has also presented me with a challenge and forced me to change the whole basis on which I collect.
My original aim was to collect everything, good, bad or indifferent, which had been written within my parameters. I only excluded the very trivial or things which only repeated what had already been said a dozen times. I did not make judgements. The Internet has forced a complete re-think because it has so much stuff that it would be impossible to take it all – even if I wanted to. (If anyone doubts this, try Gurgling on “Mumming”) So, the decision of what I collect is now much more subjective that before and I just have to hope that my four decades experience will mean that IT IS sound and can be trusted.
Gurgling on key-words and wading through umpty screens has turned up items it would be difficult to find any other way, although the recent development where they monitor your searches and try to ‘help’ you by filtering what you are shown means that I may now miss new items.

How the Electronic Revolution can Inhibit Independent Research.

The existence of many of the more esoteric items in the Collection was originally revealed by consulting the specialised published Indices which list and classify all the contents of a wide variety of periodicals and journals – many of them obscure.
Until recently, the annual editions of such indices could be found in printed form in University and other libraries, where they could be consulted by anyone.
Now however, most of these have become electronic. Because the universities have to pay large sums to use them, they are available only to those with the right passwords, which are only issued to faculty members, and so effectively exclude independent researchers. Even if one could pay to join the faculty, this does not completely solve the problem, as no one university subscribes to all the available indices. This can only be resolved by the introduction of a scheme which allows individuals to buy a password which gave access across the board.
Another aspect of the problem came with the demise of the Nett Book Agreement, which .prevented new books being sold for less than the cover price.
When this was in force, libraries could obtain a blanket discount from the Publishers’ Association on all books bought. It was a very well-kept secret that one condition of this was the right of public access to the whole book-stock.
When the major booksellers forced the collapse of the NBA, this no longer obtained and some institutional libraries are excluding members of the public altogether. Others restrict public access to a few days per year, charging quite high annual sums for a full read-only ticket.
This can only be redressed by the Government making public money conditional upon public access
On a personal level, I have another problem. Even if I could get into an electronic index, I am very ignorant of the proper procedures and protocols and could not feel certain that I had made a complete search.
What I badly need is to find people who understand and have access to these resources and who would be willing to run searches for me.
Also I could do with help frome someone who understands audeo and video recordings because I don;t and mine are in a bit of a mess

If anyone out there can help, please get in touch and I will send you the details of my progress to date and what I have found out about the electronic versions.
Ron Shuttleworth.