History of Mumming 2 – The Rise and Fall of Mumming

In the early C18th a new kind of mumming appears, often with texts that were distributed through ‘chapbooks’.  These plays spread through the country and were widely performed by the end of the century.

They predominated in rural areas as a means by which farm labourers could ‘cadge’ money and ale in the run up to Christmas.  They would dress in disguise (so as not to be recognised by their neighbours) and visit houses in the village.  After the play the actors are rewarded with some money and, if they were lucky, cakes and ale.

All indications are that it peaked in the early to mid C19th.  As people travelled more and the available entertainment became more sophisticated mumming began to wane.  Most of the traditions that remained at the turn of the century were wiped out completely when so many men were lost in WWI. 

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