Folklore and customs by Dr Peter Millington

'Mardy Baby' area map from Opie & Opie, 1959, p.177.

Mardy Baby area map from Opie & Opie, 1959, p.177.



There are not really any published maps relating to Nottinghamshire folklore, apart from a few distribution maps for folk drama and for Plough Monday in Nottingham (Barley, 1953; Millington, 1980, 1988 & 2005). In some ways it is more interesting to look at national maps to see where Nottinghamshire fits into the pattern of things, always assuming the sample sizes are sufficient to be meaningful. Two sets of maps that stand out are the linguistic atlases produced by Survey of English Dialects in the 1960s & 1970s, and the various maps published by Iona and Peter Opie in their seminal childlore books.

The Survey of English Dialects only researched four villages in Nottinghamshire (Cuckney, North Wheatley, Oxton, and South Clifton) but these were part of a systematic and uniform nationwide network employing a standard research questionnaire. The resulting atlas (Upton et al, 1974) revealed some interesting distribution patterns, with Notts sometimes occupying a border position. For instance, the use of “while” instead of “until” is something which north Notts shares with Yorkshire, but which is unknown in the south of the county. Subsequent research has improved and refined these maps (Widdowson & Upton, 1996). Some of the maps relate to folklore topics such as the local names for the 1st of April.

The Opies’ childlore maps also have a dialect element in that many of them cover local names for games, truce terms, words for claiming precedence, and suchlike.

Other maps come from a wide variety of publications, of which the journals Folklore, the Folk Music Journal and their predecessors are prominent. Some surveys of customs and folklore hold data that is amenable to mapping, and we can but hope that this will eventually be done.


I am unaware of any folklore-related maps in manuscript collections, other than distribution maps I have prepared myself for exhibitions and talks. These all relate to Nottinghamshire folk drama and the related customs of Plough Monday. A composite map is given below:

Map showing the distribution of folk plays in Nottinghamshire, from a presentation to the Notts Local History Association Day School, 2006, by Peter Millington.

Map from a presentation to the Notts Local History Association Day School, 2006, by Peter Millington.