Morris dancing was on the decline at the end of the 18th Century as populations moved from the villages to the towns and the interest in the art began to dry up.
By a fortunate coincidence, Cecil Sharp, a music academic, was recuperating from an illness on Boxing Day 1899 in Headington, Oxfordshire, when the local morris men, who were in need of money as their trade of stone masonry was slow at the time, danced outside his lodgings. He was fascinated by the music and started to collect the tunes and dances, later moving on to the folk song repertoire of England and then elsewhere.
When the First World War and subsequent influenza pandemic of 1918 reduced the availability of male dancers, women embraced the Morris and kept it alive. As time went by, the interest in the traditional dance, music and song of England began to recover and today is supported by men and women of all ages and from all walks of life.
This has also led to special events such as the Saddleworth Rushcart (above) being revived, accompanied by Morris and other traditional English dance forms.