CROWDS gathered to watch the dancing and whooping of morrismen this Plough Monday.

Maldon’s molly dancers from Dark Horse Morris took part in the late 15th-century tradition in the town where they started from the quay and moved up towards the High Street before finishing in front of All Saints’ Church.

Dancers dressed up in wigs and top hats, all with their characteristic blackened faces.

A spokesman said: “The story goes that if the plough came around and you were a farmer that didn’t donate anything for the parish, you would have your field cross ploughed so that you wouldn’t be able to grow anything on it that year.

“As a disguise, the villagers would use the soil from the earth to rub on their faces and add to the whole experience.

“The type of face colouring depends where you are in the country.

“Here in Maldon, the soil is earthy and black but if you go to Oxfordshire, their face colourings are reddish brown.

“Up in the Midlands, they were brave and didn’t put on any soil and if you go down to the south east, their faces are white because the soil there is chalky.

“It’s a nice annual tradition and it’s very East Anglian.

“There must be something in the water because Maldon has a large number of folk dancers for its area.

“It’s a nice way to involve the community.

“The dances aren’t rehearsed because it’s supposed to have a less formal feel to it.

“We only rehearse our dances for an hour and a half every year.

“You’ll see people who are able to do it from years of practice and those who have no idea what’s going on.

“But it’s all in good fun.”

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