The Age-Old Ritual Of Chair Lifting On Easter Monday

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The Age-Old Ritual Of Chair Lifting On Easter Monday
A woman being lifting on a chair by Morris Men next to the Cutty Sark
Up she rises: this strange ritual has been performed by the Blackheath Morris Men for 40 years. Image: Blackheath Morris Men

For the last 40 years or so, the Blackheath Morris Men have been in Greenwich on Easter Monday, giving out uplifting experiences.

And by uplifting, we mean they'll sit you on a florally-festooned chair and raise you above their shoulders, between dances. Provided you're a woman, that is.

The Blackheath Morris Men are ushering in the spring with a flourish once again on Easter Monday (1 April 2024). Making the rounds along landmarks such as the Cutty Sark, Royal Naval College — not to mention a local pub or three — the group of Morris Men will bring the sound of jangling bells and clacking sticks, as well as the sight of womenfolk being lifting into the ether.

Morris men performing outside a pub
You'll often find the group outside a good boozer. Image: Blackheath Morris Men

"It's an Easter celebration which used to happen all over England — we're one of the few groups who still do it," Humphrey, aka the 'Blackheath Bagman', tells me. "It was an old custom all over Britain until a hundred years ago. It consists of the simple compliment of being elevated on Ēostre's Throne of Flowers. Ēostre was the Anglo Saxon Goddess of spring."

Many centuries old, chair lifting was especially popular in 18th and 19th century England, though not everyone was a fan. In 1783 , Gentleman’s Magazine branded it 'improper and indecent', owing to the fact it was seen as a cheeky riff on the Crucifixion. Here was, grumbled the publication, "A custom, which ought to be abolished." Chair lifting also used to be a tad frisky; the University of Leicester says: "In Warwickshire, Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday were known as 'heaving-day' because on the Monday it was the tradition for men to 'heave and kiss the women' and on the Tuesday for the women to do the same to men. (Petting is not a part of the chair lifting experience anymore.)

A woman being held aloft by morris dancers
Will you be volunteering for a raise in 2024? Image: Blackheath Morris Men

The Blackheath Morris Men formed towards the end of the 1960s, and have performed all over the country, including as support to Hawkwind in the 1970s, and with Eric Idle at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Games. Safe to say, they know how to put on a show.

Oh, and by the way what's a 'bagman' when it's at home? "The Bagman is a sort of secretary and does administration for the side," Humphrey the Bagman tells me, "May also often carry a bag of sticks." So there you have it.

The Blackheath Morris Men will be in Greenwich again this Easter Monday (1 April 2024). The schedule is as follows:

  • 12pm - Cutty Sark Gardens
  • 1pm - Old Brewery
  • 2pm - Trafalgar Tavern
  • 3pm - Greenwich Tavern
  • 4pm - Final dance outside the Ashburnham Arms

If you're interested in joining the group email [email protected]

Last Updated 19 March 2024

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