The Britannia Coco-nut Dancers of Bacup
Pictures, VIDEO and HistoryThe Nutters begin their Easter
dance at the Travellers' Rest
pub in Britannia, on Rochdale Road near the bottom of Gawmless
End's cart-track. On this page we have original photographs
and a VIDEO
of the Nutters in action.
Every Easter Saturday, no matter what the weather, the
Britannia Coconut Dancers, with their blackened faces, hats like
turbans decorated with rosette and coloured feathers, black jersey,
red and white kilts, white stockings and shining black Lancashire
clogs make a gradely sight as, accompanied by members of Stacksteads
Silver Band, they keep up the tradition of dancing from boundary to
boundary of the town of Bacup situated between Rochdale and
The Nutters now have an official website.
The beautifully-illustrated map of the Nutters' Easter dance
by local Historian John B. Taylor, can be seen here
KB - Traveller's Rest pub bottom right)
The text of their leaflet
details the history of this unique troupe.
Here are some photographs of the Nutters
(thanks are due to Mrs. Sheila Riley for both the video and original
Click on the smaller (thumbnail) images to see a larger
then use your browser's "back" button to return to this
The video below is 432 KB so may take a while to
Click on the picture|
to see a video of the Nutters
dancing in Bacup
at Easter 2000.
History of the coconutters, from their leaflet
|They begin at 9 a.m. from the Travellers' Rest Pub on the A671
Rochdale to Bacup road, culminating with an exhibition in the town
centre amongst throngs of people that have gathered creating a
festive atmosphere at approximately 1 to 2 p.m., finally ending at
about 6-7 p.m. with a dance at the old folks' bungalows at the
boundary before entrance to the Glen on the A681.
The first Coconutters troup was formed in 1857 and the Britannia
Coconutters are unique as the only surviving troupe
practising this kind of dance in this country and maybe in the
world, out of four or five troupes that once prevailed in the
Rossendale area. The dances (5 garland dances and 2 nut dances)
are supposed to be pirate dances brought to Cornwall by Moorish
pirates who settled there and became employed in the mining
industry. As mines and quarries opened in Lancashire in the 18th and
19th centuries some of these men moved north, bringing with them
their expertise in mining, and of course the dances.
The Garland dances (each dancer carries an arched garland
decorated with red, white and blue flowers) are Spring ritual dances
of Pagan or Mediaeval origin, celebrating the coming of Spring and
renewal of vegetation. The dancers black their faces to prevent them
being recognised by the evil spirits afterwards; this may also
reflect the mining connections.
The Coconut dances are unique. The dancers tap out rhythms on
wooden discs or 'nuts' fastened to their palms, knees and waist
(said to represent the protective cover worn on the hands and knees
when crawling along narrow passages in the mines). The origin of the
dances has not been traced, but it is known they were performed in
feudal times. Their usual accompaniment is the English concertina.