‘Tipteering‘ is a very old Sussex custom. It is a form of Mummers play where the parts were all played by men, who kept the same character every year. The texts remained approximately the same, surviving just by word of mouth. In 1880 the costumes were made of calico, heavily trimmed with ribbons and shredded paper, and decorated with ornaments. Nowadays, more creativity has crept in!
See us on Boxing Day every year - usually at the Marquis of Granby in Sompting at 11am and then the Frankland Arms in Washington from 12.30. According to the Dictionary of Sussex Dialect, ‘Tipteers’ is the Sussex word for Mummers; these are people who perform a short play around Christmas time. Mummer Plays have been collected throughout the British Isles, and some have also been noted in the USA and Canada. There are related plays which are performed at other times of the year, such as Plough Monday and at Easter. When the various plays are collected, they are known just as The Tipteers' Play, but collectors would often add the locality where they were collected to distinguish them from others. Mummer Plays are very old. The first available evidence of their existence dates from 1738, where a fragment of a play is known from Exeter; however, it is likely that they date from an earlier time. The earliest play known in Sussex dates from 1817 and was from Littlehampton; unfortunately no text has survived. The oldest known Sussex text is from Ovingdean and was collected in 1870. Our play was noted down from William Turrall, the Captain of the Steyning Tipteers, by Edmund Young in the early 1880s. He passed it to Frederick Sawyer, who published it in the FolkLore Journal in 1884. Ted Purver, one of our former members, located the play in the Folk Lore Record in the early 1950s, and we have performed it ever since. Our play has been categorised as a Hero-Combat type of play. It is introduced by Father Christmas, who in turn introduces the rest of the cast, including among others St George (the hero), the Turkish knight (the villain), the Bold Prince (the murderer), and a very Boastful Expensive Doctor! It finishes with a short Longsword dance and Chanctonbury Ring's own Christmas Dance. Those of you who have seen our play before, will realise that although we follow the traditional text, special effects are sometimes used to add to the general tomfoolery! We would like to give a big 'thank you' to all the members of the audience who have come out each Boxing Day to see us perform the play and to see the Morris Dancing.