Our History


Mr Wilkins Shilling started as a woman's North West Clog Morris side first based in Bath. Now happily the side welcomes members of any gender.

The side was founded in 1988 and began basically with three ladies. All three had moved from towns in the North West of England to Bath. An advertisement for the first rehearsal was put in local papers and at places like Bath University. These three were familiar with North West dance routines from the previous teams that they had been members of, so it made sense to stay with the dances and music they were familiar with. Mr Wilkins Shilling would possibly have been the only North West side in Somerset at the time.


Most of the dances originate in the mill towns of Lancashire and the surrounding counties, hence the description "North West". In the days when the English textile industry was at its height the mill girls wore clogs to work and it is said that as a distraction from the exhausting, noisy and monotonous routine they would move their feet in time to the rhythm of the looms, eventually working these rhythms into dances. The clogs worn by the side today are similar to the Sunday best clogs of the mill girls. The dances would have been performed at festivals such as Easter, Christmas and May Day when the rushes on the church floors would be renewed and the girls would dance along with the rush carts to and from the churches. Today the side also perform dances which have been written by members of the team and dances past on from other sides, all within the tradition of the North West.


Mr Wilkins Shilling takes its name from Mr Charles Wilkins, a 19th Century woollen cloth mill owner in Twerton, Bath (under Messrs. Charles Wilkins & Co.) He was known to be good to his workers but he himself was strictly teetotal. As the beerhouses became more numerous in the town, in order to keep his workers on their best behaviour at work, he would dock a shilling, which was a substantial amount in those days, from the weekly wages of his female workers if they were seen drinking in any of the local alehouses, in or out of working hours. Since Morris dancers have something of a reputation as drinkers of ale, the name seemed appropriate. These days however, the side is more likely to be found in the local coffee shop Cool.


Apres dance-out