The Piper's Tale

Updated: Jul 25

Situated near Congleton in Cheshire, Little Moreton Hall is a Tudor House dating from the early 1500s with, amongst many things, a moat, knot garden and yew tunnel, and was built and lived in by the Moreton family for nearly 500 years.

Little Moreton Hall

Run by the National Trust, the hall is an absolute treasure trove for living history enthusiasts. Not only that but amongst the higgledy piggledy floors, old family letters and apotropaic marks that ooze history, you will also find the gem that is the English bagpipe player, Jane Moulder.

Jane Moulder Playing The English Bagpipes At Little Moreton Hall

Jane has been playing at Little Moreton Hall for twenty-five years and in her talks for visitors to the property she tells the wonderful stories of the pipers that were once so integral to our communities. Jane is a researcher and writer and she tells of how, whilst there were few written records of the 'middling folk' during the 16th century, we do know that every village had a piper. How do we know? We know because the village piper often appeared in court records for one of the favoured misdemenours of the day: playing music on a Sunday.

View From The Long Gallery At Little Moreton Hall

Jane 's story of the piper tells of how they were central to the village, playing at community gatherings, weddings, celebrations and, at this time of year, as the harvest was brought in.

But the villagers didn't just want music while they worked, they also wanted to dance in their spare time and that required a piper, and so the community would gather their money together to pay for the piper to play on a Sunday. However, during the 16th and 17th century, as the puritans gained a hold on the Christian church, they forbade any kind of work, dance or celebration on a Sunday, other than that which involved worship in church.

Did this put a stop to the piper or the villagers? Nope. They clubbed together not only to pay the piper to play, but also to pay to bail them out of jail when they were arrested for playing on the sabbath. Sometimes the villagers even went one step further in their defiance of the parish priest and court records in Chester show us that on one occasion a village in the surrounding area paid for a piper to play on Sunday but paid for them to play in the church whilst the congregation danced.

Many of these records tell of male pipers but there were female pipers too, as Jane will tell you. These were often the wife of the alehouse keeper, which made for a shrewd business decision as the more she played the more the villagers drank and danced, danced and drank.

Little Moreton Hall

Gathered in the magnificnet courtyard (on a Saturday I should note), we listened to these tales of pipers and Jane played the English bagpipes as the hirundines danced above us tending to their nests, which made full use of the nooks and crannies present in this wonderfully quixotic heritage site.

With thanks to Jane Moulder for taking the time to share the piper's tales and for the wonderful bagpipe music. You can find more about Jane via the Piva Renaissance Collective here .

Jane Moulder

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