Ron Shuttleworth was born in Sheffield in 1930, and brought up in Hathersage, Derbyshire. He settled in Coventry in 1960 and married Jean (1927-1998). His interests included camping and folk music and through Coventry Folk Workshop he started the performance group Coventry Mummers in 1966. Eager to find out more about the subject, Ron started to copy references and articles about mummers’ plays.  Ron has frequently been consulted by international scholars of Folklore, English, Drama and Theatre Studies, and his still growing collection is proving to be an invaluable resource.

Scope of the collection

During a period of over 40 years, Ron Shuttleworth has amassed an enormous collection of copies of all known references to mummers’ plays throughout Britain and Ireland. The collection became the ‘Morris Ring Archive on Folk Plays and Mumming’. Concerned that there was a growing shortage of archival space for paper records globally, Ron set about scanning the whole archive. All new additions to the archive are in digital form only.

In addition to books, booklets and articles in magazines and journals, the paper collection includes ephemera and trivia, video and audio tapes, images, theses and dissertations and unpublished writings. As well as the various types of mummers’ plays, including wooing plays, the Derby Tup and Robin Hood plays, the collection includes material on long-sword plays and hobby horses. At the last count, there are over 4,000 separate items in 183 volumes (each volume contains at least 100 sheets).

Everything is recorded on one of two databases, and Ron has produced a Guide.

Where the collection is located

Paper Collection: What has become the Morris Ring Folk Play Archive (Ron Shuttleworth Collection) paper collection was donated to the University of Sheffield Library in July 2015, and is now housed in the Special Collections Department at the university library:  Reference MS 456. The introduction to the university special collection notes: “The collection has been painstakingly assembled since the 1960s by Ron Shuttleworth who made it his aim to collect copies of everything that had been written on the subject of folk plays, and to provide access to the material to interested researchers.”

The online notes to the collection states that “The collection consists of a vast range of material relating to folk plays and related subjects, including books and booklets, journal articles, audio and video recordings, unpublished works such as theses, dissertations and essays, and some ephemera.” See the link below.

Digital Collection: The much more extensive digital version of the collection is still administered from Coventry, England, and contains everything added since digitisation, including the complete texts of all the important books. Ron is still refining and expanding it and is happy to supply pdfs of material or compile lists to order on any particular subject.

Access to the collection

Paper Collection: Access is in accordance with University of Sheffield guidelines and is available to all researchers, by appointment. Refer to the online link below.

Digital Collection: Access, including evenings and weekends, can be accorded to any serious enquirer by arrangement. The contact is  and fuller details are on Ron’s website, at Donations of new material are very welcome.

Catalogue details

Paper Collection: Many of the works have been arranged in subject-based volumes such as “Hero-Combat”, “Wooing Plays”, “Longsword Plays”, etc., and a comprehensive database has been produced to enable researchers to navigate the Collection. This is available in the Special Collections Department.