SWORD battles broke out at Oxford pubs today as an eccentric Boxing Day tradition returned.

‘King George’ and the Turkish Knight went head-to-head in the streets, for the annual Mummers’ play staged by Headington Quarry Morris Dancers.

The series of performances entertained crowds in Headington Quarry, starting at the former Crown and Thistle pub at 11.15am before moving to the Six Bells, The Chequers and finally the Mason’s Arms at 1.45pm.

Hundreds of people turned out to watch, with an estimated crowd of 400 people at the latter venue.

Dave Townsend, squire of the Morris side, said: “We had an extremely good turnout, it amazes me every time.

“Every year people come out and watch, despite the weather.

“It seems to have become a regular part of people’s Christmas, with people meeting up with family and friends. It’s very much a community event.”

Mummers’ plays are a type of folk play, loosely based on the legend of St George and the dragon.

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They are thought to date back to the 18th century, and usually involve a sword fight between King (or St) George and the knight.

The Headington shows were followed by traditional Christmas carols by the Oxfordshire Folk Dance Association Hand Bell Ringers, and a performance from the Rapper Sword Dancers.

Mr Townsend, who lives in Littlemore, said the Mummers’ plays and Morris dancing is ‘great fun’ to be part of.

The Headington Quarry side, which meets on Mondays at the Mason’s Arms, is currently looking to recruit more men - anyone interested can find out more on their website.

Elsewhere in Oxfordshire today, the Wantage Mummers also put on their version of the play.

The troupe toured three locations over the course of the afternoon - Childrey Village Hall near Wantage, Wantage Market Place and Faringdon Market Place.

Their play has been maintained since its revival in 1975, based on an older tradition from the village of Steventon near Didcot.

Last year, the group’s Boxing Day performances raised £1,750 for Helen & Douglas House children’s hospice.

Adderbury Mummers’ also staged their play, in Adderbury near Banbury, as they have done since 1997.