Keeping fit Lacock style!

on Tuesday, 13 May 2014. Posted in Archives

We’re all starting to think about the summer and maybe some of us are concerned that the results of the large appetites gained over Christmas and the numerous Easter eggs consumed are not being shifted in time for our holidays. Well, fear not, because an answer has been found in the Lacock archive!


Casually sifting through a box of varied documents, mostly belonging to Matilda Talbot, I was intrigued and amused to discover these four pages of handwritten exercises. The exercises were created and drawn by the International Association of Margaret Morris Movement. Margaret Morris Movement still exists today (and runs classes throughout the UK and overseas, if anyone is interested!) and specialises in creative dance movement, particularly breathing techniques. Although the exercises are unfortunately undated, it can be assumed that they were written around the 1930s. They contain breathing and movement exercises, and, wonderfully, also contain diagrams of how the exercise should be done.

The exercises include “Easy breathing”, which involves not just breathing in and out but raising your arms whilst breathing in, and then dropping your body towards the floor when breathing out. There are then some “Rejuvenation techniques” which includes rotation of hips and tilting of pelvis. You are then shown how to balance and, finally, there are some bending exercises – touching toes and leaning to the side. The diagrams of the particular movements are exactly right for seeing how something is done; nothing is too complicated, and everything is written down step by step.


These exercises were probably recommended to Matilda Talbot as a means of keeping balanced and fairly active as she got older, although may also have been to try and improve something specific about her health – we cannot tell. Whilst apparently not vigorous enough to be termed as today’s “Cardio” workouts, the exercises are still useful and energy-burning exercises that can help keep you fit through correct breathing, posture and some dance movement. That is exactly what Margaret Morris Movement seeks to achieve today.

This document is one of the many reasons I love the Lacock archive so much. The diversity of material that has been discovered in the archive is enormous, and we are so lucky to have had preserved some really unusual and fascinating documents. Particularly amongst Matilda’s papers, when so much more was published and documented, we can get some great historical information about people and organisations such as MMM, as well as insights into the individual, in this case Matilda. No information other than the four pages of exercises is given, so we have no idea why the exercises were requested, but it is great that they have survived amongst Matilda’s papers.

I must try and quell my desire to run an exercise class following these steps: maybe a brief breathing and movement class during lunch for researchers and staff?...

Ally McConnell
Project Archivist, Lacock Unlocked Project

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