The song was written in 1878 as “When I took our Nance to Church” by one W H Phillips, about whom nothing more is known. Apart from one instance of the song turning up in Yorkshire, its spread seems confined to Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. Sam Bennett, the Ilmington Morris dancer and singer, claimed, with tongue in cheek, that it was the song that William Shakespeare sang to Anne Hathaway on their wedding day.
An extra verse is:
The pretty little birds did gaily sing
‘Twas on a summer’s morn
The wedding bells did gaily ring
As we trudged across the lawn.
The lads and lasses around the church
Wishing long life and happiness
To me and Nance my bride.