unsung histories

everyman and everywoman

Welcome to Unsung Histories

Welcome to this series of true stories never told before  – about people you may never even have heard of – but whose life stories reverberate across the decades and centuries.

Many of these stories start with the life of someone who played a musical instrument or sang an old folk song, and many of them lived in my home area of East Anglia, but there are other stories here as well, which I’m looking forward to sharing with you.

There’s already plenty to read here, but do come back soon to read about marshmen and photographers on the Norfolk Broads, traditional singing on the BBC in the 1940s, Italian street musicians in Norwich, a 19th century working dance band in Suffolk and much more. I am also a working musician myself, and some of my other musical researches are published on my other website: katiehowson.co.uk

Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

 

Esther Gayton part 2: ‘Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe’

This is the second part of a long piece of writing about Esther Gayton, a young  ballet dancer from the early years of the nineteenth century whose name has been preserved through the folk music and dance world.

This section concerns the tunes, social dance and stepdance routine known to us today, whilst Esther Gayton part 1: the Ballerina and the Baronet looks at her personal life and stage performances from 1803-1809. I really recommend that you read that first, as it will fill out some of the references to ballet and theatre in this article  – as well as the link with the barrel organ that went to the Arctic – and help put the longevity of these tunes and dances into context.

Social dance

It was common practice in the early 1800s for social dances to be named after celebrities and stage characters, and some seemed to stem directly from stage productions. A dance was named after Esther from her appearance in Tekeli; or the Siege of Montgatz. The show premiered at Drury Lane on 24th November 1806, and in August 1807, J. Pearce of Soho, was advertising “a new sheet of dances, No.3, including the Miss Gayton dance in Tekeli …”.

This would consist of the music and very brief dance instructions for a set of figures in the fashionable longways configuration of the time, and it seems very possible that it was published later in 1807 for the 1808 season in Vol.1 of Elegant and Fashionable Country Dances, Reels, Waltzes &c by Voight & Wheatstone (although the original booklet is not dated, expert opinion dates it to this season). We do however have all the details for a publication in late 1808, published by Button & Whitaker in their Twenty-Four Country Dances for the Year 1809 (as advertised in the Bury & Norwich Post on 24th November 1808). Whether the dance published by Pearce was the same or not, we won’t know unless a copy of that publication turns up sometime. Interestingly, the dance printed next to Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe in Button & Whitaker, Major O’Flarty, is not named after a real person, but a stage character (see Will the real Paddy O’Rafferty please stand up).

There was also another dance and tune called Miss Gayton’s Fancy published around the same time in another of Button & Whitaker’s publications, their No. 9 Selection of Dances, Reels and Waltzes. There is further information regarding the dances at the end of this article.

It’s difficult to be definitive about the composers of either of these two tunes. The hornpipe might have been written either by James Hook for Tekeli (November 1806) or by Henry Bishop for Love in a Tub (November 1808). Miss Gayton’s Fancy only appears once under that name, in the publication above, where it follows a tune called simply Caractacus, so it could have been composed for that ballet by Henry Bishop (March 1808); however, the melody for Esther Gayton’s Pas Seul in  Bishop’s original score is not the same tune, and it’s not the Hornpipe either. I have not been able to inspect the scores for Tekeli or Love in a Tub.

The tune and country dance Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe were published many times (in collections of country dances, mostly printed in London) from the initial printing during Esther’s dancing heyday until 1817, with Button and Whitaker claiming the copyright under new laws in 1814. After 1817 I have found no instances of it in print for a number of years, but there are many instances of the tune being copied out into fiddler’s private manuscripts. In 1850 it was deemed well known enough to be suggested as an air for a song on a broadside printed in Manchester. This suggests it was in widespread use by musicians 1817-1850, possibly more amongst amateurs than professionals in this period. The tune came back into vogue in the 1880s, and was then published a good number of times for the next hundred years, but almost exclusively in Scotland, perhaps reflecting dance tastes in that long period.

A publication dating from just shy of a century after the first appearance of Miss Gayton’s HornpipeAunt Kate’s Dance Music Book includes what is recognisably the same tune, albeit transposed into G, given a 2:4 time signature instead of (cut common time), and with a slightly simplified ending. This booklet was published in December 1904 (announced in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 10th December) and was part of a series of publications by J. Leng, of Dundee and London, including Aunt Kate’s Conjuring and Parlour Magic and Aunt Kate’s Knitting and Crochet Book, which was evidently aimed at women. The preface to our dance book states: “The publishers anticipate that the present collection will appeal to a large circle of those who are interested in parties and kindred gatherings … [the] aim has been to provide a book suited to average requirements, one that would be equally serviceable in the ball-room and in the home. With this object in view, no popular dance has been omitted.” There are no dance instructions, the only other tunes which gets the direction “same dance” are Pop goes the Weasel, John Peel and Garry Owen, which today are all much better known tunes that Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe, but all the associated dances have faded equally into obscurity.

From 1990 to date the tune has again been published a good many times: in those thirty years mostly in England and the USA.

If you are interested in the many and various publications and manifestations of the dance, there is a link at the end of this article to a PDF summarising the dates and sources. If you come across any other instances, please do get in touch!

The Traditional Tune Archive also has a good page online covering most of the publications for which there is actually a score available – see Further Information at the end of this article.


Stepdance routine

However it was not this social dance to which my attention had originally been drawn by Simon Harmer.

Simon is a wonderful stepdancer and knew of a stepdance routine called Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe, collected in south west Scotland by Tom & Joan Flett in 1959. The lady who demonstrated this dance to the Fletts was Elizabeth Porter Wallace, whom the Fletts noted as being 65 at the time. She was a dancing teacher whose father, grandfather (Joseph Rae Wallace) and grand-uncle (Alexander, known as Sandy Porter – his mother’s maiden name) had all taught dancing in the Kilmarnock area. The Fletts had her name as “Miss Elizabeth Wallace” but although she used this name professionally, she had in fact married in 1925, to Thomas Parker. Elizabeth (1893-1983) seems to have taken a break from teaching from 1924 until 1937, coinciding with the birth of a son, who tragically died at a very young age. There was apparently no next generation to take on the dance teaching mantle, and I can find no trace of Elizabeth in the newspapers after 1938.

However, one newspaper from 1908 reveals her father, Joseph Wallace (1856-1932) teaching the very dance under discussion!

Joseph reputedly had a large repertoire of social dances and a collection of early ballroom guides as well as “a large repertoire of solo dances, some of which he undoubtedly learned from his own father and uncle” according to Tom and Joan Flett in Traditional Stepdancing in Scotland (p.151). They also state that “Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe was taught by Wallace to his young girl pupils, usually aged about eight to twelve years old. They held their dresses slightly out to the side with their thumbs at the back. Three morris dance type bells sewn to a band of elastic at each wrist.” They were unaware of exactly who Miss Gayton was, and surmised that the dance was probably made up by a dancing teacher for a favoured pupil – a not unreasonable supposition, and not too far off the mark. We do not have conclusive proof that this dance was actually danced by Esther Gayton, but we do know that as early as 1829 a Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe stepdance routine was being taught by dancing masters, so the odds on it referring to a different Miss Gayton are slight.

The 1829 reference comes from a programme for “Mr. Lowe’s third annual ball” in the assembly room in Elgin. The original programme is in the National Library of Scotland but my source is a typewritten transcription reprinted in The Thistle, the newsletter for a Scottish dance society in Vancouver, in 1972/3. The programme reveals, at number 18 out of 29 items in the first half alone, Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe, danced by four girls. So this was an end-of-term show for the pupils of Mr. Lowe, a dancing teacher, rather than a society ball for adults.

Writing in 1972, the author of the article in The Thistle reflected on the repertoire of dances from the ball: “Apart from the fling and reel steps, most of this material has been lost. The only dance from this programme which has been preserved is Miss Gayton’s hornpipe (collected and taught by Joan and Tom Flett).”

The Fletts did not know of the Lowe connection with this specific dance, but they did know that Joseph Wallace had in his collection a copy of The Ball Conductor. This book was first published in 1822 in Edinburgh, by the four Lowe brothers: Joseph, James, Robert and John, and was republished again in 1830 and 1860. The Mr Lowe referred to in the 1829 ball programme would be John Lowe, who was probably the first of the brothers to open a dancing school. His brother Joseph had been teaching in Elgin, but by early 1827 John had taken over from him, continuing to teach in Perth as well until his death in January 1839. I am indebted to Paul Cooper for much of the information about the Lowes.

A colleague in Australia, Heather Clarke has kindly sent me newspaper references to the dance being taught in a similar context of juvenile balls from at least 1894 to 1911, in and around Bathurst, New South Wales. The progenitors there were various members of another dynasty of dancing teachers, the Allison family.


A modern interpretation of the stepdance

Although we cannot know if the steps now known as Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe are the same as Esther Gayton danced in the first decade of the nineteenth century, the expert opinion is that they are likely to be very similar. In private correspondence with Simon Harmer, Anne Daye (Director of Education and Research for the Historical Dance Society) commented “There is nothing in the step sequence that would be unknown in her day; the opening sequence uses ballonnés or cuts common in social dancing; heel and toe combinations are timeless; shuffles ditto; backskips as in the break are footing steps (feature of my presentation), so the dance is the closest we can get today to Miss Gayton’s performance. She may not have done the same step sequence at each performance, and she would have done the dance in a showier manner, perhaps using her skirts a bit more, making a flourish of the fancier steps, maybe a circling of the stage on the intro.”

Simon learned the dance after being inspired by the story of the barrel organ being taken on board William Edward Parry’s ships on his searches for a North West passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1819-1825. The barrel organ contained five barrels, each having eight tunes, the majority of which were contemporary dance tunes, including Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe. More detail about this is in Part One: the Ballerina and the Baronet and also A Barrel Organ in the Arctic.

Having seen the illustration above of three midshipmen stepping – dating from Parry’s third Arctic voyage in 1825 – Simon went back to the Fletts’ notation, and to Chris Metherell, who had been taught the Wallaces’ version of Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe by Joan Flett, and to Lesley Gowers, who had learned it from Jennifer Millest, again taught by Joan Flett. Simon reinterpreted it in a more robust style, as might have befitted a midshipman of the nineteenth century. For his version of Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe Simon added arm positions from the Staub illustration and other contemporaneous images of sailors dancing.

Simon comments on this illustration that Edward Bird (on the left) could be dancing Step 5 of the sequence, and Francis Crozier (on the right) Step 3 or 6. In this illustration by the otherwise unknown C. Staub, they have a live musician, Charles Richards, rather than the barrel organ to dance to. The midshipmen look so carefree in this illustration – however, although Bird went on to have a distinguished Naval career, Crozier was to perish on the ill-fated Franklin expedition to find the North West Passage.

Here is a video of Simon Harmer dancing Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe to the playing of Will Allen.  

In the autumn of 2020 Simon took this one step further, when the research into Esther Gayton and the hornpipe named after her was the heritage focus for the Step Your Way dance project in Portsmouth. The young dancers were introduced to the idea that dance styles evolve from many different influences. Information based on our researches was provided to back up what the dancers were experiencing physically: a journey from the hornpipe, through creolisation with black dance, to current urban styles. You can see the Step Your Way output video here.


For a full list of all the instances I have found of Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe – tune and dance, publication, collection and mentions, you can read this PDF file: Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe (history) Please remember, if you’d like to use this information, acknowledge this as your source!

Part One of this article is Esther Gayton: the Ballerina and the Baronet

See also A Barrel Organ in the Arctic and Will the real Paddy O’Rafferty please stand up!


A huge number of people have helped discuss various aspects of this research, my thanks to them all, especially, for this second article: Heather Clarke and Paul Cooper for information and discussions about the historical aspects of the dance and tune; Adrian Turner for giving me Aunt Kate’s Dance Music book (with no idea it would come in useful in this way); Chris Partington, Nick Barber, Paul Burgess, Rob Say, Derek Schofield, Will Allen, Anne Daye and last but absolutely not least, another huge thank you to dancer and researcher SIMON HARMER for the inspiration on these stories and specifically for his contributions to the section on the stepdance routine.


Further Information

Many of the tunes from Parry’s barrel organ were recorded following restoration in 1972, and that album – Parry’s Barrel Organ – is still available on the Saydisc label.

Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe is the second of two tunes on track 5 on the album: neither of which were identified at the time the recording. The first tune is the 48 bar jig Paddy Carey and both were originally on barrel no. 5.

At the time of writing it is also available to listen to on YouTube here.

A brief history of the tune may be found on the Traditional Tune Archive website.

The social dance Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe is shown in a moving diagrammatic form on Paul Cooper’s Regency Dances website here and also Miss Gayton’s Fancy here.

Digital images of these tunes and their associated social dances in their original settings may be found here: Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe  and Miss Gayton’s Fancy

Thomas Lowe’s 1829 ball programme is transcribed in The Thistle (December 1972) and more about Thomas Lowe and his brothers can be found in research paper No. 24 The Lowe Brothers – Teachers of Dancing in Scotland on the Regency Dances website, by Paul Cooper. 

Heather Clarke, who supplied the information about Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe being taught in Australia, has a superb website about dancing in early colonial Australia.

The Fletts’ handwritten notes may be found on the Instep Research Team‘s website, which holds a treasure trove of such original material. Here is a direct link to the relevant Flett notes. Tom Flett’s notes and notation from Elizabeth Wallace are on pp 13-35, with the steps for Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe on pp 16-20. The dance notation may also be found in the Fletts’ 1996 book Traditional Stepdancing in Scotland, pp 151-156.


Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

I have unearthed far more material on Esther Gayton’s performances and personal life, the tune, and the dance, than can be written up here. Please do get in contact if this is a special area of interest or study to you, I would be happy to tell you more.

 

Esther Gayton part 1: the Ballerina and the Baronet

Introduction

Esther Gayton is my original inspiration for the Unsung Histories website.

I still find it hard to believe that this woman’s story is not already “out there” somewhere, as in her time, she was actually quite well-known, albeit for a brief period. Even on family history websites, Esther Gayton’s descendants seem not to know of her years as a teenage dancing star. I am not aware of anyone else researching her life and performances so here we go with her story in full.

It was a tune, Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe which first set me off on her trail. A random post on Facebook had got me looking again at a set of tunes on an album first issued in the 1970s. However, these were not live recordings of an actual musician, but recordings from a barrel-organ which had been made in the very early nineteenth century and restored to playing condition in 1972, resulting in an LP on the Saydisc label. What was quite extraordinary was that this barrel organ had been on board a ship which sailed to the Arctic under the leadership of William Edward Parry, searching for a north west passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. (See A Barrel Organ in the Arctic for the full story.) The music on the barrels comprised mainly social dance tunes popular in the period, but the album compilers had not been able to identify them all at the time, and so I asked on FB for help from musical friends who might recognise these tunes, many of which are still played in the folk music repertoire. One of the previously unnamed tunes turned out to be Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe, and as I was also aware of a stepdance routine by the same name, I did wonder who Miss Gayton was, and whether the crew on Parry’s ships had danced this same dance, or whether it was a social dance, as most of the other tunes on the barrel-organ were of this type.

As in so many of these explorations, there remain unanswered questions, but I was able to find out a huge amount about Miss Esther Gayton herself, who turned out to be not only – as I had suspected – a society lady – but actually a famous dancer on the stage for a brief period. She may have been much better known today if she hadn’t left the stage to marry a besotted clergyman twenty years her senior when she was only seventeen!

This page is Part One, which explores who she was, her personal life and stage performances from 1803-1809.

Esther Gayton part 2: ‘Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe’ looks at the tune and social dance together, and explores the links with the stepdance routine.

I normally put the thanks at the end of the article, but there is one person who has been absolutely central to this research, and that is dancer Simon Harmer, who has been equally as intrigued by this story as I, and who explored and reinterpreted the stepdance routine as a special project in 2020 (see part 2)


Esther Gayton: her life

Esther was the eldest daughter of George and Martha Gayton. She was baptised in St Andrew’s, Holborn, London on 30th May 1791, and if we are to presume that her parents arranged the ceremony within a few weeks of her birth, as they did with their other children, we can surmise that she was born in early spring that year. By 1795 the family was in Islington, where all of Esther’s younger siblings were baptised, in St James. Islington at that time was quite a rural settlement on the fringes of London. We know from a newspaper report on Esther’s marriage in March 1809 that George was a hairdresser, a job which involved maintaining wigs and the high bouffant hairstyles of the period. Ordinary people did not use a hairdresser as a matter of course.

She seems to be the only member of her family to have taken to the stage, and appeared at Sadler’s Wells for the first time aged twelve or thirteen. In that period, children of much younger ages were often featured doing specialist dances, which may be why the newspaper announcement of her first appearance put her age as nine (see next section on her stage appearances).

Nothing is known about what her life was like as a young girl performing several times a week in the most prestigious London theatres, but dancing and acting were careers fraught with the potential for stepping outside the moral boundaries of the time. Esther’s behaviour seems to have been impeccable, and her one known suitor, William Murray, who became her husband, was clearly besotted with her, as comments in the press make clear. This man was over twenty years her senior, a clergyman with a living in Yorkshire, but who spent most of his time in London. William was the third son of a Scottish Baronet, and at the time of their marriage, was reputed to have an income of £2000 per year, so he clearly represented a stable future for Esther, who was in a notoriously fickle career herself. She was a minor at the time of her wedding in March 1809, but her father was a witness at the ceremony, so she had the support of her family, which is more than can be said for her groom. The marriage was described as “a mighty foolish business” by William’s brother, Sir James Pulteney Murray writing to Sir Charles Hastings on 30th May 1809, “but being, as you say, done, it is useless to think more about it.”

In 1812, William set up Esther’s father George (the hairdresser) in a completely different business: managing and driving a stagecoach. This was an area in which George clearly lacked practical expertise, although experienced at trying to give customer satisfaction.  After leaving the carriage unattended in order to assist a lady passenger, the horses bolted, causing an injury to one of the passengers and he was charged with negligence. The Kentish Weekly Journal commented: “This was an action brought by a Bricklayer, against the father of Miss Gayton, late of the Opera Ballet, and now the wife of the Rev. Mr. Murray, who when he took the daughter off the stage placed the father upon it, establishing him in business as the proprietor driver of an Edmonton stage coach, running four horses …”

In 1813, William and Esther’s first child was born, James Pulteney Murray, baptised in Daventry in Northamptonshire. There followed five more sons and three daughters, all baptised in London. Tracing where the family lived has been very difficult, but one tragic incident which took place on New Year’s Eve 1821 reveals that they were living at quite a superior address: 22 Charles Street, off Berkeley Square, a house later lived in by the Duke of Clarence. The horrific incident must have scarred the survivors for life, as their son James, aged eight, managed to accidentally shoot dead Esther’s 16 year-old sister Mary with a pistol belonging to William. It is not hard to imagine the recriminations that probably took place between husband and wife over this tragedy.

Their youngest child, Esther Jane, was born in 1825, when Esther herself was 35. In those days it was normal for women of all classes to carry on bearing children until the menopause, unless a medical condition or marital problem intervened. The possibility of a breakdown in Esther’s marriage is supported by other (albeit sparse) evidence. I would expect to be able to trace Esther through the censuses from 1841 onwards, but she has proved extraordinarily elusive and in 1841, William and most of the children are found in Cadogan Place in Kensington, but there is no trace anywhere of Esther. William died in 1842 and his will, drawn up on 23rd July 1827, contains not a single mention of Esther. Coincidentally (or not) on the same day, Esther’s name appeared in a paragraph in the Stamford Mercury exonerating the behaviour of another actress and including her amongst those actresses living a respectable life.

After the death of his older brother John in 1827, William became the 9th Baronet of Clermont/Dunerne (the title seems to vary in different sources).

In 1851 I believe we may have now identified an Esther Murray – aged 60, visitor in a boarding house in Marylebone, but described as born in Scotland – as “our” Esther. The woman on the line above her is also the widow of a clergyman and the whole establishment is clearly very well-to-do. I have drawn a complete blank on the 1861 census, but have definitely found her in 1871, living on Elgin Crescent in Notting Hill, at the same address where she died on 6th February 1875. The circumstances are again a bit strange, in 1871 she was a “visitor” with Jane Nicoll, the daughter of a clergyman, who from at least 1861 took in boarders. Jane passed away a year before Esther, but the doctor who signed Esther’s death certificate was her brother. It looks as if she was relying on the charity of other clergy families rather than her own children. Quite what income she had if William had cut her out of his will is not known; presumably her children, who inherited William’s title, money and estates, must have provided for her financially.

So a life that started in relative obscurity – albeit fairly comfortable and respectable – seems to have finished in the same way, but what happened inbetween was certainly not obscure, featuring in a number of newspapers and periodicals.


Esther Gayton: her dancing career

During Esther’s brief career on the stage, the London theatres were still severely restricted by the Licensing Act of 1737, so that only the two Theatre Royals (in Drury Lane and Covent Garden) could produce actual plays with spoken dialogue, and the other non-patented theatres had to work round these constraints by putting on a mixture of dance, mime, song and novelty acts to attract their audiences. Programmes would change every few days, and new items were often changed and reworked to tight schedules. Esther’s first public performance was in 1803, at Sadler’s Wells, in Islington, where she lived.

The Sadler’s Wells website says: “By 1801 [ … ] Sadler’s Wells had become more famous for incidents, both devised (spectacular sea battles) and accidental (a terrible stampede in which 18 people died) than for work of merit.” The 1810 picture on the left shows a real waterfall on stage.

It was taken over by Charles Dibdin junior late in 1802, and early in his tenure, Esther was a named performer (“her first performance in public”), performing a “Hornpipe, with a Skipping Rope” in an advertisement from 9th April 1803. She was described as a “pupil of Mr Jackson, late of Covent Garden Theatre, only 9 years of age”, although in fact she was twelve. The advertisement is for the opening of the new season, under new proprietorship and totally refurbished, and as such, spares no detail in trying to attract the London gentry to make the journey to Sadler’s Wells: “the private boxes in the lower part of the theatre have been totally altered from last season, and are now perfectly calculated to accommodate the nobility, gentry, and families in the most eligible manner; and for the convenience of the public, the proprietors have put on additional patrols in the field leading from the Wells to town, also a quantity of additional lamps in the said field, and in the avenues to the theatre.”

In June 1803 Esther had further roles at Sadler’s Wells, in dance pieces including Hey for the Highlands; or Jemmy’s Return and Ko and Zoa, the latter a composition by Charles Dibdin junior.

In October 1804 she performed in a benefit night at the Opera House, which included “the favourite Skipping Rope Hornpipe”, and the newspaper announcement for this event stated that she was now a pupil to Mr Gouriet. Dennis Francois Victor Gouriet was another high profile ballet master, born in Paris, who composed dances for Sadler’s Wells and also danced at the King’s Theatre under James Harvey D’Egville, who was Esther’s next mentor, from at least 1806.

D’Egville was the ballet master at Drury Lane and had started his choreography career at the King’s Theatre in 1793. Esther was evidently one of his star pupils, being picked out for special mention on several occasions, such as a benefit night for D’Egville at Drury Lane on 14th May 1806:

“The Public are most respectfully informed, the Ballets performed on this Evening are by Permission of the Proprietors of the King’s Theatre, and positively for this night only. For the BENEFIT of MR D’EGVILLE. This Evening their Majesties Servants will act the WEST INDIAN. At the end of Act 1 (by particular desire of several Persons of Distinction, the much admired ballet of PAUL and VIRGINIA. Arranged by Mr D’Egville for his pupils, and performed with universal applause at the King’s Theatre by Miss Gayton and the rest of Mr D’Egville’s Young Pupils. At the end of the play, the favourite Grand Ballet of CRAZY JANE. The part of Crazy Jane by Mad[ame]. Laborie. In the course of the ballet, the Minuet de la Cours and the Gavotte, by Mr D’Egville and Miss Gayton; and several new Dances by his Pupils. To which will be added. YOUTH, LOVE and FOLLY.”

D’Egville (1770-1836) is sometimes credited with being the most influential ballet master after John Weaver (1673-1760). During the Napoleonic wars the need was felt to train more English dancers, and he founded an academy of dance to do just that, although interest in developing English talent waned after 1815. The critic Henry Robertson was evidently not persuaded of this approach and wrote the following about D’Egville’s 1808 production of Le Mariage Secret; ou, les Habitants du Chene:

“In this ballet as well as every other production of Mr. D’Egville, the audience are annoyed with the perpetual introduction of his pupils, who are continually flitting before the eyes, and labouring by roughed faces, ghastly grins, and languishing attitudes, to compel admiration, while they only excite disgust or pity.”

Whatever the critics thought, the newspapers were unmitigated in their praise for Esther Gayton and D’Egville’s other pupils over the next couple of years. Esther was indeed fortunate –and clearly talented enough – to be taken on by such an influential teacher, and her first leading part came in February 1807, as the eponymous Emily; or Juvenile Indiscretion, in a dance composed by D’Egville. Newspaper reports from the time give a good flavour of how dance pieces fitted into the overall programme, and how they could be changed at short notice if they didn’t meet with the audience’s approval.

In 1808, Esther hit the big time. James D’Egville was appointed acting manager of the entire company as well as principal dancer and ballet master, and newspapers across the country announced his engagement at the Opera (i.e. Theatre Royal). Details of the main performers’ salaries are given: Esther’s is quoted as £150 per year, which is amongst the lower amounts, and certainly nothing like the thousands of pounds demanded by the star singers such as Angelica Catalani or even the £800 paid to D’Egville. Her appointment came with the retirement of Rose Parisot (pictured below, right) and although Esther wasn’t initially seen as the star of the new cohort, she actually attracted much of the attention, and performed Parisot’s famous shawl routine to critical acclaim: “Miss Gayton, pupil to the new Manager, succeeded Madame Parisot, and in the ShawI Dance in particular displayed so much elegance and grace, as to render her every way worthy of the situation she has been thus brought to fill. She is a native of England, and affords a gratifying proof that the talents we have hitherto sought in France, may be supplied at home. It indeed evidently requires only a discerning Master, capable (as Mr. D’Egville has proved himself) of making a judicious choice of the objects of his instructions, to render the Ballet Department wholly independent of foreign aid.”

The journalist for the Morning Post, where the above comment appeared on 4th January 1808, was clearly a big fan of Esther, as just a couple of weeks later he also wrote: “The ballet of La Belle Laitière succeeded, and we saw with increased pleasure the elegant performance of D’EGVILLE’s little pupil, Miss GAYTON, whose dancing is perhaps more graceful than that of any English actress that has appeared on the Italian stage.”

The Morning Chronicle in March noted once again the skills of her hornpipe dancing: “King’s Theatre – a new Pastoral Ballet was brought out on Saturday night, by Mr D’EGVILLE which has some pretty music, and in which the light and elegant Miss GAYTON danced a hornpipe with great éclat.”

By the summer, she was quite a fixture on the stage, and on 28th September had the honour of performing for many members of the royal family (including Queen Charlotte) at the Countess of Cardigan’s house, in fashionable and aristocratic Richmond Hill, overlooking the Thames: “MISS GAYTON from the Opera, exhibited her elegance and naiveté with the happiest effect. After her sprightly hornpipe, she was particularly called on for her shawl dance, which she performed to general admiration…”.

Later in the year she performed in two pieces for which she became widely known: Caractacus, in which she had the role of Isla and “the grand Romance Bluebeard; or Female Curiosity” which was revived at Drury Lane with a new dance composed by D’Egville.

It is the latter performance which is said to have inspired this couplet by Lord Byron, in a long poem called English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, written in 1808:

“While Gayton bounds before th’ enraptured looks
Of hoary marquises and stripling dukes;”

Below is Henry Bishop’s original score for Miss Gayton’s Pas Seul in Caractacus, and an arrangement retailed for amateur pianists.

1809 began on a very positive note, as the Sun noted on 7th January that “DESHAYES, MOREAU and MISS GAYTON retain their situations, so the Corps de Ballet will be very effective this season.” and Esther took on a leading role in Les Amours de Clauque. However, on 24th February Drury Lane burned down and the theatre world was thrown into disarray, as a dispute between the owners and performers ensued.

A shock of another sort was to come in March of course, and as a minor stage celebrity, Esther’s forthcoming nuptials attracted some press comment:

“Young Miss Gayton quits the stage next week, and is to be married to a well-beneficed clergyman who has been her constant admirer at the opera.” (Morning Chronicle, 9.3.1809)

 “The fascinating GAYTON danced for the last time. She is to be led to the hymenial altar by the REV MR. MURRAY.” (Morning Chronicle, 13.3.1809)

The Monthly Mirror carried a portrait of Miss Gayton and some “memoirs” of her and James D’Egville in its March edition:

“She is now about sixteen years of age [she was 18] and on the eve of being married to the REV Mr. MURRAY, aged forty-four [he was 40], when she will cease to “caper nimbly,” much to the sorrow of Mr D’Egville, whose pupil she is, and who will feel on the occasion just as Dr. Pangloss feels when he finds that the honourable Mr. Dowlass is about to celebrate his nuptials, and to discard his expensive ‘bear leader’ for ever.”

The writer refers here to two characters in George Colman’s 1800 drama The Heir-at-Law; the phrase “bear leader” initially meant exactly that – a man leading a performing bear – but was also used colloquially for a man who accompanied wealthy young men on their travels.

The gossip writers clearly picked up some issue over the wedding, which was delayed for a week, as even eighteen months later, in December 1810, the Morning Post felt the need to declare that the marriage had actually taken place.

So Esther’s stage career ended just as her star was in the ascendant. Some women dancers did continue their careers after marriage, but the expected pattern of frequent childbearing in those days did not, of course, work in their favour, so many did retire on marrying.

She was clearly seen as a dancer of great promise, and was particularly favoured as being an English dancer at a time when many of the stars were from mainland Europe.


For a fuller biography of Esther Gayton’s life, you can read this PDF: Miss Gayton’s Biography  or to read more about her stage performances: Miss Gayton’s stage performances. If you’d like to use this information in any way, please remember to acknowledge this website as your source.

The second part of this article is Esther Gayton part 2: ‘Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe’ .

See also A Barrel Organ in the Arctic and Will the Real Paddy O’Rafferty please stand up!


A huge number of people have helped discuss various aspects of this research, my thanks to them all, especially for this first article: Dick “Dr Watson” Mathews for his genealogical insights and investigations and Keith Cavers for reading the section on the stage and ballet history.


Further Information

For information about the theatre and ballet in late Georgian times, and the London stage, there are some good sources online as well as the more specialist books I have consulted.

The British Library has good introductory pages on the London stage in the 18th century and the 19th century and the Sadler’s Wells website is also excellent, and the source of the 1810 image.

Sources referred to in the article:

The quote from James Murray about his brother William’s marriage to Esther Gayton is from Letters from America, 1773 to 1780 : being the letters of a Scots officer, Sir James Murray, to his home during the War of American Independence, edited by Eric Robson, 1950.

The quote about D’Egville’s pupils is from Ballet in Early Nineteenth-Century London as Seen by Leigh Hunt and Henry Robertson, by Theodore Fenner (Dance Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 2, 1977 – 1978)

The review of Tekeli or The Siege of Montgatz is from La Belle Assemblée 1806-1807, which can be found on Google Books.

Henry Bishop’s original score for Caractacus – including whole pages crossed through as the piece was deemed too long after its initial showing finished at 1am! – may be perused online in the Library of Congress’s digital archive.  The piano arrangement for Miss Gayton’s Pas Seul is also on Google Books

Newspaper reports:

  • Miss Gayton’s first appearance in public at Sadler’s Wells – The Sun, 9th April 1803
  • Mr D’Egville’s benefit night at Drury Lane – Morning Post, 14th May 1806
  • Advertisement for Miss Gayton’s Dance in Tekeli – Morning Chronicle, 11th August 1807
  • Esther dancing the Parisot shawl routine – Morning Chronicle, 4th January 1808
  • Esther dancing for the Royal family – Morning Post, 30th September 1808
  • Esther Gayton’s father’s episode as a stagecoach driver – Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 7th July 1812.

I was particularly interested in the reference to Esther dancing for the Royal family at the Countess of Cardigan’s house in Richmond. I grew up near there and a regular Sunday afternoon outing was with my grandparents to the Terrace Gardens, along the banks of the Thames. Little did I know that the thatched summerhouse and spooky, cold, ice-house that I loved to clamber around as a five year-old had stood in the grounds of that house where Esther enchanted the Royal Family with her trademark hornpipe dance! Information on Cardigan House and the Terrace Gardens gleaned from the Historic England listing.


Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

I have unearthed far more material on Esther Gayton’s performances and personal life, the tune, and the dance, than can be written up here. Please do get in contact if this is a special area of interest or study to you, I would be happy to tell you more.

Will the real Paddy O’Rafferty please stand up!

This is one story of several inspired by the music on a barrel-organ which Admiral Sir William Edward Parry took to the Arctic journeys between 1819 and 1825. I have been looking at this material for a couple of years now, and this article is the first one out of the treasure chest! Please see the foot of this page for credits for this original research.

About two thirds of the 40 items on Parry’s barrel-organ are dance tunes, with some hymns and patriotic songs. Dancing was an incredibly popular pastime in that period for people of all classes, mostly done with a partner in a longways formation, and tunes for the dances proliferated with the expansion of printing, being the equivalent of buying recorded music in the twentieth century.

The tunes on the barrel-organ are absolutely typical of the period, including English and Scottish reels, with just two jigs, both with distinctly Irish sounding names:  Paddy Carey, which is a staple of the English session repertoire these days, and Paddy O’Rafferty, a well-known tune in the Irish repertoire, which I decided to investigate in some depth. Rather than go in strictly chronological sequence, I’m going to look at some of the various incarnations of the entity that is Paddy O’Rafferty, starting with the dance tune (and a passing mention of the dance itself). If you’re interested in the chronology of its early history, there’s one at the end of this article.

So here begins the interesting and complex back story for the multi-faceted Paddy O’Rafferty.


Dance tune (and dance)

In 1795 a tune by this name was collected from the playing of a Mr. J.McCalley of Balleymoney, Co. Antrim by Edward Bunting. A year later, a jig Paddeen O Rafardie was published in Glasgow by James Aird: that’s the one at the top here. In the middle you can also see very brief dance instructions – the dances were all in the same longways configuration and the figures were very formulaic.

From 1801 the tune was enormously popular as a dance tune at balls for the “nobility and gentry” when it often featured as the first or second dance of the evening.

The lack of copyright legislation (more of that later) allowed for frequent republishing of the tune and it turns up in dance and tune publications very regularly – as can be seen here – in many different settings; from two parts up to five parts, usually with something in common with other versions!

This image comes from the brilliant Regency Dances website – see below for the link.


The folk song

So far, so relatively simple, despite the large number of variations on the tune.

There is also a song by this name, so next I began to investigate the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and the Irish Traditional Music Archive, the Bodleian Library and other places where we are used to searching for “folk” songs.

These archives revealed a number of publications – broadsides dating from at least 1820 and songsters from later in that decade – printed in both England and Ireland. There were also some unrelated songs – “to the air of Paddy O’Rafferty” – showing how ubiquitous the tune became. The English and Irish broadside texts fall into two broad groups.

The first concerns Paddy O’Rafferty’s courtship and marriage – as seen in the example on the left, printed in Liverpool

The second group of songs is about how the marriage disintegrates – and ends with Paddy knocking his wife into a bog, burying her and dancing on her grave – as seen on the examples centre and right – the one on the right winning the prize for the most inappropriate woodcut illustration! She certainly could have done with a knight on a white charger, and it certainly wasn’t Paddy O’Rafferty!

Given the lyrics, I’m personally quite glad that these songs don’t seem to have survived much beyond the end of the nineteenth century – singer Elizabeth Cronin from Co. Cork is said to have known a song by the title of Paddy O’Rafferty, but in the book “The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin” Dáibhi Ó Cróinín took a set of words from an un-named ballad sheet (possibly from the Joyce collection), which is the Death of Mrs O’Rafferty song, which gives her name (as do the others here) as Biddy O’Dougherty  – conveniently rhyming with “property” …!


The stage song

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, we find Paddy O’Rafferty marrying another woman! – Kitty O’Donovan – and a completely different set of words, in a cantefable setting. This song – Tid Re I – was printed both as a broadside, and as sheet music with a tune, and it’s not clear which came first.

Certainly this song and skit was a big success for the English singer and actor William Twaits, who was engaged for the 1803 winter theatre season in Philadelphia, where this sheet music (above) was published soon afterwards.

So where did these words come from? And is this tune the same as the dance tune? No, of course it’s not, that would be far too straightforward!

Well, once you take off your “folk” binoculars (hopefully not blinkers!) this is when it starts to get even more complex, as the wider context for this song begins to be revealed.

Lack of copyright laws and legislation on what could be staged in different types of performance venues meant that songs, dramatic pieces and stage characters were used and re-used, revived and repurposed. That certainly turns out to be the case with this song Tid Re I, as the verses for this song – without the “patter” were actually written several years before, by the English composer and performer Charles Dibdin. He sang his own composition The Irish Wedding in London at the end of 1796, in a musical revue entitled “The General Election”, in which he interpolated the song with some rather more high falutin’ versification and in his original version, the groom was named only Paddy or Pat and the bride was anonymous.


The stage character and Paddy’s Rambles across the western world

So it’s becoming clear that this character Paddy O’Rafferty had a life on the stage and there is plenty of detail in the newspapers and journals of the early nineteenth century, revealing Paddy O’Rafferty’s rambles around the theatres of England, Ireland and America.

In the period before music hall developed, a night at the theatre consisted of at least three or four separate items which could include a couple of dramatic pieces, maybe a farce or a pantomime, and in the middle, an entr’acte entertainment which might be a stand-alone song or dance item. There was often a prologue or afterpiece as well, so it could be a long night! And almost all plays in the Georgian period included songs, which could be chosen at short notice during a season to suit the character.

It’s in this context that the songs about Paddy O’Rafferty and the stage “character” of Paddy O’Rafferty become increasingly intertwined.

The cast list on the right above, from 1798, shows John Henry Johnstone, an Irish actor, playing the part of Paddy O’Rafferty in a new farce called “False and True” which premiered at Covent Garden, then toured the English provinces – and was staged for the first time in Ireland at the Dublin Theatre Royal in April 1799. Although Johnstone sang songs in this production, none are related to “our song”, but the character has now been established.

From then onwards, Paddy O’Rafferty pops up regularly in the English and Irish theatre, sometimes in a comedy, sometimes in an entr’acte entertainment. The character also toured America. Perhaps the person who really made the part of Paddy O’Rafferty his own, was another Irishman who specialised in playing “Stage Irish” parts in both England and Ireland, the enigmatic Mr. Webb, in the centre below – about whom nothing at all is known, despite a recent trawl of a variety of primary sources – although the details of his 1822 season in Dublin are charmingly revealed in “The Daily Visiter or Companion for the Breakfast Table” published in Dublin.

There were a number of plays featuring various stock Irish characters, including Sir Callaghan O’Brallaghan in “Love a La Mode” and Major O’Flaherty in “The West Indian” portrayed here respectively by Johnstone on the left above and Webb in the centre …… hmm!!!

On the right above is another favourite Irish “delineator” Tyrone Power (ancestor of a whole dynasty of American actors with the same name!) who again played all the stock “Stage Irish” parts and took the part of Paddy O’Rafferty many times, notably in his own reworking of the 1798 farce “False and True” into a “new” piece “Born to Good Luck” in 1832.

Many other lesser known actors also played the character of Paddy O’Rafferty during the course of the nineteenth century, in provincial theatres up and down the land.


Summary

So our whistle-stop journey through Paddy O’Rafferty’s kaleidoscopic existence concludes – and here is a brief chronology to round it off.

  • The name of a dance tune – in various permutations – first noted aurally in Co. Antrim, printed in England, Scotland, Ireland and the US, and also reproduced on barrel-organs (1795 onwards)
  • A proto-Paddy O’Rafferty appeared (as “Paddy” or ”Pat”) as the bridegroom in the song The Irish Wedding written by English composer and performer, Charles Dibdin (1796).
  • A “stage Irish” character making appearances in various productions at English, Irish and American theatres (1798 onwards)
  • The name of a country dance, used as an opening dance at society balls in England (1801 onwards)
  • A character in a cante fable piece Tid Re I (Dibdin’s The Irish Wedding) and a related piece, The New Tid Re I or The Birth of Paddy O’Rafferty junior, both published in the US (1804 onwards).
  • A comic dance performed on the stage (1810)
  • A character in yet another song; words by Alexander Boswell, set to music, using the traditional air by Beethoven (1814)
  • A character in two other songs (Paudeen O’Rafferty and The Death of Mrs O’Rafferty) published on broadsides, in chapbooks and songsters in England and Ireland (circa 1815 onwards)

    Conclusions

    The recycling of musical themes and titles was incredibly common and means we must have open minds about the relationship between different aspects of popular culture; songs, dances, instrumental tunes, theatrical pieces etc. The link with the stage (and particularly the relationship between London and the Dublin) provides a fertile area for song and tune research.


    This talk was originally part of a presentation for the Traditional Song Forum Zoom on 14th June 2020. Although later talks were recorded on YouTube, this was one of the early online meetings before such sophistication!

    For further information about Parry’s journeys, the barrel-organ and it’s other tunes, see A Barrel-Organ in the Arctic. See also Esther Gayton part 2: ‘Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe’ . Further explorations of the music on Parry’s barrel-organ are in preparation.

    Many of the tunes from Parry’s barrel-organ were recorded following restoration in 1972, and that album is still available on the Saydisc label – “Parry’s Barrel Organ”. It is included on track 2 on the album and was originally on barrel no. 4.

    At the time of writing the album is also available to listen to on YouTube via this link. If you want to go direct to the Paddy O’Rafferty tune, it is the third tune out of four on this composite track.


    Paul Cooper has done some superb research into Georgian dancing culture and been very helpful in my work on Parry’s barrel-organ. The “research papers” section of his website Regencydances.org  is particularly informative.

    The English broadside images are from the Bodleian Library’s wonderful Ballads Online resource.

    The Tid Re-I song texts are from The American Antiquarian Society’s digital archive.

    The portraits of the actors Henry Johnstone and Mr Webb are in the Harvard Theatre Collection and the National Portrait Gallery respectively. These two portraits, supposedly of different people, are nearly identical – although it was very common for engravings to be copied and re-used. John Henry (“Jack”) Johnstone’s stage parts were extremely similar to Webb’s. His portrait is extremely similar to Webb’s in. No personal details are known about Webb at all, except some addresses given for his benefit nights, although he appears in theatrical cast lists regularly from 1801 to 1822. You might expect to read some remarks about Webb following in Johnstone’s footsteps, but I haven’t seen anything. So you might even wonder if they were actually the same person, except a Mr. Webb (though possibly not the same one) and Johnstone appeared on the same stage at Drury Lane in 1805. Further information about Mr Webb in Dublin may be found in “The Daily Visiter or Companion for the Breakfast Table” (1823), digitised on Google Books.

    The portrait of Tyrone Power came from the wonderful 1838 publication “Actors by Gaslight”, which together with its sibling “Actors by Daylight” is also digitised on Google Books. (Actors by Gaslight follows Actors by Daylight: Tyrone Power is featured in Volume 1, April 21st 1838, which follows Actors by Daylight December 22nd p. 348.)

    The newspaper advert for the “New Comic Ballet” of Paddy O’Rafferty is from Saunders’s News-Letter, 16 March 1810 and advertises a performance at the Theatre Royal in Dublin.

    The cast list for the premiere of “False and True” at Covent Garden on 11th August 1798 is taken from the original script by George Moultrie, which is again digitised on Google Books: “False and True”.


    Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

    I have dug out far, far more material on the song, the tune and the stage performances and performers than can be written up here. Please do get in contact if this is a special area of interest or study to you, I would be happy to tell you more.

A Barrel Organ in the Arctic

No you didn’t misread the title, it really is “in the Arctic”, not the attic!

Introduction

In 1819, Lieutenant William Edward Parry was in charge of an expedition which made a (literal) breakthrough in the search for a North-West passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Parry was bold enough to carry on past the point at which his predecessor, John Ross, had turned back, and after 10 months in which his two ships, Hecla and Griper, were stranded by frozen ice, they found a route out. How they passed the time in those long dark days has fascinated me, in particular the idea that he took a mechanical musical instrument, a chamber barrel organ, on board with him.

On returning from this first trip Parry was promoted to Commander and subsequently made two further voyages to the Arctic in 1821-23 and 1824-25, and also made an attempt on the North Pole in 1827 which remained the record for the next 49 years. He was knighted in 1829 and eventually attained the rank of Rear-Admiral in the Royal Navy. To find out more about his explorations and achievements, Wikipedia will give you the bare facts, any number of books can fill it out for you, and his journals are also online.

I shall concentrate on the musical aspects of these journeys.

Please note: Although this is a long post, it is just the tip of the iceberg of a massive amount of original research. Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.


Why take a mechanical musical instrument to the Arctic?

From various entries in Parry’s journals, it is clear that the barrel organ earned its place on the ship from the first voyage onwards …

In December 1819, when the Hecla and Griper were icebound in a natural harbour just off the coast of Melville Island, Parry wrote that, when the weather permitted, he sent the crew out to walk on the shore in the mornings and: “When the day was too inclement for them to take this exercise, they were ordered to run round and round the deck, keeping step to the tune of an organ, or, not unfrequently, to a song of their own singing,”

On the second voyage, in 1821, Parry noted: that the crews of the two ships came together for a religious service, when “ some psalm tunes, which had been purposely set upon an organ, were played at the proper intervals …”

Although the ships were icebound, the men were not entirely isolated, as they met some of the Inuit people (“Esquimaux” in the terminology of the time) living nearby, and it appears that the local women in particular were fond of singing, music and dancing, as several journal entries indicate.

In January 1822: “On our reaching the ships, these people expressed much less surprise and curiosity than might naturally have been expected on their first visit, which may, perhaps, in some measure, be attributed to their being in reality a less noisy kind of people than most of the Esquimaux to whom we had before been accustomed. Quiet and orderly, however, as they were disposed to be, this first visit showed them to be as fond of merriment as their countrymen are usually considered ; for, on Captain Lyon’s ordering his fiddler up on the Hecla’s deck, they danced with the men for an hour, and then returned in high glee and good-humour to their huts.”

“On the 4th a number of Esquimaux came to the ships, and […]  were then taken on board, and derived great amusement from our organ, and from anything in …the shape of music, singing, or dancing, of all which they are remarkably fond.

“On the 7th I paid another visit to the huts, where I found scarcely anybody but women and children, the whole of the men, with the exception of the two oldest, having gone on a sealing excursion to the northeastern side of the island. One of the women, named Iligliuk, a sister of the lad Toolooak, who favoured us with a song, struck us as having a remarkably soft voice, an excellent ear, and  a great fondness for singing, for there was scarcely any stopping her when she had once begun.”

“On the 8th we were visited by a musical party of females, consisting only of a few individuals expressly invited for this purpose. A number of the officers assembled in the cabin to hear this vocal concert, while Mr. Henderson and myself took down the notes of their songs, for which, indeed, they gave us every opportunity, for I thought they would never leave off. We afterward amused them with our little band of flutes and violins, and also by some songs, with the whole of which they were extremely well pleased.”

“On the morning of the 12th […] It was enough, however, with Iligliuk, just to make the motion of turning the handle of the organ, which, conveying to her mind the idea of music and merriment, was always sure to put her immediately into high spirits.”

“John Longman’s New Invented Patent Barrel Organ with bells, drum and triangle”, which produced such merriment, is now housed in the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.


Other onboard entertainment

The explorers weren’t totally reliant on mechanical music, as several of the officers on the various voyages were known to be musical, including Parry himself, whose violin is on display in the Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Parry noted in December 1819: “the men were permitted to amuse themselves as they pleased, and games of various kinds, as well as dancing and singing occasionally, went on upon the lower deck till nine o’clock, when they went to bed […] It is scarcely necessary to add, that the evening occupations of the officers were of a more rational kind than those which engaged the attention of the men. Of these, reading and writing were the principal employments, to which were occasionally added a game of chess, or a tune on the flute or violin, till half past ten, about which time we all retired to rest.”

Parry also describes the publication of a weekly satirical magazine and a series of theatrical entertainments which: “… took place regularly once a fortnight, and continued to prove a source of infinite amusement to the men. Our stock of plays was so scanty, consisting of one or two odd volumes, which happened accidentally to be on board, that it was with difficulty we could find the means of varying the performances sufficiently ; our authors, therefore, set to work, and produced, as a Christmas piece, a musical entertainment, expressly adapted to our audience, and having such a reference to the service on which we were engaged, and the success we had so far experienced, as at once to afford a high degree of present recreation, and to stimulate, if possible, the sanguine hopes which were entertained by all on board, of the complete accomplishment of our enterprise.”

The Scott Polar Research Institute has in its catalogue: “The New Georgia Gazette & Winter Chronicle” – Playbill (1): “Theatre Royal, New Georgia. On Friday next the 5th November 1819 will be performed Garrick’s celebrated farce of “Miss in her Teens”. Cast list (all male). Playbill (2): (no heading) “The North West Passage, or Voyage Finished” (cast list all male).”

The cast list for The Rivals shown here is from the second voyage, and indicates that men took the women’s parts. Costumes were taken on board specifically for use in theatrical productions and replenished by a donation from the ladies of Bath, Parry’s home town, at one point. After the first voyage, the newspaper idea was dropped, but they then had a Magic Lantern on board for visual as well as musical entertainment – it’s amazing what they found room for on those ships!

 

By the third voyage Parry and his colleagues felt the need to vary the entertainments slightly, and a series of masquerade balls were held. The drawing above, by the otherwise unknown C. Staub, is dated 2nd February 1825 and shows Charles Richards playing the flute while Edward Bird (left) and Francis Crozier (right) dance. In this illustration they do not appear to be doing a conventional social dance, and are more likely to be doing some sort of step dance – yes, possibly the Sailor’s Hornpipe, but all sorts of individual stepdances existed at the time. The article Esther Gayton part 2: ‘Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe’ gives more details of this type of dance.

According to Regina Koellner’s article Edward Parry and the Birth of the Arctic Thespians, the idea was for “officers and men being able to participate on equal terms, where everything could be worn from a simple domino (which was the minimum costume to be admitted) to an elaborate fancy dress and everybody could decide freely how much he wanted to participate.” In 1821, in his record of the second voyage, Captain George Lyon noted: “Those ‘ladies’ who had cherished the growth of their beards and whiskers, as a defence against the inclemency of the climate, now generously agreed to do away with such unfeminine ornaments, and everything bode fair for a most stylish theatre.”

Some men would also have taken the ladies’ positions in the social dances of the day that went with the jigs, reels and strathspeys on the barrel organ, except when the Inuit women came on board and danced with them.


John Longman’s New Invented Patent Barrel Organ with bells, drum and triangle

The barrel organ that Parry bought was made by the well-respected firm of John Longman between 1801 and 1816. The various generations of Longmans entered into several business relationships (Broderip, Clementi etc) and was based in the centre of the music publishing business at the time, Cheapside in London. They published sheet music as well as making and selling instruments. The Horniman Museum and the Bate Collection have a number of clarinets, flutes and oboes made by the firm, and several of their barrel organs and pianos are still in existence, some in private hands and some in museums.

Developing new and improved systems of producing mechanical music was big business in this period, with several companies arguing over who had invented what. This type of chamber barrel organ was made for private entertainments, and newspaper advertisements of the time make it clear that it was the equivalent of the gramophone or the Dansette in the twentieth century – it provided dance music without the need for live music.

Newspaper adverts also indicate that Longman’s considered both their pianos and barrel organs to be able to withstand extreme heat, as mentioned in this 1802 advert:

“Longman and Co.’s new invented Patent Barrel Organs, with Bells, Drums and other Accompaniments (being the only Patent granted for ten years past), constructed on entire new principles, warranted to keep in order, and resist the hottest climates; additional barrels may be made without any pattern, and the very defective and inconvenient method of changing the Tunes by Notch pins entirely exploded.”

They were probably not the only makers looking at the colonial market, as the second advert here shows a barrel organ of unknown for private sale in the Calcutta Gazette of 25th June 1812.

Michael Kassler, in his examination of Longman’s instrument-making business in The Music Trade in Georgian England describes how, as well as taking instruments overseas for their own personal use, captains and other officers would sometimes buy pianos and barrel organs in London to sell off in foreign ports, and Longman’s offered a generous discount to those doing so.

The photographs above are of Parry’s Longman barrel organ (a) in situ in the Scott Polar Research Institute in 2016; (b) in the SPRI in the 1960s, prior to restoration; (c) interior view from the same date showing bells, tambourine (“drum”) and triangle with seven stops below the barrel. Confusingly, the 1960s photo says it has four barrels including one of sacred songs, whereas it is now known to have five.

The SPRI describes the instrument: “A hand-operated barrel organ with five cylindrical music barrels comprising eight tunes on each. The speed of play can be varied by the rate at which the handle is turned. The sound can be altered with the use of seven turned brass-handled stops on the front of the organ case, which allow the user to select which sets of bells and percussion instruments are included in the play cycle. The sound is produced through a series of 11 white metal cloche bells, a triangle and a tambourine. The instruments, barrels, and wooden and brass mechanical operating mechanism are built into a free-standing wooden cabinet with Neo-Classical carved fluting on the rectangular uprights and surrounds of the red textile-lined door cartouches. The double doors can be opened with a lock at the top of the cabinet to reveal the mechanism and to allow for replacement of the barrel. Printed instructions and handwritten song list has been pasted inside one of the doors. A painted roundel depicting the Royal coat of arms is below the stops on the cabinet exterior, and a gilded scroll with patent inscription is at the top of the cabinet frame.”

Parry’s barrel organ lay neglected and inoperative for nearly 150 years until it was donated by Parry’s great-grandson to the Scott Polar Research Institute in 1954 when an initial restoration was carried out by Canon A.O. Wintle and J.D. Budgen, followed in the early 1970s by a full restoration by Clive Holland and Fred Hill, a music teacher and watch and clock repairer who was a distinguished member of the Musical Box Society of Great Britain. The restoration was key to recordings being made and issued on an LP on the Saydisc label in 1972. This album (still available on CD) included all 8 religious items, God Save the King and 24 of the original 31 dance tunes.

Both the Musical Box Society and the Scott Polar Research Institute have been very helpful in providing obscure pieces of information, and quite recently the SPRI sent me the full playlist for this barrel organ, so I have been able to look at the entire repertoire contained on the five barrels. Typically these playlists were written by hand and pasted inside the cabinet of the organ, and the contents seem to have varied from instrument to instrument, whether at the behest of the owner or the maker isn’t known. Longman’s were also prolific music publishers so they may have tied in the barrel organ repertoire with their most popular publications.


The music on this barrel organ

Barrel 2 contains 8 hymns and psalms, and God Save the King is on Barrel 4, but all the other 31 tunes are dance tunes.

Dancing was an incredibly popular pastime in that period for people of all classes, mostly done by couples in a longways formation, and tunes for the dances proliferated with the expansion of printing, being the equivalent of buying recorded music in the twentieth century.

The tunes on the barrel organ are absolutely typical of the period, including English and Scottish reels, with just two jigs, both with distinctly Irish sounding names:  Paddy Carey, which is a staple of the English session repertoire these days, and Paddy O’Rafferty, a well-known tune in the Irish repertoire, which is the subject of Will the real Paddy O’Rafferty please stand up! Most of the tunes would have been “pop songs” of the time – popular dance tunes and a few songs, with one mystery item, which may be the subject of a future article – if I can find out a bit more!

Click here to see the Parry barrel organ complete listing. Some of the tunes were not able to be identified at the time the recording was made. As I have not been able to listen to all of the six unidentified tunes on Barrel 5 (the names are illegible due to the list from Barrel 2 having been pasted over the top) I can’t put them in the correct order. There were only five un-named tunes on the LP/CD, which are all now identified, but there is one more on the original Barrel. One of the tunes unidentified at the tme of the recording – is Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe; see Esther Gayton part 2: ‘Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe’.

On the LP, each tune is played through twice, which lasts for about one minute. The longways dances of the day would take longer than that, and although I’m not experienced in the practicalities of playing tunes on repeat, I understand this is quite possible. This barrel organ has seven stops, which can alter the instrumentation of the piece, and the speed is controlled by how fast the operator turns the handle.

In a great piece of good luck, someone contacted me last year with photos of the “twin” to this barrel organ, which is in North Carolina, and I have included a photo here as it is shows the “furniture” aspect of the instrument more clearly than those I have of Parry’s own barrel organ.

Also shown is the handwritten playlist from no. 40, which is mostly illegible, but out of 40 items on the 5 barrels that were originally with the organ (now all lost) less than half can be identified and one barrel ( 8 items) appears to be all patriotic. The others seem to be all dance tunes with only two being included on the Parry instrument (the ubiquitous Devil Amongst the Tailors and Speed the Plough). There is also, unusually, a song, the well-known folksong Barbara Allen which has quite a slow and sad melody.

The strength of the barrel organ seems to lie in upbeat dance tunes, rousing patriotic anthems and stirring hymns, which are the more typical contents of the other playlists I have studied for comparison.

 


Afterword

There has been some real excitement recently around the idea that these mechanical instruments actually preserve musical performance styles from earlier periods, with contemporary decorations and embellishments which are not always evident from written scores. As Arthur Ord-Hume put it in a long article in The Music Box in 2013, “The programmers […] are those artistic craftsmen who could take a musical score with all its wide-open interpretational imperfections and from it create a genuinely brilliant performance via the process of translating the music into the pins and staples of the barrel or cylinder that formed the musical playlist for these instruments.”

That is a really fascinating concept, and the quality of the musical arrangement pinned on a barrel must be a result of the level of musicianship of the programmer, as well as of his/her craft skills. But Ord-Hume and subsequent researchers into this area such as Emily Baines, seem to be more interested in the classical pieces written by Handel, Haydn etc, expressly for barrel organs, whereas, I (as ever) am more interested in the popular culture represented by the dance tunes – and of course, in the people who made the instruments, bought and sold them, pricked out the music onto the barrels, carried them on board the ships, danced and marched and sang to the tunes on them.

I like to imagine the musicians on board (including Parry) getting these tunes stuck in their heads – what we call an “ear worm” these days – and getting home after a long voyage to find these tunes coming out from their fingers after having heard them so frequently in the long dark icebound days. A bit more fanciful is to imagine the Inuit women who were so attracted by this music taking the melodies back to their homes and handing them on to later generations who took up the accordion and created their own traditions using this European instrument …


See also Will the Real Paddy O’Rafferty please stand up! and Esther Gayton part 2: Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe (forthcoming).


The 1972 Saydisc LP Parry’s Barrel Organ is still available on CD by mail order, and at the time of writing the whole album is also available to listen to on this YouTube link.

Parry’s barrel organ is housed in the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. My thanks to them for their remote support during lockdowns.


Most of Parry’s journals and other contemporaneous material is digitised and may be viewed and downloaded by searching for “Captain William Edward Parry” on the Hathi Trust website.

You can read some marvellous stories about the entertainments on board Parry’s Arctic fleet on Regina Koellner’s 2016 blog about the life and times of Francis Crozier in her article Edward Parry and the Birth of the Arctic Thespians.

Much useful information about the dances and music of the period is on the Regency Dances website, where Paul Cooper’s research papers are published. Paul has been a huge support to all my research on the Parry barrel organ and its music.

Heather Clarke’s website Colonial Dance has several articles relating to dancing and music at sea. She has investigated the musical and dancing side of John Franklin, another Arctic explorer in the 1820s, who on sailing to Australia in 1836 took his treasured piano with him on board the Fairlie, where it was brought up on deck for his niece to play for country dancing and quadrilles. 

The Musical Box Society of Great Britain has been very helpful and interested in this project, and they have a great online archive of back numbers of their journal, The Music Box on their rather quirky website.  Arthur Ord-Hume’s article referred to above is entitled Learning from Interpretations by Mechanical Instruments and was originally presented on 7th July 2013 at the first Conference on Mechanical Music in London. The full article can be found online in The Music Box Volume 26, no. 5, Spring 2014.

A very brief report on the restoration of the barrel organ by Fred Hill and Clive Holland is online.


The photo of Parry’s violin is taken from Music of the Sea, by David Proctor, National Maritime Museum, 1995 and revised edition, 2005 – I recommend both editions, which can be bought at reasonable prices second-hand. I’ve also found The Music Trade in Georgian England, by Michael Kassler, Routledge, 2016 (first published by Ashgate in 2011) to be invaluable, with an impressive range of primary sources. It’s expensive but snippets can be viewed online.

The colour photo of Parry’s barrel organ is by Regina Koellner and the two mono ones come from the book Church and Chamber Barrel-Organs by Langewill & Boston. Mine is the second edition from 1970, before the major restoration of the instrument.

The newspaper advertisement for Longman’s pianofortes and barrel organs is from The London Courier and Evening Gazette, Monday 15th February 1802, and the advertisement for a private sale is from the Calcutta Gazette, 25th June 1812.

The portrait of Parry and the engraving The Crews of H.M.S. Hecla & Griper Cutting into Winter Harbour, Sept. 26th, 1819 are from Parry’s journals.

The drawing of the dancing midshipmen by C. Staub came from Regina Koellner’s blog and the original is owned by the Royal Geographical Society. The cast list for The Rivals also came from the same source.

Thanks to Ron Mack in North Carolina for the photos and information about the Longman no. 40. barrel organ.

Last but absolutely not least, thanks to dancer and researcher Simon Harmer for the inspiration on these stories!


Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

I have carried out a lot of careful research into this specific barrel organ, comparable ones in both museums and private hands, the music on them and much more – I have far too much information to publish here. Please do get in contact if this is a special area of interest or study to you, I would be happy to tell you more.

Tales from the Harbour Inn

 

Other posts about Southwold on this website have mentioned The Harbour Inn at Blackshore, on the banks of the River Blyth, near Southwold as a place for singing across the twentieth century. This post draws all the information together, such as it is in early June 2021 -always pleased to hear more from any readers!


The pub itself

The pub dates from at least the early 1700s, when it was referred to in documents simply as the Blackshore Alehouse. By the end of that century it gained the name The Fishing Buss. This referred to a type of fishing boat which originated in the Dutch and Flemish herring fleet and was adopted by East Anglian boatbuilders too. During the course of the nineteenth century it was replaced by the dandy-rigged lugger, which was felt to offer more diverse opportunities for fishermen. The pub changed to The Harbour Inn when it was acquired by Adnams in 1898. In this photo, the pub, looking a bit run-down in the 1950s, is the building nearest the camera, on the right. In front of it is the foreshore of the River Blyth.

Previously, the ownership and management of the pub had been tied in with that of the Blackshore quay and wharf, used by trading vessels and fishermen, although many of these preferred to launch off the beach. The narrow entrance to the harbour, at the mouth of the river Blyth, was (and still is) notorious. This black-and-white image shows the pub on the left, looking towards the river mouth.


Early 20th century

The earliest mention I have come across of singing taking place is from 1911. This drawing, although executed in 1930, is captioned the Harbour Inn in 1911. It is by a little-known artist called J.W. Georges (more on him on the Up from the Sea post) and features someone known to be a singer – Billy Rogers – apparently in full flow.

It was published in the 2005 book Making Waves: Artists in Southwold where the author, Ian Collins, noted:

“The remembered figures, left to right, are landlord Charles James Prior, fisherman John Cannell of 3 Town Farm Cottages, North Road in Southwold (83 in 1930), ex-basketmaker W.M. Rogers (the blind son of ‘Old Dog’ Rogers), the late fisherman Henry Ladd and the artist himself.”

Billy was born Benjamin Willie Rogers in 1880, the oldest son of fisherman Benjamin Rogers and his wife Eliza, and in various censuses he is described as “blind from birth” and “totally blind”. Little is known of his life apart from these little vignettes. No occupation is given, and although he clearly couldn’t follow in his father’s footsteps, he must have contributed to the family economy somehow – Ian Collins source says he was a basket-maker (but also had his initials wrong). He lived with his parents, in Hollyhock Square near the Church, into adulthood. His father died suddenly from a perforated ulcer in 1906 and his mother died in 1913. His brother Bertie married early in 1914, and I think Billy probably lived with him and his wife Florence. In 1939 they were also in Hollyhock Square, so I guess the three of them continued to live in what had been the family home since at least 1901.

Billy’s brother Bertie, was interviewed by Bob Jellicoe in the 1970s and recalled his brother singing – here he is talking specifically about the Victoria, on East Street, but the scene in the Harbour would no doubt have been similar:

“Coh! There used t’ be uproar in there! “Go on!” they’d yell. “Give us another bit on it!” My brother generally used t’ do that. Shade of the Old Apple Tree used t’ be another. The Bay of Biscay. Used t’ have a proper high night in there, Saturday nights. ‘Cos us youngsters used t’ be in there along o’ the ol’ men as well. “Go on, boy, you can sing suthin’.” They used t’ keep you up till you did try an’ do suthin’. You could hear it all over East Street. There weren’t no music, anythin’ like that, just shoutin’ an’ hollerin’ in there singin’ ol’ songs. That used t’ amuse the ol’ fishermen y’ know. There were some hectic Saturday nights in there, especially if they’d done a bit o’ fishin’. O’ course when they never got anythin’ the place ‘ud be dead, nobody there. There weren’t many local songs, not that I can remember. Only the Lifeboat, Bravo Lifeboatmen, it was called.


Mid twentieth century

During World War Two, the Rogers’ family home was hit by a German bomb which also blew out the church windows, and the Harbour Inn was forced to close for the duration of hostilities, finally re-opening in 1946.

Only a year or so later, the folksong collector E.J. Moeran was scouting for singing pubs to feature in outside broadcasts for BBC Radio, and it was very probably the Harbour Inn that he visited in late 1947, remarking:

“I visited a hostelry near Southwold and found it crowded with fishermen, one after another in full song. About one song in five was a folk song and the wretched fellow at the piano would insist on trying to accompany the singer. Being totally without any modal feeling in his bones he not only put the singers off their stroke but forced them to alter their tune to suit his abominable machinations.”

The piano-player would probably have been Stanley ‘Tinny’ Townsend, also known for his singing of The Vicar and the Curate.

It was not unusual for BBC Radio programmes to include traditional singers and musicians in magazine-type programmes in the 1940s and 50s. Evidently the Harbour Inn did not pass muster on this occasion, and another pub nearby – the Eel’s Foot near Leiston, was chosen to feature – alongside the Windmill in Sutton on the Norfolk Broads – in a 50 minute programme called “East Anglia Sings”, broadcast on 19th November 1947. The Eel’s Foot had been the subject of its own programme in 1939, which was one of the earliest outside broadcasts. More on this topic in a future post on this website!

The piano accompaniment did not seem to be so much of an issue for author and broadcaster John Seymour, who took a more relaxed view of “the tradition” and remarked in his 1956 book Sailing through England: “That harbour entrance is their trouble. Whenever the wind blows on-shore – or even along the shore – it is hazardous for them to go in or out. If they go out in the morning they are never quite sure that they will be able to get in again at night. Consequently they spend a great deal of their time sitting about in the Harbour Inn, looking extremely picturesque, giving yachtsmen and others sound advice, singing extremely good songs extremely well, and having their photographs taken by ‘art’ photographers from Waldringfield …”

Mid twentieth century singers

John ‘Dusso’ Winter (1932-2019) was born into a fishing family which had been in Southwold for at least seven generations. His memory of the pub (and plenty of others in the town!) goes back to his days as a teenager and young adult, in the 1940s and 50s. He picked up many songs in the pubs, particularly the Harbour Inn and recalled some of the singers:

John’s father, Jimmy Winter (also known as ‘Dusso’) used to sing the song Four and Nine, with ‘Tinny’ Townsend playing the piano, and John also recalled Willy ‘Jarvo’ Jarvis singing Lovely Nancy (Pleasant and Delightful) in the Harbour. William Samuel Jarvis (1908-2000) was the foreman in a bedding factory in the town and was the son of a longshore fisherman.

Other singers recalled by John Dusso Winter were two men he worked with as a young man, who would sing ‘all day long’. One was Billy Welton, then around seventy, one of whose songs went: ‘We parted on the shore / As the crowd began to roar / eeley-o, eeley-o, we’re off to Baltimore’.  William Henry Welton (1873-1947) was the son of a mariner, a house painter and decorator who at various times lived at Blackshore, a stone’s throw from the Harbour Inn, and across the river in Walberswick before retiring to Reydon. The other was a retired drifter skipper called Jack Remblance, of whom Dusso remarked: ‘Although his singing was awful, the songs he knew were, to say the least, different, such as the The Shoreham Murder, which Jack warned me never to try and sing in Shoreham!’ Herbert John Remblance (1891-1981) started his working life as a fisherman alongside his brothers, and later worked for Adnams’ Brewery in the town.

Dusso Winter himself was well known in the town for his many activities in connection with the Sailor’s Reading Room, the Town Council, and as a singer and jazz musician. One of his party pieces was The Captain Told the Mate, which he first heard from Willy Jarvis. We met Dusso in the 1980s and my husband John recorded his songs can be heard singing this on the Veteran CD “When the Wind Blows”. Dusso was an essential part of the Blyth Voices community project which I curated and created and managed during my time as Director of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust. In that project, we taught some of the folk songs collected by folklorists and composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth on their visit to Southwold in 1910 (see The Real Ben Hurr) and some of Dusso’s songs to schoolchildren and young adults in the town in 2003-4.

Another night you might hear some songs from ‘Dinks’ Cooper (on the left in this photo, with Jimmy Meekins) whose best known song was Busky, Haul the Trawl (aka Heave on the Trawl) which he learned from his father. Robert ‘Dinks’ Cooper (1914-1988) lived in Southwold for some years, but made Walberswick, over the river Blyth, his home. He went to sea aged 14, in 1930, working on the trawlers and drifters on seasonal fishing which would take him as far as the Shetlands. After the war he acquired a car and would sometimes pick up Ernie Seaman and his brother Charlie from the nearby village of Darsham and take them over to the Harbour for a musical night. Ernie (melodeon) and Charlie (dulcimer) were renowned musicians with a repertoire of polkas and hornpipes for dancing as well as old-time songs.

One of Dinks’ favourite stories was how, in the East Coast Floods of 1953, he and Ernie Seaman were marooned for several days upstairs in the Harbour Inn with only twenty Woodbines (cigarettes) for sustenance. He also liked to relate how he once fell asleep at the tiller of his boat and passed under the pier unharmed. He clearly had more than one narrow escape at sea and was involved in the Dunkirk operation in 1940.  In another of Dinks’ favoured pubs, the Bell in Walberswick, a brass plaque can be seen on the wall proclaiming ‘Dinks’ leaning post’.

Another regular was Guy Barber (above left) who worked on the fishing fleet out of Lowestoft, who played the melodeon and sang popular songs such as The Volunteer Organist. His son John Barber (b.1927) (on the right in the right-hand photo, with his grandson Alex Goldsmith playing melodeon) carried on the family tradition and has sung and played in the Harbour and other local pubs for nearly seven decades. Until his retirement (aged 90) in 2017, John was the Town Bellman and a well-known figure in the town, dressed in his civic regalia, making announcements and proclamations. He learned one of his favourite songs The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen from his father Guy. John plays the melodeon and mouth-organ, and spent many years performing in the company of George Jackson and John ‘Wiggy’ Goldsmith at pubs and parties in the area. John has been particularly keen to encourage youngsters to keep the music going locally and taught his grandson, Alex Goldsmith, to play the melodeon, as well as playing a crucial part in re-establishing the band tradition in the town with the foundation of the Southwold & Reydon Corps of Drums in 1981. John is also known for his unusual and distinctive ‘jig dolls’, which he made from a design he remembered from his youth, when an old man in Victoria Street in the 1940s used to sit in his doorway and dance similar ones on a board. Another old character in Church Street used to play the dulcimer in his doorway, whilst sporting an enamel plate on his head, to protect himself from shrapnel! John, ever inventive, has improved the design of the jig dolls by adding bells underneath the board, and his own trade-mark cigar in the mouth of one of them!


The Harbour Inn has remained a favourite pub for singing – several men who were the sons of fishermen continued to sing there throughout the twentieth century, and until the Coronavirus curtailed such things, it has had a thriving folk session there in recent years.

This has been a mixture of instrumental tunes played on folk instruments such as melodeons, concertinas and guitars and songs, both accompanied and unaccompanied, with many items having a local flavour.

The news in June 2021 from the organisers of the Harbour Inn sessions is that they hope to restart soon! From what we know about the longstanding tradition of singing and music-making in the Harbour Inn, these last couple of years must have been some of the quietest in the long history of the pub, apart from during World War II when it was closed for nearly six years.


Other pubs in Southwold which are known to have welcomed singing at various times in the twentieth century include the Nelson, the Victoria, the Southwold Arms and the Red Lion.

Information about the Southwold Arms is to be found on the post entitled MacKenzie’s Lambs and the Leg of Mutton and there are several other posts about Southwold too, including Up from the Sea, The Real Ben Hurr, A Life through Five Sovereigns and The Battle of Sole Bay: an Unsung Song.


Thanks to John Barber for the photo of his father Guy, and to Derek Simpson for the photos of John Barber and Alex Goldsmith and the session photo.

Thanks to Ian Goffin for the photo of the Harbour Inn, which came from the Southwold Life and Times group on Facebook.


The excellent website Southwold & Son has lots of interesting photographs and ephemera and a detailed history of the licensees at the Harbour Inn amongst its many gems.

Making Waves: Artists in Southwold, by Ian Collins was published by Black Dog Books in 2005.

Bob Jellicoe, curator of the Southwold Museum and archivist for the Sailors’ Reading Room, has been kind enough to share information about Billy Rogers with me in advance of his forthcoming book Shorelines: Voices of Southwold Fishermen, due to be published in October 2021 by Black Dog Books.

John Winter’s singing is featured on the CD “When the Wind Blows” on the Veteran label. John Winter died in January 2019 and there’s a great tribute to him in The East Anglian Daily Times, here.

Dinks Cooper may also be heard on the same CD, and there are interviews with him on the British Library Sound Archive website here, and here re Heave on the Trawl.

Dinks also featured in a couple of films. In 1962, Dick Joyce interviewed him as part of the now legendary Anglia TV series, “Bygones”. Although currently (5.6.21) the film itself is not online, there is a description of it here.

Dinks is also in this 1954 film, Fishing off the East Anglian Coast.


Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

A Life through Five Sovereigns: William Hurr senior

I first came across the stories of the Hurr family through a folk song collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from one Ben Hurr: the coincidence of his name being a homophone of the chariot-driving hero Ben-Hur drew my attention immediately. Ben was a fisherman in Southwold on the Suffolk coast, and three of his brothers are known to have been singers too. Years of research have gradually revealed some more family stories, including some about their father, William Hurr (1811-1908), who, in his long life, lived through the reigns of five sovereigns of the English throne. William may have sung folksongs as well, though he died before Vaughan Williams arrived, and there’s no sign of anyone collecting folksongs in the area in his lifetime, so we will probably never know. However he did have some stories to tell.

William Hurr was born in Southwold in 1811, the oldest son of Thomas Hurr and Elizabeth Bedingfield. The family were of an independent religion – not specified, but probably Methodist – and pre the 1837 requirements for registration of births deaths and marriages, the records are a bit thin on the ground. William followed in the family occupation of fisherman, and at this time, the small sailing luggers and punts launched off the beach at Southwold, where the fishermen banded into beach companies to work together.


We find out what William looked like! … from a gaol receiving book

William’s first appearance in official documents is not auspicious: in 1839 he was imprisoned for one month for assaulting Sarah Bedingfield. Although this fact appears in the Suffolk Chronicle on 18th May, no further details are given. In a period when there were often many people with the same name, there are not many options for identifying this person, and it looks as if Sarah may well have been his aunt, his mother’s sister. It also seems likely that the same Sarah Bedingfield was admitted to the County Lunatic Asylum in 1849 and again in 1856, dying there in 1861. Whatever the circumstances, this looks like a sad scenario. This wasn’t the only time William expressed his anger or frustration through physical violence, as two years later, he and two younger brothers, John Bedingfield Hurr and Thomas Hurr, were convicted and gaoled for assaulting the newly-appointed Police constable in Southwold, John Parker. Again, no details of the assault are known, but for three brothers to attack him suggests a significant revolt against some action from Parker. In this case, the gaol receiving book (from Ipswich) gives interesting biographical details about William and his brothers. The photocopy of a photocopy in my possession is now very faded, so I have written over the top of it to make it more legible.

The receiving books describe all three brothers as having a dark complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes and a round ‘visage’. William, then aged 30, was 5’5½” tall and had an anchor on the inside of his left wrist. His religion was described as Independent, he had attended school in Southwold for two years and could read and write imperfectly and no occupation is given as mariner. At the time of his arrival in gaol, William had: flannel shirt & drawers, hat, coat, jacket, waistcoat, trousers, stockings, shoes, shirt, two handkerchieves and a knife. Note: not a guernsey or smock; he must have put on his best clothes for his court appearance. The two brothers convicted with him were John, aged 28, height 5’4” and Thomas aged 24, height 5’5”. John was noted as receiving parish relief. I have not traced either of these two in the 1841 census, but John was already married with a young child and Thomas married between October 1841 and January 1842 – more than likely on his release from gaol in November. William also got married shortly after this interlude, to Maria Watson in 1842. She was listed in the Hurr household in the 1841 census as well as at home with her mother in Lowestoft, so maybe they were already courting then.

Thankfully there are no further criminal activities evident in his subsequent life, but it was a life full of hardships.


Hard times

James Maggs 19th century diaries report on 17th April 1851: “Sale of Effects of Wm Hurr mariner- Under distress for Rent. Mrs J.F. Bokenham Landlady”. In the 1851 census carried out less than three weeks previous to this, the Hurrs were ‘near East St’. The landlady was not, as might be imagined, some well-to-do member of the landed gentry, but the wife of another mariner, Joseph Forster Bokenham. Despite apparently owning more than one property, when Bokenham died (drowned at sea in a fishing boat) on Christmas Eve, 1868 and probate was eventually sorted out nearly nine years later, his estate was worth less than £20.

At this point in their lives, William and Maria had three young children, and after moving round the corner to Victoria Street, they went on to have another nine children. Despite describing himself as “retired” in the 1881 census, he went on to be listed variously as a boat owner, fishing smack owner etc in commercial directories until 1892, aged 81.

The boats were also used occasionally in competitions during regattas, and William’s family and boats had some successes: in those days, the fishing boats were at the heart of the event. In 1888 his son Sam was placed 5th in the 20ft punt class, in the Vigilant, and in 1889, the Ipswich Journal of 30th August reported the following result: “Punt race (20 feet and under): 1st prize of 25s. to Hurr’s Susannah; 3rd prize of 20s. to Hurr’s Vigilant – which nearly took second place.” That was to prove the zenith of the Hurrs competitive success – in 1893, the Vigilant came in 5th, still gaining a prize of 15 shillings and after that I cannot find any of William’s family listed: a likely reason is about to be revealed …

1893 was probably the worst year of William Hurr’s life: two sons, Sam, who had skippered the Vigilant in the 1888 regatta, and Tom, both died in a fishing accident, and just a month later his wife Maria died.

“The boat’s name was the Susannah, as fine a craft as ever was floated off the beach, and the crew, two of whom were sons of the owner, William Hurr, and Gabriel Peek, launched about six o’clock in the morning to haul their lines, and in the ordinary course would have returned between eleven and twelve. Not returning as expected, many an anxious eye scanned the deep for some trace of the boat bet saw none, and as the day were on all sorts of conjectures were made as to their whereabouts; some thinking that during the fog they had boarded some craft off the Barnard and had sailed with them; others that they bad boarded some steamer, or had put into Lowestoft. Unfortunately all surmise was futile, and the truth was briefly told in the telegram.”

The Susannah had been run down by a larger Lowestoft boat, and through a tragic set of circumstances, all hands were drowned.

After Maria’s death, William’s two unmarried daughters, Susannah and Annie, lived with him. It seems Susannah, the older, had long-term health problems (the newspaper report above said “at the present time his wife and daughter are confirmed invalids”) and it was Annie who ran the boarding houses they established at Caterer House, 39 Victoria Street and subsequently at 22 Corporation Road, where the three of them moved after Maria and Tom (who had been living home) died and Walter, the youngest son, married.


A grand old man

William outlived several of his children, and in the early 20th century found himself being feted as a grand old man of the community.

In a newspaper report in the Norwich Mercury on 23rd July, 1902, we find William being honoured as one of the oldest inhabitants at a “capital meat tea” held for the aged poor of the town. Ale and pipe tobacco was provided too, so it may indeed have been a festive occasion.

“The Chairman called on the oldest man present (William Hurr, aged 91), who has lived in the reigns of five Sovereigns, beginning with George III, to come and sit on the platform, to which he was escorted by two young ladies amidst loud applause.”

The report also mentions that two photographers were present including Frederick Jenkins (whose son A.B. Jenkins who edited several collections of his work) but so far I have not sighted any photographs taken on the occasion.

Frederick Jenkins not only took photographs, but also took an interest in writing down some of the memories from the older generation, including William at this time too, including the following tales of haunting and smuggling.

The first story is about either William’s father (Thomas Hurr 1787 to 1825) or his grandfather, who served in the Royal Navy and was held as a prisoner-of-war by the French for some time.

“A French lady fell in love with him and wanted him to marry her. He told her that he had a wife in England, but if, when he was set free he found she was dead, he would send word and then if the lady came over he would marry her. When peace was proclaimed and he returned to Southwold his wife was alive. The French lady however did not wait until she hear from him, but started for England shortly after he did. The vessel in which she sailed was lost with all hands. After this occurrence for a long time she used to “trouble” him, or rather, his wife, for the latter was constantly ill-treated, pulled out of bed and sometimes seriously hurt by unseen hands. This got to such a pitch that he was often obliged to go out of the house in the middle of the night to prevent his wife from being ill-used for, it was only when he was with her that things happened. One night after his wife had been annoyed by the “spirit” he went out of the house which was on South Green where he saw a large white cat sitting. He hit at it with a stick saying “Get out cat”. At this it suddenly reared up in the form of a beautiful white horse which Hurr followed as far as the Market Place where it vanished, and he found himself walking behind a funeral procession, coffin, mourners and all. He still followed this and it went slowly down Church Street as far as the Churchyard when it suddenly disappeared and he found himself alone.”

This was told to Fred Jenkins in 1903, as was this tale of smuggling, which William Hurr said happened when he was about 10, in 1821, when he was cabin boy on the Hope, of which Henry Sayers was the master.

“While the vessel was lying at Reydon Quay discharging a cargo, he was left on board alone to look after the ship. In the middle of the night he heard a noise on the quay, looking out of the fo-castle he saw one of the crew of a smuggling boat which had come into the harbour with 300 to 400 tubs hidden on board. The smuggler, John Spence, a Southwold man, told him to go below and he would be paid. Hurr did so and the “crop” was landed. Coming onto the deck the next morning Hurr found a stone “Betty” (bottle) of gin on deck. A similar bottle was left on another vessel ling alongside the quay. Hurr found on the quay a quantity of hoops and slings which he took home but left the bottle of gin on the vessel. The next day Mr Candler, the Custom House officer, came to Hurr’s home and asked him where he had got the slings and hoops. He told him Reydon Quay and was then asked if there were any tubs of liquor on the quay and he said he had not seen any. On the following day the smugglers’ boat was found on Blythburgh Flats. The crew had got clear away and successfully landed their cargo.”

A couple of years later William Hurr also contributed to Jenkins’ store of stories about a “Shrieking Woman”:

“Many people claimed to have heard unearthly shrieks which unfailingly portended wrecks or loss of life by drowning. W. Hurr’s father and mother [Thomas and Elizabeth, née Bedingfield] were coming home one night from the High Street to their house in East Street. When they were near the “Clinkums” (by the entrance to Church Street) his mother saw a figure and said to her husband, “Tom, what a beautiful dress that lady has on.” She had no sooner said this than the figure began shrieking and ran down the lane and vanished. The night before, Waters and two Rogers were drowned by their boat being sunk by a vessel.”

If he’d lived to be a hundred, we might know if William also sang songs, as the folksong collectors Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth paid a visit to the town in 1910 and noted down songs from three of his sons, William, Robert and Ben. George is also known to have been a singer, so it seems very likely their father was too, and they may even have learned some of their older songs, such as When Jones’ Ale was New from him.


Details about PC John Parker and the distraint of goods in 1851 were found in The Southwold Diary of James Maggs 1818-1876, edited by A.F. Bottomley, published in 1982. Maggs was a schoolmaster in the town and his diaries are a wonderful catalogue of everyday happenings. And to top it all, they are now available online in two volumes and can be downloaded as PDFs.

https://suffolkrecordssociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/The-Southwold-Diary-of-James-Maggs-1818-1876-%E2%80%93-Single-volume-paperback.pdf

https://suffolkrecordssociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/The-Southwold-Diary-of-James-Maggs-II-1848-1876.pdf

The ghost stories were printed in A Selection of Ghost Stories, Smuggling Stories and Poems connected with Southwold by A.B. Jenkins, published in 1986.

The advertisement for the Southwold Regatta in 1895 was in the Halesworth Times on 13th August.

Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

MacKenzie’s Lambs and the Leg of Mutton

After investigating the singing Hurr Brothers (see The Real Ben Hurr) I also found evidence of other singing fishermen from Southwold around the turn of the twentieth century.

And one interesting story shows that in the late nineteenth century there were enough singing fishermen for a fair-sized singing contest to be held outside The Southwold Arms on the High Street.

The Southwold Arms stood at 58, High Street, the next building seawards to the present day Sutherland House, and is no longer a pub. It was known as the Green Man until 1803, then the Joiners Arms, until 1839 when it was renamed The Southwold Arms. From 1869 to 1897, it was run by Robert and Sophia MacKenzie and hosted many congenial events for locals and visitors alike.

It had several letting rooms, as indicated in this auction notice from the Ipswich Journal of 24th February 1866, shortly before MacKenzie bought it.

A.B. Jenkins wrote a colourful description of MacKenzie in his book A Photographic Collection of Bygones & Local Characters:

“Generally known as “Mac”, was for 28 years the landlord of the Southwold Arms during which time the house and himself earned a very considerable reputation.

“Mac always wore a tam-o-shanter thus providing the unmistakable hallmark of Scotland. Mackenzie served for 18 months in the Crimea in the Scots Guards later becoming Colour Sergeant; he also served in Canada with the same Regiment when the Fenian Raids were expected from the United States. He was married in St. Martin’s in the Fields, Trafalgar Square to a Dunwich lady who was as popular as he at the Southwold Arms. Mackenzie gathered together a number of well-to-do visitors who stayed at his house during the holidays, and who became known as Mackenzie’s “lambs” and sometimes as the “madcap visitors”.

“Before leaving for home at the end of the holiday the “lambs” used to arrange a sing-song outside the Southwold Arms at which residents in the town were invited to sing for a leg of mutton. The house was illuminated with Chinese lanterns, and the leg of mutton dangled from the sign above the head of the singer, who stood on a table underneath it. Many of the fishermen would compete for the prize, and some of their songs were very long and the concert usually proved a very lengthy affair. A large crowd would assemble so any traffic would have to go along Victoria Street.

“Notwithstanding this gaiety the house was very strictly conducted and Mackenzie would not serve meals until grace had first been said. He did not take female lodgers as he said if he took married couples it might turn out that they were not properly married, and he did not wish his house to be disgraced. He also strongly objected to any lady dancing with any other than her own husband. Mackenzie died in Southwold in 1915 aged 87 years and was given a military funeral by the soldiers who were then stationed in the town.”

A careful investigation of the official records reveals that MacKenzie was born in Caithness, northern Scotland, in 1828. At the time of the 1851 census he was a patient in the Scots Fusiliers Guards hospital, Lillington St, Westminster and in 1861 – after his service in the Crimea – he was in Aberdeen, a sergeant in the Scots Fusilier Guards.

His future wife, Sophia Watling was born in Westleton, a few miles inland from Southwold, and went to work as a cook in well-to-do households in London. In 1865 the pair married, as Barrett wrote, in St Martin-in-the-Fields and by 1868, when MacKenzie received his army pension, they were resident in Southwold.

With Mac’s military reputation and Sophia’s culinary one, they evidently made a good team.  Newspaper reports throughout the 1870s and 1880s show that they hosted the Suffolk Rifle Volunteers and other such groups on their annual band outings, providing a base for the day, generous meals and convivial musical evenings at the pub. Here is a typical report from the Ipswich Journal from 24th August, 1872.

After retiring from the pub in 1897, Mac and Sophia lived out their last couple of decades just a little bit further out of town from the pub they had run so successfully for nearly thirty years.

 


This pub continued to be a place for singing into the mid twentieth century, when social occasions such as darts matches (see foot of the page for info about the photo below, taken c. 1950) provided a convivial atmosphere for a sing song afterwards.

Some years ago I interviewed Hilda Palmer and Dale Peck about their memories and they told me that in the 1970s after a darts match on a Friday or Saturday evening, Frank Palmer (bottom left in this photo) and others including Graham Lewis and Henry, Jockey and Hettie Hurr (cousins of Frank’s) would sing old favourites such as The Faithful Sailor Boy, The Mermaid, The Miner’s Dream of Home and The Rugged Cross, alongside more recent songs such as The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, The Happy Wanderer or Red Sails in the Sunset. Comic songs such as Albert & Sadie (a parody of Frankie and Johnny – an old American folksong popularised in 1966 by Elvis Presley) or What a Wonderful Fish the Sole Is were always popular too, with the audience joining in lustily.

The latter song is a curiosity, one of those short pieces that starts out as something innocuous and then turns into an innuendo. Virtually all of the few online references to this song are to do with it being performed in pubs, none before the 1950s:

What a wonderful fish the sole is,
What wonderful fish are soles.
Though I’m glad to relate,
I’m partial to skate,
When served on a plate with rissoles.

What a wonderful fish the sole is,
They swim around in shoals.
But the finest of fish, ever served in a dish
Are soles, are soles, are soles.

This set of words is given on the fascinating website Sound and History together with this little story:

“Just a few days after the BBC visited the Cock and Monkey, the folk song recordist Peter Kennedy turned up to make his own recordings of Burnham and French’s songs. These eventually found their way onto the Folktrax compilation The Londoners.”

Given that Kennedy was working for the BBC in 1954, making recordings of old songs and music, it was probably he who made the first recording of Bill Burnham and Bill French, on 3rd February. The notes to The Londoners gives a recording date of 13th February, and Kennedy commented that The Two Bills were actually barred from singing the Sole song in their regular pub. Kennedy’s collecting notes whilst working from the BBC have been digitised but there are no entries for early to mid February 1954.


Several of the other pubs in the centre of Southwold are known to have hosted singing on a Saturday or Sunday night, but arguably the most significant was the Harbour Inn, which is about a mile out of town, on the Southwold bank of the River Blyth. – See Tales from the Harbour Inn (forthcoming).


The photo of the Southwold Arms darts team c.1950 is from Hilda Palmer’s family collection – Back row: Kimmer Lurkins; Speedy Chapman; Giovanni Lees. Middle row: Sammy Chapman; Pimple Thompson; Don Palmer; Ticker Watson; Jack Jerman; ? Smith; Frank Goodwin. Front row: Frank Palmer; Jerry Nicholls; Lesley Smith; Billy Blowers; Johnny Neller.

The portrait of Robert Mac MacKenzie comes from A.B. Jenkins’ book A Photographic Collection of Bygones & Local Characters.


Other Southwold stories are told elsewhere on this blog- see: Up from the Sea, The Real Ben Hurr and The Battle of Sole Bay: an unsung song.

For information about the folksong collecting trip in 1910 by Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth, as well as full details of all the songs sung by the Hurrs, and other singers found on that trip, see my other website https://katiehowson.co.uk/southwold-singers-1910 , where there is also more information about other 20th century singers 

Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

The Battle of Sole Bay: an Unsung Song

This is a song which has a – literally – unsung history!

Sole Bay is the area of sea just off the coast of Suffolk near to the town of Southwold (locally pronounced something like “Sa-old” – not very different to “Sole”).

For some years I have been investigating the folksongs sung in the town, and various other aspects of that work are featured elsewhere on this blog – including The Real Ben Hurr about several brothers who sang to the folksong collector and composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1910.

One of those brothers, Robert Hurr sang a song called The Loss of the Royal George. Folklorist Roy Palmer speculated in Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1983) whether this song might actually relate to the Battle of Sole Bay, which took place at sea just off the coast of Southwold in 1672. Looking further into this, I found that although there was both a Royal James and a St. George in the battle, there was no Royal George, and in fact Robert Hurr’s song relates to another ship entirely, which sank in the Bay of Biscay in 1782.

However, in these investigations, I found that there had been a song about the Battle of Sole Bay, and it does even seem to have originated in Suffolk, but in the intervening centuries it has all but been forgotten.


Most sources agree that the battle took place on 28th May 1672, although the source for our song actually gives it as 20th May.

The English and French were at the time embroiled in recurring wars with the Dutch over shipping and fishing rights, and this engagement was to be the first naval battle in the Third Anglo-Dutch War.

In the small hours, a French frigate brought the news that the Dutch were again on the warpath and only two hours away. At the time, many of the English sailors were on shore leave in Southwold, but within a couple of hours the fleet had put to sea.

For some reason the French steered away from the battle, leaving the English and Dutch to it. The noise of the guns and cannon is said to have brought the inhabitants of the town to the cliffs, although as the battle was ten miles out to sea, their view was probably only of smoke. The flagship of the fleet, the Royal James, was set on fire and orders were given to the townspeople to prepare to repel the Dutch, should they attempt to land. In the late afternoon the weather conditions changed and the Dutch withdrew.

The song is usually titled A Merry Song on the Duke’s Late Glorious Success over the Dutch and was first published in The Suffolk Garland in 1818 and subsequently printed in several collections in the 1840s and occasionally in the twentieth century, including those listed here.

Early English Poetry Ballads: Popular Literature of the Middle Ages – “From a broadside in the possession of Mr Rimbault”, Percy Society (1840); Early Naval Ballads, Percy Society (1841); The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 15 (1841); Southwold and its Vicinity, Ancient and Modern, Robert Wake (1842); Metropolitan Magazine, Vol 52 (1848); Naval Songs and Ballads, C.H. Firth (1908); Ballads, Songs and Rhymes of East Anglia, A.S. Harvey (1936) and Boxing the Compass, Roy Palmer (1986).

I have found no evidence of this song in either the oral tradition, or on broadsides or other street literature.

As I can find no trace of it before its 1818 publication in The Suffolk Garland, it seems quite likely that it was written by the antiquarian Reverend James Ford (1779-1851) who compiled that book. Some poems in this collection are credited to other writers, others are not, and we may surmise that these ones were either by un-named writers from broadsides, or from the editor’s own pen. It was common practice to set new songs to old, well-known tunes, and in The Suffolk Garland, the tune Suffolk Stiles is specified for this song but this has not yet been found.

Ford was curate at St Lawrence in Ipswich for 22 years, and it was there he met and married his wife, Letitia, who was the daughter of one bookseller (George Jermyn) and the stepdaughter of another (John Raw), who printed and published The Suffolk Garland. Ford was also friends with John Mitford, who was editor of The Gentleman’s Magazine from 1834 to 1850, when Ford is known to have been a contributor, fitting in neatly with the known publication dates of A Merry Song … in that journal.

The Reverend Ford moved to Navestock in Essex in 1830, and when he died there some twenty years later, another Suffolk antiquarian, William Fitch, bought much of his collection which was eventually deposited in the Suffolk Record Office.


The Suffolk Garland in all its glorious entirety is available online, here as a Google Book, or use this next link if you’d like to go straight to the song itself.

In 1866, The New Suffolk Garland was compiled by antiquarian John Glyde junior, and whilst it is equally fascinating, it is a completely different book!

For accounts of the Battle of Sole Bay, I recommend this localised perspective from the Southwold Museum, or have a look at the Wikipedia entry if you’re interested in the detail of the ships engaged in the battle.

For information on the Reverend James Ford, look at this account from the area of Essex where he lived at the end of his life.

The image of the battle is a tapestry called The Fleets drawn up for Battle by Willem van de Velde de Oude.

For more information about the song The Royal George, see the post on this blog entitled The Real Ben Hurr.

Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

The Real Ben Hurr

It’s just possible that this Ben Hurr (from Southwold on the Suffolk coast) knew of the famous film character Ben-Hur, as the 1880 novel was first released as a silent movie in 1925, and Southwold had its very own Electric Picture Palace from 1912. I hope the coincidence would have amused him as much as it did me when I first came across his name as a fisherman from whom folksong collectors Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth noted down songs in 1910.

It turned out that the real Ben Hurr was from a large family, several of whom were known to be musical, and these initial findings have led me to investigate many aspects of traditional culture in Southwold – see the foot of this page for other related articles, including a link to the digitised manuscripts of the songs he and his brothers sang to Ralph Vaughan Williams.


On Monday 24th October 1910 Butterworth and Vaughan Williams called by a small village in east Suffolk called Shadingfield and visited Martha Keble and her son before carrying on to the small coastal town of Southwold, having probably travelled up from London by train with their bicycles. Here they noted down songs from three brothers, William, Robert and Ben Hurr. They stayed overnight, and the following day they revisited William and Robert and another singer, Charles Newby and then departed to hunt for more songs in the villages of the Norfolk Broads.

The Hurrs were all fishermen, from a large family which can be traced back for many generations in Southwold. Only a dozen or so songs were collected from them, which included several about the sea (although none about fishing) – mostly tales of shipwrecks. These songs would have been close to their hearts as two of their own brothers had been drowned at sea. Another brother, George, is also known to have sung although Vaughan Williams and Butterworth did not meet him.

The two oldest Hurr brothers, William and James, were masters of small fishing boats, including the Nancy Hugh and the Fanny and their father, also William, had owned the Caterer, the Susannah and the Vigilant at various times. Ben had the Happy Thought and later on the next generation had the Daisy and the Boy Billy. The smaller boats were mostly dandy-rigged luggers, under 20ft long, and would operate with a crew of three. Some of the drifters, which operated out of Lowestoft Harbour, had bigger crews of six or seven. It was common for families to work together and the fishermen formed beach companies to help launch and retrieve boats off the beach. These beach companies also worked together as piloting and salvage companies. The picture below of William “Dubber” Hurr shows him outside the Kilcock Cliff lookout, indicating that he belonged to that beach company.

The last Saturday in August was traditionally the day for Southwold Regatta, and in the late 1880s the Hurrs’ fishing punts Susannah and Vigilant were usually well placed.  We know more about the Susannah – that she was a 19ft, 3 ton, 2-masted, lug-rigged punt built in 1869 – from a newspaper report of a far more tragic nature. The Ipswich Journal of 18th November 1893 ran a long article headed:

SOUTHWOLD PUNT SUNK. ALL HANDS DROWNED.  

Two of those young men were Tom and Sam Hurr, brothers of our singers, aged just 28 and 31 respectively at the time.

They had left Southwold at 6am, fishing for cod (having put some lines down the previous night) and would normally have been back by midday. Sometime after 10am the Helois, a 29 ton sailing drifter returning to Lowestoft, through a series of mishaps and in fog, bore down “upon the unfortunate little boat, cut her completely through, and sent her three occupants struggling in the waves.”

The Helois’ crew comprised a master and seven hands. They had left Lowestoft on 13th November on a mackerel fishing voyage, and were heading back for Lowestoft on 15th, as the weather had turned. Their one lifebuoy was below decks. The Susannah, being a small open boat did not carry a lifebuoy. The news report commented “If the crew of the Susannah had oilies on or heavy boots, they could not long remain above the water …”

The enquiry found that the cause of the collision was: “the mizzen-halyard on board the Helois being used as a tiller rope, and flying off the tiller-head when the helm was put up, which caused the ship to come to, and before the ship could pay off again the collision occurred.” They also concluded that the master and crew of the Helois “made their best endeavours to save life, but, in the opinion of the Court it would have been better if the helm of the Helois had been put down immediately after the collision, as she would have been kept close to the scene of the accident.”

So the songs the brothers sang about shipwrecks would have a very real and heartbreaking meaning for them.


Ben Hurr 1860-1934

Benjamin Lowsey Hurr was the seventh child of William and Maria Hurr. Ben married Louisa Stannard in 1881 and they had one son. On the night of the 1891 census, 5th April, Ben was on board the Fanny, berthed in Lowestoft harbour. The master was his older brother William Watson Hurr and there were four other crew members.

In the 1890s, along with brothers William and Robert, Ben was a member of the lifeboat crew – perhaps their involvement came as a direct emotional response to the loss of their two younger brothers in 1893. In the early twentieth century he and his family moved out of the small fishermen’s cottages in Victoria Street into Salisbury Road, one of the newer and more well-appointed terraces in the north end of the town.

His death was reported – rather surprisingly – in the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail on 13th August 1934:

PEDESTRIAN VICTIMS

“Two fatal accidents occurred on Saturday within five minutes of each other, and at places three miles apart. Southwold and Frostenden, in Suffolk. Each also concerned an elderly pedestrian who received head injuries. Benjamin Hurr, fisherman (74), of Southwold, was struck by a motor-cycle ridden by Abraham Chapman, a neighbour, and died in Southwold Hospital yesterday. Edward Ife, a farm labourer (69), was struck by a bicycle ridden by a nephew.”

These fabulous portraits are probably “our” Ben Hurr, but it’s not possible to be 100% sure as there were other people with this and similar names, and the photos are not dated.

One of Ben’s songs was called The Isle of France, (an early name for Mauritius). It’s a sentimental tale of a convict, finally making his way home after six years in exile, who is shipwrecked, then rescued, and eventually receives a pardon from the Queen. Vaughan Williams often noted just the melody, if he was already familiar with the words, as in this case.


William Hurr 1843-1925

The oldest of the Hurr brothers was William Watson Hurr, known as “Dubber”.

Like his younger brothers, he was both born and buried in Southwold. Census results from 1881 and 1891 of crews on board fishing boats in Lowestoft Harbour show us that he worked alongside his brothers: Ben in 1891 (mentioned above), and in 1881, with older brother George aboard the Nancy Hugh of which their middle brother, James, was master. He lived at home with his parents until he was 52, when in 1895, he married Matilda Adams (née Howard) who was working as a servant to a solicitor in Southwold.  Matilda was a widow with two teenaged children from her first marriage to Joseph Adams, a private in the Royal Marines. She was a local girl, but had lived in barracks at Walmer in Kent until Joseph died after just five years of marriage, when she returned to her Suffolk home.

In the year 1899, Dubber appeared in the newspapers more than once. The first occasion, in the Eastern Evening News of 21st July being a “good news” story:

STURGEON AT SOUTHWOLD

“A large sturgeon was caught by William Watson Hurr in a trawl net and landed at Southwold on Wednesday. It measured upwards of seven feet and a half in length, and weighed some fifteen stone. It was a very fine-fed fish. Hurr being alone in his boat, and it being very dark at the time, had great difficulty getting it into the boat.”

The second reports, from October that year, reveal a much sadder situation –a  family feud between William on the one side, and younger brothers Ben and Walter, supported by sisters Annie and Susannah on the other. Quite what the actual cause of the argument on 6th October was, is not clear, but in one report, William stated that he had been on bad terms with his brothers for four years. In another, Ben said he had helped to keep William for fifteen years. Blows were exchanged and William threatened to shoot Walter and Ben and the latter’s 17 year old son William Albert Benjamin. Susannah, just three years younger than William, may have tried to calm things down a bit but Annie, twenty five years William’s junior is alleged to have punched him in the face. Ben and Walter stated that they went “in bodily fear” of William. Two lady visitors staying in Southwold also gave evidence of the alleged assault, which took place by the fishermen’s sheds on the beach, a space which was shared with holidaymakers as well of course.

By 1901 Dubber and his family were living in what is now the Southwold Museum, which was then divided into two tiny cottages later condemned as unfit for housing. In the photograph here, you can just make out Matilda with two children, Susannah and Sam. They went on to have another daughter, Ellen in 1902, when Matilda was 47, whilst her two children from her first marriage were brought up by her brother and sister along the coast in Easton Bavents. Susannah is reputed to have been a professional singer, but I can find no evidence of this. Susannah’s husband Edgar Stockbridge worked in the brewery business and they moved away, eventually settling in Stevenage.

By 1912, Dubber and his family were living at Caterer House, 39 Victoria Street, where Matilda was the landlady of holiday apartments, which had been in the family previously – this line of business was shared by at least two of her sisters-in-law.

During the First World War, Dubber showed the indomitable Hurr spirit by refusing to follow war-time regulations which banned night fishing, which apparently resulted in him being shot at and sustaining an injury to his arm.

His son William Samuel Thomas (known as Sam) was one of the first who did not follow in the family tradition of fishing, and after William’s death, his boat the Vigilant passed to his nephew, Ben’s son William Albert Benjamin – the very one whom he had threatened to “wring his lugs” a quarter of a century earlier.

Vaughan Williams clearly valued William’s singing and published three of the songs he sang in the 1913 Journal of the Folk Song Society. He noted down just two verses of this song, The Loss of the London. Whether this was all that William sang, or all that Vaughan Williams was interested in, we do not know, but these words are quite different to the versions printed on broadside song sheets. The London sank off the Bay of Biscay in January 1866, so this song was written when William was a young man – it wouldn’t have been an ancient old folk song to him.


Robert Hurr 1855-1934

Robert Watson Hurr, fourth son of William and Maria, married Elizabeth Stannard in 1878 and together they had six children. In 1901 he was living in Young’s Yard, off Victoria Street and was listed in the census as “Boat owner”. There is an additional note, not easy to read – it appears to say “Nav. Shore”. There were Trinity pilots engaged to help coastal trading boats into the harbour on the River Blyth, but these are listed in the town directories of the time, and none of the Hurrs names ever appear. There’s also a blank in the column which should indicate whether the person concerned is self-employed or employed by someone else, and a big circle has been drawn there against Robert’s name, from which I infer that the census enumerator was aware of this omission and perhaps intended to go back and find out. In 1911, his occupation is given as fisherman and his status as “employed”.

In later years Robert worked in partnership with his son Walter (pictured on the left here, with Robert on the right). After the Second World War, Walter co-owned the boat Daisy with Ben’s son: these appear to be the last two of the family to be working fishermen.

After the First World War one of Robert’s five daughters, Annie, kept a pub, the Royal, in Victoria Street with her husband Arthur Brown. This was just across the road from Robert, who was also just round the corner from his eldest brother William, and a couple of minutes’ walk from younger brother Ben and older brother George.

Robert Watson Hurr’s version of The Royal George is just three verses long and focuses on a personal tale of the loss of a sailor at sea. In other, longer versions of the song, it is evident that this was part of a much greater loss of lives in a tragic disaster that took place in the English Channel in 1782.

There has been speculation as to whether this song might relate to the Battle of Sole Bay which took place in 1672, but there’s little in the text to suggest that. Interestingly, there is actually a song about the Battle of Sole Bay – the subject of another post on this blog, The Battle of Sole Bay: an Unsung Song.

As well as being a singer, Robert played the concertina. The only tune noted from him is named The Liverpool Hornpipe in Vaughan Williams’ manuscript, although in fact it is nothing like the usual tune of that name, and is actually a variant of what is probably the most widely-known hornpipe of all, Soldier’s Joy. In Suffolk, hornpipes were, and still are, commonly used for ‘stepping’: an informal, improvised form of tap dancing, so it’s very likely that Robert would have played for such dancing in the pubs of Southwold.


George Hurr 1852-1928

George came between William and Robert in age. In 1875 he married Charlotte Jane Jarvis Pack and they soon started a family and set up in business running boarding house on East Cliff to cater for holiday makers from London in the season, whilst George continued to work as a fisherman.

Proof that the brothers worked together comes from the 1881 census, where George is found on board the Nancy Hugh in Lowestoft Harbour. With him are brothers William and Samuel. William, the eldest, is listed first and has signed the census form. The Nancy Hugh is described as a “dandy” in the business of long-line fishing, and the master is given as James Hurr (the oldest of the brothers), although he wasn’t on board on census night.

By 1901 George and his wife Charlotte were running a boarding house with holiday apartments in Stradbroke Road, which is where they were in 1910 when Vaughan Williams came to town.

We know that George sang from the memoirs of one of those summer visitors from London, Martin Shaw. His father, James Shaw was the organist at Hampstead Parish Church and brought his family here for the first time in the 1870s, when Martin was just a toddler. Martin spent a whole summer in Southwold recuperating from whooping cough when he was thirteen, and maintained a regular association with the town throughout his life, eventually retiring there in the 1940s. His abiding childhood memory of Southwold was of one George Hurr:

“George taught me to swim and to smoke. […] He used to take me out trawling all night. When the nets were down he would while away the time by singing very slowly an interminable ballad with the refrain – which I thought ill-timed – ‘And the salt water was his grave’.”

Neither I nor some of the most experienced song researchers in the country have yet been able to identify this song, but we can certainly identify with Martin Shaw’s sentiments!

Martin Shaw grew up to be a very well-known and respected composer (Morning has Broken for example) and as a student he met Ralph Vaughan Williams. The two became lifelong friends and their correspondence includes some mention of folksong: Vaughan Williams encouraged Shaw to visit William Hurr but there’s no indication of whether he ever did – he certainly did not note down or describe any traditional singing apart from this one mention of George Hurr from his childhood years.

He did however dedicate a song he composed in 1924 “To the Southwold fishermen I knew when a boy”.


Details of the folksong collecting trip in 1910 by Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth, as well as full details of all the songs sung by the Hurrs, and other singers found on that trip, can be found on my other website https://katiehowson.co.uk/southwold-singers-1910

The Hurrs’ songs, complete with reconstructed sets of words, were also included in a booklet Blyth Voices published in 2003 by the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust. The research in that booklet is now superseded by my later work published online, but if you’re interested in singing the songs, that’s the book you need! https://www.eatmt.org.uk/shop/

To find out more about the song about the Battle of Sole Bay, see The Battle of Sole Bay: an Unsung Song.

William Hurr senior’s story (including some ghost stories!) is told in A Life through Five Sovereigns.

More of the history of some of the artistic visitors is traced in a talk I gave in March 2021 called Up from the Sea – Sea Songs on the Suffolk Coast, which can be watched here – it lasts about 20 minutes.


Martin Shaw’s memoir Up to Now (1929) is the source for the quote about George Hurr, and the Martin Shaw website is the source for the image of his dedication on his song The Dip. The website also has other relevant information and a whole article about his life in Southwold. 

Thanks to the late John “Wiggy” Goldsmith for the Ben Hurr portrait, Gary May for the photo of Robert and his son Walter, and the Southwold Museum for the photos of William Hurr. As with all matters Southwoldian, the Southwold Museum (and its past and present curators) has been of huge help and very much deserves our support.

Song images courtesy of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance & Song Society.

Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

 

 

Up from the Sea: Joseph Goodall, J.W. Georges and P.H. Emerson in Southwold

In April 2021 I presented one aspect of my work on the singing traditions from Southwold, in Suffolk for an online talk entitled Up from the Sea: Sea Songs from Southwold on the Suffolk Coast.

In that talk I focused on songs about the sea, and also touched on the role of visiting artists, musicians and writers, who were often inspired by the town’s fishing community, to see if they could reveal further information about vernacular singing.

I chose as my cover image this wonderful painting by Joseph Southall from 1920 – one of two similar studies. I particularly liked this one with the young boy looking on rather wistfully as the fishermen haul their boat up the beach.

In this present article I will elaborate a bit further on some of these little known visiting artists. The singers and songs are the subject of other posts mentioned at the foot of this page, where there is also a link to the afore-mentioned talk.


Joseph Southall (1861-1944)

I first became aware of Southall’s work through Ian Collins’ wonderful book Making Waves, published in 2005. This book is a marvellous survey, beautifully produced, of many artists who have been inspired by Southwold and its inhabitants.

Joseph Southall was brought up by radical Quakers in Edgbaston, Birmingham where he trained as an architect and attended art classes in the evening. He went on to be recognised as “one of the foremost tempera painters in the country and led to his participation in the exhibitions of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and the exhibition of Modern Tempera at Leighton House, which immediately preceded the foundation of the Tempera Society, of which he became one of the leading members” according to Peyton Skipwith writing on The Victorian Web in 2005. Egg-based tempera is very durable, with a satin sheen finish and generally gives a strong opaque colour.

He fell in love with a first cousin, Anna Elizabeth Baker (known as Bessie), and because of their close kinship they delayed their marriage until they were both in their early 40s. Joe and Bessie  first came to Southwold on their honeymoon in 1903 and spent weeks in the town every summer for most of the ensuing 34 years. He evidently found much inspiration in both the fishing fraternity and the fashionable holiday-makers, but Bessie was also involved, sewing the fabric paintings on to frames and applying numerous coats of gesso and size to finish the work. The Southalls also made their own egg-based paint and carved and gilded picture frames. Colour was of the utmost importance and no varnishing was allowed, although Goodall aimed to suffuse his images with a “golden hue”.

Ian Collins writes about this self-portrait of the Southalls: “This 1911 double portrait of the finely-dressed Southalls searching on Southwold beach for semi-precious stones is called ‘The Agate’. Now on long-term loan to the National Portrait Gallery, it formerly lodged in the ladies’ lavatory of a Birmingham department store – latterly hidden behind a mirror after complaints from customers.”

It is interesting to compare Up from the Sea with a later version of the same scene, entitled Fishermen and Boat (1923). In this later reworking, the little boy has gone, replaced with a basket and wooden barrow. The man in the brown smock has gained a clay pipe and an extra man, sporting a fine moustache and sou’wester has joined in to lend a hand, whilst a couple of fishermen have appeared in the background. Most striking of the additions, perhaps, is the young man on the left of the picture really putting his back into the effort and sporting, like the man in the middle, a fine pair of the long fisherman’s boots that were to prove fatal for some of those engaged in this dangerous industry.

My last two examples of Southall’s Southwold would seem to be the same elderly fisherman: The Old Fisherman leaning on his boat was painted during the Southalls’ honeymoon in 1903 and Fisherman Carrying a Sail dates from 1907. It isn’t known whether these were actual people, or composite creations from a variety of old “characters”, but they very much feel to be based on direct observations.

Southall’s images of holiday makers in Southwold show the changing fashions and habits in sea-bathing, and it is well worth browsing the internet where many more can be viewed.


John Walter Georges (1879-1958)

This singular work by J.W. Georges really captured my attention, as it features someone known to be a singer – Billy Rogers – apparently in full flow, in the Harbour Inn in 1911. It was also published in Making Waves and when the book was published in 2005, very little was known about the artist except that in 1930, when he executed this drawing, he was at St Martin’s School of Art in London, and living in Battersea Rise. Ian Collins noted that “The remembered figures, left to right, are landlord Charles James Prior, fisherman John Cannell of 3 Town Farm Cottages, North Road in Southwold (83 in 1930), ex-basketmaker W.M. Rogers (the blind son of ‘Old Dog’ Rogers), the late fisherman Henry Ladd and the artist himself.”

Billy Rogers was known as a singer around the Southwold pubs and his story is told in Tales from the Harbour Inn (forthcoming).

But what of the artist?

Internet searches revealed no other works by John Walter Georges, so all I know is what I’ve found in a painstaking hunt through the genealogical sources. He was born in Brighton in 1879, the son of Julius Georges, a drawing master. Julius’ parents were born in France and his father was also a drawing master. John Walter moved to Lambeth to take up an apprenticeship in electrical engraving. At the age of 21 he married his boss’s daughter and in 1901 he and his wife Kathleen were living with her parents. After a couple of short-term residences, they settled into a home in Altenburg Gardens in Battersea, and by the 1911 census Georges gave his occupation as artist and art teacher. He retired from teaching in 1934, when the couple moved out to Epsom in Surrey, and he died in Weymouth, Dorset in 1958. This drawing came up for sale in 2004 and is the only known piece by Georges and his only known connection to Southwold. However there are indications of an ongoing family connection in Suffolk. His brother Julius had married a Norfolk woman and in retirement they lived in Clare, in south Suffolk. And, quite tantalisingly, a 16 year-old Dora Georges was living in Walberswick in the summer of 1930 – she is mentioned in Orwell in Southwold: His Life and Writings in a Suffolk Town, by Ronald Binns published in 2018, but I cannot find out any more about her apart from a possible marriage locally in 1937.

It rather looks as if Georges’ 1911 description of himself as “artist and art teacher” was a bit optimistic on the “artist” side. I am grateful for the survival of this one small work of art and it would be nice to think there were some more of his drawings lurking somewhere, unrecognised!


Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936)

The photographer P.H. Emerson is probably better known than the painters featured above, although he is generally associated with the Norfolk Broads, but his Southwold work from the mid 1880s is also superb.

Emerson published his ground-breaking work in the 1880s in a series of limited edition books and destroyed the plates afterwards. The books, of course, now fetch thousands of pounds, but the photographs have been digitised – details of online holdings are at the foot of the page. His writing is also very interesting, but some of it is hard to access, although a couple of relevant books are available as reproductions or digital books.

Emerson had been born in Cuba, and lived in America until the age of 9. He trained as a surgeon, married and started family whilst still at Cambridge University. He and his wife and baby son first came to Southwold in the summer of 1883, when the Halesworth Times, which listed eminent visitors to the town, tells us they stayed at Mrs Scarll’s on the High Street. They were back as holidaymakers in 1884 and shortly afterwards moved into Wellesley House, from which address he applied for copyright on a photograph called The Hoer on 1st September 1885. The following year he abandoned medicine to pursue a career as an artist-photographer, and it is in this year, 1886, that most of his Southwold photographs were taken. Emerson led a bit of a peripatetic life thereafter, moving his family back to London in late 1886 and living for extended periods on houseboats on the Norfolk Broads, but nearly ten years later he did return to the area – to Oulton Broad – for a few more years, but by that time he was more interested in wildlife writing than photography.

A future article will cover Emerson in more depth, so I shall just include here some of his Southwold photos to which I can add some insights. 

The two photographs above both show fishermen’s huts on the beach at Southwold, and both have names over the doorways. Geoffrey Munn in Southwold: An Earthly Paradise assumed that Rosebud was the name of the men’s boat, but I doubted that, as it looks like a name board off a boat itself. It turns out that no boat called the Rosebud was registered locally, but five years before Emerson took the photo in 1886, the following report appeared in the Diss Express on 25th November 1881, on the wreck of a brig registered in Hartlepool:

So after the crew had been rescued, the Southwold fishermen would have salvaged various remains – including this name board! Evidently this was not an uncommon practice as the following picture and information published in A Photographic Collection of Bygones by Barrett Jenkins indicate.

It is as well that Jenkins wrote the caption “The name board is from the wreck of the Nyl Ghau,” as it is not legible from the photo itself, but is clearly visible in Emerson’s photograph above.

 

 

 

I’ve left the most interesting (for me anyway!) until last – a series of three interiors showing just how staged these never-the-less photos actually were. I loved the one with the fiddle and the boy dancing a Sailor’s Hornpipe or stepdance, and was quite amazed to find these other variations on the same theme.

All of these photographs are held in the Eastman Museum and are numbered 192 (fiddle), 107 (all seated) and 1 (spinning wheel) in their online archive (see below). While these are titled A Cottage Interior and thought to have been taken in Southwold, I have my suspicions that they may have been staged in a room in Emerson’s somewhat larger abode,  where there would have been more room to fit in his large camera apparatus as well.  Whether or not the fisherman on the left did actually play the fiddle, is not known, as we don’t know who he is. Emerson’s daughter Gladys was just a toddler when these photographs were taken, but in later life she became a professional violinist, so it seems likely Emerson’s household could have been musical enough to muster a violin amongst their possessions in 1886 when this photograph was taken.

There is evidence in Emerson’s writing of an interest in folksong, which will be covered in a future post.


Other soon-to-be-published articles about Southwold include Tales from the Harbour Inn, where there is more about Billy Rogers; and The Real Ben Hurr and MacKenzie’s Lambs and the Leg of Mutton which contain more about other singers.


Books

The book Making Waves: Artists in Southwold, by Ian Collins published by Black Dog Books in 2005, cannot be too highly recommended and is what sparked my researches into this particular aspect of traditional life in Southwold.

Southwold: An Earthly Paradise, by Geoffrey C. Munn, published by the Antique Collectors’ Club, 2006 contains beautiful reproductions of fifteen of P.H.Emerson’s Southwold photographs.

I am eagerly anticipating Shorelines: Voices of Southwold Fishermen, by Robert Jellicoe, due to be published in October 2021 by Black Dog Books. Bob is the curator of the Southwold Museum and the archivist for the Sailors’ Reading Room and has been very supportive and helpful with my recent researches.  

Orwell in Southwold: His Life and Writings in a Suffolk Town, by Ronald Binns published by Zoilus Press, 2018

Most of P. H. Emerson’s Southwold photographs were published in ‘Pictures From Life In Field And Fen’ (1887).

Online resources

The Victorian Web website has many gems including this biography of Joseph Southall.

The Suffolk Artists website is also good on Joseph Southall

The Eastman Museum has a wonderful online archive of P.H. Emerson’s photos.

The British Library online archive also has a good selection – this link takes you to a search for “Peter Henry Emerson Southwold

And lastly, here’s that link to my talk about singing traditions in Southwold.

Please note: Anyone wishing to cite this original research should credit it to Katie Howson and cite this website as the source.

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