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1988: Christmas Mumming in a North Cotswold Town. Appendix C: Cecil Sharp in Campden

Craig Fees, “Christmas Mumming in a North Cotswold Town: With Special Reference to Tourism, Urbanisation and Immigration-Related Social Change“, PhD., Institute of Dialect and Folklife Studies, School of English, University of Leeds, England (1988).


Appendix C: Cecil Sharp in Campden

On Wednesday, January 13, 1909, Cecil Sharp delivered a 'concert lecture' on "English Folk Song" in Chipping Campden's town hall in aid of the Campden Nursing Association (reported in the Evesham Journal 16.1.1909,8, quoted below). The day before, he had collected "High Down Ho Down" from nearby Ilmlngton, and from Campden Morris dance leader Dennis Hathaway had collected a total of five Morris dance tunes (FT 2047-2051).

The concert lecture comprised the first part of a two-part entertainment, delivered to crowds at both a matinee and an evening performance, the second half consisting of a history of nursing in tableaux vivants, singing and recitation. Sharp was assisted "with vocal illustrations" by Miss Mattie Kay, "specially engaged for the performance"; the Hon. Robert Noel, son of the Earl and Countess of Gainsborough; and Mr. W.H. Wing, "who is a music master at Cambridge, and whose family is closely connected with Exton <the main Gainsborough seat in Rutlandshire>."

Mr. Sharp who is one of the greatest living authorities on "English Folk Songs", pointed out in his "talk" that in the old ages England was renowned throughout Europe as a nation of dancers and ballad singers. He said that this country has preserved its Morris dancing up to quite recent times; Indeed there were still some Gloucestershire villages, Campden for example, where the Morris is still danced. Until a few years ago no one believed that England possessed any "Folk Songs" of her own, but this fallacy had now happily been dispelled by collectors who had gone down with their notebooks into the country villages and recorded songs and dances as beautiful in quality as they are large in quantity. He said that he himself had taken down over 2,000 tunes.


Among these were "High Down, Ho Down", collected the day before in Ilmington, "and arranged on purpose for this occasion." It was sung by Mr. Wing and the Hon. Robert Noel.

According to the newspaper report of the lecture from which I have been quoting (cited in the first paragraph),


Mr. Sharp kept up a running commentary of description and anecdote in the interval between the songs, and referred to one or two visits he had paid in Campden, notably one to an old woman in Sheep-Street, from whom he had taken down some songs.


Indeed, it would appear that he had so far visited Campden (at least as a collector) only on the 12th, when he noted the Morris dance tunes from Dennis Hathaway, and on the day of the lecture itself, when he collected seven songs from Mrs. Mary Anne Clayton (64) (FT2063-2069; FW1921-1923) - presumably his "old woman in Sheep Street"; and a song from Philip Merriman (69) (FT 2070;FW1924).

In the late summer he returned to Campden again. On August 10 he noted from Janet Ashbee "A Derbyshire tune collected by Edward Carpenter" (FT2250). Principally, however, Sharp was interested in the songs of William "Shepherd" Hedges (76), to whom the Ashbees may have introduced him ( In a 29.8.1914/39 entry in the Ashbee Journals the man is referred to as "old Shepherd Hedges, the folk singer in the Almshouses", and in another of December 1915/391, simply as "folksinger". A possible photograph of William Hedges appears in David Viner, Victorian and Edwardian Cotswolds from Old Photographs, B.T. Batsford, London, 1983, plate 20. The photograph also appears in Vol. 2 of Janet Ashbee's commonplace book, "Sammelsurium", held by Felicity Ashbee, in which it is labelled "Old Holtam").

On this first visit with Shepherd Hedges, Sharp collected four songs (FT2251-2254;FW 2079-2081), for only two of which did he collect the full words ("Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth", called "Jemmy and Nancy of Yarmouth" in FW; and "Jack Ridler's Oven"). He returned four days later, on August 14, and collected six songs (FT2279-2283; FW2091-2095), for only three of which are the words separately transcribed ("Forty Long Miles", "Horses to Grass", "Taffy"). Two weeks later, on August 28 he collected two songs (FT2325-2326; FW2119-2120), only one of which has the words recorded as well ("The Broken Hearted Gentleman"), and two riddles (FW2121). Sharp collected from Hedges for a final time on September 10, when he noted three songs (FT2382-2383), none of them with words.

Sharp presumably visited Campden initially at the invitation of the Countess of Gainsborough (who directed the entertainment on behalf of the Nursing Association), and took the opportunity to collect the Morris dance tunes from Dennis Hathaway. He returned on Saturday April 30, 1910 to collect the dances themselves (FDN 2477-2480) from a team of boy dancers trained by Hathaway. Having combined collecting with lecturing on his earlier visit to Campden, it seems probable that it was on April 30 that Sharp delivered a lecture in the series "Music and Folk Song" to the School of Arts and Crafts in Campden. The Ashbees, Miss Mattie Kay, and Miss Ethel Richardson delivered the other lectures in the series, which began after Christmas, and which were "illustrated by the students and the school children" (Report of the Campden School of Arts and Crafts, 1909-1910. Essex House Press, Campden (1910), p.8; Sharp is thanked on p.13.). Presumably it was through the Guild of Handicraft and the Ashbees that Sharp arranged to come on this final occasion. Sharp's is one of the obituaries which the Ashbees clipped and saved in their Journals (1924/75a; from The Times,June 24, 1924).

If Sharp subsequently returned to Campden, it was not to collect material. His recorded collecting activity extends from January 12, 1909 to April 30, 1910; both of these visits are referred to by Sharp in Vol. 1 of FDN, p. 137.


Material Collected by Sharp in Campden.


 Mary Anne Clayton (64)  
  FT2063;   FW1921-1922  Long looked for come at last
   2064    Earl Richard
   2065    The Green Bed
  2066    The Soldiers Boy
   2067    Female Cabin Boy
   2068;  FW1923 The Holly and the Ivy Xmas carol


   Philip Merriman (69)
 FT2070;  FW1924 Crow in the Gutter 




Mrs. Ashbee
FT2250   A Derbyshire tune collected by Edward Carpenter


William Hedges (76)
FT2251;  FW2079-2080   Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth
2252  Crafty Maid's Policy
2253  The Three Butchers
2254;  FW 2081  Jack Ridler's Oven




William Hedges
FT2279;  FW2091-2092 Forty Long Miles
 2279   Rosemary Lane
2280;  FW2093-2094 Horses to Grass
2281   Golden Vanity
2282; FW2095 Taffy
2283   Bold Fisherman




William Hedges
FT2325; FW2119-2120 Broken Hearted Gentleman
2326   Shepherds Are the Best of Men
  FW2121 Riddles (2)




William Hedges
FT2382   In Fair Oxford City
2382   The Outlandish Knight
2383   I Followed Her




Dennis Hathaway
FDN2477; FT2047 Constant Billy
2478   Longborough Morris
2479   Dai Goes On
2480   Shepherd's Hey




The abbreviations FT, FW, FDN refer to Cecil Sharp's notebooks: Folk Tunes, Folk Words, and Folk Dance Notes respectively. I consulted these in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.