Article MT140

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

No. 7: Singers at large1 - Once again, I am most particularly indebted to Keith Chandler (South Leigh, Oxon) for allowing me to draw extensively on his research. In addition, I would like to thank the staffs at Newbury public library, at Swindon library, the Oxford Centre for Local Studies, Reading public library, Winchester Local Studies library, at the West Country Studies library in Exeter and at the Record Offices at Taunton and Trowbridge for access to material and help in answering questions; and my nephews and great-nephew for chasing up and supplying material.1


Following on from the last piece which approached the phenomenom of ballad-sellers at the fair (and elsewhere), the details that follow are in the nature of confirmation of the presence of singers across the southern parts of England, particularly at fairs.  Once again, as in the case of ballad-sellers, it is abundantly clear that there were numbers of itinerant singers to be found during the nineteenth century.  Further, though, just as we can see that they sang, so also many of them engaged in the trade of selling ballads; and they cannot either be separated from musicians and dancers and other entertainers…all of whom were subject to the fluctuations of economy which must have had a huge impact on a way of living and of getting a living.  Mayhew noted, for some, an itinerant life instead of a more comfortable one that previous history might have made available.2 - Henry Mayhew: London Labour and the London Poor (London, Frank Cass, 1967 edn.), p.217.2  And all were the focus of a peculiar slant to public morality.

Two reports, from widely separated venues and where singers were active in different circumstances, establish a pattern of appearance, the context, for us, of discovery.  It should be added that any potentially a-historical concerns over the wide range of dates canvassed has not, actually, proved to be a major factor since similar circumstances seemed to have obtained throughout the nineteenth century.  One of the more interesting aspects to be encountered in this respect is that ballad-singing (and ballad-selling) was such a constant feature at a relatively late date in the nineteenth century and, in some instances, can be found as a feature during the early years of the twentieth century.  This seems to conflict with the repeated assertions and laments that fairs and their accompanying spectacles were in decline; and differences during the period under review lie in detail such as changing fashion for songs, as will be seen.

The first extract (my italics, as in all extracts given below), relatively early in time (1842), from Exeter, something of a rarity as comment which includes reference to ballad singers, and describing the annual St Thomas' pleasure fair, noted the spectacle of:

…mock auctions, in which the principal actors blended their voices, if not most musically, at least most ludicrously, with the notes of the ballad singer, passed forth to the strains of sundry cracked fiddles.3 - Exeter Flying Post 31st March 1842 (I regret that I omitted to take down the page number). The rarity of comment on the particular fair where ballad-singing is concerned is made up for in the cumulative detail assembled in the text here just as, with ballad sellers, one cannot lightly put side the resultant general propositions that emerge.3
The second, from a later date, is an example of a frequent occurrence:
Newbury
Borough Police Court Monday
Jane Jones, a street singer, was charged with being drunk and quarrelsome, and refusing to leave the licensed premises of Mr William Pyatt of the Globe, Bartholomew-street, on the 28th ult.…4 - Newbury Weekly News 4th March 1880, p.6.4
In this case, it was further observed of Jane Jones that 'she was mad drunk'; and that she had no money.  So she was sent to Reading gaol for fourteen days' detention.

There were many shades in between the two examples but they indicate parameters within which the following extracts offer evidence.

In the first, there is no doubt about the viewpoint of the observer but, assuming here that the expression, 'ballad-mongers', does indicate selling, there is also a suggestion that 'Seven Dials flimsies' might almost be a separate category…perhaps more a result of careless writing than anything.  Thus,

BUCKINGHAM
THE FAIR.  [18th October]

…Of the discordant noises of the day, the nasal slang of the ballad-mongers stood out pre-eminent and drowned all other utterance; and the hang-gallows recitations of the performers of this class were so doleful and harsh-sounding, that it only added to the dismal character of the occasion, and the finest specimens of the choral and musical taste if England in October, 1862, was shown in the burthen to the unmelodious and nasty harmony of “How is your poor feet?”  Still, the sharpest line in business was done in this way, and the Seven Dials flimsies, cheap Jacks, smoking-hot garbage washed down with “mild,” and other matters; and ever since, there has been such a sprinkling about the neighbourhood of all the various hanger-on of the vagabond fraternity of a country fair, that everybody blesses himself and hopes before long to be rid of any worse effects from such a gathering together of the scum and scrapings of the motley members of our last country fair.5 - Banbury Guardian 23rd October 1862, p.35

Another report presents us with the need to interpret the word, 'loads', but it is difficult to see this as any other than a literal description; and still we have the juxtapositioning of the word, 'warblings'.  The report describes the 1872 Banbury Fair, Thursday 17th October, and
…the warblings of the ever present ballad singer, who has always a load of songs for his special occasions.  On Thursday the burden of his song was the advice to “strike for better wages”, predicting that such a course would most assuredly result in success…6 - Banbury Beacon 25th October 1872, p.4. A further comment on the 1872 strikes will appear in the third piece in this set, Bawlers…6
Following on, more reports illustrate the presence of singers at fairs as companion to sellers, sometimes drawing seller and singer back into a single figure and often, at the same time, underlining the shared lives amongst all kinds of singers, musicians and other itinerants.

The first is perfunctory in its reference to 'ballads' but emphasises the context:

1855 BICESTER AUGUST FAIR.  - …In the pleasure fair there was the usual supply of entertainment for the holiday folks.  Bazaars, bough houses, ballads, and beer were in abundance.  There was no lack of wooden horses and cock boats, cheap jacks, clowns, and columbines; plays, peep shows, pickled salmon, and penny whistles; all of which appeared to receive plenty of patronage from the pleasure-seeking provincials.7 - Bicester Advertiser, 11th August 1855, p.17
The next report is also useful to indicate the place of ballad-singers amongst other 'attractions'.  We are left to guess whether the singers were actually selling their ballads.  There is, too, a hint of decline as there was so often where fairs were concerned.
1862 Evesham Mop

The annual mop, or statute fair, was held here yesterday…The ballad singers, nut men, and nondescript assortment of “artful dodgers,” usually attendance at these places, were in great force but their trade generally, thanks to the increasing intelligence of their hoped-for victims, seemed duller than usual.8 - Evesham Journal, 11th October 1862, p.48

And in a flurry of reference, the following reports expand range and confirm sightings… At Buckingham, for example, in 1863,
BUCKINGHAM SECOND STATUTE FAIR.

This fair was held on Saturday, the 17th instant…Ballad singers did a good trade, and the halt and the blind met with many to sympathise with them, and to relieve them…9 - Bicester Herald, 23rd October 1863, p.79

At Banbury, in 1865,
BANBURY MICHAELMAS FAIR.  - This large annual gathering took place on Thursday.  Photography was well represented by ten or twelve booths, sparring-booths, weighting-machines, spirometers, cheap johns, ballad singers, &c., were all busy pursuing their various avocations…10 - Oxford Chronicle and Berks and Bucks Gazette, 14th October 1865, p.810
And once more in Buckingham, this time in 1871,
STATUTE FAIR.  - …Saturday last…Ballad-singers chanted lays to delighted listeners…11 - Buckingham Express, Winslow, Stony Strafford, and Brackley Times 2nd October 1871, p.4.11
At Stow-on-the-Wold, in 1864,
ANNUAL FAIR.  - …[Held on Monday last]…Of gingerbread, toy, and fruit stalls, bazaars, dancing booths, punching and lifting instruments, 'ballad singers', &c., &c., there were plenty and enough to gratify the taste of all…12 - Oxford Times 29th October 1864, p.7.12
In Wellingborough, in 1866, where we can find a by now familiar lament for decline,
THE STATUTE on Thursday, the 20th ult., was but a shadow of the statutes of former days.  Fustian coats, flaming ribbons, ballad singers, gipsey [sic] fiddlers, pickled herring stalls, jolly farmers, rubicund rustics, stout dames, hirers, and hired servants, appear to be at Wellingborough but remembrances of the past.13 - Oxford Times 6th October 1866, p.6.13
A collection of reports from Banbury, which seemed to have been particularly well served by observers, adds yet more evidence:
1868 MICHAELMAS FAIR.  [15 October]

…Then there were ballad-singers - male and female, cheap Johns, sleight-of-hand men, street acrobats, hurdy-gurdy women, organ men, fiddlers, and all the rag, tag, and bobtail to be seen on such occasions, whose combined efforts, along with that of the showmen, who roared, rang bells, played cracked cornets, and beat huge drums and gongs, succeeded in producing a din and clamour that can be better imagined than described… On Thursday afternoon and evening, as well as on Friday evening, there was dancing in the Central Corn Exchange.  The annual ball was held at the Buck and Bell and another at the Plough on the last-named evening.

Again…
1870 MICHAELMAS FAIR [13th]

…exponents of the once-celebrated rope-trick, ballad singers, disabled miners, toy vendors, pie-men who carried their warehouses on their arms, confectionary-stall, &c., &c…

And again…
1872 MICHAELMAS FAIR.

…Then there were street-mountebanks, fiddlers, sharpers and dupes - sheep and their shearers - punching-machine men…ballad singers, and if their ballads are “vocal portraits of the national mind” then we are sorry for it…Besides the above named amusements, there was dancing at some of the public-houses, and John and Mary went in for this pretty extensively, and if they did not trip the “light” they tripped the fantastic toe” with a will…

And finally…
1877 MICHAELMAS FAIR.  [18 October]

…Of course, the fair would be nothing without Cheap Johns, acrobats, ballad-singers, height-and-weight men and the usual “rag, tag, and bobtail,” and we had them in abundance…14 - The four reports cited in the text all came from the Banbury Guardian - 22nd October 1868, p.2; 20th October 1870, p.2; 24th October 1872, p.2; 25th October 1877, p.7.14

A little further a-field, at Witney, in 1871,
WITNEY FEAST.

THE FAIR commenced on Monday…The dancing booth was extensively patronised by country lads and lasses…[various showmen] and gipsies, all plying their several vocations with more or less success.  Ballad singers - who introduced with indifferent rhyme and questionable taste the persons and scenes connected with the late murder in Witney - drove an extensive trade.15 - Witney Express 14th September 1871, p.8. There is a copy of a ballad on the Witney murder, committed by one John Roberts, on his sweetheart, Ann Merrick, and this is being further investigated.15

In Newbury, amongst the reports of ballad-sellers as canvassed in the last piece in this series, the following also occur…  In the Newbury Weekly News in 1882 it was reported that:
The ancient ballad-singer, now nearly extinct, was represented by a company if three, two men and a woman (pardon the term), who bawled out verses that are dignified by being called “doggerel.”
An 1884 report incorporates familiar lament and amused reportage,
…there are not wanting signs that sooner or later the stature or pleasure fair will become a relict of the past, as much as the Maying, Morris-dancing, and other characteristics of early English life in the villages…

The ballad singers were certainly not absent, as all who came within earshot were able to testify, and their constant repetition of 'Wait til the clouds roll by,' should relieve that song from future public service.

In 1892, ' there were the ballad singers, degenerated scions of a noble profession…' and a year later, 'There were the same wretched individuals in the last stage of “broken downism” bawling “Daisy Bell”…'.16 - The Newbury Weekly News reports appeared as follows: 14th October 18/82, unpag.; 2nd October 1884, unpag.; 20th October 1892, p.8; 19th October 1893, p.5.16

This, then, is the kind of reportage to be expected, a half-century's worth, and the resultant picture is clear enough, given differences at the edges, and providing a reasonable addition to the comments set out in the previous piece in the series.

In a few cases, in amongst straightforward descriptions of ballad-singers and other participants at fairs, there are certain elements of portraiture which offer a little more detail of singers, quite virulently in the first piece below:

1871 BANBURY

THE MICHAELMAS FAIR.  - This annual hiring and pleasure fair occurred on Thursday, Oct.  12…various inns had rooms set apart for music and dancing, dining and drinking…Beyond this, there were…some disgusting songsters…17 - Banbury Beacon, 20th October 1871, p.4.17

This is in keeping with those descriptions of the race of ballad-sellers to which the word 'scum' was attached in the first Buckingham report given above.  We are left in no doubt, then, about the implied social level and potential for trouble that surrounded singers (and sellers).

At an important tangent, another instance broadens our idea of the perceptions of the observer in noting different kinds of singing:

1869 BANBURY

MICHAELMAS FAIR.  [14th]

…Among the rest of the “rag, tag, and bob-tail,” there were "nigger minstrels", disabled sailors and colliers, ballad-singers, itinerant toy-vendors, quack doctors, galvanic battery-men, and a host of others too numerous to mention here, all of whom appealed to the public with more or less success.18 - Banbury Guardian, 21st October 1869, p.2.18

Such a distinction in kind amongst singers is made again in the next extract…
1863 Evesham Mop.

The annual statute fair for the hire of servants or as it is more familiarly called “the Mop” took place yesterday…The morris-dancers, itinerant songsters, roving ballad-singers, maimed colliers, and sailors shorn of one or more limbs, and other applicants for “a trifle,” almost inundated the town…We are sorry to add that we could note no improvement in the class of entertainment provided for the rustics.19 - Evesham Journal, 10th October 1863, p.4.19

Further still, at Banbury, in 1873,
MICHAELMAS FAIR.

ballad singers found audiences to listen to the woes of “Sir Roger”… seedy-looking acrobats walked on stilts and sang comic songs, sham miners sang ditties about the dangers of working underground…  There was dancing at various public-house, most of which did not seem to want for customers…20 - Banbury Guardian, 23rd October 1873, p.2.20

And, at Abingdon in 1893:
Michaelmas…The Romany classes of all grades, from the well-to-do proprietor of steam-driven roundabouts to the humblest hawker and ballad singer, come punctually to the scene of the action…  In a lower scale of pence-earners were singers of the latest music hall songs21 - Abingdon Herald, 14th October 1893, p.5.21
The kinds are underlined yet again in the next piece:
1897 ABINGDON FAIR.

…Not only did the smoke-wreaths from the camp fires betray their presence, but nomadic emissaries scoured the borough in the form of hawkers, organ-grinders, and exponents of popular songs, including the latest ballad, beloved of errand boys….  22 - Abingdon Herald, 9th October 1897, p.822

And, in a similar way, although with different terms,
1885 WITNEY FEAST.

THE FAIR.

On Monday [14th - the weather was very wet]…The attractions in the way of shows were of a meagre description - a small circus, Chittock's dogs and monkeys.  And Lawrence's marionettes being the only concerns worth mention…Patter singers and a Cheap Jack with a diminutive stock-in-trade also tried to do business…23 - Witney Express, 17th September 1885, p.5.23

This range of delineation cannot be ignored; and there are enough general hints to show that newspaper commentators seemed to have had in mind the ballad-singer (and ballad-seller, as has been seen) almost as a distinct species and that there was a preference for a familiar, perhaps un-threatening repertoire.  This aspect will be explored a little further below and in the next piece in the series but, first, one notes a viewpoint essayed by a respected commentator, W. Hasbach, which offers a negative view of ballad-singers and urges a clear moral imperative:
The fears of prudent persons were directed to the troupes of ballad singers, who were seen to “disseminate sentiments of dissipation” in minds which should have been bred in principles of industry and society.  Popular songs were held to have much influence in forming the morality of the agricultural population; and it was pointed out that instead of the “trash” set before them whenever they came together they heard songs in praise of conjugal happiness and country life the most beneficient results might have anticipate.24 - W Hasbach: A History of the Agricultural Labourer [1894] (London, Frank Cass, 1966); quoted in Canon Brian Carne: The Wootton Bassett Hiring Fair in Friends of Lydiard Tregoze Report No. 26, 15th - May 1993, p.23. Hasbach himself appears to be quoting but no source was given in Canon Carne's article.24
This kind of remark, repeated without attribution in a vein of fear, self-righteousness and, actually, a shedding of responsibility dates from a time, 1894, when hiring fairs were being abolished; and its gist is very much the same as that found in the final North Wilts Herald account given in the last piece in this series.

It is also necessary to return to the subject-matter as exemplified by Jane Jones above when ballad-singers got into trouble: presumably the irritating phenomenon that Hasbach - or, more properly, Hasbach's source - had in mind.  We should take into account the possibility that some of the names and the domiciles of the characters up before magistrates could have been false.  Do we accept the name of 'Jane Jones', for example?  We note below that Elizabeth Youde 'said' that she came from Birmingham; that one prisoner 'gave his name as' William Bradbury; and that, besides the 'Smiths' noted below in the body of the text, in 1891 at the Newbury Borough Police Court, a 'Mary Smith' was charged with being drunk and disorderly and, later in the same year, a 'George Jones' and a 'Henry Smith' were charged with theft.25 - For Mary Smith see Newbury Weekly News, 12th February 1891, p.8 and for Smith and Jones 1st May 1891, p.2.25  They could, of course, all have been genuine.  Whatever the case, offence and prosecution remain the same.  In the first extract given below a familiar offence from an 1852 case was recorded:

POCKET PICKING.  - A person, who gave the name of William Bradley, professional singer, of Worcester, was charged with having on that day [8th] picked pockets in Bicester fair.  [The evidence was inconclusive and he was discharged.]26 - Banbury Guardian, 14th October 1852, p.3 - a reference from Petty Sessions records in Bicester (October 8th - 1852).26
In Gloucester, in two reports headed 'City Police Intelligence', both from 1861, we find that:
WEDNESDAY.  - William Butler, a tramping ballad singer, was charged with stealing an over coat from the Bell beerhouse, Littleworth, on the 28th ult., the property of Daniel Malpas.  It appeared from the evidence that the prisoner went into the house under the pretence of singing ballads, after receiving money for his performance he was seen by the servant to quit the house with the coat underneath his arm.  She at once told her master, Mr Smart, who followed prisoner, but could not overtake him.  Information was given to the police, but no trace could be found of the prisoner until he was arrested by PC Greville, on Monday night, in Northgate-street, when he denied having taken the coat.  Prisoner now pleaded guilty, and was sentences to six day's hard labour.
and in the second that:
MONDAY. - …George Gass and Thomas Markey, two ballad singers, were charged by PC Hulls, and Mr Knowles, auctioneer, with begging, being drunk, and using filthy language, in St Mary's-square, on Saturday night.  Committed for three days' each with bread and water.27 - The two Gloucester references may be found in the Gloucester Journal, 12th October 1861, p.3 and, 26th October 1861,p.8 respectively.27
More drunken-ness was discovered, first at Winslow (Buckinghamshire) in 1855…
COMMITMENTS.  - On the 14th ul.t, [sic] before W. S. Lowndes, Esq., at Winslow,

Elizabeth Youde, a travelling ballad singer, who said she came from Birmingham, was brought up in custody, from the lock-up, charged with having, on the previous day, been drunk and disorderly at Winslow.  On the evidence of police-officer Rawlings, the prisoner was convicted of profane swearing, and was, in default of the payment of 4s. fine, and 6s. costs, committed to the house of Correction for 1[?0 - indistinct] days.28 - Bicester Herald, 3rd November 1855, p.5.28

At Newbury, in 1870:
Borough Police Court Monday
AN IRISH VOCALIST IN TROUBLE

Patrick O'Brien, who was, as his name indicated, an Irishman, and, moreover, a comic vocalist, stepped into the dock with a defiant “tread on the tail o' my coat” appearance, on a charge of being drunk and riotous.29 - Newbury Weekly News 16th June 1870, unpag.. 29

There followed a report which took every advantage to exploit the 'Irish' qualities of O'Brien's character and speech; and, nothwithstanding the amusement obviously derived, the magistrates still gave him a week's imprisonment.

But these small histories need to be set alongside those of a similar character involving other persons loosely connected with music.  Examples follow…

Julius Casey, 'a travelling musician' was accused of stealing eleven pounds' worth of gold coins and two rings, 'the property of John David Hill, of Alverstoke' (Hampshire) in April 1852 (he got nine months).

In 1865 a banjo player, named James Power, was brought up for stealing from the person of John Mortimer, the sum of 14s. 6d. at the “Vine” beer-house, Boarded-lane, Reading, but the prosecutor did not appear and the prisoner was liberated.

In Newbury, in 1871, Eliza Hickman was called as a witness for the defence in the case of three tramps - 'of repulsive appearance' - who were indicted on a charge of assault after Henley regatta.  She said that she had been at Henley singing with a companion.  Whatever her testimony, favourable to the defendants or not, the three got six months each.

Again in Newbury, in 1875, Robert Jafferson, 'a clog dancer', was brought up on a charge of unlawful entry.  The prisoner pleaded guilty claiming that he had been the worse for drink.  The police stated that, in custody, 'he had acted very badly'.  He got six weeks' imprisonment.

Yet another example from Newbury, this time in 1888, was that of William St Clair, 'street performer', who was charged with being 'drunk and disorderly outside the “Weaver's Arms”…'.  He was offered the choice between a five shilling fine plus costs…or seven days' imprisonment.  It is not recorded what he performed nor what choice he made.30 - Hampshire Chronicle, 18th October 1852, p.7; Reading Mercury, 3rd March 1865, p.5; Newbury Weekly News, 13th July 1871, unpag.; Newbury Weekly News, 30th September 1875, unpag.; Newbury Weekly News, 19th July 1888, unpag.. These are examples only.30

In a relatively complicated case, at the Petty Sessions (October 17th 1862) the landlord of the Robin Hood pub in Luton was charged with permitting drunkenness in his house (after hours, too, it seems) when a party who had returned from a shoe-club supper were found on the premises, many 'the worse for drink'.  A man named only as Odell 'came in and played a concertina, and wanted some drink, which the landlord refused…'.  The defendant was fined 2s. including costs or 14 days…

The fate of Odell and his concertina was not recorded.31 - Herts Express, 1st November 1862, unpag..31

Ultimately, just as we can see slight changes in descriptive terms when looking at out ostensible subjects, ballad-singers (and ballad-sellers), and just as we can pinpoint a social level and a propensity for trouble as indicated immediately above, so we can also see that the whole business of singing at fairs begins to shade off into associated activities - unspecified singing in pubs, usually when the landlord is charged with keeping his house open after hours as shown in the Luton report above, singing as a more casual occupation (Eliza Hickman above and Lucy Ann Skates below), music-making at elections, rough music, singing at local feasts and during May celebrations….32 - For the last four items see, for example, Jackson's Oxford Journal, 17th - November 1849, unpag.. - council elections in Oxford; North Wilts Herald, 2nd - September 1865, p.4 - a specific incident in Swindon; Hampshire Chronicle, 5th - June 1860, p.5, Hand-in-Hand Tradesman's Society Whit Monday dinner, Winchester, and Newbury Weekly News 13th June 1867, unpag. - Woolhampton Benefit Society Feast and 28th May 1874, unpag. (same); an organised Harvest Home at Wormstall [farm] Kintbury (Berkshire)…Newbury Weekly News, 8th October 1874, unpag..; Witney Gazette, 26th - September 1891, p.8 for a harvest home…32  Neither should we ignore the way that singing emerges in even more formal contexts such as 'smoking concerts' and village entertainments, usually under patronage and very much in the drawing-room mode - another story and one being followed up.

And, to return to the present investigation, offences amongst singers and musicians and others are found to be in common with many those that did not have the benefit of musical connection but who were involved as both locals and itinerants; and it is as well to set the brief portraits given above in this wider context.  There are scores of examples to be had, of which the following are representative.

At North Petherton Petty Sessions (Somerset) in 1860, 'Charles Parsons, a miller, St Michaels' Church, was…fined 10s. and costs, for having unjust weights…'.  In Wiltshire in 1859, 'two gipsies, named Andrew Smith and Thomas Smith, were summoned for obstructing the highway at Great Cheverell on the 22nd of February…'.  In Reading in 1860, at the Borough Police Court, 'William Smith was charged with begging in London-street'.  He pleaded guilty and was committed for 14 days.  And on the Isle of Wight, at the County Petty Sessions in 1860, John Stephens, a tramp with one leg and in the guise of a “man-of-war's man”, was charged with being drunk and abusive in the public streets, and committed as a rogue and a vagabond for 21 days.33 - The various extracts come from Taunton Courier, 25th April 1860, p.7, Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, 24th March 1859, unpag., Berkshire Chronicle, 28th January 1860, p.4, and Hampshire Telegraph, 14th January 1860, p.6.33

A whole clatter of such cases occurring within weeks of each other could be found in the pages of the Newbury Weekly News and they illustrate how itinerants came under jurisdiction (sometimes, such reports would merely state that the offender was a 'stranger').  Thus, a William Taylor, drover, was charged with driving cattle with foot and mouth; a William Davis, tramping bricklayer, was charged with being drunk; and a William Cobb, journeyman carpenter and upholsterer of London, was charged with stealing beef 'value 7s. and 4d.'34 - Ellen Hancock, 'a stranger', was charged with being drunk and disorderly at Newbury; so was George Williams, 'a stranger'; and Charles Stroud and James Deacon, 'strangers', were charged with theft in Newbury although the case was not actually proven (Newbury Weekly News 19th March 1891, p.6, 9th April 1891, p.4 and 14th May 1891, p.7). Elizabeth Clark, 'a tramping woman' was charged with stealing in Newbury; Thomas Morgan and Fanny Morgan, 'a pedlar and his wife', were charged with being drunk and disorderly in Lambourn (Newbury Weekly News, 29th 1890, p.2 and 31st - July 1890, p.5)…and so on. For Taylor, Davis and Cobb, see Newbury Weekly News, 26th August 1875, unpag.; 2nd September 1875, unpag.; and 11th September 1875, unpag..34

These examples are all very much at the tip of the iceberg - but, to bring us back finally to the subject in hand, where singing was involved, the next piece, from 1860, is typical of a late hours occurrence…

County Bench, Thursday

John Forbes of New Swindon, beer-house keeper, was summoned for having his house open for the sale of beer after the hour prescribed by the law.  Sergeant Stevens deposed that about 12 o'clock p.m., he was passing Forbes' house, when he heard singing within.  He found all the doors fastened, but on being admitted by the side door saw several men in the taproom, singing and two quarts of beer on the table. £1 and 7s. costs.35 - Berkshire Chronicle, 31st March 1860, p.835

Similarly, in Barton [in-the-clay, near Luton], in 1860, an incident occurred more clearly pertinent as being connected to a local fair.
John Stansbridge, Bull Inn, Barton, was charged with committing an offence against the tenor of his license, viz., permitting disorderly persons to assemble…  PC Armstrong stated: I was on duty at Barton, on the 17th ult., it being the annual “statute.” I went in to the Bull Inn about half-past eleven o'clock at night, hearing a great noise in the house.  I went in again at half-past twelve.  I saw the landlord both times.  There were at least 26 people in one room, singing and making a great noise, there were seven females in one little room - one named Elizabeth Hillyier, a well-known prostitute - and two other disreputable girls, also several men known to be poachers…36 - Herts Express, 27th October, 1860, unpag..36
Again, near Newbury, in 1875,
Borough police Court, Friday
Thomas Frankland, late of the Crown Brewery, Hungerford, now Loddon Bridge, Sonning…was summoned for having his house open at 50 minutes past eleven on the 10th May.
Sergt.  Harson on duty deposed to hearing singing going on in the Crown Brewery.  Also heard persons playing “Tommy Dodd” with half-pence…
Case adjourned
[no follow-up found]37 - Newbury Weekly News, 3rd June 1875, unpag..37
And what are we to make of Lucy Ann Skates, 'a young woman of dilapidated dress and dirty appearance', who, in 1874, was charged with stealing a purse of 'the moneys of James Bailey, a soldier in the 30th Regiment, but now on furlough'?  Bailey maintained that he had gone to a local pub in Hungerford with his brother and that Lucy Skates had come in and asked “Do you want to hear a song?”.  The landlord, however, turned her out.  Bailey evidently missed his purse, caught up with Lucy Skates in her lodging-house and, eventually, called the police.  The evidence for stealing proved to be dubious and Lucy Skates 'declared she was innocent, and all the money found upon her was a sixpence, which she said was given her by prosecutor [Bailey], and [five-pence halfpenny] in coppers, which she explained she had received by singing at public houses.'38 - Newbury Weekly News, 22nd January 1874, unpag.. There is a possibility that the name, 'Skates', is a variant or even a misheard pronunciation of one well-known in the Hungerford area, that of 'Skeats'.38

Frequently, we do not know exactly what kinds of songs were being sung on the occasions cited immediately above but could guess that some would have corresponded to those touted by ballad-sellers and ballad-singers - songs the names of which have already emerged in the course of this and the previous piece in this series.  And one important aspect begins to emerge from the full picture which is that, whether or not we accept that newspaper observers had clear distinctions of kind in mind, in terms of the ballad trade, the totality of songs invoked can be seen to match the range of material put out by printers who themselves sought commercial advantage rather than demonstrating taste or who necessarily distinguished characteristics in material.  Some indication has already been given of the range in this series - Merry's output, for instance - but it remains to explore these last aspects more fully later.

Roly Brown - 1.6.04
Cherves-Chatelars, France

Notes:

1 - Once again, I am most particularly indebted to Keith Chandler (South Leigh, Oxon) for allowing me to draw extensively on his research.  In addition, I would like to thank the staffs at Newbury public library, at Swindon library, the Oxford Centre for Local Studies, Reading public library, Winchester Local Studies library, at the West Country Studies library in Exeter and at the Record Offices at Taunton and Trowbridge for access to material and help in answering questions; and my nephews and great-nephew for chasing up and supplying material.

2 - Henry Mayhew: London Labour and the London Poor (London, Frank Cass, 1967 edn.), p.217.

3 - Exeter Flying Post, 31st March 1842 (I regret that I omitted to take down the page number).  The rarity of comment on the particular fair where ballad-singing is concerned is made up for in the cumulative detail assembled in the text here just as, with ballad sellers, one cannot lightly put side the resultant general propositions that emerge.

4 - Newbury Weekly News, 4th March 1880, p.6.

5 - Banbury Guardian, 23rd October 1862, p.3

6 - Banbury Beacon, 25th October 1872, p.4.  A further comment on the 1872 strikes will appear in the third piece in this set, Bawlers…

7 - Bicester Advertiser, 11th August 1855, p.1

8 - Evesham Journal, 11th October 1862, p.4

9 - Bicester Herald, 23rd October 1863, p.7

10 - Oxford Chronicle and Berks and Bucks Gazette, 14th October 1865, p.8

11 - Buckingham Express, Winslow, Stony Strafford, and Brackley Times, 2nd October 1871, p.4.

12 - Oxford Times, 29th October 1864, p.7.

13 - Oxford Times, 6th October 1866, p.6.

14 - The four reports cited in the text all came from the Banbury Guardian - 22nd October 1868, p.2; 20th October 1870, p.2; 24th October 1872, p.2; 25th October 1877, p.7.

15 - Witney Express, 14th September 1871, p.8.  There is a copy of a ballad on the Witney murder, committed by one John Roberts, on his sweetheart, Ann Merrick, and this is being further investigated.

16 - The Newbury Weekly News reports appeared as follows: 14th October 18/82, unpag.; 2nd October 1884, unpag.; 20th October 1892, p.8; 19th October 1893, p.5.

17 - Banbury Beacon, 20th October 1871, p.4.

18 - Banbury Guardian, 21st October 1869, p.2.

19 - Evesham Journal, 10th October 1863, p.4.

20 - Banbury Guardian, 23rd October 1873, p.2.

21 - Abingdon Herald, 14th October 1893, p.5.

22 - Abingdon Herald, 9th October 1897, p.8.

23 - Witney Express, 17th September 1885, p.5.

24 - W Hasbach: A History of the Agricultural Labourer [1894] (London, Frank Cass, 1966); quoted in Canon Brian Carne: The Wootton Bassett Hiring Fair in Friends of Lydiard Tregoze Report No.  26, 15th - May 1993, p.23.  Hasbach himself appears to be quoting but no source was given in Canon Carne's article.

25 - For Mary Smith see Newbury Weekly News, 12th February 1891, p.8 and for Smith and Jones 1st May 1891, p.2.

26 - Banbury Guardian, 14th October 1852, p.3 - a reference from Petty Sessions records in Bicester (October 8th - 1852).

27 - The two Gloucester references may be found in the Gloucester Journal, 12th October 1861, p.3 and, 26th October 1861,p.8 respectively.

28 - Bicester Herald, 3rd November 1855, p.5.

29 - Newbury Weekly News, 16th June 1870, unpag..

30 - Hampshire Chronicle, 18th October 1852, p.7; Reading Mercury, 3rd March 1865, p.5; Newbury Weekly News, 13th July 1871, unpag.; Newbury Weekly News, 30th September 1875, unpag.; Newbury Weekly News, 19th July 1888, unpag..  These are examples only.

31 - Herts Express, 1st November 1862, unpag..

32 - For the last four items see, for example, Jackson's Oxford Journal, 17th - November 1849, unpag..  - council elections in Oxford; North Wilts Herald, 2nd - September 1865, p.4 - a specific incident in Swindon; Hampshire Chronicle, 5th - June 1860, p.5, Hand-in-Hand Tradesman's Society Whit Monday dinner, Winchester, and Newbury Weekly News 13th June 1867, unpag. - Woolhampton Benefit Society Feast and 28th May 1874, unpag. (same); an organised Harvest Home at Wormstall [farm] Kintbury (Berkshire)…Newbury Weekly News, 8th October 1874, unpag..; Witney Gazette, 26th - September 1891, p.8 for a harvest home…

33 - The various extracts come from Taunton Courier, 25th April 1860, p.7, Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, 24th March 1859, unpag., Berkshire Chronicle, 28th January 1860, p.4, and Hampshire Telegraph, 14th January 1860, p.6.

34 - Ellen Hancock, 'a stranger', was charged with being drunk and disorderly at Newbury; so was George Williams, 'a stranger'; and Charles Stroud and James Deacon, 'strangers', were charged with theft in Newbury although the case was not actually proven (Newbury Weekly News 19th March 1891, p.6, 9th April 1891, p.4 and 14th May 1891, p.7).  Elizabeth Clark, 'a tramping woman' was charged with stealing in Newbury; Thomas Morgan and Fanny Morgan, 'a pedlar and his wife', were charged with being drunk and disorderly in Lambourn (Newbury Weekly News, 29th 1890, p.2 and 31st - July 1890, p.5)…and so on.  For Taylor, Davis and Cobb, see Newbury Weekly News, 26th August 1875, unpag.; 2nd September 1875, unpag.; and 11th September 1875, unpag..

35 - Berkshire Chronicle, 31st March 1860, p.8

36 - Herts Express, 27th October, 1860, unpag..

37 - Newbury Weekly News, 3rd June 1875, unpag..

38 - Newbury Weekly News, 22nd January 1874, unpag..  There is a possibility that the name, 'Skates', is a variant or even a misheard pronunciation of one well-known in the Hungerford area, that of 'Skeats'.

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