logo Enthusiasms No 73
A collection of shorter pieces on subjects of
interest, outrage or enthusiasm ...

Henry Hurton
Printer, Louth

As is often the case when engaged in research it is tempting to turn aside in order to pursue some side-issue or intrigue.  In this case, Henry Hurton's name cropped up during the pursuit of material pertaining to Ring Hurd, printer of Shaftesbury, Dorset (an article is forthcoming) and this brief piece is no more than an introduction to which, it is hoped, readers might be able to add more detail.

The intrigue of Hurton's career had surfaced because of an earlier enquiry into the life and work of Ringham, printer in Lincoln - an enquiry still in train.  Lincolnshire had, before then, been an unexplored area for this writer.  Echoes always remain so an intrigue was straightaway fostered.  The immediate trigger was Hurd's copy of Tailor's Goose Can Never Fly, a lively piece of nonsense that, initially, it seemed, only Hurton of other named printers had issued.  In fact, this turned out not to be the case although the piece is found only under other titles.

The Bodleian archives reveal three separate entries for Hurton.  Firstly, there is a broadside with three texts - The sailor's voyage to Edmonton along with O Nanny! (apparently written by a Thomas Percy, 1729-1811), and O Nanny! The answer (HB 11(3728).  'Answers' are familiar tricks employed by printers to eke out attention.  Secondly, another broadside also has three texts - Dicky Johnson, Mr.  Snip, and Mr.  Dip and Blue eyes HB 11(894).  The third broadside has on it Tailor's Goose...and John Lump's Journey from York HB 11(3728).  All the pieces are light in character except Blue eyes - a fragment of sentimentality.  John Lump's Journey...is mirrored in several 'journey' pieces, all - more or less - recounting the adventures of a naive rural voyager.  Mr.  Snip...revealed one other link with Hurd, though indirectly.  Hurd had printed Fuddling Day, a companion piece to Washing Day; and Mr.  Snip...used the tune of Washing Day.  Already, Hurton's source-material is in view; 'kinds' of ballad indicated; a context of related matter that can, in fact, be pursued - there is, specifically, a ballad entitled Fighting Day that can be set with the related couple here; and it may be added that the look of the pieces suggests that Hurton's business was well set up, possibly with a modern printing press, not using wooden type.  It is, in fact, by pursuing such apparently insignificant links that the tangled web of practices amongst ballad-printers can be partly revealed.

Of Hurton, there is not much more to add at this stage.  In on-line references, he is mentioned as having founded Goulding's bookshop in Louth in 1788 and there is evidence of Hurton and Fotherby's Circulating Library existing in 1807.  There is a reference to Hurton in the Doncaster, Nottingham and Lincoln Gazette of 3rd September 1809.  The invaluable Exeter Working Papers on the print trade list 'Henry Hurton printer, bookseller, stationer and agent to Richardson, Goodlear and Co., lottery office' - in 1811.  There is a notice of stock sale printed by Hurton on 31st August 1821; and 'A valuation' of a property that was situated in 'in the parish of Louth' which valuation was 'Printed by and for Henry Hurton, Printer, Bookseller and Bookbinder' in 1823. 

Other on-line sources also help to ground the life-history: a private enquiry into ancestry that has Hurton, printer in Louth, married, who 'names his sister Ann's children in his will of 1852'.  Henry Hurton, it was suggested, was born 'abt' 1774 in Doddington, Lincolnshire (1851 census).  In fact, records reveal that he was baptised on 5th November 1773, son of Henry and Mary Hurton.

Following up these clues reveals that Hurton died in Louth in 1851 - the will in question as noted above is obvious confirmation.  We can just add that the 1841 census spelled his name as 'Harton'.

One can see that there are possibilities to be explored.  A life and work history is emerging.

And there, for the moment, the portrait lies in rather ragged order.  In its miniature self, however, it is suggestive.  In our principal sources such as Steve Roud's indexes there are the names of many such characters: Booth of Selby, say; Cotton of Tamworth; Oxlade of Portsmouth - and of all of them little has been set down if even known.  Gradually, once reviewed and placed in conjunction, the profile of each underscores the widespread working practices of printers of ballads who (as example) frequently invested effort in a variety of occupations, at the same time, some temporary, in order to survive.  An extensive network of activity is revealed, some of which we already know about; but most often, where ballad printing is concerned, the devil lies in the detail, so far not comprehensively assembled.

There is a kind of possible pot of gold at the end of the rainbow too.  Fowler in Salisbury (an article is in peparation), for instance, does not figure prominently in our usual sources - the Bodleian and Madden collections - but the English Short Title Catalogue has a massive list of ballads to ponder and which will clearly alter perspective on the printer.  One wonders if there is a Hurton hoard somewhere.

Roly Brown - 8.8.14
Oradour sur Vayres, France


Rod Stradling - e-mail: rod@mustrad.org.uk  Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos GL5 2HP, UK

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