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'Probably the most widely known gipsy for many a mile around': the life and musical activity of Thomas Boswell, aka Thomas 'Gypsy' Lewis (1838-1910).

It seems to be stating the obvious, but popular pre-twentieth-century cultural forms never existed in a vacuum and cannot be understood fully unless the lives of those who maintained and transmitted such artefacts are explored and presented in the greatest possible detail. To achieve this end the historian needs to mine the widest range of sources available. The present piece forms a component in an informal series of analytical biographical studies of individual tradition bearers active during the nineteenth century. (1) The life experiences of a musician belonging to the extensive itinerant Romany community travelling a route across north Berkshire and Wiltshire are here laid bare and examined.

The second half of the nineteenth century is a particularly important period for the study of popular cultural forms, especially those once held dear by the rural population. Reduced to the most simplistic historical assessment, the cultural mainstream that encompassed the musical and dance forms at the root of this study had by this date been in existence for at least two centuries. Fluctuations in the popularity, and hence maintenance, of such forms were frequent and external influences were many. But at the core, these forms, and attitudes towards them, remained relatively stable and consistent. An observer transplanted from 1660 to 1860 would have had little trouble identifying familiar tune and dance types. Our putative time-traveller would still have found longways country dances being performed on feast days, even if some of the choreographic details and tunes used as accompaniments had altered somewhat over time and space. Morris dances, in the south midlands at any rate, consisting of figures clearly recognizable from those published by John Playford two centuries earlier, continued to be performed at Whitsuntide, the season deemed most appropriate by community consensus in both eras. Popular dance tunes retained the same structural form and rhythms, even after the instrumental combination of tabor drum and three-hole pipe had been widely supplanted during the decades around 1800 by fiddle and tambourine, this latter requiring a second performer and thereby causing a potential reduction in individual remuneration for services rendered.

By the third quarter of the nineteenth century, however, this common stock was being eroded at an increasingly rapid rate. So much so, in fact, that by the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 it survived only in vestigial form, having been all but completely rejected by the increasingly educated, sophisticated, and mobile generations of men and women born after I860 or so. As the new century dawned, merely a handful of morris dance sides remained in performance in the south midland counties, and their appearances were patchy and sporadic. At Abingdon, Berkshire, for example, during the three years leading up to 1900 the local newspaper reported successively: "There is no Mayor-choosing or Morris-dancing, and consequently less hilarity' (1898); 'the custom of Morris dancing, an institution long peculiar to Ock-street, was in part revived' (1899); and 'it must have required an effort to get up a team' (1900). (2) The dancing booth, a canvas tent with wooden flooring on which longways country dances had been enthusiastically performed across almost the entire southern half of the country for the better part of a century, vanished completely. As the newspaper correspondent reporting on St Giles's Fair, Oxford, in early September 1905 recorded it: "The old-fashioned dancing booth, with fiddle and drum, which formerly occupied this position, has entirely disappeared from the fair.' (3) Where they survived at all, occasions for performance such as fairs and village feast days, which had provided employment opportunities for itinerant musicians over the course of several centuries, had been transformed physically almost out of all recognition. Joseph Cartwright, an Oxfordshire fiddler born in 1841, told George Butterworth in 1912 how he, 'used to play dances of all kinds, including Waltzes[,] & Morris dances for the Bucknell men. Had not played anything for 20 years. Said the clubs had killed dancing in the pubs.' (4)

The present study focuses upon the experiences of two fiddle players, father and son, from Romany stock, the one born in 1788, the other exactly half a century later. Suppliers of music for dancing in various forms - social, step, and morris - were commonplace within the peripatetic Gypsy community. A research project currently in progress, which seeks to record Gypsy musicians known to have been active in England prior to 1900, has so far identified 269 individual musicians. The majority of these were fiddle players, but there were also performers on the Pandean pipes and bass drum (which, as with the pipe and tabor combination noted above, required only a single player), harp, hammered dulcimer, and, during the latter part of the nineteenth century, melodeon and concertina. In common with their settled counterparts, Travellers were affected by the disappearance of the cultural forms once so commonplace. Writing of the area around Silverstone, Northamptonshire, during the first half of the nineteenth century, the Rev. J. E. Linnell recalled:
  The mention of dancing brings the gypsies again to mind. They were
  seldom absent from a Feast. Fiddlers and dulcimer players abounded
  among them, and excellent performers they were, They would erect a
  booth with a movable floor, and to their haunting lilts a merry
  would prance and curvet to their hearts' content. They were in
  great request for weddings, and in the marriage register here at
  Pavenham there is an entry which tells of the wedding of Humphrey
  Curtis and Miranda [sic] Smith, who, according to local tradition,
  were played to and from the church by a band of eleven gypsy
  fiddlers. (5)

Given the well-documented propensity for Gypsies to marry, or more often to cohabit, within a tight-knit circle either of established relatives or of travelling companions (frequently the two were interchangeable), it is hardly surprising that during the first half of the nineteenth century there were a considerable number of interrelated fiddle players plying the route across the downland of north Berkshire and Wiltshire. Although specific contemporary data relating to that period are sparse, the family of Alabon Smith is the most obvious lynchpin here. It was claimed that 'Alabon, like most Midland Smiths, came from Northamptonshire, but took to the Berkshire Downs, where he travelled with his sons Atkless and Jonas, till the latter was transported for horse-stealing in 1842, and both his sons-in-law, Dimitl [Buckland] and Lewis Boswell, husband of his daughter Constance.' (6) This succinct genealogical observation conceals at least two fiddle players, with both Arkless Smith (probably the man baptized 7 November 1802, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire) and Lewis Boswell confirmed as having been musicians.

The song collector Alfred Williams was a man who, by virtue of spending hundreds of hours in the company of aged singers, had his finger firmly on the pulse of rural life and culture. Born in South Matston, Wiltshire, on 6 February 1 877, he was probably recalling the early years of the 1880s when he noted that the ballad of 'The Prickly Bush' (Child 95) 'was a favourite of the gipsies who camped in Marston Lane when I was a boy. The principal gipsy, whose name was Archelaus, had three sons, namely Zephyrus, Adolphus, and Job. They all slept together in a little twig tent, and lived chiefly on hedgehogs. The old man played the fiddle, and sang at the fairs.' (7) It may, in fact, be Arkless - evidently the vernacular pronunciation of Archelaus - who features in a pair of anecdotes given by Williams in 1915, but referring to activity during the previous century. Of the village of Blunsdon, Wiltshire, he wrote: 'In the autumn came the church festival, known in the locality as Blunsdon Slan Feast [...] Fiddler Green and Gipsy Smith played so merrily and well that the floor at the inn gave way and let Grandfather Eggleton, who was dancing, fall through into the next room upon the head of old Moll Phillips just as she was in the act of drinking a health to her neighbour, Joe the Marine, in a glass of home-brewed liquor,' (8)

Of these protagonists only 'Joe the Marine' may be identified with any degree of accuracy. He is almost certainly Joseph Constable, aged eighty-two and recorded as 'Chelsea Pensioner' when living at Broad Blunsdon at the date of the 1861 census. His death was registered in the Highworth district, Wiltshire, during the first quarter of 1866, at the age of eighty-eight, and the anecdote must therefore refer to an incident that took place prior to that date. Williams, referring this time to the village of Buscot, Berkshire, recorded yet another story featuring these two fiddle players: 'At the entrance to the street is the site of the ancient market cross and the stocks - now occupied by a reading-room. Here it was the villagers celebrated their feast, while the gipsy fiddlers Smith and Green, well known in the neighbourhood, discoursed sweet music and the step-dancers tripped up and down the parallel lines marked out for them upon the ground.' (9)

Expounding on the dance forms, accompanying tunes and the aesthetics of the social occasion in greater detail, Williams observed:
  The step-dancing was a very pleasing pastime, exceedingly popular
  with all. In these young and old, male and female, took part, and the
  young girls and women wore pretty caps of lace and silk, and those
  who were possessed of the daintiest received prizes, awarded by
  judges on the spot. In the step-dancing the ground was marked out
  with parallel lines, and the dancers were allocated to certain
  spaces; as the fiddlers played they proceeded along the lines,
  working out figures with great skill and pretty motions to the
  tune of:
'Charlie over the water,
Charlie over the lea,
Charlie loves to kiss the girls
As sweet as sugar-candy.' (10)

The remaining two Smiths, Alabon and Jonas, and Dimiti (more popularly 'Timothy') Buckland mentioned in the genealogical note quoted above may also have been musicians. Certainly Jonas Smith (baptized 3 November 1799, Tadmarton, Oxfordshire) was described as 'a well-known gypsey' when tried at the Berkshire Epiphany Sessions, held at Abingdon in January 1842, (11) and travelling the area playing for dancing was, as implied above, potentially a means of gaining widespread recognition. Analysis of the musical activities of the Smiths and Bucklands must await a future opportunity, however, and it is the Boswell branch of this extended family network that provides the core group for the present study.

Lewis Boswell was baptized in Bromham, Wiltshire, on 18 May 1788, the son of Bartholomew Boswell (the surname given in the register as 'Bozwel') and Colly Smith, who had married at Bletchingdon, Oxfordshire, on 6 June 1779. He was present on 24 October 1796 in Lincoln when Bartholomew and his second partner, Mary Buckler were examined regarding their settlement (they were subsequently married at Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire, on 5 February 1798). (12) On that occasion Bartholomew, then reckoned to be aged fifty, claimed as his birthplace Mellor in Derbyshire. The Cyphraella, daughter of Lewis and Leaparte Bossil, who was baptized at Stoke Lyne, Oxfordshire, on 8 December 1811, was almost certainly a child of this Lewis and a partner who is perhaps to be equated with Cleopatra Smith (baptized 19 February 1792, Broadwell, Gloucestershire), yet another daughter of Alabon Smith. Their sojourn at Stoke Lyne confirms a return to and continuing presence in the area to the north of Oxford that was travelled by Lewis's own parents and no doubt by himself as a youngster (one of his sisters, Farnetty, was baptized at Wroxton, Oxfordshire, on 13 November 1790).

Of the liaison between Lewis Boswell and Constance Smith (again, no marriage details have been discovered), only the baptisms of two children have been located, but from this evidence we can state with certainty that they were at Stratton St Margaret, Wiltshire, on 15 August 1819, and at Hagbourne, Berkshire, on 6 February 1838 (designated as 'Gypsies'). The note Vagrant of this parish' in the baptism register indicates that in 1819 Stratton St Margaret had already served as the family's base of operations, for an undetermined length of time. Despite a paucity of concrete evidence, Lewis Boswell undoubtedly travelled the village feasts playing his fiddle for dancing. Indeed, Boswell's performance style and ability must have been highly developed, for his son Thomas claimed that his father once competed against the virtuoso violinist Niccolo Paganini (born in Genoa in 1782), during which encounter he acquitted himself well, and 'the honours were judged fairly divided'. (13) Taken at face value the story seems mildly absurd, and yet Paganini did travel extensively throughout the south midland counties - he was at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on 20 and 21 July 1831, for example - and is known, on occasion, to have invited locally renowned players on to the stage to exhibit their skills. (14)

Following a lifetime of little-documented but evidently extensive music-making, Lewis Boswell and his family returned early in 1860 to a location well known to them. As one newspaper correspondent noted: 'Some little time since, Lewis Boswell, son of the late Gipsy King Solomon, came within the parish of Hagbourne, then very ill, and no doubt with the intention of being buried by the side of his father. He was visited frequently in his tent, by the vicar, the Rev. R. Meredith, and died on Friday, the 10th instant.' (15) Solomon Boswell was not, in fact, Lewis's father but more probably his uncle, a brother to Bartholomew. Then lately encamped upon Hagbourne Common, Solomon had been buried there on 15 January 1839 (aged '85' in the burial register, '80' on the death certificate). The romantic notion of Solomon Boswell as 'Gypsy King' was extended by the correspondent to Lewis himself: 'We noticed in our last the death of the poor old "Gipsy King" Boswell, at Hagbourn.' (16) Half a century later yet another correspondent would extend the same nomenclature to Lewis's son, Thomas (as outlined below).

Two decades later it was recalled how the violin had been played over Solomon's grave at his interment, (17) a facet of music-making otherwise unrecorded but strongly suggestive of being mournful in character. There are few enough references to plaintive music being performed within the Romany music-making tradition. However, the logical assumption that musicians might possess a widely divergent set of tune types is supported by an observation of Shandres Smith (born 1862, in Worcestershire) in his camp on Christmas Eve 1908:
  Shandres was at home, and was mending his fiddle. When this had been
  successfully accomplished he very kindly consented to play for us,
  and, once begun, he played on and on, passed from one tune to
  another, dance-music and Christmas-carols, songs and hymns all coming
  alike to him. As he remembered some almost forgotten melody a
  beaming smile lit up his still handsome face, and never was he mote
  pleased than when he played and sang a beautiful and pathetic old
  folk-song [first line: As I passed by a willow tree']. (18)

Sinfaia Heron (born c.1826, in Lincolnshire), daughter of the renowned fiddle player Piramus Gray and one of numerous female Gypsies who were proficient musicians, is described (somewhat romantically) thus:
  She was a music-maker par excellence, and with her long, white
  fingers could draw, from an old battered fiddle, a strange wild music
  that would bring peace even to souls in hell. Her music could do
  strange things to listeners in the dusk of an evening when the first
  fingers of night crept across woods and heath. Wild, savage and
  terrible it would ring out at first, then with a sudden swift change
  it would whisper and plead like a drowsy child. The muted notes of
  that old fiddle drew you away to other worlds and other places beyond
  human ken. (19)

Examples of recorded music played by Romanies are few and far between, but one unidentified tune, possibly a recreated song air, recorded by Steve Pennells and Ken Stubbs from fiddle player Harry Lee at Borough Green, Kent, on 7 October 1962, perhaps comes close to the description quoted above. (20) Said to have been a member of 'a family of Essex gypsies from around Dunmow', Lee also had in his repertoire hornpipes - described as 'rather eccentric versions of well-known tunes' - appropriate for solo step-dancing. (21)

The burial of Lewis Boswell took place on 14 February at West Hagbourne, and in the relevant register his particulars are given as 'Gipsey in field', aged eighty-four. In this overestimate (by a dozen years) the family were merely conforming to a well-documented tendency for Gypsies to exaggerate the ages of their older relatives. (22) A contemporary newspaper reported:
  An inquest was held at the 'Horse and Harrow' Inn, Hagbourn, on
  Tuesday last, before K. Cowcher, Esq., coroner for Berks, on the body
  of Lewis Boswell, aged 80 years. The deceased was one of the gipsy
  tribe, and better known round the neighbouring villages by the name
  of 'Lewis'. It appeared from the evidence that the deceased and his
  wife had been encamping in a meadow belonging to Mr. Lousley, of
  Hagbourn, for some time past; the deceased was taken ill on Thursday
  week, and died on the following Sunday, but had not been attended by
  any medical man. After a short deliberation upon the evidence
  adduced, the jury returned a verdict that the deceased died from
  dropsy, old age, and exposure to cold. (23)

Lewis Boswell's son Thomas (his is the 1838 baptism at Hagbourne noted above) likewise garnered recognition and acclaim as a fiddle player throughout the area. While no details are recorded concerning either the age at which or the process whereby he learned to play the instrument, we may be certain that he would have been exposed to music almost from birth, and that his father or other close relatives were responsible for his tutoring. Oral evidence gleaned prior to the First World War revealed how, 'in his younger days, [he] used to be attended by his sister Constance, dancing and playing the "mandoline"'. (24) Winstedt and Thompson, among the leading historians of Romany culture during the early twentieth century, assumed that what was actually meant was the 'tambourine', and this does seem more likely. Winstedt later postulated that the informant had also misheard the name of the female performer, adding the caveat that Thomas 'had only one sister Fairneti [...] That she sang and danced with him I have never heard; and it is unlikely, as she was ten years older than Tommy and probably married before he was travelling alone. No doubt the old farmer from whom I heard this mistook the name Kunsi (short for Kunsaleti) for an abbreviation of Constance; and Kunsaleti Smith, one of Tommy's wives, is meant. She certainly did dance and play a tambourine as a young woman.' (25)

Summarizing evidence collected from one of Thomas Boswell's sons half a century later, Atkinson and Winstedt noted: 'After the death of his grandfather, Lewis Boswell, known as "old Lewis" to the villagers where he travelled, his father [i.e. Thomas Boswell] was commonly called Tommy Lewis; and with the carelessness of a Gypsy with regard to names, he adopted this alias for the rest of his life.' (26) For the remainder of this article the chief protagonist will be referred to under his revised, adoptive name of Tommy Lewis.

Further biographical confusion is engendered by Tommy Lewis's simultaneous cohabitation with multiple partners, a practice that was commonplace within Romany culture. It was claimed that he had two wives at the same time, Emma Lee and Kunsaleti Smith, a sister of Jobi, [and] is said to have had thirty-six children by them, Luvi and other women'. (27) No marriage to any of these partners has been discovered, but this means little because the culture sanctioned the mutual commitment of couples, often without the necessity of a formal ceremony in church. An examination of the birth and baptismal locations for those offspring who have been identified supplies a partial map of Lewis's geographical mobility. While much of his life would have been spent travelling from one location to another, any community in which he alighted would have offered the potential for public musical activity.

Of the three partners named above, 'Luvi' was his cousin Lovinia, a daughter of his uncle Arkless Smith, the fiddle player mentioned above, and Eliza Smith. Of the children attributed to her liaison with Tommy Lewis, only Adolphus (born c. 1861) has a known birthplace, at Grittleton, recorded in the 1881 census as being in Berkshire but more likely to have been the village of that name in Wiltshire. This is the Adolphus named by Alfred Williams (quoted above), who erroneously recorded his grandfather Archelaus as his father. Four further children, for whom no biographical details have been located, were named Surrender, Artarus, Tom, and Eldorai. Lovinia certainly travelled with her father for a time, (28) although whether Lewis remained a member of this group for any extended period is uncertain.

Emma Lee, born about 1831, was a daughter of Charles Lee, a member of yet another group linked by kinship but habitually travelling further east, in the area around Basingstoke, Hampshire. (29) Tommy Lewis may also have travelled with this family for a time, as it was the custom upon 'marrying' for the husband to become a member of the entourage of his wife's mother. The known offspring of this coupling are:
Ambrose   baptized Denchworth, Berkshire, 25 December 1857 buried
          Hagbourne, Berkshire, 30 December 1857

Thomas    baptized Stratton, Wiltshire, 14 November 1858

Sinfai    born Garford, Berkshire, 8 September 1860 baptized (as
          'Singphy') West Hannay, Berkshire, 22 September 1860

Dorcas    baptized Lyford, Berkshire, 13 April 1862 possibly died a
          short time later

Dorcas    baptized Stoke Talmadge, Oxfordshire, 4 July 1863

Talaitha  born Longcot, Berkshire, 22 October 1865

Two further children may possibly be added to this list, although the ten-year gap between Talaitha and Agnes may, perhaps, indicate another father:
Agnes  baptized Stratfieldsaye, Hampshire, 15 October 1875
Tom    born Barkham, Berkshire, 1880

At the date of the 1881 census, Emma Lee was encamped with a large group of Smiths, Does, and Ayreses at Stratfieldsaye, Hampshire, with Dorcas, Agnes, and Tom. She was herself named as head of the household, with no evident partner - indeed, a second enumerator's note gives her marital standing as 'Widow' - but the liaison with Lewis was perhaps still in effect. Certainly Lewis's daughter Singphy (named as 'Dollie') was in the encampment with her husband, Charles Doe, and their first child.

Kunsaleti, the third of Tommy Lewis's known partners, was a daughter of Mark and Louisa Smith. Six of her brothers are recorded as having been fiddle players:
Jonas                  baptized Stanford-in-the-Vale, Berkshire, 28
                       October 1832

Perrin, also known in  baptized (as 'Perrins') Didcot, Berkshire, 12
later life as Frank    December 1838

Josiah                 baptized Chalgrove, Oxfordshire, 24 August

James                  born North Stoke, Oxfordshire, c. 1848

Job                    baptized Goring Heath, Oxfordshire, 1 February

William                born North Stoke, Oxfordshire, c. 1851

Perrin was, in addition, the proprietor of a peripatetic dancing booth, as described above. (30) Evidence is lacking, but it would be surprising if their father, Mark Smith, was not also a musician. Children from Kunsaleti Smith's extended liaison with Tommy Lewis include:
Adelaide              baptized West Challow, Berkshire, 13 November

Tryphena              baptized Ashbury, Berkshire, 8 March 1867

Mirani                baptized Harwell, Berkshire, 4 April 1869

Siterus, later known  born Grove, Berkshire, 17 April 1872 baptized
as John               (as 'Satus') West Hannay, Berkshire, 21 April

Fannetty              baptized Hagbourne, Berkshire, 23 March 1876

Charlotte             born Bampton, Oxfordshire, 26 August 1878
                      buried 5 April 1882, Hagbourne, Berkshire, aged
                      3 years 6 months

Louis, probably also  baptized Hagbourne, Berkshire, 29 June 1881
known as Henry

William Thomas        birthplace unknown, circa September 1884 buried
                      4 January 1885, Hagbourne, Berkshire, aged 4

For most, if not all, of those who were musically talented, whether leading a travelling or settled existence, performance opportunities were rarely so common that a comfortable living could be made by that means alone. Lewis had, of necessity, a number of strings to his occupational bow, and his known money-making skills are summarized below. Designations are drawn from various sources, including parish registers, certificates of civil registration, two census returns, and sundry newspaper reports.

1860 travelling basket-maker

1862 musician

1862 travelling knife-grinder

1865 tinker and brazier

1867 travelling tin-man

1867 strolling player

1871 hawker

1872 tin-man

1876 tinker

1878 brickmaker's labourer and musician

1885 hawker

1887 general dealer

1889 labourer

1892 traveller with coconut shy/travelling hawker

1898 hawker

1900 travelling hawker

1901 hawker

The impression is very much of a man turning his hand to whatever financial opportunities were available within his social limitations and physical abilities. Casual labouring work must have been common enough, although there is little evidence overall of Gypsies being actively engaged in the building industry. Working with tin was, however, a stock in trade among Romanies during a period in which the refurbishment of household possessions - from chairs to umbrellas, pots to kettles - was a financial and/or aesthetic expedient, and not just for the rural poor. From 1885 onwards, and perhaps for some time prior to that date, Lewis's chief occupation - in so far as evidence has been unearthed - was as a hawker, although the actual nature of the goods involved is never specified.

Only the records from 1862, 1867, and 1878 offer any hint of his musical propensity. The first pair fall within a period when Lewis is recorded as having had at least one regular annual engagement, as accompanist to the morris dance side at Bampton, Oxfordshire, on Whit Monday. In 1934, William Nathan 'Jingy' Wells compiled a manuscript history of the local custom, (31) which drew upon the memories of several older relatives, including his uncles Henry Radband and James Portlock, both of whom, coincidentally, were born in 1836 and died in 1915. Radband in particular was steeped in the lore associated with morris dance performance, and maintained the association, in the role of sword-bearer, right up to the year of death. His grandfather, stepfather, a number of uncles, and two stepbrothers had either danced or provided musical accompaniments, and he himself had joined the dance set by 1858 at the latest. Portlock was Radband's brother-in-law, and had one older and one younger brother who danced, while he himself would have been active from the middle years of the 1850s. Both would certainly have danced to Lewis's playing, and one or both of them remembered him as the regular musician between the years 1862 and 1870.

The continuous annual performance of morris dancing at Bampton can be confirmed from 1847 onwards, and is strongly suggested back into the 1790s and, according to firm (albeit unprovable) local oral tradition, for up to two hundred years prior to that period. (32) There were often additional performance opportunities for the dance set in any given year, especially during the weeks around Whitsun, chief among them being a perambulation of Bampton itself and the adjoining hamlet of Weald on the Monday of Whitsun week. A movable feast day, during the period of Lewis's musical participation the dates of Whit Monday ranged from 16 May to 10 June. Although likely always to be travelling somewhere within, say, a twenty-mile radius, Lewis would have needed to be aware of the date each year in order to make an appearance as and when appropriate. The responsibility for engaging the services of a musician during this period fell upon the leader of the morris side, which at that date was George Wells (b.1822). In 1943, 'Jingy' Wells observed how his grandfather 'never had no trouble to get the dancers but the trouble was sixty, seventy years ago to get the piper or the fiddler - the musician. Sometimes they had a very great difficulty in getting one, they've had one from Buckland, they've had one from Field Town - Lea-field - and they've had to go out here to Fairford and Broadwell and out that way to get a piper.' (33)

In any given year that his services were required, contact would have to be established with Lewis some time beforehand, and the team leader would need to be confident that he was reliable enough to make an appearance. Once in situ he needed to have tunes that were suitable to allow the performers to go through their repertoire of dances. Specific tunes in use at Bampton at this date are unknown, and might at any rate have altered as new musicians were hired, but would nonetheless have certainly been drawn from a common stock of 32-bar melodies in 2/4 or 6/8 time. Wells himself would have been merely two years of age when Lewis is last known to have played, and he is thus likely be recounting a story heard from an older relative when he relates, 'Once we had Tommy Lewis from Hagbourne to come over. We had a practice on the Saturday night afore Whitsun. He slept rough and Tommy looked rough on Whit Monday morning.' (34) Alternatively, it is possible that Lewis continued to play on one or more occasions during the period of Wells's own active involvement in the side. This began in 1887, when Wells took the character of Fool ('Squire' in the contemporary reports cited below), and from 1899 onwards he acted as regular musician, being proficient on fiddle as well as many other instruments.

Beginning in 1858, the annual performances of the morris dancers during the Whit Monday celebrations, coinciding with the walk to church and the feasting of the two Bampton benefit societies, were frequently reported in one or more of the local newspapers. The reports that fall within the period of Lewis's involvement are reproduced below, preceded by the actual date of the performance on Whit Monday. They convey a lively impression of the day's proceedings, of a community en fete, and of inhabitants and visitors all dressed in their finery, consuming quantities of food and alcohol, singing and dancing, and generally enjoying themselves to the fullest within the limitations of the resources available to them.
  9 June 1862: We heard char there was a party of morris-dancers, but
  we were not favoured with a specimen of their evolutions, probably
  because we reside in so out-of-the-way a locality; we, therefore,
  cannot praise their performances, even if they deserved so much. (35)

  25 May 1863: The morris-dancers made their appearance, but there was
  not much of novelty in their proceedings or their dress; they still
  obstinately persist in employing a squeaking 'fiddle,' instead of the
  more legitimate tabor and pipe, notwithstanding what had been said
  respecting it, and which considerably marred the effect of the whole.

  16 May 1864: The morris dancers contributed their quota of mirth;
  and although we do not feel the same interest in their saltatory
  exercises and grotesque antics and attire, or in the trite jokes and
  extravagant gesticulations of the 'Squire,' as we did of yore, still
  they had their admirers. (37)

  16 May 1864: The day was kept as a holiday. The friendly societies
  went to church, dined, spent pleasant hours with each other, toasted
  themselves and their neighbours, sang songs, danced in the morris,
  looked on at the rural sports; in fact, passed the day in great mirth
  and jollity. (38)

  5 June 1865: The morris dancers, as usual, cut their capers, but they
  seemed to lack that fire and energy in their saltatory movements,
  which they possessed 'When our old hat was new.' Even the 'Squire,'
  that important personage, was less grotesque and attractive than
  usual. We again must express our dislike of the substitution of the
  violin for the orthodox 'tabor and pipe.' (39)

  5 June 1865: The morris-dancers, a relic of bygone times, made their
  appearance, but did not attract the attention of many persons except
  the juveniles. (40)

  6 June 1870: [...] the morris dancers made their appearance in the
  streets, and there were a few stalls, &c. (41)

The comments lamenting the substitution of the fiddle for the older musical combination of pipe and tabor were recurrent ones with that particular newspaper correspondent. The (anonymous) correspondent first rails against what he perceives as an unforgivable degeneration of the earlier, and to him more acceptable, tradition as early as 1858, at which date Robert Batts (born 1796) was acting as musician. (42) So it seems that Tommy Lewis's playing style was not necessarily being singled out for any evident technical inadequacy.

Throughout the whole of this period, and for a good many years both before and afterwards, Lewis was annually attendant at the club feast held at Buckland, three miles distant from Bampton and just over the border into Berkshire, during the week following Whit Monday. This annual commitment would certainly have made it easier for George Wells to guarantee Lewis's appearance in Bampton at the beginning of the week. Indeed, even on occasions when he was not playing for the morris dancers, Lewis may have been in attendance at Bampton in other capacities. In 1892 he claimed to have 'attended the [Buckland] Club regularly for 40 years', that is, from about 1853; (43) and in 1892 at least he was travelling with a coconut shy, most probably maintained by his wife and/or children. (44) It seems likely that, whenever opportunity presented, he himself would have been playing his fiddle, either for entertainment or for social dancing, perhaps in one of the village public houses. If he ever supplied the musical accompaniment to the morris dance set based at Buckland, it is not recorded, although a set was certainly in existence, at least during the early years of his visits. One informant included the village on a list of 'great Morris places'; (45) while Wells wrote in 1914 that a team had been in performance there 'not more than 60 years ago'. (46)

Lewis has been identified in four out of a possible seven census years, although the recorded data tell us little beyond the location of himself, Kunsaleti, and a variable number of children on a specific date. Overnight on 2 April 1871, Lewis and his wife (their occupations are given as 'Hawker') and three children were lodging in Stanford-in-the-Vale in a public house kept by one of the Smiths from the extensive Gypsy colony at Headington Quarry, Oxfordshire. Ten years later, on 3 April 1881, the same five persons, along with three further children, were 'in Alden Lane in a Tent', on the outskirts of Didcot. Also present, in two further tents, was the family of Timothy and Sarah Buckland, who were cousins to Lewis. All seventeen persons are generically (and unhelpfully) designated as 'Gipsey No Profession'. On 5 April 1891, both parents and four children were in a caravan in Wantage, enumerated as 'Travelling Gipsies', once again with no particular mode of employment specified. Another decade later, on 31 March 1901, Lewis and his wife, with two sons and four daughters, plus a daughter-in-law and granddaughter, were at West Lockinge, Berkshire, encamped in 'Browne Lane in van & Tents'. (47)

In common with numerous others who lived on the periphery of settled society, Lewis on occasion fell foul of the authorities. First discovered in this context at a petty sessions court in August 1866, we encounter him sporadically as late as 1900, although in all known cases the offences were relatively minor ones. (48) The least of them was the common charge of encamping on the public highway, with or without the associated 'crime' of allowing animals (horses and asses in Lewis's case) to stray there unattended, with the potential for consuming privately owned crops. Court appearances to answer these specific charges can be summarized as follows:
20 July 1866   West Hannay, Berkshire   fined 13s. 6d.
August 1885    West Challow, Berkshire  fined 10s. 6d.
26 April 1889  Denchworth, Berkshire    fined 10s.
23 April 1900  near Balking, Wiltshire  fined 16s. 9d.

In no case is it reported that the fine remained unpaid and the default punishment of imprisonment was invoked. Each sum represented the equivalent of roughly a week's wages for an agricultural labourer and yet it appears that they were readily found, suggesting the availability of a surplus stock of cash, however meagre.

Four, or perhaps five, further incidents provide something of an insight, however superficial, into his character. On the occasion of Buckland Club Feast on 13 June 1892 he was arrested for being drunk in the street. The sitting magistrates seem to have viewed the matter as little more than a harmless prank:

Thomas Lewis, a well-known attendant at fairs, &c. with cocoanuts, was charged with being drunk at Buckland on the 13th June.

P.C. Portchmouth said defendant was drunk in the village street, and he had some difficulty in getting him to go away.

Defendant said the policeman was quite right. He was drunk. He had attended Buckland Club for 40 years, and drinking with one and another he became intoxicated. He hoped they would deal lightly with him.

The Bench fined him 6d. and 8s 6d costs, and the Chairman advised him to drink the milk of his cocoanuts instead of beer (laughter). (49)

However, at other times when in his cups he had a tendency to exhibit a rather more violent nature. At the Royal Oak in Didcot on 25 March 1879, for example, he was 'the worse for liquor and quarrelsome. The landlady not being able to get him out sent for [PC] Legge. On Legge requesting Lewis to leave he took off his coat and said he would not leave for any one there; he then kicked Legge and knocked him down. Legge had to get assistance to put the handcuffs on him.' (50) Convicted of assault at the ensuing petty sessions, he was fined fifteen shillings plus an undisclosed amount to cover the costs of the case.

In a similar, though much more serious, case, Lewis and his son John, described as 'hawkers, of the gipsy type', were summoned on 22 April 1898 on two counts:
  (1) for using bad language and (2) for a breach of the peace by
  fighting on the highway in the parish of Milton, on the 22nd ult.  -
  Pleaded not guilty.  - Capt. Hazell, R.N., stated that on Friday
  evening, the 22nd April, he was walking up Steventon hill, when he
  saw a man lying in the road, apparently insensible, with nothing on
  but a pair of trousers, and the two defendants were standing neat,
  held back by a number of women. He watched them go down the hill,
  and saw the men fighting again. Several ladies were passing him at
  the time, and complained to him of the bad language used, but witness
  did not hear the defendants swearing.  - Alfred Breakspear, a
  blacksmith, said he saw the defendants near the Milton hand-post.
  The older man, Thomas, was sitting on the bank, and another man
  struck him three times. The defendant John said he could not see the
  old gentleman knocked about and he went to the fescue. About a dozen
  women then came up, and pulled the man about. The women swore 'just
  about,' but he didn't hear the defendants use bad language. Further
  questioned, the witness added that he had since had a conversation
  with the defendants. They asked him to be a witness on their behalf,
  but he told them he was summoned on the other side. - Supt. Heath
  said the other man referred to could not be found, but he was the
  father-in-law of the younger defendant. - The defendant Thomas stated
  that the man challenged them to fight at Didcot, and following them
  along the road caused the disturbance by assaulting them. He knew the
  time when he could have tackled him, but he was too old now.  - Mr.
  Blandy said the case against the defendants for using bad language
  would be dismissed. They had no doubt had a general row, and
  committed a breach of the peace. Each defendant would be bound over
  in his own recognizance of [pounds sterling]5 to keep the peace for
  six months, and pay 6s. 9d. costs.  - Defendants paid the money, but
  said they were 'very innocent.' (51)

The whole affair smacks of a family feud. The unnamed protagonist, father-in-law to John Lewis, was in fact his uncle Job, noted above as one of six fiddle-playing sons of Mark and Louisa Smith, and probably also the Job recalled by Alfred Williams as living in a twig tent with Archelaus in Marston Lane. Once again, Tommy Lewis's ready access to relatively large amounts of cash is apparent.

However, on one occasion at least the fine proved too expensive, and he was sentenced to one calendar month in Reading Gaol. The circumstances echo those of the incident at Didcot in 1879: 'Thomas Lewis, of Denchworth, was charged with being quarrelsome and disorderly at the Star, East Hanney, and refusing to quit when requested to do so by Richard Rouse, the landlord, on March 26 last.' (52) And if - as seems likely, given the occupation of the victim - he is the Thomas Lewis, 'tramp', who was, 'charged with stealing a hand-cart, value 21., on Monday, the property of Ephraim James Bodfin, dealer, St. Ebbe's-street', Oxford, then he also spent a further month in gaol, this time with hard labour, during March and April 1884. (53)

Memories of Lewis at Berrick Salome, Berkshire, around the same date were, however, rather more pleasant:
  Recollection still lingers of one policeman whose beat included
  Berrick around the turn of the century, a date when a member of the
  Force was hardly ever seen on a bicycle. This man was a convivial
  soul who 'liked a drop' and as a result his timing on the beat was
  often upset. 'Now and again he'd nip in and ask to borrow my bicycle
  so that he could report on time' - at what was officially called his
  conference point. 'Once he was behind time through having a pint or
  two with Gypsy Lewis - good old chap, he was - so got a lift with him
  in his cart. Damned if they didn't see the Super coming along in his
  trap. "Here," the policeman says to Gypsy Lewis, "hook th'ole marc
  along smartish and I'll crotch [sic] down in the bottom." So he did
  and the Super never knew.' (54)

Lewis continued to perform music in exchange for appropriate financial or other tangible rewards whenever possible. One such opportunity, though limited in scope, involved playing for the Ock Street Morris Dancers at Abingdon. Performance is confirmed at this location as far back as 1722, (55) with oral traditions still current to this day extending the supposed time span as far back as 1700. (56) Unusually for a morris dance tradition in the south midlands, the performance was not at Whitsuntide but on 20 June, the day of the fair held annually in Ock Street, thus offering an additional opportunity for any musician able to take advantage of it. A photograph taken on this occasion, inscribed 'Taken 21 June, 1912' on the verso, provides us with the only known image of Lewis (Figure 1). (57) He is playing his fiddle and appears quite pleased with himself.

Oral traditions still current in the town more than half a century later indicate that this was not the only occasion on which Lewis played for the morris dancers. One source, for example, claimed that 'Gypsy Lewis' "people" [i.e. those with whom he travelled] always used to come and try to cake him away when he was playing for the morris.' (58) The exact reason for this is unrecorded but may be related to another story, recalled by an informant born in 1895: 'At one time we had a job to find anyone to play what we call the squeezebox and there was a gypsy encamped up on the canal, he came with a fiddle and he played on the fiddle [...] He would only stay in one part of Ock Street. He was a gypsy boy [...] we'll say by profession, and he was camped up in the Canal Road.' (59) Lewis is also said to have 'played fairly often at Abingdon for a golden guinea - family came to collect the money. He would not set foot outside Ock St into the town proper because he was safe there.' (60) This may, of course, refer to activity other than accompanying the morris dancers, although it is difficult to imagine another commitment that would have paid so well. Nevertheless, if the reference is to playing 'fairly often' for morris accompaniment, then this is likely to have been prior to the documented lapse in performance in 1902, when a report in the town-based newspaper states: 'The "Morris Dancers" did not make their appearance this year.' (61)


Thomas Hemmings, one of the six dancers featured with Lewis in the Abingdon photograph, was born in 1887 and claimed that he was aged fifteen on the occasion depicted. (62) Yet, since we know that Tommy Lewis died in 1910, the '1912' date is problematic. In fact, a more likely date for the photograph is 20 June 1910. A contemporary newspaper account described the occasion in that year:
  The widespread attention given to the revival of Morris dancing led
  to the observance of an old Ock-street custom on the day following
  June Fair. There was no choosing the Mayor of Ock-street as in olden
  times, but W. Hemmings, son of a former 'Mayor,' was recognised as
  still holding office, and his deputy was G. Wake, a Crimean veteran,
  one carrying the sword, and the other the cup. The 'Squire' was C.
  Nobes, the grandson of a former Morris dancer; and the six dancers,
  wearing bells, ribbons, etc., were James Hemmings (an old performer),
  T. Hemmings, John Hemmings, Dolton, and two others named Hudson. A
  fiddler completed the party, and the Ock horns, dated 1700, were
  brought out for the occasion. The dancers started out at half-past
  nine, and had a long, and what must have been a tiring day, dancing
  in the streets to such tunes as 'Princess Royal,' 'A nutting we will
  go,' 'The curly-headed plough boy,' 'Jockey at the fair,' etc. (63)

A quarter of a century later, local informants were able to make identifications of the participants shown in the photograph. (64) Their conclusions accord well with the information given in the newspaper account from 1910 quoted above, and the data from the two sources can be tabulated as follows:
newspaper account  identifications from  exposition

W. Hemmings        William Hemmings      William Hemmings (1849-1930),
                                         first elected Mayor of Ock
                                         Street in 1885, succeeding
                                         his father Thomas Hemmings

G. Wake            Willie Belcher        George Wake (1836-1911)

C. Nobes           no equivalent         probably Charles Nobes

James Hemmings     James Hemmings        James Hemmings (1854-1935),
                                         assumed the role of Mayor of
                                         Ock Street on the death of
                                         his brother William in 1930

T. Hemmings        Tom Hemmings          Thomas Hemmings (1887-1960),
                                         assumed the role of Mayor of
                                         Ock Street on the death of
                                         his uncle Henry in 1945

John Hemmings      Jack Hemmings         John Hemmings (died during
                                         the First World War)

--Dolton           Bob Martin            Robert Henry Martin (born
                                         1860, still living 1938),
                                         taught to dance while a boy

--Hudson           Stodger Hudson        George Hudson

--Hudson           Bertie Hudson         Albert Hudson

A fiddler          Gipsy Lewis           Thomas Boswell, aka Tommy
                                         Lewis (1838-1910)

A further reason for accepting 1910 as the actual date relates to the costumes worn by the six dancers. Only the two Hemmings men, who had danced on previous occasions, wear clothing widely associated with morris dancing. The remaining four effect an ad hoc selection of clothes clearly assembled for the occasion. Six weeks earlier than the performance of 20 June, the newspaper reported: 'There is no intention of reviving Morris dancing in Abingdon streets.' (65) The suggestion, therefore, is that a decision to perform was made by the participants with little time for niceties. A further contemporary account of the performance of 20 June 1910 commented, 'The peculiar dances of the Morris Dancers were at least interesting, to say the nothing of the "get up" of the band of performers, which was unique.' (66) One final piece of evidence for the 1910 date, albeit of a negative character, may be adduced. While a newspaper report confirms that the dance set performed again at the time of the June fair in 1911, 'the old-time Morris Dancers went round on Wednesday', (67) none of the local newspapers mentions a performance in 1912.

Assuming the revised date of 1910 to be correct, we can finally learn the names of some of the tunes that constituted at least a portion of Lewis's performance repertoire. All four of the titles listed in the newspaper report had in earlier times been used as airs for popular songs, and the words would still have been current, although perhaps in curtailed form, during the nineteenth century. The first three - 'Princess Royal', A-Nutting We Will Go', and 'The Curly-Headed Ploughboy' - would have been suitable for the six-handed dances performed by the Bampton morris dancers when Lewis acted as accompanist for them nearly half a century earlier. The structurally more idiosyncratic 'Jockey at the Fair' has at times served at Bampton as a tune for a solo or two-handed jig. Other tunes we might expect Tommy Lewis, his father, and their extended musical kin to have played include 'Charlie over the Water', 'The White Cock Hen', 'The Triumph' (more commonly known in the vernacular, describing the dance's distinctive figure, as 'Step and Fetch Her'), (68) and 'The Old Woman Tossed in the Blanket'. These were named by Alfred Williams as tunes used to accompany dances in the dancing booths at celebrations throughout the region. (69) In addition, one of Williams's informants, most likely Charles Henry Tanner (1845-1922), who had danced for many years in the Bampton Morris set, gave him two stanzas of 'The Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket', which Williams noted as having been 'A favourite old morris piece. It was also popular at the pastime of step-dancing when the tune was played by the fiddlers.' (71) Tanner, who had already been taught to dance by his rather, another Charles Tanner (1816-99), became in 1861 a member of 'a boy's team, formed with the laudable intention of outshining the men's team'. A short time later this junior set was disbanded and Tanner was invited into the adult side, coinciding with the musical tenure of Tommy Lewis. (71)

Six weeks after having his photograph taken in Abingdon with the morris dancers, Lewis passed away at West Challow on 5 August 1910, following a short illness. His funeral three days later attracted 'hundreds of people [...] some out of mere curiosity, but many out of respect to the bereaved family'. (72) Contemporary reports of the event contain further contextual material relating to his mode of life. He was, it was noted, 'probably the most widely known gipsy for many a mile around'; (73) and he had been 'more familiarly styled the local "Gipsy King'", having had 'a remarkable career, his proud boast being that he had never slept in a bed in a house during his life. He used to rest in a tent or sometimes in his caravan in a field.' (74)

One source offered a succinct assessment of Lewis's final phase of activity: 'Until a year or so ago Tommy himself eked out a subsistence by his music in the villages on the Berkshire downs.' (75) The bleakness implicit in this statement encapsulates the almost total erosion, and ultimate extinction, of the culture of music and dance that had been so ubiquitous during the early decades of not only his own existence but also that of his father, grandfather and yet earlier forebears.

It is no coincidence that an urban-based, middle-class interest in what was largely a working-class form of cultural expression should gain momentum in inverse proportion to the culture's own gradual demise. The formation of the Folk-Lore Society in 1878 was followed a decade later by the establishment of the Gypsy Lore Society, and the Folk-Song Society a decade after that. In tandem with this institutionalization came a widespread nationalistic fervour accompanying the Jubilee celebrations of both 1887 and 1897, and a naive orientation towards pre-industrial society increasingly manifest in often opulent and voluptuous manifestations intended to represent a mythic 'Merrie England'. The old culture did re-emerge, heralded by an extensively publicized national fanfare, during the first decade of the twentieth century. But now it took root and flourished among participants of a different character than hitherto, and in locations where it had been, if not unknown, then simmering well beneath the surface. The ambivalence towards tradition bearers exhibited throughout the whole process resulted in the anomalous situation whereby the cultural forms - whether song, dance, tune, or tale - garnered a mystique of independence from the transmitters of such items. This notion remains widespread even today and it seems, therefore, all the more important that the balance be redressed, with future historical endeavour concentrating on the pre-1900 social milieu and the people who inhabited it.


I am first and foremost indebted to Lewis's great-great-granddaughter, Anne-Marie Ford, and to her husband, Eric Trudgill, for supplying some of the genealogical data used here, and also for much useful discussion and advice on a number of occasions during the past decade. Graeme Kirkham, whose knowledge and opinions in historical and cultural matters I value above all others, took time from his busy schedule to comment on the penultimate draft, which has resulted in a less confusing flow of data. Others who have provided valuable assistance in various ways include Andrew Bathe, Roy Leonard Dommett, Keith and Eunice Evans, Sharon Floate, Jim Hayward, Michael Heaney, Jonathan Leach, the late Frank Purslow, David 'Doc' Rowe, and Malcolm Taylor. My thanks are extended to each of them. All opinions and possible errors, however, remain solely my own.


Some locations formerly in Berkshire - Abingdon among them - were transferred to Oxfordshire after the official reorganization of county boundaries in 1974. I have retained the original counties in this work.

Note on English currency of the period:

d. = one penny

s. = one shilling (equivalent to 5p in today's money), comprised of twelve pennies

[pounds sterling] or l. = one pound, comprised of twenty shillings

one guinea = twenty-one shillings


(1) Earlier instalments include '"A very celebrated Banbury character": Reconstructing Working Class Biography - The Case of William "Old Mettle" Castle', Musical Traditions Internet magazine <> Article MT059; repr. in Cake and Cockhorse, 15.1 (Autumn/Winter 2000), 5-29; Step Change: New Views on Traditional Dance, ed. by Georgina Boyes (London: Francis Boutle, 2001), pp. 118-43; Morris Dancing in the English South Midlands 1660-1900: Aspects of Social and Cultural History, CD-ROM (Musical Traditions MTCD250, 2002); an ongoing, though sporadic, series on dance musicians at <> Articles MT061, MT064, MT066, MT078, MT180, MT187, MTT188, MT189; 'Popular Culture in Microcosm: The Manuscript Diaries of Richard Heritage of Marsh Gibbon, Buckinghamshire', FMJ, 9.1 (2006), 5-55; and a database comprising, initially, 850 musicians active between the late sixteenth century and 1900 <>.

(2.) Abingdon Herald, 26 June 1898, p. 4; 24 June 1899, p. 4; 23 June 1900, p. 5.

(3.) Abingdon Herald, 9 September 1905, p. 7.

(4.) London, EFDSS Archives, George Butterworth Collection, GB/10, Diary of Morris Dance Hunting, p. 17.

(5.) Rev. J. E. Linnell, Old Oak: The Story of an English Forest Village (London: Constable, 1932), pp. 122-23. The marriage of Humphrey Curtis and Merella Smith occurred on 19 July 1812.

(6.) 'Groome's Letters to Smart and Crofton', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd ser., 7.2 (1928), 63, quoting a letter from Francis Hindes Groome to Henry Thomas Crofton, 9 December 1874.

(7.) Alfred Williams, Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames (London; Duckworth, 1923), p. 281.

(8.) Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 3 July 1915, p. 2.

(9.) Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 6 March 1915, p. 2.

(10.) Alfred Williams, Villages of the White Horse (London: Duckworth, 1913), p. 204. Throughout his published work Williams uses the term 'step-dancing' when he actually means dancing in a longways set.

(11.) Jackson's Oxford Journal, 8 January 1842, p. 3.

(12.) Lincoln, Lincolnshire Archives, KQS/A/2/333/34, Kestevan Quarter Sessions, 1796.

(13.) Eric Otto Winstedt and Thomas William Thompson, 'Gypsy Dances,' Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s., 6.1 (1912-13), 1-15 (p. 2).

(14.) Bristol Mercury, 26 July 1831, p. 3. It is entirely possible that a report of this supposed contest lies in the pages of a yet unexamined local newspaper.

(15.) Berkshire Chronicle, 18 February 1860, p. 8.

(16.) Berkshire Chronicle, 25 February 1860, p. 8.

(17.) Berkshire Chronicle, 18 February 1860, p. 8.

(18.) Thomas William Thompson, 'Christmas Eve and After', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s., 3.1 (July 1909), 19-20 (p. 19).

(19.) Charles F. Payne, 'Pen Portraits of Gypsies I Have Known. No. 7. Sinfaia Heron; The Maker of Strange Melody', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd ser, 29.3-4 (1950), 129-31 (p. 130).

(20.) Boscastle Breakdown: Southern English Country Music, 12-inch LP (Topic 12T240), side 2, track 8.

(21.) Boscastle Breakdown, side 2, track 3. The hornpipes are identified by the compilers of the sleeve notes as "The Breakdown' and 'The Flowers of Edinburgh'.

(22.) E. O. Winstedt, 'Some Gypsy Centenarians,' Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd ser., 25. 1 (1946), 54-65.

(23.) Reading Mercury, 18 February 1860, p. 6.

(24.) Winstedt and Thompson, p. 3.

(25.) E. O. Winstedt, 'Berkshire Gypsies', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd ser., 8.4 (1939), 199-200.

(26.) Frank Stanley Atkinson and Eric Otto Winstedt, 'A Witch, a Wizard and a Charm', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, n.s., 5.4 (1911-12), 269.

(27.) E. O. Winstedt, 'Arkles Smith and Family, Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd ser., 17.1 (1938), 90.

(28.) Winstedt, Arkles Smith and Family'.

(29.) Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms.eng.misc.e.1289, Thomas William Thompson MSS Collection, f 24.

(30.) Oxford Chronicle, 27 June 1868, p. 7. For further analysis of the dancing booth phenomenon see <> Articles 064, 078.

(31.) William Nathan Wells MS [now lost], 'Written by W. Wells, on Morris Dancing', January 1914, [n.p.], transcribed by Roy Leonard Dommett; copies in Roy Dommett MSS and Keith Chandler MSS. Portions of the manuscript are reproduced in 'William Wells 1868-1953: Morris Dancer, Fiddler and Fool', JEFDSS, 8.1 (1956), 1-15.

(32.) For further exposition, see Keith Chandler 'Ribbons, Bells and Squeaking Fiddles': The Social/History of Morris Dancing in the English South Midlands, 1660-1900 (Enfield Lock: Hisarlik Press for the Folklore Society, 1993), pp. 129-32; repr. with minor textual emendations in Morris Dancing in the English South Midlands (CD-ROM).

(33.) Washington, DC, Library of Congress, MS transcript of interview with William Nathan Wells, Bampton, [n.d.]; cited from copy in London, VWML. Partially published in 'William Wells 1868-1953', pp. 9-11, and in 'William Wells and the Bampton Morris: An Interview', Country Dance and Song, 4 (1971), 9-12.

(34.) W. A. D. Morris, 'We Be the 'Riginals,' Witney Gazette, 19 April 1968, p. 9.

(35.) Jackson's Oxford Journal, 14 June 1862, p. 8.

(36.) Jackson's Oxford, Journal, 30 May 1863, p. 8.

(37.) Jackson's Oxford Journal, 21 May 1864, p. 8.

(38.) Oxford Times, 21 May 1864, p. 7.

(39.) Jackson's Oxford Journal 10 June 1865, p. 8.

(40.) Oxford Times, 10 June 1865, p. 3.

(41.) Abingdon Herald, 11 June 1 870, p. 6.

(42.) See Jackson's Oxford Journal 29 May 1858, p. 8, and Wells MS for details of Bates's involvement.

(43.) Witney Gazette, 25 June 1892, p. 5.

(44.) Faringdon Advertiser, 25 June 1892, p. 4.

(45.) London, VWML, Cecil J. Sharp MSS, Field Notebooks, Words, 1909/4, interview with unknown informant (possibly John Mason, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, 29 July or 2 August, 1909); fair copy in Cambridge, Archive of Clare College, ACC1987/25, Cecil J. Sharp MSS, Folk Dance Notes, vol. 1, p. 69.

(46.) Wells MS.

(47.) London, The National Archives, RG10 1260 7v (1871); RG11 1292 91v (1881); RG12 982 18v(1891); RGB 1136 106v (1901).

(48.) Oxford Chronicle, 11 August 1866, p. 7; Abingdon Herald, 15 August 1885, p. 5; Berkshire Chronicle, 4 May 1889, p. 8; Abingdon Herald, 26 May 1900, p. 8.

(49.) Faringdon Advertiser, 25 June 1892, p. 4.

(50.) Abingdon Herald, 3 May 1879, p. 5.

(51.) Abingdon Herald, 14 May 1898, p. 7.

(52.) Jackson's Oxford Journal, 9 April 1887, p. 8.

(53.) Jackson's Oxford Journal, 29 March 1884, p. 8.

(54.) R. E. Moreau, The Departed Village: Berrick Salome at the Turn of the Century (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 151.

(55.) Daily Post, 13 October 1722, p. 1.

(56.) For an historical overview, see Keith Chandler, 'The Abingdon Morris and the Election of the Mayor of Ock Street', in Aspects of British Calendar Customs, ed. by Theresa Buckland and Juliette Wood (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press for the Folklore Society, 1993), pp. 119-33. Numerous further data have surfaced since that date and a revision is long overdue.

(57.) Francis Fryer papers, letter from Lily Rant to Francis Fryer, 10 June 1938. I am indebted to Roy Leonard Dommett for copies of the surviving Fryer material in his possession.

(58.) Chandler MSS, interview with Frank Purslow, Weald, Bampton, 12 August 1980. Purslow was a dancer in the Abingdon Morris set between 1959 and 1962.

(59.) David 'Doc' Rowe MSS, interviews recorded at Abingdon for the BBC, tape no. 4, interview with Fred Stimpson, 24 June 1978; transcribed copies in Rowe MSS and Chandler MSS.

(60.) Chandler MSS, letter from Roy Leonard Dommett to Keith Chandler, March 1981. Dommett was a dancer in the Abingdon Morris set from 1960 to 1970.

(61.) Abingdon Free Press and Didcot News, 27 June 1902, p. 2.

(62.) Chandler MSS, interview with Frank Purslow.

(63.) North Berks Herald, 25 June 1910, p. 5.

(64.) Fryer papers, letter from Francis Fryer to Miss Sharp, 7 April 1938. For a detailed analysis, see Keith Chandler 'The Archival Morris Photographs - 1: Ock Street Morris Dancers, Abingdon, Berkshire, 1912', ED&S, 46.2 (1984), 22-23. At that time there was no evident reason to doubt the ascribed date; if 1910 is substituted for 1912 throughout, the data are otherwise correct.

(65.) North Berks Herald, 7 May 1910, p. 5.

(66.) Abingdon Free Press and Didcot News, 24 June 1910, p. 4.

(67.) Faringdon Advertiser, 2-4 June 1911, p. 5.

(68.) For an extensive analysis of this dance and its historical development, see Christopher B. Walker, '"The Triumph" in England, Scotland and the United States', FMJ, 8.1 (2001), 4-40.

(69.) Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 16 January 1915, p. 3.

(70.) Williams, Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames, p. 228.

(71.) Frederick Bingham, 'An Old Morris Dancer: Charles Tanner, of Bampton, Oxon.', Dancing Times, March 1916, pp. 172-73.

(72.) Reading Mercury, 13 August 1910, p. 6.

(73.) Reading Mercury, 13 August 1910, p. 6.

(74.) North Berks Herald, 13 August 1910, p. 8. Yet, as has already been noted, on the night of the census of 1 871 he was lodging in a public house at Stanford-in-the-Vale.

(75.) Winstedt and Thompson, p. 2.
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Author:Chandler, Keith
Publication:Folk Music Journal
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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