Article MT314
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Norfolk Gleanings

Six Unsung Gems of Field and Horkey

with descriptions of some of the celebrations of old, garnered by Alan Helsdon

A Harvest of Song

In 1864 Chappell & Co of London published the sheet music for 'An Ancient English Melody, Arranged and Dedicated to the Landowners and Farmers of Norfolk, by Mrs Haggard.' It was the harvest supper celebration song from her farm at West Bradenham in central Norfolk.  It sold for 2/6 (12.5p) and is remarkable in three ways:

Firstly it is early. The Percy Society was founded in 1840.  It included William Chappell and produced publications from then.  William Chappell himself published A Collection of National English Airs, in 2 volumes, in 1838 & 1840, and revised and extended this into The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Times, 17 parts from 1855 to 1859.  John Broadwood produced Old English Songs in 1847.  James Orchard Halliwell published Norfolk Anthology in 1852.  (Information from Steve Roud, Folk song in England, 72 - 76)

Secondly it was noted by a woman. 'Marianne Mason (1845 - 1932) was the first woman to publish a collection of folk songs.'  This was Nursery Rhymes and Country Songs, which appeared in 1878, 14 years after Ella Haggard's single foray in this field.  Lucy Broadwood & H F Birch Reynardson brought out Sussex Songs in 1890, 26 years after the Bradenham publication.  Obviously Ella Haggard's work has been nowhere near as influential, indeed it has lain unknown in Norwich Library for a very long time as far as I know, but its very isolation shows Ella Haggard's originality and determination to preserve what she saw as a valuable snippet of local life.  No details exist (Chappell have no records that old) but it seems probable that Ella herself may well have paid for the publication, albeit with the possibility of the fair wind of Chappell's enthusiasm.  He died in 1888; Ella in 1889.  (Information from Steve Roud again.)

Thirdly it was noted in its environment and the circumstances written about in detail.  The late Norris Winstone MBE, founder of Kemp's Men and much-lamented guru of all Norfolk dance tunes, insisted on using 'noted' instead of 'collected' because to note something is to record its exisitence in order to share it with others and thus keep it alive, but to collect something is to remove it from its environment, in much the same way as Victorian sportsmen celebrated the finding of a rare species of bird by shooting it, stuffing it and putting it in a cabinet at home.  Ella Haggard published not only the tune and words but described in detail the rituals that went with it (see below) and for all the right reasons as we now see them.

Thankfully it contains both words and music.  Most of the time taken in producing the 2 CD-ROMs Vaughan Williams in Norfolk was spent searching for word sets to fit the tunes he noted in order to turn them into songs again.  To quote Steve Roud (p.42) 'Alfred Williams is the only one of the major collectors to think more of the words than the tunes.'

Ella (née Doveton) and husband William Meybohm Rider Haggard were not typical Norfolk landowners / farmers, however.  She was born in Bombay and he in St Petersburgh.  He was a Barrister, but according to the censuses not practising after the age of 33 and possibly regularly on the farm at West Bradenham, which is still there.  They also produced 10 children, one of whom was the author Henry Rider Haggard, born 1856.  He says of his mother, in his diary The Days of My Life, 1911, that 'she was a good musician.'1  Ella seemed to travel a lot and was a visitor in someone else's home on both 1871 and 1881 censuses.

From the sheet music published in 1864 by Ella Haggard (1819 - 1889):

I'm always tempted to sing a fourth verse: and sometimes I do.


From Vaughan Williams in Norfolk, Vol 2:

He was born in 1843 in the Hartismere District of [north] Suffolk which included Brooke / Burgate where his father was a single, 20 year-old agricultural labourer on the 1841 census and where his father married Charlotte Nunn in 1843.  She died in 1847 and John, also an agricultural labourer, married Sarah Ager in 1864.  They produced 4 children before Sarah died in 1889 and John had moved to Scole [just over the border in Norfolk] with 2 daughters by 1891.  He was on his own as a boarder near Diss in 1901 and in and out of Depwade Union, the Workhouse for that District at Pulham, at least twice before his death in 1919.  It was in the Workhouse that Vaughan Williams found him on December 20th 1911 and noted General Wolfe and Health Song from him.  The latter was published as Harvest Song in the Journal of the Folk Song Society in 1913 (jfss1913/17).

We don't know whether he learnt this song in Suffolk in his youth, got it when older from farms in Norfolk, or even sang an amalgamated version to Vaughan Williams, but songs wishing health to the Master and Mistress had many similarities in both counties and undoubtedly the 'aural tradition' was at work.

Having also been noted by Cecil Sharp in Oxfordshire, I have set it to that melody.

[The Norfolk Largess, Norfolk Harvest Song and Ploughboy's Round had no tunes and I have 'borrowed' three excellent, Norfolk-found tunes for them, noted by Ralph Vaughan Williams in King's Lynn in 1905.]

This comes from Ballads, Songs and Rhymes of East Anglia, by A S Harvey, 1936, who is quoting from History of Hawsted, 1813, by Rev.  John Cullum Bart.  FRS, FSA.

[Hawsted is 'a village and parish in Suffolk, 3 miles South from Bury St Edmunds' - Harrod's 1876 Directory of Suffolk.]

A S Harvey, in his 1935 Ballads, Songs and Rhymes of East Anglia includes two songs entitled Norfolk Harvest Song and Harvest Song Refrain.  He introduces them by saying that these are 'from Bygone Norfolk [1898] by William Andrews.  The latter is all that remains of another Norfolk Harvest Song which was a great favourite in olden times.'  What I have done, as the metre is the same for both, is to use the Refrain as the chorus to the 4 verses of the Song.  I've been singing it for about 40 years and nobody has ever noticed.

Lamas Day is August 1st and was about the time harvesting the cereal crops began, though I'm sure the weather, as, now, had a say in things.  The 'early horn' was blown centrally in the village to get the workers to the fields on time.

From this a small part of the attractivly named 'Ten Minute Biography':

From Ballads, Songs and Rhymes of East Anglia, by A S Harvey, 1936, quoting from The East Anglian, Vol III, 1869, p.264:

The words fit the Playford dance tune of the same name so, although I have never seen them together, and have no proof that there is any connection apart from the titles, I have matched them here.

The Duke of Norfolk lived in what is now Duke Street in Norwich and built a palace in about 1651 on the site of the present (2017) multi-storey car park.  The palace was demolished from about 1751, possibly because of subsidence, but some historians have suggested it was because of a row between the Duke of Norfolk and the Mayor of Norwich.  (Norwich Evening News, 31.03.2015).  These colourful tales can cast a long shadow in the local consciousness!

Gleanings from various sources

William Hone (1780 - 1842) Every-Day Book, Vol 2, columns 1166 - 8

Written on August 14th 1826 and sent in by a contributor known only as 'G.  H.  I.':

Ballads, Songs and Rhymes of East Anglia, A S Harvey, 1936.

Quoting from History of Hawsted, 1813, by Rev.  John Cullum Bart.  FRS, FSA.:

[Hawsted is 'a village and parish in Suffolk, 3 miles South from Bury St Edmunds' - Harrod's 1876 Directory of Suffolk.]

Two items from Broad Norfolk, (1949)

A collection of letters written by readers of the Eastern Daily Press p.43: [Horsford is 'a parish and village from 4 to 5 miles North West of Norwich' - Harrod's 1876 Directory of Norfolk.  The Coachmaker's Arms is still there on St Stephen's Road and the landlord from at least 1867 to 1890 was James Banham -]

Harvest Horkey at Necton

Mary Nichols, p45-6, The Mother of Necton, Breedon Books, 2000; Larks Press 2009 ISBN 978 1904006 48 0

[Necton is just south of the A47 between Swaffham and Dereham, adjacent to the Bradenham Hall Farm of the Rider Haggards.  Sadly, all 4 pubs are now closed -]

Harvest Frolics at Hindolveston before the First World War

[Hindringham is 'a parish and village ...  4 miles East of Walsingham and 7 South East from Wells' - Harrod's 1876 Directory of Norfolk.]

at Shotesham in 1900

Unknown contributor to Within Living Memory, a Collection of Norfolk Reminiscences, Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes, 1972, p 86..  The writer's father was a teamsman on a farm on the estate of Robert Fellowes.  She had 4 sisters, 2 older and 2 younger. 

[Shotesham All Saints is a village 6 miles South from Norwich and Shotesham St Mary (including S Martin and Botolph) is 5 miles.]

and at Mulbarton in 1900

Unknown contributor to Within Living Memory, a Collection of Norfolk Reminiscences, Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes, 1972, p.87

[Mulbarton is a parish and village 5 miles South-West from Norwich - Harrod's 1876 Directory of Norfolk.]


Thanks to the ever helpful and knowledgeable staff at the Norfolk Heritage Centre, Norwich Millennium Library, Local Studies Department and to all the people, whether mentioned in the text or not, who have done anything to help keep these words and tunes alive.  Thanks also to Rod Stradling for proof-reading and pointing out my usual rash of errors.

Alan Helsdon, Norwich - 1.1.18


Article MT314

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