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William Cobbett

A short version of this programme was presented in Botley Church as part of a Botley village celebration, and contains particular references to Cobbett's time there. It was later given before a meeting of the Cobbett Society in Farnham Castle, and received with much enthusiasm. For 2006 and 2013 it was extended and revised, so is available in both long (100 minutes plus interval as below) & short (60 minute) versions.

Our programmes are continually improved, and different music may be substituted from time to time.

Psalm 34 New Version is one of two well-known survivors from the New Version of the metrical Psalms (see footnote). The tune, Wiltshire, was written by Joseph Stephenson, who was Clerk of the meeting at the Unitarian Church in Poole. He probably travelled the South teaching country choirs and selling loose sheets of music. Thomas Hardy calls the tune "Old Wiltshire" in The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Psalm 113 New Version is set to Whitby tune in Holdsworth's Cheetham's Psalmody, a tune collection made for the people of Halifax which became more widely popular in the 19th century. We have added the interlude or symphony, which is the short instrumental link between verses.

Anthem taken from the 113th Psalm is a setting of the prose Psalm by Samuel Chapple, a blind organist and composer from Dartmoor. As a boy he was sent to train in music so that he could earn a living and not have to be kept at the expense of the community. We first found this anthem in a MS in Jersey, setting the French prose psalm, and later identified the source as Chapple.

Dance: The  steps for Harper's Frolic were written down in a MS book in Ashover, Derbyshire in about 1764, along with the tunes, Harper's Frolic and Bonny Cate, which we have harmonised.

Harvest Home appeared in the opera King Arthur (1691) by Purcell and Dryden, was included by Sandys in his Festive Songs (1856), and in many folk-song anthologies since. We have added a couple of verses written by Terry Savage, one of our altos.

Harvest Song was collected near Salisbury and published by Lucy Broadwood in her English County Songs (1893). Please join in the chorus:

    So drink, boys, drink, And see that you do not spill,
    For if you do you shall drink two, For ‘tis our master’s will.

Creation: Oratorios and operas often had big hit tunes in them, which gained an independent life. One such was The Heavens are Telling from Haydn'sCreation (1800), which was arranged to make a hymn tune by several people in slightly different ways, all called Creation. Our setting comes from the Norwich Tune Book (1844), together with the symphony (1815) by Bishop Simms of Birmingham. The words, a harvest hymn, were written about 1837 by Jacob Brettell (1798-1862), a Unitarian Pastor.

The Barley Mow is a traditional song toasting all those who contribute to its eventual conversion into beer. Please join in.

Spanking Rodger comes from the MSS of the Larks of Dean choir, a collection of about 50 MSS containing over 1000 tunes that were used in Rossendale in the 18th and 19th centuries. This tune was composed by James Nuttall ca.1770, one of the leaders of the choir. The Rodger of the title was a famous local dandy; "spanking" describes him as a smart, fashionable dresser. There is also a pub in the area named after him. The words are by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), with an extra verse added by William Walter Shirley about 1750.


Quick March comes from a set of military pieces by Music Major C. F. Eley, leader of the first official Coldstream Guards Band, from 1785-1800. His band had oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, a trumpet and a serpent. The march has a hunting flavour.

Lonsdale tune was adapted from a tune by Corelli, and became widespread. We have matched it with words by Isaac Watts, his version of Psalm 133, together with some on a similar theme by John Fawcett (1740-1818) from the Scottish Hymn Book. Psalm 133 is known as the Fellowship Psalm, and was sung at meetings of the Friendly Societies and Sick Clubs which grew up in the early 19th century. There is a drum in Devizes museum which was used by the friendly society band, with the first line of the Psalm painted on it. Oddly, the drum was made in the front room of a pub, and when completed was too big to get out, so it was kept in the room and played inside whilst the band paraded outside the open windows.

I sowed the seeds of love is said to be the first song collected by Cecil Sharp, about 1900, but it is attributed to a poetess who died in 1703, and it has been published many times.

The Gallant Poacher is a short ballad, a protest song about the cruel fate of a young poacher. It was collected in Dorset. The last poacher to be executed for poaching was buried in North Baddesley churchyard, but it was the fate of many poachers to be shot by a gamekeeper rather than tried by a court.

Tenterden tune was written by Thomas Clark of Canterbury and published in a set of tunes all for Wesley’s words in 1811.

We were obliged to choose Dominus Regit Me, a well-known hymn tune by Durham organist J. B. Dykes (1823-76), because the metre of Cobbett’s words is almost unknown for hymns in the gallery period. It is unlikely he expected them to be sung, although he seems to be parodying the style of Isaac Watts’ Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language, for the Use of Children (1715).

Anthem for Thanksgiving After Victory was composed by Henry Tolhurst  (ca.1775-1814) who lived at Chart Sutton near Maidstone. He wrote several anthems and canticles.

The Waterloo Dance and The Isle of France or The Waterloo are two tunes from the Pyle MS, used in Nether Wallop. From their structure, they are obviously intended for the same dance, but the details of the original Waterloo dance are lost. The first tune is well known, the second known only from this MS. The Pyle band was quite successful, and the MS shows how later on they played for society dances, a step up from the repertoire with which they started.

Rule Britannia: Dr. Thomas Arne (1710-78) wrote the tune for words by the poet James Thomson (1700-48), and it was first performed as the finale of the masque,Alfred, in 1740. Arne made his audiences in Drury Lane sing patriotic songs, partly as a political statement around the time of the second Jacobite Rebellion. To Arne's original symphonies we have wedded the harmonisation by Vincent Novello (1781-1861), founder of the publishing company. He was also organist at the Portuguese Embassy Chapel in London, a little enclave of Catholicism long tolerated, since Portugal was one of Britain's oldest allies.

Buckingham March comes from a Hampshire MS begun in 1822. Richard Grenville was created Duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1822 and later lived at Avington near Winchester. He wasted the Chandos money and his estates fell heavily into debt.


Besides Cobbett's own writings, in researching our scripts we have referred to:

The Jolly Farmer? William Cobbett in Hampshire, 1804-1820, by Barbara Biddell, Hampshire Papers No. 15, HCC, 1999, ISBN 1-85975-247-0;

Great Cobbett, The Noblest Agitator, by Daniel Green, Hodder & Stoughton, 1983, ISBN 0-340-22378-2;

William Cobbett: Englishman. A Biography by Anthony Burton, ISBN 1-85410-516-7.

A Footnote on The Metrical Psalms

Henry VIII encouraged Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins and others to translate the Psalms into verse for singing to popular tunes, mostly Long and Common Metre. The Old Version was completed about 1598, and the Old 100th is a well-loved example. The New Version by Tate & Brady, 1696, improved the language, but its abstract style was not so relevant to country folk, and the Old Version persisted alongside. Best known are Psalm 34: “Through all the changing scenes of life”, and Psalm 42: “As pants the hart for cooling streams”, and of course the Song of the Angels at the Nativity of our Blessed Saviour Luke ii 8-15: “While Shepherds Watch’d”.

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