John Broadwood

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For details of the life and significance of the Rev. John Broadwood (1798-1864) of Lyne in Sussex we are indebted to Stanley Godman.[1]

John Broadwood is best known for his pioneering collection of sixteen folk songs published privately and anonymously as Old English Songs... These are usually dated to 1843 but on the basis of evidence in the Surrey History Centre, Woking, they were probably not published until 1847.[2]

There are a number of testimonies to the importance of Broadwood's collection. It was, in Margaret Dean Smith's view, "the first... to be made of folksong airs for their own sake." Vaughan Williams opinion was that Broadwood "is to be honoured in the annals of English folk-song." In 1943, Frank Howes wrote an article in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society to "celebrate the centenary of scientific method applied editorially to the oral tradition of English folk song." Broadwood's collection has been highly regarded because, unlike other editors, he meticulously recorded what he actually heard. He records: "The airs are set to music exactly as they are now sung, to rescue them from oblivion and to afford a specimen of genuine old English melody." As for the words, they were "given in their original rough state with an occassional slight alteration to render the sense intelligible."

Copies of Broadwood's original publication are now extremely rare. The British Library and Brighton Public Library each have one, and there is a third among the collection of Lucy Broadwood's papers in the Surrey History Centre.[3] However, all sixteen songs are replicated, with new pianoforte settings, in Sussex Songs: Popular Songs of Sussex, arranged by H.F. Birch Reynardson.[4]

John Broadwood was the son of James Shudi Broadwood of Lyne. On 20 January 1825, at Wisborough Green, Sussex, he married Charlotte, the daughter of John King, of Loxwood, Sussex. [5] John Broadwood died on January 26, 1864, at Lyne House, near Horsham, Sussex.[6]

1. Stanley Godman, "John Broadwood: New Light on the Folk Song Pioneer," The Monthly Musical Record (May-June 1957): 105-8; Stanley Godman, "John Broadwood, the Earliest English Folksong Collector," West Sussex Gazette (30 January 1964). Copies of both articles are available in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House.

2. [Rev. John Broadwood], Old English Songs, As Now Sung by the Peasantry of the Weald of Surrey and Sussex, and Collected by One Who Has Learnt Them by Hearing Them Sung Every Christmas from Early Childhood, by the Country People, Who Go About to the Neighbouring Houses, Singing, or "Wassailing" as It is Called, at that Season, harmonised by G. H. Dusart(London: Balls, for private circulation, [1843]).

3. Surrey History Centre, Woking, 2185/LEB/4/8. This copy has a number of annotations on it by Lucy Broadwood.

4. This volume of sheet music is undated. I twas catalogued by the British Library in 1890, but Lucy Broadwood, John Broadwood's niece, tells us that it was published in 1889. See Journal of the Folk Song Society 27 (December 1923): 81.

5. The Gentleman's Magazine March 1825; pg. 271.

6. John Bull (London, England) Saturday, January 30, 1864; pg. 70; Issue 2,251.