WILLIAM CALVERT MS Dated variously 1805 and 1812
VMP code WCa
In the private collection of Lynn Wood, of Yorkshire. Transcribed into ABC by Chris Partington, May 2003
This introduction is in two parts, firstly a very brief history and notes on the tunes by Chris Partington, then a fuller biographical account by Bob Ellis.
The William Calvert Manuscript is a typical Fiddler's Tune Book of the early 19th C. It has 52 pages and is approximately 7 inches wide by 3 1/2 inches tall, and has four neat staves to the page. There are accounts for grassland rents inside the front and rear covers, and some of the cash amounts are substantial. It is inscribed repeatedly throughout with the name "Wm Calvert", "Wm Calvert's Book", etc. and the date "1812".
Lyn Wood acquired the book in Leyburn, North Yorkshire. A quick search for the name on the Familysearch Website reveals the great majority of Wm Calverts of the period to come from twenty miles either side of Northallerton in North Yorkshire.
Some of the tunes have fiddle fingering above the notes.
There are a small number of hymns and psalms, typical for this kind of tunebook, but the bulk of the material consists of 52 fiddle tunes, some of which are in distinctive settings.
The Scottish influence in the reels and some of the jigs is large, typical of the age when the Gows dance band and their tune books were popular in both Scotland and England.
13 reels, 11 jigs 8 country dances 8 hornpipes 7 airs 2 slip jigs 1 each of marches,strathspeys,allemandes.
End of notes by Chris Partington. September 2003
Additional notes by Bob Ellis
The William Calvert MS is a fiddler’s tune book comprising 52 folk dance tunes and several hymns and psalms. William Calvert signed his name on several pages and included two dates: 1805 and 1812. The book came to light a few years ago at an auction sale in Leyburn, where it was bought by Lynn Wood.
William Calvert was born in 1780 at The Streethead Inn, which was then a coaching inn on the main road through Bishopdale, where it is still open for business. Bishopdale beck is a major tributary feeding into the south side if the River Ure, Wensleydale, within what is now the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Around the age of 5, his parents moved to the nearby George and Dragon Inn (now known as The George Inn) at Thoralby, where he grew up. He married Ann Harrison at Spennithorne Church in 1802 when the entry in the parish register describes him as being “from Thoralby.” His signature in the parish register matches those in his tune book, dispelling any possible doubt that this was the man who compiled the tune book. William Calvert appears to have been well educated, since he wrote a fine hand and could read music. He also appears to have been of some social standing, possibly of yeoman stock, because the witnesses to his wedding included Matthew Chaytor, a gentleman residing at Agglethorpe Hall in Coverdale, Thomas Harrison, a Coverdale farmer who was either the father or brother of the bride, and Mary Coultman, the wife of the licensee of The King’s Head, a substantial coaching inn in Leyburn.
William Calvert lived at Harmby (between Spennithorne and Leyburn, just outside the present National Park boundary, from 1802 until sometime between 1817 and 1823, which was the period during which the book was written, judging by the two dates included in it. No evidence has been found of his whereabouts between then and 1841, when he was described as a farmer living in Constable Burton, a mile or so further down the dale. He died in 1842, but his widow was recorded in the 1851 and 1861 censuses as a “landed proprietor” and in 1871 as a “gentlewoman.”. The entry in Spennithorne parish register for the baptism of his fourth child in 1817 described William Calvert as an “inn holder”. There were two inns in Harmby at this time, The Royal Oak (now known as The Pheasant Inn), which is on the main road from Bedale to Leyburn, and The Bolton Inn, which used to stand in the centre of the village on the right side of the road from Leyburn to Spennithorne. It is not known which of these inns was kept by William Calvert.
The collection includes several Scottish and Irish tunes and several more with nautical names. One could speculate that he learnt some of these tunes from Scottish drovers and from itinerant tinkers, badgers and other travellers, who perhaps stayed the night at his inn and shared a few tunes with him during a convivial evening. However, it is also possible that some of the tunes may have come from Scottish tune books in circulation at the time.
The pages on the inside of the front and back covers of the MS have been reused and refer to the letting of grassland. Eleven names are recorded on those pages and almost all of them have been traced to Middleham and Spennithorne, both of which are within two miles of Harmby.
Bob Ellis, March 2015
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