Copper Family

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The Copper Family are a family of singers of traditional, unaccompanied English folk song. Originally from Rottingdean, near Brighton, Sussex, England, the nucleus of the family now lives in the neighbouring village of Peacehaven.


The Copper Family have a tradition of unaccompanied singing in harmony of traditional local songs, that has been passed down through several generations. In 1898, they came to the attention of Kate Lee (d.1904), one of the founders of the Folk Song Society (later the English Folk Dance and Song Society). In his notes accompanying their archive CD Come Write Me Down, Vic Gammon notes that both the collecting of songs and their unaccompanied singing were less common than is often imagined at this time and that Lee, a singer herself, knew she had found something special when she encountered the Coppers. James "Brasser" Copper (1845-1924) and his brother Thomas (c.1847-c.1936) were made honorary members of the Society, and 'Brasser' was prevailed upon to write down the songs that he knew. 'Brasser' had two sons, John (c.1879-1952) and Jim (1882-1954). In 1936, Jim wrote a further volume of songs. Jim had two children - Joyce (1910-?) and Bob (1915-2004). In 1950, Jim and Bob were invited to sing on an episode of the BBC Radio programme Country Magazine and, over the next few years, the BBC would record them further, even producing a feature The Life Of James Copper, broadcast in September 1951. John's son was Walter Ronald, known as Ron (c.1913-1979). Together, Jim, John, Ron and Bob sang at the Royal Albert Hall and wider public attention followed the broadcast of a six-part television series Song Hunter, presented by Alan Lomax and featuring Jim, Bob and Ron. Bob wrote several books about the family and its songs, beginning with the widely acclaimed A Song For Every Season in 1971. The accompanying 4LP set found Bob and Ron singing alongside Bob’s daughter Jill and son John, bringing a further generation into the family tradition. The death of Ron was followed by the introduction of Jill’s husband Jon into the core line-up, and subsequently some of Bob's grandchildren began to appear with the group. The six grandchildren (Jill's children Mark, Andy and Sean Barratt, and John's children Ben, Lucy and Tom Copper) now also appear independently as The Young Coppers, singing the same family repertoire.

Bob Copper died in 2004, a few days after receiving an MBE.

In 2006, BBC Four broadcast Coppersongs, an hour-long programme about the family.

Copper Family members


article includes: James Copper (1845–1924), Thomas Copper (1847–c.1936), (Francis) John William Copper (1880–1952), James Dale Copper (1882–1954), Ronald Copper (c.1913–1979)


  • The Banks of Claudy (Folktrax LP, 1975)
  • Twankydillo (Folktrax cassette, 1975)
  • Come All You Bold Britons (Folktrax cassette, 1983)
  • Adam and Eve (Folktrax cassette, 1983)