William Hedges

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William Hedges (1831 – 22 January 1919) was born about 1831 probably in the little Wiltshire village of Hanington, Wiltshire and christened in the church of St. John the Baptist at nearby Inglesham, which was at that time in Berkshire (it became part of Wiltshire in 1844). In 1841 he was living with his parents at Burtis’s Farm, near Hanington Hall, where his father was listed as Agricultural labourer. He was still with his parents (Henry Hedges and Martha nee Pipkin), working as a farm labourer in 1851, but on 23 September 1854 he married Emma Wright, a girl from Alcester, Warwickshire at St Thomas’s Church in Birmingham and the couple started out on their own, first at Oversley Green, near to Emma’s home, then Cleeve Prior in Worcestershire.

In 1864 he moved to Chipping Campden where he lived in Old Coombe, followed by a move to Westington prior to 1881. The couple had a number of children: Hannah (1857), Fanny Ann (1859), William Henry (1861), Thomas (1863), Charles (1865), Fred (1867), Albert (1869), Joseph (1872) and Ellen (1876).

His wife, Emma, died in the spring of 1900 and, following a short period when he lived with his grandson Charley (William Henry Hedges’ son), William became a resident of Hicks’s Almshouses in April 1901 (“April 1901 William Hedge (sic) age 68, house 1, took the place of John Brookes who was deceased”) where he died on 22 January 1919. We have found no record of his burial.

Most of William’s children moved away from the area, but two remained. Charles became a shepherd like his father, but William Henry became a cattleman. Both, however, continued to work on the land.

Sharp collected the following songs from William Hedges:

  • words also collected

~ words only collected

10 August 1909
Jemmy and Nancy of Yarmouth (Roud 187)*
The Crafty Maid's Policy (Roud 1624)
The Three Butchers (Roud 17)
Jack Ridler’s Oven (Roud 1319)~

14 August 1909
Rosemary Lane (Roud 269)
Forty Long Miles (Roud 608)*
Horses to Grass (Roud 12844)*
The Golden Vanity (Roud 122)
Taffy (Roud 12722)*
The Bold Fisherman (Roud 291)

28 Aug 1909
The Broken Hearted Gentleman (I Kept a Pack of Hounds) (Roud 383)
In between these two songs, Sharp also noted down some riddles.
Shepherds are the Best of Men (Roud 284)

10 September 1909
Oxford City (Roud 218)
The Outlandish Knight (Roud 21)
I Followed Her* (Going to Chelsea to Buy a Bun) (Roud 946)

On 10 August 1909, Sharp noted “knows no shepherd songs” – he’d become aware of the song We Shepherds are the Best of Men which seemed popular amongst the county’s shepherd singers and hoped to find it here. A couple of weeks later, on his third meeting with William, he did manage to get him to sing him this song.

Paul Burgess

With many thanks to Carol Jackson, Judith Ellis and Tess Taylor,