Category Archives: Yorkshire

(1769) The Death of Bill Brown

A.L. Lloyd includes this song about poaching as resistance to enclosure in his book Folk Song in England where he noted that it was “obtained by Frank Kidson from a singer in Goole, Yorkshire” and comments:

There are two distinct broadsheet songs which tell of the unhappy death of Bill Brown, a poacher shot by the gamekeeper at the village of Brightside, near Sheffield, in 1769. That a version of one of them might still be collected from tradition as late as the beginning of this century should be attributed to the extraordinary vitality which many of the broadside ballads had in the minds and hearts of the commons of England. Certainly the character of Bill Brown and the desire to avenge his death was sufficient to raise the necessary sympathetic bond between street singers and their audiences.

A.L. Lloyd further commented in the sleeve notes of Roy Harris’s 1972 record The Bitter and the Sweet:

When the practice of enclosing common-land for the benefit of lofty landlords was stepped up in the 18th century, it caused hardship and fierce resentment over the broad acres. For some reason, resistance to this injustice was specially fierce in the triangle roughly bounded by Sheffield, Lincoln and Nottingham, and within this area for more than half a century there was virtual guerrilla was between poacher and keeper. The sullen bloodshot ballad of Bill Brown, who was shot dead at Brightside, near Sheffield, in 1769, is characteristic of the poacher broadsides that moved the disaffected villagers of the time (and for long after). The tune was noted in Lincolnshire by Frank Kidson’s devoted informant, Mr Lolley, about eighty years ago.

You gentlemen, both great and small,
Gamekeepers, poachers, sportsmen all,
Come listen to me simple clown,
I’ll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown,
I’ll sing you the death of poor Bill Brown.

One stormy night, as you shall hear,
‘Twas in the season of the year.
We went to the woods to catch a buck,
But in that night we had bad luck,
Bill Brown was shot and his dog was stuck.

Well, we got to the woods, our sport begun,
I saw the gamekeeper present his gun,
I called on Bill to climb the gate,
To get away, but it was too late,
For there he met his untimely fate.

Well, we got to the woods, our sport begun,
I saw the gamekeeper present his gun,
I called on Bill to climb the gate,
To get away, but it was too late,
For there he met his untimely fate.

I dressed myself next night in time,
I got to the wood as the clock struck nine;
The reason was, and I’ll tell you why,
To find that gamekeeper I did go try,
Who shot my friend, and he shall die.

I ranged the woods all over, and then
I looked at my watch and it was just ten.
I heard a footstep on the green,
I hid myself for fear of being seen,
For I plainly saw it was Tom Green.

I took my gun all in my hand,
Resolved to fire if Tom should stand;
Tom heard a noise and turned him round.
I fired and brought him to the ground,
My hand gave him his deep death wound.

Now revenge, you see, my hopes has crowned.
I’ve shot the mam that shot Bill Brown.
Poor Bill no more these eyes will see;
Farewell, dear friend, farewell to ye,
I’ve crowned your hopes and your memory.

An Atlas of Rural Protest in Britain 1548-1900 by Andrew Charlesworth

We get sent, given and recommended a lot of books by people who’ve seen the show. They are nearly always very useful and often even get read. Every so often one comes along that wins. This is such a book. What a title! And full of lovely maps and considered prose too. Copies come up 2nd hand for about the £20 mark fairly often, well worth it.

Needless to say this book is a glorious source of academically thorough research into peasant struggles against the greed and tyranny of the aristocracy.

A History of Allotments in Sheffield by Margaret Boulton

This is a really great deep dive into local Sheffield history whilst at the same time providing lots of context which I imagine would make it still of interest to those further afield.

I drank it down and revelled in the geekery, for example, did you know that Mount Pleasant is the name for the part of each town or city where all the night soil (aka human poo) was taken every morning so farmers could transport it to their land for fertiliser?

(1100s) Robin Hood ballads as sung by Wallace House

It’s fair to say that Professor Wallace House was probably a bit of a dude. An American who perfected the art of many regional English accents so he could sing his favourite folk songs authetically.

You can hear the full record of him singing Robin Hood ballads on youtube and other places – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kyO-qNn8xjStKmVXP2-LNkvd4P8GEsmdA

We adapted our version of ‘Robin Hood and the Three Squires’ from this record:

As Robin Hood ranged the green woods all round, all round the woods ranged he
He saw a young lady in very deep grief, weeping against an oak tree weeping against an oak tree

O why weepest thou, my dear lady? What trouble’s befallen thee?
Well I have three brothers in Nottingham jail, this day all hanged must be
this day all hanged must be

O what have they done , my dear lady, to pay such a costly fee?
Why they have killed three of the King’s fallow deer their children and wives to feed

Take courage, take courage, says bold Robin Hood, oh weep not against the oak tree,
And I will away to Nottingham fair, the High Sheriff for to see

Then Robin Hood hastened to Nottingham town, to Nottingham town went he
And there with the high master Sheriff he met and likewise the squires all three

One favour one favour I have to beg. One favour to beg of thee
That thou wilt reprieve these three young squires, this day and set them free

O no, o no, the high Sheriff says, their lives are forfeit to me,
For they have killed three of the King’s fallow deer and this day all hanged must be

One favour more I have to beg. One favour more of thee
That I may blow thrice on my old bugle horn that their spirits to heaven may flee

O granted, o granted, the High Sheriff said. O granted O granted said he
Thou mayest blow thrice on thine old bugle horn that their spirits to heaven may flee

Then Robin Hood climbed the gallows so high and blew both loud and shrill
Three hundred and ten of bold Robin Hood’s men came marching across the green hill

O whose men are these? The High Sheriff asks. And Robin Hood answered with glee,
They’re all of them mine and they’re none of them thine and they’ve come for the squires all three

O take them, O take them, the High Sheriff said. I’ll have no quarrel with thee,
For there’s not a man in fair Nottingham that can do the like of thee.

(1846) The Blackstone-Edge Song by Ernest Jones

Blackstone Edge is the site of a famous Chartist gathering where Ernest Jones addressed 30,000 people on 2nd August 1846 – every year people still gather here to sing this song (and a few others!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86orh7GOLcs – you can find more about this annual gathering here – http://blackstoneedgegathering.org.uk/?page_id=12

To the tune of ‘Battle of Hohenlinden’ –

O’er plains and cities far away,
All lorn and lost the morning lay,
When sunk the sun at break of day,
In smoke of mill and factory.

But waved the wind on Blackstone height
A standard of the broad sunlight,
And sung, that morn, with trumpet might,
A sounding song of Liberty.

And grew the glorious music higher,
When pouring with his heart on fire,
Old Yorkshire came, with Lancashire,
And all its noblest chivalry.

The men, who give,—not those, who take;
The hands, that bless,—yet hearts that break;
Those toilers for their foemen’s sake;
Our England’s true nobility!

So brave a host hath never met,
For truth shall be their bayonet,
Whose bloodless thrusts shall scatter yet
The force of false finality!

Though hunger stamped each forehead spare,
And eyes were dim with factory glare,
Loud swelled the nation’s battle prayer,
Of—death to class monopoly!

Then every eye grew keen and bright,
And every pulse was dancing light,
For every heart had felt its might
The might of labour’s chivalry.

And up to Heaven the descant ran,
With no cold roof ‘twixt God and man,
To dash back from its frowning span,
A church prayer’s listless blasphemy.

How distant cities quaked to hear,
When rolled from that high hill the cheer,
Of—Hope to slaves! to tyrants fear!
And God and man for liberty!

East Yorkshire Historical Society booklets on enclosure and the open field system

I’ve just finished reading these three excellent booklets about enclosure and the open field system in East Yorkshire… Two were written in late 1950s and the third in the mid eighties. All were thoroughly researched, succinct and insightful.

Continue reading

Who Owns England blog – one year on

Guy Shrubsole is doing some excellent work here digging into data to find out who owns our land – https://whoownsengland.org/2017/09/12/who-owns-england-one-year-on-what-we-now-know/

Brother to the Ox by Fred Kitchen

This book is a stunning and gentle insight into being a farm labourer just as the railroads arrive. I read it ages ago then recently picked it up again and found I couldn’t stop myself from rereading the whole book, it was just so enjoyable to turn the pages and spend time with Fred Kitchen.

File alongside The Same Sky Over All and Where Beards Wag All, also books which cover changes in farming in the period up to and after the Great War of 1914-1918.

Little Toller books recently did a reprint of Brother to the Ox, which is already out of print but you can find them 2nd hand online for around the £10-15 mark fairly regularly.

fred kitchen