Categories
Blog

An Avebury folk song

In addition to Keiller’s records, papers, and correspondence connected with his activities on the property, the Avebury archive also contains material belonging to some of his collaborators on the Avebury project. Among these are the papers of William EV Young (or WEVY) who was the custodian and later curator of Avebury museum.  

Amongst Young’s sundry papers unconnected to the work of running the museum, under the same accession number are documents about local incidents and superstitions – including extracts from a local Reverend’s diary – and several versions of a folk song. 

The document dates from 1953 and, whilst it may be connected to the renewed post-war interest in folk collection generally, it is more likely to reflect Young’s specific interests in local Avebury lore. This version of the song was sung in the pub in Beckhampton, among other places, by John King of Avebury who died in 1917.  

An apparently earlier typed version of the ‘Ground for the Floor’ as sung by John King of Avebury, 20000594-013-001.

The song is Ground for the Floor – Roud 1269. In terms of genre the song is a ‘rustic idyll’ – characterising the simplicity of a rural life as one of contentment. It was also collected by others; including George Gardiner in Hampshire, Sabine Baring-Gould in Devon, and Alfred Williams from the village of Marston Mersey north of Cricklade, in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century phase of interest in folksongs. 

The lyrics and chorus collected have some degree of variation, which include distinct versions such as that collected by Cecil Sharp in Somerset, that by Gardiner in the South West, which are all broadly similar in structure, if varying as to the chorus . A more notable variation is the one recorded from George Maynard of Sussex, which differs substantially from the other preserved examples of the song. A tune was transcribed by Baring-Gould, and another is in Lucy Broadwood’s English Country Songs. The only recording of the song seems to be of George Maynard’s version of lyrics, first recorded in the 1960s – which appears on Volume 20: There is a Man Upon the Farm of the Voices of the People collection. 

Further research indicated that the lyrics Young and others collected closely match those of a broadside ballad of the same title, printed in London sometime between 1780 and 1812, and digitised by the Bodleian library.

A late 18th / early 19th century printing of Roud Number: 1269; Bodleain Library, Shelfmark: Harding B 11(2066), shared under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DEED.

By Hazel

Hazel is a volunteer with the Avebury Papers. Alongside volunteering at Avebury, she translates early Japanese poetry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *