Francis Jekyll

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Francis Jekyll (1882-1965)

Francis Jekyll (pronounced 'Jeekyl') [1882-1965] was an associate of the folk song collector George Butterworth in the early twentieth century. The Roud database records more than thirty items from printed (i.e. non-manuscript) sources that were wholly or partly collected by Francis Jekyll, most of which were published in the early editions of the Journal of the Folk Song Society. He appears in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs as the collector of a Hampshire version of “The Young Girl Cut Down in Her Prime.” 1 The Preface to George Butterworth’s Folk Songs from Sussex (1912) states that Jekyll, whom Butterworth thanked “for his enthusiastic co-operation,” had noted four of those eleven songs. These were: 'Yonder stands a lovely creature'; 'A lawyer he went out'; 'A brisk young sailor courted me'; and 'Tarry Trowsers'. Andrew King (Folk Music Journal, 2010, "Resources in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library") notes that the Ella Mary Leather Manuscript Collection (MS EML/1/) contains songs collected by Jekyll in Herefordshire in or before the year 1907, and that a MS in the Broadwood Collection (LEB/5/222-22 5) "consists of a second set of Francis Jekyll's Herefordshire transcriptions from William Colcombe, giving the same songs as in the Notebook" of Ella Leather "but in subtly different versions." The Butterworth MSS contain songs noted by Jekyll, either alone or jointly with George Butterworth. These MSS are now posted online as part of the EFDSS's Take 6 project at [1] with transcriptions and support materials available from Folkopedia's "Take 6 Transcription Programme" at [[2]]. A Take 6 Search for Jekyll as Collector list 64 items, all of them in the Butterworth MSS.

Francis Jekyll was born in the last quarter of 1882 in Farm Street in the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, London, W. 2 The 1911 Census records that, as a single 28 year old male, he was the sole resident of 38 Bedford Court Mansions, London, W.C., and employed as an Assistant in the Department of Printed Books at the British Museum.

Michael Dawney’s article on "George Butterworth’s Folk Music Manuscripts" 3 records that Jekyll went to Eton (1895) and to Oxford (1901)4 and that he worked at the British Museum (1906-14). Dawney also tells us that Jekyll joined the Folk-Song Society in 1907 (it was actually 1905--see below) and the English Folk-Dance Society in 1911. He was, Dawney adds, “solely or jointly responsible for the collecting of fifty-seven songs,” as well as folk dances from County Limerick.5 After Butterworth died on the Somme in 1916 Jekyll wrote: “Some of my happiest days were those we spent together, tramping the Sussex Downs and collecting songs.”

The Eton Register for 1893 to 1899 tells us that Jekyll arrived there in September 1895 and left in December 1900. In 1897 he was in Fifth Form Upper Division B3 VIII, and in 1899 in Fifth Form A12 II. He was Newcastle Scholar in 1900. (Butterworth went to Eton in 1899 and left in 1904.)

Jekyll appears in Lucy Broadwood’s manuscript diaries at the Surrey History Centre. He had tea with Lucy Broadwood on 6 September 1899, and again on 30 October 1905. On 11 February 1906 he took supper with her. On 19 October 1906, he “came to tea and [to] play …his Hereford tunes.” On 12 November 1906 he called again. On 28 May 1907, with 52 others, he attended a musical party at Lucy Broadwood’s flat. On 21 November 1907 he “came after tea to show me folk-tunes etc.,” and he was one of 29 guests at a tea party on 14 April 1908. On 12 December 1908, Lucy Broadwood records: “Mr. Francis Jekyll called, had a long F(olk) S(ong) S(ociety) talk, stopped to dinner, and listened to phonograph-songs.”

The Journal of the Folk Song Society regularly published listings of the names and addresses of Folk Song Society members. "Jekyll, Francis W. Esq." first appears in these listings in March 1905 where his address in given as 3 Green Street, W., London. (Butterworth seems to have joined the Society later than Jekyll; his first listing is for May 1907.) Jekyll appears again in May 1907, but no address is given. In November 1908 Jekyll is listed as living at 38 Bedford Court Mansions, London, W.C., and he remained there until January 1913. In June, 1915 he was living at 56 Great Queen Street, Kingsway, W.C., London, and from November 1916 to November 1918 at 10 Lancaster Place, Strand, London. From January 1920 to August 1926 Jekyll's address was 14 Trevor Street, London, S.W.7. For September 1927 and December 1928 no address is given. Then, in December 1929 and December 1931, Jekyll was recorded as living at Munstead House, Godalming, Surrey. After the merger of the Folk Song Society the Folk Dance and Song Society Journal published no lists of members but we know from family and other sources that Jekyll remained at Munstead until his death in 1965.

The Balliol College Register tells us that Jekyll worked for the Ministry of Information from 1917 to 1920.

Sally Festing’s biography of Gertrude Jekyll notes that Francis (known to family and friends as ‘Timmy’) was the nephew of the famous lady gardener. (He wrote a memoir of his aunt,6 but this makes no mention of folk song.) Sally Festing adds that under Timmy’s stewardship the famous garden was not maintained, and that soon supplies to customers from the nursery were fitful. She quotes two local librarians who “remember the elderly Timmy Jekyll as a quiet, self-contained, rather dour man who made evening visits to borrow books and sometimes fell asleep in one of the chairs.”7

In June 2000 an article by Lewis Jones, "Francis Jekyll (1882-1965) Forgotten Hero of the First Folk Song Revival," was published in English Dance and Song. (The text of the article is available at [[3]] the sheet music for the illustrative song at [[4]] and the MIDI for the illustrative song at [[5]].) This article cites a letter to the author from Mrs. Primrose Arnander, Francis Jekyll’s great niece.8 After consulting with her father, David McKenna, Mrs. Arnander wrote (original letter dated 3 June 1999, letter containing minor amendments dated May 25 2011):

Francis Jekyll …was an Assistant in the Printed Books Department of the British Museum from 1906-1914. He worked under Barclay Squire (1885-1920) in the Printed Music Section, and after two years service was recommended by Fortescue, the then Keeper, to the Trustees as a possible successor to Barclay Squire. In Fortescue’s words he had ‘excellent abilities’ and was ‘a student of musical literature and bibliography.’ He went on to say: ‘It is desirable that there should be at least one Assistant capable, in the course of time, of succeeding Mr. Squire’s duties, and in this respect Mr. Fortescue hopes that Mr. Jekyll may at some future date be of special service to the Library.’ In 1911 Francis Jekyll helped Squire with the removal of the King’s Music from Buckingham Palace, and made a rough catalogue of it which is still extant.

The above information comes from a letter to my father written in March 1978 by Alec Hyatt King who was engaged at that time in writing a history of the Printed Music in the British Museum which he hoped to have published.9 …Mr. Hyatt King also wondered why, after such a promising start, Francis Jekyll should have resigned in 1914 and thereafter sunk into obscurity.

I am sure that there was an initial nervous breakdown which must have led to recurring clinical depression, an illness well understood, accepted and treated nowadays but little understood then…

In 1932 Gertrude Jekylll died and left Munstead Wood and its contents to her sister-in-law, Agnes Jekyll, Francis Jekyll's mother. In 1937 Agnes Jekyll died and Munstead Wood passed in toto to Francis Jekyll. He did not live there for very long, but tried to keep her nursery garden going and was still fulfilling orders up to the war time. Around 1939 Francis Jekyll moved into the Hut, a smaller house in the grounds, and Munstead Wood was let and finally sold. There was a sale of all the contents in 1948; this included books and chattels from Munstead House that had been left to Francis and also, in that sale, he must have sold all his music and books for the contents of the sale included books, scores and periodicals which showed an interest in music that would have been far beyond Gertrude Jekyll. Timmy lived on in the Hut with a housekeeper until his death in 1965. He was a sad and rather lonely figure at the end and was never really able to shake free of his debilitating depression. He attended concerts and festivals of music, but never returned to an active role in the field. 10

The following image of the elderly Francis Jekyll is posted by kind permission of Mrs. Primrose Arnander:

Francis Jekyll elderly.jpg

Information concerning Francis Jekyll’s death is to be found at the Family Records Centre: Jekyll, F.W., aged 82, died in Surrey S.W. registration district in the first quarter of 1965, ref. SG1155. The death certificate records that Francis Walter Jekyll died on 27 March 1965 at Munstead Wood Hut, Busbridge, in the Sub-District of Haslemere. A number of causes of death were cited, including senile myocordial degeneration.

According to the obituary in the Guildford Times & News11 Francis Jekyll was a “member of a well-known West Surrey family, …the son of the late Sir Herbert and Lady Jekyll, …a bachelor and a scholar” who “had travelled extensively.” The funeral at Busbridge Church, on 1 April 1965, was followed by a cremation at Woking.


1  Williams RV and AL Lloyd (1959): 108.
2  Ancestry.com - England and Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837 - 1915 (accessed 31-03-2011)
3  Folk Music Journal Vol 3 No 2 (1976): 99-113. There is a paragraph about Jekyll on p. 100.
4  His college was Balliol. 
5  These folk dances, Dawney tells us, are in the Butterworth manuscripts  held at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.
6  Jekyll, Francis, Gertrude Jekyll: A Memoir (Cape 1934).
7  Festing, Sally Gertrude Jekyll (Penguin Books 1993): 306. The book was first published by Viking in 1991.
8  Mrs. Arnander cites another source of information about Timmy Jekyll and his family. This is:
   Tooley, Michael and Primrose Arnander [eds] (Michaelmas Books 1995) Gertrude Jekyll: Essays on the Life of a Working
   Amateur. This book reproduces the following painting of  Timmy as a young boy by the famous artist and family friend
   Edward Burne-Jones(1833-1898). It is posted by kind permission of Mrs. Arnander.
Francis Jekyll young.jpg
.
   Mrs Arnander also points out that Walter Jekyll, the author of Jamaican Song and Story (1907)--posted, together with
   support audio and MusicXML files, on Project Gutenberg at [6]--was Francis Jekyll's
   uncle.
   Mrs Arnander recommends Gertrude Jekyll: the official website of the Jekyll
   Estate at [7].
9  King, Alec Hyatt (1979) Printed Music in the British Museum: An Account of the Collections, The Catalogues and Their
   Formation up to 1920.
10 Mrs. Arnander appended details of some of the Sales Lots. Among these are back copies of the Journal of the Folk Song
   Society (1899-1921) and of the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (1932-1947). These and other items
   indicate that the collection that was sold off did indeed, as Mrs. Arnander states, contain Francis Jekyll’s music books.
11 2 April 1965.
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