John Broadwood

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For details of the life and significance of the Rev. John Broadwood (1798-1864) of Lyne in Sussex we are indebted to Stanley Godman [1].

John Broadwood is best known for his pioneering collection of sixteen folk songs published privately and anonymously as Old English Songs... These are usually dated to 1843 but on the basis of evidence in the Surrey History Centre, Woking, they were probably not published until 1847.[2]

There are a number of testimonies to the importance of Broadwood's collection. It was, in Margaret Dean Smith's view, "the first... to be made of folksong airs for their own sake." Vaughan Williams opinion was that Broadwood "is to be honoured in the annals of English folk-song." In 1943, Frank Howes wrote an article in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society to "celebrate the centenary of scientific method applied editorially to the oral tradition of English folk song." Broadwood's collection has been highly regarded because, unlike other editors, he meticulously recorded what he actually heard. He records: "The airs are set to music exactly as they are now sung, to rescue them from oblivion and to afford a specimen of genuine old English melody." As for the words, they were "given in their original rough state with an occassional slight alteration to render the sense intelligible."

Copies of Broadwood's original publication are now extremely rare. The British Library and Brighton Public Library each have one, and there is a third among the collection of Lucy Broadwood's papers in the Surrey History Centre.[3] However, all sixteen songs are replicated, with new pianoforte settings, in Sussex Songs: Popular Songs of Sussex, arranged by H.F. Birch Reynardson.[4]

John Broadwood was the son of James Shudi Broadwood of Lyne. On 20 January 1825, at Wisborough Green, Sussex, he married Charlotte, the daughter of John King, of Loxwood, Sussex. [5]

Modern searchable electronic databases make it possible for us to find out more about the life of John Broadwood. In 1837 he donated GBP2 to the relief of destitution in the highlands and islands of Scotland [6]. In May 1837, at Wisborough Green, he officiated at the wedding of the Rev. Richard Greene, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to his wife's younger sister Ellen [7]. In January 1850 he appeared "amongst the gentlemen on the platform" at a Protectionist Meeting in Horsham [8]. In 1852 he subscribed GBP10 to a fund for a memorial to the Duke of Wellington [9]. In 1856 he donated 3 guineas for the relief of victims of inundations in France [10]. On 6 January 1862 the Daily News, under the heading "The Profits of Pianoforte Makers," reported that "the will ...of Mr. Thomas Broadwood, sen., of Holmbush, near Crawley, Sussex and of Cadiogan Place, Belgrave Square, was proved by the executors and trustees, the Rev. John Broadwood, M.A., the nephew, and Mr. Thomas Broadwood and Mr. John Jervis Broadwood, the sons. ...GBP5,000 is left to his nephew."

John Broadwood died on January 26, 1864, at Lyne House, near Horsham, Sussex.[11] Two and a half years later the following press report appeared:

The Bishop of Chichester has re-opened the parish church of Capel, and a village hospital in the same parish designed by Mr. Lockwood King, a nephew of the founder, Mrs. Broadwood, who built it as a memorial of her husband, the Rev. John Broadwood. There are ten beds. [12]

John Broadwood's wife, Charlotte, died on 24 September 1886, at 4, The Mount, St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, aged 83.[13]


Sweet Sussex, a folk song booklet that contains modern transcriptions of the songs first published by John Broadwood in the 1840s, is available at [1]


1. Stanley Godman, "John Broadwood: New Light on the Folk Song Pioneer," The Monthly Musical Record (May-June 1957): 105-8; Stanley Godman, "John Broadwood, the Earliest English Folksong Collector," West Sussex Gazette (30 January 1964). Copies of both articles are available in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House.

2. [Rev. John Broadwood], Old English Songs, As Now Sung by the Peasantry of the Weald of Surrey and Sussex, and Collected by One Who Has Learnt Them by Hearing Them Sung Every Christmas from Early Childhood, by the Country People, Who Go About to the Neighbouring Houses, Singing, or "Wassailing" as It is Called, at that Season, harmonised by G. H. Dusart(London: Balls, for private circulation, [1843]).

3. Surrey History Centre, Woking, 2185/LEB/4/8. This copy has a number of annotations on it by Lucy Broadwood.

4. This volume of sheet music is undated. It was catalogued by the British Library in 1890, but Lucy Broadwood, John Broadwood's niece, tells us that it was published in 1889. See Journal of the Folk Song Society 27 (December 1923): 81.

5. The Gentleman's Magazine (March 1825): 271.

6. The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, May 15, 1837; pg. [2]; Issue 20726.

7. Hampshire Advertiser etc., (Southampton, England), Saturday, May 27, 1837; Issue 723.

8. The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, January 08, 1850; pg. 2.

9. The Morning Post (London, England), Thursday, December 09, 1852; pg. [1]; Issue 24638.

10. The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, July 28, 1856; pg [1]; Issue 25762.

11. John Bull (London, England) Saturday, January 30, 1864; pg. 70; Issue 2,251.

12. John Bull (London, England) Saturday, October 13, 1866, pg. 68l; Issue 2,392.

13. The Morning Post (London, England), Tuesday, September 28, 1886; pg. [1]; Issue 35654.

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