Singers band together to raise cash to repair folk musician’s grave

Lucy Broadwood - picture courtesy of Surrey History Centre
Lucy Broadwood - picture courtesy of Surrey History Centre

Lucy Broadwood was one of the main influences of the folk music revival of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She is buried at St Mary Magdalene Church, Rusper. Irene Shettle, a researcher and traditional folksinger, has organised a concert to raise money to restore Lucy’s grave.

Lucy Broadwood was a very important figure in the early Folk Revival of the late 19th and early 20th century.

She was born in 1858 into an upper middle class family, who had derived their income from the manufacture initially of harpsichords, but later became truly established as the founders of one of the foremost piano manufacturing businesses in the world.

The company, John Broadwood and Sons, still exists today, although it has moved several times from its original London factory, and is now situated near Whitby in Yorkshire.

The Broadwood family home from the late 18th century was the Lyne Estate in the parish of Capel in Surrey, only a very short distance from Rusper over the county boundary in West Sussex.

Lucy went there to live at the age of six when her father, Henry Fowler Broadwood, inherited the estate on the death of his half-brother, the Rev John Broadwood in 1864.

John Broadwood was a pioneer in the world of folksong collection, having published a small book of 16 songs, that he had collected in Surrey and Sussex, in 1847.

It was a forerunner of what was to come, as unlike previous published collections of songs the tunes and the words had been collected together, and the melody and words had been left as sung to him – certainly not the convention of the time.

Lucy had heard her father and uncle singing songs in the house, and had heard folksingers at the door when she was a child. She was inspired by her uncle’s work, and was involved in the republication of her uncle’s work in 1889 under the title Sussex Songs, having added some songs of her own collection as well.

This in turn gave rise to the suggestion that she and J Alec Fuller Maitland should work on a book of songs.

This eventually became English County Songs and was published in 1893, shortly before her father died, and she and her mother had to move to a family house in London.

She continued to live in London until her death in 1929 while visiting cousins in Kent.

She was a notable folksong researcher and collector in the late 19th and early 20th century, and a founder committee member of the Folk-Song Society from its inception in 1898 until her death – by which time she had been elected as its president.

This society later amalgamated with the English Folk Dance Society to form the English Folk Dance and Song Society which still survives and thrives today.

Lucy was both a trained singer, a noted piano accompanist, and a composer, and was an important activist in the early Folk Song Revival. She also provided inspiration and assistance to a number of the notable folksong collectors and members of the English classical composing movement of the early 20th century, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, with whom she worked as part of the committee of the Leith Hill Music Festival from 1904-1925; and Percy Grainger, both of whom personally acknowledged their debt to her for introducing them to folksong and song collection.

Her role in the world of folksong collection and research, and also the English music movement was of great importance.

Sadly, she left no descendants to tend her grave,

Lucy had many associations with St Mary Magdalene’s Church, in which the concert is taking place.

She was the choir mistress and organist of the parish church from her mid teens to early 20s.

The Broadwoods had mostly rebuilt the church in the mid 19th century, and there are many memorials in the church and the graveyard to the family, including an alabaster bust on the west wall of Lucy designed by Thomas Clapperton.

And of course, her grave is in the churchyard.

Over the years the gravestone has deteriorated badly. Some restorative work has already been carried out on it, free of charge, by Gumbrills Stonemasons, but further work is needed.

It was therefore the idea of Martyn Wyndham-Read to hold a concert to raise funds to restore the grave, and to celebrate the legacy which Lucy left behind.

The Rector of the church, Nick Flint, was happy to agree to this, and the concert will be taking place in the church at 7.30pm on Saturday July 22.

Tickets cost £10, and can be obtained in advance by contacting Maggie True on 01293 815906 or Louise Holford-Walker on 01293 871600. They will be available on the night, subject to availability, but we are suggesting that it might be as well to check before travelling.

The performers at the concert will be Martyn Wyndham-Read, a former resident on Lyne Estate. Martyn is a long-established performer on the folk scene and well known on the English and Australian folk scenes.

He is a regular favourite at folk clubs and festivals and every year performs with several - on the concert billing in the seasonal production Maypoles to Mistletoe at the Hawth, Crawley, and at the Electric Theatre in Guildford.

He is joined by Iris Bishop, who is the foremost player of the Maccann duet concertina on the English folk circuit, as well as an accordion player, and has been Martyn’s accompanist for many years.

Moira Craig and Carolyn Lister are both accomplished unaccompanied traditional singers. Moira hails from Scotland and Carolyn from Northumberland, although both of them have lived south of the border for many years.

They were formerly members of a very successful accapella harmony trio with their friend, the late Dr Sarah Morgan, and since her death they are continuing their harmony work as a duo.

They have also been involved in very successful and popular harmony singing workshops at Whitby Folk Week every year and will be there again next month.

Irene Shettle from Guildford has been singing since childhood, both in classical choirs and as an unaccompaned tradtional folksinger.

She earned herself the title Singer of the National in the year 2000 by winning the annual singing competition at the National Folk Music Festival held in Sutton Bonington - which sadly has ceased to be.

Since the early 2000s she has also become involved in research into the life and work of Lucy Broadwood, and has given many well as shows with musical accompaniment, both as a solo singer and with her late musical partner Ralph Jordan, to local history societies, folk clubs, folk festivals and arts venues.

Lucy continues to be one of her favourite interests.

Dick Streeter is a member of the Broadwood Morris and a fine singer. The Broadwood Morris, from the Horsham area, were actually given permission to use the family name by Lucy’s nephew, Captain Evelyn Broadwood, and have now been dancing under that name for more than 40 years.

Every year on May Day they dance inside the church, and hang a wreath of flowers on Lucy’s bust after some words from the Squire of the side.

They are also responsible for performing the Rusper Mummer’s play - which was collected by Lucy Broadwood - in and around the village on Boxing Day each year, as well as presenting it and dancing in numerous performances of Maypoles to Mistletoe over the Christmas season.

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