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"W.G.", and William Henry GILES MSS

Two associated music manuscripts in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library

1. William Henry Giles MS

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2. "W.G."

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3. In what way are they connected?

    a.The Man

    b.The Music

    c.Morris dancing in Bampton

William Henry Giles MS, Bampton, Oxfordshire

Presented to the Cecil Sharp (Vaughan Williams Memorial) Library by Mrs W.R.Kettlewell Apr 1927
Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Cecil Sharp House, London
VMP code “WHG”

Transcribed into ABC notation and edited for The Village Music Project by P.J.Headford, in 2009
This introduction based on notes made by P.J.Headford


A typical "fiddler's tune book", 71/2inches wide by 31/2inches tall, hard-bound, four printed staves per page.
Containing 80 musical items. Mainly dance tunes, some song airs, and hymns at the back.


On the cover, there is a later library label reading:-
"William Henry Giles
Bampton Fiddler
MS. Fiddle Tunes"

Inside cover are the rubber-stamped logo of ‘The English Folk Dance Society’ and the following words in a 19thC hand:-
"William Henry Giles
Octr. 21st.

The next page has a label reading:-
"Presented to the Cecil Sharp Library
By Mrs W.R.Kettlewell
Apr 1927"

The next page has (at the top left) QM (at the top centre) 2286 (at the top right) A/3A
Scrawled in a large, childish hand (in pencil) are the joined letters LM.

The following page carries the first tune (The Conquering Hero).
In the top right is a pencilled number 1. These odd numbers continue on each right-hand page. These numbers seem consistent, so I cite them in the ABC file.

On page 2 is a tune - The Arab Steed - marked (in the title line, in larger letters) Wrong. The tune area is also crossed through. The tune is continued on page 3, where it is again crossed through.

The tune "Quick Step" (WHG.032) has the inscription "June 2nd/41 12 oclock at Night". - the "/41" presumably refers to 1841.

Pages 50 and 51 have no tune notations on them.
Page 51 has, in a very childish hand:
Jack Pether, molly Pether, Cyril Pether
Teddy Pether, mary Shaylor, F G Pether.

There is no date associated with the Pether inscription, and I have not established any connection between the Pether/Shaylor family and the Giles family.

In typical nineteenth-century fashion, the book has been used from each end, secular tunes from one end, sacred music from the other.
They meet on page 62 (counting from the labelled end). Some of the sacred tunes have sections marked "Sym" (Symphony), which indicates an instrumental passage.

A number of different pens have been used, and the titles are sometimes cursive and sometimes elaborate block letter. However, the very distinctive treble clef symbol unmistakably shows that all the tunes and hymns were entered by the same person.

Throughout, Giles is inconsistent concerning the notation of rests. I have therefore applied rest lengths which comply with the arithmetic of each measure.

His use of repeat indications is often inconsistent.


My aim has been to provide (where possible) playable interpretations of the tunes, and therefore include notes where I have emended my reading of the MS to make this possible. Applying the notes to the notation I give would therefore "reverse engineer" that notation to give a fair indication of what I could read of the MS.

Jenny Jones (WHG023) has three parts, two on the upper stave, one on the lower, which has no clef, and a # on the top line. I tried assuming treble clef (which made no sense) and bass clef. Tenor clef sounds most musical, but is still a little peculiar.


“W.G.” MS, from Bampton, Oxfordshire.

A music manuscript in Cecil Sharp Library, now Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Cecil Sharp House, London
VMP code WG

Transcribed into ABC Notation for the Village Music Project by Steve Mansfield 2016


A typical fiddler’s manuscript tune book, 73 musical items, mostly dance tunes and songs tunes.
Taller and narrower than the William Henry Giles MS


Inside the card cover at the top left corner is a bookseller’s ticket, which reads “Holloway and Sons, Booksellers and Stationers, Bampton, Oxon.”
A rubber stamp in red reading “The English Folk Dance Society”
Also a large ornamental library label, different from the one on the W.H.G. book, reading “Cecil Sharp 189-“ The date is left incomplete, suggesting it was acquired after the turn of the century, but when there were still some old stickers to use up, or when it was still a private library rather than an institution.
On the facing page, in flamboyant ornamental script, it says “This Book Bellongs(sic) To Me, W+G”
The next page is again ornamental.
In the centre it says “Set for the Violen” and around it are arranged “Marches, Quicksteps, Song Tunes, etc., Gallopades, Quadrills, Popler Country Dances, Mellodes, Hornpips, Set of Waltzes.”
Above the tune Quickstep WG.11 is the inscription “June 2nd ’40 12 o’clock at Night”

In what ways are the two manuscripts connected?

The initials of the authors are respectively W.G. and W.H.G
Both manuscripts found their ways into the Cecil Sharp Library, even though the different library bookplates imply that they arrived separately.
Both appear to be fiddler’s books, W.G. as it is “set for violen”, and William Henry because the (later) label says “Bampton Fiddler”, presumably on the authority of Mrs Kettlewell, the donor. She lived in the area all her life and was, with her husband, a long-standing supporter of the EFDSS, and incidentally Bampton Morris dancing in particular.
The handwriting, though it varies within limits in both MSS, is similar, likewise the music notation. The drawing of the treble clefs is consistent throughout both MSS.
There are many tunes common to both MSS.
The outstanding fact that links the two MSS is the inscription to be found in both MSS above the tune “Quickstep” - of “June 2nd 12 o’clock at night”, years 1840 and 1841.

Thus there can be no doubt that the two MSS are intimately connected, but are we dealing with one author or two? It looks like the work of one person, but we don’t know for sure. William Henry Giles started his MS in 1839 and still had it in 1841; W.G. contains the date 1840. Why two books in use at the same time if they both belonged to the same person?
Nevertheless, the MSS are so intertwined that we can regard it as a single body of information whether there were two owners or one.

The Man

We have been unable to find a William Henry Giles in the area in the 1841, but we think, on the birthplace evidence, that the William Giles (of Hamlet of Weald, Bampton) is the same as the licensed victualler of London who styles himself as William Henry Giles. The other William Giles’s are one of 36 years old in Coate, some miles away but still in Bampton, and one twenty years of age at Waterstock, on the other side of Oxford.
Oxfordshire is home to many Giles’s, also Pether and particularly Shaylor are names relatively common thereabouts.
W.G. is also likely to be William Giles, but the possibility remains that it could be another surname altogether, perhaps William Green b1821, of Bampton?

The only certain surname we have is Giles, and the only Giles family in Bampton, Oxfordshire in the 1841 census (ref. HO 107/872/10 Hamlet of Weald, Bampton)
are recorded as living in West Weald
Ages are approximate in this census. No other detail other than shown below is given. Place of birth tends to be haphazard in early census returns.
Thomas Giles, 50, Farmer, Born in Oxfordshire?=N
Mary Giles, 50, Born in Oxfordshire?=N
William, 23, Born in Oxfordshire?=N……………Our man?
Emma, 15, Born in Oxfordshire?=Y

By the 1851 census (ref. HO 107/1731 Bampton) William is no longer recorded as living in Bampton.
[entry#74] Fisher’s Bridge, Bampton
Thomas Giles/Head/Married/63/Farmer/Wilts, Ashbury
Mary Jane ditto/Wife/Married/64/Wife/Berks, Little Faringdon (became part of Oxon in 1844)
Jane Emma ditto/Daughter/unMarried/24/-/Oxon, Clanfield

1861 census (ref. RG 9/905) Bampton
[entry#143] Fisher’s Bridge, Bampton
Thomas Giles/Wid/72/Ag.Lab/Berks, Ashbury (NB. Ashbury had been reallocated from Wilts to Berks by then)

1871 census (ref. RG 10/1451) Bampton
[entry#148] Buckland Road, Bampton
Thomas Giles/Head/Wid/82/Ag.Lab./Berks. Ashbury

Thomas is an agricultural labourer in the 1861 and 1871 censuses, when he was 73 and 83 years old; William Giles is not referred to in Bampton any later than the 1841 census so he either died or he moved elsewhere.

Circumstantially, the 1851 census (ref. HO 107/1554) London, Southwark, St.George the Martyr
[entry#67] Friar St. General  Abercrombie
William Giles/Head/Married/33/Licensed Victualler/Oxfordshire
Mary Giles/Wife/26/Licensed Victualler/Surrey
Emily Gander/Cousin/unM/20/Barmaid/Surrey
John Burden/Nephew/10/Scholar/London
Mary Brennan/Servant/Married/20/House servant/Surrey
William Watts/Servant/ditto/20/ditto/Wilts

1861 census (ref. RG 9/353) London, Lambeth, St. Mary’s Church
113 (now 49) Lambeth Walk, Lambeth, (The French Horn) (rebuilt 1890)
William Giles/Head/Married/43?(illegible)/Victualer/Oxfordshire
Mary ditto/Wife/ditto/36/-/Sussex
William ditto/Son/5/-/Surrey, Newington
Elizabeth ditto/Daughter/4/-/ditto
Mary Goodall/Niece/UnM/23/-/Kent, Gravesend
Michael Brooks/Cousin(?)/UnM/?59(illegible)/-/London
Charles Morris/servant/20/unM/Barman/Greenwich
Daniel Parker/servant/M?/40?/Potman/Surrey, Clapham

1871 census (ref. GG 10/1315) London, Twickenham, St.Mary(?)
3 Abbey Villas Twickenham
William H.Giles/Head/Mar/54/retire victualler/Berks, Shrivenham, now Oxon
Mary Ann ditto/Wife/46?/-/Sussex, Herstmonseux
William ditto/son/15/scholar/Surrey, Walworth
Elizabeth ditto/daughter/14/scholar/ditto
Sarah Goodall/Niece/unM/24/-/Kent, Gravesend
Rebecca Palmer/servant/unM /14/servant/Chelsea

In the 1841 census he and his mother Mary are both shown as NOT born in Oxfordshire, but in 1851 his mother is shown as born in Little Faringdon, Oxfordshire, which had been an enclave of Berkshire and only became part of Oxfordshire in 1844. Similarly, in the 1871 Twickenham census William Henry was born in Shrivenham, Berkshire, which has ping-ponged between that county and Oxfordshire, most recently becoming part of Oxfordshire again in the 1974 re-organisation. So he would be similarly shown as born outside Oxfordshire in 1841, but inside Oxfordshire in 1851 and 1861, and would fit with being our man.

General Abercrombie, 52 Friar Street was assigned 94 Webber Street on 14 November 1938 upon street renaming and realignment; it was renamed the Abbey in the 1990s. ***

A listing of historical London public houses, Taverns, Inns, Beer Houses and Hotels in Southwark St George Martyr, Surrey,  London. The Southwark St George Martyr, Surrey , London listing uses information from census, Trade Directories and History to add licensees, bar staff, Lodgers and Visitors.

The following entries are in this format:

Year/Publican or other Resident/Relationship to Head and or Occupation/Age/Where Born/Source.

1848/Wm Giles/../../../Post Office Directory ****

1851/Wm Giles/../../../Kellys Directory ****

1851/William Giles/Licensed Victualler/33/Oxfordshire/Census ****
1851/Mary Giles/Wife, Licensed Victualler/26/Surrey/Census
1851/Emmily Gander/Cousin, Barmaid/20/Surrey/Census
1851/John Burdon/Nephew/10/London/Census
1851/Mary Brennan/House Servant/20/Surrey/Census

December1853/William Giles/Outgoing Licensee/../../Era ****

He had married Mary Ann Gandry of Herstmonceux, Sussex, in 1845 at St Dunstan’s, Stepney.

He died in 1874 aged 57.

It has not been possible to positively establish from the censuses that the two Williams are definitely one and the same person, though the case looks very strong. William and Mary Ann’s marriage certificate may show his father’s name, which might strengthen the connection.

The Music

Taking the two manuscripts together as if they were one item, there are tunes for church, dancing, singing, light opera, even morris, so it is clear that they represent several sides of the musical life of Bampton, though there is a marked absence of quartets and the like! The tunes were sourced both from printed media, judging by the inclusion of dynamic marks etc., and also written down from memory, to judge by the number of mistakes.

There are a total of 155 musical items, of which 36 are repeated from one MS to the other, leaving 119 different tunes.
It is not always easy to decide whether a tune is functionally a dance tune or a song tune, as obviously some could be either.

In order of quantity they consist of:-

106 dances (82 different tunes)
    14 waltzes (3 repeats)
    14 quadrilles (1 repeat)
    77 other country dances in various time signatures (57 different tunes)
21 religious, mostly psalms
18 song (no words)
8 patriotic song (entirely consists of Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen)
2 instrumental airs

Here they are in pies, after the repeats have been eliminated.
The second pie is a more detailed breakdown of the first

simple pie chart
        of tune types       detailed pie chart
        of tune types

Morris Dancing in Bampton

The village is nowadays famous for its Morris dancing. Naturally there will be interest in whether any of the tunes have a Morris dance connection.

According to Keith Chandler in the first mention of the Bampton team is from 1847, in a context that suggests it was already regarded as traditional. He also says that the first fiddler to perform with the Bampton side may have been Richard Ford, ‘about 1851’. However, according to George Wells a sometime leader of the side and an exact contemporary of Giles, speaking in 1914 and quoted in the same article,” ... never had no trouble to get the dancers but the trouble was sixty, seventy years ago to get the piper or the fiddler - the musician.  Sometimes they had a very great difficulty in getting one, they've had one from Buckland, they've had one from Field Town ... and they've had to go out here to Fairford and Broadwell and out that way to get a piper ..” This could be taken to mean that it was a longstanding issue and Giles (or W.G.) wasn’t a musician for the side; alternatively he may have been just that, but moved away to London and left a vacuum.

Of the 57 different tunes within the country dance category I have been able to establish that no fewer than 47.5% of them, 27 in number, (including 70%, or 14, of the 20 repeated tunes) have at some time had valid Morris connections. Compared with contemporary manuscripts UK-wide that is a very high percentage, I would usually expect to see between 5 – 10%. Most of the Morris tunes represented also qualify as absolutely normal popular dance tunes of the day; nevertheless there are one or two that are less straightforward, such as Black Joke, Bobby and Joan, Old Woman and Princess Royal, that are nowadays  principally associated with Morris.


Bampton-in-the-Bush in the early 19th century suffered along with all other agricultural districts from the post-Napoleonic War agricultural depression, but this by the 1830s was coming to an end. Nevertheless, again in common with other agricultural districts, in the half century between the censusses of 1831 and 1881 its population declined from 2,750 to 1,395(1), while that of London increased from 1,730,000 to 4,710,000(2).  Thus it would seem that Giles was being very astute in relocating himself to the booming metropolis.

Chris Partington

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