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The following article concerns the group of five music manuscripts from the Shropshire/Cheshire area called by Neil Brookes the “Ash” MSS, after the village of that name.

This group comprises the MSS of John Clews, Richard Hughes, James Blackshaw, John Jones, Albert Hughes.

For a fuller description of this material see Neil Brookes' article for EDS Autumn 2007 pp12/13/14, "A Shropshire Hero", and the website

The MSS subsequently happily came into the possession of Moira Bracknall, an illustration of the vulnerability of our vernacular musical heritage. Here's a quote from another site (Facebook)
"Moira Bracknall :
It's a story of many coincidences! John Hardy was researching the Clews manuscript and found a reference to Ash church, which wasn't far away, so he got on his bike and went there. He spoke to someone working in the churchyard who told him that he should go and see old Mr Hughes up the road if he was interested in old music books. He did and although Mr Hughes was too frail to get into his attic where the books were, he passed on photocopies that had been taken previously. John Hardy in turn passed them on to Tony Weatherall and Neil Brookes, who transcribed them for the VMP. When Mr Hughes died another friend who lives in Ash said that the house was being cleared and that there was a big skip outside and everything seemed to be going into it. I remember sitting in a session when we heard this news, thinking it was a good thing we had those photocopies. Anyway, roll on a few years and I'm looking through online auction catalogues and find a very bad picture of a very broken fiddle, some very broken woodwind bits (which is what caught my attention) and some music books. Didn't bother going to view it, didn't ask any questions, stuck a bid on online, won, and had quite a shock when I went to collect it."


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Date uncertain, possibly c1800 (see below), though it contains the date 1832.  Stoke on Tern, Shropshire. Currently owned by Mr John Hardy, Audlem, Cheshire (together with 2 more handwritten books of hymns and psalms marked Ash Church, 1837. 48 tunes comprising mainly military marches, Scottish airs, minuets. A number of tunes are for 2 or 3 instruments. J.Clews thought to be a fiddle player.

Transcribed into ABC by Neil Brookes, 2006.

Introduction by Neil Brookes:-
A tunebook from the family of Mr John Hardy, fiddler and retired farmer from Audlem, Cheshire. He also has a fiddle which was possibly owned by the author, Mr John Clews of Stoke upon Tern, N. Shropshire.
Mr Clews was not related to JH, but the book was passed on to JH's grandfather who was also a fiddler.
The signed (in two hands) book is dated 1832. Some of the tunes were possibly added at a later date. The tunes near the end of the book show an interest in Scottish airs.
Mr Clews was obviously a skilled musician and wrote the tunes accurately, with the inclusion of grace notes etc.
Some of the marches are arrangedfor 2 or 3 voices.
The discovery of this book led to further research and the discovery of the four "Ash" manuscripts belonging to Mr R. Hughes.
Thanks to John Hardy for the loan of photocopies of the MS.
Neil Brookes 2006.

Post-script by Chris Partington:-
The date “1832” is clearly there, but what it refers to is not quite certain. Apart from “Tekeli”, which was written by J.Hook in 1806, there are no tunes in the collection that could not have been copied from Aird etc. before 1790.


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1823, Born Barhill, Tushingham but lived at Beech Cottage, Whitchurch, Shropshire. Fiddle player. Book owned (together with MSS listed below))by Mr Richard Hughes (great, great nephew of the author), Ash Wood Farm, Ash, near Whitchurch, Shropshire. 168 tunes inc. reels, hornpipes, a number of Napoleonic tunes, quicksteps.
Transcribed by Tony Weatherall and Neil Brookes 2006


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1837, clarinet player (Mr Hughes still has a clarinet which may have belonged to JB). Exact loation of origin not known -N. Shropshire/S. Cheshire - married in Bunbury Church. 120 tunes. Wide range of tunes inc quicksteps, hornpipes, jigs. Some tunes with local names.
Transcribed by Tony Weatherall 2006


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1801, Barhill, Tushingham, near Whitchurch, Shropshire. 128 tunes, inc. dance tunes, song airs (some lyrics written with music), marches, hornpipes.
The Manuscript has the handwritten title "John Jones his book 1801" and is
one of the four "Ash manuscripts" belonging to Mr Richard Hughes, from the
area around Ash in North Shropshire.
A collection of 133 tunes, a few of which have arrangements for 2 instruments.
The work comprises dance tunes (mainly jigs, hornpipes), military marches, song
tunes of the time.
Transcribed by Neil Brookes 2006


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(present day Mr Hughes's uncle) No date but probably owned by AJH around 1900. Thought by present Mr Hughes from the hand to be part of Richard Hughes's (1832) MS , though written on different MS paper.
I am not sure about this. 31 tunes inc. 2 dance notations. Country dance tunes, jigs, quadrille sets, marches. Often set for 2 or 3 instruments.
Transcribed by Neil Brookes 2006

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