Posts Tagged ‘music’

John Smith

November 24, 2015

John Smith was a composer of psalms and anthems for country choirs. He was based in Market Lavington and was composing in the 1740s. This makes him, roughly speaking, a contemporary of Handel and Bach.

His music is for singing with two to four part harmony.

We have met him before on this blog when a local resident and friend had been able to borrow a combined volume of all three of his works. Actually, surviving copies are almost as rare as hen’s teeth, but a very lovely web site at have digitised the three volumes and made them available for download. We have taken advantage of this at Market Lavington Museum to produce our own 21st century reprints of these 18th century Market Lavington pieces of music.

This is the front cover of volume two.

Music from the 1740s by John Smith of Market Lavington

Music from the 1740s by John Smith of Market Lavington

Let’s see a bit of his music.

Psalm 25 by John Smith

Psalm 85 by John Smith

Back in 2010 we had one of John’s pieces performed at our Museum Miscellany. Maybe we can get some more performed in 2016


The Rough Wallopers

June 25, 2015

One of the earliest ‘musical’ bands in Market Lavington was a rather ad-hoc collection of men who earned the nickname of the Rough Wallopers.

The name was probably apt for their purpose was to make plenty of noise rather than to be strictly musical. We have a photo of them outside the Green Dragon.

The Rough Wallopers outside the Green Dragon in about 1870

The Rough Wallopers outside the Green Dragon in about 1870

This rag, tag and bobtail collection of noise merchants were a band of a type known as a skimmerton band.

A person would be a skimmerton if they tried to impersonate an offending spouse with intent to ridicule. A procession, including a band, would form up behind the skimmerton and make as much noise as possible, thus informing all of the locality of the bad behaviour of the spouse.

Sometimes the procession would form up without a true skimmerton to lead it. For example, a husband seen to be severely hen pecked might get ridiculed by his fellows, perhaps in the hope that he’d stand up for himself better. It sounds almost like the 19th century equivalent of cyber bullying.

Quite often the ‘victim’ was a wife who had been unfaithful to her husband. In mob fashion the band would march to the house of the offending women and make sure all knew of her infidelity.

Perhaps it is fair to say that people haven’t changed much. These days there might be a hate campaign on Facebook but it amounts to much the same thing.

We don’t know who any of our Rough Wallopers were and it is doubtful that anyone would be able to name any. We believe the photo dates from around 1870.

Ezra Price again

June 12, 2015

Our curator has been looking through his personal ‘stuff’ again and has come upon another piece of Ezra Price memorabilia. Regular readers may recall that Rog found one of his old records was in a sleeve which had the name E Price on it. Ezra owned a music shop in Devizes but he was born and raised in the Fiddington area. The Price family were well known in Market Lavington. Ezra’s brother, Enos, ran a coach service from Market Lavington to Hungerford when that Berkshire town was the railhead for our area. Now Rog has come across some sheet music which has been rubber stamped by E Price.

The moon has raised her lamp above - 1930s sheet music as sold by the shop owned by Ezra Price

The moon has raised her lamp above – 1930s sheet music as sold by the shop owned by Ezra Price

The moon may have raised her lamp above. But the workers at E Price’s shop have used that moon as the background for their rubber stamp mark.

E. price and sons Ltd have stamped on the moon!

E. price and sons Ltd have stamped on the moon!

So there we have it – E. Price and Sons Ltd of Handel House, Devizes who sold pianos, gramophones, records etc. We think this particular piece of sheet music dates from the early thirties which was long after Ezra’s death but the name of the old Market Lavingtonian lingered on via the business he founded. Interestingly, Rog recalls buying this music as a brand new item at the music shop in Devizes in 1971. ‘There were drawers laden with old sheet music’, said Rog. The cost was almost give-away. Rog recalls that Mr Oliver, who by then owned the shop, carefully converted the sixpence price into the new decimal currency and charged 2½p for this music. The music can remind us that people have always moved around. Some came to Lavington and made good. Others, like old Ezra, found fame and fortune a few miles from their original Lavington home.

A Jew’s harp

November 17, 2014

Amongst the more amusing metal detector finds recently given to us at Market Lavington Museum is this piece of slightly mangled metal.

Remains of a Jew's harp found in Market Lavington

Remains of a Jew’s harp found in Market Lavington

This is what remains of a Jew’s harp. We should say that these rather basic instruments are not harps or Jewish in origin. Actually, origins are lost in the depths of time and as a musical device they are truly worldwide.

There should be a twangy strip of metal attached at the left hand end and passing between the two points at the open end. Our metal detector find is mis-shapen.

The idea is that the two pointed ends are held between front teeth and the twangy strip (known as the reed) is flicked with fingers so it passes between the teeth. The player’s mouth acts as a sound box and by altering the shape of the mouth and the tongue position the tone, and to some extent the note, can be altered.

The fact that jaws are used to hold the device leads to its alternative and more sensible name of a jaws harp.

We don’t have this item dated but it looks in pretty good condition so is probably 20th century. It may have been a piece of litter. Once the reed breaks off it is useless and a careless youngster may have discarded the rest of it. It was found on what used to be the village recreation ground.

Ezra Price

June 4, 2014

This blog post stems from an almost chance find amongst our curator’s personal collection of old 78rpm records. It wasn’t any specific record, but rather the sleeve containing it that caught the eye for it was the sleeve provided by a Devizes music shop.

Record sleeve from a shop founded by Ezra Price from Market Lavington

Record sleeve from a shop founded by Ezra Price from Market Lavington

The record itself is not relevant to this story. It amused our curator to use this sleeve for a record which may have been manufactured by his family members in Tonbridge, Kent – for that’s where this record was actually produced.

But perhaps the name E Price rang some kind of a bell with Rog or maybe it was just curiosity. He tried to find out who he was. Now we think this sleeve dates from around 1930 but Rog looked him up in censuses and the first one he tried was the 1901 census. And there, next to Albion Place (where Handel House still is) was Ezra Price a music/pianoforte shopkeeper who had been born in about 1825 and the birthplace was given as Market Lavington.

Earlier censuses gave the birthplace as West Lavington so Rog’s mind immediately wondered if he might have come from Fiddington, that strange long thin strip of land, between Market Lavington and Easterton. Fiddington had been a part of West Lavington but in some sensible reorganisations it became a part of Market Lavington. So E Price was ‘one of ours’ and his name obviously stayed on his music shops long after he died – which was 1904.

Ezra was born on 16th November 1824 and was baptised at the Independent church in Market Lavington on 9th January 1825. His parents, James and Susanna, did indeed live at Fiddington.

Ezra married Lucy Denniss in 1847 and in 1851 the couple lived at Townsend in Market Lavington along with a couple of children.

Ezra appears twice on the 1861 census. He is with his wife and family at 17 Brittox Devizes, but also with his brother and mother at 212 Church Street in market Lavington. His brother was Enos who ran the Hope Coach between Lavington and Hungerford.

By 1881 Ezra and family were at Handel House.

An obituary for Enos of the Hope Coach mentions Ezra.

He was the last surviving child of the late James and Susana Price, and brother to the late Mr. Ezra Price of Handel House, Devizes.

This comes from the Hungerford Virtual Museum at .

It’s that band again

February 10, 2014

In times past, all entertainment was home produced. We are going back to those days when entertainment for the masses wasn’t beamed through the air for all to receive. No Internet; no TV; no radio although at the time we speak of here, that had been invented. So, too, had films but they were probably very rarely seen.

Some rich folks may have had gramophones to play the truly amazing records or phonographs which played cylinders. But for most, if you wanted music, you made it yourself – or knew somebody else who did. No wonder bands were so popular. And of course, Market Lavington had its own band. We are going to look at a photo which dates from June 2nd 1911.

Market Lavington Band in 1911

Market Lavington Band in 1911

Things have come together well on this photo. Apart from a precise date, quite a few of the men are named.

This photo is well captionned

This photo is well captionned

Very handily, the photo dates from just a couple of months after the census was taken. We can easily find a little about these people.

Bill Merritt, for example, was a gardener and lived at The Hollow on Lavington Hill. Finky Allen has had a mention before on this blog. He was a watch and clock maker/repairer operating on the High Street. Thomas Merritt was a blacksmith living on Church Street in Market Lavington. Tom Moody had been a miller but by 1911 he was a fruit grower living on the sands.

Sam Moore was the Easterton jam factory man – still very much a cottage industry in 1911.

We think Wally Ring must have had the name Harry. In 1911 he lived at The Bothy, in the garden of the Manor House and he was a gardener. John Merritt was already 20 years into his spell as band leader. He still had more than forty to go! At that time he called himself a cycle agent, living on Church Street, Market Lavington. Tom Haines was a hairdresser also living on Church Street. H Giddings, who has an instrument called a helicon, may have been Herbert, a brewer’s carter living on Stobbarts Road or Harry, a carter living on Northbrook.

Sam Axford was a cycle repairer living in the Market Place.

It’s a great photo!

An ancient gramophone record

January 18, 2014

What would we do without the Williams family of Easterton? Many of our lovely exhibits, given in recent years have come from that family whose ancestors held the Manor of Easterton and also Eastcott. A recent gift has been gramophone records which it is believed the family have owned from new. Here is just one example from the collection.

An early Berliner Gramophone record now at Market Lavington Museum

An early Berliner Gramophone record now at Market Lavington Museum

This record is one of Emil Berliner’s Gramophone records. Emil Berliner invented the name gramophone for his disc system which was a rival to the Edison phonograph. His first records were really only toys and came out in the 1880s. By the 1890s Berliner had moved on to larger, 7 inch records like the one shown and in 1898 he set up a British company.

For the first three years of production, records did not have a paper label. The required information was embossed and scratched on the surface of the newly pressed disc. The record, above, tells us it is a ‘talk’ – John Morton on Trousers and that it was recorded in London. It also gives us the date of the recording.

The date of the recording - 28th August 1900 when Queen Victoria was still on the throne

The date of the recording – 28th August 1900 when Queen Victoria was still on the throne

And there we have the date for this one – 28th August 1900.

We are still trying to find out more about these records. They play on a standard ‘old’ 78 rpm gramophone, but they seem to need to revolve at a slightly lower speed. Most wind up gramophones have a controller which allows the speed to be varied.

It has to be said that Mr Morton’s talk on trousers is comedic in nature and very hard to understand. Brass band music comes out quite well.

The records themselves have spent years in a barn and need gentle cleansing.

The museum doesn’t own a gramophone itself and seeks one with appropriate local provenance. Can any local help by offering us one? Lack of space means a portable would be most suitable, but others can be considered.

Market Lavington Band in the 1890s

January 15, 2014

Recently, we looked at Market Lavington band in the 1880s. We’ll move on a decade here and look at the band in the 1890s

Market Lavington Band in the 1890s

Market Lavington Band in the 1890s

What a fine and handsome sight they make in their impeccable uniforms. We’ll concentrate on three people.


This is John Merritt. He’d have been in his twenties at this time but he was already the band leader, a position he held for 60 years. He worked as a blacksmith – a family business. He had married Annie Wiltshire in 1890 and would certainly have been a dad when this photo was taken. The marriage, like the band, was to last for more than 60 years.

Our next musician is one we don’t have the name of.


He is wearing an instrument we no longer see. It is (we think) a helicon and these were once popular brass band instruments. Maybe somebody out there can tell us more.

We have no name for our third, ‘wannabe’ musician.


But how could we resist this cute little chap from 120 years ago?

It is always a long shot when looking at such old images, but do get in touch if you have any knowledge of any of the band members.

Lavington Band – 1880s

January 8, 2014

It is always good to report on successful new events and schemes in our villages – like the Lavington Community Band who have now performed for us for two successive Christmases. One might call this band a revival organisation. We had a fifty year gap without a local wind band.

Of course, music never died. We know that music has been an important part of village life for centuries but fashions and habits change. The ‘traditional’ church organ is really a Victorian innovation. Before that motley crews of varied musicians played the music at church services. Perhaps Market Lavington Band grew out of such musicians, displaced by the arrival of the organ in church.

This photo, not the best in quality, shows that we had  a band in the 1880s.

Lavington Band in the 1880s

Lavington Band in the 1880s

We have this picture dated at 1886 and the location is the grounds of Clyffe Hall. This band seems to have five cornet players and an assorted collection of other horns. There are a couple of drummers and one chap may have an accordion.  The men look to be small in stature – perhaps no surprise as the average height of UK men has increased by about four inches since this photo was taken.

Unfortunately, we can’t name any of the men – not even the one (third from left, back row) who has been marked with an X.

And we can only guess at  the colour of the uniforms. Here at the museum we imagine them as dark blue with gold braid – but that could be completely wrong.

These days, of course, the band is very different. It has woodwind instruments and not just the brass ones and most of all, the number of potential players has doubled because women are just as welcome to play as men.


Market Lavington Prize Silver Band

December 13, 2013

Market Lavington had a band for many, many years. John Merritt was the band master for more than 60 years, including all of the first half of the twentieth century. But as with many bands (and other organisations too) membership declined in the 1950s and eventually the old band was wound up. However, we do have a band again which is good to report.

But today we look back 90 years and see a group of locals at a Lavington and Easterton Hospital Week fete.

Market Lavington Prize Band in the 1920s

Market Lavington Prize Band in the 1920s

Now sadly, the only person we can name on this photo is Jonny Merritt. He is just left of the drum as we look at it and has his cornet and his baton.

We feel sure there will be local folk who can help us identify others in the photo. Do, please, get in touch if you can name the men shown here.