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The Aston-on-Carrant manuscript came to light when its owner showed it to Roy and Pat Palmer. Pat organised a group of musicians and a selection of the tunes were performed once again in the village. Aston-on-Carrant is a small village outside Tewkesbury and the house there where the manuscript was lost and found belonged to Thomas Berkeley, after whom one of the tunes is named. It was his brother Rowland, who lived at nearby Ripple, who appeared to have compiled the tunebook. Pat Palmer writes: “The instrument for which the tunes were written is not known but I think they were probably played on fiddle, or perhaps flute. They are within the compass of both instruments and lie in first position range of the violin with three exceptions which require a small shift or extension of the fourth finger. The original manuscript was interesting for the noticeable discrepancy in musical literacy and calligraphic ability. It seems that the earliest items in the book may have been written by a juvenile or a semi-literate musician as more errors were found in these. The cover of the book and the first page had other material scribbled on them, including arithmetical sums, a poem and some doodles. The script also varied, the later tunes being written more neatly and precisely. Both ends of the book were used separately, the back apparently being used as a fresh start at some time. Later in the collection more performance indications were provided and this may also indicate that the collection was made by a musician over a long period of time, reflecting the development of his ability and experience. Or it could have been a book to which friends and mentors were invited to make contributions.”
The tunes seem to cover a span of about thirty years, starting in the 1770s.
In the linked abc file this is tune number X:7
Lister’s Ride is a version of the well-known Astley’s Ride. Philip Astley (1742-1814) served in the Seven Years War as a sergeant-major in the 15th Light Dragoons. After the war he used his riding ability to open an establishment at Westminster, teaching in the morning and performing trick riding in the afternoon. In the 1770s this had become so popular that he concentrated on the performances, adding acrobats, tightrope walkers and clowns within a circular area he called the “circus”. This tune is from the 1770s and is found in many collections, including that of John Clare and an American fife manuscript of 1779.