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Smith, Charles

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Charles Smith gave Cecil Sharp the first two verses of As Joseph was a –Walking on 10 April 1911 in Coates. Sharp also noted a further two verses of this song from Charles’ sister Mrs E. E. Rort of 2, Branksome Villas, Anyards Road, Cobham, Surrey. Charles Smith also sang him the Bonny Bunch of Roses O, Botany Bay and the Roving Journeyman. On 19 June 1927 while he was living at Gloucester Road, Mitcheldean, Charles Smith heard a lecture by Maud Karpeles about Cecil Sharp’s collecting and wrote to her about his meeting with Cecil Sharp(see below). He said that he had been the leader of a Mumming Team at Daglingworth and knew a lot of old songs and dances including ‘two fine old set dances as we used to call them in the old days, the Bonnets of Blue and To Nutting we Will Go my Boys.’ Charles Smith then played Bonnets of Blue, Double Leap Through, Haste To The Wedding and Step and Fetch Her to Maud Karpeles on 5 April 1928 at Mitcheldean.

Charles Smith was born in Woodmancote, in the parish of North Cerney near Cirencester, where his father, Thomas, was also born. His mother, Mary Ann, came from nearby Duntisborne Abbots. Charles’ father Thomas, an agricultural labourer, lived for most of his life in the North Cerney area. He was born in Woodmancote and lived there until at least 1833 when his eldest daughter, Ann Jemima, was born. He lived in Bagendon between at least 1837 and 1845 where his daughters Mary and Hannah were born. He then moved back to Woodmancote between at least 1850 and 1862 where further children were born: John in 1848, Elizabeth in 1850, Thomas in about 1853, Adam in 1855, Hester E. in 1858 and finally Charles on 1 December 1862. By 1871 when Charles was 9 years old the family had moved back to Bagendon.

Charles Smith was a labourer when he enlisted in London on 1 February 1881 at age 18 and became a gunner in the Royal Marine Artillery on 18 October of that year. On enlistment he was 5’ 8” with dark brown hair and grey eyes. He served on the Northumberland, the Valorous, the’ Imperiener’(sic) and the Victoria and passed various musketry and sea service qualifications, gaining medals in 1883 and 1891. He obtained first class for conduct in 1881 and gained 5 good conduct badges. He gained his school certificate fourth class on 28 March 1883. He reenlisted on 9 January 1893.(link to VWML) On 23 November 1885 he married Jane Kenting at Portsea Island in Hampshire. Jane was born in Plympton, Devon and was a year younger than him. By 1891 Charles and Jane were living at 8 Eton Terrace, Adair Road, Portsea. Charles was a gunner RMA .They had two children, Charles F. aged 5 and ?Rosin V. O aged 1 who were both born in Eastney, Portsmouth. Several other members of the RMA were also living in the same Terrace and this was probably within the Royal Marines Barracks in Eastney, Portsmouth. Charles and Jane had two further children in Portsmouth: Lizzie and Thomas. By 1901 Lizzie was 7 and Thomas was 2. By then the family were living at 8, Jubilee Terrace, Portsmouth Town (also on Portsea Island), Charles was still a Navy Man, Gunner RMA and this house also was possibly within the Royal Marines Barracks area. At the end of Jubilee Terrace was the Jubilee Tavern (now a coffee shop) and one can speculate that Charles may have enjoyed a song there with his Marine fellows.

By 1911 Charles was a naval pensioner and postman living back at Grove Hill, Daglingworth, Cirencester with a third child, Nellie, who was born in Eastney, Hants. Charles and Jane had had 5 children of whom 4 were still alive.

On 31 December 1914 he was mobilised and was invalided at the RN Hospital Haslor in 1915 for varicose veins. His statement of service was produced on 25 August 1917.

Charles Smith later moved to Gloucester Road, Mitcheldean. He talked about his meeting with Sharp in a letter written to Maud Karpeles in 1927:

“(Sharp) was staying with Mrs Swanick the Thatched Cottage Coats near that Town. Mr Swanick is the Justice of the Peace at Cirencester, and I was then a Postman at a village called Daglingworth and I was the leader of a Mumming team at the Village and Mrs Swanick got to know it through a Mrs Gimson at Sapperton and those two ladies came to see me to ask me if I would tell them all about the Mumming and I ?intended to cycle to Mrs Swanick’s House the next day. And there I met the Dear old Gentleman Mr Sharp and I found it was him that wanted the Gloucestershire Mumming acting. He was pleased to see me and he wrote down all about the Mumming and I sang some songs as well.

I remember he gave me 2/6 and I had my dinner and a bottle of nice beer in the kitchen. Some time after Mrs Swanick started a Mumming team and a Morris dancing Team at Coats and the(y) invited me to come to the Concert and gave me and my son free tickets. I thought you may be interested to hear this. I am now 65 years of age and am a Naval and Post-Office Pensioner. I happen to know a lot of old songs and Old Dances some that I never hear played now. Here are two fine old set dances as we used to call them in the old days, the Bonnets of Blue and To Nutting we Will Go my Boys. I know several others tunes but I can’t remember the proper names of them.

Please excuse my bad writing and spelling as I am self taught I was driving Oxen at Plough years before the School Board Act came out on the Cotswolds and never had but very little school”

(Notes by Carol Davies with thanks to Diana Crane and Hugh Tarran)