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Watts, William Henry

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Gender: Male

Cecil Sharp visited William Henry Watts in Tewkesbury on 11 April 1908. William Watts sang him Banks of Sweet Dundee, The Boddenham Umberello, Erin’s Lovely Home, Gossip Joan, The Jolly Waggoner and A Sweet Country Life and the tune Cissiter Fair (Cirencester),. He also played him a Morris Dance at Cecil Sharp’s London home on 16 September 1910.

William Henry Watts was born in Cheltenham on the 8th July 1836, and learnt to be a joiner in his father’s workshop. In his youth he worked in various parts of the country before coming to Tewkesbury where he is first recorded lodging in the High Street. On the 9th December 1865 he married Harriet Smith at St Mary’s in Cheltenham and moved to live at Folly Gardens in Tewkesbury. At about this time he started working for the local builder Thomas Collins, becoming a foreman in 1864, later running the joinery department, and finally being made the local works manager. From at least the 1891 census until his death in 1923, William and Harriet lived at 5 Mount Pleasant (now 14 Barton Road). His interests included cycling and the town’s many historic buildings, several of which he personally restored. He was visited by Cecil Sharp on the 11th April 1908, a year before his retirement in 1909. William Watts died on 16th June 1923 and following a funeral service at Holy Trinity Church was buried at the town cemetery on 19th June. The grave plot had already been purchased for his sister Sarah who had been living with William and Harriet until her death in 1916, and has their names recorded on a simple memorial. His obituary in the Tewkesbury Register (Saturday 23rd June 1923) revels that he was respected member of the local community:


Death of Mr W H Watts

It is with sincere regret that we have to record the demise of another old and valued resident of Tewkesbury. On Saturday morning last, Mr William Henry Watts passed away at his residence in Mount Pleasant after having suffered with heart trouble for a number of years, during which period he maintained his natural cheery, spirit in a characteristically plucky way. Born at Cheltenham on July 8th 1836, he left school at an early age and learnt the rudiments of his business in his father’s workshops. On leaving Cheltenham, Mr Watts worked in various parts of England and Wales, before coming foreman to the late Thomas Collins in 1864. He eventually took charge of the joinery department for several years and finally became local works manager from which position he retired some fourteen years ago. In the last capacity he became a very familiar figure throughout the neighbouring country-side. Thus, for many years he was associated with the above firm, but owing to his advanced age and long retirement, he had somewhat faded into the background. In his time, however, he was very widely known and to the end was highly esteemed. A man of marked ability and antiquarian tastes, he was possessed of a wonderful fund of humour. He always took the keenest interest in the ancient architecture of the town, and was personally responsible for the restoration of several of the timber fronts of the old houses. Although urged on several occasions he did not take an active part in the public life of the town. In his younger days he was an ardent cyclist, and was the first to introduce the safety bicycle into Tewkesbury. He was for years the captain of a very popular Cycling Club, which flourished in the borough during the eighties of the last century. On more than one occasion, accompanied by his wife, he journeyed to London on his tricycle, no mean task for a man approaching sixty years of age, especially when one considers the state of the roads. At that time steam-rollers were unknown. Moreover, he was particularly sympathetic with the poor and the afflicted. He had celebrated his golden wedding on December 9th 1915, and his wife who survives him, has the sympathy of all. The funeral took place on Tuesday at noon at Holy Trinity Church, the Vicar (Rev G S Winter) conducting the obsequies… [The obituary is followed by a list of the mourners and floral tributes.]

Notes by Richard Sermon 2012