Folksongs and Foot Paths: Part 4

Upper Beeding to Plumpton (14 miles), train to Rodmell  

Memories of Shoreham by Sea

(Peggy Bailey Collection)

‘After a time, though, Inman found that he had left the book and was simply forming the topography of home in his head. Cold Mountain, all its ridges and coves and watercourses. Pigeon River, Little East Fork, Sorrell Cove, Deep Gap, Fire Scald Ridge. He knew their names and said them to himself like the words of spells and incantations to ward off the things one fears most.’

‘Ada wondered about his hundreds of tunes. Where were they now and where might they go if he died?’ – Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain


N.B I have persisted in trying to track down another version of A-Maying (David Miles, Heyshott), as luck would have a particular search subject that I haven’t tried before bought up the tune and words, collected from none other than Samuel Willett. I sent them to the safe hands of the brilliant Valmai Goodyear for resuscitation.

A-Maying lyrics A-Maying

Bonny Light Horseman, Mrs Cranstone, Billingshurst, 1907, George Butterworth

Bonny Light Horseman, Michael Blann, Colin Andrews, Upper Beeding

A Word On Sussex and Sussex Songs, Samuel Willett to Lucy Broadwood

Hare Hunting (lyrics), Samuel Willett, Cuckfield/Fulking, 1890, Lucy Broadwood

Hare Hunting (music), Samuel Willett, Cuckfield/Fulking, 1890, Lucy Broadwood,

George Townsend, Life of A Man

Mustrad preview track The Echoing Horn, George Townsend,

Come Write Me Down, Various

Ploughman Lads

Copper Family

The Willetts, Fulking

Samuel Willett 1851 Census

Samuel Willett 1881 Census

Sussex Postcard by Albert Edward Willett

George Townsend

Colin Andrews, Shepherd On The Downs

Brighton Vox Choir

Shoreham Memories

David E. Gregory

The Ones That Got Away:

Sovay, Painful Plough?, Mr Welfare, East Chiltington, George Butterworth, 1908

The Banks of The Green Willow, Mr Cornford, George Butterworth, 1908

You Seaman Bold That Plough The Ocean, Fair Maid Walking, H. Hunt, George Butterworth, 1908


May 2015: Elizabeth Bennett, performance and landscape researcher


‘When Shirley Collins talks about folksong, it isn’t a conversation of historical information, musicological data sets, Roud or Child numbers. It is of the corner of a Sussex field … it is a mother strolling through that field’s corner and becoming, for a moment, every young woman who’d ever strolled past it. To Shirley Collins … each age-old song is that corner field – a magical locus in which the singer is no longer merely themselves, but becomes every man and woman who has ever sung that song’ (Justin Hopper, 2014)

The Singer

I sing regularly in a Sussex-based folk choir and I have heard folk songs sung all my life by my mother who has performed in folk clubs around Sussex for the past 40 years. Following in Shirley Collins footsteps, literally and figuratively, I intend to sing the folk songs of Sussex in sites of resonance. I will aim to publish one recording a day, with an introduction to the site, the history of the song, and then an unaccompanied performance in situ. As a researcher, I am particularly interested in notions of landscape that are haptic and auditive rather than visual, therefore I intend for the recording to be purely audio and to discuss how imagination might add to the process of landscaping for the audience.

The Songs

A multitude of folk songs are set in the month of May, and it is within this month that I will be posting my research. I hope that I will be able to explore why May has proven such a muse for singers of the British Isles, by discussions around the social and agricultural practices of this time of year and the processes of nature that have inspired them. Although in contemporary times we have been able to record folk songs, both in the written and the audio form, for this project I would like to interview Sussex folk singers and learn songs orally from them. This method both continues original traditions of practice and reflects how I have absorbed folk songs throughout my life.


Brighton Vox Choir – Firle, Sussex

The Setting

At the outset of the projects I had wanted to learn songs throughout the British Isles and sing them in sites of well-known archaeological merit. My decision to narrow the perspective is two-fold; my postdoctoral research argues that landscaping is a process and Sussex, being my home county, has been the site of my formative landscapes [or lifeworld as Pearson and Shanks term it: ‘the totality of a person’s direct involvement with the places and environments in everyday life’ (Pearson, Shanks 2005: p. 153)]; furthermore I believe that this will contribute to notions of the everyday and vernacular archaeologies explored throughout Public Archaeology 2015. Therefore, whilst I may record a song on the lofty heights of Chanctonbury Ring, I may also record a song walking through Lancing Recreational Ground on my way to the Co-op.


  1. Public engagement as it stands would be with those who are engaged in the project through twitter and the blog, and the singers that I approach to teach me the songs of Sussex. How might I engage the non-blogging public? Do I perhaps perform all 30 songs at the end of May at a local folk club? Or do I sing the songs live at the sites with people around and therefore have both a non-web and non-folk audience?
  2. If archaeology is a subject concerned with artefacts, how might we begin to perceive the artefacts of folk performance practices? Am I the artefact? Or are their traces of songs imprinted on the land? Is this interpretative archaeology?
  3. Is landscape the preserve of the seeing subject? How might folk song contribute to a multi-layered conception of landscape – or a deep map?
  4. Beyond Mike Pearson and Mike Shanks’ collaboration Theatre/Archaeology (2005), are there texts or projects of interest that may help me to formulate my ideas around the relationship between performance and archaeology?

Hooper, J (2014). By The Mark On His Hand. Available at: [Accessed on 11/08/2014]. Electronic.

Pearson, M. Shanks, M (2005). Theatre/Archaeology. London: Routledge. Print.