Allen, Henry

Collection date: Aug 1909

Area: Gloucestershire


Henry Mathews Allen (1820-1910) was originally from Churchdown (4 miles E of Gloucester) in Glos but was interviewed by Sharp at Stratford-on-Avon on 27 Aug 1909: age 90, 2 morris tunes (FT2323/4): In his Field Notebook Words (1904/4 p1) Sharp recorded Henry Allen’s address as 27 Mere (Meer) Street in Stratford and on p32 he stated that up to c1871 Allen used to play fiddle for the morris at Ruardean, which is 16 miles W of Gloucester at the northern end of the Forest of Dean.

From Allen Sharp collected first a ‘Sword Dance’ (FT2323), in which he recorded that the swords were not placed on the ground but merely brandished by the dancer. There was also a flagman. These comments by Allen were confirmed when Sharp visited Ruardean on 1 Sept and talked to Anne Roberts, 'aged 85'. She added that the Ruardean dancers had handkerchiefs but NOT sticks (Folk Dance Notes CJS2/11/1 p88). At this same time Sharp also obtained information about (lapsed) morris dancing at nearby May Hill, Longhope and Little London villages (Field Notebook Words 1909/4 pp44-48; Folk Dance Notes 1 pp85-6). None of these dancers used sticks, which suggests that this 'Forest of Dean' style was quite different from what we now call 'Border' morris.

NOTE: the Anne Roberts who informed Sharp about the Ruardean dances is NOT the same person as singer Mary Ann Roberts interviewed at Winchcombe workhouse the previous April (see separate entry). The Ruardean Roberts was born Anne Griffiths c1828, married William Roberts, miner, in 1845 and lived her whole life in Ruardean (1901 ref RG13/2475 f143 p8).

Henry Mathews Allen was baptized on 20/7/1820 at Churchdown, 4 miles E of Gloucester, son of Charles Allen, butcher and his wife Elizabeth (née Mathews). Charles moved his family and business to Gloucester and Henry’s older brother David went into the butchery business there. Henry married Eliza Bundy at St John the Baptist church in Gloucester on 27/11/1838. Both Henry and Eliza were ‘minors’ and Henry’s address was given as Brothers Place in the city. His occupation then was shoemaker. He and Eliza had no children and remained in Gloucester city in both 1851 census (when he was listed as a ‘beerseller’) and in 1861 (when he was a ‘musician’). Perhaps he travelled out to Ruardean at this time.

Henry's wife Eliza died in July qr 1869 (ref 6a 170) and he was remarried to Susannah Jackson, widow, on 23/2/1870 at Blakeney Glos. She brought with her 4 sons and one daughter. In 1871 Henry was listed as a musician and Susannah was shown as an ‘innkeeper’ at the British Flag pub in Littleworth St, Gloucester. In 1881 Henry is shown as 'publican' of the pub, aged 60. Susannah died c1885 and Henry was married for the 3rd time to Clara, a piano teacher (b Henley-in-Arden). By 1901 they were in Stratford, earning a musical living. Clara died soon after but Henry at age 90 could still play well enough for Sharp in 1909. He died a year later Oct qr 1910 (ref 6d 384).

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