Atkinson, William


Collection date: Oct 1908

Area: London

William Atkinson at Marylebone workhouse: age 80, 1 song ‘Six Dukes’ FT1960 on 9 Oct 1908: In FW1816 Sharp noted: ‘Born in York and plied his trade (a silversmith) in Sheffield and London. Learnt song from Frank Habershon, a native of Sheffield and lifelong friend and shop-mate. FH said the song was a ‘family relic’. He learned it from his father, who learned it from his father. WA could not remember all the words at first but added to them on 10 October and gave me the rest on 15 October’. 

This oral history helps us to locate William Atkinson as the son of Humphrey Atkinson and his wife Isabella. He was born in York c1830 but seems to have been orphaned - certainly his father died in 1840. In the 1841 census William, age 10, is being looked after by his older sister Jane, 25 and her husband George Lipsett, a silversmith, in Ecclesall, Sheffield.

Having learned the silversmith trade, William moved to London and married Matilda (born Totnes, Devon). They lived at Upper Rathbone Place (now Rathbone St) off Tottenham Court Rd. They had 3 sons and 3 daughters. William was 11 years older than Matilda and seems to have been taken ill, as he appears as a patient, aged 60, at the vast Marylebone Infirmary in Rackham St, Notting Hill in the 1891 census. Matilda and the children were then at Foley St, Marylebone.In the 1901 census William was in Marylebone workhouse (rather than infirmary) p52.

Matilda died in 1903 and the children were old enough to fend for themselves. William was in the infirmary in 1911 census. He was not listed as 'demented' but clearly had difficulties recalling his song. Sharp patiently waited and later published the song in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 5 (1914) pp75-79.

William died on 12/6/1913.

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