Baldwin, Charles


Collection date: Aug 1910

Area: Gloucestershire

Charles Baldwin at Newent, Glos: age 88? 5 fiddle tunes on 12 Aug 1910: In his notes for ‘The Dorsetshire March’ FT2502 Sharp wrote that this tune was the processional march of the Clifford Mesne morris men, for whom Baldwin used to play. He recorded Baldwin’s abode as ‘Newent Almshouses’ and his Christian name as ‘George’ but then added ‘Charles?’ in brackets. Perhaps Sharp was having trouble picking out a regional accent but it is definitely Charles Baldwin.

Clifford Mesne is a village 2 miles SW of Newent in South Glos. For details of the Clifford Mesne morris side (which lapsed c1870), see Folk Dance Notes vol 1 p188 (just type CJS2/11/1/188 at VWML search box). Four of the 5 fiddle tunes collected from Baldwin were morris tunes but the 5th was a country dance tune (FT2505 ‘Polly put the Kettle on’).

Sharp recorded Baldwin’s age as 88, which would tally with the 3 previous censuses in which Baldwin said he was 80 in 1901, 70 in 1891 and 60 in 1881.This would give a birth date of 1819 or 1820. Baldwin was not living at the Newent almshouses in the 1911 census and an entry in the Death index shows that a Charles Baldwin died in Newent in the January qr of 1911 ‘aged 93’. This may have been Sharp’s informant but confirmation is required. Charles’ son Stephen stated that his father was 98 when he died but gave no death date. So there is significant slippage of ages for this performer!

At his wedding to Eliza Bowra on 7/9/1852 at Newent Charles Baldwin gave his age as 25, his address as Clifford Mesne and his father’s name as James Baldwin. Neither he nor Eliza could sign their names in the register. A baptism was recorded at Newent church on 10/1/1827 for a Charles Baldwyn, son of James and Elizabeth Baldwyn of Gorsley Common (2 miles west of Newent). The vicar at the time stated that Charles was privately baptised on that date but the certificate was not produced until the child was actually ‘received into the church’ on 3/5/1829.

Charles was a charcoal burner, aged 24, in the 1851 Newent census and may have led a rather unorthodox lifestyle initially. He was described as a general labourer in subsequent censuses. He and Eliza had 8 children, the youngest of whom was Stephen Baldwin (1873-1955), whose fine fiddling was recorded by Peter Kennedy and Russell Wortley in the 1950s.* Stephen was invited to play fiddle for the Bromsberrow Heath ‘Border’ morris side in 1897 – he was still at home in Newent 7 miles away but then married and moved to Mitcheldean. For some reason Sharp never got to meet Stephen.

* for details of Stephen Baldwin's repertoire and recordings, see article by Philip Heath-Coleman 

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