Baring-Gould, Rev Sabine


Collection date:

Area: Devon

Rev Sabine Baring-Gould of Lew Trenchard, West Devon (1834-1924): Baring-Gould began collecting folk songs earnestly in 1888. In co-operation with Rev Fleetwood Sheppard and Rev Frederick Bussell, he produced ‘Songs of the West’ in 4 parts between 1889 and 1891, followed by ‘A Garland of Country Songs’ in 1895 and ‘English Minstrelsie’ in 1897.

Baring-Gould was born on 28 January 1834 in Exeter but spent some of his early life abroad in France and Germany. His family returned to Devon in 1851 to mind the family estate and his father Edward planned that Sabine would train as an engineer, commencing with a mathematics degree at Cambridge. Despite special coaching, Sabine did not do well at mathematics and when he did go to Clare College, Cambridge in 1852, he became interested in Anglo-Catholic ritual and began to consider ordination despite his father's disapproval. There are similarities here with Cecil Sharp, who twenty years later had mathematics coaching and also attended Clare College. Rev Charles Marson, Sharp's partner in Somerset, was an Anglo-Catholic, so there was alignment there too.

Baring-Gould graduated in 1857 and became a teacher for several years before (eventually) achieving ordination and taking up a clerical post in Yorkshire in 1864. He fell in love with a mill girl Grace Taylor, 16 years his junior and they were married in 1868. They had 15 children (1 died young). In 1871 Sabine moved to a new posting at East Mersea in Essex. When his father died in 1872, Sabine became responsible for the family estate at Lew Trenchard in west Devon. It was, however, let to tenants and Sabine remained in Essex for several more years. He took over as squire and parson at Lew House in 1880 and remained there till his death in January 1924.

Baring-Gould helped Sharp greatly, when the latter began his folk song work in 1903. He even lent him his Personal Manuscript collection and hosted him on several occasions at his home in Lewtrenchard. The two men collaborated to produce first a revised edition of 'Songs of the West' (Methuen Oct 1905) and then 'English Folk-Songs for Schools' (Curwen Apr 1906). The fine biography of Baring-Gould (Graebe, Martin 'As I Walked Out’ Signal Books 2017) tells his whole story.

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Books by Author David Sutcliffe

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