Beale, James


Collection date: Sept 1908

Area: Kent

James Beale at Warehorne: 8 songs (FT1922-29) on 23 Sept 1908: Beale’s song ‘Sons of Levi’ (Roud 2430) was included in Sharp’s ‘English Folk-Carols’ book (1911). His song ‘No John’ was published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 4 (1913). Two of his songs are featured in the Folk Song a Week website

Sharp gave ‘Warehorne’ as the location for his meeting with James Beale but the 3 villages of Warehorne, Ham Street and Orlestone are very close together (see profile of Clarke Lonkhurst). Sharp also stated that James was aged 72 – this looks an over-estimate by 5 years. The only ‘James Beale’ in the Warehorne area in either 1901 or 1911 censuses is as follows:

In the 1901 census (RG13/785 f55 p12) James Beale was a timber dealer at Ham Street, aged 60, born in Wivelsfield, Sussex, 3 miles S of Haywards Heath. His wife Charlotte, aged 58, was born in Ham Street. This census return therefore suggests a birth date of 1841 and there was indeed a James Beal (no ‘e’) registered as a birth in January qr 1841 (Lewes regn 7 392). There was a baptism of a James Beale at Wivelsfield church on 4/4/1841, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Beale. A Thomas Beale married Elizabeth Welfare in October qr 1840 (Lewes 7 615) and this was his second marriage, for in the 1841 census at Wivelsfield Thomas Beale, age 40, railway labourer was listed with Elizabeth, 20, and children Martha 14, Benjamin 7, James 4 months. Local sources should confirm that this is the correct family for our singer.

Thomas Beale was perhaps working at Wivelsfield railway station (initially named Keymer Junction, completed 1847) on the London-Brighton line. But illness or unemployment must have occurred because in the 1851 census Thomas, Elizabeth and their two youngest children Ebenezer 5 and Harriott 2 are in one part of Chailey Workhouse (District 1b p19), while James Beale, 11, and younger brother Stephen, 8 are in another Chailey workhouse building (4a p11) – a distressing situation, no doubt.

James Beale gets married, aged 19, on 22 July 1860 (East Ashford regn 2a 781) to Charlotte Phoebe Hall and they settle in her native village at Ham Street. They remain there throughout the censuses, raising 9 children. James tried his hand at several occupations – he was a fruiterer (1871), a labourer (1881), an agricultural labourer (1891), a timber dealer (1901) and a general dealer (1911). 

His wife Charlotte died in 1905 and by the time Sharp met him in 1908, he may already have moved in with his son Henry, his wife Ada and their 3 young daughters. Henry was a successful dealer, living at Cyprus House in Ham Street – a 9 roomed house (1911 census ref RG14/4277 schedule 91). James Beale died later that year (October qr 1911 ref 2a 999), aged 70.

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