Pike, Betsy

Also known as: Mrs Pike

Collection date: Jan 1906

Area: Somerset - Langport surrounds


Mrs Betsy Pike of Somerton (1832-1917): age 74, 26 songs: first visit on 5th Jan 1906: Elizabeth (Betsy) Culliford was born 10/2/1832 and baptised on 10/12/1833 at Somerton church, daughter of Charles Culliford, agricultural labourer & wife Mary Ann. In 1851 census Betsy was ‘at home aged 18, a glover’. She had an illegitimate daughter Ellen, born Sept 1856 but not baptised till age 9 at Somerton 30/12/1865 (no father given). Betsy, aged 27, was still living with her parents in 1861 census, working as a glover.

In October qr 1863, aged 31, she married widower James Pike (ref Langport 5c 805). James was 51 and brought 3 children to the marriage – Frances, William and Laura Elizabeth. The two daughters had disappeared off to London by 1881 but William stayed on in Somerton. James and Betsy Pike then had 3 children together and were living in Acre Lane, Somerton in 1871. Betsy’s daughter Ellen was working in a local factory, aged 14. By 1881 Betsy had been widowed and was a charwoman, aged 49 with three young daughters – Sarah 17 and Mary J 15, both working in the collar factory, while Alice was 11 and still at school. Betsy’s oldest daughter Ellen (Culliford) had meanwhile married William Snow, a gas engine driver at the collar factory (m 5/2/1878). In 1891 Betsy was 49, charwoman with daughter Sarah, 26 still at home with her. In 1901 (RG13/2287 f38 p4) Betsy was still in Acre Lane, aged 68, a laundress, living with Florence Pike, 18, daughter of her stepson William Pike. Florence married in 1910 and Betsy is shown living on her own aged 78 in the 1911 census. She was buried in Somerton cemetery 15/12/1917 (DB Box 6 f14).

Betsy looks a formidable woman in Sharp’s photo of her. She certainly had a hard life and two of her children died young. Various stories exist of her resourcefulness. In his field notebook (Words) Sharp wrote that Betsy Pike had said she was ‘a teetotaller but I drink cider, for cider don’t count’ (FNW 1906/2 p3). Two of her songs were selected in Folk Songs from Somerset vol3 – ‘A Farmer’s son so sweet’ and ‘Bold Fisherman’. Sharp visited Betsy 3 times personally to obtain 9 songs and also received 17 songs through her daughter Ellen (Snow) and her granddaughter Alice (Snow).