Blunt, Janet

Dancer

Collection date:

Area: Oxfordshire


Miss Janet Heatly* Blunt of Adderbury morris (1859-1950): Janet Blunt was a collector of folk song and dance in her own right – go to vwml.org.uk and Browse Archives for her collection. Note: some of her manuscripts are duplicate copies but the Adderbury dance material is to be found in JHB/16 and JHB/17 folders:

*Her baptismal record, her signed 1911 census return, her will and her gravestone all confirm ‘Heatly’ without the second ‘e’.

Janet Blunt was born in India on 28/4/1859, eldest child of Major General Charles Blunt of the Royal Bengal Artillery, and his wife Mary. She had 2 younger brothers Edward and Charles, both of whom had successful Army careers, and a sister Beatrice. In the 1871 census the family was in Malvern - Charles Blunt, 45, was shown as a ‘Major General retired list Royal Artillery’. He employed a governess and one servant. In 1881 the Blunt family was in Kensington in London. Janet’s mother died in Somerset in 1892 and Charles brought his two daughters to live at Halle Place in Adderbury in NE Oxfordshire in 1896. Sadly Charles died in August 1900 and his daughter Beatrice died in December 1900, so Janet was suddenly left on her own.

She never married and took on the role of ‘Lady of the Manor’, getting involved in many aspects of village life. She did not initially take part in the boys’ morris project of 1908 (see William Walton profile) but clearly supported it later (vwml website CC/2/7). She collected a few (20) folksongs between 1907-12 but (to her later regret) did not join the Folk Song Society at the time. She noted more songs up until 1931 and in the end had 14 songs published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society.

The formation of the Oxford** EFDS (English Folk Dance Society) branch in March 1912 brought her into contact with several much younger folk enthusiasts, who assisted her in the collection of some local dances. In Jan-Feb 1914 Daisy Daking, an EFDS teacher from London but resident in Oxford, and Phyllis Marshall, a recent graduate from Lady Margaret Hall, helped Blunt to record the figures of several country dances local to Adderbury (JHB/17B/19) and of 3 morris dances from Mr Fred Webb of nearby Bloxham (JHB/17A/11). Daisy Daking was 29 at the time and Phyllis Marshall 24, while Janet Blunt was 54. Miss Blunt took the tunes (see sep profiles of Webb, Daking & Marshall).

For one reason or another, Janet Blunt did not engage with William Walton until 1916. He had a good voice and sang 10 folksongs to her as well as several church songs. He also sang and performed 14 morris dances and 2 jigs for her over several visits. In June 1916 Miss Blunt had the help of Mrs May Elliot Hobbs, a keen member of the Oxford EFDS, to note the figures for 4 of those dances (The Buffoon, Beaux of London City, Shepherds Hey and Black Joke). Blunt was occasionally unsure of her dance notations and wrote at one point (about the Postman’s Knock dance): ‘this requires more expert enquiry by someone who understands the morris figures and could help the old man to remember’ (JHB/17B/23). Perhaps for this reason after her final session with Walton (3 songs) in March 1919, she recommended that he visit Sharp in London to bring finality to the dance collection process. Sharp (with Maud Karpeles) noted 8 dances from Walton and published 5 of them in his Morris Book series with Janet Blunt’s blessing.

There was considerable and quite warm correspondence between Sharp and Blunt and he visited her in September 1922. They interviewed Fred Webb of Bloxham & Joseph Alcock of Sibford Gower.

Janet Blunt’s notes were rescued after her death on 4 August 1950 and these helped with the Adderbury morris revival later in 1975.

** Adderbury village is 3 miles S of Banbury. A new railway line was built in 1877 that linked Banbury with Cheltenham 40 miles to the east. It passed through Adderbury (first stop) and Bloxham on its way to Chipping Norton. The line was closed in 1951. From Adderbury one could easily connect to the Banbury-Oxford main line and reach the university town (a 23-mile journey).

See Michael Pickering ‘Janet Blunt – Folk Song Collector and Lady of the Manor’ Folk Music Journal 3 (1976) pp114-49  

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