Ford, William


Collection date: Apr 1907

Area: Devon

William Ford of Upton Pyne, nr Exeter (1844-1920): age 63, 5 country dance tunes/figures collected at Lewtrenchard on 11-13 Apr 1907 (FT1359-61, FW1258-59) + 1 country dance figure (FW2061) later at Cowley 22 Jly 1909: Sharp published 4 of Ford's dances in his (first) Country Dance Book in Dec 1909, namely Nancy's Fancy, Haste to the Wedding, Three Meet (or Pleasures of the Town) and Step and fetch her.

William Ford was born Apr qr 1844 in Cowley hamlet, near the village of Upton Pyne, all in the parish of Brampton Speke 4 miles to north of Exeter. He was the eldest child of Joseph Ford, blacksmith and postmaster, and his wife Ann. William married Ann Hodge in July qr 1877 (5b 131) and they moved up to Upton Pyne, where he became the village blacksmith and they raised 4 children. His father Joseph continued as blacksmith and postmaster in Cowley hamlet until his death in 1902. In Cowley Place lived Lt Col Arthur Wyatt Edgell and family. No doubt Joseph attended to the needs of the carriage horses at the big house – the family had a butler, footman and groom. In fact one of his grandsons Bertie was a groom at the house in the 1901 census.

It was Priscilla Wyatt-Edgell who enabled William Ford to go down to Baring-Gould at Lewtrenchard to teach some country dances in readiness for a fundraising event planned for the following June. Sharp was staying at Lew House and seized the opportunity to note down tunes and movements – see Graebe, Martin 'Dancing with Sabine Baring-Gould' in Folk Music Journal 2015 pp637ff.

Priscilla wrote that William Ford: ‘...had been a dancer and a player of the concertina for dance music all his life. No one, I should think, could be more difficult to collect from. He played as if he was inventing the tune as he went along and he never could explain anything as it all came more or less naturally to him ... By profession he was a blacksmith – not at all a good one – his strong point was odd jobs.’ (VWML file CJS1/12/21/9/5 undated).

Sharp mentioned Ford in the preface to the Country Dance Book which contains his dance ‘Three Meet’ (or ‘Pleasures of the Town’) FT1360 - Country Dance Book (Novello 1909 p64).

The live performances of the dances on Saturday 13th April were a significant development for Sharp. In the previous fortnight he had noted some country dance tunes from John Mason at Stow, Glos and, of course, he had studied the morris dance steps of the Esperance girls on several occasions but this encounter with William Ford really challenged Sharp for the first time as to how to record the figures and movements in social dancing. William Ford died in Apr qr 1920 (St Thomas 5b 56).

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