Franklin, Henry

Collection date: Dec 1910

Area: Oxfordshire


Henry Franklin of Fieldtown morris (1830-1920): Fieldtown morris came from Leafield village, 18 miles NW of Oxford. Franklin was born in Leafield but went to live and work in Oxford for most of his life as a police constable. He left the village c1860, when he said the dancing began to fade. He was a dancer, not a musician. See also the profile for George Steptoe, once a foreman of the side.

Sharp met Henry Franklin on 4 occasions, commencing 17 Dec 1910 (7 dances FT2550ff); 31 Dec 1910 (3 dances); 7 Jan 1911 (5 dances); and finally 16 Mar 1912 (2 dances, re-collected versions). For each dance Sharp wrote out the tune and matched the steps and figures to the musical notation. He had developed this kind of short-hand over the years and had already recovered a dozen traditions by the time he met Franklin. In date order: Headington, Bidford, Winster, Sherborne, Ilmington, Bampton, Bledington, Brackley (w Hinton), Eynsham, Abingdon, Chipping Campden and Longborough. He had also just obtained the Kirkby Malzeard and Grenoside sword dances. So, when Franklin indicated that Fieldtown had not danced for maybe 50 years, Sharp was not fazed. Franklin was remarkably fit at age 80 and Sharp felt he could do a job on a tradition that was widely reputed to have been one of the best in the county.

Henry Franklin was baptised at Leafield on 30/5/1830, eldest child of Richard Franklin, a brickmaker and his wife Caroline. He married his first wife Jemima Pratley, daughter of Philip Pratley, on 6/4/1857 at Leafield. They had a girl Emma, baptised at Leafield 15/2/1858 (Henry listed as a labourer), and a boy Albert Henry (baptised at Wootton 20/9/1863, Henry now a policeman). The Franklin family were at Cropredy in the 1871 census, then in Oxford City by 1881. Jemima Franklin died in Jan 1890, aged 59 and Henry was remarried to Emma Rebecca Box in April qr 1894. They were at 6 Crown St, East Oxford in 1901 census (RG13/1379 f128 p29) and it was at that address that Sharp met Henry in 1910.  Henry was a policeman for 33 years and he died 20/8/1920 aged 90.

Sharp’s notes on Henry Franklin can be found in Folk Dance Notes 1/258 and 2/84. He published 9 Fieldtown dances in Morris Book 4 (Novello 1911) and 2 dances in Morris Book 5 (Novello 1913). Percy Manning, the Oxford antiquarian, shared his notes on Leafield from 1894 with Sharp (Folk Dance Notes 2/87ff).

There is no morris team in Leafield today but the Leafield Village website has a good write-up of the dance history  http://www.leafieldvillage.co.uk/history/fieldtown-morris/ 

Henry Franklin had a younger brother Alec Franklin, baptised 14/1/1844 and therefore 14 years younger than him. Alec was a good dancer, though Sharp never witnessed this. The Travelling Morrice were able to interview Alec in June 1924 and again in 1925, the results being published by R. Kenworthy Schofield in Journal of the English Folk Dance Society in 1928. Alec was generally satisfied with the Fieldtown revival performance but said that arm movements and capering needed even more vigour! That's exactly what Henry had said to Sharp in 1912: 'they capered as high as that table, as high as they could. Then the sweat ran down their faces.'

A number of revival sides perform Fieldtown dances today, various Youtubes exist.

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