Collection date: Aug 1909
William Hedges at Chipping Campden, Glos (1831-1919): age 78, 15 songs over 4 visits commencing 10 Aug 1909 (FT2251): A shepherd himself, William Hedges sang the splendid ‘Shepherds are the best of men’ (FT2326: click vwml link above) and Sharp clearly valued William’s singing to revisit him so often. He also sang ‘Jack Ridler’s Oven’ FT2254, usually titled ‘George Ridler’s Oven’ (Roud 1319). This dialect song has been sung annually by the Gloucestershire Society since the 18th century (if not earlier). It appeared on numerous broadside ballad sheets from 1771 onwards.
William Hedges was baptised on 23/2/1831 at Inglesham (10 miles north of Swindon) just inside Wiltshire. He was son of Henry Hedges, agricultural labourer and his wife Martha. The family moved to Hannington village (8 miles north of Swindon) for 1841 and 1851 censuses but William left home and went to Birmingham for work perhaps. There on 23/9/1854 at St Thomas’s church he married Emma Wright, daughter of Thomas Wright, labourer. Neither could sign their name.
Emma hailed from Alcester in Warwickshire and the couple started in that area, moving to Cleeve Prior census 1861 and eventually settled in Chipping Campden by 1871. They raised 8 children, William being recorded as a ‘shepherd’ at every stage. Emma died in 1900 aged 67 but William lived on till 1919, spending his last days in the Hicks almshouses in Chipping Campden.