Holt, John

Collection date: Aug 1905

Area: Somerset - Yeovil & Crewkerne


John Holt of Haselbury Plucknett (1847-1932): age 57, 2 songs on 23 Aug 1905 inc 'The Cuckoo' (FT591). Sharp liked Holt's melody but it was only a fragment, so he combined it with lines from Lucy White and published the song in Folk Songs from Somerset vol3:

John Holt was baptised in Misterton church on 17/10/1847, son of John Holt, labourer and Elizabeth. Misterton is a village 1 mile SE of Crewkerne and 2 miles south of Haselbury Plucknett village, to which John Holt had moved by 1891. There is confusion in several censuses, which incorrectly quote his birthplace as Mosterton, which is 2 miles further to the south just over the border in Dorset. John’s baptism was certainly in Misterton church and he was brought up in that village in Somerset (1851-71 censuses).

He married Letitia Bunt in Misterton on 29/7/1873. She had had a difficult childhood. Her mother Jane (née Hellier) had 7 children by her first husband Richard Purchase but when he died in 1848, she then married Richard Bunt (widower 60) in 1853. Letitia was born in Aug 1854 and her mother and 4 older step-sisters were all web weavers at the flax works in Crewkerne. Letitia was sent into domestic service (1871 census West Coker, age 17).

She and John Holt had a more settled married life, John working steadily as an agricultural labourer and a carter on a farm. When their three sons left home, John was shown as a market gardener in the 1911 census for Haselbury Plucknett. He was unable to sign his name at his wedding and still could not sign the census form in 1911. The 1901 census ref is RG13/2297 f64 p12 (Haselbury Plucknett). John was 57 when Sharp met him. He lived on till June 1932 (Yeovil reg 5c 421) and Letitia died Dec 1935, both well into their 80s.

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