Margesson, Lady Isabel


Collection date: Jun 1906

Area: Worcestershire

Lady Isabel Margesson (1863-1946): Lady Margesson deserves an entry because in June 1906 she introduced Mary Neal, Cecil Sharp and Herbert MacIlwaine to the Bidford morris dances, as revived by D'Arcy Ferris (see his profile). Sharp recorded 8 tunes (FT947-953) and presumably MacIlwaine took sufficient notes of the steps and figures, so that 3 of the Bidford dances could later be presented in the first Morris Book (April 1907). These were Shepherd's Hey, Bluff King Hal and Morris Off. 

The gathering at her house (Foxlydiate House*, nr Redditch, Worcs) on Sat 2 June 1906 seems to have been a private occasion, as there is no report in the local press. Lady Margesson had invited the Bidford men to come to train youngsters from the village so that on 8 August a Pastoral Play which she herself had written could be performed at her house. The Alcester Chronicle of 11 August 1906 reported that the play 'Raggle Taggle Gipsies' featured young revellers 'who were taught the dances by dancers from Bidford'. Although Sharp was not present at this performance - he was song collecting near Bridgwater in Somerset - the Chronicle went on to note that the folksongs had been collected 'through the exertions of Mr Sharpe (sic) and Mr Baring Gould' and that 'the grounds of Foxlydiate House are open on Wednesdays for dancing'. 

The youth team thus formed continued to dance at local events. For example, the Alcester Chronicle on 21 Dec 1907 reported that 'Lady Isabel Margesson's party of morris dancers' had performed at an event at Astwood Bank. 

It must be remembered that Cecil Sharp and Mary Neal were co-operating well at this point and that the success of the Esperance Girls at the recent concert at Queen's Hall in London on 3 April 1906 had been widely reported. Perhaps Lady Margesson attended in person. She probably knew Mary Neal through the Women's Suffrage movement - she was the president of the Redditch Women's Suffrage Group and also involved in various philanthropic roles in her community. For example, she was secretary of the Redditch Allotment Society. 

She was born Isabel Augusta Hobart-Hampden on 16 July 1863, third of four daughters of Lord Frederick Hobart-Hampden, assistant secretary at the India Office. Her father died in 1875 and it was her older brother Sidney who inherited the title of 7th Earl of Buckinghamshire directly from his grandfather in 1885. Lady Isabel married Mr Mortimer Reginald Margesson** on 10 November 1886 and they had 5 children. Sadly she lost her daughter Isobel in 1905, aged 5, then another daughter Albina in 1907, aged 18.

Lady Isabel had only spent a few years at Foxlydiate House but perhaps felt she could not stay there after these bereavements, so she departed in the summer of 1908. At her farewell garden party the Alcester Chronicle (27 June) reported again on 'the morris dancing  by the young people, carefully trained by her ladyship who...has taken keen interest in the survival of old English songs and games.' 

Lady Margesson moved to Barnt Green, 10 miles south of Birmingham, where she helped found a WI group and did war work. She died in London on 1 July 1946, leaving £808.

*Foxlydiate House was demolished and the current Foxlydiate Hotel was built in its place in 1939. Foxlydiate itself is a village 3 miles W of Redditch and 15 miles N of Bidford-on-Avon.

** Mortimer Margesson was not knighted until 1928; Lady Isabel was titled in her own right from birth.

There is no morris side currently at Redditch but the White Hart morris side is based at Alcester

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