Marshall, Phyllis


Collection date:

Area: Oxfordshire

Miss Phyllis Marshall (1889-1979): Although Phyllis Marshall sent a Somerset country dance ‘The Breast Knot’ (FT2864) to Cecil Sharp in May 1913, she is included in the Oxfordshire Directory because she was a student at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford between 1909-12 and became involved with the local branch of the English Folk Dance Society when it commenced there in March 1912. Sharp noted her address as 11 Woodstock Rd, Oxford - a house she shared with EFDS teacher Daisy Daking (see her profile).

Phyllis graduated in English and worked at the Bodleian Library till 1916. From 1914 onwards Phyllis joined with Daisy Daking and Mrs May Hobbs to help Janet Blunt of Adderbury to collect several country dances as well as morris dances from Fred Webb at Bloxham and William Walton of Adderbury See separate profiles.

Phyllis Mary Marshall was born on 5/8/1889 at Witley, Surrey and was baptised by her own father Rev Edward Marshall on 8/9/1889. Her mother was Fanny Isobel (née Foster). Edward Marshall was vicar of Milford, just S of Godalming for the first 10 years of Phyllis’ life and she attended Godolphin’s School in Salisbury. She had an older brother Edward, who also went to Oxford University, became a tea plantation manager in Sri Lanka and died there in 1960. Her younger sister Gertrude moved near to Phyllis in later life. Neither married.

The Somerset connection lies in the fact that her father was Rector of West Monkton village 2 miles NE of Taunton from 1904 to 1919. Phyllis sent the tune for ‘The Breast Knot’ to Sharp in May 1913 and probably invited or hosted him when he visited on 5 June 1914 to collect the dance in full from Mrs Ann Wyatt (see her profile).    

When she had more time, Phyllis found several good folk singers in the West Monkton area including Mrs Elizabeth Nation (b1864) of Bathpool, who gave her 15 songs. More songs were collected from other singers. Phyllis sent the songs to Janet Blunt and they can be found in the Blunt collection (folders 9 & 10 or Search ‘Marshall Blunt’). Manuscript books of the songs were discovered in the 1970s by chance by Bob Patten. Full details of the songs and a biography of Phyllis Marshall can be found on Geoff Wolfe’s online page

When Rev Marshall retired in 1919, he moved to Tidenham nr Chepstow and named his house ‘Offa’s Dyke’. Sadly his wife Fanny and he died within a month of each other in November 1919 and Phyllis remained there, as church organist and organiser of the Sunday School. She died in May 1979 aged 89.

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Books by Author David Sutcliffe

Cecil Sharp and the Quest for Folk Song and Dance

A new biography of Cecil Sharp, written by David Sutcliffe

£20.00 + p&p

The Keys of Heaven - The Life of Revd Charles Marson

This is the first biography of the Revd Charles Marson.

£6.00 + p&p