Plumb, Mrs Ellen

Collection date: Apr 1911

Area: Warwickshire


Mrs Ellen Plumb at Armscote: age 85, 4 songs incl 'King Herod and the Cock' and The Cherry Tree Carol' (FT2585,6) on 13 April 1911: These are both Child Ballads (54,55) and Sharp published Mrs Plumb's versions in his 'English Folk-Carols' book later that year. Her tune for the King Herod carol is beautiful and the story, though just 4 verses long, is satisfyingly complete. The Wise Men tell King Herod that the Star heralds the birth of a new King but he responds that if this were true, then the roasted cock in the dish before him would rise up and crow, which miraculously occurs. It is part of a longer carol called 'The Carnal and the Crane':

All the censuses from 1861 to 1911 indicate that Ellen Plumb was born c1826 at Rowley Regis nr Dudley in the West Midlands but her maiden name is yet to be determined. She married Thomas Plumb, who was born at Newbold and baptised at Tredington church on 9/11/1834, eldest son of John Plumb, and his wife Hannah. John moved 45 miles north to work as a canal labourer at Rowley Regis (1841 and 1851 censuses). Presumably that is how his son Thomas met Ellen.

In the 1861 census Thomas Plumb was working as a coal miner at (Mucklow) Hill nr Halesowen, with Ellen and 4 children. The family then moved back south to Newbold village, where Thomas worked as an agricultural labourer for the next 20 years. Thomas and Ellen had 8 children.

Thomas died in Oct 1892 and Ellen kept family together in the 1901 census for Newbold, looking after her bachelor brother-in-law William Plumb as well as a grand-daughter Rose, 24. Ellen was a laundress aged 74 (census ref RG13/2947 f71 p6). By 1911, when Sharp met her, Ellen had moved to Armscote to support her widowed son-in-law Albert Hewins and his 2 little children Sydney (8) and Hilda (7 months). A caring woman, it would seem. Ellen died in October qr 1919 aged 93 (6c 177).

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