Prudhoe, William


Collection date: Dec 1912

Area: Tyne & Wear

William Prudhoe, leader of Winlaton rapper team: Winlaton is 7 miles W of Gateshead and was formerly in Co Durham. William Prudhoe met Sharp briefly in August 1910 (Folk Dance Notes 1/229) but sang the calling-on song 'Good people, give ear to my song' (FT2809) to Sharp more than two years later on 21 Dec 1912. Sharp recorded his age as 65. Sharp was normally pretty accurate with his ages but this may be an error on his part - either in transcribing or in mishearing. There were several William Prudhoes in the Winlaton area in the 1911 census but none of this age. There is no corroborating detail in Sharp's field notebooks (FNW1912 (3) pp36-41). George Butterworth greatly assisted Sharp in recording the Winlaton tunes and figures (see GB/7/31,33) but put no date on his notes.

Prudhoe can in fact be seen performing in a British Pathe newsreel (c1930) on Youtube He is described there as aged 73 (giving a birth date of c1857). There was indeed a birth registered for a William Prudhoe in January qr 1858 (Gateshead 10a 526), which tallies with the William Prudhoe in the Winlaton 1911 census, aged 53, a blacksmith's striker. Perhaps Sharp was 10 years out in his age estimate. This William Prudhoe was the son of Thomas Prudhoe, chain maker and blacksmith of Winlaton, and his wife Ann. William certainly spent his whole life in Winlaton village, which supports Sharp's notes that William had danced for Winlaton for 30 years - since the age of 18.

William Prudhoe and his wife Mary Jane had 2 sons and 6 daughters, residing for many years at Joblings Garth in the village. More biographical details (including his date of death) from local sources may clear up this confusion of identity.

For the Winlaton dance at Christmas time, there were 5 dancers, all miners at nearby Blaydon pits, plus a leader, a musician and a Betty. Sharp recorded the Winlaton dance in Folk Dance Notes 1/229 and 2/233, then published it in his 'Sword Dances of Northern England' Book 3 (Novello 1913). He wrote: 'It is impossible to exaggerate the pace and spirit of the dance. It is short and goes through without a second's pause, while the force with which the stepping is executed is barbaric...the performers were quite exhausted by their efforts.'

The Winlaton sword dancers were one of the first sword dance teams on Tyneside known to have been founded before 1850. Only Earsdon are also known to have been in existence by that date. The Winlaton White Star team won the Cowen Trophy (at the North of England Musical Tournament) in 1922; and the judge in the 1923 competition, Douglas Kennedy, was as impressed by their performance as Cecil Sharp the year before, and awarded them the trophy. The younger men of Winlaton in the inter-war period had their own team, the Blue Star, which also competed in the Newcastle Competitions. 

There has been a break in the Winlaton tradition but sundry revival sides keep the dance alive. See for further information.

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