Collection date: Apr 1906
William Bennett of Bridgwater (1819-1908): age 89, 5 definite songs + 3 disputed songs* at Bridgwater Union 18 & 20 Apr 1906: Sharp had paid a previous visit to the Bridgwater Union Workhouse in Aug 1905 to meet Robert Dibble and George Radford. That was set up by Rev Warren, who was the curate responsible for the workhouse and with whom Sharp stayed (Warren letter ref CJS1/13/1/10/20). At Easter 1906 Sharp paid further visits to the workhouse and got at least 5 songs from William Bennett.
William was baptised at St Mary’s Bridgwater on 14/2/1819, son of Barnet Bennett, mariner, and wife Elizabeth. He married Elizabeth Manchip at St Mary’s in April 1839. They had 8 children and William worked as a brickyard labourer all his life, still working into his 70s. He must have gone into the workhouse in his final years, dying in June qr 1908 ref 5c 222.
*There is some doubt about 3 songs, which Sharp attributed to ‘John Bennett, 89, at Bridgwater Union’. These are ‘Yorkshire Man’ (FT909), ‘Nan of the Valley’ (FT910) and ‘Unquiet Grave’ (FT911). It is unlikely that there should be two men with the same surname, of the same age and in the same institution. I can find no entry in the Workhouse admissions, nor indeed any John Bennett in the relevant censuses in the town. Unless and until new evidence appears to justify a second singer called Bennett, I think we must assume William and John Bennett are one and the same singer.