Lucy Broadwood (1858 – 1929)

Pioneering Folk Song Collector, Musician and Author

Folk-songs unsung heroine: Lucy Broadwood photographed in 1901. Surrey History Centre ref: 2185/LEB/9/111

Folk-songs unsung heroine: Lucy Broadwood photographed in 1901
Surrey History Centre ref: 2185/LEB/9/111

Lucy Etheldred Broadwood, born on 9th August 1858 into the famous family of piano manufacturers, was a passionate collector of folk-songs and one of a group of Victorian songhunters who fuelled a revival of interest in Englands traditional music at the end of the nineteenth century.

As a child she had moved to the family home at Lyne on the Surrey-Sussex border, where she developed her love of country songs, feeling enormous empathy for these tunes which did not adhere to the conventional harmonies of the Victorian drawing-room. The pure English folk-tune is exceedingly simple, usually only eight bars long, she explained, yet it has perhaps the most beautiful, original and varied cadences to be found in music.

A gifted pianist and singer in her own right, she could have embarked on a professional career, but instead, as a spinster from a prosperous family, she was free to pursue both her classical musical interests and her passion for folk-songs. According to a friend, single life, with the freedom to live as she pleased, suited her admirably. She was known as a brilliant talker, full of both wit and humour, with a decidedly feminine penchant for rich deep colours and luxurious fabrics and a dread of modern science.

Her family background equipped her with the ideal skills needed to note down folk-songs and trace their origins. It is not given to many to have the literary culture, the scholarly accuracy and the artistic imagination to see the folk song as a whole, wrote fellow folk-song enthusiast and composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. She was following the example set by her uncle John Broadwood, who had been captivated by the carols sung by the tipteers or mummers who came to Lyne at Christmas-time. His 1843 collection Old English Songs stood out for publishing the music exactly as he had heard it.

She and her peers believed that songs from the oral tradition needed to be written down in case they died out, and the emphasis fell on collecting in the field. Beginning close to home, she turned to gardeners, artisans, game-keepers, shepherds, rustic labourers, gipsies, sailors, fishermen, workers at old-fashioned traces such as weaving or lace-making and the like, as well as domestic servants, especially nurses.

Eventually she travelled as far as Devon, Ireland, Scotland and Lincolnshire, staying either with friends and family and listening to young and old wherever they would sing for her, whether on a windswept hillside or in a sweltering orchid-house. A Surrey hedger, looking like a Viking, has sung across a hedge at me, emphasising the tragic points of his ballad with vicious snaps of his shears, she recalled.

In 1893, in partnership with the music critic and writer J A Fuller Maitland, she published the influential English County Songs. With her sensitive piano accompaniments, the songs were suddenly accessible to the amateur pianists of the drawing-room. This was followed in 1908 with a second volume English Traditional Songs and Carols, mostly the result of her own fieldwork.

However Lucys most important legacy to the folk-song movement was in her contribution to the newly formed Folk Song Society, founded in 1898. She took up editorship of the societys Journal in 1904, which consequently developed a reputation for accuracy and scholarship. From then on until her death in 1929 she dropped her fieldwork to concentrate on editing other collectors submissions to the Journal. She was also on the musical selection committee for the Leith Hill Musical Festival from its foundation in 1904.

Lucy collected songs in Surrey, such as at Dunsfold in 1898 when she recorded in her diary that she heard ‘a number of old men singing after a supper of beef, pudding, beer and tobacco’.
In a lecture she gave in 1905, Lucy described how she came across one of her more famous finds, ‘King Pharim’. She said ‘Wild gipsy tramps by the name of Goby, well known in Sussex and Surrey, had sung at Lyne at Christmas time. The elders of the household noted the words of their songs, but not the music’. One day in 1903, Lucy heard her 4 yearold nephew, Evelyn Broadwood, humming ‘something that startled me, unmistakably an English folk-tune.’ When asked what it was, little Evelyn replied ‘the Bogey-men’s Christmas song’. This turned out to be ‘King Pharim’, a carol not heard elsewhere in the country.

She proved to be the ideal person to bridge the gap between the worlds of art music and folk-song, and Lucy herself led a life that bridged these two worlds, easily moving between town and country, from the sophisticated concerts and recitals that she would host in London to the fields and farm buildings that cradled her treasured folk music.

The papers of Lucy Broadwood are freely available to study at Surrey History Centre, Refs. 2185/LEB/-, 2297 and 6782.

Click here to read more about Lucy Broadwood’s connection with Cecil Sharp, England’s most prolific folk music and dance collector and the acknowledged father of what is now widely known as the First Folk Revival.

Lucy and Ethel Smyth

Lucy was a forward thinker and admired the musical works of Ethel Smyth. In her diary for 18 July 1902, Lucy records:

Isobel [Manisty] took us to the Opera where we heard 1st performance of Miss EM Smyths very clever opera: Der Wald (her own libretto) and Bunnings dull opera also. (Surrey History Centre Ref. 6782/16)

Some years later on 25 June 1909, she hears Ethel Smyths opera ‘The Wreckers’, a dark tale of love, betrayal and revenge set in a poor Cornish community, describing it as clever and interesting. (Surrey History Centre Ref. 6782/22).

The Privacy of Friends

Lucy’s personal papers are held at Surrey History Centre (Refs. 2185/LEB/- and 6782/-) and contain references to the wide circle of artists, writers and musicians with whom she socialised.  Lucy’s sexuality is not known; she never married and writes of several female friends with great tenderness but her diaries are ambiguous regarding her human passions. However, they contain references to the wide circle of artists, writers and musicians with whom she socialized, many of whom were gay or bisexual. She records many of her famous Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) friends and was clearly sensitive to the legality of their situation.

Lucy Broadwood at home with James Campbell McInnes (early twentieth century) (SHC ref 2185/LEB/9/113)

Lucy Broadwood at home with
James Campbell McInnes (early twentieth century)
(SHC ref 2185/LEB/9/113)

Lucy has been featured in our LGBT History Month gallery not as a historic LGBT personality but as the friend and confidante of the famous baritone James Campbell McInnes and his lover, the composer Graham Peel. From her diaries and letters it would appear that she allowed her flat in Victoria to be a meeting place for  James Campbell McInnes and his lover, the composer Graham Peel.

As well as caring for their privacy, she also helped McInnes rehearse his work and introduced him to her musical and social circle, all of whom are noted in her diaries.  In 1911, experiencing personal crisis, McInnes ended his relationship with Peel and married Angela Mackail (grand-daughter of Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones).  Lucys diaries show her upset and she deliberately avoided the wedding, remaining at home playing Bach.

The marriage was short-lived, although McInnes bisexuality was not publicly declared at the time. He became a heavy drinker, was unfaithful with one of their servants and this led to a widely reported divorce in 1917. McInnes died in 1945 and left two sons, one of whom was Colin MacInnes (1914-1976), author of The Outsiders and other accounts of London urban squalor, racial issues, bisexuality, drugs, and decadence, in the 1950s.

Lucy and the Suffragette Movement

It is not known whether Lucy sympathized with the Suffragette Movement. Her sister, Bertha Marion Broadwood (1846-1935), certainly was not a fan, being a committee member of the Dorking Branch of the Womens National Anti-Suffrage League.

Lucy is just one of the talented Surrey Women featured in Surrey Museums Month 2017. To find out more about the event and other celebrated Surrey Women click here.

2 thoughts on “Lucy Broadwood (1858 – 1929)”

  1. Whereas the main bulk of this article is accurate there are one or two slight inaccuracies. The major of these is the date ascribed to John Broadwood\’s important collection of songs collected from the Weald of Surrey and Sussex. Although generally given the title of \”Old English Songs\” when referred to, that title is only a very considerable abbreviation of the full which is 101 words long! The date of publication given in this article is 1843. However, this is incorrect; 1843 was the year in which the songs collected by Broadwood were harmonised by W A Dusart, an organist from Worthing. The actual work was privately published by Broadwood in 1847 (the date attested to by the galley proofs of the work held in the Surrey History Centre in Woking). There are only three copies of the book known to be still in existence – one in the British Library, one in a Brighton Library, and one in The History Centre in Woking, which passed into Lucy\’s hands.

    Although the work \”English County Songs\” published in 1893 is the first one to bear Lucy\’s name, she did in fact collaborate with and assist her cousin H F Birch Reynardson in producing a reprint of her uncle\’s earlier work,which was published in 1889 under the title of \”Sussex Songs\” and was expanded to include a number of songs which had been collected by Lucy herself in the 1880\’s. The work includes at least one song which was collected by her father, Henry Fowler Broadwood.

    The article suggests that the arrangements in \”English County Songs\” were all from Lucy, but the book was not only co-editored by Lucy and Fuller Maitland, but they shared the burden of producing arrangements for the songs contained in it. Very few of these songs were collected by either of the editors – the majority were gleaned from previous existing works, or were submitted to the editors for possible use in the collection.

    The 1908 publication \”English Traditional Songs and Carols\” was comprised almost entirely of songs collected by Lucy, and a substantial number of these were gleaned from one source – Henry Burstow of Horsham, Sussex (bellringer, cobbler and a singer with a prodigious memory). As pointed out, all the arrangements in this book were produced by Lucy.

    The article makes little allusion to Lucy\’s other musical work – she was a composer (a number of her settings of poems were performed on the concert stage, both by herself and others such as the well-known baritone Harry Plunket Greene); an arranger; carried out work in the early music field (eg arrangements of pieces by Purcell for the Purcell Society of which she was a member); translated Bach cantatas; was a poet (several poems and limericks having been printed in the national press), and an amateur artist.

    Her work for the Folk Song Society (she was a founding member, and a member of the committee from the inauguration of the Society in 1898) took up a very great deal of her life. Together with Vaughan Williams, and Cecil Sharp she was responsible for reviving a virtually moribund Society in 1904. Her editorship of the Journal was recognised as being scholarly, and some of the published songs included her own (one whole edition of the Journal being given over to her songs from Sussex and elsewhere). She was a source of advice for most of the main named folksong collectors including Grainger, Holst and Vaughan Williams, and encouraged Grainger in his pioneer work as a collector using the phonograph.

    Her editorship of the Journal lasted from 1904 to 1926, with a gap of a few years from 1909 – 1914, when she resumed the post following Frederick Keel\’s internment in a German prisoner of war camp. Following her resignation from the post after such a lengthy period she was elected to the post of President of the Society in 1928, shortly before her death the following year.

    She was also a co-founder and organiser, alongside Vaughan Williams, his sister, and Lady Evangeline Farrer, of the Leith Hill Music Festival in 1904. This Festival has continued up until the current day, and was a member of the Music Selection Committee alongside the likes of Vaughan Williams and Malcolm Sargent. She was also much in demand throughout her life as an adjudicator of choral singing at music festivals throughout the country.

    Her influence within both the folksong and classical music circles was substantial, and her importance in these areas was, of course, great.

  2. Susan Lee says:

    It is fascinating to read this information about Lucy Broadwood. I have lived in Lyne House – which is her former home – for the last 25 years and have some knowledge of the Broadwood family. It is interesting to learn more about the characters who once lived within these walls, the lives they led & their places in society.

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