Sunday, 27 December 2020

Some Nineteenth Century Choristers' Lives

Since April 2020, I have been running a project involving the transcription of nineteenth-century music lists from Lichfield Cathedral at www.cathedralmusic.org.uk. There is a small band of dedicated individuals who have been transcribing thousands of records over the past eight months, but one person has created their own piece of mini-research from the records.

The music lists (or weekly tables as they were called) had to be copied out manually, and going through the sheets, there are some which have obviously been copied out by the boy choristers who then appended their name to the bottom of the page. Whether the copying was part of their handwriting practice, or (as my fairly groundless suspicion is) a punishment, is unclear, but their work provides an additional historical record.

While he was transcribing the records, James Giddings collected the choristers' names from the tables which they had signed from 1852 to 1866, and using publicly available records (such as census returns, probate grants etc.), he started exploring how being a chorister may have affected their lives. He very kindly forwarded the information to me, and it is presented in its entirety below.

From a list of 26 choristers, twelve went on to have careers in the church, ten of those in church music; most of the others had careers involving written work.

  • John Hemsley (b. 1838, d. 1893)
    occupation as adult: Vicar Choral (Dublin)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Plumber
  • William Harrison (b. 1840, d. 1889)
    occupation as adult: Organist St James', Edinburgh; Teacher of Music
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Vicar Choral at Lichfield (John Harrison (senior) died in 1848)
  • John Harrison (b. 1842, d. 1904)
    occupation as adult: Bank Manager
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Vicar Choral at Lichfield (John Harrison (senior) died in 1848)
  • John Thomas Parker (b. 1842, d. 1886)
    occupation as adult: Organist and Schoolmaster; died in Jersey City, USA, fleeing debt
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Schoolmaster
  • Henry Hill Stone (b. 1842, d. 1923)
    occupation as adult: Sales Agent (Electric Lighting)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Laundress
  • James Newman Hemsley (b. 1844, d. 1887)
    occupation as adult: Vicar Choral (Wells); Teacher of Music
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Plumber
  • Charles Bonell (b. 1845, d. 1915)
    occupation as adult: Lay Clerk (Christ Church, Oxford)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Carpenter
  • James Cooksey Culwick (b. 1845, d. 1907)
    occupation as adult: Organist (Chapel Royal, Dublin); Teacher of Music
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Vicar Choral at Lichfield
  • George Thomas Hemsley (b. 1847, d. unknown)
    occupation as adult: Lay Vicar (Lincoln); Teacher of Music
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Plumber
  • Charles Robinson Austin (b. 1849, d. 1897)
    occupation as adult: Second Mate, Merchant Navy; emigrated to New South Wales
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Court Clerk
  • William Austin (b. 1849, d. 1891)
    occupation as adult: Customs Clerk (London)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Court Clerk
  • Matthew Francis Harrison (b. 1849, d. 1895)
    occupation as adult: Brewer's Clerk
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Laundress (wife of John Harrison (senior))
  • Charles Moray Stewart Patterson (b. 1850, d. 1930)
    occupation as adult: Vicar of Chebsey
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Priest Vicar at Lichfield Cathedral
  • Arthur Austin (b. 1851, d. unknown)
    occupation as adult: emigrated to New South Wales
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Court Clerk
  • William Bannister (b. 1851, d. 1910)
    occupation as adult: Picture frame maker, and sang in choir of St Mary's, Lichfield
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Ornamental wood carver and Turner
  • John H Lloyd (b. 1852, d. unknown)
    occupation as adult: Organist (St Nicholas, Newton-Abbot)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Laundress
  • Julian Edward Chichester Patterson (b. 1852, d. 1939)
    occupation as adult: Rector (Hittisleigh (Devon), Brockenhurst &co.)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Priest Vicar at Lichfield Cathedral
  • Henry R Windsor (b. 1852, d. 1924)
    occupation as adult: Greengrocer (Proprietor)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Agricultural Labourer
  • Walter Wood (b. 1852, d. 1923)
    occupation as adult: Clerk, Commercial Traveller, Brickworks Manager
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Plumber and Painter
  • Thomas W Gilbert (b. 1853, d. 1920)
    occupation as adult: Commercial Clerk
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Victualler
  • Arthur B Plant (b. 1853, d. 1914)
    occupation as adult: Organist, Composer, Teacher. Mus.D (Oxon)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Tailor
  • George William Welch (his elder brother Henry sang in choir of St Mary's, Lichfield, for a "probably unparalleled" 55 years) (b. 1853, d. 1906)
    occupation as adult: Cathedral Clerk (Durham), with a note that he was "the Cathedral's principal Tenor for 25 years"
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Cheese Factor
  • Arthur Derry (b. 1854, d. 1870) was chorister by age 6, but died of tuberculosis at 15
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Brewery Engineman
  • Henry Grundy (b. 1854, d. 1937)
    occupation as adult: Butler
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Gentleman's Gardener
  • Charles Owen (b. 1854, d. 1944)
    occupation as adult: Architect
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Coach Painter/Milliner
  • James Grundy (b. 1859, d. 1914)
    occupation as adult: Postman (who, according to the Lichfield Mercury, walked 176, 245 miles in his 33 year career)
    parent's (principal wage-earner's) occupation: Gentleman's Gardener

Using the census records and the dates of the signed weekly tables, James put together an incomplete list of when the individuals were choristers. The years appended to their names indicate the times at which they were a chorister; the individual dates in brackets indicate the date of a signed music list within an academic year.

  • John Hemsley: 1851
  • William Harrison: 1851
  • John Harrison: 1859 (13 Aug 1859)
  • John Thomas Parker: 1853 (14 May 1853)
  • Henry Hill Stone: 1852-1857 (7 Aug 1852; 25 Dec 1852; 7 Feb 1857)
  • James Newman Hemsley: 1853-1862 (16 Jul 1853; 19 Nov 1853; 27 Apr 1860; 6 Oct 1860; 5 Jul 1862)
  • Charles Bonell: 1853-1859 (13 Aug 1853; 26 Aug 1854; 27 Aug 1859; 5 Nov 1859)
  • James Cooksey Culwick: 1857-1860 (31 Jan 1857; 20 Aug 1859; 30 Jun 1860)
  • George Thomas Hemsley: 1861 (15 Jun 1861)
  • Charles Robinson Austin: 1861-1864 (16 Mar 1861; 21 Dec 1861; 9 Jan 1864)
  • William Austin: 1860-1861 (14 Jun 1860; 6 July 1861)
  • Matthew Francis Harrison: 1863 (16 May 1863)
  • Charles Moray Stewart Patterson: 1860-1862 (18 Feb 1860; 31 Aug 1861; 19 Apr 1862)
  • Arthur Austin: 1862 (11 Oct 1862)
  • William Bannister: 1863-1866 (28 Nov 1863; 5 May 1866)
  • John H Lloyd: 1864 (27 Aug 1864)
  • Julian Edward Chichester Patterson: 1860-1865 (12 May 1860; 15 Feb 1862; 24 Jun 1865)
  • Henry R Windsor: 1862-1864 (25 Oct 1862; 16 Jul 1864)
  • Walter Wood: 1861-1865 (18 Oct 1862; 8 Jul 1865)
  • Thomas W Gilbert: 1863-1866 (18 Jul 1863; 19 Aug 1865; 23 Jun 1866)
  • Arthur B Plant: 1863-1865 (11 Jul 1863; 25 Mar 1865)
  • George William Welch: 1863-1865 (12 Dec 1863; 29 Jan 1866)
  • Arthur Derry: 1861-1866 (22 Nov 1862; 6 Oct 1866)
  • Henry Grundy: 1862-1866 (1 Nov 1862; 17 Oct 1863; 19 Nov 1864; 8 Sep 1866)
  • Charles Owen: 1863-1864 (19 Dec 1863; 1 Oct 1864)
  • James Grundy: 1866 (24 Nov 1866)

Where the census records have been used, the occupation of choristers was sometimes stated explicitly on the returns, but more commonly they were simply listed, like other children, as "scholar".

When I am around the Cathedral or working on the choir's archives, I am reminded of the part I play in a long tradition of cathedral music, and details such as these give the history a technicolour glow: many thanks to James for having shared his findings.

If you have any further questions about the sources used for this research, or want to explore details in greater depth, James is happy to be contacted by e-mail.

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