Thomas Hayward – Adderbury musician and composer

Thomas Hayward, born in 1781 and a basketmaker by trade, came from a musical family. He himself was a member of and trained the Adderbury church choir in the late 1830s and 1840s. This was a time when country choirs provided the main musical interest in Church of England services, singing a mixture of metrical psalms (the precursors of our modern “hymns”), anthems and other pieces, all delivered in what to our ears would sound like a very “folksy” style. Academics call this sort of church music “country psalmody”, while others refer to it as “West Gallery music” to reflect the fact that many choirs, as at Adderbury, sang from a gallery built at the west end of the church. When the choir started singing, the rest of the congregation would need to turn round to “face the music”.

Most of this music is forgotten today, but one West Gallery tune at least has come down to us. This is “On Ilkla Moor baht ’at”! The words were those of the carol “While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night” and the vigorous singing style we usually use for the modern words, and the ways in which the different parts overlap and echo each other would have been just what you would have heard in Thomas Hayward’s day.

In the early nineteenth century the church choir was made up of mixed voices, men, women and boys, supported by a small village orchestra – Violins, Bass Viol, Flutes, Clarinet and ‘The Old Sarpint’ (serpent), which took the bass part. The instrumentalists often sat in with the singers, helping them find and keep the note.

Thomas Hayward was unusual in that, as well leading the singers and instrumentalists, he also composed works, both for his choir and the village waits. We know about him because of Janet Blunt (1859-1950), who lived at Le Halle Place in West Adderbury and who collected folk songs from village singers as well as Morris dance tunes and routines. One of Miss Blunt’s main informants was William “Binx” Walton (1836-1919). Walton had joined the village choir in 1846 at the age of 10 as a boy treble under Thomas Hayward, and, as his voice matured, learned the tenor and bass parts as well and so was able to give her a complete account of what was sung. Walton told Miss Blunt that Thomas Haywood had been landlord of the Coach and Horses, but from the licensing records, this seems not to have been true, although he may well have helped the widowed Kezia Hayward to run the pub from 1835 onwards.

Thomas Hayward certainly wrote the music to the carol known as “Adderbury Church” with words by Charles Wesley. William Walton thought he had also composed the carol, “As Shepherds Watched their Fleecy Care” and “The Old, Hark! Hark!”, as it was known locally from the first line, “Hark! Hark What news the angels bring!”. Miss Blunt’s notebooks, including her version of Hayward’s “Adderbury Church”, are now held by the English Folk Song and Dance Society and can be seen on their website. Oxford choirleader Dave Townsend has recently published a collection of Oxfordshire Carols, which includes a modern performing version of “Adderbury Church” (Serpent Press, 2013).

Phil Mansell, 2014

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