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Other Norfolk dulcimer players



Mr Balls - East Harling


‘Mr Balls gave some excellent dulcimer solos and accompanied the songs’ after the eighth annual police dinner held in the Court Room in East Harling, reported in the Bury & Norwich Post (20.2.1900). The exact same words were used in a report of the same function a year later, this time in the Diss Express (8.2.1901)



Jimmy Barton - Norwich


Frank Read remembered Jimmy Barton from the 1930s, when he was probably in his seventies. He lived near the old Bullard’s Brewery in Norwich, near the river and had a leather case with two straps that went over his shoulders, so he carried it upside-down on his back. He wore a trilby hat, and travelled by bus with the dulcimer, and Frank remembers him trudging through the snow with it on his back. He was a ‘speedy player’ and could play for hours, all by ear, songs like ‘Nelly Dear’.


John Blake - Norwich


In January 1823, the effects of Mr John Blake, manufacturer of bombazine (a textile) were advertised as being for sale at Lovick’s auction rooms, St Andrew’s, Norwich. The items included a barometer, a silver watch and a dulcimer, as well as looms and other weaving equipment, so Mr Blake was evidently a man of some wealth. Whether he had died or gone bankrupt is not clear, and genealogical records have not yet been of any help. (Norfolk Chronicle, 25.1.1823)


Mr Clark - Dickleburgh


Singer and melodeon player Ray Hubbard recalled as a child, hearing a Mr Clark playing the dulcimer in the Crown in Dickleburgh, as he sat with his mother in the lean-to at the back of the pub- this would be around 1937-45.



Billy Colk - Little Plumstead /Norwich


Some years ago we heard from Linda Preece, who had written about Joseph Lloyd Royal, a woodcarver born in 1913 in Little Plumstead, a few miles east of Norwich. Joe had mentioned a relative called Billy Colk who ‘had returned from the war severely injured [and] was left blind with badly impaired hearing … yet amazingly was still able to travel to different venues where he played the dulcimer, carried from place to place strapped to his back.’ Apparently he could still ‘hear’ the vibrations of the dulcimer. He is said to have lived in St Dunstan’s Home for the Blind. St Dunstan’s functioned mainly as a training centre and was established in the First World War when many soldiers were were blinded by mustard gas.

Despite extensive research, we cannot positively identify which of several William Colks this might be. He was said to be a cousin of Joe’s, and indeed there were two first cousins called William, but neither seem to fit the facts available, and nor do any of the other William/Billy Colks we have found. Perhaps the most likely candidate is actually one of his uncles, born in the 1870s, who, according to records, may have fought in World War One. But this man went on to become a scrap dealer and have a family, which does not seem to be part of the family’s information. It seems likely Billy Colk the dulcimer player lived in Norwich, but that is as much as we can state at the moment.



Harry Dearing (1880 - 1936) - Norwich


In 2005, Ronnie Dearing brought his grandfather’s dulcimer along to show us at a dulcimer exhibition we held in Norwich. His grandfather was Harry Dearing from Norwich who worked in a paper mill in 1901 and as an electric battery attendant at the Electric Works in 1911. Harry’s father, William (b. 1844) worked in a variety of jobs, including a spell as an organ-grinder, so there was already music in the family. Ronnie himself is a musician, but although he inherited his grandfather’s dulcimer, unfortunately never heard him play it.



Gerald Dove - Northall Green


We visited Gerald Dove in 2005, at his home in Northall Green, near East Dereham after he had contacted us to say he had a dulcimer. It was a large, plain and very heavy dulcimer. Mr Dove, who was probably in his seventies then, didn’t have a lot to tell us about the dulcimer. He had known Walter Deacon from Broom Green and had met Billy Bennington. His yard was full of a collection of bygones, and we had the impression the dulcimer was just one among many passing interests in his life!



Elijah & Cecil Ely - Wymondham


See Makers page via above link.



George Emery (1910-1981) - East Runton


In Russell Wortley’s archive is some correspondence with a Mr George Emery, dated 1977. He lived in East Runton, just outside Cromer on the north Norfolk coast. He and his father were both carpenters, and his uncle had brought a dulcimer for them to repair, around 1922. When his uncle came to pick it up, he told George he could have it if he could play it. George used to play by ear, with a friend who played the banjo, but courting and marriage (in 1934) took over and it went into the loft until he saw a magazine article by Russell Wortley.



Sam Galey (1881-1941) or Sam Galey (1862-1912) - Norwich


Sam Galey’s name was on the list that Billy Bennington made of all the dulcimer players he could remember.

There turned out to have been several generations of the Galey family in Norwich called Sam, so it’s hard to be sure which one Billy might have meant.

They were a musical family – an earlier Samuel (1840-1896) was a drummer with the West Norfolk Militia from an early age, who ran the White Lion pub in St Martin-at-Oak for a while and then had a paid position in the 1st Norfolk Regiment. The next Samuel Galey (1862-1912), who had a complicated personal life, was also a professional musician and publican – at the Beehive in St Benedict’s. However as Billy Bennington was born in 1900, it’s not very likely that he would have met that Samuel Galey. The next one, (1881-1941) also entered the army (he was a sergeant in 1911) and in 1939 he was recorded as working as an insurance agent, so there is no proof he was a musician.


Mr Garnham - Garboldisham


‘Mr Garnham played the dulcimer with very good effect’ at a Fathers’ meeting in the Reading Room in Garboldisham. (Diss Express, 25.11.1898)



Lucy Ann Grimes (1858-1941)  & Cyril Loynes (1920-1984) - Cley-next-the-Sea /East Dereham /Wymondham


In 2005, we were put in touch with the daughter of Cyril Loynes who had a dulcimer which her father had inherited from his grandmother, Mrs Grimes, from Cley-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast.

Cyril’s daughter remembered him playing the dulcimer in the early 1950s when she was a little girl, but not after that.

Cyril’s grandmother was Lucy Ann Grimes, who bore nineteen children, eleven of whom survived to adulthood, so it’s hard to imagine how she would have had time to play the dulcimer, or indeed where she would even have kept one in the small cottage where the family lived, in a yard off the High Street in Cley.



Mr Holmes (1867-1933) - Thetford


‘Mr. Holmes from Thetford’ is mentioned in Norfolk newspapers in 1912 and 1913, playing for two private entertainments held at a large farmhouse in Barnham, one a Quoits Supper and one a Harvest Horkey. The most likely contender is Horace Holmes (1867-1933) a gardener who worked on big estates on the Barnham side of Thetford.



George Kemp (1846-1884) - Great Yarmouth


‘George Kemp, an apprentice to Samuel Roberts, master block maker [mast and block maker - sic], was charged with absenting himself for three days from his work, without just cause. – Defendant said he had been unwell, but admitted that he had played on the dulcimer for 2s. or 3s. each night. – Having been previously convicted, he was sentenced to twenty-one days’ hard labour.’ (Norfolk Chronicle, 11.9.1865)

This was George Cotton Kemp, who must have completed his apprenticeship, as in the 1881 census he appears as a block maker. The monetary attraction of playing the dulcimer – presumably in pubs – is clear from the amount he could make per evening.



James Mann (1808-) - Norwich

Norfolk researcher Alan Helsdon kindly passed on to us a reference to a James Mann, whose occupation in the 1851 census was given as “musician, dulcimer”. In the 1841 census he was listed as a musician, unspecified, but it’s clear from these two entries that he was a professional musician, whether that was on the streets as a busker or perhaps in a more stable position with regular employment. He lived in the Coslany area of Norwich, which was an area where many musicians and artisan workers lived. Nothing more about Mann can be positively identified, except that in both the 1841 and 1851 censuses he was described as married, but was living as a “lodger” with Ann Reeve, so had presumably separated from his wife.



Maisie Martin (1913-2010) - Brockdish

Mrs Maisie Martin contacted us a couple of times, and David Kettlewell had met her in the 1970s and photographed her dulcimer for hits book “All the Tunes that Ever there Were”. Maisie (née Ellis) was brought up in Brockdish near Diss, and ‘one or two families there had a dulcimer, a Mr Hines who lived in Common Lane, made dulcimers in the early 1920s.’ In the 1930s, she and her husband Fred moved to Downham Market near King’s Lynn. In the 1960s she had bought a dulcimer for 7s 6d at Hawkins’ sale in Downham Market, but she says she never played it seriously – ‘I did not have the cane and wool hammers, but small wood ones, which are really too heavy.’


Charles Matthews (1894-1960) - Pulham St Mary & Poringland

A chance find on a blog in 2020. Joe Mason wrote: ‘My next door neighbour at Poringland, Mrs Matthews, told me that her husband (a builder by trade who died in the early 1960s) had been a competent player of the hammered dulcimer. Although I remember the man unfortunately I never heard him play.’

The next door neighbour was Charles Matthews who worked as a bricklayer throughout his life and served in the Royal Artillery in the First World War.



Alfred Quantrell (1875-1962) - Norwich

The Norfolk Music History group, Rig-a-Jig, were given a dulcimer in 2015 by a descendant of a man known to have played it, Alfred George Quantrell from Norwich. Alfred started out as a blacksmith, then worked as a whitesmith and spent most of his working life making knives for the Norwich boot and shoe industry. After marrying on 1st January 1900, he and his wife lived in Alma Terrace, in Norwich, where they remained for the rest of their lives. Nothing is known of Alfred’s musical life, and whether he played the dulcimer for domestic entertainment or in public.


Albert Sadler - Northall Green & East Dereham


In 2010 we were emailed some photos of a dulcimer which had been owned by one Albert Sadler, from East Dereham, by his great nephew, Colin Durrant from Hemel Hempstead. There has been some puzzling over the family relationships and dates, but we now think this was probably Albert William Sadler (1894-1981), born in Dereham, who moved to London as a young adult and died in Barnet. Among the few certainties were that his parents lived at 6 Crown Road in Dereham and Albert worked in the brewing industry, and indeed there was an Albert Sadler (1871-1956) resident there from 1911 to at least 1939 who was a maltster, so we believe it’s his son (who seems to have been brought up by his grandparents) who passed the dulcimer on to our informant’s father. We still need to try and confirm this.



William Sampson - Norwich

David Kettlewell noted that there was a dulcimer which had belonged to William Sampson in the Stranger’s Hall Museum in Norwich, and the case was lined with wallpaper. When we went to look at the Norfolk Museums’ Services dulcimers in 2005, there was nothing to identify the previous owners of the instruments, although we saw one in storage at Stranger’s Hall, without a case, which might be this.

Yet again we have multiple generations of the same family with the same name! William Thomas Davey Sampson (1) (1828-1906), Thorpe Hamlet, bricklayer; William Davey Sampson (2) (1861-1954), Thorpe Hamlet, sub postmaster; William Davey Sampson (3) (1902-1975), Thorpe Hamlet, electrical engineer, moved to Oulton Broad in later life.

The dulcimer is likely to have been donated after William Davey Sampson (3) died, but we have no way of knowing if any of the other generations had played it previously. Maybe a relative will read this and know more.



Mr F. Tofts - Kenninghall

At a Wesleyan Chapel social gathering held in early January 1894, Mr. F. Tofts played a dulcimer solo and sang the comic song ‘Father of a Family’ (Diss Express, 5.1.1894)



'Chucky' Whall  - Norwich


A dulcimer player known as ‘Chucky’ Whall busked in Norwich in the 1920s, setting the dulcimer up on a stand outside Knights the bakers on Waterloo Road and then collecting around the shops. He played with two sticks, wrapped in velvet, in each hand.

Our informant told us that ‘Chucky’ had a son known as ‘Chucky’ Robinson who was a champion lightweight boxer, who had said that his father had played at the Royal Albert Hall. There was another son known as ‘Bubbles’ Whall, also a boxer who later became a landlord in Norwich.

It is the boxer ‘Chucky’ Robinson who has provided the clue to a provisional identification of this dulcimer player, thanks to the fact that his boxing history is documented through the newspapers of the 1930s and 40s. So we presently think that ‘Chucky’ Whall was Herbert Walter (aka Wallis) Whall, born 1896, who was the boxer’s stepfather. However, not everything in this jigsaw fits well together, so it’s still not entirely a positive identification.







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