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Stanley Shemming (1887-1962)




















A Mr. S. Shemming(s) in Ipswich was mentioned several times in Russell Wortley’s correspondence about dulcimers. Peter Havard, a local teacher who was interested in the construction of dulcimers, knew Mr Shemming and was trying to arrange a meeting with Russell Wortley, but unfortunately Mr Shemming fell ill and died before this could happen.

The player was Stanley Shemming, born in December 1887. His family had moved to Ipswich in the mid 1880s to a close-knit community called The Grove, where housing had been built for workers at a large brick-making firm. Although not far out of the town centre, the area was quite insular, as it was largely cut off by a short railway line which had been built to transport the bricks. Stanley himself did not initially go into the brickworks, by the age of thirteen he was working on a local farm and by 1911 he had already signed up to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Collectors Des and Shelagh Herring had come across him and wrote to Russell Wortley in April 1962: ‘The man who still makes dulcimers is Mr S. Shemmings [sic] of 10, Grove Cottages, Henley Road, Ipswich … he is retired and will be only too glad to talk and play to you, he’ll probably try to sell you one! (ex army bandsman).’ In army records, he is listed as a rifleman, not a musician. Stanley’s regiment were in northern France from August 1914 and he was captured at Ypres on 2nd November and subsequently spent much time as a prisoner-of-war. He was demobilised in January 1919. His younger brother Bertram who was killed in action in 1915. After the War, Stanley also went into the brick-making trade and continued to live at 10, Grove Cottages until his death.

Although the Herrings seemed pretty firmly convinced that Stanley Shemming made dulcimers, and they later talked about ‘Ipswich-made’ dulcimers, Peter Havard described Stanley’s own instrument as ‘a Dallas instrument made in London we believe, about 50 years ago’ (i.e. about 1910).

Peter Havard had a tuning diagram which had been Stanley’s father’s method (Samuel Shemming) who was born in Hoxne in north Suffolk in 1859 and moved to Ipswich shortly before Stanley’s birth in 1887.

Stanley Shemming died in October 1962.



Photo descriptions & sources

The above photo, signed Stanley and sent to a member of the Shemming family on 27th January 1914 is believed to be “our” Stanley Shemming (photo courtesy of Christine Shackell).



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