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Samuel Shemming (1859-1941)



A Mr. S. Shemming(s) was mentioned several times in Russell Wortley’s correspondence about dulcimers and whilst most of it was about Stanley Shemming who lived in Ipswich, there also turned out to be a tuning diagram from Stanley’s father, Samuel.

Samuel was born into a musical family in March 1959 and brought up in Hoxne, on the Suffolk/ Norfolk border. As a young man he moved to Scole where he worked as brickmaker, a trade which then took him to Ipswich in the mid 1880s, and to a close-knit community called The Grove, where housing had been built specifically for his workers by brick-making entrepreneur F. Rosher. 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. Samuel lived in the same house, 10, Grove Cottages, for the rest of the life; his wife Maria died in 1928 and he then lived there with son Stanley and his wife Ella, until his death in 1941.

The brickworks had a popular social club with a works band which played at many local events: it’s quite possible that Samuel was involved in this. He was certainly involved in entertainments locally, as we have unearthed a newspaper report from the Ipswich Journal, 23rd March 1888, detailing the acts at a concert held by the Eastern Counties and Dales Club, which was just round the corner from their home in The Grove, Ipswich. ‘Mr Shimmins’ played a dulcimer solo ‘which was much appreciated’ and merited an encore. He also sang a song called ‘The Harbour Lights’.

There are earlier newspaper references, from the Hoxne area, to Mr. Shemming/ Shimmins /Shimming playing the dulcimer, and one actually gives the initial S., but it remains unclear from the dates whether this was Samuel, possibly his father Samuel, or someone else from the wider family. His brother William played the concertina and fiddle and other family members were in the village band in the nineteenth century. Solid facts are hard to come by, but gut instinct says Samuel started playing and performing whilst growing up in Hoxne, and that his father played before him. Maybe we’ll get the incontrovertible proof one day!



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