19th century musicians in East Anglia

Research projects in progress:  19th century musicians in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, including travelling musicians

Working from documentation such as contemporary writing, genealogical sources and newspaper reports, I am piecing together a picture of jobbing musicians around the eastern counties.

Lots of tantalising bits of information and photographs to weave together eventually. Including Adolphus and Harriet Gray from a  gypsy family of musicians (with much information supplied by Keith Chandler) who were renowned fiddlers and also played the harp, which turns out to have been quite a “thing” in Cambridgeshire particularly. As always, I’m fascinated by the social history side as much as the music, and am particularly interested to find evidence of German and Italian musicians living in our area, and of locally born musicians travelling to Ireland and Scotland.

The following news report, from the Cambridge Chronicle on 6th March, 1869, is doubly interesting, as Frederick Ashbolt is a dulcimer player I have researched in much detail (that information will shortly be added to the East Anglian Dulcimers website).

“PUBLIC-HOUSE FIGHT. Samuel Ashley, Huntingdon, appeared to answer a summons by Lewis Berringer, a Prussian accordion player residing at Huntingdon, for committing an assault on him on the 20th Feb. last. This case occurred at a public house known as the Railway Inn, and from a statement made by complainant, it appeared that he was in there playing music, when defendant came in, and commenced abusing him. He went into the yard and defendant followed him, struck him on the forehead with his fist, knocked him down, and kicked him badly when on the ground. Complainant said he could not fight. He (complainant) was sober. – The defendant and a witness named Frederick Ashbolt gave quite a different version of the affair, and from their statements it would seem that an argument arose about performing a horn pipe [sic], as to who could do it best in the company. Complainant got annoyed, and challenged to fight defendant, and pulled off his coat. Said he would make “mince meat” of him. Found defendant to be the best man and gave in. – The Bench, after hearing the case, decided to dismiss it.”

Many other pieces of this particular jigsaw are lying on the table waiting to be put into place … here’s some tiny fragments of  a much bigger picture:

Two musicians arrive in Dover, 12th October 1840.

One of them, Domenico Bancalari, turns up in Norwich a few years later (18 Sept 1847, Norfolk Chronicle), where he then lives for the rest of his life.





The 1861 census shows Domenico Bancalari lodging at the Black Bull, Whittlesea, along with another Italian-born musician and one from Norwich.




… as I said, work in progress!