Janet Heatley BLUNT (1859–1950)
Folk song and morris dance collector
Le Hall Place, Adderbury
Janet Heatley Blunt had been born in India, the daughter of Major General Charles Harris Blunt of the Royal Bengal Artillery, stationed at Umballa in the Punjab. She came to live at Hall Place (later Le Hall Place) with her father in 1896 and resided there for the rest of her life as the Lady of the Manor. Inspired by Cecil Sharp and the English Folk Dance Revival of the early twentieth century, between 1907 and 1931 she collected the local songs and dances from 46 different singers among her tenants and other villagers. One of her most important collaborators was a stonemason and landlord of Wheatsheaf pub, William ‘Binx’ Walton, who gave her the songs and dancing traditions of the old Adderbury Morris of which he had been leader. He and his brother demonstrated the dances on the lawn at Hall Place using the housemaids to make up the dance sets. These were described in great detail by Miss Blunt.
Her collection is unique as the tradition of a single community and also for the record of the tunes which she meticulously noted down and set to music at her piano. She also described the dances in lucid detail. The manuscripts were almost lost when the house was being cleared after her death but were saved from the bonfire by the timely intervention of her housemaid, Winnie Wyatt, who understood their significance. She sent them to the English Folk Dance and Song Society where they are an important part of the collection and have been digitised as one of six chosen collections this year.
Miss Blunt’s detailed manuscripts were vital to the revival of morris dancing in Adderbury in the 1970s brought about by the dedication of Bryan Sheppard, first inspired by Barry Care, and of Tim Radford, and others. The village now has two celebrated morris groups: the Adderbury Village Morris Men follow Janet Blunt’s notes and wear costumes based on photographs of the pre-1914 revival; the Adderbury Morris Men follow the interpretation and costumes of Cecil Sharp. The village hosts the Adderbury Day of Dance each April for groups from all over the world.
The plaque was unveiled at Le Hall Place, Adderbury on Sunday 27 September 2009 by Malcolm Taylor OBE, Library Director of Cecil Sharp House (the headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society). Bryan Sheppard paid tribute to Janet Blunt and recounted the subsequent history of the morris tradition in Adderbury. There was dancing by both morris sets.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
JANET HEATLEY BLUNT
Folk song and morris
People of Adderbury Parish