June 2020


This is the fourth in a short series of posts on my research into John Balshaw’s Jig. It’s a short ‘musical comedy’ written by a man in Brindle, Lancashire, in the mid-seventeenth century.  I found the manuscript in the British Library a couple of years ago, and transcribed it, and I’ve already written a blog post about that.  It wasn’t taken up by the journal I sent it to, but in some respects I’m quite glad, as it’s given me the chance to expand the project a little further.  I’m now hoping that it’s going to be published next year by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University

The Centre of Brindle (C) Jenni Hyde

One of the things I’ve had to do in the last few weeks is to brush up my paleaography. A lot of the sources I use for my ballad research are printed. Not all of them, of course, because one of the things that I make a point of doing is working with ballads in manuscript, but as a rule, much of the ballad material has been printed, one way or another.

I transcribed the Jig itself quite a while ago. It might even be two years now. So what I’ve been doing lately is transcribe some of the documents that I found, mainly on Ancestry, that I think give it some context. There is a really useful will, and there are a couple of petitions to the local quarter sessions.

Most of it has been fairly straightforward, although because these weren’t formats with which I was all that familiar, I had to ask for a bit of help. In a couple of cases, I asked my fiend, but one word stumped him too. It probably didn’t matter all that much, but being a completist, I still wanted to know what it was.

Coming across a thread on Twitter about wills, I posted an image of the word and asked for some help. #twitterstorians to the rescue! Within minutes, I had the answer. So while I had people’s attention, I asked about a bit I couldn’t read on one of the petitions – again, I’d got most of it, but I couldn’t make out a couple of words and this time it really did matterr, as it was the JP’s ruling. Again, within a few minutes, Twitter had solved my problem. So now, finally, I think I have an idea what happened to John Balshaw, even if I can’t be entirely sure I know who he was!

This is the third in a short series of posts on my research into John Balshaw’s Jig. It’s a short ‘musical comedy’ written by a man in Brindle, Lancashire, in the mid-seventeenth century.  I found the manuscript in the British Library a couple of years ago, and transcribed it, and I’ve already written a blog post about that.  It wasn’t taken up by the journal I sent it to, but in some respects I’m quite glad, as it’s given me the chance to expand the project a little further.  I’m now hoping that it’s going to be published next year by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University

The centre of Brindle (c) Jenni Hyde

Reading, reading, reading… what a lot of reading I’ve been doing. I started by reading Steven Bull’s The Civil War in Lancashire, so that I had a decent feel for what was happening where and when. The local history society in Brindle were kind enough to send me a copy of Ralph and Wal McMullen’s Brindle in the Civil War, so I read that too. I’ve also been working my way through several PhD theses on aspects of life in Lancashire during the civil war…

It’s been interesting to put national events in a local perspective. Although I did the Stuarts for A level, a very long time ago now, and I’ve taught the early modern period and the civil war specifically, up to now I’ve never had a particularly good handle on what was going on at a local level (anywhere) and how it related to the course of the wars as a whole. I’ve heard Peter Gaunt talk about Chester in the civil war. I’ve spoken on the radio about the Bolton Massacre. Or at least I think I have, as to be honest I’ve never been able to bring myself to listen to what was broadcast! I’ve even agreed to give a talk about ballads at the National Civil War Centre in Newark. But the reality of what it was like to live through the civil war has rather bypassed me.

On the other hand, I now probably know more than anyone needs to. I certainly know more that I need to for the purposes of writing about John Balshaw. I’ve written more as notes than I have in the entire commentary on the jig! But it’s been a worthwhile experience, and it allows me to place some of the primary evidence that I’ve found in a better context.

This is the second in a short series of posts on my research into John Balshaw’s Jig. It’s a short ‘musical comedy’ written by a man in Brindle, Lancashire, in the mid-seventeenth century.  I found the manuscript in the British Library a couple of years ago, and transcribed it, and I’ve already written a blog post about that.  It wasn’t taken up by the journal I sent it to, but in some respects I’m quite glad, as it’s given me the chance to expand the project a little further.  I’m now hoping that it’s going to be published next year by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University

The Centre of Brindle Village (c) Jenni Hyde

Last week, I wrote about the difficulties of establishing which John Balshaw is which.  In the end, I started giving them letters after their names (A), (B) etc, so that I could differentiate them from each other.  I used letters rather than numbers to avoid suggesting familial relationships where none could be proven, but it also meant that when I did manage to establish that two were father and son, I could call them A1 and A2!

But there are other problems too, brought on by the peculiar circumstances of trying to carry out research during the coronavirus pandemic. It would really help if I could look at the Hearth Tax Returns, but unfortunately, the Lancashire Archives are currently closed (and will be for the foreseeable future), while the Centre for Hearth Tax Research based at Roehampton, which aims to publish all the Hearth Tax Returns online, hasn’t reached Lancashire yet….  There are several other documents in Lancashire Archives that I’d like to be able to view but I can’t.  Some of the probate records, for example, are available online via Ancestry (albeit at a price), but others aren’t, and I haven’t quite worked out why… This presents a bit of a problem, and one that it’s rather difficult to resolve.  I guess I’ve just got to keep my fingers crossed that the archives will reopen soon, or at least that the archivists will be back at work and I can order digital copies of the records I need.

The Centre of Brindle village (c) Jenni Hyde

This is the first in a short series of posts on my research into John Balshaw’s Jig. It’s a short ‘musical comedy’ written by a man in Brindle, Lancashire, in the mid-seventeenth century.  I found the manuscript in the British Library a couple of years ago, and transcribed it, and I’ve already written a blog post about that.  It wasn’t taken up by the journal I sent it to, but in some respects I’m quite glad, as it’s given me the chance to expand the project a little further.  I’m now hoping that it’s going to be published next year by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University. 

Because I’m pulling out all the stops to have the text with them by July, I’m currently up to my eyeballs in John Balshaws… You wouldn’t believe how many people with the same name there could be in one small place.  Of course, this being the seventeenth century, the records aren’t complete either, so it’s extremely difficult to make sure that baptism, marriage and burial records relate to the same person.  Ancestry has been invaluable, as has the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project, but my head is still spinning.  There are a few Balshaws in Pleasington, Blackburn; more in Brindle itself; others are in Walton Le Dale (which was part of Blackburn parish); some in Leyland, Preston, Cockerham and Ormskirk.  Moreover, they move between some of these places – one Balshaw, whose children were baptised in Brindle, buried two of them in Walton Le Dale.  Or was it Leyland?  I forget…. 

I’ve been quite interested in family history for a long time.  After I handed in my PhD thesis, while I was waiting for my viva, I did quite a bit of work on my own family tree. But working from a known fact, for which you have a record, is rather more straightforward.  In the case of John Balshaw, all I knew was that he was resident in Brindle at the point the jig was written, and I don’t even know for certain when that was.

As of this morning, I’m fairly confident I’ve managed to pin down my John Balshaw, and I’ve got what I think is a plausible life story, although I have to admit that I haven’t found a marriage record that looks like it could be him.  I’d be happier if I did, so I’ll keep looking this week. The problem is that the records are particularly bad for the civil war years – in some places, apparently, they were destroyed at the end of the Interregnum, and they simply can’t be full for the period 1640 – 1660 because there are children I know exist but don’t ever seem to have been baptised!

It’s turning into a very complicated jigsaw puzzle, and I really need to find a better way of keeping my records on each individual person so that they make more sense and I can see the links (or lack of them) more easily.  It’s left me wondering what genealogists do…