Janet Heatley Blunt
28th April 1859 - 4th August 1950
Janet Heatley Blunt was born in India on 28th April 1859, the daughter of Charles Harris Blunt (1824-1900), a Major General in the Royal Bengal Artillery stationed at Umballa, a military station in the Punjab. After the death of Janet's mother, Mary, in 1892, Charles retired from active service and brought his family back to England, becoming a lessee of Halle Place in West Adderbury, Oxfordshire. After he died, Janet, a spinster, became a benevolent 'lady of the manor', becoming very involved in running the estate and, through her contacts with the tenants and villagers, the music and dances of the village, particularly the songs, morris dances and religious music she collected between 1907 and 1931.
Initially interested because they were like the songs her father had known as a boy in Hampshire, Janet was further inspired by the work of Cecil Sharp and other collectors associated with the Folk-Song Society and English Folk Dance Society. She was also concerned that the old songs were dying out and she spent many hours with local singers, writing down the words and music she found, sometimes inviting singers into her home so she could use the piano to help her notate the tunes accurately. One of her most important informants was a stonemason, shopkeeper and pub landlord, William 'Binx' Walton, who gave her both songs and also the dancing traditions of Adderbury Morris, of which he was the leader. These are significant in that the dances incorporated songs. She also had a keen interest in Basque music and dance.
Although Janet Blunt did not collect a huge amount of material (and the size of her collection is misleading in that a number of her notebooks are duplicates, all slightly different), her collection is particularly interesting to researchers because most of her singers lived within a few miles of each other. She noted down around 125 songs from forty-six singers, mainly from or around Adderbury, while friends and fellow collectors sent her an additional 80. She contributed at least 14 songs to the journals of the Folk-Song Society.
Janet Blunt died on 4th August, 1950.
There are twenty items in the Blunt collection, three of which have duplicates. It is worth looking at the duplicates, particularly the two of volume 17 where there is additional material.
- Pickering, Michael, 'Janet Blunt - Folk Song Collector and Lady of the Manor' in Folk Music Journal, 3 (1976), 114-149 (songs from Blunt manuscript 150-157)
- Pickering, Michael, Village Song and Culture: a study based on the Blunt collection of song from Adderbury North Oxfordshire (London: Croom Helm, 1982)