Cecil Sharp Collection of Folk Song Manuscripts

Scope and Content

Music notebooks comprising hand written manuscripts: Folk Words (19), Folk Tunes (23), Folk Dance Notes (4), indices: Ballads and Songs (2), Carols and Religious Songs (1) and Dances (1)

Administrative / Biographical History

(1859-1924), matriculated at Clare, 1879. Born in November 1859 in Denmark Hill, South London, the son of James Sharp, a Slate Merchant who made money in the massive expansion of Victorian London and retired early rather than pass the business to his sons. Sharp went to Uppingham School (noted for its music) before starting a maths degree at Clare College, Cambridge in 1879. In Oct 1882 he left for Adelaide, Australia where he stayed for nearly ten years, working for five years as Associate to the Chief Justice of South Australia and then as a partner in a private venture, the Adelaide College of Music. There, despite his lack of formal musical training, he taught Singing and Music Theory, using spare time to write compositions of his own and to conduct the Adelaide Philharmonia Society (see Hugh Anderson 'Virtue in a Wilderness' Folk Music Journal 1994).

In 1893 Sharp took a part-time music post at Ludgrove School, a prep school in North London where he had freedom to create concert programmes with new material for choirs. He stayed there till 1910, combining it with several other jobs, notably as Principal of the (private) Hampstead Conservatoire of Music (1896-1905) and as Music Tutor to the Royal Household (1904-7). He had meanwhile married Constance Birch in 1893 and they had 4 children, settling in Hampstead. He joined the Folk Song Society in 1901 and began collecting Folk Songs in 1903. He proceeded to spend the rest of his life collecting with nearly 3,000 songs collected in England and over 1,500 on his four collecting trips to the Appalachian Mountains in USA (1915-18). He died in 1924 and most of his collection was housed and curated in the Cecil Sharp House in London by his daugher Joan. This later became the Vaughan William Memorial Library. See biography by A. H. Fox Strangways and M. Karpeles (rev. ed. 1967).

Acquisition Information

Acc 1987/25: 1/1-51 - Bequest of Cecil Sharp (1879) - presumably received some time after his death in 1924. (See correspondence 1914 and 1920 CCAD/9/1/5/7 formely Safe A: 17/21) and then transferred by outgoing Fellows Librarian in 1987.

Other Finding Aids

See 4 indexes Indexed

Alternative Form Available

Digitised and catalogued online as part of English Folk Song and Dance Society Collections ('The Full English' project) in 2014. The three sections of notebooks were assigned 'CJS2' reference numbers as part of Vaughan Williams Memorial Library catalogue - see https://www.vwml.org/record/CJS2:

-Folk words collected by Cecil Sharp, CJS/2/9

-Folk tunes collected by Cecil Sharp, CJS/2/10

-Folk dance notes by Cecil Sharp, CJS/2/11

Conditions Governing Use

Assigned to Clare College in 2011.

Related Material

See CCHR/2/SHA for biographical details and articles on his life and work; See correspondence about bequest, 1914 and 1920, at CCAD/9/1/5/7 formely Safe A: 17/21


See biography of Sharp by Maud Karpeles - Cecil Sharp and his work (1967); (on biog ref shelf) also "Still Growing" by the English Folk Dance & Song Society (2003); see also CCHR/4/1/1 for article by Ann Keith on Sharp folk song books

'The dance: An historical Survey of Dancing in Europe' by C. J. Sharp