Alfred Williams Heritage Society Centenary Event – May 19th Uffington Memorial Hall

My name is Caroline Ockwell and I am the Secretary of the Alfred Williams Heritage Society. We were formed in Swindon in 2009 to promote the life and works of local author and poet, Alfred Williams (1877 to 1930), known as the Hammerman Poet. In 1913 Alfred Williams (AW) published his book entitled “Villages of the White Horse” where AW describes the villages/hamlets situated in the beautiful Vale of the White Horse and some of the characters living there, producing an excellent account of life in the Vale exactly a century ago.


We are celebrating the book’s centenary by holding an event at the Thomas Hughes Memorial Hall in Uffington on the afternoon of Sunday 19 May 2013 and we should be very grateful if you would be willing to spread the word about the celebrations through your Parish Councils. The celebrations will include short readings about each of the locations mentioned in the book and we would be interested to hear from anyone from any of those places who is willing to deliver the reading for their particular village/hamlet. The places featured in the book are as follows:

Bassett Down, Wroughton, Burderop, Hodson, Chiseldon, Badbury, Liddington Hill, Wanborough, Hinton Parva, Bishopstone, Idstone, Bourton, Aldbourne, Baydon, Ashbury, Kingstone Winslow, Compton Beauchamp, Wayland’s Smithy, Knighton, Woolstone, Uffington, Kingston Lisle and White Horse Hill.

Between each reading our Chairman, John Cullimore, who has lived in Wanborough for the last 20 years, will entertain us with some of the songs he composed for “The Hammerman” musical which we premiered at Swindon’s Steam Museum in 2010. This told the story of AW’s extremely interesting and remarkable life – he was born in South Marston in 1877 and spent most of his working life as a hammerman in the Great Western Railway workshops. In his limited spare time he taught himself French, Greek, Latin and even the ancient Indian Sanskrit language besides writing and publishing various books of poetry and prose.


He also collected the lyrics of around 1,000 local folk songs involving extensive research and cycling more than 7,000 miles to interview – often in their own homes – mostly aged local people who remembered songs that had sometimes been passed down generations. These were incorporated into his book “Folk Songs of the Upper Thames”, published in January 1923, although work on it had begun much earlier – towards the end of 1914. The book includes a number of songs collected from villagers from the Vale of the White Horse and we have been very fortunate in persuading the Bailey Sisters, a well-known traditional folk trio based in North-West England, to take some of those lyrics and arrange suitable tunes for them. The Bailey Sisters will be debuting these songs at the event, adding extra appeal to the folk group sector – AW is actually very well known and respected in folk singing circles for this collection of songs.


With the addition of local home-made cream teas, from Britchcombe Farm, Uffington, being provided in the interval this promises to be a very interesting and entertaining event and we do hope you will be able to publicise it to your local community. For further details please contact me on 01793 820951 or by email at . If you are interested in finding out more about Alfred Williams please visit our website at


Thank you for your support and kind regards


Caroline Ockwell

Secretary – Alfred Williams Heritage Society

Tel. & Fax: 01793 820951

April 30, 2013Permalink Leave a comment

Leave a Reply