Archive recording – Charley Williams Charley Williams – Brockweir Wassail
Song Manuscript Copy as Collected and Sing
Contemporary Recording – Puzzlejug Puzzlejug – Brockweir Wassail
Listen to Charley Williams talking about carols and wassails in Brockweir (British Library Sound Archive):
The small village of Brockweir, alongside the River Wye had its own wassail song and custom. The booklet “I remember – Social Life in Gloucestershire Villages 1850-1950” tells us that “wassailing was very popular in Brockweir till 1914”.
A verse of the song was noted by Francis Collinson from Miss Margaret Eyre in St Briavels in 1958. In 1963 Russell Wortley recorded the song from Charley Williams (born 1909) who had learnt the song from his father, and in 1977 the collectors Andrew Taylor and Bob Patten subsequently recorded the wassail song and a number of other local carols from Charley. Charley said that about 60 years previously, (i.e.) about the time of WWI, about ten to twenty wassailers would go out on 5 and the 6 January. They took no instruments, but when he went out singing the local carols with Gilbert and Claude Williams they would take an accordion. Other wassailers were Charley’s father and his brother-in-law Bill Bailey and Alfred Dibden. Charley said that if you went wassailing or carol singing with the older singers you knew that you had to finish any song that you started, but the youngsters preferred to only sing a verse or so. ‘You had to sing it properly at the door’. Colonel Hare who lived at St. Briavels always waited for them on the lawn, for the Wassail, as he always loved to hear it.
Although the custom was a house-to-house wassail, like the custom in the south of the county, there is no evidence of a bowl being taken around with the singers and the song is quite distinct from other Gloucestershire wassail versions.
A recording of Charley singing the song, recorded in 1964, came to light in the village and is included here.
(Notes by Gwilym Davies, drawing mainly on notes by Bob Patten, March 2012)