Sunday 5 February 2012

Edward Carpenter Memorial Service 1931 - Clarion Choirs

Edward Carpenter Memorial Service 1931

Edward Carpenter
(29 August 1844 – 28 June 1929)

The first annual service Edward Carpenter Memorial Service was held at Millthorpe, Cordwell valley on 29th June 1930, at the rear of the house, speakers included Henry Nevinson, Richard Hawkin who addressed a 'huge crowd' a recital of Carpenters songs was given by the Clarion Vocal Choirs. These services continued until after the Second World War cica 1949.

A Clarion report on the second Edward Carpenter Memorial Service was published in the Clarion. the service being held on Sunday 5th July 1931 at Cordwell valley starting at 2:30pm "wet or fine" singing by massed Clarion choirs under the direction of G.W. Poppleton, Clarion Vocal Union Choir.

Clarion Report of the Edward Carpenter Memorial Service for 1931 states

Even those of us who had never met Edward Carpenter knew that he moved graciously about the crowd on that refreshing and lovely Sunday when the second pilgrimage was made to Millthorpe.

The crowd—a thousand or so—would have delighted Carpenter. There were strong-limbed girls in khaki shorts and open-necked blouses, bareheaded men making the most of the sunshine, and all in happy reverence under the sky.

Great white galleons moved above on that infinite blue sea and the wind spoke in faint music as it swept lightly down the green valley. It was not only a memorial service to a gentle teacher; it was significant of the return to health, to sunshine, and the simple beauty of the earth. We have so often said that the most natural place for worship was under the open sky.

News from Nowhere

Some who knew Carpenter well have said that he would not live except through the influence of those he met, and Mr. E. M. Forster in a discerning and affectionate tribute argues that Carpenter will never attain fame. " All he gave," writes Mr. Forster,

"was the gift of gifts, life itself, the transference of vitality, the sense of peacefulness and power."

That may be so, and it is no small thing. It may be that Carpenter was pleading for an England peopled with harvesters, an England of cornfields and craftsmen, an England that was shattered when the machine began to plough slag heaps over the fair country that once lay over the hills above Millthorpe. And yet as I looked at that cheerful crowd sitting terraced on the green slopes across from Carpenter's house it struck me that Mr. Forster may be mistaken.

I have attended a few meetings in my time, but I have never listened to tributes delivered with such grace and eloquence.

Councillor R. H. Minshall, " Dick " Hawkin, and Mrs. Stanley Jast strengthened my impressions of Edward Carpenter by speeches which without conflicting served to build up an admirable and vivid portrait of their friend. Each stressed Carpenter's human qualities, his love of good wine, home-made cakes and
fun. But it was made eloquently clear that " the Sage of Millthorpe " had powerful claims to a title that would sit uneasily on a man of lesser stature. The occasion was made doubly impressive by the christening of the brook that runs at the bottom of the garden at Millthorpe.

This was the brook on the edge of which Carpenter built his little wooden retreat when Towards Democracy was written. You may remember the poem. Little Brook without a Name:

Little brook without a name, that has been my companion so many years ;

Hardly more than a yard wide, yet scampering down through the fields, so bright, so pure, from the moorland a mile away ;—

The willows hang over thee, and the alders and hazels;and the oak and the ash dip their feet in thy waves ;

And on thy sunny banks in Spring the first primroses peep, and celandines, and the wild hyacinths lavish fragrance

on the breeze—

Little brook, so simple, so unassuming—and yet how many things love thee ! "

There, by the edge of that brook. Carpenter sat for many hours in silent watchfulness. He met the white-throat, the wren, " creeping like mouse from twig to twig," the willow-warbler, the night-jar, and the trout " balancing itself hour-long against the stream." He knew them all, the water-rat, the caddis-fly, the weasel, the squirrel and the may-fly, " practising for the millionth time the miracle of the resurrection." Towards the end of the service, when Mr. George Harrison had recited the poem. Miss Hawkin scattered rose petals on the stream and Mr, Richard Hawkin christened the brook, " Carpenter Brook."

The Best Monument

The service will live on in my memory and I should like to pay my tribute to the organisers and especially to Mr. Sam Harpham, on whom the main responsibility fell. It is hoped to secure Millthorpe as a national memorial, indeed so much of the spirit and memory of Edward Carpenter is sheltered in the Cordwell valley that it would be unthinkable that, now the host has gone, the guests should abandon a place that has been, and still can be, an inspiring and revitalising influence. Obviously the purchase of Millthorpe would be the best monument to Edward Carpenter.

All money sent will be devoted to the purchase of the house and grounds, the upkeep of the property and the preservation of Carpenter's household effects and literary works. Subscriptions of anything from a shilling upwards should be sent to Sam Hapham 20 Derbyshire Lane, Sheffield.


Clarion Fellowship Rally 4th July at Sheffield Clarion Clubhouse (Dore Moor Inn) Mr F. L. Stevens of the Clarion will speak and Mr L. Royle will give a brief outline of of the Edward Carpenter service.

Listen to England Arise


After Carpenter's death, the Edward Carpenter International Memorial Trust was established to raise funds for the purchase of Carpenter's Millthorpe home as a memorial. Due to a shortage of funds the Trust negotiated with the Workers' Travel Association, and a scheme to turn Millthorpe into a 'Socialist Memorial Guest House' was suggested. This, too, fell through, and ultimately the house was sold to a private individual.

Memorial services, however, continued to be held for Carpenter. The first annual service was held at Millthorpe on 29 June 1930, and these services continued until after the Second World War.

The Cordwell Valley was a popular meeting place for all the different Clarion groups.

At the beginning of the 1900’s, a Clarion camp was situated at the side of the Royal Oak pub, across the road from Edward Carpenter's house. This was used by Clarion members at weekends (see photo below).

Clarion Camp, Cordwell Valley c1890


Sheffield Clarion Vocal Union Conductor G.W. Poppleton 31 Alderson Place, Sheffield, Secretary Mr J. Marshall 98 Cliffe Field Road, Marsbrook.
(Sheffield Clarion Vocal Union 1923 Clarion Prize Baton winners picture above)

Manchester Clarion Vocal union conductor Mr G. H. Higgins, Secretary Miss M Galley 13 Cromwell Avenue Whalley Range. (former conductor Peter Cash died 1931)

Potteries Clarion Vocal choir Conductor Mr H. Chadwick, Secretary Mr B. Thavker 17 Bucknall New Road, Hanley

Oldham Clarion Vocal Union Conductor Mr J Houghton, Scretsry Mrs W. Scott 32 Samson Street

Rochdale Clarion Vocal Union conductor G Clegg Secretary F Petrie 11 Further Pits

Halifax Clarion Vocal Union Conductor J.L. Read Secretary Miss L.Fogg 163 Pellon Lane

London Labour Choral Union ???

The Clarion Prize Baton won by Sheffield in 1923

Clarion Choirs

A short history of the Clarion Choirs and Clarion Vocal Union

Montague Blatchford (brother of Robert Blatchford) wrote a series of articles on choral singing in The Clarion, and as a result of these articles singing classes and choirs were formed in different parts of the country.

By the middle of 1895 more than a dozen of these choirs had been formed, and Montague Blatchford had become leader of the Clarion Vocal Union movement nationally.

His stated object was 'to encourage unaccompanied vocal music performed creditably and with understanding'.

By far the biggest local group was in his hometown, Halifax, where by 1895 there were 146 members plus an 'elementary class' of 48, and an orchestra.

The average weekly attendance for rehearsals was 120, and Montague Blatchford (known as "Mont Blong") was teacher and conductor.

It was in South Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire that the Clarion Vocal Unions or Choirs, like the Cycling Clubs, took deepest root; and soon they were eager to arrange inter-club meets. Hardcastle Crags, a beauty spot near Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, not far from the border with Lancashire,

Hardcastle Crags became a regular venue for CVU picnics and outdoor concerts. At the first of these gatherings, on Saturday 1st June 1895, there were present about a hundred Clarion members, with 150 relatives and friends. Many came on their bikes, proudly wearing the new silver badges pinned in their caps. The mixture, according to the report in the paper, was of 'sandwiches, laughter, tea, tobacco and singing'. There was also a thunderstorm, followed by a rain-soaked dash to the railway station where songs echoed round the platforms as they waited for their trains home. A year later 2,000 (others estimate 12,000 people attended Hardcastle Crags.

According to the Hebden Bridge Times, May 29th 1896, “Whit Monday is a red-letter day for the socialists, and demonstrations take place on this day all over the country. The Yorkshire Independent Labour Party also observe this custom and this year they held their annual demonstration at Hardcastle Crags. Glorious weather prevailed and the gathering was a monster one in every particular. Trips were run from all parts of Yorkshire and large contingents came from Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Liversedge, Brighouse, Sowerby Bridge...(from Lancashire delegations) from K eighley, Cleckheaton, Horbury, Heckmondwyke, Honley, Thornhill and Meltham and also from several towns in Lancashire, notably Todmorden, Rochdale, Oldham and Burnley….. It is computed that during the day the Crags were visited by fully 12,00 0 persons.” A musical programme preceded the speaking, the artists being members of the Halifax, Bradford, Leeds and Keighley Clarion Vocal Unions and a quartette party from Golcar.“ Extracts from Life and Letters of Caroline Martyn “During this month of May, Caroline Martyn attended a demonstration at Hardcastle Craggs, and the following description is given of her at that time: Then from a dais-like, heath-clad rock, around which the choristers had stood, arose our Carrie Martyn. Truly no Diana of old was ever more godlike than she, as she stood before the background of waving green, and with the wind gently moving her flowing gown into graceful folds, spoke from her noble heart words of burning fervour and truth, which it wer e well that the whole world upon that day should hear and heed.”

Glasgow and Bristol both had choirs by 1896, when national CVU Hardcastle Crags Meet that year attracted more than 2,000 people to listen to massed choirs on the hillside, and speeches by Caroline Martyn and Keir Hardie.

On Jubilee Day, 1897, a big rally was held at Bolt

on Woods, and so much enthusiasm was displayed that it was resolved to have a joint concert and Contest each year. membership reached 1,250. The second In May 1899 the first Clarion Vocal Union (Choir) United Concert at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester took place, with 450 singers in fourteen choirs competing for the ivory and gold Challenge Baton which had been presented by the Clarion Board.

This was to be an annual event for the next thirty years, bringing hundreds of Clarionettes to Manchester, cyclists and non-cyclists alike. Songs were specially written (like the 'Song of the Clarion Scout') and poems were set to music to form an extensive Socialist repertoire. Young composers and musicians were drawn to the cause, like Gustav Holst, who was a regular cyclist and often rode with his trombone strung across his back.

While studying at the Royal College of Music and living in a bed-sitter in Hammersmith, Holst became the first conductor of the Socialist C

hoir there. He wrote reports for The Clarion about the choir, one of whose members was his future wife Isobel.

Gustav Holst's fellow student Rutland Boughton, set poems by William Morris to music, and they appeared in the Clarion Song Book published in 1906.

The Clarion Baton

The Clarion Board of Directors presented a Baton of ivory and gold which has been keenly contested for, and, until 1915, Annual Contests took place without a break. In 1915, the Contest, which should have taken place in Sheffield, had to be abandoned owing to lack of railway facilities, and it was only in 1922 that, on a small scale, it was revived. A major Clarion Vocal Union festival was held at the Manchester Albert Hall on 24th Oldham, Rochdale, Sheffield and Manchester May 1924, with choirs from Bradford, Hyde, Leeds,

The Baton was won in 1923 by the Sheffield Choir. Although the actual contest adds a zest to the evening's enjoyment, the best part of the Concert has always been the singing by the massed Choirs. Unaccompanied pieces are generally chosen, and these range from the glees and madrigals of the Elizabethan masters to the part songs and folk song arrangements of modern composers. Clarion Choirs still exist in Birmingham, Sheffield and Nottingham and Bolton Clarion Choir has recently be reformed.

In 2007 Bolton Wood Street Choir and Burnley Clarion Clarion Choir met on the first Sunday in June at the Nelson Clarion Tea room in order to revive a Clarion tradition of "Clarion Sunday's"and in 2008 thirty six members of different Socialist choirs attended in poor weather.

I have seen reference to a Plymouth Clarion Choir established in 1915, Cardiff Red Choir (Cor Cochion Caerdyddand) and the "Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir" based in Lewisham

A number of "progressive" Choirs are presently being established across Britain, hopefully the Clarion movement will offer a big umbrella to nurture this growing trend as it did over one hundred years ago.