The carols originated from the old Bible Christian Chapel in Landkey which closed many years ago.  Some of the carols are unique to Landkey; one in particular, ‘Hosanna in the Highest’, was composed by a gentleman who lived in the village.


Some of the carols have no written manuscript at all.  There was only ever one copy which was very jealously guarded, so as youngsters we stood by one of our elders and learned them as they were sung, so depending on which elder you stood by, that was the version you learned and we’d end up with several versions of the same carol.


One particular carol had no recognisable alto line so one of our altos set to and wrote the line which I then took along to my 87 year old mother who knows the Landkey carols very well and sang it to her.  She listened and thought for a moment and said, “Well, ‘tisn’t very far wrong”.  AGNES ARNOLD.











My carol singing started during the war.  Because of the

blackout we didn’t go very far afield, just down through the village. 

I learned the boys soprano part first and later on had to learn the base parts.

On one occasion just after the war when food was still rationed I heard on the grape

vine that there was going to be a good ‘do’ at a certain farm.  In fact the do turned out to be far better than we expected because we were going to entertain some guests at this farm but as we were going along the roads towards it cars were moving away from the farm.  Mr. Darch said “I cannot understand this”.  So we carried on singing in various places and then arrived back at the farm.  What had happened was that the farmer’s Start-O-Matic had gone wrong and all the guests had gone home because there was no lighting, but by the time we got there the lighting was restored and we had to wade into all the cut rounds and cream.  We carried on eating and singing and on the way home we

made our way to a very respected farmer.  It was about two fifteen a.m. and

Mr Darch said “we’d better creep in very quietly” so we stood under his

window and started up with “Awake, Rejoice and Sing”. 


When I first started carol singing I was about 11 or 12 years old and that was prior to the First World War.  We used to start on Christmas Eve and went on until Christmas Day which was January 6th.  We would go out carol singing nearly every night and by the end of the fortnight we were very tired.  We used to enjoy going round singing the carols and people enjoyed hearing us.


On the two Saturday nights we used to go what we called ‘the long round’.  The first Saturday we’d go all up round Cobbaton, down round Herner and back round Bishops Tawton and arrive home on Sunday morning about half past seven.  The second Saturday night we went round Bratton Fleming, back round Stoke Rivers taking in houses and farms on the way that were not too far back off the road.  After we’d sung out to Bratton Fleming we’d always got to go back to Mr. and Mrs. Youings for refreshments.  Mrs. Youings was the sister of Miss Southwood who was our organist and we used to have a nice warm up because it was very cold.  Then we’d put the horses back in the trap (it was horses and traps that we travelled by in those days) we’d go round to Stoke Rivers.  There was a Mr. and Mrs. Chammings who farmed at Higher Davis and we’d always got to let them know when we were coming because after we’d sung around Stoke Rivers we would go back to Mr. and Mrs. Chammings’ farm and have more refreshments and a good warm up and get back about half past seven on Sunday morning.


There was a Mr. Comer who was a local preacher in the Methodist circuit.  He lived at Challacombe and he’d walk twelve miles into Landkey, take two services and walk twelve miles home again.  He happened to be preaching on this Sunday morning; there were several people in the congregation who had been carol singing the night before.  When it got to about half past eleven one and another started nodding off and it wasn’t very long before all the carol singers were fast asleep.  Mr. Comer went on until about a quarter to twelve then he took off his glasses and shut his Bible.  “I can’t keep ‘em awake, do what I will” he said.  That’s a little bit about Landkey carol singing when I was a boy.  NED PRIDEAUX.

My 87 year old mother went carol singing for many years and when I used to ask her about those times she would remember things.  She remembered as Ned did starting off and going out over singing and she said that they used go off early evening and go out over to Loxhore and Bratton Fleming and when they got back she and her brother, Bill Harris, a very well known character, would have to get back to see to the stock, do the milking and then go to bed.


Talking of Loxhore, a friend of ours told us rather a lovely story.  His grandparents lived at Loxhore and they went to bed and went to sleep and his grandfather said that he woke up and heard this lovely singing and he couldn’t decide whether he was still alive or whether he was dead and hearing the angels singing - it was the Landkey carol singers. 


When we went carol singing we travelled in Bill Harris’s lorry.  It was like a pick up with a top to it and we sat in the back on bales of straw.  We used to have lots of fun. 


Mary Mann was a girl who had been brought up in the workhouse.  When she was of an age to finish school she went into service with Mr. Buckingham.  She stayed with him until she was too old to work.  Mr Buckingham then put her in a little cottage in the middle of the village.  One evening when we were going carol singing in the village Mr. Buckingham said “Be sure to go and sing to Mary, she’s all on her own and she’ll like that”.  In due course we assembled outside her cottage.  We knew she was there because there was a light showing.  As soon as we started to sing she shouted “there’s nobody in”.  We all laughed so much that we couldn’t carry on singing.

Fred Cornish used to come carol singing with us.  He couldn’t sing but he carried the lantern.  After we had sung at various farms we would go indoors and have some refreshment and then we would talk for a bit so that when we reached one particular farm it was about two o’clock in the morning and Fred was so tired that he stretched out on the sofa and went fast asleep.  He had very long untidy hair and while he was asleep Mr. Darch got a pair of scissors and cut his hair short.


Oral History

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