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13 November 2014

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You are in: Gloucestershire > Places > Shnuggets > Shnugget: Carols at Cranham

Midwinter House, Cranham

Midwinter House, Cranham

Shnugget: Carols at Cranham

With your help, we're compiling every shnugget we can about Gloucestershire. This particular shnugget goes down particularly well at Christmas, especially with those that live in (or near) Cranham!

Shnugget

Did you know that the most popular tune of the Christmas carol 'In the bleak midwinter' was inspired by Gloucestershire?

Background

In November 2008, the carol 'In the bleak midwinter' came out top in the BBC Music magazine poll above well-known carols Silent Night, Ding Dong Merrily on High and Once in Royal David's City.

But did you know that the original music was written by Gloucestershire's very own Gustav Holst and inspired by childhood visits to Cranham?

A lady called Clara Lediard lived in the village in the mid 1800s and her family owned half the woodland around Cranham.

Cranham, early 20th century

Cranham, early 20th century

She went for music lessons in Cheltenham, where her teacher was Adolf Holst.

Gustav

After they married, their eldest boy went on to become one of the county's most celebrated sons.

Jan Whitton, from the Cranham Local History Society, says he would have visited his grandparents in the village on a regular basis and was obviously discovered a source of inspiration.

"Holst was asked to write several pieces of music for different hymns for a book that was to be published and for all of them he chose somewhere that he was associated with during his life.

Jan Whitton

Jan Whitton

"So that's the reason, his early memories of Cranham inspired him to come back to thinking of Cranham when he wanted something for the words of In the Bleak Midwinter and very appropriate with these woodlands where there is plenty of holly and ivy to give a Christmas feeling."

Favourite

The Cheltenham born composer wrote a popular version of In the Bleak Midwinter in 1909, but it was Harold Darke's arrangement from 1911 - which begins with a solo voice rather than full choir - which won the BBC poll.

Despite this it is still a favourite carol in the small village near Painswick.

"It's always sung at Christmas in the Church.

"It always has been ever since as I can remember.

"I'm sure it goes back to when it was first published, when everyone realised." says Jan.

Midwinter House, Cranham

Midwinter House, Cranham

Mystery still surrounds the story about where the piece of music, called Cranham, was actually written.

Evidence

Jan Whitton, from the local history society, likes to think it was actually penned in the village.

"We haven't got any proof about it, but just at the right period of time a particular house in Cranham was just opened for bed and breakfast.

"It's quite possible he did make a journey back and stay there.

"That's the legend in the village and I think that's the reason people renamed the house Midwinter House."

And if anyone has any evidence that Holst stayed at the house opposite the pub, Jan says she would be delighted to see it.

"We would love to be absolutely certain, but we do think the facts fit in with the story quite well; the fact that we know it was a bed and breakfast at that time."

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last updated: 06/01/2009 at 12:16
created: 18/12/2008

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