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Broadsheet with the ballads 'Thinking of Home' and 'Spence Broughton'.

Date: 1863 - 1882
Overall: 237 x 173 mm, 0.021 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017376
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    A broadsheet featuring two ballads titled 'Spence Broughton' and 'Thinking of Home'.
    The sheet is published by Henry Parker Such, machine printer and publisher, Borough, London.
    SignificanceBroadsheets were designed as printed ephemera to be published and distributed rapidly. This also meant they were quickly disposed of with many of them not surviving the test of time. The museum's broadsheet collection is therefore a rare and valuable example of how maritime history was communicated to a wide audience, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. They vibrantly illustrate many of the themes and myths surrounding life at sea. Some of them also detail stories about transportation and migration.
    HistoryThinking of Home.

    Many a night from the silent deck,
    Have I gazed on the stars above,
    And I've looked aboard o'er the tranquil sea,
    Till my heart was filled with love.
    Thinking of home and the dear ones there,
    Till I felt the tear drops flow,
    Breathing in silence a fervent prayer,
    For the friends a long ago,
    Many a night thinking of home.

    Father, and mother, and sister dear,
    Come to me in my walking dreams,
    And I hear a voice, and I see a face,
    That to me like an angel seems.
    But I did not give her my parting vow,
    While she owned her love for me,
    Spirit of beauty, ah! hear me now,
    Thus I sigh upon the sea,
    Many a night thinking of home.

    Proudly the flag of Old England waves,
    And wherever the salt seas flow,
    In the frozen deep and burning clime.
    There her sons will gladly go,
    Daring and doing in her dear name,
    All that man may do or dare ;
    Thinking of home I have longed for fame,
    For the sake of kind hearts there,
    Many a night thinking of home.

    Spence Broughton.

    To you my dear companions accept these lines I pray;
    A most impartial trial has been occupied this day.
    'Tis from your dying Broughton, to show his wretched fate,
    Pray make your reformation before it is too late.

    The loss of your companion will grieve your hearts full sore,
    I know that my fair Ellen will my wretched fate deplore;
    Thinking of those happy hours that now are past and gone,
    That I, unhappy Broughton, would I had ne'er been born.

    [not sung]
    One day unto St. James's with large and swelling pride,
    Each man had a flash woman walking by his side,
    And at night we did retire unto some ball or play;
    In these unhappy pleasures our time did pass away.

    Brought up in wicked habits which wrought in me no fear,
    How little did I think that my time had been so near;
    But now I'm overtaken, and bound, condemned and cast to die,
    Exposed a sad example to all those that pass me by.

    O that I had but gone unto some far and distant clime,
    That a gibbet post for Broughton would never have been mine;
    But as for such like wishes they are vanity and vain,
    Alas, it is but folly and madness to complain.

    One night to try and slumber I closed my weeping eyes,
    I heard a foot approaching which struck me with surprise;
    I listened for a moment, a voice made this reply,
    ’Prepare thyself, Spence Broughton, tomorrow thou must die.’

    [not sung]
    O awful was the messenger, and dismal was the sound,
    Like a maniac in distraction I rolled upon the ground;
    My tears now flow in torrents, with anguish I am torn,
    O poor unhappy Broughton, would I had ne'er been born.

    Farewell, my wife and children, to you I bid adieu,
    I never should have come to this had I stayed at home with you;
    But I hope through my Redeemer to gain the happy shore;
    Farewell, farewell for ever, Spence Broughton is no more.
    Spence Broughton is no more.

    Broadsheets or broadsides, as they were also known, were originally used to communicate official or royal decrees. They were printed on one side of paper and became a popular medium of communication between the 16th and 19th centuries in Europe, particularly Britain. They were able to be printed quickly and cheaply and were widely distributed in public spaces including churches, taverns and town squares. Their function expanded as they became used as a medium to galvanise political debate, hold public meetings and advertise products or cultural events.

    The cheap nature of the broadside and its wide accessibility meant that its intended audience were often literate individuals but from varying social standings. The illiterate may have also had access to this literature as many of the ballads were designed to be read aloud. In 'Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England', Peter Burke notes that the golden age of the broadside ballad, between 1600 and 1700, saw ballads produced at a penny each which was the same price for admission to the theatre.

    The ballads also covered a wide range of subject matter such as witchcraft, epic war battles, murder and maritime themes and events. They were suitably dramatic and often entertaining, but as James Sharpe notes, also in 'Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England', some of them were designed as elaborate cautionary tales for those contemplating a life of crime.

    The broadside ballads in the museum's collection were issued by a range of London printers and publishers for sale on the streets by hawkers. They convey, often comically, stories about love, death, shipwrecks, convicts and pirates. Each ballad communicates a sense that these stories were designed to be read aloud for all to enjoy, whether it was at the local tavern or a private residence.
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