Louie Hooper, Cecil Sharp and the Revival of Folk Songs

700 Westport holds a special place in the history of English folk songs. For it was, for many years, the home of Louie Hooper, one of the inspirations of the folk songs revival movement of the early 20th century.

In 1903 Cecil Sharp, a music teacher and composer, had been staying with the vicar of the neighbouring village of Hambridge when he heard a gardener singing a traditional Somerset folk song, and was immediately captivated. He began to collect folk songs, hearing them sung by villagers who had learnt them by heart, making notes which eventually enabled him to publish five series of Folk Songs of Somerset between 1904 and 1907. He went on to become the acknowledged expert on folk songs, principally of Somerset but also from other parts of England and later from the USA.

Louie Hooper, with her sister Lucy White, were among the first to sing to Sharp when he first started song-collecting, and eventually sang him over 100 folk songs, all from memory. She had learnt many of her songs as a child while helping the older women of the village with glove- and shirt-making.

In 1941 the BBC came to visit Louie in her home, and recorded her singing. She died five years later.

Her accordion is proudly on display in The Museum of Somerset

The room in which the recording was made is now the sitting room of 700 Westport.

The cottage remains in Louie’s family.