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Frederick Charles 'Charlie' Philpot (1877-1965)


Charlie Philpot was born in 1877 in Cratfield, a small village near Halesworth in northeast Suffolk, and the family moved into Halesworth itself before Charlie was three years old. Charlie told grandson Reg Reader that he first started to learn to play from his father, James Philpot, when he was three, and he told Russell Wortley that the 'Mountains of Mourne' was the first tune he learned. Reg reflected: ‘He was an only child so I supposed he got a lot of attention, and he was left-handed which maybe helped him to rattle the tunes out because, my God, he did rattle them out.’

By the age of 14 he was employed as baker’s boy (he may well have been working for William Chilvers junior, son of the maker of the family dulcimer, who ran a bakery in Chediston Street between 1881 and 1895) but by 1901 he was working as a boot riveter, continuing in the shoe trade for the rest of his life. In 1903 he married Ada Johnson and by 1911 they had three daughters and were still living in Chediston Street. His trade also came in useful in the First World War, keeping him occupied away from the frontline, mending soldiers’ boots. The family moved to Yoxford in the 1920s, with a shoe shop at the front of Veranda House, and the living quarters at the back.

He sometimes took the train from Halesworth to Southwold for the weekend and stayed at the King’s Head (which was run by Ada’s uncle, John Marshall between 1906 and 1915) where he entertained in the public bar on the dulcimer. He is said to have taken the dulcimer with him (see also Billy Cooper) to the various army camps.


After the war, he continued to play in pubs locally (he was a good stepdancer too,

apparently) and enjoyed the company of fellow musician Ernie Seaman from Darsham, but by the time Reg remembered him, in the early 1940s, he rarely played anywhere except at home, where he was sometimes joined by George Bailey and George Carver on banjo and mandolin. Reg did recall the occasion of his grandparents’ golden wedding party in 1953, when Charlie played in the Griffin public house, together with the landlord on fiddle.


Charlie died in 1965.


His daughter told Keith Summers, when interviewed in the 1970s: ‘He loved all those old reels, jigs, marches, and he knew a terrific number of music hall songs.’


Keith's survey of the traditional music making in East Suffolk was published  under the title 'Sing, Say or Pay!' in 'Traditions Music' magazine in 1977 and is now available on line. Follow this link to read his interview with Charlie's daughter and Reg Reader.



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Charlie Philpot was recorded by Russell Wortley in 1962 for further information follow the link:


Charlie Philpot recordings


Charlie Philpot's dulcimer which was inherited from James Philpot and handed down to Reg Reader

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Photo descriptions & sources

main photos:

Charlie & Ada Philpot (from the Reader family)

a. Charlie Philpot's dulcimer front (John Howson)

b. Charlie Philpot's dulcimer back (JH)




c. Charlie Philpot's dulcimer bridges (JH)

d. Charlie Philpot's dulcimer sound hole  (JH)




e. Charlie Philpot's dulcimer stand  (JH)

f.  Charlie Philpot's dulcimer profile (JH)

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