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Elijah Ladbrooke (1879-1948)         Albert Dunnell (1887-1941)


Billy Bennington mentioned a player called Elijah Ladbrooke, and also said another of the family, with the surname Dunnell, played. He has now been identified as Albert Dunnell, Elijah’s half-brother.


Elijah Ladbrooke was born on 6th February 1879 to Harriet and Robert Ladbrooke, but Robert died a year later and Harriet remarried John Henry Dunnell. Elijah kept his father’s surname but had several stepbrothers and sisters by the name of Dunnell. Elijah trained as a blacksmith before joining his stepfather as a horse-hoe maker (this is correct, they did make agricultural implements rather than being an ordinary shoeing smith) in the village of Colton, where John Henry was also the licensee of the Horse and Groom from 1888 to 1916. The pub was later taken on by his sons Albert and John in the 1920s and 30s and this may well have provided a friendly place for Elijah to play his music, although by 1911 he had moved a couple of miles away to Honingham. In 1939 he was still in Honingham, described as a master blacksmith in the register of that year, and he is remembered also as running a garage – a common move for blacksmiths in country villages.

In 1902, Elijah married Laura Dennis and they had one daughter, Ursula known as Ula, born in 1906. Residents of the village of Mattishall recalled that Laura used to play the piano and the two of them would travel to village halls on a motorbike and side-car, together with the dulcimer and their daughter, to play for whist drives and dances, and he is remembered as playing into the 1940s.

Elijah Ladbrooke died on 27th December 1948, when he was still in Honingham, at ‘The Blacksmith’s House’.

In 2008, the instrument was still with a family member in nearby Mattishall. One of Elijah’s great grandsons, Perry Youngs had been interested in it and had taken it to Billy Bennington in about 1980 for restringing, but he had never taken it up and has since moved to the USA.


A “Dunnell” was mentioned to us by Billy Bennington, being a relative of Elijah Ladbrooke’s. This was Albert Dunnell, Elijah’s half-brother, the son of Harriet Dunnell, Elijah’s mother, and her second husband, John Henry Dunnell. Albert Dunnell kept the Horse and Groom in Colton from 1922 to 1929, which his father had kept before him, and his brother John kept after him. By the 1930s he too had diversified into the motor trade, being listed in the 1939 register as blacksmith, motor fitter and driver.



Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer

     a      b


     d      e      f      g

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture


Photo descriptions & sources

Main photos:  Elijah Ladbrooke 1927 (from family)

Elijah Ladbrooke's daughters wedding 1927 (family)

a. Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer front (John Howson)

b. Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer back (JH)

c. Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer profile  (JH)

d. Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer stand  (JH)

e. Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer sound hole  (JH)

f. Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer sound hole 2  (JH)

g. Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer bridges  (JH)

h. Elijah Ladbrooke's dulcimer beaters  (JH)

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