Samuel Wakely

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Born: 10 July 1787

Died: 13 December 1865


Samuel Wakely was a composer of West Gallery music, active in southern England (Dorset and Hampshire) in the first half of the 19th century.

Wakely was born in Netherbury, Dorset, on 10 July 1787, and baptised at St. Mary's church, Netherbury, on 29 July 1787, the son of Ann Wakely: his father's name was not recorded (Dorset History Centre: ref. PE/NBY: RE1/3).

He appears to have moved to the nearby town of Bridport by his early twenties, possibly in order to take up the trade of shoemaker: he married Martha Bools (born c1779) at St. Mary's Church, Bridport on 1 June 1809. The couple were married by banns: Martha made her mark in the register, but Samuel signed, as did both witnesses (Dorset History Centre, ref. PE/BT:RE7).

Samuel and Martha's first child appears to have been a son George, baptised at St. Mary's, Bridport on 19 January 1811 (Dorset History Centre, ref. PE/BT:RE7), who died in infancy: he may have been the George Wakely, infant, who was buried at Bridport on 14 June 1812 (Dorset History Centre, ref. PE/BT:RE7). A subsequent son, who survived to adulthood, was also named George, born 25 August 1813 and baptised 5 November 1813 at the Barrack Street dissenting (Congregationalist) meeting house in Bridport (The National Archives, RG4/457).

A daughter Mary Ann was born 23 August 1815 and baptised 8 September 1815 at the Barrack Street meeting house: the register of baptisms gives Samuel's occupation as 'Cordwainer' (The National Archives: RG4/583).

Wakely's early musical works were published during his time at Bridport: the Hymn Tune Index notes that the copies of New Congregational Music, Four New Christmas Hymns and A Christmas Hymn ('Come, hail the glorious morn') now in the Dorset County Museum were bound together (along with Henry Tolhurst's fifth book Four New Version of the Psalms and Edward Oxford's Sacred Music) in 1821. On the basis that New Congregational Music and A Christmas Hymn are advertised on Four New Christmas Hymns, the Hymn Tune Index suggests likely publication dates of c1818 for New Congregational Music and A Christmas Hymn and c1820 for Four New Christmas Hymns. All three works were published by James Peck of London.

New Congregational Music consists of thirteen hymn tunes (one unnamed tune for the commmunion hymn 'My God, and is thy table spread', and twelve tunes named after the twelve tribes of Israel). One of the tunes, 'Reuben', became especially popular, and remained in use into the twentieth century: it was included as no. 20 in the 'Supplemental Tunes' appendix to the 1904 Methodist Hymn-Book with Tunes, and as no. 718 in the 1933 Methodist Hymn-Book with Tunes.

Samuel's wife Martha died in 1820: she was buried at St. Mary's, Bridport on 2 June 1820 (Dorset History Centre, ref. PE/BT:RE9).

In the next few years, Samuel moved to Rockbourne, Hampshire, where he married Ann Butler (born c1790 at Wimborne St Giles) on 31 August 1822. It appears he took his children from his first marriage with him to Rockbourne: at the time of his marriage to Ann, his son George would have been 9 years old and his daughter Mary Ann 7 years old.

Samuel and Ann had two further children together, but both died in infancy: Lucas was baptised at Rockbourne on 2 May 1824 and buried there on 11 March 1826, and Sarah was baptised at Rockbourne on 1 January 1826 and buried there on 8 May 1826.

At least one more book of Samuel's music was probably published during the period between 1827 and 1846: the drop title on the first page of Wakely's later work The Village Harmony [1846] describes it as the composer's 'Book 5', and identifies him as the 'Author of the well known Tunes called Reuben & Navarino'. James Lightwood suggests that 'Navarino' was named after the Battle of Navarino, fought on 20 October 1827 (p404, Lightwood, 1935), and it may have been published shortly afterwards. 'Navarino' was included as no. 30 in the 'Supplemental Tunes' appendix to the 1904 Methodist Hymn-Book with Tunes, where it is attributed 'S. Wakeley, c. 1840.'.

Samuel's son George was married at Rockbourne on 28 December 1839 to Eliza Charlotte Bond: both were resident in Rockbourne at the time of the marriage. Both George and Samuel are described in the register as shoemakers: Eliza was a dressmaker, and her father William Bond a steward. Their first child, Sarah Charlotte, was baptised at Rockbourne on 7 November 1840: George is again described as a shoemaker in the register.

Two tunes by Samuel Wakely were published in Thomas Jarman's collection The Wesleyan Melodist, published around 1840: the tunes are attributed to 'S. Wakely. Author of Reuben'.

Samuel Wakely was listed in the 1841 census enumerators' returns (The National Archives, HO 107/398/8, folio 8, page 9) living at Rockbourne Street, Rockbourne: with him were Ann (his wife), Mary Ann (his daughter), and Ann Wheeler, an 11-year old girl for whom no occupation was given. By this time, George, Eliza Charlotte and Sarah Charlotte had moved to Russell Street in Wilton, and George was working as a 'School Master' (The National Archives, HO 107/1167/15, folio 30, pages 2-3).

George and Eliza Charlotte's second child, a son named George, was born on 16 June 1842 at Wilton: his father's occupation was given in the register of births as 'School Master'. A third child, named Samuel, was born in Wilton in 1844.

Samuel's son George died in 1845, and was buried at Rockborne on 19 October 1845.

The Village Harmony was published in 1846, by John Peck (the son and successor of James Peck, who had published Wakely's earlier works). Although the list of subscribers includes the choirs of Bradpole and Bothenhampton, from the area of west Dorset in which the composer was born and spent his early life, many of the subscribers are from west Hampshire, east Dorset or south Wiltshire, and appear to represent contacts made during his time in Rockbourne.

Samuel's daughter-in-law (George's widow) Eliza Charlotte was buried at Wilton on 8 January 1848 (Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, ref. 504/13)

In the 1849 Post Office Directory of Hampshire, Dorsetshire, Wiltshire, Samuel Wakely is listed on p2474 as 'Wakely Samuel, bootmaker & master of Parochial school' among the entries for Rockbourne: he is also included on p2850 in the 'Trades' Directory' section of the same publication, under 'Boot & Shoe Makers' in Hampshire, as 'Wakely S. Rockbourne, Salisbury'.

Samuel's daughter Mary Ann was married at Rockbourne on 19 October 1850 to John White, a carpenter, the son of Samuel White, a labourer. Samuel's occupation is given in the register as 'Shoemaker'.

Samuel Wakely was listed in the 1851 census enumerators' returns (The National Archives, HO 107/1667, folio 722, page 5), living on Rockbourne Street, Rockbourne, described as a 'Shoe Maker and Shoolmaster': living with him were his wife Ann and grandson George (8 years old, and described as a 'Scholar'). Sarah Charlotte and Samuel were living as lodgers in North Street, Wilton, with George Penny (a gardener) and his family: they are described as scholars (The National Archives, HO 107/1848, folio 51, page 15).

Sarah Charlotte died in 1853, and was buried at Rockbourne on 26 December 1853.

In the 1861 census enumerators' returns (The National Archives, RG 9/669, folio 145, page 7), Samuel Wakely is again listed at Rockbourne Street, Rockbourne, described as 'Shoemaker'. Again, his wife Ann and grandson George were living with him: George was 18 years old, and now a 'Merchant Seaman'. The following entry in the 1861 census returns is for the Parsonage, inhabited by William Johnson Yonge (the rector of Rockbourne) and his family: Yonge had been one of the subscribers to Wakely's The Village Harmony.

Samuel Wakely died at Rockbourne on 13 December 1865, and was buried there on 20 December 1865: the register of deaths records his occupation as 'Master Shoemaker'.

In the 1871 census enumerator's returns, Samuel's widow Ann was living at Rockbourne Street, Rockbourne: her occupation is given as 'Living on her Property'. Living with her was her 14 year old grandson Samuel George, born in Rockbourne and described as a scholar (The National Archives, RG 10/1183, folio 95, page 5). While Samuel George's surname is given on the census return as Wakely, he would appear to have been Samuel George White (baptised at Rockbourne on 9 November 1856), the son of Ann's stepdaughter Mary Ann and her husband John White.

Ann Wakely died at Rockbourne on 28 June 1873, and was buried there on 2 July 1873: the register of deaths records her occupation as 'Widow of Samuel Wakely a Shoemaker'.

List of choral works

Click here to search for this composer on CPDL


  • New Congregational Music, London: For the author by James Peck, [c1818]
  • A Christmas Hymn, London: For the author by James Peck, [c1818]
  • Four New Christmas Hymns, London: For the author by J[ames] Peck, [c1820]
  • The Village Harmony, London: For the author by J[ohn] Peck, [1846]


  • Higgs, E (2018) 'Samuel Wakely of Bridport (1787-1865), Composer of Psalms and Anthems', Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Association, Vol. 139, pp. 29-35.
  • Lightwood, James T. (1935) The Music of the Methodist Hymn-Book, London: The Epworth Press.

External links