A few days ago my brother sent me a link to a fascinating collection of disappearing and disappeared English accents.
There are two collections in which I've rooted around so far. Both present English accents from people born during the second half of the nineteenth century. One collection was recorded in 1916, the other during the Fifties and Sixties.
It's a fascinating collection. In some cases it may jog memories and in others fire the imagination. The Kent accents took me back to my childhood listening to the likes of 'Great Uncle Herb' down on my mother's family farm near Sandwich.
Listening to a collection of accents around the south of England, it's notable how much most of the accents share. All have in common that 'ooo-arr' burr we've come to associate with places like Norfolk and Somerset. Even counties now partly consumed by London like Surrey, Kent and Essex had strong 'country' accents in living memory.
You couldn't get much closer to London than Middlesex. So, I was interested to hear a recording of a Middlesex accent from a retired farm bailiff, born in 1868. There's also a recording of a shoemaker from "Hackney, Middlesex" born in 1888. You can hear the crossover between the rural Southern England accent and what we now think of as Cockney. (Ah, so that's where Cockney came from....is it?)
Somewhere between these two accents, I imagine is how the folk round here sounded at around the time Harringay was built up. All fascinating stuff for me.
Access the full collection on the British Library website.
Really enjoyed these recordings thanks Hugh.
My grandparents had accents like this..
said words like 'orses and gawn (gone) just as in the clips.. as well as ee, for he.. 'ees gawn dahhn the road'
Nice to hear again. What a shame we didn't make recordings of them. I remember my great-great grandmother, born on Highgate Hill in 1870.. died 1966 spoke like this too ! http://www.flickr.com/photos/isarsteve/2624484155/in/set-7215760535...
my grandfather who i never met was born in 1868 so interesting. i can recall my father who was also from around this part of london sounding a little like this.
Brilliant, thanks a lot Hugh. Shame that authentic local accents seem to be dieing out and we are merging linguistically to sound the same.
It's not a shame at all. Those accents happened because the people were restricted to the district and the caste into which they were born. Homogeneity of speech is the "price" we pay for educational opportunities, the dying of Class and religion as an economic barrier, international mobility and global communications and media.
Those days of local accents are a picturesque time to visit but I don't think any of us would like to live there.
Many people these days are still restricted cus of lack of mobility, no work, low income etc but we all tending to speak the same because of linguistic merging, media influences etc. Class may have changed a lot over the past 100 years but it hasn't died out. Social mobility rates much lower now then they were 20 years ago. So- we lose interesting things like accents yet keep pockets of poverty and social inequality. And some folk dont move far from where they were born.
Yes, I agree Lydia. Apart that is from the bit on class.
People who've made it in life (or had it made for them) always say that the class system is dying..
Seen from afar, in Britain it isn't. How many working class girls and boys are in the current government, or run the BBC etc., etc., ?
Not many... social mobility lower now than when I was growing up and it wasnt great then. Linguistic homogenisation is not the same as class homogenisation. Accents and dialects are also about identity and that has many layers- region, work/occupation etc which these clips give us some insights into.
Excatly. After 30 years living away from the U.K. I still speak with a Tottenham dialect when speaking English.
In the U.K. it would have disadvantaged me, because of the connection, still made, that those people that don't speak RP are 'stoopid'.
Now happy to live in country where regional accents and city dialects are not considered a disadvantage and have no relevance to social standing.
Still hold true here for sure that accents equate with social standing, intelligence etc. We still are a conservative nation. I was often told I'd get nowhere if I didn't change the way I spoke! hmmm.
Happy to say that a Scottish accent in the sales field inspires confidence
Whereas, if I pick up the phone and an Indian accent inquires " Am I speaking to Mr John D ? " I am safe in hanging up immediately.