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PUTNEY FERRY. English, Country Dance Tune (6/8 time). D Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABBCC. The melody and dance instructions ("Round for six") were first printed by London music publisher John Playford in his Dancing Master , 4th edition (1670). "Putney Ferry" was retained in the Dancing Master editions through the 8th edition of 1690 (published by son Henry Playford) after which it was dropped from the series. However, the piece may predate Playford, at the dramatic poem "Hisogonous" of 1560 mentions both "Putney Ferry" and "The Dede [sic. 'Dead'] Dance," both country dances later published in The Dancing Master.
The village of Putney, Surrey, was anciently (from Conquest times) the location of a ferry across the Thames River, and was of significance during the English Civil Wars. Charles I employed the ferry during his campaigns, but in November, 1642, the Earl of Essex (who lived near Putney) threw a bridge of boats across the river in order to pursue the king, and protected it with earthworks. Charles was still able to escape, and later the bridge was dismantled, as it was a hindrance to navigation. The idea of a bridge at Putney seems to have taken hold, however, as the ferry tended to be dangerous at times and unreliable at others. A bill was introduced into Parliament in 1670 to build a wooden bridge, but it failed, and it was not until the next century during the reign of George II that a span was constructed.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Barlow (The Complete Country Dance Tunes from Playford's Dancing Master), 1985; No. 209. Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes), 1986. Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 14.