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The Rigs of London Town / Up to the Rigs

[ Roud 868 ; G/D 2:299 ; Ballad Index K192 ; Bodleian Roud 868 ; Wiltshire Roud 868 ; trad.]

The broadside Up to the Rigs of London Town is a song from the repertoire of Harry Cox. E.J. Moeran collected it from him in 1924, and Peter Kennedy recorded him in his home in Catfield in October 1953. This recording was released in 1964 on Cox's Folk-Legacy album Traditional English Love Songs and in 2000 on his CD What Will Become of England?.

Jim Wilson sang Rigs of London Town on May 18, 1960 at The Cherry Tree, Copthorne, Sussex. This recording made by Brian Matthews was included in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology Just Another Saturday Night: Sussex 1960: Songs from Country Pubs and was printed in 1970 in Ken Stubbs' book The Life of a Man: English Folk Songs from the Home Counties

Peter Bellamy sang The Rigs of London Town on his 1969 Topic LP, The Fox Jumps Over the Parson's Gate. A.L. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Country singers have special relish for that large family of songs concerning the seemingly simple fellow—usually a sailor—who turns the tables on the tricksters of the big city. This nineteenth century broadside song has been more favoured by singers than collectors, for it has been often heard but seldom printed. It was one of the masterpieces of the late Charlie Wills of Bridport, and his version [recorded ca. 1952] may be heard on Songs of Seduction (The Folk Songs of Britain Vol. 2, Caedmon 1961, Topic 1968).

E.J. Moeran noted the version from Harry Cox in 1924.

Charlie Wills also sang Up to the Rigs of London Town, in The Sun, Powerstock, Dorset, in August 1956. This recording by Mervyn Plunkett was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology First I'm Going to Sing You a Ditty (The Voice of the People Series Volume 7). Another version, recorded by Bill Leader, was published in 1972 on the singer's eponymous Leader album, Charlie Wills.

Tony Rose recorded this song under the title Up to the Rigs in 1970 on his first album Young Hunting. A live recording from the Cheltenham Folk Club in 1969 was included in 2008 on his posthumous CD Exe. Tony Rose commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Up to the Rigs is taken from the singing of Charlie Wills from Dorset. The familiar story does not differ substantially from the many other versions of the song, but one feature in Charlie's song which has always amused me is the failure of the last verse to rhyme. Rather than ‘correct’ this, I prefer to sing the text as I first heard it—that way it has a special humour of its own.

Bernard Wrigley sang The Rigs of London Town in 1974 on his Topic album Rough & Wrigley.

Walter Pardon sang Up to the Rigs at home in his cottage in Knapton, Norfolk, on February 12, 1977. This recording was released in the same year on his Leader album Our Side of the Baulk.

Bellowhead recorded London Town in 2006 for their CD Burlesque and performed it live on September 26, 2007 at Shepherds Bush Empire, London; this concert was issued as the DVD Live at Shepherds Bush Empire. Another concert at the O2 Academy, Bournemouth on May 2, 2011 was released on the DVD Hedonism Live. The original CD's liner notes commented:

Sung by Charlie Wills and chorus in The Sun, Powerstock, Dorset, in August 1956, this was recorded by Mervyn Plunkett and features on First I'm Going to Sing You a Ditty in the Voice of the People collection of source and field recordings. Wills was born in West Chinnock, Somerset, in 1877, and had a wide variety of agricultural and horticultural jobs throughout his life whilst staying in the Somerset and Dorset areas. He seems to have learnt some of his songs from his mother, and as a child would entertain the workmen in the pub, a location which continued to prove congenial to him for the rest of his life.

The song is on broadsides held at Cambridge and Oxford, the latter printed by C. Cronshaw of Coppergate, York, between 1814 and 1850. It was sung in various southern of English countries, as well as in East Anglia, Scotland and Ireland. Wills was also recorded by Peter Kennedy, who published the transcript in Folksongs of Britain and Ireland (London: Cassell, 1975), p.423.

Jon Boden also sang London Town with a slightly different melody to the one Peter Bellamy uses as the November 3, 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings The Rigs of London TownTony Rose sings Up to the Rigs

As I walked London's streets so gay
In Cheapside I lost my way.
And a fair young maid I chanced to meet
With kisses all she did me treat.

Up for London City on one fine day
It was up Cheapside I made my way.
A fair pretty maid I chanced for to meet
And with kisses her I there did greet.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
I was up to the rigs, down to the jigs,
(I was) up to the rigs of London Town.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
I was up to the rigs, down to the jigs,
Up to the rigs of London Town.
Up to the rigs, down to the jigs,
Up to the rigs of London Town.

She took me to a house of fame,
And there she asked me what was my name.
Then loud for supper she did call,
Says she, “Old man, you will pay for it all.”

She took me to some house of fame
And so boldly then did enter in.
Loudly for supper she did call,
A-thinking I was going to pay for it all.

Now, supper being over and the table cleared,
She called me her jewel and then her dear.
The chambermaids prepared our bed
And the waiters brought white wine and red.

The supper being over and the table cleared,
The waiters brought white wine and beer.
The waiters brought white wine and red
And the chambermaid prepared the bed.

Now it was the hour twixt one and two
When she asked me if up to bed I would go.
And pretty soon I gave consent
And straightaway to bed we went.

Between the hours of one and two
She asked me if to bed I'd go.
Immediately I did consent
And along with this pretty maid I went.

Now she thought by me she would have her will
But while she frisk-ed, I lay still,
And as soon as she had gone to sleep
It's out of bed I did gently creep.

Her cheeks were white and her lips were red
And I kissed her as she lay in bed;
But as soon as she fell fast asleep
Then it's out of her bed then I did creep.

I searched her pockets and there I found
A silver ring and five hundred pound,
I thought the gold looked very nice,
Says I to myself, “This will buy a nice brush.”

I searched her pockets and there I found
A silver snuffbox and ten pound,
A golden watch and a diamond ring,
So I took the lot and locked the lady in.

Now you sharks and flats wheresoever you may be,
Mind you, take this advice by me:
And treat them well what e'er betide
But look out and keep well in Cheapside.

So come all young men wherever you may be:
If you meet a pretty girl you use her free.
You use her free but don't get drunk;
Just remember me when I was up Cheapside.

 
Bellowhead sing London Town

Up London city I made my way,
Up Cheapside I chanced to stray
Where a fair, pretty maid I there did meet
And I greeted her with kisses sweet.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
I was up to the rigs, down to the jigs,
Up to the rigs of London town.

She took me to some house of sin
And boldly then she entered in;
Loudly for supper she did call,
Thinking that I would pay for it all.

The supper over, the table cleared,
The waiter brought white wine and red.
The waiter brought white wine and red
And the chambermaid prepared a bed.

Between the hours of one and two
She asked me if to bed I'd go.
Immediately I did consent
And along with this pretty maid then I went.

Her cheeks were white, her lips were red,
I kissed her as she lay in bed.
As soon as she was fast asleep
Out of the bed I did creep.

I searched her pockets and there I found
A silver snuff-box and ten pound,
A golden watch and a diamond ring,
So I took the lot and I locked her in.

Come all young men and listen to me
If you meet a pretty girl then use her free.
Use her free but don't get pied,
Remember me when I was up Cheapside.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Garry Gillard for transcribing Peter Bellamy's and Tony Rose's singing.