14. James Dace, musician

I see that James Dace and Son’s music shop is being re-opened in Moulsham Street, Chelmsford. As James Dace (2) the musician, the founder, was born in Witham, it seems a good opportunity to write a little about him.

James Dace (1) senior
I’ll begin with his father, also James, who was born in Writtle. When he was 16 he became a bugler with the Witham Rifle Volunteers, who trained locally. Usually Volunteers had drummers, but Witham had buglers instead.

Then in 1816 he became the parish clerk, sexton and organist at St Nicholas church. The church officers provided him and his wife Mildred with a small cottage in the corner of the churchyard, next to the Woolpack .

This is the Woolpack in Church Street. The Daces’ cottage was next to it, behind what is now the grey wall in the photo. The site is now part of the churchyard.

The cottage is not there now (see the photo). He was also the gardener, and said to be “weather wise”. In 1824 he was dismissed from the organist’s post for some reason. However, he remained parish clerk and sexton until his death in 1864, aged 77. Six people replaced him – four boys to give the responses during services, and two men to do the rest.

James Dace (2) the musician
James (2) the musician, son of James (1) was born in the cottage in 1821. He had eleven brothers and sisters though some died. In 1840, when he was 19, it was said that “he lives by his profession as a musician”. In that year he played the serophene at the opening of the new Congregational church (now URC). The serophene was a sort of early harmonium.

Afterwards, the vicar, Reverend John Bramston “severely lectured the father (1) for allowing his son (2) to enter such a place for such a purpose.” There was strong rivalry between Rev Bramston and the Congregationalists. Dr Dixon, who recorded the event, called Bramston one ”of these bigots”.

Young James (2) forged ahead, and called himself a “Professor of Music” in the 1841 census return. He soon became church organist at All Saints’, Maldon. After a concert in Chelmsford in 1843, he received warm praise from the Chronicle’s reviewer, in spite of the fact that the flautist could not get his flute in tune with the piano. In 1847 Robert Bretnall of Spring Lodge wrote in his diary “I went to the White Hart to hear a Concert performed by 14 Musicians and a Miss Seymour, conducted by Mr Dace (2) and a Mr Thorn. There was Davis the famous Trumpet blower there. I left at 10 o’clock”.

James (2) settled in Colchester for a while, where he married and had a large family. He acquired a very large number of pupils all over mid-Essex and beyond. In 1855 he moved to Chelmsford where his shop was established, and the business developed rapidly, selling pianos, music etc. and doing repairs. He soon had other branches in Stratford, Colchester and Romford, and later at Ilford and East Ham. When he (2) died in 1896, the Chronicle wrote that “The name of Dace is well known in musical circles in Essex. The deceased gentleman has been successful as a composer, and has also carried on business as a dealer in music, musical instruments &c. in Chelmsford and Colchester for many years.”

It was added that “he acted as organist at Moulsham Church for some time, and afterwards as organist at the London-road Congregational Chapel.” So he continued to spread his organ playing between the different religious denominations, despite the earlier reprimand from Reverend Bramston.

The additional information below, about some other members of the family, was provided by Sue White, to whom I am most grateful [JG]. She starts “I am related to James Dace. He was my grandmother’s great uncle”.

Robert Dace
A son of James Dace senior
16/5/1848.  In court for 2 counts of Larceny.  Sentenced to 6 mths for each count.
30/12/1850 Larceny before convicted of Felony – result Transportation for life!
Convict at St John’s Middx in 1851 Age 23.
The Examiner 11/1/1851. Robert in court for theft of Gold pencil case.  This was his third offence, so verdict was transportation. He was transported to Gibralter for 7 years.  There were several appeals on his behalf.

Robert Dace, of No. 5, Alexander-terrace, The Grove,
Stratford, in the county of Essex, Teacher of Music, having
been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication
of Bankruptcy, filed in Her Majesty’s Court of Bankruptcy,
in London, on the 18th.day of August, 1868, is
hereby required to surrender himself to Philip Henry
Pepys, Esq., a Registrar of the said Court, at the first
meeting of creditors to be held before the said Registrar,
on the 3rd day of September next, at one o’clock in the
afternoon precisely, at the said Court. George John
Graham, of No. 25, Coleman-street, London, is the Official
Assignee, and Mr. R. W. Lloyd, of No. 49, Coleman-street,
London, is the Solicitor acting in the bankruptcy.
From the London Gazette 21 August 1868. Page 37 of 62
Robert Dace, of No. 5, Alexander Terrace, The Grove,
Stratford, in the county of Essex, Teacher of Music, having
been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication of
Bankruptcy, filed in Her Majesty’s Court of Bankruptcy,
in London, on the 18th day of August, 1868, a public
sitting, for the said bankrupt to pass his Last Examination,
and make application for his Discharge, will be held
before James Bacon, Esq., a Commissioner of the said Court,
on the 11th of November next, at the said Court, at Basinghall-
street, in the city of London, at one of the clock in the
afternoon precisely, the day last, aforesaid being the day
limited for the said bankrupt to surrender. Mr. George
John Graham, of No. 25, Coleman Street, London, is the
Official Assignee, and Mr. W. W. Aldridge, of No. 46,
Moorgate Street, London, is the Solicitor acting in the bankruptcy.
From the London Gazette, 20 October 1868. Page 30 of 46
—Accident.—Mr. Robert Dace, of Stratford, professor of music (brother to Mr. James Dace, Colchester), went on Friday morning last to Boreham House, to tune a piano. On returning up the avenue, the horse he was driving shied at a boat on the lake. Mr. Dace was thrown…..
Chelmsford Chronicle
East, England
Left a will leaving £70 to wife

Rosetta Dace can be found on the 1871 census as a servant at Blenheim Palace.  Winston Churchill was born in 1874 and I [SW] went to the palace to see if I could find out whether Rosetta was still there when he was born.  Unfortunately, the housekeeper did not keep any written records (that survive) about her staff, so I could not find this out.  Equally, the head gardener would not have kept records of his staff, so the only records that exist are the census

The family tree which follows is in PDF format. Click the blue writing to get there, then use the grey strip to navigate the PDF
The Dace family tree

4 thoughts on “14. James Dace, musician”

  1. Ahhh! Where is the end of the story? I am related to James Dace. He was my grandmother’s great uncle.

  2. This article was very interesting, thank you. After my grandfather Eric Silcocks died in 1994, in his possessions there was some sheet music with a handwritten note from the composer James Dace (2) addressed “with the composer’s kind love to his niece Annie Harvey December 1882” . The piece is a patriotic part song entitled “The Land We Love” with words by Rev James Pownall Britton, published by Novello Ewer and Co.. Annie (nee Cox) was the daughter of Emma, the daughter of James Dace (1), sister of James Dace (2). Annie was my grandfather’s grandmother, so my great great grandmother. She studied music with her uncle James (2) in Chelmsford, and aged 14 in 1860 became organist at St Edward the Confessor Church in Romford Market Place, and was paid £20 a year. She also played at St John The Evangelist Church, Havering-atte-Bower in about 1892, my local church at which I have been organist since 1984 (the organ is a different one, having not been installed until 1902). I did not know about the Dace connection until the sheet music turned up; prior to that I had been to the Moulsham Street shop to buy most of my organ music, and Richard Hickman, whose family had bought the business from the Dace family kindly printed extra information for me.

  3. Sorry, in the earlier comment I submitted I stated that Annie became organist at St Edward the Confessor in 1860; that should have read 1864.

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