14. I furnish'd all my rooms [Jack Hall Chimney Sweep]

No. 14

          One which was made to the honour of some
notorious thief, had these words, all I now remember

"I furnish'd all my rooms, ev'ry one, ev'ry one,
I furnish'd all my rooms, ev'ry one.
I furnish'd all my rooms with, mops, brushes, and hair brooms
Wash balls and sweet Perfumes; them I stole, them I stole.

I saild up Holborn Hill in a cart, in a cart
I saild up Holborn Hill in a cart
I saild up Holborn Hill, at St Giles’s drank my fill
And at Tyburn made my will, in a cart, in a cart.

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Place’s short, partially remembered lines are in fact the first record that we know of, of what was to become a very well-known ballad. The origins of the song lie in the culture that surrounded public hangings in the early eighteenth century, and this fragment is part of a song about the notorious thief, Jack Hall, who was hanged at Tyburn in 1707. The earliest printing found to date of the full ballad is probably the one printed by John Pitts, in Seven Dials in London. As is usual, no date is specified, but Pitts does provide the address as 6, Great Andrew Street, where he worked between 1819 and 1844. A number of additional printings of the ballad in this form were printed in the 1840s (or thereabouts) by Birt, Hodges, and Ryle and Co.In an article on the "Sam Hall Family of Ballads" Bertrand Bronson speculates that the original tune might be the tune to "A Young Man and A Maid," which appeared in D'Urfey's "Pills To Purge Melancholy" (see also "Bowl Away" which also uses this tune).


A Young Man And A Maid Small
D'Urfey Tune to "A Young Man And A Maid"



These printings may well have been made because of the popularity of a new version of the song which W.G. Ross performed at the Cider Cellars in Covent Garden. The Cider Cellars was a “Song and Supper club”, catering to an all-male clientele. The song and supper clubs provided food, drinks and musical entertainment late into the night, primarily for men who had emerged from the theatres, and became a forerunner to the nineteenth-century music hall. Here W.G. Ross performed a version of Jack Hall, but with some important variations. Firstly, he changed the name to Sam Hall. Secondly, he introduced a refrain which included variations on the phrase “damn my eyes.” Ross’s version of the song was immensely popular and there are many contemporary accounts of it including a description in Punch magazine, and a vivid recreation of a scene at the Cider Cellars in George W.M. Reynold’s Mysteries of the Court of London, as well as in the memoirs of several men who frequented the Cider Cellars during this period, such as Francis Burnand, Joseph Cave, H.G. Hibbert and Edmund Yates. These accounts emphasize the way that Ross’s performance would be announced, so that the rooms became crowded with men who wanted to see Ross’s performance. Ross would appeared on stage, his face blackened to suggest grime. He would straddle a chair backwards, and would deliver the song as if he were on the cart on his final journey to the gallows, uttering it with a dismal psalm-like melancholy, cursing the priest, and the hangman before turning on the audience and damning them, as if they were gathered to watch his hanging. This version of the song appeared frequently in print, including in the “Ross Songster”.


At this point the song seems to have forked in two directions. There is a version of the ballad that is popular in the US and Australia, which retains both the name Sam Hall and Ross’s signature blasphemy. When Johnny Cash recorded this version (twice in 1965 and 2002) he attributed it to Tex Ritter who had included it in his movie “Song of the Gringo”(1936) and recorded it as a jolly romp in which a slightly deranged cowboy laughs in the face of his imminent demise. Carl Sandburg also recorded two versions one in 1964 as Sam Hall and once as “Gallows Song”, which is much slower and more morose, as if trying to recreate the descriptions of Ross’s performance. According to discussions on the mudcat forum the song remains popular, both as a campfire song in Australia and in several more explicit versions known as “Sammy Small” among US Air Force pilots. This variant usually uses a tune which is a variation on “Frog Went A-Courting”

The other variant is that made popular by the Dubliners, and is frequently a slower more melancholy song, lamenting the fate of Sam Hall, who is a victim of a cruel world. The tune is a version of the tune to “Ye Jacobites By Name” (Roud 5517; recorded and rewritten by Robert Burns among others). Versions of this song, which seem closer to the original song, rather than the Ross version have been collected several times from traditional singers from throughout the south of England. Cecil Sharp collected it from Louis Hooper and Lucy White in Somerset in 1903. G.B. Gardiner collected it from George Blake in Southampton in 1907. Walter Pardon from Norfolk recorded it for the Topic album “A Country Life” in the 1980s. There have been a number of recent recording that return to the name Jack Hall, rather than Sam Hall. These include a version by Sam Carter, who performed it on Later with Jools Holland in 2012, with Sam Sweeney accompanying him on fiddle, and Nick Hart who recorded it on his album Nick Hart Sings Ten English Folk Songs.

One other interesting recording deserves mention, and that is the version recorded by Richard Thompson on his album 1000 years of Popular Music. This is particularly noteworthy as he uses a different tune, one which was included in the Illustrated Victorian Songbook, with musical arrangement by David Wykes.


Further Reading

J.S. Bratton, The Victorian Popular Ballad, (London: The MacMillan Press, 1975), 97-8,

Bertrand Bronson, Samuel Hall’s Family Tree, California Folklore Quarterly, 1.1 (1942), 47-64.

Ed Cray The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs 2nd ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 43-48

Vic Gatrell, The Hanging Tree, Execution and the English People, 1779-1868 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 140-4.

Peter Linebaugh, London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century (London: Allen Lane, 1991), 254

Roy Palmer, The Sound of History, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988) 9, 123-125.


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