Verse 1 begins: 'In Westminster, not long ago, / There lived a rat-catcher's daughter - / She was not born in Westminster, / But on t'other side of the water. / Her father kill'd rats, and she sold sprats; / All round and over the water, / And the gentlefolks they all bought sprats / Of the pretty rat-catcher's daughter'.
Ballads and broadsides were one of the few forms of mass entertainment available to the populace before the advent of television and radio. The sheets would often be bought and then shared around or read out aloud. The topics were often down to earth and no doubt would have been instantly recognisable to those in the audience, like this example here. The feel-good factor of this triumph over adversity ballad would probably have made it a fairly popular purchase.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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