This is from the notes accompanying the double CD 'come write me down'
A song called the 'Norfolk Gentlemen his last will and testament' was entered inthe Stationer's Register in 1595, and printed several times on blackletter broadsides. It's twenty odd verses told the story of two orphans, whose wicked uncle had hired ruffians to kill them in the wood in order to steal their inheiritance.One rufian killed the other, but then left the children to wander and die. The Uncle received his just redeserts with many misfortunes and finally died in prison.
The story was based on an earlier play by Robert Yarrington. The song received widespread popularity, being referred to approvingly by such luminaries as Addison and Wordsworth and the central story became the stuff of countless pantomimes and plays. Sometime in the first half of the nineteenth century, the song that the Coppers sing was written by William Gardiner (1770-1853). this severely reduced story concentrates on the plight of the children and preserves key motifs such as the robins, but not the Uncle and his henchmen.The older song, that commences 'Now ponder well you parents dear' still turned up in occasional traditional versions in the earlier twentieth century, but 'Babes in the Wood' far outstripped it in popularity, being found all over Britain and North America on numerous broadsides and in books of nursery rhymes and poems for children.
hope it was worth all the typing!!!