Three Yards a Penny

A distinctively salt-of-the-earth approach to traditional song and a lesson in social history with variations on familiar songs both interesting and refreshing.

John Harkness is the man behind a broadside ballad collection that put ‘Proud Preston’ on the map and who is regarded as a significant figure in the printing and distribution of broadside ballads – printed sheets of paper with songs for entertainment and news value, affordable and popular amongst the ‘everyday’ working person, selling at a penny or halfpenny a sheet and providing a ‘window on the world’ for those who did not have access to more formal (and more expensive) forms of media.

The Harkness Press at Preston was one of the two largest provincial printers of Victorian street ballads.

‘Three yards a penny! Song, song, songs!’ is a journey into the world of John Harkness in Victorian Preston with a selection of songs being ‘hawked and peddled’ along the way.