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Ransford, Edwin (1805–1876), singer and composer, was born on 13 March 1805 at Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire. He first appeared on the stage as an extra in the chorus at the King's Theatre, Haymarket, and was afterwards employed in the same capacity at Covent Garden. In March 1825 he married; his wife's name was Hannah (1804/5–1876). During Charles Kemble's management of Covent Garden, Ransford sang the baritone role of Don Caesar in Samuel James Arnold's The Castle of Andalusia (27 May 1829), and was engaged soon afterwards by Arnold for the English Opera House (later the Lyceum). During the autumn seasons of 1829 and 1830 he was at Covent Garden, and in 1831 he played leading characters under R. W. Elliston at the Surrey Theatre, where he won great acclaim. Later that same year he appeared at Sadler's Wells as Captain Cannonade in John Barnett's opera The Convent, or, The Pet of the Petticoats and on 3 November he played Giacomo in the first English production of Auber's Fra Diavolo at Drury Lane. In 1832 he was with Joe Grimaldi at Sadler's Wells, playing Tom Tuck in Andrew V. Campbell's nautical drama The Battle of Trafalgar, in which he made a great hit with S. C. Neukomm's song ‘The Sea’. He afterwards fulfilled important engagements at Drury Lane, the Lyceum, and Covent Garden. At the last-named theatre he played the Doge of Venice in Othello on 25 March 1833, when Edmund Kean made his last appearance on the stage; he was also in the cast, as Sir Harry, when Charles Kemble made his last appearance, as Charles Surface in The School for Scandal. His own final theatrical engagement was with W. C. Macready at Covent Garden in 1837–8.

After his retirement from the stage, Ransford sang for a time at concerts, and then, from 1845 onwards, produced a series of popular musical entertainments in which he took the leading roles. Among these ventures were Illustrations of Gipsy Life and Character (with the words to the songs by Eliza Cook), Tales of the Sea, and Songs of Dibdin. Ransford was also well known as a composer of songs and glees, and between 1835 and 1876 had more than fifty pieces published. Under the name of Aquila he composed thirteen Sacred Ballads (1862–9) and wrote the words to the popular song ‘In the days when we went Gipsying’. He was also the author of Jottings—Music in Verse (1863).

For some years Ransford was in business as a music-seller and publisher, and during the 1840s and 1850s he issued many popular songs. His business began in Charles Street, Soho Square, and moved to 461 Oxford Street in 1850. When he went into partnership with his son William Edwin (d. 1890), a talented singer, in 1869, the business was based at 2 Princes Street, Cavendish Square, where it continued to be managed by William after his father's death. A genial and popular man, Ransford died at his home, 59 Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square, on 11 July 1876, and was buried at Bourton on the Water on 15 July. His wife died four months later, aged seventy-one.

G. C. Boase, rev. David J. Golby


W. Henderson and F. Kidson, ‘Ransford, Edwin’, Grove, Dict. mus. · The Era (16 July 1876), 10


J. Bacon, lithograph, BM

Wealth at death  

under £2000: resworn probate, May 1877, CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1876)