Doctor Foster

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For other uses, see Doctor Foster (disambiguation).
"Doctor Foster"
Roud #19288
Written England
Published 1844
Form Nursery rhyme
Writer(s) Traditional
Language English

"Doctor Foster" is an English language nursery rhyme that has appeared in many anthologies since the nineteenth century. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19288.

The rhyme[edit]

The rhyme was first published in its modern form in 1844, although the rhyming of 'puddle' with 'middle' suggests that it may have originally been the archaic 'piddle' for a stream and that the verse may therefore be much older.[1] The first recorded text was:

Tune for Doctor Foster

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Doctor Foster went to Gloucester,
In a shower of rain;
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.[1]

Origins and meaning[edit]

It was suggested by Boyd Smith (1920) that the rhyme may be based on a story of Edward I of England travelling to Gloucester, falling off his horse into a puddle, and refusing to return to the city thereafter.[1] There is a rhyme published in Gamer Gurton's Garland (1810) with a similar form:

Old Dr. Foster went to Gloster,
To preach the work of God.
When he came there, he sat in his chair,
And gave all the people a nod.[1]

This variant and the late date of recording suggest that the medieval meaning is unlikely.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 173.