A stitch in time

sampler

I recently spent a lovely afternoon (yes, of course it rained) at Michelham Priory near Eastbourne in Sussex.  It really is a lovely tranquil place, sitting in the middle of seven acres of land. In fact I would almost go as far as saying rain only adds to its loveliness. Almost.

After wandering round the gardens, the playground and feeding the ducks (3 times, my daughter thought they were the best bit of the day..)  we explored the house. Its a fantastic old building, full of wooden panels and leaded windows. And there are even costumes to dress up in! (somewhat unsuccessfully if you get the wrong size and your mum takes a photo..)

The priory began life in 1229 as a monastery, but was disbanded as part of the dissolution during the reign of King Henry VIII. It then  took on a new life as a country home passing through several families over the following centuries. Over the years some of the buildings and the church itself were destroyed, but as you walk around you still get a sense of its previous life.

So, in one of the rooms upstairs I noticed a couple of old samplers and some sepia photographs on one of the walls. I particularly liked the one above and, well obviously, that was it for me. I couldn’t wait to get home and start researching.

Samplers were just that, samples of sewing. They could be examples of patterns and colours to be shown to prospective customers, Domestically they were used to practice stitches, try out small sections of embroidery before attempting much bigger projects and, later on, girls would sew them at home or school perhaps with a poem, or long biblical verses on or like the one picture above the alphabet.

Catharine Child was eight years old when she completed her sampler.

Eight years old!

I couldn’t believe it either. She had in fact celebrated her 8th birthday just over a week before, hopefully not by sewing though.

Catharine was born on the 4th of March 1837, the seventh child of Thomas and Elizabeth. There would be a further three siblings born after her.

Three months after Catharine was born Victoria became Queen, and a month after that on the 1st of July (a date burnt into the memory of all genealogists) the General Register Office began to record  births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales. Yay!

By the time Thomas and his growing family lived at Michelham it was a working farm with a watermill to grind flour. Thomas would have probably grown his own wheat to mill but would also have milled other peoples grain for a fee.

Thomas was also proud to have a huge herd of Sussex Bred cows and calves all descended from one particular cow called ‘Lilley’ since 1804. He frequently won prizes for his cows. Thomas regularly visited the big cattle market at Lewes to sell his surplus cattle, and in 1818 he was one of many farmers who signed a petition to change market day from a Saturday to a more convenient Tuesday.

Thomas passed away in 1854 at the relatively young age of 61. It seems that some effort was made to continue farming at Michelham but in September 1861 a great auction with no reserve was set up on the premises as the family were ‘wholly disinclined to farming’.

Travellers from far and wide were met by carriages at the local railway station to complete their journey to the farm and by the end of the day horses, ewes, cows and calves were all gone along with all the farm equipment.

Maybe the Child family knew what was to come, because in 1865 ‘cattle plague’ wiped out a great deal of cattle at Michelham Farm, much to the distress of the new farmer there.

The widowed Elizabeth (now of independent means) moved to Lewes with a handful of her adult children although her eldest son, Francis remained close to his childhood home and moved to another farm. He was also the local registrar of births, deaths and marriages as well as being a relieving officer.

It would have been his job to record hatches, matches and dispatches as well as visiting the homes of people in need of financial assistance due to illness, infirmity or unemployment and then report back his findings to the local board of guardians who would have decided whether or not to help. Some families would have received ‘out-relief’ a weekly sum of money to help with rent and food for a few weeks, some would have been sent to the workhouse and the rest would have had no help. At all.

I was surprised to learn that of the 6 Child daughters, despite all living beyond a marriageable age, only one married. Eldest daughter Susannah left the family in 1865, marrying Benjamin Morris and remaining in Lewes close to her mother.

But what about Catharine?  Around about the time the family moved to Lewes, she found work as a housekeeper to the Hollis family. Her mother died in 1873 and some of the sisters stayed living together (again with a private income) until gradually they diminished in number.  By 1881 Catharine had become the Hollis children’s governess and was living in London with the family. She stayed with them until the mid 1880s when death was to change her future again.

In 1884 brother Francis (who we had left farming up there ↑↑↑ ) lost his wife, Jane. She left behind three young children in want of a mother. So Catherine left her charges in London and returned to her family and in effect became a now unpaid housekeeper receiving board and lodging in exchange for running the household. Hopefully she enjoyed her new life.

Francis died in 1902 and Catharine became redundant, her nieces were in their 20’s and had moved away to pursue their own careers. Catharine needed to find new employment and a new home. She may have lived for a while with her last remaining sister, Caroline, but by 1911 she was living with a poorly cousin, Mary Lambe, and employed once again as a live-in housekeeper. She was 74 years old.

Mary died in December 1916 from complications of influenza and I can’t find Catharine again until her death in 1921.

After a life time of caring for others Catharine passed away aged 84.

Thank you to Michelham Priory for allowing me to photograph the sampler.

Long overdue.

Thomas Foord Waldron

 

 

 

 

 

Long before the fortnightly collection, humans used to dispose of their own rubbish mostly by burying it. It wasn’t much more than the burnt remains of the fire until far more recently.

In the 19th century and before there was no plastic to dispose of and no old microwaves or tumble driers to get rid of. Things were used and re-used until they couldn’t be used anymore. Then they were burnt and buried or maybe collected by people who would sort through the ash for usable items to sell on themselves. Bits of bone, buttons etc.

As time went on and the household rubbish began to contain things that wouldn’t burn well, tin  and glass for example, local authorities had to do something constructive about it and a more local organised collection began to emerge.

However sometimes people continued to use the old rubbish pit that they had dug in their garden many years before and then decades later people like my mum would be digging a hole in a border in the garden and then randomly find half a broken plate or a glass bottle stopper just where they were about to plant a tulip bulb.

I have to assume that litter bins were few and far between in the more rural areas at that time, because I am always finding bits of old Victorian crockery and such, sticking up out of the ground in woods and old trackways. It seems our ancestors were litterbugs too.

And as a result we have a nice little collection of cod bottles at home, pretty little blue poison bottles and stoneware bottles that we have discovered whilst out walking. We’ve got some lovely beer bottles, gin bottles and lemonade bottles. A Marmite jar, a few decorative milk bottles and a couple of Sainsbury’s pate pots. Even an old Bovril jar or 10.

And just for a little while, this very tactile mineral water bottle ‘lent’ to us by Mr T Foord. But he actually wanted this rubbish back. Yesterday.

I found Mr Foords bottle laying face down after a walk in the countryside with my children. After carefully retrieving it from its muddy tomb and cleaning it up (evicting the bugs!)  we could clearly read….

‘This bottle is lent by T Foord of Waldron and must be returned’

Oops.

Thomas Foord was born in Heathfield, East Sussex sometime around January 1841. He was the only child of George Foord, an agriculturial labourer and Eliza (possibly nee Knight). By 1851 the family had moved just along the road to the edge of the small village of Waldron, taking Georges widowed father, Jesse, with them.

Thomas grew up following his fathers occupation and then married local girl Philadelphia Stevens in May 1865, the bride had just turned 19 and the groom was 24. Their first child, Jesse – named after Thomas’ grandad, was born soon after. The couple would have 13 children in total.

Now something quite exciting happened around this time. I’m not quite sure how it happened but George Foord suddenly became his own boss, a farmer of 5 acres.

And his son Thomas started a business.

Family history says that Philadelphia Foord was a dab hand at brewing ginger beer, and Thomas saw the potential in this. Before long Thomas was selling his own bottled mineral water, ginger beer, potash and lemonade. Thomas became quite famous in the locality for his delicious drinks.  As his children grew some of them entered the family business too and eventually son Walter took over from his father, continuing to trade until the second world war when Foords was bought by a much larger mineral company, Hooper Struave from Brighton.

Thomas pops up frequently in the Sussex newspapers, he obviously took a keen interest in his local community. He had various hobbies and interests, he was at one time a bellringer, a member of a slate club and involved in the local bonfire society. What I particularly liked about him though is he seems to have ended pretty much every meeting he attended by performing a jolly or comical song!

I dragged persuaded the family to go for a drive over to Waldron churchyard to see if we could find any family graves. We found a couple but sadly not George and Eliza or Thomas and Philadelphia’s, we did however find Thomas’ and Philadelphia’s house still standing. I wonder how many bottles are waiting to be found there. Or if they pop up frequently  whilst the owners are gardening….

But what about Philadelphia who seems to have started the cottage industry? She was a farmers daughter and one of five surviving children. Her mother Ann is likely to have been the only daughter of Philadelphia Ashby of nearby Rotherfield.   This Philadelphia spent a large part of her life working as a live-in housekeeper on a farm. It would be interesting to delve further back into this maternal line to see if the brewing skill was passed down to Ann.

I contacted Sheila, who is a descendant of Thomas and Philadelphia, and she was kind enough to supply some of this information and this photo of Thomas.

Thomas Foord

He does look like a jolly chap doesn’t he?

I was really pleased to be able to return Mr Foords bottle to his family. And even more pleased it reached Sheila in one piece!

Now, anyone want a Bovril jar?

 

‘Goodbye Ada!’

Pond

Imagine, for a moment if you will, that you are walking along a quiet, leafy country lane on the outskirts of a small English village. The road is dry and dusty underfoot, the air is filled with the ‘perfume’ of a nearby farm.  The evening is drawing in and the warmth of the June day is beginning to fade. It’s a time before cars were common and planes were just used by carpenters, so there is no modern noise to interrupt your thoughts as you make your way home. Unless we include the baa-ing of the sheep on that farm, if that is that a modern noise?

Sorry, I have spoilt your concentration. Lets get baa-ack to the quiet leafy lane.

Suddenly, as you round a bend, a young boy appears and runs unseeingly past you. He is the first person you have seen for a while and, in this fading light, he has quite unnerved you.  Take a moment to catch your breath and then please continue on your way .

Just a little way ahead, you can see a small crowd of people gathered around the edge of a large pond just to the side of the road.  As you draw closer you can tell something is very wrong.

Lying beside the pond is the lifeless body of a young woman, her dishevelled hair is soaked and full of weeds and mud.  Someone is lifting her arms above her head and then bringing them back to her chest in an attempt to revive her.  More people arrive breathlessly from behind you. Maybe they are her family, perhaps the boy who ran past you was going to fetch them.  Whoever they are, they are too late…

June 2nd 1881

Martha Styles was just 17 when she left her parents home for the last time. She told them she was going to catch the evening train from the station a mile or so away, back to the townhouse where she worked a few miles away. She said her goodbyes to her parents and siblings and made her way out of the house.

She took her youngest sister, 3 year old Ada, out to the garden gate and asked her to walk a little way with her, but their mother overheard and called out that it was far too late for the little girl to be out. Martha said goodbye to Ada and walked away. It was just after 8pm

But she didn’t go to the station. She walked the opposite way, towards a large pond about half a mile away. She stood by the water, took her hat and scarf off and then laid them on the grass nearby.

At about half past 8, Martha was discovered struggling in the pond by a couple of small boys who tried to help her. They fetched help and eventually she was dragged from the deep muddy water. When it became obvious there was nothing more to be done, her body was removed to a nearby  pub, where it was stored in an outbuilding until the inquest could be arranged a couple of days later.

This was quite common for the time. Public houses usually had room for a large table where the body could be viewed, plenty of space for the Coroner, and any other interested parties and of course it would be able to provide refreshments.  Hopefully not served from that large table during proceedings though.

At the inquest her mother, Ann, told the coroner that Martha had returned home from the local town in the hope of getting a position closer to her family but had missed out on it. She had moved away a couple of months earlier, telling her family she had employment in the household of a family a few miles away.

Ann had no explanation for her daughters actions, and was only able to add that Martha had suffered from fits as a child, ‘dropping down as if she was dead’ and the doctor had often been called to attend to her.

One of the boys who had tried to get Martha out of the pond said that she seemed to just struggle and take no notice of their pleas for her to grab the stick they held out for her to grab. The doctor who performed the ‘mechanical breathing’ to try and revive her said her face was discoloured as if she had been fitting in the water.

The court was told that she had worn some boots belonging to her mistress and had been caught with them, the mistress demanded 18 shillings for said boots of which poor Martha had only managed to pay 2.

Being unable to find the money to pay for the boots, she had been sacked a week or so before her death. Her parents had been unaware of this and thought their girl was still at her place, but looking for another one. Her father only learned of her dismissal when he had gone to the employers house to ask for his daughters things back. They were being kept, he was told by a servant there, until the rest of the shillings were paid.

Her father, Stephen, said he had been told by another servant at the house that Martha may have been with child, but he didn’t know if this was true. Martha hadn’t told them she was on her last visit home.

Her mother then told the court that when Martha had returned home she appeared to be as happy and cheerful as ever, only noticing her daughter seemed unable to enjoy reading as she used to. There was no unpleasantness at home at all, both of her parents would have been happy for her to remain at home.

So what had happened to Martha? Did she kill herself or was it a tragic accident? Why had she decided to walk to the pond instead of going to catch her train? She had no job to return to at that point but she had felt unable to speak to her family about her troubles. Had she simply gone for a walk to think over what to do and decided to paddle in the pond, taking her hat and scarf off first before becoming ill and falling in?

Whatever had happened, the verdict at the inquest was suicide. Martha was buried on the 6th of June, which oddly enough was exactly 135 years ago as I write this.

But that is not the end.

Martha was the 6th of 13 children, and at the time of her death only her younger siblings remained at home. The family probably lived in a small ‘two up two down’ type cottage, close to the farm where her father worked.

These cottages were so called because they had 2 bedrooms upstairs and a large kitchen and small sitting or ‘best’ room downstairs. The toilet would have been outside. It would have been a squeeze to fit everyone in and this is why children tended to leave home at a young age (especially girls) and live and work at the home of the employer.

One of the problems of having a large family in a small home was how rapidly illness could spread. In the days before many effective medications had been discovered even a minor cut could cause blood poisoning and death.

At the end of July, 9 year old Emma Ann Styles became ill. At first it was just a sore throat, but then a rash and a high temperature followed. It must have been quite serious as the doctor was called from his home just across the road.

It was Scarlet Fever. With no antibiotics and little in the way of painkillers there wasn’t much to be done except hope and pray for a quick recovery. Complications were common – kidney failure, septicemia, heart problems and secondary fever amongst other things were all killers –  a family could lose several children to an illness like this in a very short period of time. And there was nothing to be done but hope the patient got better.

Emma died on the 7th of august and was buried on the 9th close to Martha.

But this is still not the end.

Shortly before she died Emma passed the illness on to her sister 11 year old Phoebe.

Phoebe to succumbed to the terrible illness and was buried alongside Emma on the 13th of August.

With 5 children still in the home, including a young baby, Ann and Stephen must have been at their wits end.

On the 10th of August as Phoebe lay breathing her last, the doctor again called at the house, and confirmed to the grieving couple that their youngest daughter, little Ada, had also become infected.

Ada was very poorly but held on for 2 weeks. She died on the 24th of August and  was buried swiftly the next day close, to her sisters.

Four daughters dead and buried in the space of 3 months. How quiet that once crowded, noisy house must have been.

The Lady of the Manor.

Constance

This charming leather bound Common Prayer book was given to Constance McNicol in May 1872, when she was just 8 years old.  Despite its age and now rather shabby appearance you can tell by its soft, velvety worn cover and the fragile pages inside that it has been well used. Constance has placed  flowers in between some of the pages, a few still remain hidden inside today and you can see brown outlines where others have left their mark behind.

Constance was born in February 1864 in Calcutta, India. Her 20 year old mother Wilhelmina was from London,  and her father Nicol was a Shipbuilder who originated from Greenock in Scotland.

The family sailed to England in the mid 1860’s, and Constance became a big sister to  brother Ernest who was born in London in 1866. The family lived in a town house just a short walk from Hyde Park.

Nicol died in May 1872 and perhaps Constance received the book to mark the passing of her father. She certainly placed a flower across the page with the prayer for the ‘Burial of the Dead’ which has stained the paper.

Wilhelmina McNicol married again in 1878, this time to the recently divorced David Sandeman.

Constance herself was married in July 1890 to John Budd, the son of a Copper Merchant. The couple resided with the Budd family at Kingston House in Leatherhead, Surrey for several years until news that a large property, in a tiny rural hamlet in East Sussex, was coming up for auction. The previous owner had paid £13000 for the house ten years earlier but had just gone bankrupt and the Budds were able to purchase Tidebrook Manor for the princely (but bargain) price of £7600 in December 1897.

The couple settled in to their new life in the countryside. They employed many local people, and several of these stayed working for the Budds for the rest of their working lives. This included Thomas and Eleanor Knight who received £200 from Constance’s Will for their long service of over 40 years.

Constance took a great interest in the local church and gave it many gifts during her lifetime.  She enjoyed being part of village life, joining several societies and clubs. She was Vice-President of Tidebrooks Womens Institute for a time in the 1920’s.

John also was an active member of the community, he often played the church organ for services and attended local gatherings with his wife.

John Budd died in 1948, and Constance followed in 1950. They share a grave in the peaceful churchyard a few minutes walk from their home.

Shortly before her death, Constance paid for a huge stain glass window to be placed in the church. It reads…The thanksgiving of John Evelyn Budd and Constance Anne his wife in grateful remembrance of 50 years at Tidebrook Manor. 1898-1948.

The Farmers Daughter.

 philadelphia photoPhiladelphia Hyland

This rather well dressed lady is Philadelphia, who I became acquainted with  several years ago after purchasing a rather solemn looking book entitled ‘A Brief Memoir of James Jones’.  She has signed her name across the flyleaf as you can see above.  I have been lucky enough to discover a photo of Philadelphia so thank you to Terry for allowing me to include it here.

Mr Jones was for 45 years the Pastor of a Strict Baptist Church on the outskirts of a quiet Sussex village. His book is full of hymns and poems he composed as well as some delightful letters he wrote in answer to people asking for prayers to be said for them while they were ill or perhaps dying.

In one of the letters he tells a lady that ‘her landlord will soon be requiring her earthly house because it is getting old and is considerably out of repair, although He will take care of the old materials as they will be needed to rebuild the house again.  When the time comes the removal will be a happy one for it will be conducted by Angels.’  Hopefully this letter gave some comfort to the poor woman.

Jones died in 1888 and his book was published the following year. I wonder if Philadelphia had a copy to remind her of the sermons the Pastor gave, perhaps she had attended the chapel regularly. By leaving her name inside the book I feel she was certainly proud to own it.

Philadelphia, a Farmers daughter,  was born in Sussex, England in 1830, the eldest of at least 5 children. Her mother had died before Philadelphia was 11, leaving their father to bring them up alone.

Philly is listed as a housekeeper to her father in the 1851 census, a role she had probably carried out in one form or another since the death of her mother. It was quite typical of the times for an elder daughter to take over the running of the household and care of younger siblings in this situation. She appears to have a small daughter with her as well, but I have not dug very deeply into this.

In 1855 she married her first husband who sadly died the following year – a few months before the birth of their first child. She married again, a few years later and had 2 more daughters with her new husband, as well as becoming a stepmother to his 3 children.

She became a widow again in 1886 and spent the remainder of her life living with different family members. She died in 1904 aged 74.

So where were we….

Like many people I like a quiet walk through a churchyard, I like to explore the old stones and sometimes take note of a name or two and see what I can find out about them. About 15 years ago I was walking around a Sussex churchyard with my mum and the thought occurred to us …why not record some of these stones? many of the memorials were from the early 1800s and were rapidly falling victim to weather – the soft sandstone losing the lettering once carved into it. So we began to spend our spare time there, on hands and knees with paper and pens (yes it was in the days before Tablets!) and in all weathers, desperately trying to read inscriptions that were terribly faint and almost illegible.

In the end we recorded well over a thousand headstones. It was a very difficult project, we didn’t get it right in some cases but we tried our best, visiting local archives to try and get as many names and dates right as possible.  We purchased death certificates, read obituaries in local papers dating back to Victorian times. But it was great, and we had fun doing it. When complete we felt we had achieved something, and many people who had long since gone were remembered and now have become like old friends to us, albeit some of them probably have the odd chuckle at my expense about that ant incident.

One nice part of our project was the people we met, both in person and online. We received photos of Edwardians now residing in our churchyard whose families had since emigrated, we were able to help people find long lost ancestors buried in a church miles away from where they should have been and we learnt a lot about the history of the area and its people.

So back to the name of the blog…. One of the oldest headstones we recorded had the rather sad inscription ‘Seized by death and prisoners made, three infant children’ and I was intrigued……..