“Thomas, I would have you give my clothes away” Elizabeth Furnace 1627

Furness house 1615 sepia

I have found more 17th century wills – a small clutch in fact – and all casting a light on the intermarrying Furnace and Bennett families, farmers and lead miners of Eyam (1607-1670).

This post concerns Elizabeth Furnace’s will of 1627, a simple list of clothing bequests to family members and friends. It is both deeply touching, and illuminating – an insight into the surprising prosperity of farming folk of the Eyam lead field during the second year of the reign of Charles I.

Elizabeth was the wife of Richard Furnace (11th great grandparents in my surmised tree, and variously spelled Furness, Furnis, Furnies). In his will of 1607 Richard was styled a husbandman which means he was a free tenant farmer and/or small landowner. On the farm he grew corn, oats, hay and barley, kept over a hundred sheep, a few cows, a breeding pig and had two mares. The household details are sketchy but the contents mentioned are typical of the time: board tables, bed frames, arks and  chests, bedding and bolsters, hams curing in the roof space, twenty pewter dishes. He appears to have owned his house and the ground it stood on.

Five of Elizabeth and Richard’s children survived to adulthood. Two of them, Thomas the eldest son and his sister Anne married Bennett siblings, Margaret and William junior. If you have read my recent family history posts (see links under ‘related’) you will have already met the elder William Bennett, farmer of Gotherage, and also his spinster daughter Joan, sister of Margaret and William, she who apparently preferred taking over her father’s tenancy to marriage.

In 1627 when Elizabeth Furnace dictates her last wishes (a nuncupative will) to son Thomas, she has been widowed for twenty years. She is probably at least 70 years old, born then during the reign of Elizabeth I. The granddaughters to whom she leaves personal items are presumably ‘grown up’ enough to make immediate use of the gifts. Thomas’s teenage daughter, Elizabeth, for instance, does not feature, though her sisters and mother do.

Here then is my transcription. I’ve used modern spelling:

These are the words of a will nuncupative of Elizabeth Furnace the wife of Richard Furnace of Eyam in the county of Derby … received before her death.

Thomas, said she, I would have you give my clothes away

I would have you give to Anne Furnace the daughter of my son Richard Furnace two gowns and one petticoat

I would have you give to my daughter Joanne Furnace two petticoats, three waistcoats and three doublets and hat

And I would have you to let your own wife have two petticoats, one pair of new shoes and hose which I never had on

And I would have you to give to Amie Bennet of Gringlow my daughter’s daughter one hat and my napkin in my pocket

And I would have you give to Thomas Bocking’s wife my gloves in my pocket

And I would have you give your daughter Margaret the ruffs I have on

I would have you give your daughter Ann my working day gown and band

I would have you give Elizabeth Townsend my hose and shoes which I have on

I would have you give my waistcoat which I have on to Elizabeth Furnace my daughter

I would have you give to my daughter Anne my working day apron which I have on and my kerchief on my head

I would have you give to my daughter Joanne Furnace my ark and all my linen clothes in it

And Thomas I will give you fifty six shillings in my chest and forty shillings which Thomas Bocking oweth me…

these were her last words

signed Thomas Furnace of Eyam in the County of Derby Yeoman

 

A few of these bequests need some explanation. Pockets for instance were separate ‘tie-on’ affairs that usually came in twos. Devised in the 17th century to rest on the hips, and fastened at the waist, they were often highly decorative. Women of rank carried  in them all manner of valuable trinkets and snuff boxes, smelling bottles, even their diaries, whereas housewives might have their sewing kit, a comb or, in Elizabeth’s case, her gloves (also a valuable item) and napkin stowed there. They were pretty capacious items, forerunners of the oversized designer handbag. But then napkins were also large (around 36” by 45”, roughly a square metre) and doubtless needed to be kept close in a time when people still mostly ate using their fingers. It anyway seems a very personal item to bestow on granddaughter Amie Bennett, and probably conveys symbolic meaning too.  I’ve seen other wills where a pledge to honour family obligations was sealed with the exchange of a napkin or handkerchief.

Pockets composite1

You can see more about pockets HERE.

The waistcoats and doublets would mostly likely have been fitted jackets with sleeves, and the petticoats full gathered skirts for outer not under wear. Wool is likely to be the fabric of choice for country living, with linen for under garments. Both men and women wore a long shift with a high gathered neck, and doubtless it is Elizabeth’s linen underwear that is kept in the ark (dome-topped chest) to be given to daughter Joanne. Women’s clothing also had a masculine look in the 17th century, hence the wearing of doublets and also large hats.

reconstructing history site

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Gowns at the time were sleeveless, pleated across the shoulder back. With added ruffs they were garments that conveyed great presence. Obviously there is no knowing how Elizabeth’s gowns would have looked. There seems to be little surviving evidence of 17th century clothes for the middling classes. But it’s likely they were fairly plain and in sober shades suitable for a widow. In fact Anne who is to receive them is the daughter of Elizabeth’s second son, Richard Furnace. He was/or would become a non-conformist who gave financial support (both in life and after his death) for the relief of persecuted Quakers. (The house in the header image is his house in Eyam, built in 1615.)

gown 1600-1610 V & A

Elizabeth’s gowns would have been nowhere near as grand as the one in the photo. Nonetheless, it is obvious that clothing generally was both highly valued and valuable to be bequeathed in this manner. Today most of us would feel uncomfortable to receive the used and personal items from a dead grandmother. I’m also surprised that Elizabeth was so very well clothed for the widow of a husbandman, and in an era when ordinary working folk struggled to own two shirts or shifts (one on and one in the wash) and when a single woollen jacket would be expected to last for many years. But then it is also possible/likely that her parting ‘wardrobe’ spanned decades of ownership of clothing that had been well made and cared for. Fashions during Elizabeth’s lifetime had not changed so very much. On the other hand she was not a dependent. Richard had left the farm jointly to her and to Thomas. She could buy a new waistcoat or hose if she so decided. Besides, it seems the Furnace family is prospering since Thomas now styles himself ‘yeoman’.

I’m wondering if you have formed an image of this woman as she bequeaths all her clothing down to the pieces she is wearing. She is clearly not bedridden, for she has on her hose and shoes; also her working day apron, doubtless over a full woollen skirt (petticoat), complete with well-filled pockets. Then there’s the sleeved waistcoat like the one in the pattern diagram above, probably also in plain wool. There are ruffs at her neck, a kerchief over her hair. She has all her wits about her too as she enumerates and disposes. Perhaps she is in her bedchamber, the ark and chest lids up, Thomas sitting at a small table near the window as he takes down her instructions. Elsewhere in the house, Margaret his wife is overseeing the preparation of the day’s meal, potage (a stew or sorts). Elizabeth her daughter checks on the batter that is fermenting for the next batch of oatcakes, a Derbyshire staple. Outside, life on the farm continues, a soundscape of bleating sheep and the rattle of cartwheels on unmade roads, the chatter of passing neighbours.

The young Elizabeth, busy with household tasks, will marry Francis Frith of Eyam in 1636. They will have nine children. The second son William will be the favourite of Elizabeth’s aunt, Joan Bennett of Gotherage, her mother’s sister. In spring 1665, when in his early twenties, William will be entrusted to be Joan’s executor and inherit her tenant farm and all its possessions. Joan says his mother Elizabeth is to have all her wool and linen clothes. She says that William is to deliver them to her.

Related:

When 11th great grandfather was about to die…

“My mind and will is…” Joan Bennett 1665

“my mind and will is…” Joan Bennet 1665

Joan Bennett of Gotheridge spinster dau of Wm Bennett senior 1665 will cropped

Revelations, mysteries, contemporary beliefs, conventions, testator glimpses – how they might have lived their lives, relationships social and personal, their character and state of mind, small and touching details – there are clues to all of these and more in the last will and testament of 10th great grandaunt, Joan Bennett, spinster of Gotheridge in the parish of Eyam (Pronounced Eem). As you’ll see later, there are also connections with tragedies yet to come, because I, as transcriber, have the luxury of hindsight – 356 years’ worth – although I have to say it was only when I’d finished deciphering the document I then discovered the sad ironies of Joan’s many bequests.

But first a recap. Last time I said I had found the 17th century wills of father and daughter, William Bennett, farmer of Gotheridge (Gotherage), an isolated tenant farm on the Highlow estate of the Eyre family, who died in 1620, and his daughter Joan who died in 1665. As a spinster daughter, of marriageable age, William had made provision for her in a manner that was not unusual at the time when spinsters and widows held precarious status. That is to say she was to be housed and fed and clothed well by William’s family. But there is also a suggestion that she had refused to marry, and William then says he is leaving her £20 (around £3,000 in today’s terms) and a bed, and it is up to her if stays or leaves Gotheridge, but whatever she decides she is to have the £20.

I don’t have baptismal dates for William and his wife Ann, or for their six surviving adult sons and daughters, but it is likely at the time of the will, all the offspring are 21 years and older. They were thus probably born between 1580s and 1599, the latter half of the reign of Elizabeth I. Also, as there appears to be a convention of naming heirs according to seniority, it is possible that Joan is the eldest rather than the family member most on William’s mind. Anyway, we can say she was at least 65 when she wrote her own will (possibly much older), this being done on the fifth day of April 1665, the fourth year of the reign of Charles II.

It’s a long will too for the woman who chose to stay on at Gotheridge and live out her days on the small family farm. The term ‘my mind and will is’ is used repeatedly, and although it is a common idiom, as you read on, encountering some very particular instructions to her relatives, you are left with a sense of a woman who will not be crossed.

Joan Bennett of Gotheridge spinster dau of Wm Bennett senior 1665 will resized

It begins with the conventional preamble:

I Joan Bennet…being weak of body but of good and perfect mind and memory praise be to almighty god for the same do ordain constitute and make this my last will and testament.

The bequeathing of her soul to the creator is quite a lengthy passage suggesting a woman of strong Christian faith. She is fully confirmed in the belief of ‘everlasting joy and happiness’ when her soul is redeemed at the ‘general day of judgement.’

Her first bequest is 20 shillings to be shared by her executor and friends among the poor people of Eyam. The National Archives currency converter says this, in spending power, was worth well over £100. Her next bequests are to the surviving 2 sons and daughter of her deceased brother William. Nephews George and Francis Bennet, both of Grindlow, are to receive the equivalent of £250 each, but their sister, Ann, married to Ralph James of Grindlow is to have £300 with the stipulation that it is “for her use only.” These are the grandchildren mentioned in William’s will who, in 1620, were each to receive a lamb.

The remaining bequests relate mostly to another niece, Elizabeth wife of Francis Frith of Eyam, and to their many children who range from six- to twenty eight years old at the time. Throughout this part of the will it is very much Joan’s ‘mind and will’ that her largesse be distributed very specifically to numbered offspring. Eldest Frith son Francis and third son Thomas and fourth son Henry are each to receive 30 shillings within a year of her death. Whereas the youngest sons Richard and George must wait 2 years for their £2  10 shillings, and if one dies then the other will receive his share.

Mary Frith the oldest daughter will receive 10 shillings, but to the youngest girls, Anne and Elizabeth, she leaves one cow, which is to be delivered to their mother Elizabeth. She then says if Elizabeth sells the cow, then the full amount received must be put towards the upbringing of the girls. She then bequeaths to niece Elizabeth:

all my wearing apparel linen and woollen to be delivered to her by my executor

And finally we come to the heart of the will:

My mind and will is I do devise give and bequeath unto William Frith second son of Francis Firth all my possession and interest of this my messuage and tenement* of Gotheridge if he can accord with the right worshipful Mr. Robert Eyre Lord of the same for the rent thereof. Item: my mind and will is if any of the abovesaid be not content with his or her legacy that they should lose his or her part by virtue of this my last will and testament.

[* house, outbuildings and land]

And after that stiff admonition, she then leaves all other of her possessions, moveable and unmoveable, quick and dead “unto my well beloved friend William Frith, second son of Francis Frith abovesaid” and further ordains him “my whole and sole executor of my last will and testament hoping he will perform the same according to the trust I have reposed in him.”

view from west of Gotherage Plantation, Bretton Clough below geograph-1595040-by-Peter-Barr

View from Gotherage Plantation, south of the farm site (over the brow of the hill to the left of the telegraph pole just seen on far middle right).

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So: the daughter to whom William Bennett gave leave and means to do as ‘she pleaseth’, stayed on at Gotheridge all her life. It seems likely that at least one brother, bachelor Francis lived there too. There is reference to the administration of his will in 1642 (though frustratingly no actual will) which leaves all his possessions to Joan and, I think, the nephew mentioned in her will Richard Bennet, husbandman of Grindlow. (Grindlow is small farming-lead-mining community a couple of miles southwest of Gotherage barn, and seems to have been another Bennett family stronghold).

But is there some hint that Joan’s bequest of the Gotheridge tenancy and all her chattells and cattells to ‘my well beloved friend William Frith’ was expected to be unpopular? I have seen instructions in other wills for legatees not to fall out, but Joan’s threat seems designed to keep everyone toeing her line. William was probably around 22 years old in 1665. I have no other record of him other than a mention in another later will.

His siblings Henry (17), and the younger children Anne (13), Elizabeth (10) and George (7) were all victims of plague in   the summer of 1666 as were his parents Elizabeth and Francis. The infection had first arrived in September 1665. It is said it came with a parcel of clothing materials from London, ordered by the local tailor for repurposing. The assistant who opened the package swiftly died, followed, over then next 14 months by 259 of his 800 fellow villagers. The villagers’ decision to close their borders to stop the infection spreading elsewhere is something of a legend. (See earlier post about Eyam here.)

But back to Joan’s will. Given the ready transmission of infection via fleas and possibly also body lice in used clothing, Joan’s bequest of all her clothes to niece Elizabeth acquires certain sinister resonances, despite being very much ‘before the event’;  the plague outbreak came some six months after the will was written. Elizabeth certainly had little enough time to benefit from the gift of linen and woollen garments. They appear to have been of good quality too; the appraisers assessed the worth of Joan’s clothing, along with her purse, at £20 (multiply by 100 for current values).

Joan’s other goods and farm stock were appraised at over £100. This included her mare, 4 oxen, 3 cows, 2 heifers, 35 sheep, 2 swine, bees, corn in the ground. In the barn were ploughs, harrows, carts, the grain store and an ale brewing vat. There were turves for the hearth and a stock of manure.

In the house was a feather bed, two ‘chaff’ (straw waste) beds, blankets, sheets, coverlets and quilts wonderfully called ‘bed hillings’. There were the usual boards for trestle tables, a cupboard and dishboard etc. There were 6 arks (chests), brass pots and pans, some pewter ware, 6 cushions, a good supply of oats, and sacks for storing corn, salt for salting hams. It all sounds modest enough. On the other hand, it seems all needs were being met, which is surely a true measure of wealth and wellbeing.

Joan Bennett of Gotheridge spinster dau of Wm Bennett senior 1665 inventory resized

There is no knowing if William did come to an agreement with Robert Eyre to take over Gotheridge. If he did do so, it would have been for a short time only. (The Highlow rent books in Derbyshire record office would be the place to look). In any event by 1668 Joan’s great nephew, Samuel Bennet and his wife Joan, are already living at Gotheridge. In that year the Eyam parish register records the birth of George, who if not the first born, is the first of several children born at Gotheridge. After George come Isaac and Amie, probably twins, Joan, then Anne and Samuel who both died in infancy and finally Richard born in 1688, who I believe is my 7th great grandfather.

But  what of William Frith who clearly enjoyed Joan Bennet’s highest regard, the young man who lost so much that was dear to him? For now I’m still looking.

copyright 2021 Tish Farrell

related posts:

When 11th Great Grandfather was about to die

In search of lost time in Eyam and an outbreak of plague

More Ancestor Sleuthing In High Peak: The Hatter Of Smalldale . Robert Jackson . 1786-1857 – Tish Farrell

When 11th Great Grandfather was about to die…

Gotherage ruin possibly with view across to Oaks which is due north geograph-6001283-by-Neil-Theasby

These last few months I’ve been tracking down great grandparents and have gathered rather more than are manageable. But one family line, the (Derbyshire) Bennetts of Eyam, Grindlow and Bradwell has yielded treasure. I’ve recently found two seventeenth century wills, of father and daughter, written 45 years apart. First was the discovery (on a well-known genealogy website) of the will of 11th great grandfather William Bennett, farmer of Gotherage (also Gotheridge and Godriche), a remote tenant farm between Eyam and Abney. It was written in 1620 – four hundred and one years ago – and on the 20th May, as in yesterday when I began writing this post.

William says he is ‘sick in body but of good and perfect remembrance’; it is time, then, to share out his worldly goods. As in all wills of this era, the most pressing provision concerns the afterlife and so he begins by bequeathing his soul to ‘Almighty God my maker and redeemer,’ and requesting that his mortal remains be buried in Eyam parish churchyard. There is nothing here to indicate his age, but the bequests show that one son and two daughters are married and have children of their own. Other sons, George and Francis, are apparently still at Gotherage, as is their sister Joan. All of William’s offspring appear to be adults since there are no coming-of-age conditions attached to bequests. And so, given that the usual marrying age was 21 (often older for men), it is likely that William was between 50 and 60 years old.

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William Bennett - 1620 Will Eyam top page 1 extract

The opening lines of William Bennett’s will 20th May 1620

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Having settled spiritual matters, William’s next thought is of his daughter Joan. There is every suggestion that she has refused to be married, and he seems anxious to ensure her well being. I could of course be reading this wrongly, but it strikes me as enlightened: for the next few centuries spinsters tended to be considered family burdens and therefore status-less. Here, it seems, is a father bequeathing freedom to a daughter to do as she likes.

And so he writes:

I give and bequeath unto Jone Bennet my daughter £20 * and a bed, to be maintained with sufficient meat drink lodging and apparel so long as she pleaseth to stay at Goderiche and if it please her to depart and go away from there then she shall have her portion paid her by my executors to do with it as pleaseth her going been against marriage before.

[* around £3,000 in modern monetary values]

The rest of the will comprises bequests to sons and sons-in-law, and a lamb to each of his grandchildren. Eldest son William receives 20 shillings (a month’s wages), son-in-law Thomas Furness 10 shillings. George however is to have £33 in lieu of the fact that his brother Francis has been managing the farm for his own use.

Finally, all William’s goods, catells and chattels are to be shared equally between his wife Ann (we hear nothing else about her) and sons Francis and George.

The will then concludes with monies owed to him by local householders in Eyam, Grindlow and Abney. It amounts to over £63, which is a tidy sum in 1620. In fact the National Archives currency converter says this was equivalent to more than £8,000, or a skilled tradesman’s wages for 1260 days.

William Bennett - 1620 Will Eyam top page 1 debts owed

Sums owed to William Bennett

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There is no clue as to what services William was rendering. It seems unlikely that these were all unpaid bills for farm produce since most of the people here were likely to be fellow farmers, at least in some capacity. And while the probate inventory sets William’s worth in goods and livestock at £133  19 shillings (£17,500), the contents suggest a fairly modest farming enterprise. My one notion is that he had a side-line in transporting lead ore to local smelting points in the area, one likely spot being due east of his farm, at Bole Hill, a name that historically signifies lead smelting.

High Peak farmers, of necessity, had many strings to their livelihood bow. Many combined farming and lead prospecting. The latter was a dangerous enterprise, but the lead miner’s freedoms associated with the King’s Field of lead deposits were well worth having. They included free timber from landowners’ woodland, free access to and over other people’s land while extracting ore, and the right to freely graze their animals on common land. In return, they paid ‘lot’ to the monarch, a 13th portion of their gains, and a tenth part tithe to the church, all overseen by the Barmaster and jurors of the Barmote Courts who were themselves lead miners.

Gotherage likely ruins looking towards Highlow SK2179 nr Stoke Ford geograph-2901207-by-Neil-Theasby

Here’s another view of the barn ruins, this time looking north towards Highlow and Hathersage

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And more general views, the first taken by Jonathan Clitheroe higher up the hillside above Gotherage Plantation and well above the barn ruins:

Gotherage geograph-3210953-by-Jonathan-Clitheroe (1)

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And this next Neil Theasby view which is taken beside Gotherage Plantation and looking  across Bretton Clough to Abney Barn. On the horizon, left of centre, you can just make out the scarred ‘face’ of Mam Tor below which were extensive lead mining operations in the 17th and 18th centuries (Odin Mine):

Edge of Gotherage Plantation Abney Low barn ahead geograph-6766052-by-Neil-Theasby

A challenging landscape, however you look at it.

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Gotherage Barn and fields 1898 OS CC-BY-NC-SA with banner

I have found the location of Gotherage Barn on an 1879 Ordnance Survey map. You can see farm fields much as they would have been delineated on the original estate tithe and rent book maps. The blue ribbon marks the barn remains, but there is no sign of the house where the Bennetts lived, though the presence of a natural spring below the barn might suggest it would not have been far away. You can see Bole Hill due east of the barn.  A trip to Derbyshire Record Office and a sight of the Highlow estate rent books would doubtless reveal more, but that will have to wait. I’m also relying here on landscape photos taken by the lovely people who post their work on www.geograph.org.uk and allow reuse under Creative Commons licencing. They also add map references and all manner of locational assistance. What stars.

The header photo by Neil Theasby, I’m pretty sure, shows a corner of Gotherage Barn, a building that is probably c1800s in date, and beyond it, across Bretton Clough, the Oaks Farm where there are other ancestral links, having been occupied by members of three separate family lines: Foxes in 1660, Bennets in the early 1700s, and 4th great grandfather, Robert Jackson the hatter in the 1850s. Oaks is another of the many Highlow farms, originally owned by the Eyre family, but now part of Duke of Devonshire’s estate.

I’ve been trying to reconstruct some image of life at Gotherage in William’s time. The probate inventory is very sketchy compared with others I’ve recently transcribed. For instance it doesn’t record items by room, and similar items are lumped together: ‘pewter and brass’ £6 13 shillings 4 pence , ‘bedding and nappery ware’ (cloth items) £10. And then there are bits I can’t decipher.

But basically the domestic furniture comprised bed frames and many kinds of boards: cupboards, dishboards, bread boards and boards that would have rested on trestles to make tables. There were also stools and chairs and arks (storage chests).

We do know that William’s purse and apparel were valued at £10 (£1,300). He had two mares and one saddle, so was well equipped on the very essential personal transport front. He had four oxen for working the fields, with ploughs, harrows and yokes in the barn. There was corn growing in the field, ten pounds worth in sheep and lambs, 2 swine, 4 steers, 4 cows, 3 calves one of which was being weaned. There were hams hanging in the roof space and stores of meal, malt, butter and cheese. I also think there were bees.

There are more clues about the house from Joan’s probate inventory of 1665. Besides the barn with its’ ploughs, harrows and carts’ there were three main rooms, ‘the house’ which seems to be the living-cooking quarters, ‘the parlour’ where the beds were, and ‘the chamber’ which appears to have been used to store things. The house might have been wholly stone built, but I’m also imagining a part-stone, part timber-framed house, one main large living space, perhaps with an upper storey attic ‘the chamber’ (?) above. It’s the sort of place that would leave little trace of itself once left to decay, and doubtless any stonework would have been re-purposed. Most of the Derbyshire farmhouses we see now are stone-built, but many were late 18th century re-builds, doubtless replacing aged and dilapidated predecessors.

But, I hear you asking, never mind about the house. What about Joan? What became of the young woman whose father appears to give credit where credit is due and is prepared to enable some (surprising) degree of free choice?

It will have to wait for the next instalment of the ‘Bennetts of Gotherage’.  For now here’s another striking Neal Theasby photo of the  barn ruins.

Gotherage possibiity geograph-6000694-by-Neil-Theasby

copyright 2021 Tish Farrell

More Ancestor Sleuthing In High Peak: The Hatter Of Smalldale . Robert Jackson . 1786-1857

P1080336cr

You can waste spend hours, days, weeks pursuing long-dead forebears. I think we might call it obsessive compulsive distraction disorder. On the other hand, on the plus side,  the activity can present very particular lenses through which to glimpse hitherto unthought-of aspects of our past. But more of this later.

In the meantime, my current pursuit has turned up a host of great grand elders, down to the 10th generation, the result of following only one branch of a great great grandmother’s tree. She, by the way, was Mary Ann Bennett of Bradwell, married to George Brayley Fox of Callow Farm, Highlow. And one of the odd things I’ve discovered is that her grandfather and the 4th great grandfather I never knew I had, one Robert Jackson, hat maker and native of the lead mining village of Smalldale, Bradwell (1786-1857) spent his last years as tenant of an isolated farm in the rugged uplands between Highlow Hall and Abney, a next door neighbour in fact of fellow Duke of Devonshire tenants, my Callow Fox farming ancestors.

Robert Jackson wasn’t alone at the Oaks. John and Mary, children from his second marriage to Hannah Eyre were living with him, both around the thirty age mark in the 1851 census. Whether their mother ever lived there is unknown. In 1841 the family still had the hat business in Smalldale, but by 1848 Hannah was dead, having seemingly died in another place altogether, several miles from either Oaks or Smalldale. I’ll come back to that.

Old_Bradwell

Bradwell in the late 1800s

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For geographical reference, the nearest city to High Peak is Sheffield, only a few miles north east of Hathersage (top right corner); Manchester to the north west:

Bradwell Grat Hucklow Highlow map

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This next photo, looking across to Highlow from above Hathersage, shows the general lay of the land between Callow and The Oaks (Offerton Moor above Callow).

P1080998 Callow Farm

And a closer view of The Oaks farm taken from the web:

Photos kindly supplied by Geograph, and may be reused subject to this creative commons usage licence Oaks Farm

So: a remote quarter to hive off to after 60 odd years of living and working in the fume ridden, busy industrial environs of Smalldale and Bradwell. The lonely farm that the hatter took on was only 32 acres, presumably all grazing in that exposed location, and although it was by no means unusual for Derbyshire folk have at least two principal occupations: e.g. farming and lead mining; farming and butchery; farming and millstone cutting or scythe-making or joinery or running delivery services, the late-day switch from hat making to upland  stock-raising at first seems surprising.

But then what about the famous Bradda Beavers!

On the other hand, one of Robert’s mainstay hat lines would have been the Bradda Beaver, a sturdy, brimmed hat made from thickly felted sheep’s wool. Their manufacture began in Bradwell and Smalldale the 17th century, and for a time the export of this highly durable headgear to London for further shaping and finishing was extremely lucrative. The trade supported several Smalldale and Bradwell hat-making families over many generations (In particular the Evans and Middleton families).

The hats were also sold in large numbers to local miners since they were both water resistant and stalwart enough to support a tallow candle for deep-mine prospecting. Robert’s own father, Christopher Jackson, was a lead miner, but his mother, Sarah Middleton, may well have belonged to Smalldale’s hat-making Middleton dynasty, and perhaps it was through her that he took up hatting rather than mining.

Bradda Beaver Peak District Mining Museum

Bradda Beaver Photo: Peak District Mining Museum

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The Bradda Beaver in the photo is a rare survival and now to be found in the Peak District Mining Museum in Matlock. The felting process apparently involved many rounds of heavy labour – carding and steaming and planking the fleeces. It is likely, then, that Robert Jackson knew his sheep. It is also likely, in the face of declining business, that he wished to secure the farm tenancy with his son’s future in mind. And sure enough, after Robert died in 1857, the records show that John remained at the Oaks until his own death in 1888.

Interestingly, father and son both put this address on their respective gravestones: ‘The Oaks, Highlow’, albeit in different graveyards (Great Hucklow and Hope). It makes me wonder if there isn’t just a touch of ‘social climbing’ by association – even in death? Highlow with its gentry and aristocratic connections was a location with cachet – both of status and romance. And there was always the annual tenants’ ball at Chatsworth to attend. Family legend has it that one year, around her eighteenth birthday, my Great Grandmother opened the ball with the Duke of Devonshire.

But back to gravestones and other odd discoveries.

P1050588

In the midst of ancestor searching a week or so ago my external hard drive died. It was while I was trying to assess the extent of file loss that I came across the photo above, taken several years ago on a ramble round Derbyshire. For some reason I’d opted to go to the small hamlet of Great Hucklow, halfway along the lane between The Oaks and Bradwell. I’d  simply wanted to get the gist of the village where I knew Fox family members had been lead prospecting in the early 18th century.

When we got there it was all surprisingly rural and, in search of something particular to explore, we’d ending up pottering around the redundant Methodist Chapel’s tiny burial ground, and that’s when I found this prominently placed stone, thought the addition of the Oaks address noteworthy as I also knew the Callow Foxes had farmed there in the 17th century, and so taken the stone’s photo. It is thus rather strange to now find I’d had passing ‘communion’ with the remains of an actual ancestor, though why he and Hannah chose to be buried there is a mystery. Until that point, as far as I have discovered, all family rites had taken place in Church of England parish churches; but now here was a non-conformist element (much in favour in mining communities). And what was Hannah’s connection with Great Hucklow. Had she died while visiting relatives there and her burial become a matter of some urgency?

Then I discovered Robert Jackson had left a will, which for the small sum of £1.50 could be ordered on line from the Government will and probate office. Often old wills are short on specifics, especially if there is a surviving wife. This one, though, threw up more surprising aspects, not least several bequests involving the former hatter’s ‘lead mines and shares in lead mines’. In other words he was leaving the rights, rents and income from a series of lead seams or rakes, along with barns and cow houses, in various named fields in Great Hucklow.

The beneficiaries apart from Mary and John, were ‘dear daughter Jenny Bennet’ from Robert Jackson’s first marriage, and ‘dear granddaughter Mary Ann Bennet,’ whose own mother, Hannah, Jackson’s eldest daughter from the first marriage, had died soon after giving birth. Jenny Bennett, as it turns out, was both Mary Ann’s aunt and her step-mother, having married her dead sister’s husband, Richard Bennett, lead miner of Bradwell, a year after Hannah’s death.

Phew! What a rigmarole. But presumably it was Jackson family proximity in Highlow that provided the opportunity for Gt Gt Grandmother Mary Ann Bennett to meet George Brayley Fox. She was only 22 when she married him at Hope in 1860, and he was pushing 40. Not only that, an elderly widowed Robert Fox was still head of the Fox family at Callow. He had lost his own Mary Ann back in 1845, she the locally named ‘London Lady’ of unknown origins whom he had wed by marriage bond at Southwell Minster, Nottingham in 1812.

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At the time of the 1861 Callow census Robert Fox is 83. It is perhaps telling that the newly married George and Mary Ann are recorded as ‘domestic servants’ (shades of Wuthering Heights?) Mary Ann is probably about to produce her first child, and it seems more than likely that step-mother Jenny Bennett and daughter Harriet, who are named as visitors, are at Callow for this very good reason. When the first son arrives he is christened Robert Jackson Fox, so honouring both grandfathers.

And finally a Great War connection…

There’s surprising historical postscript to the Smalldale-Bradwell hatting business. It’s what I meant by those unexpected lenses through which we glimpse small and telling historical details. The trade in Bradda Beavers struggled on in the late 19th century. Only one Derbyshire company survived into the twentieth century. But then came 1914 and the horror of trench warfare and the pressing need for soldiers’ helmets. The earliest ones were made in the nearby steel-making city of Sheffield. I came across this account from Julie Bunting in The Peak Advertiser 14 Aug 1995:

Long after hat making ended in the Peak, the design of the old Bradda Beaver was resurrected in a manner which deserves wider recognition. It came about in the early days of the First World War when British soldiers at the front were in desperate need of suitable helmets. Research centred on the steel making city of Sheffield, where in 1915 Walter Sissons, of W. G. Sissons & Company, silversmiths, suggested a pattern to the Munitions Committee. The die for the prototype was made from a plaster cast of an old Bradda hat, taken by Walter Sissons junior, who lived in Bradwell. The pattern met with instant approval and the Trench Warfare Department placed an initial order for one million helmets at 4s 6d each.

Of course establishing a die for the first Sheffield production was only the start. The Tommy’s ‘tin hat’, also known as the Brodie helmet, underwent several modifications through the course of the war.

Alfreton War Memorial 1

Photo:  Sleeping Gardens: War Memorial ~ Alfreton, Derbyshire

 

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And here are a few examples of Braddas as worn by some of the older members of the Bradwell Rake Head miners in the 1860s. (Photo: Bradwell Ancient and Modern 1912 by Seth Evans.)

Rights to mine for minerals in Derbyshire were held by the ruling monarch, a prerogative commonly known as the ‘King’s Fields’. These rights were mediated and overseen via rulings from the Barmasters and jurors of the Barmote Courts set up from 1288 at a number of locations across the lead field. I think it would be fair to say that lead miners did not care to answer to too many other people. There is still a surviving courthouse or Moot Hall in Wirksworth. Meetings are still held there. One way or another, besides the miners and their monarch, all social strata had some involvement in the lead trade during the heyday from the 17th to the early 19th centuries – dukes, gentry, parish priests, merchants, blacksmiths, joiners, lawyers, shopkeepers, candle makers, publicans, farmers…and yes…hatters.

Wirksworth Barmote Court 1814

copyright 2021 Tish Farrell

Related posts:

So what did Great Great Grandfather George Brayley Fox keep in his barns in 1892?

Lost down the time-travelling rabbit hole with Great Great Aunt Sophia

 

Historical sources: census returns for Hathersage, Highlow, Eyam, Bradwell; records of Hope and Eyam Parish Churches; Robert Jackson’s will; Seth Evans Bradwell Ancient and Modern 1812

Kindred Probability ~ Robert Jackson Fox 1861-1931

Robert Fox, Foolow (almost certainly) c1930sq

Anyone who toiled through the previous post on my ancestral aunt, Sophia Fox, she who never once told the truth about her age, probably wondered if there was a photo of her. Sad to say, until the other day, there was only one surviving photo of a  Callow-born Fox, my Great Grandmother, Mary Ann, whose misty image I’ve posted on this blog several times.

But then I found today’s photo. It was among a deceased aunt’s papers, a batch of photos that had in turn been sent to her on the death of her uncle, Tom Shorrocks. Aunt Miriam was responsible for starting me off on the Callow Fox hunt. She had tried to make sense of Tom Shorrocks’ photos for me, but had misidentified the location of his holiday snaps, thinking it was Cheshire when it was in fact Foolow, near Eyam in Derbyshire. I recognised the distinctive stone cross in the middle of the village green in one of the shots. And the one person Tom Shorrocks would surely be visiting on a trip from Manchester was his mother’s older brother, Robert Fox, erstwhile farmer, teller of family tales and boxing enthusiast. Robert would be around 70 in the photo, not long before he died in 1931.

Almost certainly Gt gt Uncle Robert Jackson Fox, wife Edith, and nephew Tom Shorrocks, Foolow before 1931

Edith, his wife, who looks none too happy in the photos, was the daughter of a wealthy Farnworth coal merchant. She and Robert started married life as tenant farmers at Shepherd’s Flat, Foolow, a remote spot with sad associations with the 1665 Plague of Eyam.

Shepherd's Flat

Like many Derbyshire farmers, I dare say they fell foul of falling farm prices at the end of the nineteenth century, for they appear to have spent much of their life in a cottage in Foolow village. Anyway it seems it was around the time of the family photo that great great uncle Robert struck up an acquaintance with GHB Ward, founder of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers and ardent campaigner for the restoration of footpaths across vast expanses of moorland whose centuries old common access and usage had been appropriated and restricted by the shooting classes. Ward also published the Clarion Ramblers’ Handbook, and in the 1930-31 edition there is an account of his chats with Robert Fox ‘The Story of Fox House Inn and Callow Farm’.

It’s all rather bitty and mostly anecdotal, but there is some documentary evidence provided by Ward’s own researches, and it’s anyway strangely wonderful to come upon family yarns, hitherto unknown, in a published source. This also includes a fairly recently re-published version included in an anthology of Ward’s best Clarion pieces.*

The Fox men had quite a reputation down the generations, known locally as The Fighting Foxes. There was Robert Fox’s grandfather, Robert, he who married the mysterious ‘London Lady’ in 1812, known as Bobbling Bob and famous for going fifteen rounds with some champion pugilist and winning the day despite a shoulder injury. The fight was at the Bell Inn, Hathersage, a hostelry that hosted these illegal contests. The local gentry were passionate supporters, laying bets of eye-wateringly huge sums on their fighting favourites.

Bobbling Bob’s son William, Sophia Fox’s younger brother, was another ‘bruiser’. The tale goes that he walked over 20 miles to Hayfield to take on a ‘fighting man’ who was ‘kept’ at a certain inn as a customer attraction. This bellicose individual was known to thrash all and any comers who dared to sit in his favourite chair. And yes, you’ve guessed it, Bill Fox went and sat in the very chair, ignoring warnings from landlord, and waited till  the fighting man put in an appearance and challenged him. And much to everyone’s surprise Bill won the day, and for several days afterwards stayed on at the inn as the ‘pride of the place’, and doubtless putting away a good quantity of Derbyshire ale, a habit for which he was also famous.

Robert Jackson Fox had more legitimate dealings with the boxing ring, though in the Sheffield Telegraph’s 1899 coverage of an upcoming contest between the city’s best fighter, George Corfield and London champion George Slark, there is some talk of side betting. It transpires great great uncle Robert had charge of George Corfield out at Shepherd’s Flat, ensuring the fighter put on some weight. He was in charge of providing the following, and doubtless Edith was preparing it.

On rising Corfield was given a cup of tea with a new-laid egg beaten in it. After this he walked for an hour before returning to the farm for a breakfast of mutton chops, toast and tea with a drop of whiskey. Next: more walking and light exercise, followed at 1 p.m. by a lunch of mutton or beef, fowl or rabbit, a few vegetables, pudding and a glass of Robert Fox’s home-brewed ale. After this, a rest, then ball-punching until tea-time which comprised another fresh egg, toast, celery and more tea laced with Scotch.

The whole rigmarole is described in a long article by a sports writer who, as the fight day looms, goes out to Foolow to see for himself how the training is faring. When he and four others in his party invite themselves to tea at Shepherd’s Flat, Robert Fox is quoted as saying that he can’t give them chops as the previous week he had to kill a sheep for George and there’s only enough left for him. He also told them that some of the hens were on strike but he could find a few eggs. And so these were served up with buttered toast and tea diluted with ‘most delicious Derbyshire cream’. And the final press opinion on Corfield’s form was that they had never seen him looking better. I’m only sorry I can’t find out if Robert Fox’s mutton, eggs and ale helped to win the match. (Or indeed make some money in those side bets).

KindaSquare #16

* David Sissons The Best of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers’ Handbooks ‘Ward’s Piece’

Lost Down The Time-Travelling Rabbit Hole With Great Great Aunt Sophia

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A few weeks ago Su Leslie at Zimmerbitch and I made a bit of a pact to rid ourselves of excess paper files. Those of you who have followed her family history blog, Shaking The Tree,  will know, that on top of other talents, she is a genealogical super sleuth.  And I suppose this was in my mind when I said I’d make a start by pruning my own family history archive –  reduce copies (as in multiple) of documentary evidence, masses of scribbled notes and dead-end enquiries, and render them down to understandable brief storylines.

It seemed like a good idea.

Except it wasn’t.

First I should say that, due to the virus, our library service has given us Shropshire folk free access to two family history sites. I had forgotten this until suddenly, here was the chance to check a few things. And so the inevitable happened: the intention to junk became an impulse to add. I began musing about Great Great Aunt Sophia, born 1814 at Callow Farm in Hathersage, Derbyshire, the second daughter of Robert Fox, farmer and (illegal) pugilist, and Mary Ann Williamson, of origins unknown, though apparently born (not in Derbyshire) around 1788, and locally referred to as ‘the London Lady’. They married by bond at Southwell Cathedral, Nottingham in 1812, Robert Fox pledging £200 that there were no impediments to their union; his fellow bondsman one Benjamin Torr, button manufacturer from Hathersage.

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Sophia had plenty of her own mysteries. One is how in the 1880s she came to be living at the remote Scraper Low Farm (header photo) with her second husband, William Lister, a retired Sheffield silver stamper (Sheffield, West Yorkshire, long being a centre for the manufacture of silver goods and only a few miles over the Yorkshire-Derbyshire border from Scraper Low and Hathersage).

The other is why on every official document – whenever she was given the chance, she lied about her age. Even in her seventies she knocked off seven years for the benefit of the 1891 census enumerator. Yet this was nothing compared to the de-aging coup she effected on her marriage to Mr. Lister in 1881. They were both widowers in their late sixties, but the marriage licence they both signed has her down as 52 – fifteen years disappeared. Just like that. Well!

And in case you think this might have been a clerical error, or researcher misreading, she repeated the trick that same year. The 1881 census entry for the Listers ‘living behind’ 36, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, clearly states that Sophia Lister, born at Callow, was 52 while her new husband was 68.

And so I’m thinking if she could get away with that, either Mr. Lister was a touch myopic, which perhaps might be the case after decades in silver working. Or: she must have been blessed with very resilient skin. And indeed, the tale that talks of her mother ‘The London Lady’ does make a point of mentioning the refined features that Mary Ann Williamson, the supposedly well-born wife of a fist-fighting farmer, passed on to her offspring. Which of course only adds to the mystery. My further thought is that a fine complexion is not necessarily an asset to the daughters of a Derbyshire High Peak farmer. Conditions can be pretty bleak up there. I am guessing that Mary Ann may have discovered this to her cost. She herself died at 57 – of ‘general dropsy’. Seven children survived her, and their ‘fighting Fox’ father lived to be 84.

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Sophia had three sisters and three brothers. They were born between 1813 and 1829, and all lived into late middle age and older, apart from the last born, Robert, who died in his thirties. The girls, I know, were literate, since they sign their own names in practised hands on official documents. The three eldest certainly worked for a living, each one in the households of wealthy industrialists or merchants.

In 1851 Louisa, the third born, was cook in the grand London home of a Jamaica merchant and later went on to be housekeeper (a job that required much financial and people management) in even grander surroundings – the country and town homes of Robert Williams MP: Bridehead House in Dorset and Brunswick Terrace, Hove. All of which suggests to me that Mary Ann Williamson Fox, ‘the London Lady’ had trained her daughters well, and/or had some useful connections, and/or acted in the knowledge that they would need to earn their own living far away from farm life?

Louisa never married. She died of bronchitis in her 60s. The eldest sister, Mary Ann, was 29 when she married John Andrew, a carrier by trade, twenty years her senior. They married in Glossop, Derbyshire, a busily industrializing mill town between Sheffield and Manchester. According to the 1841 census Mary Ann had been working there, in the household of the Bennett family – cotton spinners and paper manufacturers. Sophia was at Callow in 1841, but ten years later she was in Stalybridge, Cheshire, in one of the brand new mansions of the Harrison cotton master dynasty. Here she took the opportunity to lose seven years.

Sophia Fox West Hill House

The next time she surfaces in the records it is 1857. She is 43, a spinster, the banns are being read in Glossop and she is marrying Derbyshire bachelor farmer, John Brocklehurst, 44. He signs the register with a cross. The farm, 37 acres, was worked by John on the death of his father John Brocklehurst. His widowed mother and two quarrymen brothers were also living there in 1851, though none of them were there by 1861. The farm, known only as Eastmeats, seems remote, near Chinley, on the edge of Glossop parish near Chapel-en-le-Frith. One wonders how Sophia even met the man. After her position at West Hill, it seems she had moved to Dunham, Chester (work place unknown) but this is the address on the banns and marriage licence.

But then comes another odd thing. In the next two censuses (1861 and 1871)  John Brocklehurst states he is married, and on both occasions while there is an entry for the dairy maid and household servant, Eleanor Jones from Anglesey, there is no sign or mention of Sophia Brocklehurst – either at Eastmeats or anywhere!

John Brocklehurst is dead by 1880, and the following year Sophia is marrying widower, William Lister, both then living at Norfolk Street, Sheffield, a busy cutlery making and electro-plating district. In different censuses William is either at 20 Norfolk Street or ‘behind 36 Norfolk Street.’ Number 36 was the Sheffield Club, custom-constructed in 1862 as a dining club for local businessmen, and paid for by its members – steel manufacturers, silver-platers, cutlers and solicitors. It is hard to work out from various censuses, but it seems the Club was built against a row of existing small properties, and the enumerator uses the Club as a means of pinpointing their location. The 1871 census has several households, including William and his first wife Ann Hawke, listed under the single page heading ‘Norfolk Street Club’. But in another (as will be seen) critical record of 1876, the Listers’ address is recorded as 20 Norfolk Street.

Sophia Fox Sheffield Club

The Sheffield Club, 36, Norfolk Street, copyright Sheffield City Council

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And so to Scraper Low. I know the Listers’ move to this remote small farm on the high moors above Hathersage happened after the 1881 census. The Barton family were still farming it in that year. But move there they did, because this is where William Lister died in 1889. However you look at it, the Listers would have both been around seventy years of age by the time they took up farming. Even if they were in a position to employ a farm hard, it still seems a surprising decision.

Here is the farm again, this time in its isolated setting, Stanage Edge behind to the right:

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And the easterly view from the farm: Over Owler Tor and Millstone Edge:

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To the north and east: Hathersage Moor and Higger Tor:

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I haven’t been able to find out much about the actual building, though it is listed and said to be an early 19th century remodelling of an 18th century range. Much of the moorland in the High Peak was grouse shooting ground owned from the early 19th century either by the Duke of Rutland and/or Devonshire, so I’m assuming the farm belonged to one or other major landowner, and was tenanted. That said, the early 19th century castellated makeover is bizarre. So another thought: perhaps it was done up to serve for a time as an aristocratic shooting-cum-hunting lodge?

The Barton family, who preceded the Listers, can’t have been at Scraper Low for long because they followed on George Grayson, who was only selling up in 1880. The auctioneer’s notice from the local paper that year gives a nice glimpse of the kind of farm it was:

IMG_0143 1880 auction

But what on earth were Sophia and William Lister thinking when they moved there: some dream of ending their days in a ruggedly remote fastness away from city living? William appears to have spent his entire working life in Sheffield’s silver trade, so perhaps he wanted a complete change (?) Also the marriage record does say that his father, George Lister, was a farmer in the Yorkshire village of Laughton en le Morthen where William was born. Obviously Sophia would have had some farming know-how, growing up at Callow. And then there were her twenty-three-year marriage to farmer John Brocklehurst.

Or was there?

A twist in the tale: four weddings, two funerals, one marriage duplicated, and two cases of bigamy?

Back to those 1861 and 1871  census returns for the Brocklehurst farm and that nagging query: where was Sophia?

Last week this thought had me finally tracking down John Brocklehurst’s will. And what a discovery that has turned out to be. Suddenly I seem to have evidence not only for one bigamous marriage but two. And if this weren’t surprise enough, I now have proof that Sophia married William Lister TWICE, first in 1876 as Sophia Fox (when she was still married to Brocklehurst) and then as Sophia Brocklehurst in 1881, and on both occasions sharing William’s address at Norfolk Street.

Meanwhile back at Eastmeats, John Brocklehurst’s will, drawn up in 1878 when he is around 65 years old, leaves all his possessions to widow Eliza Mottram, sole executrix. There is no mention of his wife Sophia in the will:

I give devise and bequeath unto Eliza Mottram the widow of William Mottram of Chinley aforesaid farmer and who now resides with me all my real and personal effects…

Please note the particular wording of this document.

Eliza, a Glossop lass, was 40 years old when the will was written. She had married William Mottram, a widower, in 1872. Mottram was one of  John Brocklehurst’s Chinley neighbours, a farmer and quarryman, and had presumably died at least by 1878. I haven’t found a death record for him yet, but in 1881  Eliza ‘his widow’ inherits John Brocklehurst’s ‘less than one hundred pounds’. Two years on she marries William Potts who works at a Glossop calico printing works.

BUT that’s not all. Then I found there was a marriage record for Eliza Mottram and John Brocklehurst. They married in 1875 at which time Brocklehurst claimed to be a widower. So now the odd wording of the will makes more sense. Wills doubtless still had sacred connotations for those making them. They were not the place for lies and wrong doing. So: Eliza is sole beneficiary and executrix but is nowhere called his wife. She is specifically William Mottram’s widow ‘who now resides with me.’

What on earth is going on here?

Some new-found circumstantial evidence?

So it seems that Sophia Brocklehurst was ‘a bolter’, and John Brocklehurst a bigamist. There is no knowing when she left the farm, but the 1876 marriage licence certainly proves that she did, and that she had reverted to her maiden name and unmarried status. She is not at the farm on census days in 1861 and 1871 and John Brocklehurst married Eliza Mottram in 1875 claiming he was a widower. Yet both of Sophia’s marriage licences prove she was still living. And the second licence states:  Sophia Brocklehurst, daughter of Robert Fox, farmer of Callow marries William Lister, so there is no doubting that Sophia Fox 1876 and Sophia Brocklehurst 1881 are the same person .

So where has she been for twenty years?

I thought we were in brick-wall territory. Over the years I had trawled the censuses several times, and so had my fellow Fox family hunters. Then a chance find of a strangely transcribed 1861 entry on the free census site suddenly seemed to fit. Brookbottom, Mossley,  a mill village among the many mill villages between Saddleworth Moor and the Pennines (Sheffield to the east and Manchester to the west). There was an entry for Baguley Hill for one Sophia Fox, but on the original form it looks like ‘Fix’ and that’s how it had been transcribed. The birthplace said ‘Adersige’, Derbyshire.

Adersige? No such place, but hang on, say this out loud and you could have the phonetic spelling of a dialect pronunciation of Hathersage? The age given is 37 (9 years younger than Sophia actually was, but it still could be her given her age-altering antics – and I’m not done with those yet).

This Sophia Fox was keeping house for Giles Andrew Senior (retired master cotton spinner and mill owner) and Giles Andrew Junior who had taken over the family business. It may be simply a coincidence, but Andrew is Sophia’s eldest sister’s married name. I can’t find out much about her husband, John Andrew, carrier and later farmer, except that he also hails from traditional weaving territory in Greater Manchester’s Hollinwood, not far away from Brookbottom in Mossley. Perhaps the Brookbottom Andrews were relatives; perhaps John Andrew knew them through his carrier business and could recommend a sister-in-law who needed employment. Perhaps Sophia had good references from her cotton master employers in Stalybridge, also not very far away.

Mossley Martin Clark creative commons

Photo: Martin Clark public domain; Mossley where three counties meet: Cheshire, Lancashire and West Riding of Yorkshire, between the Pennines and Saddleworth Moor

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Sophia map best

Sophia’s wanderings: Hathersage and Scraper Low first dot left of Sheffield (bottom right corner); Bradwell where she ended her days next dot left from Hathersage; third dot left of Sheffield is Chinley where John Brocklehurst farmed; Glossop where they married due north of Chinley; Stalybridge, Mossley, Manchester across the moors northwest of Glossop.

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Once I’d decided that Sophia could have reverted to her Fox maiden name and unmarried status, I began to search the records in places where she might be in 1871. Her employer, Giles Andrew senior died in 1863, and in 1871 Giles Andrew junior was no longer at the place where she kept house on Baguley Hill. The only likely record (of two possibilities) to emerge from this next trawl was in Manchester. There I found a Sophia Fox, unmarried, 48, and staying in a Buxton Road lodging house. She says she is an unemployed housekeeper from Derbyshire. Might it not be her?

But back to some facts: and another case of bigamy

I know for certain that by 1876 Sophia is at 20 Norfolk Street with William Lister. (The first Mrs. Lister died the year before). They marry at St. Paul’s Church, Pinstone Street, and this time Sophia knocks 11 years off her age, says she is a spinster and signs herself Sophia Fox – the signature identical to the one on her 1857 marriage to Brocklehurst. At the time of the marriage she was already living at Norfolk Street with William Lister.

Sophia signature Brocklehurst

Sophia Fox signature Lister 1876

Sophia Fox signature Lister 2nd marriage 1881

Well for goodness sake!

Not only did Sophia marry William Lister twice, she did so as ‘spinster’ Sophia Fox, daughter of Robert Fox, farmer of Callow while she was still married to John Brocklehurst. And then after he died and his small estate was settled on Eliza Mottram, Sophia must have wanted to put things right, and so re-married William as Sophia Brocklehurst widow, daughter of Robert Fox farmer (deceased) of Callow, but this time in Sheffield Cathedral. She also took the chance to lose 4 more years since her first marriage to Lister.

You have to wonder if William Lister ever did find out how old Sophia actually was.  Also did he collude in the bigamous marriage, or did it come as a shock, and it was he who insisted on making amends? Did Sophia know about Brocklehurst’s marriage to Eliza Mottram in 1875? Had she come to some agreement with him – that they would both keep quiet, she pretending she had never married, he pretending that she had died?

William Lister died in 1889, aged 76. He seems to have left no will, but was buried with his first wife in Burngreave Cemetery in Sheffield. The 1891 census has Sophia in Water Lane, Bradwell, a lead-mining village some miles from Hathersage. She is listed as living on her ‘own means’. In 1892 in her 78th year and a matter of days before her own death of acute bronchitis, her will is drawn up. She is clearly too ill to sign it with more than ‘her mark’. She leaves everything to her two brothers, George Brayley Fox of Callow, (my great great grandfather), and his younger brother, William.

In 1893 there is an unseemly court case in Bakewell County Court. William’s wife Sarah claims she has not received some expected sum of money for expenses accrued while taking care of ‘their sister’ Sophia during her illness. The newspaper details are brief but garbled, though they do mention the selling up of Scraper Low and of William Fox having the land valued, so perhaps the Listers did own the farm (?)

In any event Sophia’s estate was valued at £99, 16 shillings and 1 penny, hardly a fortune.

The scant records of her life could suggest that Sophia Fox was capricious, vain, even criminally dishonest. But I think she was loved too. If William Lister did not know she was already married when he first married her, he surely knew the second time when he married widow, Mrs. Brocklehurst. Sister Mary Ann, and brother George both named daughters after her. And in her last days it seems she was cared for, this in a year when much was going wrong for her brother George at Callow, and indeed for all Derbyshire farmers who complained of high rents and low returns from their labours.

When I told my sister Jo of these discoveries, her first thought was that Sophia was free spirit in an age when women were still much hemmed in by convention. I like this notion, but I sense darker currents too.

Two Septembers ago when Graham and I walked up the long track to Scraper Low Farm, I again wondered why Sophia had chosen this particular place to settle. It was only when we turned away from the house to retrace our steps that I think I found the answer. At the point where the track dog-legs back towards the road, there is a magnificent view across Hathersage’s Derwent valley. I could see Callow Barns (now a holiday let) where we were staying. Callow Farmhouse itself was now hidden by trees, but I could spot the two conifers at its back gate. P1080999

I remembered too that before the hifalutin Dukes of Rutland and Devonshire took over the moors east of Scraper Low, and went in for swapping parcels of land between them, it was said that the Fox family had long had a sheep run at Longshaw just beyond Millstone Edge and extending across the moors to Higger Tor. It was said too that in their day Sophia’s great grandparents, William and Sarah Fox,  had grazed 500 sheep there and that their son George built the shepherd’s cottage that was later bought and expanded by the Duke of Rutland to use when he came to Longshaw to shoot. That property still stands, and is the well known local hostelry of Fox House Inn. Further snippets of family legend say that the George Fox who built the original cottage there sold the sheep walk to the Duke of Devonshire for £200 in around 1810.

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So perhaps after all her wanderings – a life wherein she had not achieved the kind of social status she thought she deserved – Sophia Fox of Callow had come back, at the last lap, briefly mistress of her own domain, looking out on the farm where she was born and over all the high places of her farming ancestors.

 

copyright 2020 Tish Farrell

Related:

So What Did Great Great Grandfather George Brayley Fox Keep In His Barns In 1892?

Through My Great Grandmother’s Eyes? ~ Ancestral Perspectives

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Well I like to think my great grandmother, Mary Ann Fox, might have looked through the hole in this old Derbyshire gatepost on her way from Callow Farm to Hathersage village. The post stands beside a path she would have known well until 1886 when, at the age of 23, and apparently already betrothed to the local squire,  she ran off with a city type, a Bolton spindle manufacturer, Tom Shorrocks.

The High Peak of her homeland was by no means a rural idyll, although it looks so today. Alongside stock rearing and subsistence agriculture, small landowner-tenant farmers like the Foxes had for centuries engaged in other trades. Lead and fluorspar mining were mainstays of the area. So was the making of millstones up on Stanage Edge, though not so much for wheat grinding since the local gritstone discoloured the flour, but for pulping wood and crushing the lead ore for the smelting houses. The grind-stones also served the cutlery industry in nearby Sheffield and stones for wood pulping were exported to North America and Russia.

Hathersage, then (seen distantly here through the gate post), has a busy industrial past. From Tudor times it was the centre of wire-drawing, at first for making sieves for miners, and later for pins and needles. By Mary Ann’s day there were 5 such mills there, all powered by steam, their chimneys gushing out fumes that would have hung over the Derwent Valley. By then, too, the railway had arrived, the line from Manchester to Sheffield passing through land once owned by her grandfather. So, as I say, this was no rural idyll, but a community of industry and enterprise of the sort that had characterized High Peak farming families for generations. Growing and stock rearing might put food on the table, but farming did not bring the kind of prosperity that a rich seam of lead could be expected to yield.

But I do wonder if Mary Ann was not shocked to find herself in the little terraced villa on Kildare Street in Farnworth, (part of Greater Manchester), there in a maze of town streets, far from the far-reaching uplands she would have seen every day from Callow Farm. Did she miss these views? She certainly told my grandmother about crossing the River Derwent stepping stones on her way into Hathersage. And she told how she never forgave her father for taking away her pony, this because she would not desist from jumping the 5-bar gate at the end of the lane. He feared for her life. She mourned only her pony’s loss, back-broken by the overweight farmer who had bought it from her father.

Perhaps she had good reason to leave. Perhaps the squire of Abney was not to her taste. Perhaps city life was more exciting. From my perspective it is too easy to be overly sentimental about the loss of this landscape; one that I find so beguiling. It wasn’t really like this in great grandmother’s day. As L.P. Hartley says in the opening of his novel The Go-Between:  “The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.”

Square Perspectives #7

To Chatsworth And How Mary Ann Went To The Ball

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So here we have a fine contrast between the Fox family’s tenanted property at Callow Farm, a few miles uphill and upstream in the Derwent valley, and the landlordly premises that ate up farm rents and lead mining royalties and employed armies of local craftsmen and servants.

This, then, is Chatsworth House, the place called home by the Cavendish family, otherwise known as the Dukes of Devonshire. It is one of England’s most imposing stately piles, these days run by the Cavendish family as a charitable trust, and caught here so flatteringly in the October sun. The setting alone is magnificent.

And so how does it come to be here. Whose money built it?

The answer is somewhat convoluted – successive generations of royal patronage is part of it. But so too is Henry VIII’s desire for a male heir and his subsequent break from the Catholic Church, one result of which was the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

If you have ever wondered what happened to the amassed wealth of some 900 monastic estates during Henry’s big 1530s campaign to liquidate holy assets and usurp papal domination, then Chatsworth is one place to look. William Cavendish, courtier and royal employee was a man with a good head for figures and a strong survival instinct, though he did slip up badly in the end.

For a time he held a post in the  Exchequer. In 1530 he was also one of Thomas Cromwell’s commissioners who visited the monasteries to audit their wherewithal and demand its surrender to the Crown. This included the lead off the roofs, which would have been worth a fortune by itself, and its stripping key to the physical dissolving of monastic edifices, which disintegration happened pretty soon after the weather got in.

It is said William took unfair advantage of this appointment. On top of this he was officially rewarded by the king with a knighthood and estates in Hertfordshire. He continued to enjoy royal favour even as his former boss, Cromwell, fell from grace (and was beheaded). Cavendish was despatched to Ireland to repeat the property assessing exercise. When Henry died he remained in the young Edward VI’s court and was granted still more monastic land. He even managed to hang on when Mary Tudor succeeded (he having paved the way by sending the Lady Mary tokens of loyalty before her accession). When she returned the nation to the Catholic Church he conformed and so gained a post as her Treasurer of the Chamber (1546-1553). It was here he rather over-reached himself. In late 1557 when the auditors arrived in Westminster to discover what he had been doing while in office all those years, they found the accounts in a shambles. Sir William was accused of embezzlement. He then died pretty much at once thereby avoiding further unseemly exposure, but begging for clemency for himself and his family.

It was during his years of service to Mary Tudor that he married for the third time – a rich young Derbyshire widow, Elizabeth Barley. She would later become [in]famously known as four times married ‘Bess of Hardwick’. She wanted to live in her native Derbyshire and so Sir William sold up all his monastic acquisitions and in 1549 bought the then lowly manor of Chatsworth for £600. Thus began the massive building of the first Cavendish family seat, which was only completed by Elizabeth after Sir William’s death. She would later go on to build the even more astonishing Hardwick Hall. She also the founder of the Cavendish Chatsworth dynasty, bearing 8 children during her marriage to Sir William.

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Thereafter the heirs sought and bought titles, including the Earldom of Devonshire, and it was the 4th Earl who gained a further step up by being rewarded with the dukedom (1694) – this for his part in bringing Protestant William and Mary to the English throne. It was also  the 1st Duke who went in for some massive rebuilding, including most of what we see today. He began by adding more family rooms and the extravagant State Apartment for receiving the new monarchs. Once started, however, no frontage could be left untouched. He also had the formal gardens laid out on a jaw-dropping scale. This included the famous Cascade, though he lived to enjoy its creation for only four years after its completion in 1703.

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The 4th Duke (1720-64) decided the house should have westerly approach, which meant demolishing the 1st Duke’s stables since they interfered with the view. He also relocated the village of Edensor where his staff and tenants lived, so it too did not spoil the view. Architect James Paine was commissioned to build the new stables we see today plus a new bridge upstream of the house.

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And Capability Brown was engaged to make the now enclosed park look more ‘natural’. In the meantime the Duke found a vastly rich heiress to marry and acquired  even more property and family titles.

The 5th Duke was famous for marrying celebrated beauty and socialite, Lady Georgiana Spencer. They lived in London but had lots of jolly house parties at Chatsworth. They also lived happily in a menage a trois with Georgiana’s best friend Lady Elizabeth Foster. The 6th Duke never married, but nearly bankrupted the estate with all his ‘improvements’. These included funding plant expeditions around the globe and having his head gardener Joseph Paxton construct the Emperor Fountain (85 metre/280 feet of jet). The fountain meant draining the upland moor into an 8-acre man-made reservoir on the high ground above the house.

On the day we visited the jet was on short measures due to the high wind.

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The 7th Duke (1808-1891) was apparently a sober successor to the Batchelor Duke, a sad widower who lost his wife when she was only in her twenties. For thirty years he maintained strict economies in the running of the estate. Our family legend has it that my great grandmother Mary Ann opened the tenants’ ball with him one year, she as the eldest daughter of the oldest tenant family on the estate. He is said to have remarked to her on her family’s long presence in the locality, far longer than his own, he said. He would have been quite elderly at the time, and Mary Ann perhaps in her late teens or very early twenties. The blue silk covered  buttons from the dress she wore were apparently kept down the generations, and still in my grandmother’s sewing basket when my mother inherited it. I’m not sure if I have a real memory of seeing them or not. Anyway, it was not long after this that Mary Ann ran off with the Bolton spindle manufacturer, and had her more usual  bright print country dresses scoffed at by the dark clad women of Farnsworth.

When we went around the house we had hoped to see the ballroom, but when Graham asked the attendant she said it was in the family’s private quarters and had been turned into a theatre. And as for the interior rooms we did see, and the severe outbreak of aggravation they induced in me, they and it will have to wait till the next post. For now, here’s the Emperor Fountain making a rainbow, which we very much enjoyed.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Places People Visit

So What Did Great Great Grandfather George Brayley Fox Keep In His Barns In 1892?

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Here we were then staying in the ancestral Callow barns and in the greatest comfort, each day looking out on the fields farmed by four generations of our Fox family, and wondering what it must have been like to have lived a life in these remote uplands above the Hope Valley, to have worked this land in all weathers.

The name Callow perhaps says it all – deemed to mean cold or bare hill in Old English. A hard life then, and especially for the women who mostly died in their forties and fifties after giving birth over and over. By contrast the Fox men tended to be long lived 2x, 4x and 5x-great-grandfathers all lasted into their eighties, and George Brayley’s grandfather, George, was 93 when he died. Tough old birds the lot of them, and some of them prone to a bit of competitive fist fighting, a pursuit that was illegal but much favoured and therefore well supported by the gentry.

In the last post I said that many of Derbyshire’s yeomen farmers were also much involved in lead mining and processing. This dangerous trade could make your fortune or kill you. The Barmote Court that regulated the industry’s practices was an ancient institution going back to 1288 when 115 square miles of Derbyshire’s High and Low Peak was established as the King’s Field, a free mining area. Surprisingly the construct pertains today, the last surviving Barmote Court still meeting at Wirksworth once a year.

According to Peak District Online the rules of the King’s Field were as follows:

Anybody was allowed to set up as a miner and work by very liberal rules permitting them to search for lead ore anywhere but in churchyards, gardens, orchards and highways. The miners had right of access, water and space to mine and dump their waste without regard. They did however have to pay a royalty on all ore mined, of one thirteenth to the Crown( known as a lot ) and one tenth or tithe to the Church.
The Barmote Court was established to deal with disputes and claims arising from lead mining and to collect the royalties due.

In other words, the lead miners were likely to be tough, free-booting individuals and, although answerable to the Barmote Court in the staking and working of their claims, their pursuit of lead gave them the chance to break free from feudal obligations as tenant farmers and manorial employees.  One 16th century yeoman, Arthur Mower, also bailiff to the Lord of the Manor of Barlow, became so rich from lead mining and exporting he soon outclassed his lordship in terms of wealth and property. Not so the Foxes, at least not the Callow clan. But then George Brayley Fox did have quarry tools in his barn. And many more things besides.

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The 1891 census shows that George is seventy years old and  a widower. He is living at Callow with his son George (22 years) and daughter Louisa (25 years). His 9 year old step-grandchild from Farnworth, Bolton in Manchester is also staying there at the time of the census, and this may be a clue as to the real reason why George B had announced his intention to sell up by the following year.

Giving up the tenancy of the farm where he was born must have been a wrench. It was certainly newsworthy, and reports of the Fox family finally leaving Callow were published in regional newspapers as far away as Leeds. The reports made much of the family’s connection with Callow’s environs since Norman Conquest days, a claim that was part of the Fox family narrative, much repeated down the generations, but so far lacking verifiable substance. The report below also says that the reason for selling up was due to the high rent, which was very much a common complaint of Derbyshire farmers at this time. But I still wonder if this was the chief reason, or the one meant for public consumption.

Derbyshire Courier 25 March 1893

Derbyshire Courier 25 March 1893

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So back to facts.

On Saturday 29 October 1892 the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent newspaper listed items in the upcoming Callow Farm sale. It is a vivid snapshot of life on the farm, and the picture it gives is of a well-managed enterprise using up-to-date technology, not of a farm that is failing. Much of the equipment is stated to be new, and the livestock of good quality.

First there are the horses – a black mare in foal, and an ‘excellent worker’; a valuable six-year old brown horse with ‘splendid action’; a roan foal by Bedford. There are 23 cows including 5 strong bullocks, a cow in calf for 25th December, and 4 cows due to calf in April. Then there are ‘11 superior stock ewes, 6 fat sheep, one two-shear ram, 12 strong lambs’. Finally in the farmyard there are ‘two fine ducks and one fine drake’.

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And now for the barn contents.

These included some pretty high-tech (not to say cutting edge) gear of the day, including a nearly new Samuelson 2-horse combined mower-reaper complete with spare shafts. This was the sort of pioneering equipment that was shown off at national trade exhibitions of the day, produced by the Britannia Works, Banbury.

Samuelson mower reaper

There was also a plough, several sets of harrows, a stone roller, a horse turnip hoe, 2 horse carts, a winnowing machine, a joiner’s bench and tools.

Then there are clues as to what the farm was producing. There is a stone cheese press, rack and boards (nearly new), five stacks of white oats, three stacks of wheat, two brewing tubs, a quantity of eating turnips – all of which reflect the standard staple diet of Derbyshire farming folk. For the animals there was one stack of ‘prime new hay’ and two stacks of black oats – probably horse fare.

The whole lot up for auction at 12 noon on the 3rd November 1892.

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And the reason for the sale – well my big guess is that it has much more to do with his eldest daughter, my Great Grandmother, Mary Ann Williamson Fox. According to my aunt she was engaged to the Squire of Abney (just over the hill from Callow), but at the age of 22  she ran off and married a young widower, a shuttle and flyer manufacturer from Farnworth, Bolton. And not very long after that, it was all downhill for the last generation of Callow Foxes. But that story will have to wait for another time.

Mary Ann Fox

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Portrait Of My Aunt

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Miriam Wilkinson nee Hickling:  21st February 1914 – 17th March 2003

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There was only one thing my aunt loved more than her Devon garden, and that was the Derbyshire Peak District – the lanes round Bradwell, Ashford and Hathersage, the byways of Fox and Bennett family forebears. To a child brought up in the suburbs of Manchester, the Peak District of spring and summer holidays seemed like heaven.

For most of her married life, Miriam was a nomad – living in 42 different rented flats. Each one she tried to make home, and always with much flair and limited funds, as she followed her engineer husband from one telephone exchange to another, whenever and wherever he was dispatched to oversee the upgrade of Britain’s telecommunications. They had married at the start of World War 2, and the header photo probably dates from around this time. After a makeshift marriage whither my grandmother had arrived wearing only her shopping clothes since she looked down on the whole affair, Miriam had been left married, but stranded with her unsympathetic parents while my uncle was posted off to West Africa.

Looking back, he must have been helping to provide British navel and military intelligence with radio surveillance capability since he had no service rank as far as I know. He apparently lived in some style out in Africa. But it was all change a year later when he was posted to Coventry during the Blitz, presumably to work on restoring bombed out telephone connections. And this is where married life actually began, in a dismal rent room smelling of boiled cabbage and with Luftwaffe bombs raining down.

My uncle did not cope well with either the bombing or the war-time privations. Miriam had to keep him together on all fronts, while she went to work in a munitions factory. I cannot imagine what it was really like for her. She had lived a life of quiet and modest gentility, though always within the orbit of rich relatives. She had endured her mother’s spirit-crushing jibes while doting on a father who, in her hearing, had once described her to a family friend as ‘a dud’. Neither her mother or father had the faintest idea about parenting or how to prepare their two daughters for adult life.

My grandmother had been mostly brought up by a housemaid and a slightly dotty aunt as her own twice widowed mother drifted around in black silk dresses, taking covert sips of gin, while presiding over a Cheshire Inn. Grandfather had been abandoned by his own mother, who apparently fled merchant-class respectability and ran off to be an actress. She deposited grandfather with his dour Victorian Hickling grandparents, though returned in later life from time to time, wafting in at the family firm for a cash injection from ‘master Georgie’.

You can well see how lives of ‘quiet desperation’ get handed on from generation to generation.

Miriam had a talent for drawing and writing but even this outlet was denied. She had poor eyesight and had terrible headaches, but my grandfather would not let her have spectacles. No visible signs of imperfection would be tolerated. She told me how once, when returning from a childhood trip to Derbyshire by train, she had developed a rash on her face. Her parents being highly alarmed, took themselves off to another carriage to complete the journey to Manchester leaving Miriam alone in a state of disgrace. By the time she was fourteen she had suffered four nervous breakdowns and had to be taken out of school. Both she and my mother, who was eight years younger, were sent to small private schools. My mother was not allowed take up a place at a prestigious girls’ high school despite gaining a scholarship. My grandfather would have no ‘blue stockings’ in his family. He had some notion that providential husbands would somehow materialise: both his daughters would ‘marry well’ and thus be taken care of.

They did not and they were not. But each in their own very different ways made the best of very bad jobs, though in my mother’s case her methods of choice were destructive and damaging to others. Miriam remained stalwart, loyal to a man whose nerves were fragile, and who, in extremis, once attempted to strangle her as she slept.

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My mother, Peggy, probably sixteen years old, Miriam around the time of her marriage circa 1939. Both stepping out with so much intention.

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Miriam did not have a home of her own until the mid-1960s. It was on top of the hill in Pinhoe, near Exeter. There she made a garden that was filled with wildflower reminders of girlhood Derbyshire holidays – dame’s violets, bloody cranesbill, saxifrage, cowslips, primroses, the wild yellow pansies of the limestone uplands.  In their latter years, she and my uncle took to having an annual spring holiday in the Derbyshire Peak District. It was a source of great joy to both of them. Sometime later I took her ashes there.

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Miriam around 4 years old c 1918. The first time she met her father was when he returned from France at the end of the Great War. He had been an ambulance driver, and came home with gas-damaged lungs, which left him an invalid for the rest of his life. It left him the poorer too with years of medical bills to meet.  He said wearing a gas mask got in the way when he was trying to pick up the wounded.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

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