Moggmania

Farrington Gurney Manor 1

Farrington Gurney Manor House

There has been a great deal of media talk in recent months regarding the career and prospects of the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and this has acquired the label of “Moggmentum”. Not wishing to prejudice the future I can at least look to the past and offer a few insights into the joint history that he and I share. For Jacob (if I may call him that) is my twelfth cousin once removed. We share, as an ancestor, Richard Mogg who died in 1641; Richard was an important man in North Somerset during his career. He served as Bailiff of the Duchy of Cornwall for its estates in the area and leased from the Duchy the manors of Farrington Gurney and Welton in both of which villages he built imposing manor houses. The one at Farrington is especially grand and bears the initials of Richard, and Elizabeth his wife, on a carving over the main fireplace. The same monogram exists on the exterior of the porch together with the date 1637 which probably means that the house was habitable just prior to Richard’s death, although it was only completed in 1645.

Fireplace initials

The initials of Richard and Elizabeth Mogg

I shall mention Richard’s origins a little later on; W.J. Robinson in “West Country Manors” (1930) states that Richard was a descendant of the de Gournay family who held the manor in the Middle Ages and gave their name to the village, but I can find no evidence for this. He first appears in the area around 1600 when his daughter (possibly the eldest), Mary was baptised at St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip. A further eight children followed, ending with Walter in 1619, and it appears all but one of them survived into adulthood. Of his wife Elizabeth, we know little. Richard’s will refers to her brother Richard Fetherston, so we have her surname, but little else; I have not yet been able to trace their marriage.

In 2004 an article by Keith Trivett appeared in the Somerset Coalfield Journal “Five Arches” which gives the history of the Mogg and Rees-Mogg family and it quite rightly links Richard to a family in South Somerset which bore the name of “Keene alias Mogg” in various forms. Aliases were fairly common at this period and do not have any pejorative connotations; they are often the result of an inheritance or a second marriage. The village where the Moggs originated was Shepton Montague, and the Victoria County History records that one half of the manor was conveyed in 1570 by Charles the younger son of Lord Zouche to William Mogg alias Kyne; this half was known as Stoney Stoke or Stoke Holloway. On William’s death in 1597 it passed to his son, John. This latter individual is presumably the “John Mogge alias Kyne” who is named in a lease of 1583 granting further land in Shepton Montague named “Cattall Lande and Penhill” and which ran to approximately 200 acres. The annual rent was three shillings and fourpence, but John had also paid a “competente some of money” which is not stipulated. Named as “lives” in the lease are John’s three sons, William, Richard and John, all bearing the same alias.

John Keene alias Mogge mark 1596

The mark of John Mogg alias Keene

It is unfortunate that the parish register of Shepton Montague is in poor condition and is only available through a modern transcription for the period of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. This does record a marriage in 1562 between William Keene and a Margaret whose surname, the transcriber suggests, could be Mogge. This may well be the origin of the alias. The register also records baptisms but does not give the name of the father, which is fairly unusual. There is a Richard Mogge baptised on November 16, 1569 and again it is fair to surmise that this may the Richard who later moved to Chewton and Farrington Gurney. A later lease of 1605 involving more land in the parish names John Keene alias Mogge the elder, his wife Katherine, daughter Joane and grandson John, so it appears one son at least stayed in the area; the elder John died in 1606 and his son John in 1620. Thereafter the family are often referred to as simply Keene. A further pointer to the connection between the Shepton Montague family and that of Richard Mogg of Chewton/Farrington is provided by heraldic devices (three crescents) used by both. There are other sources which quote Duchy of Cornwall archives and maintain that Richard was the son of John Keene alias Mogg who died in 1606. It may well be that John had connections to the Duchy which were continued by his son, Richard.

Reconstructed Mogge family

Tentative reconstruction of the Mogg alias Keene family of Shepton Montague

Although Richard Mogg obviously travelled in the interests of the Duchy (in a letter of November 1618 he records that he is in London on “my now Master’s business”), he remained a yeoman farmer for some time. He is also recorded as the first of the family to obtain a grant to dig for coal in Farrington Gurney, establishing a link with the mining industry that was to last down the generations of the Mogg and Rees-Mogg family. In 1608 Richard, described as “of Chewtone….yeoman” acquired a tenement and land in Bruton. In the lease, the term is on the lives of Richard’s daughters, “Fraunce Grace and Anne Mogge”. A further complicated land transaction took place in 1617 and two of the parties involved were Richard Mogg of Chewton, gentleman and William Mogg of Shepton, yeoman. So Richard had certainly risen in the world; the William Mogg may be his brother or nephew. The article by Keith Trivett mantioned above also records that Richard was fined £10 for refusing, as a Catholic, to attend the coronation of Charles I in 1610. I’m not sure where this information came from, but Charles was crowned in 1625, and I have seen no further evidence that Richard was a Catholic. I should point out that the article in question does have many inaccuracies, getting the dates of Richard’s childrens’ births wrong and confusing his brother John with his son John.

Mogg memorial tablet at Farrington Gurney church

Memorial tablet in St Johns, Farrington Gurney

Richard died on October 9th 1641 and was buried in the church of St John the Baptist, Farrington Gurney. A memorial, presumably erected by his son, John records the date his death and that of Elizabeth his wife, but the parish register of Farrington is missing for this period so the date of burial is unknown. Richard’s will, made in April 1641 (with a supplementary note added in Richard’s own hand in July) was witnessed in August of that year, and probate granted to his executor on November 30th. It provides a good deal of interest as to his relationships with his family.

He provides numerous bequests of cash and personal effects for his grandchildren, reserving the major items for the two daughters of his eldest son, Richard. Of his property, one part of an estate in Farrington is left to his youngest son, Jacob and Jacob’s son, another Richard. The major holding in Welton is bequeathed to Richard the eldest son, with a charge on it to pay annuities to his mother Elizabeth, and sister Mary Vaughan, who appears not to have any children. The remainder of the estate was also left to Richard who was appointed the executor. So far so normal, but the legacy for Richard’s middle son, John is barbed. It reads as follows:

I give unto my sonne John Mogg one peece of gold of twentie
shillinges which gold I appointe by this my will to have a ring made of with a deaths
head thereon, by my Executor to bee done; and by him delivered unto him, that wearinge the same the sight thereof may burne his hearte for covetinge goods as hitherto hee hath done;

Father and son obviously did not have a trouble-free relationship.

Signature and seal of Richard Mogg 1617

Signature and seal of Richard Mogg

This is where my family history and that of Jacob Rees-Mogg part company. My ancestor was Grace, the third daughter of Richard Mogg, who married Francis Board of Chewton Mendip around 1623/4. Their children were to share a bequest in Richard’s will of £20 to share between them, and the three youngest were to receive a calf each. The family remained in Chewton, occupying the same land and house at Bathway for another 150 years (see here). Jacob Rees-Mogg is descended from the black sheep, John. His elder brother died in the 1650s (possibly his is the administration granted in 1653), and it seems the estate in Welton passed to his daughters and sons-in-law – the eldest Elizabeth married into the Champneys family of Orchardleigh, whereas the manors and much else went to his brother John, who in the end inherited the bulk of his father’s estates, and whose line continues down to this day.

 

Notes:

More detail may be found in future when the archives of the Duchy of Cornwall are examined.

Document images courtesy of the Somerset Heritage Centre

 

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My great grandfather Stephen Bumstead 1844-1903

Stephen Bumstead copy
On 26th February 1843, Stephen Bumstead married Phoebe Ann Gait at St Mary’s Whitechapel in the east end of London. Stephen described himself as a plumber & glazier, and a widower, the son of another Stephen Bumstead, also a plumber & glazier. They both signed their names (Phoebe signed Phebe Ann Gaitt) and the witnesses were Mary Ann Bumstead and Henry Chapman. As we have seen (here) Stephen moved to London from Ipswich, where he was a Freeman and where his family had practiced the same trade for several generations. Mary Ann was his sister-in-law, wife of his brother William Wase Bumstead and a Henry Chapman appears in the 1841 census with the same occupation as Stephen, so he may be a colleague.

Prior to his marriage to Phoebe Stephen had been married to Elizabeth Kennedy who had died in 1838 and he seems to appear in the Census three years later where there is a Steven Bumstead, living at 57 Chiswell Street, Finsbury, sharing accomodation with Hannah Maguire. This Steven gave his occupation as “painter” and Hannah was a servant. The ages in that Census, unlike later ones were rounded down for adults to the nearest 5 years. Steven is shown as being 30, so he could have been 34, but he was in fact 39, if this is our Stephen. Hannah was 20. The next property listed on the Census is 95 Milton Street and interestingly our Stephen Bumstead gives his address as 96 Milton Street on the marriage certificate of 1843.

The first child of Stephen and Phoebe, a son also named Stephen was born on 14th January 1844 at 41 Betts Street, near St George’s Church in Stepney. Stephen’s occupation on the birth certificate is given as a painter.

Old Montague Street

Old Montague Street, Spitalfields

Stephen senior died on 31st May 1846 of Typhus Fever. His age is given as 46 and the family had moved north to Old Montague Street in Spitalfields. On the death certificate Stephen was given as a painter and glazier. He was buried in the churchyard of Christ Church, Spitalfields on June 3rd. Phoebe was by then expecting a second child; a daughter was born on September 28th and she was given the name Georgina Ellen Gait Bumstead at the registration of the birth the following month. Poor Phoebe was to suffer further grief as baby Georgina died at the age of 8 months on 22nd June 1847, and she too was buried at Christ Church. By then Phoebe appears to have remarried for she signed her daughter’s death certificate Pheby Ann Rogers.

Christ Church Spitalfields

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Although Phoebe still gave her Spitalfields address on Georgina’s death certificate, the baby actually died in Tranquil Vale, Blackheath. There is no obvious family connection to the area, but it is interesting that there was, at the time a family named Bumstead living in Blackheath Vale. The 1841 census shows a Mary Ann Bumstead and a daughter, Eliza and son Edward. Further searches have revealed that a Stephen Bumstead married Mary Ann Swain at St Margarets, Lee on 9th December 1811. Their children were baptised at St Alpheges in Greenwich in the succeeding years. This Stephen died in 1838.

Phoebe had not in fact remarried but had moved in with a George Rogers, who was almost certainly a cousin. He too had been in London for some time, although coming originally from Somerset, like Phoebe. His first wife had recently died, leaving him with a young son, another George. Although living together since 1847 and having several children, they did not finally marry until 1856. The story of Phoebe’s ancestors is told here and her personal story here.

George and Phoebe Rogers stayed in London for a short time, a daughter whom they also named Georgina Ellen Gait Rogers being born in the first half of 1848. By 1850 though, they had returned to Somerset, a second daughter, Lydia Ann being born in the village of Stanton Drew where the family was to stay for over forty years.

Rogers Family 1851 Census crop

Stanton Drew Census 1851

As can be seen Stephen now appears as Stephen Rogers, son of George and Phoebe. Besides the two girls there is George’s son, from his first marriage. By 1861 however a major development had taken place. The 1861 Census for Stanton Drew shows that the Rogers family had moved to the neighbouring village of Stowey (they were back in Stanton Drew by 1871) and grown with the addition of a son and two more daughters. Stephen was no longer with the family and had moved to Chew Magna, into the household of Samuel Gover, a blacksmith, whose apprentice he was. He had also reverted to the surname Bumstead (it appears as Bomsted in the 1861 Census).

We cannot know what happened to provoke this change – did Stephen fall out with his step-father or mother, or was he just asserting his independence. Interestingly he was baptised at Chew Magna (at the age of 16) on 18th March 1860, presumably whilst living there with the Gover family. He gives his father’s name as Stephen Bumstead, upholsterer. Was he only getting part of the story or perhaps guessing his father’s occupation? Later, on his marriage, he gave his father’s name as George Bumstead, Cabinet Maker – an interesting combination of the names of his biological & step fathers, although George Rogers was a carpenter rather than a cabinet maker.

By 1868 Stephen had moved to Bedminster and the next record we have of his life is the marriage to Louisa Peters who had also been living in Chew Magna. Louisa was a little older than Stephen (having been born on the 25th June 1842) and she was the mother of an illegitimate child. Her daughter had been born in Chew Magna in 1864 and registered under the name Rosina Fear Peters. It was common practice when a father would not (or could not) “do the decent thing” to give an illegitimate child the father’s surname as a middle name, and we can see that the father of Rosina was Samuel Fear (see here).

On the marriage certificate Stephen gave his address as North Street, Bedminster and Louisa was at West Street. Addresses at marriages are not always permanent residences – people used convenience addresses to be able for the Banns to be read – three weeks in a parish was enought for one to be considered a parish “member”. On the marriage certificate Stephen describes himself as a smith and on the Census of 1871, when the family were living at 29 Richmond Terrace, Bedminster he was still using the term Blacksmith. Rosina was given the surname Bumstead (or Bumpstead in the record).

A son, Frederick Walter, was born in 1879, and by the 1881 Census the family had moved to Canon’s Marsh. The address is difficult to read but appears to be “Offices, Heaven, John”. Stephen’s profession is now Engineer Driver for Saw Mills. A neighbour also worked in the timber trade and there were certainly timber yards on Canon’s Marsh in the nineteenth century, so it seems likely that the family lived “above the shop” in the company accomodation of John Heaven & Co. an established timber merchant in Canons Marsh. The progression to engineer was a natural one – many of the early journeyman engineers started their lives as blacksmiths, and Stephen seems to have stayed in the industry for the rest of his life, working on the stationary engines that powered the saws. On the census both Louisa and Rosina are recorded as Shirt Makers.

Canon's Marsh timber yard

One of the many timber yards on Canon’s Marsh

Not many records survive of Stephen’s life, but one that does concerns the drowning in Bristol Harbour, of a quay labourer, Peri Ryan who fell into the water between the mission ship Bethel and the quayside in December 1886. The newspaper report of the inquest tells how Stephen, the only witness, heard moans and saw the deceased wedged between the ship and the quay and tried to help him, but could not hold on. The coroner expressed his opinion that there should be some sort of protection between the quay and the ship. This was carried out afterwards as the photograph of the site of the accident below clearly shows.

Bethel Mission ship

Bethel Mission Ship, St Augustine’s Reach

Stephen’s step-sister Phoebe Isabella had drowned in a boating accident at Bath on July 6th 1888 (see here) and just twelve days later, her father George Rogers travelled to Bristol to make his will in the offices of the solicitor William Watts. His estate, which totalled £220 was left to his wife Phoebe and thereafter to his surviving children. However there is a special bequest of £2.10s to his stepson, “Steven Bumstead”.
On the 1891 Census the family are still living in Canon’s Marsh and another son, Albert (actually George Albert, born July 3rd 1888, although he always seems to have been known as Bert) is present. Rosina had left however, having recently married John Roberts. Stephen is a Stationary Engine Driver and no occupations are recorded for Louisa or Frederick.

George Albert Bumstead c 1898

George Albert Bumstead c1898

Next to Bristol Cathedral stood the Church of St Augustine the Less (the Cathedral was St Augustine the Greater) and family tradition records young Albert as a chorister there. This was presumably before 1900 when the family moved back to Bedminster. Kelly’s Bristol Directory for 1900 has Stephen Bumstead at 2 Sheene Road, Bedminster, and from 1902 onwards shows the family at 176 York Road. In between, the 1901 Census has them at 1 Diamond Street (just off West Street). Although Stephen’s occupation remains the same, both Louisa and Frederick are recorded as Machinists (Wood Cutting). They now have a much fuller household; as well as Stephen, Louisa and the two boys, Louisa’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Peters, a niece, Lilian Chapman and three other boarders are recorded. Lilian and the other girl boarder, Rose Kruse work as cigarette packers (no doubt at Wills factory, just a few hundred yards away), whilst one of the male boarders, George Chapman, who worked as a railway stoker on the GWR was born in Bermuda in the West Indies, where his father was stationed in the army.

1 Diamond Street crop

1 Diamond Street, Bedminster

The move to York Street, on the New Cut, facing the suburb of Redcliffe, was to be Stephen’s final one. He died on Christmas Day 1903 aged 59 of gastritis and was buried in a family plot in Arno’s Vale Cemetery. Louisa was to live on until 1923, when she too was buried in the grave. Their eldest son, Frederick was also buried there on his death in 1947.

Arnos Vale tombstone

Bumstead grave marker in Arnos Vale Cemetery

 

Three Clerks and a Lime Burner

st-james-ashwick

St James, Ashwick

Some thoughts on the Emerys of Ashwick

My ancestral line back to the Emery family of Ashwick is straightforward. My great great grandmother, Phoebe Ann Gait was the daughter of Zachariah Gait and Lydia Horler Emery, who had married in Midsomer Norton in 1820. Lydia’s father James had been born in Ashwick in 1764 and moved to Norton where he married Abigail Rogers in 1787. The connection is easy to see as Lydia was named after James’ mother, whose maiden name was Lydia Horler. James’ father was another James Emery who was the parish clerk of Ashwick and who died in 1806, the parish register recording “James Emery. Clark”.

Ashwick which lies to the south-west of Midsomer Norton is a strange parish in that the church stands in the small hamlet of Ashwick, merely a manor house and a few other buildings, whilst it contains several townships larger than the village itself. The largest of these is Oakhill to the south, straddling the Bath to Shepton Mallet road, and in the north of the parish lies Gurney Slade. The present church at Ashwick is a Victorian Gothic building of the 1870/80s, although the tower is medieval and the one the Emerys would have known.

The parish register of Ashwick is sadly deficient in the early years of the eighteenth century and only commences in 1702, so much of the history of the Emery family is hidden from us. This is, in part, owing to another James Emery who was the parish clerk in the 1730s and was twice publically admonished in the register itself by the vicar of the parish, Thomas Jenkins. That of 1732 reads:

1732  N.B.By ye Exissive Negligence of James Emery ye Clerk notwithstanding frequent admonition to ye Contrary in several months before and after this, I believe several Christnings are omitted wh ought to have been Registered, And that yt are Registered are much confusd.

And in 1735 Rev. Jenkins wrote:

28th September 1735 The same complaint which I have made already concerning James Emery, Clerk of Ashwick, I must here again repeat, tho’ this will be but poor satisfaction to those yt may suffer by ys deficiency of ye Register from March 7th 1733 to the date underwritten. I shall for ye future take ye names of those I bury and baptize myself, and if any fault happens I shall give ye Parishioners leave to charge it on their Vicar. Tho Jenkins

admonition-james-emery-1732

The 1732 admonition

The father of the James who was the parish clerk from c1784 until his death in 1806 was yet another James and I had assumed he might be the person named in these complaints. However, on reflection it would seem that he was too young for this to be the case. He died in 1789, aged 80 years, as the register states, giving him a birthdate of 1709. He married in 1732, the year of the first entry in the register and that refers to “frequent admonition” so it would appear that he would have been clerk in his very early 20s, which seems unlikely. However, there is yet another James Emery, buried in 1744 who the register names as “James Emery snr.” I now believe (without any further evidence) that this might be the clerk whom the vicar names in his complaints. We would thus have four generations of James Emerys, at least two of which were parish clerks:

James Emery (? – 1744) his wife was Mary was buried 1744 also. Possibly the clerk of the complaints and possibly the father of..
James Emery (1709-1789) who married Mary Perkins in 1732 and father of..
James Emery (1738-1806) Parish clerk, who married Lydia Horler in 1763 and father of..
James Emery (1764-1839) the father of Lydia Horler Emery (1802 – 1876)

Images of the parish registers of Somerset are now available online so it has been possible to examine the detail in the Ashwick register itself and a couple of interesting points arise. In his second complaint Thomas Jenkins the vicar states “I shall for ye future take ye names of those I bury and baptize myself”. This implies that the clerk made notes rather than write up the register at once. This was common practice in the eighteenth century and led to many entries being lost. In many cases the register would only be written up once a year at the time of the annual visitation. On inspection it is clear that the register which was started anew in 1728 after a gap of eighteen years is in the hand of Thomas Jenkins, and continues until September 1742; in fact many of the pages carry Jenkins signature. Over the next few pages at least three different hands can be identified, possibly a curate, new vicar or most likely churchwardens, until in March 1745 when a further new hand takes over and continues until May 1752 when an entry records that Charles Huish was “put in to be the Clark of Ashwick”. Thereafter the register continues in (Huish’s?) hand for many years.

The layout of the pages in the register is a standard double column style with baptisms on the left and burials on the right (marriages were listed in a separate part of the register) but on the first page in the new hand of 1745 there are no burials on the right; instead, under a heading of “James Emery” is a listing of the birthdates of what one assumes are the children of this particular James Emery. Some, but by no means all of these children appear in the register of baptisms. It would appear that this James Emery was parish clerk from 1745 until 1752 and he used a convenient space to record his own childrens’ births as well as later on, their baptisms. In one of the entries specific details are recorded which surely only a family member might know – that of Sarah where it is written “Sarah Emery was born March the 12 a bout one a clock in the after noon in 1751”. The list is not in chronological order and was presumably written about the time of Sarah’s birth, rather than added to over the years after 1745. Interestingly, when James’ son became parish clerk in 1784, he too listed on a spare page, the dates of his childrens’ births.

births-of-emery-children-1745-copy

Birth records of the children of James Emery (1709-89)

Apart from the registers there are often other useful sources of information which enable us to find family relationships. One of these is a lease where several members of a family were named. Leases were often granted for a term of a number of years (often 99) and on certain lives, normally three. It was in the interests of the lessee to name younger members of his own family where possible in order to obtain the greatest benefit, but it was quite common too to include a wife and one child to protect the wife’s interest should one die. The manor of Ashwick (until about 1810) was held by the Fortescue family of Castle Hill, near Barnstaple in Devon. The papers are now in the hands of the Devon Record Office and several surveys of the manor are recorded in documents held there. I recently viewed those of 1763, 1779 and 1791 and these give us further knowledge of the Emery family.

The most interesting entry is in the Survey of 1763 which shows James Emery holding a lease on a property called Lime Kiln Cottage, which is in the hamlet of Gurney Slade (and still exists). The “Messuage or Tenement” includes “A Dwelling House, Two Gardens, Lime-Kiln and little Plot of Lime Rock Ground, for Burning lime on”. In addition there are a further five acres of land around the house. The charge was £3.10.00 a year and a faint note at the bottom of the document reads “This is well worth £3.10s.0d Pr Annum”. Unfortunately there is no date on this lease as there is on some, so we don’t know how long the family had held this property. The lessee in this case must be the James who lived 1709-89 as another document records that the lease was on the three lives of James himself, his wife, Mary and James their son. Also recorded there and in the Survey of 1779 are the ages of the three parties, which are not entirely accurate. In 1763 the family’s ages are shown as being 45, 45 and 21 and sixteen years later they are 59, 59 and 35. We don’t know Mary’s age but the father and son are about 10 and 5 years out respectively. This is not neccessarily a problem – ages were often estimated and we do not know for certain the elder James’ birthdate in any case. It is quite likely that he was in fact born c1713/4 and the age at the time of his burial is wrong. This is certainly the right family however.

ashwick-1763-emery-book

Details of Emery’s lease in the 1763 Survey

The Survey of 1791 shows that the lease had been renewed in 1772 and the new lessee is Joseph, the younger son of James the elder. So we can be sure that James Emery (1709-89) was a lime burner – the provider of a very useful service in the predominately agricultural area of Ashwick. Lime, for fertilising the fields as well as its use in making mortar for building, was obtained by burning limestone in a kiln, fired by either wood or coal; the latter was easily obtained from local mines. There is further evidence of the Emerys’ trades in two entries in the Churchwarden’s Accounts for Ashwick in 1773:

May 28 Sack of lime. To Jim Emery to repair the window that fell down
July 21 To Joseph Emery for setting up a New Stone over the Window in the Church

Joseph, the son who was the lessee of Lime Kiln Cottage in the 1791 Survey was a mason, as other records confirm. At present this leaves us with no knowledge of the occupation of his brother James who was to be the parish clerk from 1784-1806. He may also have been an occupant of the cottage, but we don’t know. Joseph later bought the freehold of the property from the Fortescues. As far as we tell, James’s son, the James who moved to Midsomer Norton was an agricultural labourer.

lime-kiln-cottage-gurney-slade

Map of late 19th century showing the position of Lime Kiln Cottage (above white star)

The Surveys also enable us to glean a little more information as another lease was granted to Joseph Perkins in 1763, and the three lives on which it was held were Richard and Joanna, the children of Joseph Perkins and George Emery, the son of James Emery aged 14. This would be the brother of James and Joseph, whose birth was recorded by his father in the parish register as having taken place on Candlemas Day 1745 – February 2nd 1746 in modern terms. So one would assume that the original lease was granted to the father of Joseph Perkins, who was almost certainly the father of Mary Perkins, the wife of James Emery. He was probably the Richard Perkins who died in 1751.

Documents courtesy of South West Heritage Centre

Three Generations in Service

st-john-midsomer-norton

St John the Baptist, Midsomer Norton

Lydia Horler Emery was baptised at the parish church in Midsomer Norton on 10th January 1802, and was the third child of James and Abigail Emery. Following a brother and sister who had been named for their parents. Lydia was named after her paternal grandmother, Lydia Horler. James and Abigail (nee Rogers) had themselves been married at the same church on 31st May 1787, and although both are given as being “of this parish” in the banns, only Abigail seems to have been born and baptised in the town – in 1768.

James’ family had been settled in the parish of Ashwick, just north of Shepton Mallet for several generations. They were a literate family, James’ father and grandfather (both named James) had served as Parish Clerk. The grandfather had not been as assiduous a clerk as his son was to turn out to be. On two occasions the vicar wrote admonitions in the register blaming James for missing entries. Lydia later described her father as a farmer, but in later years her brother James appears as an agricultural labourer in the Census returns, and on his death certificate (1839) James senior was described as “Labourer”.

 

Just after her eighteenth birthday, on 20th March 1820 Lydia married Zachariah Gait of Chewton Mendip, again at Midsomer Norton parish church. Although heir to a prosperous yeoman family in his home village, Zachariah moved to Norton sometime between the baptisms of their first child, John (October 1820 at Chewton) and daughter Phoebe (January 18th 1824 at Norton). His occupation was recorded in both Parish Registers as butcher. Possibly there was parental displeasure on the Gait side at the marriage, although they had previous connections: at the marriage of Zachariah’s parents in 1783, Lydia’s grandfather, James Emery was a witness. We do not know the reasons why the family remained in Norton – there was a Charles Gait, also a butcher, there in 1841, possibly Zachariah worked with a cousin. In any case, they did not seem to have stayed for long. Zachariah’s death is recorded on his parent’s gravestone (in Chewton churchyard) the date being given as being 8th April 1829. The parish register lists his abode as Chewton once more.

In 1836 John and Phoebe were left £10 each in the will of their great-aunt, Sarah Pearce, although neither had been mentioned in the will of their grandfather, Jeremiah Gait the year before. The 1841 Census finds Lydia and possibly Phoebe in service in London. Lydia was at 22 Upper Brook Street in Mayfair, the eldest female servant (possibly the housekeeper?) in the household of William Wrightson, MP for Retford & Northallerton. In the Census return, William is not in residence, although his wife, Georgiana was.

The family that Lydia served were long established landowners from Yorkshire. William Battie Wrightson was born in 1789, the eldest son of another William Wrightson (1752-1827) who had been High Sheriff of Yorkshire and MP for Aylesbury. The family seat was the impressive Cusworth Hall near Doncaster, which had been built by an earlier William Wrightson in 1742. The Upper Brook Street residence was the family’s town house, and William and Georgina are found there in later Census records.

The 1851 Census for Gilmerton House in East Lothian, just to the east of Edinburgh clearly shows Lydia Gaitt as the Housekeeper, born around 1806 in “Midsummer Norton, Somersetshire”. She is given as unmarried, but this may assume she was “single” or possibly female servants were expected to have no ties, so no searching questions were asked of them for Census purposes. The House was built in the mid eighteenth century by the Kinloch family, who live there to this day. It was the largest establishment that Lydia is known to have worked in.

gilmerton-house-front-1

Gilmerton House

In 1851 the head of the family was Sir David Kinloch, the ninth baronet, who appears at the head of the return along with his two daughters, Isabella and Elenor. His wife, Eleanor, Lady Kinloch had died in 1849. Gilmerton House had a much larger staff than the Wrightsons’ at Upper Brook Street (six servants in 1841, nine in 1851). As well as three members of the family (the son & heir was away at University) and two visitors, there were thirteen members of staff living in, and certainly others living around the estate.

Ten years later the 1861 Census was to find Lydia in another interesting household, again with a Scots family, but with a very different background. We can, at present, only “see” Lydia in Census years. There is no evidence how long she stayed with each employer, or if indeed she had many more in between Censuses. It can be assumed that no respectable family would employ a servant without a good “Character” (reference), so we can only wonder why she moved regularly, presumably having no trouble finding new employment.

Lydia’s new employer was Robert Dalglish Grant of Bury in Lancashire, the son of John Grant, a prosperous cotton and calico manufacturer, and her new position (again as Housekeeper) was at Nuttall Hall at Ramsbottom, just outside Bury. The photograph below shows her new place of work as it was in the early twentieth century. It has since been demolished.

The Grant family had come down from Scotland and settled in the Bury area earlier in the century, working in the cotton mills that were expanding rapidly in Lancashire. They later went into the retail side of the business and also purchased land and factories from Sir Robert Peel’s family. By the 1840s the four Grant brothers – William, John, Daniel and Charles were cotton magnates, each with their own grand establishment. John had rebuilt Nuttall Hall around 1817 and lived there with his family until his death in 1855. His two brothers, William and Daniel were well-known philanthropists in the area and were immortalized by Charles Dickens in his novel Nicholas Nickleby as the “Cheeryble brothers”. Again, it is not possible to know how long Lydia stayed at Nuttall Hall. Her new master, Robert was to die in four years time and the house came into the possession of his aunt, Isabella.

As a Housekeeper in such important households, Lydia would have had many and various duties, as well as some freedoms not available to other servants. The Housekeeper was one of the trio of senior servants who ran the establishment: the Butler was in charge of all the male servants, as well as the day to day attendance on the master of the house in person, and the other members of the family at meals and other gatherings; the Lady’s maid was responsible to the Lady of the household, being responsible for all her wardrobe, including personal laundry, and the comfort and appearance of her mistress; the Housekeeper’s duties included responsibility for all the other female servants and the general good running of the household. She would interview any prospective female members of the staff (excluding Lady’s Maid and Cook, when the Lady would have the decision) and ensure they carried out their duties to the letter. She would liaise with her mistress, possibly on a daily basis, regarding the household accounts, which concerned the supplies of food, linen and cleaning materials. She was responsible for all the purchasing of those requirements and the storage and economical use of them. In return Lydia would probably have more freedom in her life (constrained as it was by the demands of the household). She would be allowed a certain amount of free time, even brief “holidays”, denied to the lower servants. She would have had her own bedroom and a parlour, where she may have carried out her paperwork if a separate office was not available. She would have been waited on, in her turn, by the lesser servants and not required to do any dirty or menial work. According to Mrs Beeton in the 1861 edition of her Book of Household Management, she could have expected an annual salary of between £15-£25 with all found.

llanwysg-house

Glenusk Villa now LLanwysg

On October 20th 1869, Lydia married Joseph Richard Battey at St Cattwgs Parish Church in the village of Llangattock, just outside Crickhowell in Breconshire. She gives her profession as “Housekeeper” and her address as Lanysk. Joseph was a Carrier, living in Crickhowell; both were widowed.

 

We can place Lydia’s last place of employment as Glanusk Villa (now Llanwysg) near Llangattock, and part of the Glanusk Park Estate, home of the Legge- Bourke family who are descended from Sir Joseph Bailey, a South Wales Ironmaster. The Villa was the residence of the Hotchkiss family, in 1871 headed by Ann Hochkiss, the widow of John Hochkiss, a retired Commander in the Royal Navy. John was a Scot from Edinburgh and in previous years several of their servants had been Scots too, including Lydia’s predecessor, Mary Ingliss (or Ingles) who hailed from Berwickshire. The marriage certificate of Lydia and Joseph has, as witnesses, Edwin Barnett and Mary Pritchard. In the Glanusk Villa Census of 1871, there is an Edmund Barnett (Butler) and Mary Pritchard (Lady’s Maid).

Joseph Battey’s profession in previous Censuses was given as Fishmonger or Fishmonger & Carrier. It can probably be assumed he was the supplier of fish to the household and dealt with Lydia in her position as Housekeeper. Following the death of his wife earlier in the decade, no doubt the two of them discussed their widowhoods – Joseph’s children were all adults and the companionship of another was no doubt an attraction. Interestingly, Joseph was originally from London – could it be they had known each other from the 1840s?

lydia-gait-joseph-battey-marriage-1869

The Marriage certificate of Joseph Battey and Lydia Gait 1869

They were living in High Street, Crickhowell on the 1871 Census, Joseph still given as a Carrier, with Lydia finally in retirement. They were given seven years together – Lydia dying, possibly of cancer, on 17th May 1876. Joseph followed in 1880, aged 79. He was buried with his first wife, but had provided Lydia with an impressive headstone dedicated to “my beloved wife”.

lydia-battey-grave-1876

Phoebe Ann Gait was baptised in Midsummer Norton in January 1824 and four years later her father, Zachariah died at the early age of 29. At some stage she appears to have moved to London, presumably with her mother, Lydia. The 1841 Census shows a Phoebe Gote living in lodgings in Stafford Place, St Margarets, Westminster. She is sharing lodgings with Robert Sistorn, both are described as servants, and her age is about right (shown as 15, but ages over 10 were normally rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5 in 1841).

It is possible, of course she was just a servant to the householder, Thomas Cornwall, but the single mark between the Cornwalls and Phoebe & Robert Sistorn indicate a separate “household”, so Robert and Phoebe could be servants in other houses. Stafford Place is literally “round the corner” from Buckingham Palace and several inhabitants are in Royal service. Their neighbour next door is described as “Queens Footman”. Perhaps research in the Royal household records might prove interesting!

marriage-stephen-bumstead-1843c

Marriage certificate of Stephen Bumstead and Phoebe Ann Gait

Just two years later, on 26th February 1823 Phoeba married Stephen Bumstead, a painter, plumber and glazier (all three trades were linked by the use of lead) at St Mary’s Whitechapel. The first child of Stephen and Phoebe, a son also named Stephen (my great grandfather) was born on 14th January 1844 at 41 Betts Street, near St George’s Church in Stepney. Stephen senior died on 31st May 1846 of Typhus Fever. His age is given as 46 and the family had moved north to Montague Street in Spitalfields. On the death certificate Stephen was a painter and glazier. Phoebe was by then expecting a second child, who was given the name Georgina Ellen Gait Bumstead at the registration of the birth in October 1846. Poor Phoebe was to suffer further grief as baby Georgina died at the age of 8 months on 22nd June 1847, but by then she appears to have remarried as her name on the death certificate was given as “Pheby Ann Rogers”.

 

The man whose name Phoebe had taken was George Rogers, a fellow immigrant to London from Somerset, who was almost certainly her first cousin. George was a carpenter who had come to the capital to find work (as Stephen Bumstead had moved from Ipswich). The city was rapidly expanding in the early nineteenth century and vast areas were under construction. George had married a local girl, Hannah Coles who died in March 1847, leaving George with a young son (also George). Perhaps it was a little unseemly to move in together so soon, but Victorians were practical people and two widows with young children no doubt saw the advantages of the relationship. George and Phoebe stayed in London for a short time, a daughter whom they also named Georgina Ellen Gait (Rogers) being born in the first half of 1848. By 1850 though, they had returned to Somerset, a second daughter, Lydia Ann being born in the village of Stanton Drew where the family was to stay for over forty years.

Only five years old when her father died and married and widowed by 22, Phoebe’s path through life had many twists and turns yet to come. After her return to Somerset with George Rogers, they were to have several more children. As well as Georgina Ellen and Lydia Ann there were Jemima Emily (1852), John Gait (1857), Alice Maud (1859), Hannah Selina (1862) Mary Jane (1864) and finally Phoebe Isabella in 1869. But, despite the change of surname, Phoebe and George did not marry until 1856. It seems they attempted to wed on two previous occasions. The banns for their marriage were called at St Saviours, Southwark in 1847 and 1852, but no marriage took place. Did one of Phoebe’s pregnancies or an illness interfere with the wedding plans? And why did they continue to go to Southwark after their return to Somerset? Perhaps they thought as the original banns had been called there, they had to marry in the same parish.

phoebe-bumstead-george-rogers-marriage-1856

Marriage certificate of George Rogers and Phoebe Ann Bumstead 1856

 

George’s business properered, and by the 1881 Census he was described as a “Builder and Contractor”. John Gait Rogers had moved to Bath and was employed as a Grocer’s assistant, but tragedy was to strike the family in 1888/9. As well as their son John, the youngest daughter, Phoebe Isabella (always known in the family as Bella) had obtained employment in nearby Bath in 1883. She was employed as a shop assistant, living-in as was the norm in Victorian times, at Gardiner’s drapery shop in Stall Street. On the evening of Friday 6th July Bella and a newly arrived colleague, Annie Watts joined three young men in a boating trip up the river Avon to Bathampton. After refreshments at the George Inn, the party embarked for the return journey back to Bath. It was past ten o’clock and dark by the time they arrived and William Isaacs, who had been kneeling in the stern, complained of getting wet; as he stood up the boat capsized and each of the girls let out a scream as all five pitched into the water. Despite brave efforts from the males in the party, both girls as well as Willie Isaacs were drowned. Bella’s body was recovered the next day and her brother John had to identify her at the city morgue.

Just nine months later, John, who had recently taken on his employer’s grocery business, died of peritonitis after a short illness; he was 33. Two months later, in May 1889, no doubt crushed by events, George Rogers was buried alongside his parents and three of his children (an infant daughter had died twenty years earlier) in Stanton Drew churchyard.

The 1891 Census finds Phoebe, now a widow staying at the home of Ann Bush in Stanton Drew. She is given as a visitor, so we have no idea where her domicile was. Under occupation she is described as “living on own means”, so we must assume George left her comfortably off, even though his residual estate was only valued at £221. By 1901 however, another of those dramatic changes that mark her life had occurred. No doubt Stanton Drew held painful memories for her; her surviving daughters had married and moved away, so it may seem natural that she went to live near the one who was furthest from Somerset.

victoria-road

61Victoria Street, Horwich

1901 finds Phoebe Ann Rogers living at 61 Victoria Road, Horwich a town near Bolton in Lancashire. She is the head of the household, which includes a granddaughter, Mabel Maud Smith, aged 21 who was born in Gloucestershire and who gives her occupation as Milliner; and three boarders who are all engineers. Victoria Road had been built in 1880/1890s by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Co. to house its employees – one of whom, Thomas Clayton had married Phoebe’s daughter, Alice Maud in 1890.

The 1901 Census finds them living across the road from Phoebe at No 73, with their growing family, including their eldest son, John Gait Clayton. Mabel Maud Smith was the eldest daughter of Jemima Emily Rogers, who married Samuel Smith in 1877. The family lived in Cam in Gloucestershire and Samuel was a gardener and taxidermist.

Another of Phoebe’s daughters, Lydia Ann had married a Thomas Branfield and they had initially moved to Wales, like others of the family, seeking work in the collieries. Lydia and Thomas did not have any children and 1901 finds them in Horwich too, where he is a general labourer and Lydia a Monthly Nurse. By 1911 however, Lydia had followed her grandmother into service, being a housekeeper at the country retreat of William Lever (later Lord Leverhulme) and living at the Bungalow, Rivington which lies just to the north of Horwich. Thomas is described as a caretaker and a groom is also in residence. As it was only used for weekend and occasional entertaining purposes, their duties cannot have been too heavy, but Thomas failed in his when Edith Rigby, a noted Suffragette, carried out an arson attack on the property and it burned to the ground in July 1913. At the time of the attack it seems the Branfields were living in one of the lodges on the estate. Lever rebuilt the Bungalow (in stone rather the timber of the first building),and Lydia and Thomas were still there in 1915 when she is listed on the Roll of Midwives. They appear to have moved out by 1920 though.

rivington-south-lodge

South Lodge, Rivington

 

Phoebe Ann Rogers died at the home of her daughter, Alice Clayton on 22nd April 1914 at the age of 90.

Chewton Mendip Families

Chewton Mendip OS 1

Chewton Mendip c1800 with East End at the bottom and Bathway just below “Chewton Priory”

 

The Yorks

Anthony York (died 1660) and Mary

Anthony York appears in various documents as York, Franke (several spellings) and York alias Franke. The alias may indicate an adoptive name used to indicate inheritance or relationship and was quite a common practice in the 17th century. He was probably related to James York alias Franke who was the steward of the manor of Chewton, quite possibly his son. Unfortunately the parish registers are difficult to read for periods in the early part of the century, so Anthony’s  baptism cannot be identified. The family are usually referred to simply as Franke in the registers, although all branches had dropped this by the end of the century and used solely York(e).

Anthony was probably born around 1610-20 and married about 1643, although the marriage did not take place in Chewton. All we know of his first wife is her christian name, Mary, and following the birth of four children, her death is recorded in the parish register on September 9th 1654. This was during the period of the Commonwealth and the Parish Register (the name of the official who was responsible for the upkeep of the written register) only recorded the dates of births and deaths. The following year Anthony married for a second time and infuriatingly we know even less of this wife as the wedding is recorded in the register as between “Anthony Francke of this parishe” and ” the Widow Newman of Horington”. However the marriage is also recorded at St Cuthberts, Wells, dated June 23rd, and this states the bride’s christian name – another Mary. The date of the Chewton wedding is not clear – it is certainly June, but the second digit of the day is uncertain. Did the couple actually marry twice? The records imply this and it may be that the “secular” marriage by Chewton’s Register did not satisfy them and they chose to be married by a clergyman in the no-doubt more royalist city of Wells.The second marriage produced no children and Anthony died in 1660.

John York (1645- 1723) and Elizabeth

John appears to be the first of the family to reside in the the East End tything of Chewton,  on the estate (a grand term used for a holding  from the manor of any size) that was passed down through his descendants.  John held the land from the Waldegraves, lords of the manor of Chewton, in the south of the parish centred on a hamlet called East End. The York “estate” consisted of a tenement called a Landless Place – “A dwelling house, barn, stable, garden, orchards and backside”, together with a group of fields adjacent which totalled about twelve acres. In addition there was another field of two acres closer to the village centre and another ten or so acres at Holly Marsh which was to the north-east on the edge of the parish near Ston Easton. The lease had been granted in 1651 to a Johan Palmer with a reversion to John (“the son of Anthony Yorke alias Francke”) after her death. It may be that there was a connection between the Yorks and the Palmers, or possibly this was a simple monetary transaction.  Joan Palmer was buried in January 1666 and so John took over the farm from that date. In 1670 the parish register records John marrying Elizabeth Neusom. This name does not occur elsewhere, so we cannot know Elizabeth’s origins.

A grant from the manor dated 1669 gives John the right to “Myne and Digg for Oare in his Tenemt. ….  Laying outte to the Lord an Eight part of the Oare free wrought and a Tenth part of all the Leade”. One wonders if John struck lucky with this.

Grant Bk 1669 York

John died in March 1723 and the lease, which had been renewed in 1700  was maintained by his widow and, following her death in 1729, their son, Richard.

Richard York (1690-1770) and Dorothy

Signature of Richard York 1749
Richard renewed his father’s lease in 1761, paying a fine of £24 to extend it and include the life of his son and a granddaughter. At some time in the next five years he added two fields on the edge of Chewton Down. Richard had married Dorothy Bathe at Emborough on 26th April 1731 and their only child, John was born the following year. Richard took a full part in the governance of the parish, appearing on several occasions as a Churchwarden or Overseer of the Poor.

One of the many payments made by the Churchwardens was for the destruction of perceived vermin. Most common amongst these were hedgehogs and sparrows, although there is the more exotic pole-cat from time to time. A payment in 1743 records that 1/- was paid to “Richard York’s son” for four dozen sparrows’ heads.

 

1807 Landless Place
The Yorks’ farm Landless Place at East End – the farmhouse in red

Landless Place has now been demolished and a short row of nineteenth century cottages stand facing the road; the York’s farmhouse was at right-angles to it and set back.

 

John York (1732-1818) and Ann Board

Marriage John York 1759 signatures
John, the only child of Richard and Dorothy continued farming the family acres and no doubt took part in village life as his father had done, although the records are missing for much of the period. On the 26th March 1759 he married Ann Board (see below) at St Mary Magdalene, Chewton Mendip and on 20th November their first child, Sarah was born. A second daughter, Ann Board, followed in October 1761 but tragically she was to be baptised on the same day that her mother was buried, the 31st. Life must have been hard for John, having to bring up two small children, but at least his mother was still alive (Dorothy died in 1773) and his mother-in-law too lived until 1768.

With no sons, John did not attempt to extend the family’s leases, but left them dependent on the life of his eldest daughter, as Richard had arranged in 1761. His youngest daughter was the first to wed – Ann Board York married Jeremiah Gait (see below) at St John’s Bedminster on 29th May 1783. The entry in the register records that the banns had been read and both parties were “of this parish”, so some subterfuge looks likely. It is quite possible the marriage was unpopular in the York household; certainly when Sarah married John Pearce in 1792, the wedding took place in Chewton and Jeremiah Gait was a witness, so harmony may have been restored.

John lived until 1818 and it may be that some of his land was being farmed by his sons-in-law well before that – the 1798 Land Tax redemption lists show land with John Pearce and Jeremiah as joint tenants of a piece of land as well as John York himself (although it may have been Board land (see below)). Certainly John had taken on other interests. In the 1813 survey of the Waldegrave estates, tenants’ occupations are listed and John is given as “Lead Reeve”. This position entailed looking after the lord of the manor’s interest in the lead mining that took place on Mendip – the lord was entitled to 10% of all lead extracted by the miners on his land. By this period the industry was in steep decline and the post may have been more ceremonial than practical, but it presumably brought in a stipend and a degree of prestige.

Sarah York (1759-1836) and John Pearce

Marriage Sarah York 1792 signature
Sarah and John did not have any children and continued to farm the leasehold land that was in the name of Sarah as heiress to her parents and Board grandparents (see below). Although no definitive record exists, most likely the Pearces lived at Landless Place. John died in 1821 but Sarah lived on until 1836 when all the York farm and land reverted to the Waldegrave estate.
The Boards

Francis Board (died 1658) and Grace

Until the baptism of Francis’ eldest child (another Francis) the name Board does not appear in any record at Chewton. It may be that he was a member of the Board family of Kilmersdon, several miles to the north-east, but we cannot be sure, although that family did use the name Francis regularly. Francis made a very advantageous marriage to Grace  the daughter of Richard Mogg who had settled in Chewton Mendip just before 1600 and was to become the Steward of the Duchy of Cornwall in the area and later held the manor of Farrington Gurney, where he built a substantial (and still standing) manor house.

Farrington Gurney Manor 1

Farrington Gurney Manor House

Francis was probably born around 1600 and although the record of his marriage has not been found, it must have taken place about 1623/4 as the baptism of their son Francis is recorded in the register on May 5, 1625. A further seven children were to follow and three of the sons, Francis, Richard and James survived into adulthood. Francis and Grace certainly lived at Bathway in the East End in a property part of which still survives. The family were to stay there for nearly two hundred years, extending the house and farming the estate granted to Francis by the manor about the time of his marriage. This can be seen by comparing the details of the renewal of the lease in 1657 with the records in the 18th century estate books of the manor which often record field names and the sites of some of the fields. One which is mentioned in 1657 and again in the lease renewal of 1766 is Puppy Paddock – the field is still identifiable today.

Francis’ renewal of 1657 splits the estate into two, the reversion of one half to his sons Francis and Richard, and the other to Francis and James. It seems that neither Richard nor James married and the holding was reunited in the next generation.

Francis died in 1658 and left a will in which he bequeaths generous cash amounts to his sons, Richard and James as well as his daughters, Anne and Elizabeth. His eldest son Francis, however, was left 6 shillings and eightpence as well as having to repay £100 his father had lent him; the sum was to be shared by his siblings equally (if it ever materialised). The children had also received a small inheritance from their grandfather Richard Mogg in 1641 – £20 to be split between them and a weaned calf for each of the three youngest.

1617 sig and seal R Mogg

The signature and seal of Richard Mogg

Francis Board (1625-1710)

Very little can be found regarding this Francis. One wonders if he ever repaid the £100 which his father had loaned him and to which his siblings had a claim. Indeed it is a mystery as to why he needed such a vast sum. He continued to farm the family estate with his brothers presumably and around 1658 married a wife, name unknown, but not in Chewton. He renewed the manor lease in 1698, in his own name and that of his son, yet another Francis.

Francis Board (1669-1755) and Mary

Francis Board 1725

Francis continued to farm the family estate. This tenement consisting of a dwelling house, stable, barn and orchard also included some 56 acres of land scattered around the parish but concentrated on the area to the east of the Bath Road at Bathway. In the 1740s he purchased another plot with a house and pasture which also seems to have been at Bathway, and certainly rebuilt the main family residence there. He married Mary Palmer around 1700 and she inherited  some leased property possibly adjoining the Board holding.

Bathway map 1740

1740 estate map showing the Board farm on the Bath Road at 104 (east at top)

Francis was a prominent member of the parish vestry, serving as Churchwarden as early as 1704 and on several occasions afterwards. He was obviously a person of some standing in the village and in later documents he is described as Mr Francis Board. His son, when mentioned in documents during his father’s lifetime is always James Board, but he too becomes “Mr” on Francis’ death in 1755.

James Board (1706-1777) and Ann

Signature of James Board 1751

James was the only child of Francis and Mary and he married Ann Bull in 1723. The marriage has not been found in any register yet (several in the area are missing or illegible), but a licence was issued at Wells in that year, and it may be that they married in the Cathedral itself. They had three children, Francis (born 1727) James (1729-48) and Ann, who as we have already seen, married John York in 1759.

1807 map Bathway close
1807 Map of Bathway showing the Board farm at 22 and the extension at 41
(west at top)

Comparing the 1807 map above with the one of 1740, it can be seen that the Boards extended and joined the two properties they held in Bathway. The photograph below shows this row of cottages today. The Boards’ original farm is probably the central one now with a black gate.

Bathway Cottages

Bathway today

Francis Board (1727-1802)

Francis Board jnr 1759
Francis never married, and as early as 1766 leases were being renewed based on the lives of his nieces, the two daughters of Ann York (nee Board) as the only young family members. When Francis died in 1802 their husbands placed an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle seeking any creditors or debtors to the estate. The wills for Somerset were sadly destroyed in the Blitz and so we can only assume that John and Jeremiah were Francis’ executors. It is certain that they continued farming the Board lands in the names of their respective wives.

Estate of Francis Board 1802

Although it is not certain where the Pearce and Gait families lived (see above) I think the Gaits lived at Bathway as a 1794 estate survey shows the occupier as “late Francis Board now Jeremiah Gait”.
The Gaits

James Gait (died 1711) & Jane

James is a shadowy figure – his burial is recorded at St Mary Magdalen, Chewton Mendip in September 1711 and he had been recorded as paying Church rates for the previous seven years (from 1704 when the rate books start). His widow, Jane continued to pay the same amount until her death in 1761 (aged 94) and we can assume she continued to occupy the same property – a dwelling house, smithy and shoeing shop at Bathway, just to the south of the village proper. The lease was renewed in 1729 carrying a reserved rent of 1/- and a pint of claret. So James was a blacksmith, a trade which continued in his family for at least three further generations. There is a marriage in the parish register on 2nd May 1687 which records a wedding between a Gaite of Ston Easton (the name could read James) and a Salvidg (Savidge in various spellings was a common local name); again the bride’s christian name is almost illegible, but looks like Jane. Entries in the Manor Lease books confirm that the Gait holding at Bathway passed to Jane Geyte and her husband, James from Jane’s parents, George and Jane Savage.

1740 map Jane Gait cottage at  Bathway

The Gaits’ holding at Bathway (1740)showing the cottage at top with the shoeing shop and smithy below, both numbered 85

 

The first child of James and Jane whose baptism was registered at Chewton was a daughter, Sarah, in 1692. She was followed by a son James, who died as a toddler, Elizabeth, another James and finally John (1706). There is a payment made in the Churchwardens’ accounts to “James Gaite and his brother when they do work” in 1704. This may be our James, but there was another – a mason who lived in Ston Easton and worked on the church, so it is not certain.

The Gaits of Ston Easton

There is obviously a connection between the Chewton Gaits and those of Ston Easton, which is less than two miles away. James Gait the mason held leases in both Chewton and Ston although he actually lived in Radstock, where he held land as well. He is recorded as helping Stephen Wason, the village mason in restoring one of the pinacles and the porch of Chewton parish church in 1699. There is also an Angel Gait who obtained a lease from the Hippisley lords of the manor of Ston Easton in 1713. He is described as a yeoman and part of the grant is a house built “on the waste” “at his owne cost and charges”. Confusingly both James and Angel had sons named James, but the registers for Ston Easton are missing before 1813, so it is difficult to follow what became of the families. Angel could well be the Angel Gait who lived in Chewton until c1706, when his name disappears from the church rate lists. This individual married a widow, Ann York sometime after 1696, but no trace of them or any baptisms of their children appear in the Chewton register.

John Gait (1706-1785?) and Ann and Edith

John continued to live with his widowed mother (the other children vanish after their baptisms are recorded) and in time took over the lease of the house and smithy at Bathway. On 4th June 1728 he married Ann Strong of Farrington Gurney at St Mary’s, Chewton and they had five children. The baptism of the eldest, James was recorded in the registers of both parishes – quite a common habit for the eldest child (mothers often returned home for the birth of their firstborn) and the Farrington register records “both parrens are not parishoners”. A daughter, Ann (born and died 1731) followed and then three more sons, John (1733), Angelo (or Angel) and finally George who was baptised (20th August 1738) on the same day that his mother was buried. Although all later documents show Angelo was born c1736/7, he was, in fact not baptised until 26th May 1738 – the baptism is recorded out of sequence and possibly added at a later date.

Of the four boys, two at least stayed in the parish – Angelo certainly followed his father’s occupation, eventually taking over the lease at Bathway and the smithy with it. Of George there is no further record apart from his naming in one lease of the 1760s when he was aged 27. John married Mary Snook of Binegar in 1754 and one of their sons, Thomas is also named in a Gait lease, but the family seem to have moved to Chilcompton and later on Midsomer Norton. James too may have moved out of the village when he married (see below).

Following the death of his wife Ann, John remarried. His new bride was Edith Bull who came from Chewton, although the marriage took place at St John’s Glastonbury on 27th September 1741. Their first child, Simon was born in March of the next year, followed by five daughters over the following 13 years. Edith died in 1761 a few months after her mother-in-law, Jane and so the eldest of John and Ediths’s daughters, Ann would have been in charge of the household (aged 17), looking after her father, three brothers and four sisters. The date of John’s death is not known for sure – he was certainly alive in 1766 but his burial could be one of those in the 1767-8 period which are illegible in the register. Alternatively there is a burial dated 19th January 1785 which could be his in which case he would have been 79 years old.

James Gait (1729-62) & Martha

Apart from his own and his childrens’ baptisms and his burial at St Mary’s there are no records in Chewton Mendip for James Gait. His marriage to Martha did not take place there and so far is undiscovered. Martha’s origins too are a mystery. The baptism of their three children is recorded in both the Chewton and Ashwick registers, though at Ashwick it is recorded that the eldest son is named George – he is John in the Chewton register; a much more likely name, being that of his Gait grandfather. The Chewton entries are always dated earlier, and at Ashwick it is noted that the Gaits are “not of this parish”; very frustrating as it does not say which parish they belong to.

It would seem likely the family lived somewhere between the two parishes, possibly at Emborough or Binegar. In any event, James carried out work for the parish of Ashwick – payments to him are recorded in the Churchwardens’ Book although it doesn’t say what the nature of the work was. Most likely he was a blacksmith like the rest of his family. Apart from John/George, James and Martha had two further children, Anne (1756) and Jeremiah (1758). The name of the youngest may give a clue to Martha’s origins. It had never been used in the Gait line before, so may be the name of Martha’s father. Interestingly there was a family who appear in Chewton in the early 1740s – Jeremiah and Martha Emery. They have two children baptised there – Hannah (1741) and James (1744) and two buried – Hannah and Jeremiah (both in 1744). Jeremiah senior too was buried, in 1747. It would seem natural that they may have had a daughter, Martha (probably the eldest) and the Emery name connects them with Ashwick, where it was very common. Furthermore, the Gaits and Emerys of Ashwick were to be connected in the future: James Emery, the parish clerk of Ashwick was a witness when Jeremiah Gait married and much later two of their grandchildren married each other. It is unfortunate that the register is so badly damaged (and poorly kept too – a legacy of James Emery’s father who was also the parish clerk and admonished by the rector for missing many entries) and incomplete.

James was only 32 when he died in 1762 and Martha returned to Chewton with her children – possibly to help in the household of her father-in-law at the house and smithy at Bathway. For some reason the parish paid 15/- for the “haling of Martha Gait’s goods” in 1763. Thereafter, as well as running the Gait household, she is a regular payee in the parish Poor Book – most payments are for attending, feeding or washing for the poor of the parish. She is also paid regularly for lodging the poor and their children – it must have been a very crowded house. Martha died in 1800. There are reports of a ghost at Bathway, a lady dressed in 18th clothing and “smelling of herbs” – could it be Martha on her way to tend the sick and elderly of the parish?
Angelo Gait (1738-1817) & Ann

Angelo Gait 1808
Angelo, as we have seen, continued the family blacksmith business at Bathway. In some ways he augmented the land the family held by encroaching on the strip of land running northwards towards the village on the western side of the Bath Road. Despite the complaint of the Waldegraves in their Survey of 1813, they did not seem to mind collecting the rent.

1807 map Angelo Gait 233 to 235
1807 map showing the Gaits’ encroachment at 234. The cottage and smithy are still at 235 but now the cottage has been extended – for the growing family?

Angelo married Ann Selway at Chewton in 1767 and they had eight children. Two of their sons have provided us with a great deal of information as they both joined the Army during the Napoleonic Wars and both were “examined” as to their right of settlement in the parish and gave a short biography to the examining magistrates (see article “Brothers in Arms”). Angelo died in 1817 but the lease on the cottage and smithy may have been continued in the name of Thomas his nephew, if he was still living. There are no records to show where the family lived in later years.
Jeremiah Gait (1759-1835) and Ann Board York

Jeremiah Gait 1783
It is not known what occupation Jeremiah followed in his early years, but following his marriage in 1783 he probably helped working the farms of his new father-in-law, John York and his new wife’s uncle, Francis Board. It would seem that the marriage of Jeremiah and Ann Board York was not one approved by his new in-laws, who probably considered their neighbours, the Gaits as a class below themselves. The fact that it took place at St John’s Bedminster and both parties declared they were “of this parish”, indicating they had resided there for at least three weeks is odd. Banns had been called in the normal way and one witness is James Emery, the parish clerk of Ashwick, who may well have been a relative of Jeremiah’s mother. But bride and groom were both of age and no doubt the best was made of things and Jeremiah provided help on the York and Board farms.

The marriage appears to have been a happy and fruitful one. They had eight children, but sadly only two daughters were to outlive them. Of their two sons, only the younger, Zachariah married and only three of their daughters survived to adulthood and their own marriages. Jeremiah, along with his brother-in-law took on their wives’ inherited leasehold land when Francis Board (1802) and John York (1818) died. He also took on the role of parish worthy, becoming Churchwarden on at least one occasion and appearing in electoral rolls as one entitled to vote in Parliamentary elections.

In his will, drawn up in 1835 he left everything to his wife and then to their daughters, Betty Blanning and Ann Pearce; his estate included “lifehold property” which may be additional land he had taken on, as well as “stock and dairy utensils”, and requires his executors to sell it and provide his heirs with an income therefrom. No mention is made of any of his grandchildren. Jeremiah died on 8th April 1835 and was buried five days later – Ann his widow lived only a few days longer and was buried on 18th April.
John Gait (1790-1818)

John Gait 1817
There is little documentary evidence for John, the eldest son of Jeremiah and Ann. His baptism and burial are recorded in the registers and in 1817 he was a witness at the marriage of his sister Phoebe to John Sheppard. The only remaining document so far found is his will which he made in August 1818. He describes himself as a yeoman, but whether he rented land of his own, or farmed the land of his Board and York ancestors it is difficult to be certain. The terms of the will raise more questions than they answer; he refers to “estates or interests” granted, so he may have farmed his own (leased) land, but it is not clear. He instructs, as executors, his brother-in-law, John Sheppard and uncle, John Pearce to administer his estate and sell all his possesions and goods, pay his debts and call in any monies due to him. The principal is then to be used at will by “my dear mother for her life free from the debts and engagements power or control of her present or any future husband”. What a strange thing to say of his father – “her present…husband”. Does this signify a breakdown in the relationship, or merely a recognition of his father’s financial independence, which requires nothing of the son’s estate? He furthermore leaves what remains of the estate following his mother’s death to his surviving siblings equally. John was buried at Chewton on 1st November 1818.
Zachariah Gait (1800-29) and Lydia Horler Emery

Zachariah Gait 1820

Lydia Horler Emery 1820

As all York/Board land was to revert to the Waldegrave Estate on the deaths of his mother and aunt, Sarah Pearce, the sons of Jeremiah had to stand on their own two feet. As we have seen the eldest, John appears to have started a career in farming before his untimely death. By contrast Zachariah became a butcher. This was a useful trade to have with a farming family in the background, and it seems that there was a Gait family of butchers in Midsomer Norton to whom Zachariah may have been apprenticed. They were distant cousins, decended from that John Gait who had moved to Chilcompton in the 1750s. It was in Midsomer Norton that Zachariah married Lydia Horler Emery on 26th March 1820. The register notes that the marriage was by banns and with consent of parents, as both parties were not of full age; Lydia had only just turned 18 in fact. James Emery, Lydia’s father was one witness, but the other was James Uphill of Chewton, no doubt acting as Zachariah’s best man. Exactly six months later a son they named John was born and baptised at Chewton. The register records Zachariah as a butcher, living in Chewton, yet the family had moved to Midsomer by the time of the birth and baptism of their second child, Phoebe Ann in 1824.

They were back in Chewton however when Zachariah died, tragically young, in April 1829. At some time in the following ten years it seems Lydia and Phoebe moved to London whilst John remained in Midsomer Norton where he is recorded living with his grandmother, Abigail Emery in 1841. No trace can be found of him after the Census of that year, but his mother and sister have a long and fascinating history away from Chewton Mendip. All the land that the Yorks, Boards and Gaits leased from the Waldegraves reverted on the deaths of the sisters, Ann Gait in 1835 and Sarah Pearce in 1836 and the story of our branch of the family lies elsewhere. However, in her will Sarah left £10 apiece to John and Phoebe Ann.

map of Chewton with fields and houses
Map showing the various holdings: red – York, yellow – Board. The houses are indicated by red arrows and include the Gaits’ cottage and smithy at Bathway. There were additional fields further out in the north-east, and the Boards held a dwelling and land in the top left-hand corner at some time in the first half of the 18th century.

Brothers in Arms

Painting of Gait brothers
John, Charlotte, Mary Ann and Simon Gait c1814 in Spain. Artist; FMB

One of my lines contains the GAIT family of Chewton Mendip, who lived at Bathway and ran a smithy on the crossroads to the south of the main village. In the latter part of the 18th century the head of the family was Angelo (sometimes Angel) Gait who was born around 1737. If one studies the parish register it is possible to see the careers of his two eldest sons John (1776-1833) and Simon (1781-1836) and assume they had never left the village. John, like his father and two generations before him was a blacksmith, whilst Simon learnt the trade of a cordwainer (or shoemaker) as an apprentice in Bristol and Wells. John married in Chewton, both had children baptised there and both were buried in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalene. However, both brothers, and their wives appeared at various times before the magistrates and underwent examinations as to rights of settlement, and the resulting documents show a different story. After obtaining the brothers’ military records from the National Archive it has been possible to put together a fuller picture of their event-filled lives.

At the age of 16, John had been apprenticed to a James GAITE of Gurney Slade (possibly a cousin of his father) and following James’ death, to Henry OSBORNE of Shepton Mallet. On completing his apprenticeship it seems that John decided to join the Royal Marines in Plymouth. He enlisted on 30th June 1800 and served until 1st June 1805. No record of his service seems to exist, but he must have returned to Chewton afterwards, because two years later, in June 1807 he married a local girl, Flora BLACKER in Chewton and Flora was probably about four months pregnant. The day before his wedding, John had appeared before John KINGSMITH in a Settlement Examination and made sure that his marriage was duly noted. This may be because he knew he would be away for some time and that his new wife and child-to-be would require assistance from the parish. The fact was that John had enlisted again, just three days earlier, in the 4th (King’s Own) Regiment of Foot; this was the regiment that his brother Simon (see below) had joined six years earlier. The brothers were in different battalions (John the 2nd and Simon the1st) and their careers didn’t take the same path for many years. The 2nd battalion were stationed in Jersey until 1809; Flora Gait appeared before the Chewton magistrate in April of 1808 and gave evidence that this was so and claimed that she and her baby daughter were now chargeable to the parish.

John’s battalion took part in the ill-fated Walcheren expedition of 1809 and early in the following year were shipped out to Gibraltar and thence to Ceuta, a garrison on the north African coast, facing the rock. The 1st battalion had suffered great losses at the battle of Badajoz in 1812 and the second were to join them and the fit men transferred to make up the establishment of the 4th Foot in December of that year. From this date the two brothers fought together and we should therefore look at Simon’s career to this date.

Although John had been apprenticed in his late teens, Simon was taken by his father, Angelo to Bristol, at the age of 10 to be employed as an errand boy by Ambrose STONER of High Street, linen draper and haberdasher. He worked there for about four years and then was apprenticed to John ATKINS of Temple Street, cordwainer for the term of five years. It was an unusual apprenticeship in that Angelo not only had to pay a premium of £6, but also fund Simon’s board and lodgings at the house of Thomas PROUT in St.Thomas parish. Four years into his apprenticeship, Simon’s master “ran away and gave up business”, according to Simon’s testimony at his examination, and Angelo had to pay another premium to William FURZEY of Wells so that the apprenticeship could be finished. There is no evidence as to what Simon did in the four or five years after qualifying as a journeyman cordwainer, but on 2nd March 1801 he enlisted in the 4th Regiment of Foot at Marlborough. His early years in the regiment encompassed the peace with France following the Treaty of Amiens (1802) and then the threat of invasion by Napoleon’s Grand Army which was a very real possibility. The 4th were variously stationed at Shornecliffe, near Folkestone, Hythe and Canterbury, defending the south coast until Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar ended the fear of invasion and the British Army could go on the offensive in Europe.

During his time in the south-east Simon married Charlotte WALLAR at Horsham in Sussex, on 15th May 1805. The regiment was ordered abroad late that year to augment the Hanoverian army which was about to be involved in the wars on the continent. However, Napoleon’s crushing defeats of the Austrian and Prussian forces meant that any resistance to the French crumbled and the British regiments were brought home. For the next eighteenth months the 4th were stationed at Colchester and it was at St Leonards church there that Simon and Charlotte had their first child, a son named Simon baptised in May 1807. Sadly nothing more is known of this child; he was not with the family ten years later, and may have died in either England or Spain. The regiment were involved in several other overseas expeditions in the course of the next few years; they were involved in the capture of Copenhagen in late 1807, following a naval bombardment and an abortive visit to Gothenberg in 1808, intended to bolster Swedish support for the allies, before the King of Sweden changed his mind and the troops were recalled. The 4th returned home in August but were to embark almost at once for Portugal where the French had subdued the whole Iberian Peninsula and the British were to help our allies the Potuguese and support the popular rising of the Spanish people.

The story of the Peninsular War, as it is known, has been told many times and the 4th were to play a full part in virtually all of the actions. Having retaken Lisbon from the French, the British under Sir John Moore advanced into Spain to join up with local forces, but found that they had already been defeated, and the British were left isolated and forced to retreat, in dreadful winter conditions, to the coast at Corunna (La Coruna) in the north of the country. There the regiment played a major part in the resulting battle, earning particular praise from Sir John Moore, shortly before his fatal wounding. Returning to Colchester barracks in January 1809 the 1st battalion had a few month’s respite before taking part in the Walcheren expedition alongside the 2nd battalion. However they spent most of the following year in England before once again being dispatched to the Peninsula, where the new commander, Lord (later Duke of) Wellington pushed the French out of Portugal once more and began the campaign which resulted in the overwhelming defeat of Napoleon’s forces in Spain.

Although Wellington’s famous remark that the infantry were recruited from “the scum of the earth” is often quoted, one musn’t forget the remarkable relationship between the commander and his men. He relied upon them to carry out his audacious tactics and they trusted him as a general not to waste lives unneccesarily. On leaving the army both brothers had their conduct recorded as “good” and Simon’s time as an NCO assumes a degree of trustworthyness and aptitude. The campaign in the Peninsula was ferocious and the conditions frequently appalling and yet the troops remained resiliant; and not only the troops – each regiment allowed a number of the wives of married men to accompany it on campaign, and among these at this time was Charlotte Gait. These army wives were selected by ballot and, apart from looking after their husbands, they took on other tasks, such as washing, nursing and cleaning for the other men. Her presence with the 4th is proved by the fact that her daughter, Mary Ann always gave her place of birth (1811/2) in later Censuses as “Spain”.

The 4th took part in the battles and assaults at Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz and Salamanca (1812) before retiring to winter quarters in Portugal late in the year where the 1st and 2nd battalions were reformed after so many losses (over 200 from the 1st at Badajoz alone) into one battalion with the wounded returning to England where a new 2nd battalion would be formed. The Gait brothers were now fighting in the same unit, John as a private, which remained his rank throughout his career, and Simon most probably as a sergeant which he was for most of his period of service. 1813 brought the battle of Vittoria and the storming of San Sebastian, in both of which conflicts the 4th played a major role – especially at San Sebastian where their courage and example was noted by the Brigade commander Major General ROBINSON. John was injured at San Sebastian and shortly after Simon was also injured at a skirmish near St Jean de Luz, following the invasion of France.

The brothers were both deemed active for service however, as the 4th was chosen to be one of three regiments to be sent to America to take part in the war that had broken out in 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. They embarked from the Garonne in May 1814 and arrived, after brief landings on the Azores and Bermuda, in Chesapeake Bay in August. Once disembarked, the British force advanced on Washington, the newly built (and not quite completed) capital of the newly independant republic. They were met by an American army three times their size at the village of Bladensburg, but managed to overcome it and arrived in the city which was largely burnt down by the British. The action was seen as little more than a raid as not enough troops were available for a full invasion, so the army was withdrawn and travelling via Jamaica, were landed in Louisiana to take part in an attempt to capture the city of New Orleans. The resulting battle was a disaster for the British Army with the 4th taking the brunt of the casualties – nearly a half its establishment being killed or wounded, among them John Gait, who survived, but took no further part in the war. Further actions took place, but news arrived early in 1815 that a peace had been concluded, and the regiment was shipped back to Europe.

The regiment’s Muster Roll for that spring shows Simon at sea, returning from America and his brother on a hospital ship. John does not seemed to have returned to the regiment and ended his service in July 1815, although he did not receive his pension from the Chelsea Hospital until 1821. The official discharge certificate was witnessed by the churchwardens of his home parish of Chewton Mendip, one of whom, Jeremiah Gait (the brothers’ first cousin) was my 4x great grandfather. John and Flora had three further children baptised in Chewton where he is described as a blacksmith in 1816 and 1819, but a labourer in 1823. On the death of his father, Angelo, the lease of the smithy and cottage had lapsed so it may be that John had to look for work elsewhere. At least his army pension of 6d a day helped the family’s finances. John was buried in the churhyard of St Mary Magdalene on 22nd December 1833.

The 4th Regiment of Foot returned to England on the 18th May 1815 to find Europe in the grip of another crisis, following Napoleon’s escape from Elba. It was at once rushed to Belgium and joined Wellington’s army at Waterloo one hour before the battle commenced. Having spent most of the day in reserve, it was moved forward to the apex of the action at the front of the British line in time to hold out against the advance of the Imperial Guard. Having replused Napoleon’s crack regiment, they then took part in the general advance which broke the nerve of the French who retreated in disarray. The arrival of the Prussian army completed the rout and victory was assured. The British army advanced on Paris and the 4th remained in France for several years as part of an army of occupation. In the summer of 1817 the establishment of the regiment was severly reduced and Simon was among those who were discharged. He had served 16 years and 90 days (with a grant of two extra years service added for Waterloo), of which only three and a half years were as a corporal and 190 days as a private. Like all the other veterans of his last battle he received the silver Waterloo Medal and he was also granted a pension of 1/- per day. His statement before a Settlement Examination in November 1817 gives us most of the information on his life to date, and yet his military career was not quite over. Two years later his wife, Charlotte claimed at another Examination that she was chargable to the parish as her husband Simon had “been called out into the King’s Service at Plymouth for seven weeks last past..”. It is not known how long this period of service lasted, but Simon was certainly back in Chewton the following year as their youngest son, Thomas was baptised there in 1821.

Simon died in Chewton Mendip and was buried on March 27, 1836. Charlotte, the third member of the Gait family to be a Peninsula veteran joned him in 1849 aged around 71.

Afterword

A note on research

I first came across the Gait brothers whilst researching my antecedents in Chewton Mendip. Their father, Angelo was the younger brother of my ancestor James Gait (1729-62) and only came to my direct attention when I looked at the Chewton records that remain, in addition to the registers. It is fortunate that many of these exist for the period – Churchwardens’ Accounts, Vestry Minutes and Settlement Examinations among them. The latter are particularly useful for the family historian as they often provide vital biographical information. These Examinations were carried out by two local worthies in order to establish whether the individual, and therefore his family, was entitled to the support of the parish should they become destitute. In the case of Simon, for instance, his Examination in 1817 provides his approximate age and place of birth, his father’s name and right of settlement, the details of his various apprenticeships, his regiment and discharge date; also included were the approximate date and parish of his marriage, and the names of his wife and child, as well as the latter’s age.

It was all this detail which made it possible to establish that Simon Gait of Chewton Mendip was the same individual as Simon Gates of the 4th Regiment of Foot. The same is true of his brother, John. in both cases the men always appear (and sign themselves) as Gates in military records but as Gait in Chewton, yet the evidence is conclusive that they are identical. The military records which are held at The National Archive (WO97, available online at Find My Past) are in fact discharge certificates required for obtaining a pension from the Royal Hospital, Chelsea; in addition to the details included in the article above they give brief descriptions of the men, to prevent fraud: John was 5’ 7’” tall, with dark hair, black eyes and a dark complexion, whereas Simon was 5’ 10 3/4”, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion.

I have been particularly lucky with the research on the Gaits, insofar as all these documents still exist, but it shows how digging a little deeper can provide fascinating facts about the lives of our forebears which help us understand the world in which they lived.

Waterloo Medal
The Waterloo Medal

Sources:

Chewton Parish Registers and other records (Somerset History Centre)
Chelsea Hospital Army Service Records (TNA, WO97)
Historical Records of the British Army: the 4th or King’s Own Regiment of Foot 1838 (archive.org)