Clay for Bricks
Brickmaking and bricklaying activity was well established in the economy of the village, as had the making of pots. One difference was that the ownership of the brickworks at Boxall’s Farm was with the landowning family of Richard Allden.
Curiously, the land on which Boxall’s Farm was located does not feature in the records of the Crondall Court, indicating strongly that it was not copyhold property. One suggestion is that this was the 31 acres which had been made over to the Cistercian monks of Waverley Abbey in 1129 by Bishop Henry de Bois. The property had been confiscated by the Crown, subsequently bought by the merchant who would become Sir John White of Aldershot. Ownership of the property would then have descended from his son through the generations of the Tichborne family, to be sold by private sale and eventually into the hands of the Allden family.
The Boxall family certainly owned other property in Aldershot during the 17th and 18th Centuries. When and whether anyone from that family owned the property, rather than leased and farmed the land, is moot.
The business of brickmaking and the occupation of bricklaying was well established in the economy of the village. It was much larger than needed locally. That said, there had been a significant amount of building during the preceding fifty years. The number of new dwellings recorded by the decennial census rose each decade: up 6 and 8 (in each ten years to 1821 & 1831) and the up 19 and 24 (to 1841 & 1851, respectively).
That building of new dwellings reflected the growth in the village population, with a relatively constant density of persons per house. In addition, Charles Barron had commissioned the (re-)build of Aldershot Place during the early 1840s. Also, towards the end of the 1840s, the Farnham Poor Union had paid for the Aldershot Workhouse to be refurbished as the District School. (There is, of course, no proof that local bricks or labour were used for either building.)
With the proposed enclosure of Aldershot Common came the prospect of new buildings being commissioned.
The funeral for the infant Jesse Stonard was be the young curate’s first formal encounter with the families in the village’s brick business.
- Dennett would later have much to say about brick workers. He gave evidence in 1866 to the Children’s Employment Commission. Dennett’s statement, “Drunkenness is the curse of the working class in every trade in this country but it seems tenfold intensified in that of brickmaking” would become the basis of the parody attributed to Oscar Wilde.
Aldershot’s Brickworking Families
Stonard was a well-established local name, with christenings at St Michael’s Church reaching back to 1641. Baptised there in September 1816, Henry was the eldest son of James and Jane Stonard.
Henry’s parents, however, had married in Farnham in July 1815, his mother then Jane Warren’ [Warner?]. They both had to make their mark in the register.
- Stephen Luff, an agricultural labourer then aged 79 was one of the witnesses and he could sign his name in the register. They were still neighbours ten years later in 1851.
Also, Henry’s father James had been born in Twickenham in the 1790s. This, perhaps, was also an indication of demand for brickmaking skills in the Metropolis. Like the Hughes family of sawyers, the Stonard and the Nichols families could find ready work in the building trade around London.
Before his marriage Henry was in his parents’ home in Aldershot, listed in the 1841 Census with his two sisters, Emma and Sophia, the youngest having been baptised at St Michael’s Church in 1834. His sister Emma had left home by 1851, recorded as a servant for a Baptist Minister in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. Sophia had remained in her father’s household.
Listed as a brickburner in the 1851 Census, William Stonard another in the brick business in Aldershot at this time. Although the form of kinship is unclear, it seems probable that he and his family would also have been at the funeral service for the infant Jesse.
William was aged 53. He was locally-born, as were several of his older siblings; others were born in Crondall or Pirbright. He had married Jane Gadd at Farnham in January 1825. Neither could provide a signature in the marriage register. Their daughter Eliza was born later that year, baptised at St Michael’s Church in August.
William’s large household in 1851 was in a cottage at Dog Kennel. It included his wife Jane and five of their children.
Their eldest daughter Eliza had left home to marry in March 1846 to William Lee. Both were able to sign their names in the register at St Lawrence’s at Seale. William Lee was the son of John Lee, the bricklayer from Tongham which was where William was in 1841 before his marriage. The couple’s first child was baptised in Aldershot in 1848; by 1851, the family were in Ash Street, Ash, William Lee, listed as a master bricklayer.
Just like the potters, there seems to have been little intermarriage with families outside the trade in the village.
- However, William Stonard’s daughter Jane did marry Aldershot-born Francis Newell in Shoreditch in around May 1852. Their son Henry was born there later that year. Likely, Francis and Jane had known each as children. Also, that they had both moved to London at some time after the 1851 Census, presumably when Jane was known to be pregnant. Francis Newell had been lodging at the Red Lion Inn at the time of the 1851 Census, listed as an agricultural labourer. Francis had stayed in Arnsted Lane in 1841 It was not far from Boxalls Lane. He had been living in the home of his parents, Thomas and Jane (nee Attfield), his father also an agricultural labourer.
- By 1861, Francis had found work as a leather-cutter in Finsbury, his brother William recorded there by the Census together with Jane’s brothers David and Edwin Stonard as visitors.
The second oldest daughter Jane Stonard was still in the family home, aged 21, listed as working as a lady’s corset maker; Edwin was the youngest child, aged 7. William’s mother-in law, Mary Gadd, aged 80, was also in the household, accompanied by her female companion, Jane Taphouse, her unmarried cousin, aged 68.
In 1841, the family had been in the household of William’s widowed mother Mary (‘Macey’), likely the same dwelling at Doghouse; his father Daniel Stonard had died in 1822. Eliza was present, aged 15; the youngest, Selina, was an infant aged six months. There was another five-month-old infant present, suggesting that 34 year old Jane might have been acting as a wet nurse.
- The infant’s name was Albert, the surname illegible, but not Stonard, perhaps (Albert James) Woodbourne.
- Jane’s younger brother George Gadd and his wife Elizabeth [nee Warner] lived next door. They had married in Aldershot in 1831, neither able to sign their name. Jane, who was one of the witnesses, could sign her name, although she had not done at her own wedding in 1825.
There seems little doubt that James and Eleanor Nichols would have been at the funeral service. Jesse was their grandson. Described as lodgers in the 1851 Census, Henry and Agnes and family had been living with them at West End in the cottage they rented from Stephen Barnett.
Most of the Nichols family stayed in cottages close by the Bee Hive Inn.
The parish register listed James Nicholls as Agnes’ father when she married in 1844. However, Reverend Dennett would not have found record of her baptism in the parish register, even though Agnes is recorded in the Census as having been born in Aldershot.
- Nor was there one readily to be found anywhere which named James and Eleanor as her birth parents. Indeed, the only baptismal record found is that for an ‘Agnes Jane Nickells’ in March 1822 at St Mary’s, Rotherhithe; the parents listed are John and Mary. A ‘John Nichols’ had married Mary Minto in September 1821; likely this was the ‘John Nickles’ who had been baptized at that same church in October 1799. He could have been the ‘John Nickols’ who was buried at St Mary’s Lambeth in April 1824, aged 27, when Agnes was adopted, legally or not, by James and Eleanor. The suggestion is that Aldershot’s bricklayers had then found work in the busy port of Rotherhithe.
- There is similar lack of baptismal record and doubt about the George Nichols who is listed alongside Agnes in James’ Aldershot household in 1841. There is a ‘George William Nicholls’, born in 1824 and baptised in 1826 in Rotherhithe, with parents John and Mary.
James had married in 1814 to Eleanor Ties at St Giles’ Church, Ashtead; this was near Epsom where she had stated as her birthplace in the Census.
Baptised in Ash in January 1792, James had been born in Aldershot, one of four children of Charles and Elizabeth. All three brothers were in the brick business. The sister did not survive infancy.
His father also worked as a bricklayer, later recorded in the Aldershot Workhouse in 1841, then to die in 1844, aged 80. By that time, all three sons had married and set up their own households. George, the youngest of his sons, died in December 1831; he had married to Ann Page in 1825 and had a son, called James.
The oldest of the sons was Agnes’ uncle Charles, listed in 1851 as a Master Bricklayer, employing one boy. Uncle Charles was the senior member of the family, now aged 65. He and his wife Sarah lived in one of Mr Hall’s cottages by the Bee Hive Inn with their son George, now aged 20, and listed as a bricklayer’s labourer.
- This George Nichols would later marry Hannah Attfield, in August 1855.
Charles Nichols had been the first to marry, at the end of March 1811, in Farnham where his wife Sarah (Gardner) was born. They had six children. The oldest, also called Charles, was baptised in June 1811; George, the youngest, was baptised in February 1833. At least two of the six had died by 1853.
Uncle Charles’ household in 1841 included young George and the twins Stephen and Sarah. It also included Jane, of similar age to George, who was Charles’ granddaughter. She had been baptised on 14 September 1833, the illegitimate offspring of Esther Nichols and the potter William Mason. Sadly, Charles’ daughter Esther had died in childbirth at the age of 16, buried earlier that September.
- The young potter William Mason fathered at least two children. Matthew Matthews was the other, born in 1838. In 1839, Mason married to the farmer’s daughter Jane Robinson, their child baptised in July 1840.
Charles’ son Thomas died in 1844, the same year that his eldest daughter Harriet moved out of the village with her family. She had married Charles Knight, the shoemaker, in 1836; they were living next door in 1841 with their son, aged 3, in one of the Moreland Cottages. By 1851, they were in Lower Bourne, Farnham.
Stephen left to marry in 1849. He wed Sarah Paro, the couple then staying in one of those Moreland Cottages, by then owned by Mr Hall. Their two small children, Emma and Thomas, born in 1851 and 1852, were about the same age as Jesse Stonard.
Mary, another of Charles’ daughters, had recently married, in 1850, to Thomas Barnett, an agricultural labourer. In 1851 they were close by Drury Lane with the first child John. By 1853, they were staying on North Lane in a cottage owned by Mrs Tice, their second child Elizabeth baptised in the previous September. Their children were also around the same age as Jesse.
Charles’ eldest son, also called Charles, left home much earlier in 1832 to marry Sarah Fountain at St Peter’s Church, Ash. Their first child Mary was baptised in Aldershot in March 1833. They had occupied one of the Moreland Cottages in 1841 with four children, their youngest child James baptised in November 1842. Sarah, their mother, died, buried in September 1843.
The son Charles was then a widower, aged 32 with four young children. He remarried in 1844 to Lydia Luff. By 1851, the couple had moved to Love Lane in Lambeth. Only Emma and James were then listed in the household, aged 14 and 9, respectively. They and Lydia were recorded as born in Aldershot.
What might not have been widely known in the village was what happened next. Charles then deserted his new wife. He passed himself off as a bachelor in Islington for a marriage to Elizabeth Ann Petch in February 1852. As reported in the London Evening Standard, Charles Nichols was found out and charged for bigamy. Pleading guilty as charged he would, apparently, serve six months in prison. However, by 1861, he was recorded by the Census as a bricklayer in Georgiana Street, St Pancras living as a couple with ‘Elizabeth Nichols’.
It is unclear what happened to Lydia Nichols and to his children by his first marriage.
aged 60, as Master Brickmaker. Neither he nor his wife Maria (nee Frond) were born in the village; they were born in Crondall where they were married on Boxing Day 1814. However, children were baptised in Aldershot at St Michael’s Church in 1817 (Elizabeth), 1819 (Jane) and in 1822 (Edward). William was then listed in the parish register as a labourer. Their son Charles, baptised in 1825, was amongst six younger children with them in their cottage at West End in 1841.
Only the three youngest children were in the household by 1851, including Harriet, aged 18, and George, aged 16, also listed as a brickmaker. William Matthews was now an owner-occupier of a cottage and gardens having the significant rateable value of £4-15s. William Matthews was therefore one of the Aldershot Commoners. He had an economic interest in having ready access to forage on the Common.
John Hopkins was also a bricklayer. He had recently arrived in the village having married locally born Harriet Ellis in Godalming in October 1849. The marriage register recorded both and his father as a bricklayers. Harriet was then aged 18, perhaps there in domestic service, although neither was noted in the marriage register. John had been able to sign his name; Harriet made her mark instead.
Harriet had returned with her husband to her parents’ home by the time of the 1851 Census. Their son William was baptised in October 1851 at St Michael’s Church. The daughter of John and Harriet Ellis, she had lived on Arnsted Lane, near Boxalls Farm. John Ellis was a labourer. The household was now in a cottage owned by James Elstone. It was at the foot of Church Hill, opposite the smithy where his son George worked for Henry Hone, the blacksmith.
Clewer John Vear was another described as a bricklayer by the 1851 Census. However, his main role in Aldershot was as the landlord of the Row Bridge Inn.