James and Caroline Elstone
James and ‘Mrs C’, as he referred to Caroline, lived at Aldershot Lodge. To add spice to their biography, James and Caroline were living under the same roof before their marriage as Caroline had previously been a domestic servant in the household of James’ father, James Elstone Senior. The marriage took place a year after his father’s death.
James Elstone Junior
James Elstone Junior, as he was known even into adulthood, was an enterprising farmer, with holdings in both Aldershot and in neighbouring Ash, the latter as a tenant farmer. He was one of the village elite, active on the Vestry, the form of parish governance that existed prior to the arrival of the Army, serving more than once as Overseer.
James was not born locally, nor of a local family. He was instead from Headley where he had been baptised in January 1801 and where his parents, James and Sophia, had married in August 1799. Both had been able to sign their name in the register.
- The family appears to have moved about as James’ two younger sisters, Sarah and Mary Ann, were baptised at Haslemere. His father had been baptised in 1767 at Bramshott, on the Hampshire/Sussex border, as had his grandfather, John Elstone, in 1737. James’ grandfather had married in Farnham to Elizabeth Gilbert, suggesting therefore some local connection prior to 1760.
James’ father, James Elstone Senior, bought Aldershot Lodge when it came up for auction in 1822. His ownership is listed in the 1822 Land Tax return, the property having a rental value of £10, on which the payment of £2 was a ‘sum assessed and exonerated’ – meaning that a capital sum had already been paid and so it was exempt.
When the Elstone family moved into Aldershot Lodge in 1822, James Junior would have been aged not much more than twenty. His sister Mary Ann married in Aldershot in 1824, to William Ingle, a draper from Shoreditch in London, which was where the couple went to live and raise their children.
James became firm friends with Richard Allden, who was of similar age and lived across the road at Elm Place. They were to share a newspaper subscription.
James Elstone Junior was to manage farms in his own right from an early age, working land in Aldershot at Ayling Lane [‘Hailings Lane’] in 1839 owned by Mrs Robinson and by 1841 he was farming 106 acres at Foreman Farm in Ash, let from George Woodroffe; he also occupied all or parts of the larger estate at Manor Farm in Ash. His
There is newspaper report of his winning prizes in 1845 at the Farnham Cattle Show, where he also took the opportunity during the after-Show dinner to complain of government neglect of the interests of farmers, citing the injury done to good farming land by the railroads.
- This was doubtless about the loss to the railways of the land which Elstone managed as a tenant farmer in Ash at Foreman’s Farm. In reply, George Nicholson of Waverley House, an uncle of Florence Nightingale, acknowledging the loss but argued for progress and exalted the benefits to the farmer of the railway.
- There was not yet a railway direct to Aldershot; that would become a proposition at a later date. Elstone’s loss was in part due to that branch line which had reached Farnham by 1845 but in the main they were due to the line to the extension connecting to the Great Western Railway at Reading.
This opposition to the railways might not have been typical of landowners who stood to benefit from the compensation that was paid to them. It seems that, although he owned some land himself, James Elstone Junior had the mentality of a tenant farmer rather than a land proprietor, keen to extract produce and value resulting from his husbandry.
James Elstone Senior had been building up his holdings in Aldershot, by 1843 owning about 29 acres: Aldershot Lodge, four cottages with gardens in the immediate vicinity (three on Church Hill and one on Church Lane) including the Great Meadow and the smithy known as Paine’s shop. James Junior was working a brick kiln and an orchard which his father had also acquired.
In 1846, James Elstone Senior died at the age of 79, buried in Godalming, his estate passing to his son James, then just turned 46 years old. He was then seemingly a man in want of a wife.
The following year, James Elstone Junior married Caroline Barnett. The marriage in September 1847 was by special licence. There is no entry in the parish register.
There might have been cause for gossip. Caroline was then aged 29 and had been one of the domestic servants in the household. However, James’ widowed mother remained in the household. Moreover, their son, also called James, was baptised at St Michael’s Church a good year later, in September 1848. He was listed as aged 2 at the time of the 1851 Census, indicating that he had been born in 1848. By the start of 1854 they had three children, a daughter, baptised as Caroline Sophia Elstone in August 1851 and Louisa who was baptised in February 1854.
The household at Aldershot Lodge in 1851 had also included two female cousins named Mary and Sophia Elstone, two female servants, and a farm labourer. James was listed as owning 290 acres and employing 30 men, although Elstone did not have the largest holding in Aldershot: as noted above, much of that was farmed in Ash, outside the parish.
Despite any misgivings Elstone might have had about the combined rumours to do with the intended purchase and use of Aldershot Heath as the location for a military training area, he had other reasons to be cheerful as 1853 came to a close. His man had won first prize for the best ploughman with two horses at the annual autumn meeting of the North East Hants Agricultural Association held in Alton on Tuesday 2 November. Saturday’s edition of the Hampshire Chronicle carried the confirmation that the sum of £3 was awarded to “James Walden, ploughman to Mr James Elstone, of Aldershott.” James Walden and his father and brother worked for Elstone at ‘Pound Farm’.
- Walden had been living in his father’s household in 1851 on Paine’s Lane, Ash, not far from the railway station. He had since married at St Peter’s Church in Ash.
There were also awards for longevity of service of £1 10s each given to other men in Elstone’s employ: James Marshall had 35 years’ service; James Dutton had served the longest as a single man.
James Elstone did well at the Christmas Cattle Show the next month in Alton, receiving a plate worth £4 for the best pen of Ten Fat Ewes and £2 for coming second for the best Fat Ox.
Caroline was from a well-established local family based in the West End who were not without means; it was not unusual for the eldest of a large agricultural family to enter domestic service.
James Elstone’s marriage to Caroline connected him to an extensive kinship network in the village. The eleven Barnett households represented almost 6% of the total population recorded on Census Night in 1851. Most of those 45 men, women and children also lived at West End, although not so well placed in socio-economic terms as Caroline’s father and grandmother.
Caroline was the daughter of Stephen Barnett and Martha Robinson who had married in Aldershot in 1817. Her maternal grandmother was Ann May, the daughter of James May, and therefore related to so many who had married members of that family, including the senior branch of the Allden family in West Surrey.
Caroline’s paternal grandmother was Mary ‘Marey’ Barnett, from the landed Avenell family. The Avenell holdings in Aldershot in 1843 included a cottage and garden in The Street owned and occupied by James and Georg Avenell and three cottages and premises at Deadbrooks owned by James Avenell from Hale. Originating from Seale and Tongham, Mary had married Henry Barnett of Ash in 1785.
Figure 2: Caroline Barnett’s Family Tree
Mary Barnett died in January 1853, aged 86. She had been living in the household of Caroline’s father Stephen. He was a farmer of 6 Acres and ‘Proprietor of Cottages, employing no labourers’. The household also included two of Caroline’s much younger teenage sisters, all born in Aldershot. Two of Caroline’s younger brothers, Stephen (aged 25) and William (20) were employed by her husband at Foreman Farm in Ash.
Postscript on events after 1853
On the evening of Christmas Day 1857, some out-buildings in North Lane belonging to James Elstone were discovered to be on fire. Prompt attendance by the Fire Brigade attached to South Camp saved some machinery and buildings but the conflagration resulted in the loss of a barn, 35 sacks of thrashed wheat and 20 loads of straw. “[F]ortunately the property was partly insured with the Farmers’ Insurance Office … There appears to be no doubt that the fire was caused by an incendiary.”
James had more sociable duties. One example was his role in the chair when the town’s “principal inhabitants dined together at Mr Boulter’s Family Hotel” on 24 February 1858, as described in the West Surrey Times.
He later served on the newly established Health Board. When James stood for re-election, he received the second highest votes amongst the four elected, the highest number going to George Newcome who was by then appointed as Justice of the Peace to act as the local magistrate. Elstone also became chairman of the Burial Board which in July 1860 agreed to drainage of the cemetery to a depth of seven foot. His close friend Richard Allden, who also served on the Burial Board, was chairman of the Health Board which was also sanctioning drainage of Union and Wellington Streets.
Regrettably, detail of James’ household in 1861 is not available as the corresponding Census schedules are missing. However, his married sister Mary Ann had moved to Stoke by Guildford, her husband described as a land proprietor; their household included a daughter, her cousin Sophia, and three servants.
By 1861, Caroline’s father Stephen was working as an agricultural labourer, or at least recorded by the Census as such, the supposition being that he had lost his livelihood as his land had been sold to the Army by compulsory order.
James Elstone’s diary records that when his son, William Robert Elstone, was born, James was in the fields building oat, wheat and pea ricks. He had earlier hurried to Farnham to fetch the nurse. The child was baptised in September 1863, for which duty the curate Reverend James Dennett was paid 10 shillings.
The character of James Elstone was interestingly characterised in the Hampshire Chronicle in 1859 when it commented that,
“in all matters of local government, the town (sic) is divided into two sections – the minority consisting of the old inhabitants, chiefly landed proprietors and respectable farmers with their dependants, who appear to regard the newcomers as intruders … [and] the great majority, or ‘little men’ as they are facetiously termed, chiefly men of experience in the ways of the world.
“the clanship of antiquity exercised its brief authority and in extremely bad taste rejected the recommendation of the … majority of the ratepayers, though supported, to his praise it be spoken, by an able appeal from one of oldest, most enterprising, and independent inhabitants of the town and county, James Elstone, Esq. of Aldershot Lodge.”
James’ friend Richard Allden, a yeoman farmer also prominent amongst the elite both before and after the Army arrived, was a member of what the Hampshire Chronicle had described as that ‘clanship of antiquity’.
James died quite unexpectedly in 1863, three months after the birth of his second son. Caroline then became a widow with a son aged 15, two teenage daughters and a newborn. She sold Aldershot Lodge and James’ other properties and moved to Farnham. The auction sale of the estate of James Elstone in 1864 also included a dwelling house, shop and business premises in the High-Street, Aldershot. The latter was occupied by Mr John Stiff, a baker from London whose family business lasted well into the twentieth century. It seems likely that Elstone had acquired these properties from the estate of George Gosden, a village grocer, who had died in 1858.
At his death, the coverage in the Aldershot Military Gazette (19 December 1863) was also very positive, regarding him very highly, as both ‘an extensive agriculturist’ and as having acted in various public offices “with sound sense, and with a strict and conscientious view to what he regarded as for the interests of the parish, … looked for with eagerness and respect”.
One of the servants at Aldershot Lodge in 1851 was Jane Batchelor who had been on the domestic staff when Caroline, four years her senior, had herself been in service in the household in 1841. Jane was the widowed Caroline’s household in Farnham in 1871. Caroline Elstone was living on ‘rents from properties’, her father Stephen recorded then as an annuitant and ‘Visitor’ in the household in West Street.
Diary of James Elstone of Aldershot Lodge, Mary Orchard, Farnham Museum Society Journal, June 1980