November 1853

Change Was In The Air

The seasonal rhythm of the year ushered in the dampness of Autumn. Some having turned during the previous month, leaves were now beginning to fall, both within the village and in the clumps of trees that stood out all across the Common.

Village talk now featured the coming of Winter. There was an additional, and mixed, sense of anticipation this year about another potential source of change.

A further meeting about the future of Aldershot Common was scheduled later in the month. Its purpose was two-fold. One was to provide further instructions to the Valuer, given that the legal process for enclosure was now underway. The second, and more profound, was the proposal that property-owners in the village should sell their rights to the Common to the Government.

The notice by the door of the parish church had announced that the meeting would be held at the Red Lion Inn on Tuesday November 15th.

It had not been Captain George Newcome, the current chairman of the Vestry, who had taken the lead at that earlier meeting in the Red Lion on October 26th. It had instead been Charles Barron Esq. of Aldershot Place who had spoken on behalf of what was a slim majority of ‘the Commoners’. He had not been against the sale, suggesting  £13 per acre as a fair price.

Aldershot was not one of those villages in which ownership of the manor was held by a member of the aristocracy or a landed squire. There was no single dominant family with the authority or power to decide this. Power was diffused, rule within the parish was shared by a mix of yeoman and various types of incomer from London which was less than forty miles away.

=> More about parish leadership.

The Growing Season Done

By all accounts, it had been a poor harvest. Farmers had sometimes been able to secure higher prices, but quality was variable and volumes were low. The agricultural economy had suffered a setback. There would have been less spending money in the village this year.

According to a later report from the Daily News, the weather over the previous three weeks “was as bad as could be at seed time … with the exception of a few fine days, the clouds hid the sun … torrents of rain … flooding the lowlands in many parts”.

In welcome contrast, the weather at the start of November, had “been brightening up … farmers busy to get the seed in the ground with all possible despatch, fearing a return of wet weather.”

The attention of the cottagers, as with the farmers, had turned to sowing their winter crops. As in many centuries gone by, the cottagers in the village were also preparing for the winter months that lay ahead.

Onions were strung and apples, potatoes and carrots were stacked and laid down for storage.

For all that, the rural village had an innate and continuing belief in the future. Moreover, there would be five baptisms at Aldershot’s parish church during this November. It was also very evident that other infants were expected to be born in the months ahead.

A Place Far Away

Meanwhile, there was confusion amongst the public about whether Turkey and Russia were now formally at war and what that would mean for the country.

The Illustrated London News published a map in November which set out what was thought to be the main arena of war. This was accompanied by analysis published in the Naval and Military Gazette by Major-General Sir Charles O’Donnell.

Major-General O’Donnell highlighted the main points in the conflict around the Danube, which acted as a boundary with Turkish occupied Bulgaria. Russian troops had established themselves at Bucharest. The Turkish fortified positions were at Silestra and the port city of Varna. The all important Bosphorus and Constantinople which together acted as the gateway between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, shown at the bottom right of the map, would be a strategically significant prize for Russia.

The Turkish Government first declared war against Russia in its official newspaper on October 4th. The ultimatum was given on October 10th to the Russian commander in the Crimea that his troops should evacuate the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, or else hostilities would commence. Fifteen days’ grace was granted to facilitate communication across the vast distance between the Crimea and the Russian court in St Petersburg.

Hearing nothing to dissuade the Sultan otherwise, the Turkish Army crossed the Danube on October 23rd.

The additional delays in communication to London from the Turkish court at Constantinople still meant that British newspapers were uncertain about the intelligence they were receiving.

Few, if any, in the village imagined that this conflict, in such a remote location, could have a profound impact upon their lives within barely more than two year hence.

Monday 1st November 1853

Opinion differed on what was required to prop up the Ottoman Government against the continuing Russian aggression. The rift within Cabinet of the ‘Ministry of the Talents’ was widening.

Lords Palmerston, John Russell and Clarendon favoured a more direct approach, as evidenced by Palmerston’s letter to Prime Minister Aberdeen,

“It seems to me, then, that our course is plain, simple, and straight.
That we must help Turkey out of her difficulties by negotiation, if possible; and that if negotiation fails, we must, by force of arms, carry her safely through her dangers.”

Tuesday 2nd November 1853

Back in the village, James Elstone was returning from the annual autumn meeting of the the North East Hants Agricultural Association held at Alton. Four of his men had been given awards.

James Walden had won first prize of £3 for the best ploughman with two horses. Three others had been awarded prizes in the ‘Industrious Labourers’ category: James Marshall, James Dutton and Thomas Bedford.

Walden and Marshall were based in the neighbouring parish of Ash where much of Elstone’s farming was done, some in the role as a tenant farmer.

James Walden was an agricultural labourer who had lived on Paine’s Lane, Ash, near Braithwaite’s Farm, not far from the railway station. He was then in his father’s household; together with his brother they worked for Mr Elstone at Pound Farm. Now, at age 24, James Walden was newly married, wed at St Peter’s Church in Ash to Mary Ann Messenger on October 9th. She was also the child of a labourer; unlike James, Mary Ann was sufficiently schooled to be able to sign her name in the parish register. James’ £3 prize was for “the best ploughman who shall plough with two horses with reins, and without a driver, hall an acre of land, the time not exceeding 3 1/2 hours.”

James Marshall was a much older man, aged 62. He had received an longevity award of £1-10s in recognition of his 35 years’ service. James lived in a cottage on Ash Common with his wife and son Richard; his married daughter Lucy lived next door.

James Dutton was aged 50, close in age to Mr Elstone himself. His award of £1-10s. was for the labourer who had served the longest as a single man. Born in Farnham, baptised in August 1803, he had likely worked at Aldershot Lodge soon after Mr James Elstone Senior had first arrived in the village. James Dutton was listed as part of the household there in both 1851 and earlier in 1841 when Mr James Elstone Senior had been alive and head of the family.

James’ father and brothers also lived in Aldershot.

=> The Dutton Family, including the American story of John Dutton (Junior)

Thomas Bedford had been awarded £3 as first prize amongst those “labourers who have maintained the largest families, with the smallest amount of parochial relief since 1835.”

Thomas and his wife Mary lived in a tied cottage on Church Hill owned by Mr Elstone. They had raised ten children in Aldershot, Jane, the youngest, baptised at St Michael’s Church as recently as August 1853. Ann, the eldest, had been baptised at the parish church in August 1836. She was now domestic service at Aldershot Lodge.

Saturday, 5th November 1853

Royal Alarm

Queen Victoria was concerned that the action taken by Ambassador Stratford was committing the country to a path that would lead to war.

Queen Victoria wrote to Prime Minister Aberdeen from Windsor Castle having been forwarded a letter from Ambassador Stratford.

Stratford had said that although he had written to an aide of the Sultan [Redschid Pasha], others in the Ottoman Government were intent on war. Ambassador Stratford had concluded,

“I fear that war is the decree of Fate, and our wisest part will be to do what we can to bring it to a thoroughly good conclusion.”

The Queen was of contrary opinion, that her Ministers should state

“plainly and strongly to the Turkish Government that we have no intention of being used by them for their own purposes.”

She enclosed both the letter from Stratford and his note to Redschid Pasha, stating that she “wishes [Prime Minister] Lord Aberdeen to show her letter to [Foreign Secretary] Lord Clarendon .”

Saturday’s Hampshire Chronicle

There it was in print. The Chronicle reported what James already knew: the sum of £3 was awarded to “James Walden, ploughman to Mr James Elstone, of Aldershott.”

Last year it had been Richard Allden whose man, Stephen Porter, had won £3 at Alton; as the “best ploughman, with two horses”; James had won nothing on that occasion. The two farmers had known each other for thirty years and enjoyed a friendly rivalry. They also shared a newspaper subscription: James would surely have felt an eagerness to share this particular copy.

In reporting on the meeting of the North East Hants Agricultural Association, the weekly Hampshire Chronicle concluded that “The “day was declared unusually fine”; note made of “the rain on the previous event held on 6 November 1852 having been torrential.” All would have recalled that the second half of 1852 had been the wettest on record.

The front page of the newspaper was, of course, full of advertisements and other notices. Some were very much of interest to farmers such as Elstone who were looking to buy farm stock as well as supplies such as guano at this time of year. Ever alert to commercial opportunity, what might have caught the eye were the two lots of 3 cottages at each of Longbottom and Hoghatch being offered for sale at auction. The present tenants included some local names, Stephen Chuter and James and William Pharo,

The digest from the London Gazette, on page 2, noted that Viscount Hardinge was in attendance at Windsor. For readers in the village, this might have brought to mind the time in August when the Commander-in-Chief had lodged overnight at the Red Lion Inn. That he was interested in purchasing Aldershot Common for the Army was not then general knowledge.

There was a short article stating that newspapers, which had already been subject to stamp tax, could be forwarded to the colonies, such as Australia and Canada, without additional charge for postage. However, postage stamps were required for newspapers being forwarded to the United States.

There was longer report about the visit by the newly-styled Emperor Louis Napoleon and his wife to the fortress of Ham in the Somme district of France. He had been imprisoned there from 1840 to 1846 before his escape to England and then his eventual return to France in 1848.

Perhaps of more interest to James Elstone was the main feature on the opposite page. This was a proposal to base agricultural statistics upon information collected from individual farmers. Lord Ashburton, now Deputy Lieutenant of the County, had been obliged to give assurances that information given by farmers would be used for statistical summary alone and not for Government interference or taxation.

The two items on pages 4 and 5 carried conflicting sentiments about the conflict in the Black Sea. The one on page 4 suggested that the conflict would not result in full blown war, but the other article on page 5 contradicted that opinion.

Elsewhere in the same newspaper, on page 6, was yet another notice from Edward Hewett acting as the Valuer this time for the enclosure initiated at Binsted.

James Elstone would then have had to fold and turn that page at right angles to check the Railway Guide for the timetable for trains to London. The 8 o’clock train from Farnham arrived into Waterloo at 9.45.

There had been a stations at Ash and Farnham, with its stop between at Tongham, since 1849, the station at Farnborough opening as long ago as 1838. The train from Farnborough also connected to Winchester and then on to Southampton.

railway lines existing in 1850

Map, uncoloured lithograph from an engraving, Hampshire, with the Isle of Wight, scale about
4 miles to 1 inch, by Henry G Collins, 1850, published by John Heywood, Manchester, late 1860s.

‘remember, remember, the fifth of November’

There had been no mention in the Hampshire Chronicle of Guy Fawkes. Nor is it known whether and to what extent there were bonfires and fireworks in the neighbourhood of Aldershot.

Effigies of Guy Fawkes were burnt in some towns in the South of England, complete with fireworks, but searches across the country’s newspapers suggest that these were in the minority.

The traditional celebrations in Brighton, represented vividly in that day’s edition of the Illustrated London News, had been a notable exception.

Bonfire Night in Brighton

There had also been a formal torchlight procession by 700 with a band at Weymouth, including a ‘guy’ dressed as Cardinal Wiseman, and a riot in Exeter as a mob battled with police to seize wood and set fire to a bonfire. That was a throwback to three years previously. Then there was forceful reaction across Protestant Britain to the appointment of Cardinal Wiseman by the Pope in late October 1850 as the Archbishop of Westminster.

The Pope had decreed “the re-establishment … of a hierarchy of (eleven) bishops deriving their tithes from their own sees.” This was done without the permission of either Parliament or of the Queen as the Supreme Head of the Established Church in England. It had caused outrage in both Parliament and newspapers, prompting a revival of anti-Catholic sentiment.

However, by 1853, the Catholic commentator in Tablet was able to state that “The Anglican festival of Guido Fawkes was, I think, less observed this year than last”.

Sunday, 6th November 1853

Religious observance mattered, with regular church attendance.

The reading that Sunday was the parable taken from the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of St Matthew, that of the five wise and the five foolish virgins. A suitable theme of the curate’s sermon would therefore have been that of preparedness.

For the Reverend James Dennett to remark on the reports in newspapers of the Fleet arriving into the Dardanelles, however, might have been regarded as too political. 

Winter was not that far away. Having himself been raised in a rural village, the curate would have understood the importance of the Common as a source of forage for winter fuel. However, that too touched upon the effect the enclosure of Aldershot Common might have upon customary rights of the villagers who were not property owners.   

Reverend Dennett had opportunity instead to focus upon less controversial duties associated with preparedness. He had banns to call that Sunday for a wedding later in the month. The curate had also agreed to conduct as many as five christenings after Sunday Matins. It would be a challenge to learn much about the different families. All were children of agricultural workers.

Elizabeth Harrington

The first listed in the baptismal register was Elizabeth, the fourth daughter of Edward and Ann Harrington.

The family had been based in Aldershot but they had very recently moved to Heath End, the Reverend Dennett recording Elizabeth as resident in the Parish of Farnham.

The child’s  mother, Ann, had been locally born.  Recorded as Ann Payne (Paine) in the baptismal register at St Michael’s Church in 1826, she was the daughter of James and Sarah Payne. In 1841, she had been in her parents’ household in the cottage on Drury Lane owned by James Dutton.

It is unclear when, or indeed whether, Edward and Ann had married. They were living in North Lane Aldershot in 1851 with newborn Mary Ann, who was later baptised at St Michael’s in Aldershot in June 1852.  Their older son Thomas was staying with Ann’s parents on Census Night.

Edward had been baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Farnham in 1822. He was from Hungry Hill, which was where his parents, Edward and Charlotte, were living in 1841 and 1851. His youngest sister, Hannah, had been baptised at Hale in 1845 at the Church of St John the Evangelist, which had been newly commissioned and concentrated in the previous year by Bishop Charles Sumner.

There were other Harringtons in the general locality, at Hale and Hoghatch.

Louisa (Mary) Cawson

Next in the register was the infant baptised as Mary, later to be known as Lousia. She was the daughter of Daniel and Mary. 

Her parents had married at St Michael’s Church in September 1849 but neither were locally born: Daniel was born in Tongham, Mary in Elvetham, on the other side of Cookham.  At the time of her wedding she had then been Mary Ann Prince and in domestic service. Her father was listed as a labourer in the marriage register, as was Daniel, her new husband. By the time of the 1851 Census, Daniel, Mary and their newborn son James were living next door to Miss Pusey, the elderly ‘daily teacher’, not far from the Collins’ pottery.

In 1851 Mary’s older sister Lucy was in domestic service for Mrs Elizabeth Tice at Cross House in Aldershot. Daniel’s younger sister Emily was then a domestic servant at Elm Place for Richard Allden’s household.

=> Cawson family

Mary Knowles

Mary, the daughter of locally born Richard and Caroline, was also baptised on this day, listed next in the register. Her parents had married in Aldershot in 1845. Before their marriage, Richard was an agricultural labourer living, in 1841,  in one of the four cottages at The Moors up at Lynchford with two women named Mary Knowles. One was his grandmother, the other his aunt.

By 1851 the family had moved to Shawfield Lane, just across the county boundary into Ash, the parish in which Caroline had been born and baptised, as had their three sons. Richard, though, was born and baptised in Aldershot, in 1820, the eldest of seven children raised by William and Jane Knowles. His parents’ household in Aldershot included three daughters and a son in 1841; all but Ann, a seamstress, had left home by 1851 and were living locally.

=> Knowles family

Mary Pharo

Mary was the first baptised child of Stephen and Hannah. The couple had married two years before, in September 1851. Earlier that year they were on the staff of Richard J Stovold at Ayling House: Hannah Barrett was a domestic servant and Stephen Pharo, two years older, was a live-in labourer.

Hannah had been born in Ash. The banns for the marriage of her sister Jane Barrett to Henry Newell had earlier been called during Matins.

Stephen Pharo was born in 1828, baptised privately at St Michael’s Church. His parents had married in Farnham in January 1818, as William Pharo and Hannah Baker. Stephen was the fifth of their seven children.

George Benfell

The infant was the first son for George and Sarah Benfell; he was to be named after his father. The family lived just outside the parish, at Hungry Hill in the tything of Badshot. There were already four children in the family, all daughters, the youngest, Caroline baptised at St John’s Church in Hale in May 1851. The birthplaces of the other three indicated either George’s peripatetic work pattern or birth in the homes of grandparents.

=> Benfell family

Saturday, 12th November 1853

Commander-in-Chief General Hardinge, no doubt keen that the Government make progress on the purchase of Aldershot Common, had written to Home Secretary Palmerston with some very direct advice:

“I have just seen Mr Blamire. He is of the opinion that on Tuesday next, when the Aldershot Copyholders have their meeting, some person should be authorised by the Government to state to the parties, that this Government is prepared to take into consideration, the terms in which they may be prepared to sell their rights to the waste lands.

Viscount Hardinge went further, with an enterprising take on the matter of financial risk:

“I believe you will find the Treasury prepared to view the proposal with favour.

“If the whole acres be purchased, this Government (as in the case of the Crystal Palace) may afterwards sell to advantage portions not actually required for military purposes.”

Tuesday, 15th November 1853

The special meeting of landowners duly convened.

A week later, the South Eastern Gazette and theMaidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser would include what appeared as a brief report of the meeting. 

That was, however, wide of the mark.

That no such decision was concluded is plain from the report to the Inclosure Commissioners prepared by Assistant Commissioner Wetherell.

Wetherell’s account was detailed and, in several ways, surprising:

“The result of the proceedings was not so satisfactory as could have been desired. 

“The first step was to ascertain the intention of the Commoners with reference to a sale, independent of price. The rateable value of the property entitled to Commoners rights over Aldershot Waste is £1964.

“Five of the Commoners, representing £265 of such rateable value, objected to a sale under any circumstances.

“The other Commoners present, twenty in number and representing £1063 of the rateable value, assented to the sale. About one third in value of the Common-right property was unrepresented; but this portion consists of land held in trust for the parish, rated at upwards of £100, of numerous small premises all of which are rated under £5; and four or five rated somewhat higher.”

A two-thirds (67 percent) majority, in terms of the rateable value, was required. Those at the meeting favouring a sale, independent of price, represented just over half (54 percent) of the total rateable value for the parish: £1063/£1964. A further £100 of value held by the Parish Officers could be voted upon by the Vestry.

Assistant Commissioner Wetherell reported the names of five ‘Commoners’ who were ‘dissenting parties’ the sale”.

Thomas Smith owned 30 acres at Rock Farm having a rateable value (RV) of £35. Richard John Stovold was another yeoman farmer whose Ayling Farm (RV £46) was close by.

Ben Nicholls, a solicitor from Farnham, had only recently bought the nearby West End Farm (RV £60) from Mr Houlden.

William Matthews, oddly listed as ‘A Matthews’, was the Master Brickmaker, aged 60. His house and garden was also at the West End. However, his main concern might have been the loss of access he would have to take material from Aldershot Common.

The dissenting voice with the largest financial interest (RV £120) was Captain George Newcome. His possible opposition had been remarked upon earlier in the correspondence from Mr Lefroy.

With his experience as a former Captain in the 47th Regiment of Foot, perhaps George Newcome foresaw what changes might come about. The close proximity of a permanent military camp would upset his ideal as retirement to a parish where he lived in ‘the Manor House’ and was a churchwarden and the newly installed Chairman of the Vestry.

It was plain, however, that he would be in a minority within the Vestry, given the names of the twenty ‘Assenting parties’ listed by Assistant Commissioner Wetherell:

At the head of that list was the former Chairman of the Vestry, Charles Barron (RV £243), who had the largest landholding in the parish.  

James Elstone (£162) and Richard Allden (£152), the second and third largest landholders were also amongst the ‘assenting parties’. So too was Samuel Eggar (£147), the absentee owner of the Manor Farm estate.  He was also the owner of the so-called Aldershot Manor Halimote, although no special note was taken of that in the notes of Assistant Commissioner Wetherell. 

Richard Allden’s relatives, the widowed Mrs Elizabeth Tice (£102) and her son Henry (£82), were amongst the total of twenty in favour of a sale.

Others active in the Vestry at one time or another and favouring a sale included George Gosden (£44), James Avenell (£38), George Robinson (£37), Assistant Overseer Reuben Attfield (£21), William Herrett (£20) and William Robinson (£16).

    • The remaining eight present, with properties valued at £10 or less, included Robert Lloyd (Sir?), Robert Lloyd (Jnr?), Henry Stovold, Robert Hart (RV £9), Thomas Hughes (RV £9), James Reeves (RV £9), Mrs Stonard (RV £4) and Jospeh Miles (RV £2).

About one third in value (RV £636) of the Common-right property had been unrepresented at the meeting.

    • In addition to the large number with very smallholdings, those not present included such as the widows, Mrs Meddings (RV £15), Mrs Goy (RV £14) and Mrs Harding (RV £11), and many who lived outside the parish, such as Mr Andrews of Farnham (RV £60), Mr Hall of Alton (RV £37), Mrs Osborn (RV £22), Mrs Shipley (RV £19), Mrs Leghorn (RV £13) and Mrs Benham (RV £10). 
Assistant Commissioner Wetherell went on to report on the price and other conditions, including provision of three roads, demanded by the Commoners. Charles Barron acted as their spokesman.

The price of the Common was then brought under consideration. Mr Barron proposed that a sum not exceeding £15 per acres should be demanded: And the same twenty Commoners who assented to a sale, voted in favour of Mr Barron’s proposition.

They further stipulated that the public allotments: viz four acres directed by the Provisional Order [of 15 July] to be set out for Exercise and Recreation; and the two acres in addition, resolved by instruction tp the Valuer to be allotted to the same purpose; ten acres directed by the Valuers for the labouring poor, and an allotment not exceeding eight acres resolved by instruction to the valuers to be made for supplying gravel for the parish roads should be set out under the inclosures, notwithstanding the proposed sale.

They also required that the three roads across the Common, represented to be about three miles in length should be made at the expense of the Government.

Wetherell concluded,

I regret that we could not induce the parties to submit more reasonable terms in regard to price, but unfortunately sales have recently taken place in adjoining Commons, where comparatively high sums have been obtained to which the Aldershot Commoners refer in justification of their present demand.

Wednesday, 16th November 1853

On the following day, the Inclosure Commissioners forwarded Wetherell’s Report to Viscount Hardinge, commenting,

“I have the honor to enclose a copy of the Report …
The terms demanded by the Commoners are extremely high …”

The Day’s Newspapers

Other matters were to the fore. The newspapers brought alarming reports from London. Dense fog across the metropolis had been the cause of many accidents. It was also alluded to in the Report on Public Health from the Registrar General as associated with mortality from cholera. Deaths in October had increased, “arising apparently from greater coldness of the weather, and also in part from cholera. Bronchitis grows more fatal.”

The Report also stated that “Cholera continues to be most fatal in the lower parts of the London bason … [mortality] is nearly in the inverse ratio of the elevation of the ground on which the dwellings of the inhabitants stand.”

During 1853 about 15,000 deaths would be attributed to Cholera. This was the year before Dr John Snow would complete his pioneering work that would disprove the prevailing theory of miasma [bad air from rotting organic matter] as a general cause of disease and show that cholera was caused instead by polluted water supplies.

It would be five years before the explanation proposed by Dr Snow was accepted. The toxicity of the River Thames was, however, already generally acknowledged, as indicated by this cartoon from Punch in 1850.River Thames

A drop of Thames water, as depicted by Punch in 1850

Not Reported

Far away, the Russian Court was urging its Emperor, Czar Nicholas, to support the Christian Slavs of the Greek Orthodox Church in rising up against the moslem Turks.

In Constantinople, Britain’s Ambassador Stratford was urging Admiral Dundas to protect English commerce close by the border of Russia.

Stratford had received news that the Russians had stopped up the mouth of the Sulina river in the Delta of the Danube, preventing the departure of English merchant ships. The Danube Delta, shown at the top right of the map then re-published recently by the Illustrated London News, marked the Russian boundary with the upper reaches of Bulgaria, then forming part of the Ottoman Empire.

Four steamers of war were subsequently despatched to enter the Black Sea: HMS Sampson and Tiger, followed by HMS Niger and Retribution.

Saturday, 19th November 1853

News of the interest of the Government in establishing a military camp on Aldershot Common had not, apparently, disturbed the plans of the Board of Management of what was known locally as ‘ the Union School’. 

The Board of the Farnham and Hartley Wintney School District gave notice that they wished to appoint a new Superintendent together with a Matron for the school, on the combined salary of £70 per annum, plus supply of rations and apartments. 

Their decision followed the visit in the previous month by a Committee of the Directors and Guardians of the Brighton Workhouse to the ‘Industrial School’ at Aldershot. The report from that visit was positive, confirming to them the advantages and benefits of the improved system of separate provision for minors. In 1851 the school, located at the former Aldershot Workhouse, halfway up the hill towards the Common, housed about one hundred children drawn from three Poor Law Unions.

Thursday, 24th November 1853

Mr Blamire of the Inclosure Commission wrote directly to Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Gladstone. He recommended that the Board of Ordnance should be authorised to secure the purchase of Aldershot Common and nearby lands. As though one with Viscount Hardinge, Commissioner Blamire also indicated the prospect both of deriving supplementary income from letting parts of the land and of being able to sell and realise a profit should the Government ever wish to dispose of the land.

Blamire penned a cover to be tagged with the correspondence he had with Gladstone about Assistant Commissioner Wetherell’s Report and the proposed purchase of Aldershot Common.

Friday, 25th November 1853

Back in the village, the day had arrived for the wedding of Jane Barrett to Henry Newell.

Jane was aged 21, Henry a year older. Before their marriage, Jane had been a house servant in Leatherhead. In 1851 Henry was working and living at Manor Farm, not far from where Jane’s sister Hannah was in domestic service for Mr R J Stovold of Ayling House. Shortly afterwards, Hannah had then married, to Stephen Pharo, who had also been a live-in servant at Ayling House.

In 1841, Jane and Hannah had been in the household of their grandfather Thomas Barrett, a farmer in Normandy Green on the far side of Ash, together with their parents, three sisters and a young brother. By 1851, not only had they both left home but so too had their sister Harriett who was in service in Dockenfield. Even Thomas, the youngest was recorded as an agricultural labourer at Hurst Farm in Winchfield, aged only 12.

Jane had been baptised at St Peter’s Church in Ash in 1831, her parents, Thomas and Mercy Drew, also had married there, in December 1820.

Henry was from a family of farm labourers in Aldershot. In 1851 he had been part of the family household close by Manor Farm and Woodbine Cottage; the address of the family at the time of the 1841 Census listed as on Arnsted Lane, at the end of Boxalls Lane close by the parish boundary at Weybourne Road.

His older sister Ann had also entered domestic service, as was usual for the eldest daughter in a large family of agricultural workers. She had secured a position in Shalford, Surrey, with the banker, Samuel Haydon, who was Mayor of Guildford in 1851. His older brother Francis, an agricultural labourer, had been lodging at the Red Lion Inn at the time of the 1851 Census. He had subsequently left for London by 1852 where he and Jane Stonard, of Dog Kennel, had married in Shoreditch. He and Jane then raised a family, Francis becoming a leather cutter.

There were eight younger siblings. Like himself, Henry’s younger brothers, Thomas and George, were working as farm labourers, based in their father’s tied cottage. His sister Jane had also entered domestic service and in 1851 was in the household of the younger John Eggar of the family of Bentley was now a bailiff in Alton. She had also subsequently married in 1852, to George Harris, a farm labourer for Moses Mather, the bailiff of East Wyke Farm, close by Ash.

    • John Eggar had once been in charge of Manor Farm where his daughter Emily born, baptised at St Michael’s Church, in October 1848.

Mary was another sister who became a domestic servant. In 1851 she was aged 18 and a kitchen maid at Braboeuf Manor House, Guildford in the large household of Reverend Henry Shrubb, recorded as “not having the cure of souls”. He had married the wealthy widow of Major Arthur Wight, late of the East India Company.

Henry’s father Thomas had been the sixth child in an extensive family network which was originally from Farnham. They had settled in Aldershot; likely Thomas’ grandfather Francis had worked as a labourer at Manor Farm, based north of Boxalls Lane.

=> Newell family

Saturday, 26th November 1853

A Search For Peace

Prime Minister Aberdeen wrote to the Queen to update her on the developing crisis in Britain’s relations with Russia. Several outbreaks of war, with increasing severity, were being reported between Russian and Turkish forces along the Danube and in and around the Black Sea.

Against the background of rising anti-Russian sentiment in the British press, the Cabinet had met to consider a suggested plan for a peaceful outcome. Proposed by the French Emperor Louis Napoleon, this had been shared with Britain’s Ambassador in Paris, Lord Cowley, a nephew of the late Duke of Wellington.

In his letter Lord Aberdeen noted that English and French ships had already entered the Black Sea, seemingly with the pretext of protecting grain-ships at the mouth of the Danube and of bringing back their diplomats from the Ottoman-held port of Varna.

Sunday, 27th November 1853

Queen Victoria wrote back swiftly to the Prime Minister, despite this being the Sabbath, expressing concern that Ambassador Stratford was “pushing us deeper into the War policy which we wish to escape.

“The Queen must seriously call upon Lord Aberdeen and the Cabinet to consider whether they are justified in allowing such a state of things to continue!”

Wednesday, 30th November 1853

The parish curate, Reverend Dennett, would have been relieved not to have had to conduct any funerals during November.

The month was closing, however, with foreboding that increasing conflict with Russia might result in the outbreak of war.

Stories were beginning to circulate that the Russian Emperor had withdrawn his funds from the Bank of England and that as a result of his sale of Exchequer-bills gold bullion was being shipped from London to Amsterdam.

Commander-in-Chief Viscount Hardinge was a member of Cabinet and would have been aware of the prospect of war. As though in consequence, he ended the month with a short but positive note to Adjutant-General, Lt General George Brown, enthusiastically declaring,

“I think we should get Aldershot”

=> December 1853