July 1853

Village Talk

The weather featured prominently in casual conversations, even in summer. This was especially true for those dependent on the harvest, both in the field for their employer and for what they grew for themselves. Bell’s Weekly Messenger was reporting frequent rain and high winds, reckoned to be “more favourable to the gardener than to the farmer.”

Nevertheless, the longer days meant that more life was enjoyed out of doors. Whether in the fields or by the cottages, the voices of children seemed to amplify across the village. According to the 1851 Census, more than four in every ten villagers were under the age of fifteen.

=> Children of the village

As had been imagined at the start of the telling of this history, James Hone, the blacksmith’s father was to be seen by the smithy. Standing in the arch of the doorway, he could watch his three grandsons play with their friends on the common village green, none of them much mindful of the weather.

William Cobbett, Farnham-born, like James, had referred to Aldershot as “an ‘agricultural and nice productive little parish.” That sense of rural idyll on a summer’s day would have encouraged positive thoughts about the future of the boys as sons of the village blacksmith. The smithy was kept busy and would remain so as long as horses played such a central role in its life. Moreover, James’ son Henry had married an educated woman, the mother of his grandchildren no less than a former schoolmistress of the village. Caroline Hone was pregnant once more with what would be yet another grandson.

James himself had chosen to have the life of a soldier when he was young; he was surely proud to be recognised as having fought at Waterloo. However, James had enlisted at a time of war. Despite the talk in the newspapers about the French and of the tension between the Russians and the Turks, the prospect of his grandsons having anything to do with army regiments must have seemed remote.

Enclosure of Aldershot Common

  • The notice on the parish church door declared that an Assistant Commissioner was to hold an Inquiry Meeting on July 7th. The Inclosure Commissioners had acted promptly. The application to enclose much of the heathland that lay in the north and west of the parish had been submitted on June 16th. The announcement about the Inquiry was made barely a week later, fourteen days’ notice being the legal requirement.

The application to enclose the Common and its implications would have been the talk of the village. It is easy to imagine women of the village having conversation at the shop on Drury Lane and when passing the green by the smithy; so too, the men huddled across the tables of an evening to exchange views at the Red Lion and the Bee Hive Inns. All would be busy in earnest talk about that upcoming meeting and on what might become of the village.

The range of opinion about the prospects of enclosure for the village is, of course, a matter of conjecture. Some of that would have been based on speculation upon who was really behind the application to enclose Aldershot Common.  Other opinions expressed would have come from what was known or rumoured to have occurred elsewhere in the country.

The process of enclosure of the common lands across England had been taking place for several centuries. Estimates vary, some that as much as seventy percent of England’s land mass had become enclosed. The process was far from geographically uniform, however. 

Parliamentary enclosure was only just reaching the locality all about Aldershot. It was now being rolled out for the adjacent Ash Common. Bentley, the home base for the Eggar family had also been recently enclosed. Provisional Orders had been agreed at the end of May for the enclosure of waste land in parts of Badshot, Runfold, Dogfudd and Wrecclesham, just across the Blackwater within the manor of Farnham.

Many, perhaps most, villagers would have heard the stories handed down about smallholders and cottagers being forced out by larger landowners. Deprived of the means for the women and children in their family to forage, the men were then obliged to work full-time for those landowners or even leave to go to the towns and cities to make a living. That applied not just to the commoners who held rights but was even worse for those who were without legal right to make use of the common lands and had no land or garden of their own to work.

Across the country, enclosure and the fencing of common land during the preceding century had been the subject for protest songs,

“They hang the man and flog the woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
Yet let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.”

For the adults in the village there was recall of the widespread reporting of farm workers’ uprisings, both peaceful and violent. These had occurred in the southern counties, such as Kent, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire. However, the newspapers said nothing of what occurred in the immediate vicinity of Aldershot.

William Cobbett had railed against the harm done by the enclosure of common land. He had toured extensively on horseback in the 1820s. Knitting together extracts from his book, Rural Rides, published in 1830, Cobbett can be seen to argue that the “new enclosures without end”, rather than being a sign of improvement and prosperity, meant that “the villages are wasting away.” Cobbett had written supporting the cause of the agricultural labourer in a pamphlet entitled Rural War. As a result, Cobbett had faced charges of seditious libel in July 1831, alleging his support of the Captain Swing Riots in which farm machinery was smashed and haystacks were burnt. Conducting his own defence, William Cobbett had been acquitted by the jury.

Land Tenure

Both the Crondall Hundred, and what had been the Bishop’s Hundred of Farnham, had been continuously in Church ownership since before the Norman Conquest. Fields taken from the ‘waste of the Lord’ for cultivation and further settlement, a form of enclosure, was termed ‘encroachment’. In Aldershot, as in other tithings of the Hundred of Crondall, those acts of encroachment had required the sanction of the Prior of St Swithun in Winchester who had owned the Hundred of Crondall. 

In practice, decision-making was delegated to courts convened by the Prior’s steward, variously called the View of Frankpledge or the Court Leet at which the ten tithings, including the likes of Aldershot and Yateley, were represented; the term Court Baron seems to apply to a lower jurisdiction. By this means, established rights were asserted and authority was given for encroachment of ‘the waste’; the cultivated lands in the villages of the Crondall Hundred steadily increased.

    • “… in some estates like Crondal we can trace the steps by which large quantities of forest land were brought into cultivation; tenants seem to have been often encouraged to enclose, but rent was always charged upon the land they had reclaimed, and formed a valuable source of income [for the Priory].” Capes (1901)
    • The Crondall Rental of 1221, kept by the monks and copied in 1282, names 22 persons holding a virgate (c.20 to 30 acres) or more in the Tithing of Alresshate (Aldershot); their 14 holdings totalled approximately 380 acres. An additional 148 acres (or more) had been ‘taken from the waste’ as encroachment. That included both 52 acres through grant of a charter (the origin of Aldershot Park)  and 31 acres of encroachment (for the monks at Waverley) through the action of the Bishop of Winchester. Baigent (1891)

The impact of what happened elsewhere in England during succeeding centuries upon the Crondall Hundred was mediated by the continuous, and remote, lordship role of the Church. With few exceptions, customs in the tithings, such as Aldershot, relating to land tenure and inheritance persisted from Anglo-Saxon times. 

The capture of the English Throne by the Tudor Henry VII upset the status quo. Winchester would also regain some of its former significance, the Tudors keen to assert their legitimacy.

Discovering an empty treasury and unsure of support from the aristocracy, Henry invested in the success of an emerging merchant class. This meant overseas trade, primarily in the wool but also to assist the start of English colonies abroad. As was the proven route to secure both status and power, the merchant class converted their wealth from trade into ownership of land. 

This process continued throughout the reigns of the later Tudor kings, Henry V to Henry VII. It was accelerated during the English Reformation, enabled by the confiscation and resale of Church property by the Crown.

Early in the Tudor period, Robert White of Yateley, a wool merchant who became Mayor of the Staple of Calais, had begun to buy lands all across the southern counties. His descendent, Robert White of Farnham, subsequently bought land in Aldershot. Robert’s son John White would later purchase the monk’s 31 acres at Aldershot which had been confiscated from Waverley Abbey.

The Crondall Customary was commissioned in the early years of Elizabeth, the last of the Tudor monarchs, given her seal in 1568. During the turmoil and property transfers associated with the conflict during and after the Reformation, there was need to clarify who owned what.

The Customary covered all the tithings of the Crondall Hundred. Remarkably, the formal ownership of the lands of the Crondall Hundred remained with the Church. They were transferred, almost by sleight of hand, from the Prior and Priory to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral at Winchester; the former Prior had become the new Dean. Whilst recognising that lordship, the Customary re-affirmed ownership and obligations of ‘freehold’ land (that granted by earlier charter) and the customary ‘copyhold’ property rights for both large and small farmers and for cottagers. The document indicates how the named tenants, both men and women, had obtained the lands, by inheritance or purchase.

    • For the tithing of Aldershot, the Customary listed ‘John White, Knight as Freeholder’ and his son Robert as one of 24 named tenants for a total of over 888 acres. The ‘parcels of the lands, tenements, & possessions of the late Monastery of Waverley, lately dissolved’ were listed amongst the encroached land held by John White. 

After the publication of the Customary, details about the transfer of ‘copyhold’ lands, by way of inheritance or sale, continued to be authorised and noted at the Crondall Court. The Lord of the Manor, regarded as the owner of the waste, subject to the rights of ‘commoners’, held the minerals (mining) and surface rights (sand and gravel).

The parish officers of the Vestry were now the parochial authority within what had been the tithing of Aldershot. With no dominant landowner, this collective decision making body of Vestry exercised overall responsibility for the management of the lands held in common.

    • In 1839, for example, the Vestry appointed Joseph Miles, as hayward, to look after the Common and to prevent the cutting of fuel by persons without authority and selling it outside of the parish. The Vestry occasionally had to make reference to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral at Winchester, as it did in 1835 for permission to dig the ‘waste of the Lord, for clay to make bricks, tiles etc.

At its meeting in October 1841, the Vestry initiated the commission of the Tithe Apportionment Survey of Aldershot. The resultant Report noted that 1,400 acres of the total of 4,100 acres in the parish were occupied, the remaining 2,700 acres being common land.

    • Of the 1,400 occupied acres, the 484 land parcels having 72 different owners (including the Parish itself), 730 acres of land were given over arable, 19 acres for hops, 230 as meadows and pasture, 130 as woodland and 20 acres for buildings and gardens.

Fast forward to 1853 and those 2,700 acres of Aldershot Common still constituted the larger part of the areal extent of the parish. As a shared resource for the community, the ‘waste of the Lord’ was used in various ways. Owners of both freehold and copyhold lands retained commoner rights for forage, with turbary rights to cut turf for fuel. There were also sporting rights for shooting birds and hunting of other game. Rights to the soil, and to what might exist below, remained with the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral.

The Vestry was scheduled to meet next at the Church on Wednesday July 20th, a fortnight after the Inquiry Meeting.

Saturday, 2nd July 1853

In an event, seemingly far away and irrelevant to the lives of the villagers, the Imperial Army of Russia had crossed into Moldavia and Wallachia. The occupation had been signalled and forewarned in the Manifesto of the Russian Czar. News of this act, however, would take time to reach the public in Britain. It would not be reported in the London press until the following Wednesday afternoon, the Evening Standard and Evening Mail⁠ doing so by virtue of telegraphic despatch from Vienna. Only on the following Saturday, July 9th, would the Russian occupation justify a column inch in the Hampshire Chronicle.

The Camp at Chobham

The Camp on Chobham Common featured in most every national and regional newspaper across the country. The vivid representations in the Illustrated London News served a novel function. The images portrayed in the numerous etchings served as a lens onto the action. 

Chobham Troops ILN July 2nd 1853

Begun in May by the self-made businessman Herbert Ingram, circulation of the Illustrated London News had reached 66,000 copies by the end of the 1842, rising to 100,000 as it caught the national mood in the week in which the Great Exhibition of 1851 opened. It had become the leading nonpartisan weekly, with an appeal beyond its increasing paid circulation. Copies once bought and read were often then passed from hand to hand. 

The Lead article in the Illustrated London News on the first weekend of July used the Camp at Chobham as an occasion to contrast British sensibility with French obsession with the size and glory of their army. This provides insight into the contemporary attitude of the English urban classes to the military. Although it might not fully reflect attitudes in a rural village on the Hampshire/Surrey borders, it does serves to contrast how sentiment can change from one century to the next. In 1853, the Royal Navy was held in very much higher regard than the Army.

This is remarkable given the magnificence of the funeral arrangements which had been made for the Iron Duke during the previous November. The attention given to that by the Illustrated London News had added about 20,000 to its circulation figures, then estimated at 150,000.

Few in Aldershot might have ever seen July’s edition of the Illustrated London News, let alone sat to read the text of the Leader. The copies which did find their way to villages would rarely be up-to-date.

Regardless, this expression of national sentiment towards the greater significance of the Navy would have rung true for Reverend James Dennett, the young curate born and raised on Hampshire’s southern coast where the call of the sea dominated.

There might also have been recall of Captain Newnham RN by some in the village. He had married the widow of Admiral Gayton, taking up residence at Aldershot Lodge at the end of the previous century. A white marble of remembrance to him was on the wall within St Michael’s Church, placed there by his widow before she remarried once more to become the wife of the Reverend Piggot.

The Illustrated London News lead article, likely penned by its talented editor Charles Mackay, went on to hope that the Camp at Chobham would prompt improvement in the lot of the men who served in the military.

“But, though the English [unlike the French] are not smitten with the military madness, there is no reason why they should neglect the comfort, and … means for the elevation of the physical, social, and moral condition, of the brave men who serve in their armies. .. The assemblage at Chobham is likely to attract far more attention to these subjects than they have hitherto .. if the result of the grand display be no other than this, the sham battles and real hard work of officers and men may not have been fought and undertaken in vain.”

The Camp at Chobham and subsequent conflicts abroad would accompany a change in attitude to the military, bringing fame to the village of Aldershot.

What does seem probable in the short term was prompt delivery of a copy of the Illustrated London News to the Pall Mall residence in London of Charles Barron Esq. The owner of Aldershot Place and his wife would have taken keen interest in the Camp, their second son Fenwick being amongst the cavalry which had arrived at Chobham at the start of July.

Fenwick Boyce Barron had risen to the rank of Captain in the 4th Light Dragoons. His stated address in 1840 when he had obtained a commission by purchase had been given as Aldershot Place. His older brother Charles Stephen was in the Militia and doubtless would also have taken the opportunity to travel to see his brother at Chobham.

Aldershot had two other, less well-born representatives at the Chobham Camp. One was the son of the parish hayward, both called Joseph Miles. Listed in the 1851 Census at Portman Barracks in Marylebone, Joseph was a private in the Scots Fusilier Guards. The 1st Battalion was amongst those first assembled on Chobham Common. Joseph had enlisted in May 1840, recorded as a labourer born in ‘the parish of Aldershot near the town of Farnham’, unable to sign his name. He had received a bounty of two pounds ten shillings. He was in London in 1841, recorded as part of the 3rd Foot Guards, an alternative name for the Scots Guards, and was stationed at Windsor in 1851.

One more son of the village present at Chobham was another called Joseph. Joseph Young was a private with the Grenadier Guards. Enlisting at Colchester in 1847, he had received the larger bounty of ten pounds and ten shillings. Now aged 29, Joseph had the stature associated with a guardsman: 6 foot 2 ½ inches tall, he had black hair and hazel eyes. His previous occupation had been that of a gentleman’s servant and he had signed on with a very well-formed signature. After five years’ service, in November 1852, he had been awarded a Good Conduct Mark; Joseph had probably been present on duty at the funeral of the Iron Duke.

A story of a different kind but one of particular local interest appeared in the Hampshire Chronicle on that first weekend of July. Thomas Hall had been found guilty of an indecent act at Aldershot. Details of the offence are hard to establish, only that Hall was convicted at Winchester Assizes and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. This was also reported in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal.

Oddly, no one called Thomas Hall was recorded as a resident in the village, neither in the 1841 nor the 1851 Census, nor was any of the name listed in the 1853 Rate Book. Nothing has been found to connect this Thomas Hall, neither with the family of Eliza whose child was baptised that same weekend, nor with Mr Henry Hall, of Alton, who owned the Bee Hive Inn.

    • There were, however, at least three called Thomas Hall living in Hartley Witney and one at Alton. The culprit might have been the Thomas Hall, born in Long Sutton, 25 miles west of Aldershot, and aged 55, who in 1835 had been a deserter from the 18th Regiment of Foot.

Sunday, 3rd July 1853

The young curate had three christenings to perform after Matins.

Ellen Newell

Ellen was a first born. Her parents had been one of two couples wed less than three months previously, on March 14th. Both brides were then very evidently large with child. Francis was from an established family of sawyers, the son of James Newell.  Also now a sawyer, he was listed as such in parish register of baptisms, as he had been earlier in the marriage register when neither Francis nor Eliza had been able to sign their name. Francis had also been baptised at St Michael’s Church, in 1828. The family moved to Godalming, Francis recorded there in 1841 as one of six children.

Francis’ parents and two younger teenage siblings lived in one of the three cottages on Church Hill owned by James Elstone.  His eldest brother James, also sawyer, had set up home in North Lane, now with five children aged under 10; his wife was from Egham.

It is unclear where Francis was living in 1851 prior to his marriage. (He was not the Francis Newell, of very similar age, lodging at the Red Lion in 1851.) 

    • The Francis Newell lodging at the Red Lion in 1851, was listed by the Census as an agricultural labourer. Baptised in 1826, that Francis Newell was the son of Thomas Newell, also an agricultural labourer. He had left the village for Shoreditch in 1852 to marry Jane Stonard, the daughter of the brickburner William Stonard. The couple had later settled in St Luke’s, Finsbury in London, Francis becoming a leather cutter.

Eliza, the child’s mother had a more complex family background. She was the daughter of John Cawood and Mary Hall, entered in the parish baptismal register in 1836 as illegitimate, as was her younger brother Charles also described. Eliza’s parents had both been widowed and had lived as man and wife with children from those previous marriages. Eliza’s mother Mary (Hall, nee Cole) died, in 1847 at the age of 52.Eliza was subsequently listed with the surname Hall in the 1851 Census, and described as a lodger and house servant, although still in her father’s household. She was now Eliza Newell, with a child of her own.

Anthony Kircher

The baptismal register for this infant does not record the identity of his father. His mother was Maria, aged 18 and the eldest daughter of John Kircher, an agricultural labourer based in one of the Morland Cottages who was described in the 1851 Census as a pauper. Maria was baptised in Aldershot as was her older brother and her four younger siblings. Maria’s father was baptised in Farnham in 1809, as John ‘Curcher’. It is unclear whether he had married Maria’s mother Charlotte.

Emily Bateman

The first name entered in the baptismal register after Matins had been that of the infant Emily Bateman. She was the eighth child in their family, her parents not long moved into the village. As such she was their first to be baptised at St Michael’s Church, as her mother had been just over forty years previously, christened as Harriet Collins.

Harriet’s mother, Elizabeth Collins, died a few days after Harriet’s birth. Elizabeth had been the younger sister of the two potters William and Charles Collins. Charles had been buried at the Church just over four weeks before, at the start of June 1853.

Harriet married in 1836 to Daniel Bateman, the miller at Bourne Mill in Farnham. One of the witnesses was a John Smith. Likely, he was her uncle by marriage to her mother’s sister Ann.

    • It also seems plausible that, when orphaned at birth, Harriet was taken into the family of her Aunt Ann and went with them when they moved to the pottery at Frimley. Their eldest daughter Esther was only two years older than Harriet, also baptised at St Michael’s Church.

Daniel Bateman, the father of the infant to be baptised, was not locally born. Although baptised in Buckland, Buckinghamshire, in 1807, Daniel might have been raised in Ash which was where his parents were recorded by the 1841 Census, his father then a labourer aged 65.

    • Daniel Bateman was the first child of Matthew and Sarah who had married in Buckland, Buckinghamshire in 1806. Oddly, his parents were listed as paupers in Ash in 1851, his father buried later that year. His younger brother Alexander had left for London, recorded in 1841 and in 1851 as a prison officer in the Surrey County Gaol in Newington/Lambeth.

… Who lived on Drury Lane

Daniel and Harriet Bateman and family had recently taken up residence in the vicinity of Drury Lane and the Bee Hive Inn which could be regarded as Aldershot’s commercial centre. Daniel had set up business there as Bateman’s Corn & Forage Merchants.

The Tithe Survey of 1841/43 records two small plots of land in Aldershot called Owlings & Bush Field. They belonged to Daniel Bateman which were being farmed by William Gosden, the potter turned grocer and farmer. By 1851, that land was being worked by Daniel’s two eldest sons, John and Daniel.

Map of vicinity of Bee Hive Inn and Drury Lane, Aldershot 1855

Talk amongst the locals about the Camp at Chobham in the Bee Hive Inn might have prompted stories from the former soldiers in the village. 

George and Emanuel Finch

Living nearby at the edge of settlement, alongside the heath, was George Finch, another listed as a Chelsea Pensioner in the 1851 Census. Aged about 47, he had only recently returned to the area having served with the 41st Regiment of Foot. George Finch had enlisted in 1826, recording Farnham as his town of birth although he was baptised in the parish of Farnborough in 1806.

Finch’s wife and son had both been born in Ireland. Ann was born in Co. Kilkenny, their son Emmanuel born in Blennerville, a port built to serve Tralee in the County of Kerry. George had been stationed in County Kerry in 1837, around the time of his son’s birth. By 1841 he had rised to the rank of sergeant, recorded with family at the Depot in Chatham. He was a veteran of the 1st Anglo/Afghan War.

    • That had been waged in an attempt to protect the interests of the East India Company from Russian incursion. The men of the 41st had been dispatched to Afghanistan in 1842 as part what was later regarded as an ‘Army of Retribution’ led by the celebrated General Nott. The Regiment had returned to the UK in 1843, serving in garrison in Wales for a short period of time to act as a guard of honour in 1845 at the funeral given to Nott.

After initial discharge at Limerick in November 1847 , George re-engaged in the following February for return and disembark in Portsmouth in May 1850. His statement of discharge notes that he was a “labourer … born in the parish of Farnham in or near the town of Farnham”.

Now aged 16, Emmanuel Finch was recorded in the 1851 Census as an agricultural labourer in the village. Presumably, he had gained some kind of education from the schooling provided for children of serving soldiers. It is not evident at this stage that Emmanuel had acquired a trade, as had another military child, Henry Hone, the blacksmith.

Emmanuel Finch might well have spoken with an Irish brogue, like his mother, although his father George would have had a local accent, having grown up in and around Farnborough. Moreover, having been raised within a regiment, variously stationed in London and in Wales, as well as in Ireland, the accents of military children would always be difficult to pin down.

    • There was likely a wide variety of speech in the village. The predominant brogue of the ‘Hodge’, the derogatory terms used during this period to label agricultural labourers, had a ‘Wessex tang’ and vocabulary. This was drawn from across Dorset and Wiltshire but doubtless also extended into large parts of ‘ampshire. This might have been countered by the influence of ‘Cockney’ from London. Then there would have been the more mannered speech of the townsfolk at Farnham and those who had retired to Aldershot from London. One imagines that the yeoman farmers who exercised local governance through the Vestry in Aldershot might have had to master both vocabularies, as though bilingual.  

Jane Callingham

Now aged 13, Jane was probably doing much more than fetching, cleaning and washing up at the Bee Hive Inn. When collecting beer mugs from the tables, or perhaps occasionally serving behind the bar, Jane Callingham would have been alive to overheard conversations. 

Jane would not have known the exact date when the Bee Hive Inn began. However, last month, after the funeral of Charles Collins, the Bee Hive Inn would have been busy with potters. Several would have been old men from across the Heath, full of stories as well as drink about how there used to be at least three potteries in that immediate locality. That would have provided sufficient reason for the pub’s existence.

More recently, the talk would have included heated exchanges amongst both potters and agricultural workers about the proposals to enclose the heathland. 

Born at the other side of the village, up on North Lane in 1840, Jane Callingham was the youngest of at least seven children. Her parents, Charles and Elizabeth, had married in February 1821. Her mother, baptised in Frimley, had been Elizabeth Whare. Charles and Elizabeth had eachsigned their names in the register (both ‘of this parish’), as had Henry Webster who acted as one of the witnesses. This suggests a literate family of farm workers.

Henry Webster was the landlord at the Bee Hive Inn, listed in the 1851 Census as ‘publican and grocer’, the latter term also appearing in the return made for the 1841 Census. Originally from Guildford, Henry had married in 1820 to Mary Callingham, Jane’s aunt, the sister of her father Charles.

Their household in 1841 included Mary’s mother, Charity ‘Collingham’, and her niece, another called Mary, aged 13. She was Jane’s older sister. There was also Henry’s nephew from Alnwick, Northumberland, also aged 13.

Jane’s elderly grandmother had died in the winter of 1844 at the age of 80. Her sister Mary had left, Jane having taken her place by 1851, recorded by the Census as a servant, aged 11. Henry’s nephew had remained, becoming an agricultural labourer and recorded as a lodger. There were two paying lodgers of a different kind: Thomas Henley was a 22-year-old ‘annuant’ and Moses Matthews a local carpenter. Moses had left to marry by 1853, living in a nearby rented cottage.

Jane’s father had died in 1847 when she was only seven. Aunt Mary had stepped in to assist, providing employment for Jane’s older sister and then later for Jane.

    • Jane’s sister Mary [Ann] moved from the Bee Hive Inn into domestic service. By 1851, she was a ‘farm servant indoors’ at Blue House Farm, near Merton for a farmer of 130 acres.

The eldest brother Charles had been in the family home in 1841 together with siblings George and Elizabeth. James Williams, one of village’s two Waterloo veterans, had been there as a lodger. Charles had then left to marry and set up home in another cottage on North Lane.

    • Charles and Jane Prince married at St Michael’s Church in June 1846; his sister Mary [Ann], who had earlier left to work at the Bee Hive Inn, signing her name as a witness in the register. His bride was the daughter of James Prince, an agricultural labourer in Elvetham. Her two sisters were in domestic service in Aldershot, as perhaps she had also been.

Jane’s older brother George and their widowed mother had continued at the cottage in North Lane working as outdoor agricultural labourers. Her sister Elizabeth had left to enter domestic service; by 1851, aged 16, she was a domestic servant in the household of the farmer William Gosden, close by the Bee Hive Inn.

Uncle James’ daughter, another called Mary, also lived close at hand on Drury Lane.  She had married Reuben Miles in November 1849; Mary was then aged 15, recorded as a minor. Reuben, only three years older, was the son of Joseph Miles, the hayward who had several roles in the village, listed then as a shoemaker.

    • Uncle James has also recently married, for a second time, to Jemima Warner from nearby Hoghatch in November 1850, his first wife Charlotte having been buried three years previously in December 1847. The family had also moved, from the Aldershot Park estate in 1851 to a tied cottage at Boxall’s Farm, James working as a farm labourer for Mr Richard Allden.

Jane would not have known the exact date when the Bee Hive began. However, she would have heard the stories that there used to be at least three potteries in that immediate locality. That would have provided sufficient reason for its existence.

One of those former potteries at the top of Drury Lane was now used as a laundry by the widow Jane Fedgent. She lived locally with her daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law, Henry Elkins, the baker. The couple had married in 1845 and now had three small children, their household in 1851 also containing Henry’s 14-year-old niece as a house servant.

There was also a shop in the neighbourhood, the house and premises for which was shared with the bakery at which Henry Elkins worked, perhaps converted to that purpose by the former potter William Gosden. It might have been a bakery for more than a century, however. 

A windmill had also once stood at the top of Drury Lane. As far back as 1727, the Crondall Court records note that Stephen Matthews had been given licence to erect a windmill on part of his customary land. He then owned a five acre plot of land which had a house and two closes of arable land, called Woodacre.

Confusingly maps dated around 1816 display “Windmill Clump” in the general vicinity of what is higher up onto the heath, marked in Plot 209 on the map above as “Gravelmill Pond”.  The Woodacre properties on which Matthews had permission to build a windmill, and which eventually passed to William Gosden, are instead the properties shown on that map above as the cottage and garden (Plot 273) connecting two fields, one marked as Plot 278.

Woodacre properties are shown more clearly to be at the top of Drury Lane, latterly called Windmill Lane, as plots 5, 311 and 314, in the extract of the map drawn up for the 1841 Tithe Apportionment Survey.

Map of the vicinity of the Bee Hive Inn and Drury Lane, from the 1841 Tithe Apportionment Survey.

The existence of the windmill would suggest that a bakery might have also been in operation in the previous century.

The shop and bakery at the corner of Drury Lane and the village Street (Plot 267) was now owned and run by George Gosden. He was the son of the late William Gosden who had arrived as a potter from Cove to set up as a farmer and become an active member of the Vestry.

George Gosden had also served as an Overseer in 1848. He had married three years before, in 1845. By 1851, he and his wife Sarah had two young children, aged six and four, their household also supporting a young female house servant.

    • George was named executor and the main beneficiary of his father’s will, with his sister Harriet having right to live rent-free in the ‘House and Garden’, referred to in the 1853 Poor Rate Book as Newlands Cottage – shown as such on the map extract above. She was also bequeathed all of its household goods and provisions, plus a capital sum of £1,250 and £10 per annum for life. Harriett Gosden later married Charles Burt Hewett of Shinfield in November 1855. 

The shop and bakery at the corner of Drury Lane and the village Street (Plot 267) was now owned and run by George Gosden. He was the son of the late William Gosden who had arrived as a potter from Cove to set up as a farmer and become an active member of the Vestry.

George Gosden had also served as an Overseer in 1848. He had married three years before, in 1845. By 1851, he and his wife Sarah had two young children, aged six and four, their household also supporting a young female house servant.

    • George was named executor and the main beneficiary of his father’s will, with his sister Harriet having right to live rent-free in the ‘House and Garden’, referred to in the 1853 Poor Rate Book as Newlands Cottage – shown as such on the map extract above. She was also bequeathed all of its household goods and provisions, plus a capital sum of £1,250 and £10 per annum for life. Harriett Gosden later married Charles Burt Hewett of Shinfield in November 1855. 

Three of the cottages on Drury Lane (shown in the 1841 map as plot 16) were owned by Mrs Ann Goy. The sister of Robert Hart, she had married George Goy in 1810 but had been widowed in 1833. She also owned the buildings which fronted onto the Street (plots 17, 18 and 19). She lived in one and rented out the other two.

Mention should also me made of the house nearby (plot 21) which also fronted onto the Street, opposite the Manor House estate. According to the Rate Book for July, this had only recently been let by George Baker to Mr Noles, about which not much is known. The former tenant had been Mr James Vidler, a widower with an annuity in his late sixties. His household in 1851 included a widow in her mid-50s as housekeeper and locally born Jane Nichols as female servant aged 17.

    • Ten years before Vidler and the housekeeper were in Hartley Wintney, Mr Vidler listed by the Census as having ‘Independent’ means. James Vidler was baptised at St John the Evangelist, Smith Square, in June 1783. He had married Eliza [Jane] Batchelor in Alton in 1814, widowed twenty years later.

This was a sizeable property, the advertisement in The Times in June 1852 describing the house as “a genteel residence, situate[d] in the pleasant and healthy village of Aldershott, Hants.” It was said to contain “two front parlours, five good bedrooms. kitchen, large pantry, excellent cellar .. a pump of good water, .. other domestic offices and a large productive garden, with thriving fruit trees .. Rent moderate.”

Its location was noted to be close to the two railway stations at Ash, one on the South-Western (which went to London) and the other on the Reading and Reigate line. Also noted was the market town of Farnham, which was where George Baker now lived, in West Street.

    • George Baker and Anne Allden had been married on 7 July 1831 in Saint Giles, Reading, Berkshire, England. George Baker was born in 1809 in Farnham, Surrey; he was baptised on 8 December 1809 at St Andrew’s Church in Farnham which was where his parents William Baker and Elizabeth Crawte were married on 19 July 1791.

The house in Aldershot had been left to George’s wife Ann by her father James Allden in his will in 1835, together with £600 to be given her by her brother Richard Allden who inherited the bulk of their father’s estate.

    • The house was described in James Allden’s will in 1835 as a “Messuage or tenement wherein I now dwell and which was erected on the spot where stood a messuage divided into several tenements since pulled down with the buildings garden and appurtenances belonging.  Which said messuage since pulled down was purchased by my brother John and myself from Michael Rapley and Ann his wife.” It was referred to as Rapley’s in the Poor Law Rate Book of 1841 which recorded George Baker as the owner.

By 1841 it had become the home of George and Ann Baker, their household including not only their locally born servant Elizabeth Barnett, aged 15, but also Henry Elkins who was a young baker by trade. George Baker was listed as a mealman, the occupation now used to describe Daniel Bateman.

Tuesday, 5th July 1853

The name of Cobbett was in again the national news. John Morgan Cobbett, the second son of William Cobbett had, like his father, become the MP for Oldham. John Cobbett had introduced a Bill which proposed to limit the hours of labour in factories of women, young persons, and children to ten in the day for the first five days of the week, and seven and a half hours on-Saturday. This would have had the effect of restoring the Ten Hours Act of 1847. 

    • The Bill was seconded by Fielden, the other MP for Oldham and a long-time admirer of William Cobbett. It was Fielden who had secured the nomination for both William and then his son John Cobbett to enter Parliament.

Speaking as Home Secretary, Viscount Palmerston distanced himself and the Government from the proposal put forward by John Morgan Cobbett. 

    • Palmerston: “It was a matter of considerable delicacy to interfere by legislation with the employment of those who, being of age to determine for themselves, were to be considered as free agents, and therefore ought to be at liberty to work as long or as little as they should think fit to do.”
    • Palmerston: “did not mean to oppose the bringing in of the Bill .. but at the same time he did not pledge himself as to the course which he might feel it his duty to take on the second reading of the Bill.” As Home Secretary he would be proposing that “children should not be employed earlier than six o’clock in the morning, nor later than six in the evening.”

There was no such legal restriction on the hours of labour for agricultural workers, of any age.

Thursday, 7th July 1853

The Inquiry Meeting into the enclosure of Aldershot Common was held on this day. Such meetings were convened by an Assistant Commissioner. The general practice was that they should be held at some convenient place within the parish. The Red Lion Inn seems the most likely venue, as auctions and other public events had been hosted there in the past.

The Inclosure Acts set down a strict procedure to be followed. That included the requirement that applications for enclosure could be made by person or persons representing one-third in value of the land proposed for enclosure.

The task for the Assistant Commissioner was to assess the basis of the application. If he was satisfied, he would then prepare a report which would form the basis of a Provisional Order. That had to command the support of ratepayers whose property represented two thirds of the total value.

The Aldershot Commoners

According to the Rate Book for April 1853, the total Rateable Value (RV) for the parish was £2,233. The Inclosure Commissioners would base their calculations for ‘Common-rights over the Aldershot Waste’ upon a total of £1964 for the owners of rateable property.

    • The difference of £269 might approximate to the rateable value assigned to the property of the Tithe Proprietors (RV £274).

There were 87 private owners of rateable properties in the village, with a total Rateable Value of £1,806. There were also ‘corporate owners’: the Managers of the District School (RV £85), the Basingstoke Canal Co. (£39) and the Parish itself (with property valued at RV £20, of which £13 – 10s. was for the extra-parochial lands at Brixbury). 

Despite the distribution in the value of property being highly skewed, no one single ratepayer in Aldershot owned sufficient to have made the application by themselves. That required at least one-third of total value, that is, about £654. 

Rateable Value by Private Owner, April 1853

Even Charles Barron Esq., the owner of the compact Aldershot Park estate and having the highest Rateable Value (£243), could not have acted alone. Nor could the absentee landowner Samuel Eggar (RV £148).

    • Until this moment, the reader may, as was the case for this author, have been led to believe that possession of the Aldershot Manor Halimote by the Eggar family conferred rights which gave them a controlling form of ownership of the heathland. This appears not to be so. (More research is needed to determine the rights and powers invested in the possession of the Manor Halimote for Aldershot.)

The six largest holdings, those above 100 acres, however, accounted for just over half (£951) of the total in private ownership. It would not have taken much cooperative action to reach the application qualification of c£654.

Unsurprisingly, there was very significant overlap between land ownership and the officers of the Vestry. Charles Barron and George Newcome were the Churchwardens, Richard Allden and James Elstone were the Guardians, Allden also appointed Surveyor of Highways and Elstone one of the two Overseers elected at the Vestry for the coming year. Thomas Smith, of Rock Farm at West End, had held office in the past, as one of the Overseers; before he had served as the paid Assistant Overseer until that post was taken instead by Reuben Attfield, the latter having sold much of his land.

Neither Mrs Tice, the widow of William Tice, nor her son, Henry, who was based in Puttenham, were members of the Vestry. However, Richard Allden was Mrs Tice’s nephew and so cousin to Henry.

There had not been a member of the Eggar family on the Vestry since Samuel’s nephew John Eggar was recorded as having attended in March 1850. The Eggar holdings were now let to the tenant farmer, Henry Twynam. Twynam had recently been appointed as Surveyor of the Highway on the Vestry; although not himself an owner of property, he might have been asked to represent Samuel Eggar.

There were also several non-resident owners of significant holdings and therefore votes as ‘Commoners’, such as Messrs Andrews, Eggar, Hall, Houlden and Tice and Mmes Benham, Leghorn, Osborne and Shipley.

For some in the village, the prospect of transforming Aldershot Common into productive agriculture would be judged positively, both additional land holdings for the leading members of the parish and improved job opportunities for their workers. The owners of the larger holdings had most to gain financially from enclosure of ‘the waste’. Once enclosed, there was the potential to bring the land into cultivation, as arable or for use as grazing.

In total, about 35 (one in five) of the 162 rate-paying households resident in the village were owner-occupiers, many with smallholdings. Commoners with smallholdings, had to offset that against the loss of their customary rights of turbary and forage, for fuel and the like.

The remaining 127 households in the village were in rented or tied accommodation were, with one or two exceptions, not Commoners.  These were the majority of agricultural labourers. They might have made various use of the heathland of Aldershot Common, even without any legal right of forage.

Tuesday, 12th July 1853

The Great Lamb Fair at Alton was organised by the North-East Hants Agricultural Association. James Elstone was an active member of the Association, with expertise in cattle and sheep.

The prices fetched were good, some 4. to 5 shillings per head above those achieved at the previous year’s Fair. From the farmer’s viewpoint, the weather at Alton had also improved, the Morning Advertiser later declaring it to be most favourable.

Saturday, 16th July 1853

The Assistant Commissioner was prompt in lodging his Report for the enclosure of Aldershot Common, only nine days after the Inquiry Meeting. It would make positive recommendations.

Monday, 18th July 1853

Two days later, the Inclosure Commissioners issued the Provisional Order for the enclosure of those 2,715. One of the signatories was William Blamire, a former Whig politician and Chief Tithe Commissioner who had become very influential.

The Provisional Order included three special allotments and needed the consent of the Aldershot Commoners. The Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral at Winchester were to receive 1/15th of the total value of the Common. This was in recognition of their residual rights as the Lord of the Manor, “inclusive of mines, etc”. Next, the four acres of the village green, referred to as “Paines Green”, was to be set aside. Lastly, there was provision for ten acres for the “labouring poor” and a further fifteen acres “as endowment for [a] national school.”

Thursday, 20th July 1853

The weather did not stop the Vestry from meeting at St Michael’s Church. The main business was agreement to make a rate for the relief of the poor at 7 ½d in the pound. Recorded in the minute book, this was signed off by Rueben Attfield, Assistant Overseer.

Two matters of significance were almost certainly discussed. The first would have been the terms of the Provisional Order for the enclosure of Aldershot Common. The other would have been the actions of the District Auditor. Following his examination of the Overseers’ Book for the previous year, ending March 1853, the Auditor Thomas Hoskins had instructed certain deductions, under his signature on June 7th.

The audited Overseers’ Book had recorded a small negative balance for the half-year ending 25 March 1853. The deficit was £5 – 19s – 6 ¼d in a total spend of £230 – 15s – 8d. Although this was less than three per cent variation, all would have been mindful of Charles Dickens’s book David Copperfield. Serialised in monthly instalments from May 1849 to November 1850, the feckless character Mr Micawber declares,

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.

The DistrictAuditor Thomas Hoskins had disallowed three items:

    • £3 – 3s. paid to Mr Keen for surveying the property [presumably that of the Union School] as the order had not previously been sanctioned by the Guardians of the Farnham Union
    • £1 – 1s. as part of what was paid to William Hollest [solicitor in West Street, Farnham] for drawing up a special bond for Assistant Overseer and Surveyor [R. Attfield]
    • 17s. paid to Henry Elkins; his bill as Constable included some charges which were illegal and had not received sanction by the signature of the parties.

The disallowed total of £5 – 1s. was legally due to be repaid by the Overseers, William Faggetter and Francis Deakins. Whether it was paid by other members of the Vestry on their behalf is not known.

Curiously, what was likely the most relevant page in the Vestry minute book had apparently been removed.


Also, on that day there were reports from the House of Commons of a bill which would make vaccination against small-pox compulsory. Small-pox was a very real and continuing threat in country and town. Mortality in England, where vaccination remained voluntary, remained greater in England than in any other country in Europe and affected all classes.

Lord Palmerston felt obliged to accept that “the classes most in need of this protection were the poorest and most ignorant”. Despite objections from others preferring voluntary vaccination and education to overcome prejudice, the Vaccination Extension Bill received its second reading.

Friday, 21st July 1853

One lesson Viscount Hardinge had taken from the Camp at Chobham was the need for a camp of exercise which could operate all year round. Also, he did not wish repeatedly to hire land, to, as he had to do at Chobham, and to approach Parliament for ad hoc grants. This he had made known in correspondence in mid-June to his close confident Lord Seaton. No doubt this has also been shared with Prince Albert and Viscount Hardinge had been obliged to report frequently to the Palace.

Hardinge would have been pleased to receive the letter which Prince Albert wrote on this day to offer to the Commander-in-Chief his support. [Strachan]

Neither Viscount Hardinge nor Prince Albert were aware of the machinery in other parts of government; the formal procedure for the proposal to enclose Aldershot Common was now well underway.

Sunday, 23rd July 1853

The Commoners of Aldershot lost no time in lodging their consent to the terms of the Provisional Order. This required a two-thirds majority, in terms of Rateable Value property. As indicated, according to the Rate Book for April 1853, the total Rateable Value (RV) for the parish as a whole was £2,232.

For a two-thirds majority, a combined rateable value of over £1,300 was required. Although the five families possessing the largest holdings, that is, above 100 acres, accounted for just over half (£951) of the total Rateable Value (£1,806) in private ownership, as many as twenty ‘commoners’ would have had to agree.  

Nothing could happen, however, until Parliament gave its approval. The last part of that process was the inclusion in a consolidated Report put to Parliament to secure an Authorising Act. Nobody knew when that would be.

Saturday, 30th July 1853

A week later, Commander-in-Chief Viscount Hardinge was still none the wiser of developments at Aldershot. He had traveled to Chertsey Camp in order to arrive by 11 o’clock for the Grand Field Day at Chobham Common.

Lord Cardigan, the Bishops of Litchfield and Oxford, the Speaker of the House of Commons and three Generals were already assembled, joined by thousands of spectators. As many as 3,500 had been passengers to Chertsey in special trains laid on by the South-Western Railway. As many more had arrived by way of Windsor using trains from the Great-Western Railway.

General Lord Seaton had ordered out the whole army to receive the Commander-in-Chief with military honours. Described by the press as the “noble and gallant veteran”, Viscount Hardinge rode along the line, accompanied by his daughter.

Story continues in August