Monday, 14 April 2014

Monday, 16 December 2013

Felsham a hundred and fifty years ago

Trade directories were published throughout the UK from the 1840s onward listing businesses and trades-people for every city, town and village in the country.  Details about local gentry, landowners, charities and postal facilities were also included.  These directories were, in effect, Victorian versions of today’s Yellow Pages.  An example for Felsham from a hundred and fifty years ago - Harrod’s Directory of Suffolk 1864 - is shown below.
FELSHAM is a parish and village in Thedwastry hundred, West Suffolk, about 7 miles west of Stowmarket, and 8 south-east  from Bury St Edmunds, containing 1,605 acres of land.  Fisk Harrison, Esq., is lord of the manor.  The living is a rectory, and has now a yearly rent charge of £490, in lieu of tithes, awarded in 1841.  The Rev. Thomas Anderson, M.A., is patron and incumbent.  The church is dedicated to St. Peter.  In the interior are tablets to the Turner and Dalton families, a tower with clock, and 6 bells.  There are charities, the proceeds of which are distributed by the rector and churchwardens to the poor of the parish.  There is a National school.  A fair of lambs, etc., is held here on the 16th of August.  The population in 1861 was 394.

POSTAL REGULATIONS. – James Raafe, receiver.  Letters arrive from Woolpit at 9.30 a.m.; dispatched at 5 p.m.; post town, Bury.

CARRIER TO BURY – George Boggis, Wednesday and Saturday.  

Anderson Rev. Thomas, M.A.

COMMERCIAL

Banley James, farmer

Bigsby Jeremiah, baker

Boggis, James wheelwright

Brewer Benjamin, bricklayer

Brewer Henry, builder & wheelwright

Brewer Isaac, carpenter & wheelwright

Chipperfield Alfred, grocer & draper

Deadman James, farmer & landowner, Grange farm

Eaves Henry, shoemaker

Frost James, schoolmaster

Golding William, farmer, Stone farm

Gosling William, farmer

Green John, shoemaker

Howe Frederick, blacksmith

Hubbard Thomas, farmer, Felsham hall

King Thomas, farmer

Kinsey Edward, farmer

Kinsey Jacob, Six Bells inn

Last James, farmer

Moore William, farmer

Oxer John Jarman, shopkeeper

Reynolds Edward, farrier

Scott James, farmer, Brook farm

Smith Thomas, farmer

Watkinson William, farmer

The entry for Felsham begins with a brief description of the parish and includes topographical, historical and institutional information, followed by information about postal and carrier facilities, and then a longer list of all the farmers, tradesmen and craftsmen to be found in the village.  The directory provided information for all those in commerce who needed to send goods and circulars out to persons of particular occupation and standing.  For example, an ironmonger in Bury might need to know how to get, say, half a dozen new oil lamps to one of the Felsham shopkeepers.  For this purpose he would use the carrier’s cart belonging to Mr Boggis, and the directory told him which days this ran, in Felsham’s case, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  On sending out his bills, the ironmonger could use the directory to check the correct postal address, etc.  Conversely, anybody in the country could search the directory, just as we browse the Yellow Pages, to find ‘the right man for the job’.  For example, people needing building work done would note that Felsham had Benjamin and Henry Brewer with the experience to complete the job.

As a resource for the local historian trade directories provide valuable information about the economically “significant” people in the village who provided various services, employment, schooling and charity to the majority.  The twenty eight people listed constitute less than eight per cent of the total population of Felsham but they would have formed a “local establishment” or social elite that everyone knew.  The predominance of farmers and craftsmen such as wheelwrights emphasises the fact the village revolved around agriculture in a way that is unfamiliar today when only a small number of people are employed on the land.

How accurate were the directories?  Cross-referencing with other historical sources such as Census Returns indicates that they are generally accurate, but in the example given here for 1864, a number of spelling errors could create confusion.  For example, “Banley, James, farmer” must refer to Mr Bauley, farmer.  Similarly but less easily explained, “Deadman, James, farmer & landowner”, must refer to Mr Debenham who was living at Grange Farm at this time. 

 
Finally, a little snippet of local history is provided by the description of the church tower with it 6 bells and clock.  Information about the Felsham church clock is scarce but a pre-1900 photograph clearly shows a clock roundel just below the belfry’s louvered window opening.  Strangely, the clock face appears “blind” – there is no sign of numbers or hands.  Perhaps the clock had ceased functioning by the time the photograph was taken.  However, we do know that the clock was functioning fully in 1815 because church accounts refer to money being paid for "winding up the church clock."

Bibliography: Mills, D.R., Rural Community History from Trade Directories, (Local Population Studies, 2001)
 



Additional research:


1.  How many farmers were tenant farmers?


The Directory of 1864 mentions that James Deadman (Debenham) of Grange farm was a “farmer and landowner”.  None of the other farmers listed are given a similar label which suggests that Mr Debenham was the only farmer who was an owner-occupier.  A Sale Notice for 1858 in the Bury & Norwich Post indicates that James Debenham probably bought the farm in this year.  With a farm of 218 acres this farmer was a substantial land owner in Felsham. 

The Census Returns for 1861 shows his household thus:



James

Debenham

Head

60

Farmer of 218 acres employing 8 labourers and 2 Boys

Ixworth Thorpe

Suffolk

Sophia

Debenham

Wife

59

Farmer's wife

Glemham

Suffolk

George

Debenham

Son

26

Farmer's son

Hilborough

Norfolk

Kate

Debenham

Daughter-in-law

24

 

Eastmore

Norfolk

Alice Kate

Debenham

Granddaughter

5

 

Heacham

Norfolk

Arthur James

Debenham

Grandson

1

 

Ventnor

Isle of Wight

Mary Ann

Thitmore

Servant

20

Dairymaid

Ellingham

Norfolk

Caroline

Cuthbert

Servant

22

House Servant

Gedding

Suffolk

Sophia

Gladwell

Servant

16

Nursemaid

Felsham

Suffolk

“In the late 19th century only about a seventh of the land was in the hands of owner-occupiers…  It rarely paid farmers to put spare resources into buying land when the money could be used more profitably in extending the scale of their operations or buying new equipment.  The purchase of one’s farm represented a saving in rent of only three or four per cent of the capital required, while farming.. could be reckoned to produce a good 10 per cent or more.  The consequence was that most farmers were content to be tenants, seeing their capital produce a good return, and feeling perfectly secure under a good landlord.”

GE Mingay: Rural life in Victorian England, (Allan Sutton Publishing, 1990) p50

It is probable that all the other farmers were tenants paying an annual rent for their farm.  For example, Thomas Hubbard, the farmer at Felsham Hall was paying a rental of £237 16s 6d in 1856 for his 151 acre farm, two-thirds of which was down to arable.  The farm was sold in 1860 while Mr Hubbard was the sitting tenant with eight years of his twelve year lease still to run.
 
The Census Returns for 1861 shows his household thus:
 
Thomas
Hubbard
Head
33
Farmer of 151 acres employing 4 labourers and 1 Boy
Finningham
Suffolk
Lavinia
Hubbard
Wife
30
Farmers wife
Ixworth
Suffolk
John C
Hubbard
Son
8
Scholar at home
Elmswell
Suffolk
Laura
Hubbard
Daughter
6
Scholar at home
Tostock
Suffolk
Thomas
Hubbard
Son
4
Scholar at home
Felsham
Suffolk
Jane
Hubbard
Daughter
2
 
Felsham
Suffolk
William
Hubbard
Son
1
 
Felsham
Suffolk
Louisa
Chilvers
Teacher
21
 
Tottington
Norfolk
Eunice
Death
Servant
26
Dairy Maid
Hitcham
Suffolk
Emily Jane
Garrod
Servant
12
Servant
Felsham
Suffolk
 
He was not listed in the Census Returns for 1871 so presumably he had left the village on the termination of his lease to farm elsewhere.

Despite the fact that Thomas Hubbard was a tenant farmer he was still a man of some wealth and local standing.  His children did not attend the local National School but were educated at home by a governess as shown in the Census Return above.
Further research: the security of tenant farmers

2.  How big were the Felsham farms?
It would appear that only the four largest farms are mentioned by name in the Harrod’s Directory for 1864: Grange Farm, Stone Farm, Felsham Hall Farm and Brook Hall Farm.  These are all farms of over 150 acres in size.  The Census Returns for 1861 and 1871 reveal the names and sizes of the smaller farms:


Deadman James, farmer & landowner, Grange farm

Debenham.  Farmer of 218 acres employing 8 labourers and 2 Boys

Golding William, farmer, Stone farm [Slough Farm]

Farmer of 164 acres employing 7 Labourers and 4 Boys

 

Gosling William, farmer

Valley Farm.  Farmer of 57 acres employing 2 Labourers and 2 Boys

Hubbard Thomas, farmer, Felsham hall

Farmer of 151 acres employing 4 labourers and 1 Boy

 

King Thomas, farmer

James King? Near Michery House [The Links] and the Grange?

Kinsey Edward, farmer

1861 The Green, Edmund Kinsey aged 43, Farmer of 140 acres employing 5 Labourers and 2 Boys? 1871 Edward Kinsey aged 52,  farmer of Mausoleum House. [Same person? – both born in Stowupland.)

Last James, farmer

Tailor and shoemaker of 17 acres employing 1 labourer and boy.  In 1871 described as ‘Farmer and Master Tailor’.

Moore William, farmer

Rookery Farm [Moore’s Farm] Farmer of 100 acres employing 3 Labourers and 2 Boys.  Also publican at Six Bells in 1871

Scott James, farmer, Brook farm

Farmer of 170 acres employing 6 Labourers and 3 Boys

Smith Thomas, farmer

Farmer of 34 acres employing 1 Labourer and 1 Boy (Hill Farm?)

Watkinson William, farmer

Daver’s Farm [Capel Farm]. Farmer of 124 acres employing 4 Labourers and 2 Boys

It is noteworthy that the smaller farmers sometimes combined their farming with other occupations.  William Moore with a farm of 100 acres was also the publican at the Six Bells Inn.  While, James Last managed to combine working his small-holding of 17 acres with his professions of shoemaker and tailor.

Further research: Felsham villagers with two or more occupations?