A lifestyle blog to journal my pootlings, musings, thoughts and whereabouts
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
An everyday story of countryfolk..
I've been dipping into my family history over the last few days and thought I'd share a trip I made with my sister to capture what life was like for our great grandfather Francis Wells.
Francis was born in 1852 and brought up at Cucumber Farm in Singleton, Sussex where his father and grandfathers before him all worked as agricultural labourers. Breaking with tradition, Francis went to work for a local family the Burns-Hartopps where he became their Coachman in nearby Pennerley Lodge at Boldre. He married Hester in 1887 and they moved with the Burns-Hartopps to Little Dalby Hall in Leicestershire where he continued as their Coachman. Dalby Parva is hamlet four miles south of Melton Mowbray and the Hall stood in a densley wooded park of approx. 20 acres.
Francis and Hester c. 1890
My sister and I, with our husbands took a trip up to Somerby for a weekend about 7 years ago in the hope of finding where Francis had lived. We chatted to some locals in the village pub who told us that the family living at the Hall now would probably be more than happy to see us. We took the bull by the horns and drove down their long gravel driveway and nervously knocked on their door. The lady of the house was charming and although she did not take us inside, she gave us a tour of the beautiful grounds and told us a little about the history of the house.
Little Dalby Hall 2005
Little Dalby Hall c.1890
This is the stable block where Francis and his family lived and
where my own dear grandad William was born in 1891
Not far from the stable block were the cellars that ran from beneath the stable area and wound their way undergound for about 3-400 yards to the Hall, where all the household wines would have been kept. Nearby stood the old ice house which was where all the meat and poultry would have been stored. Ice from the frozen lakes in winter would have been collected and packed into the ice house which meant all through the summer months it would remain cold and keep the meat fresh.
Apparently the son of the Burns-Hartopp family was the master of the Quorn Hunt in 1898 which met in nearby Melton Mowbray. People came from far and wide to visit the area in the hunting season. With its close proximity to Melton, the Hall served as a hunting lodge during the season where several members of the Royal family visited often and in later years by Edward and Mrs Simpson.
History has it that the first person to produce Stilton cheese was a Mrs Orton who was housekeeper at the Hall in 1720. She sold her cheese to a publican in the nearby village of Stilton and that's how it got its name. Apparently because of their handy size, Melton Mowbray pork pies and small pieces of stilton were given to the huntsmen to carry with them whilst out hunting.
Visitors staying at the Hall in the mid 1800s would be entertained by the family who would put on plays for their guests - in a room especially built for this purpose at the rear of the house overlooking the beautiful grounds. These plays would have been both written and acted by the family.
I hope you enjoyed this look into the life and times of a Coachman in the late 1800s. More to come shortly...