-  Updated on Friday 3rd December 2021 12:15pm

The Smith family

To start my story, or history, of Beckford I must confess that I have gleaned a lot of it from old paper cuttings and diaries which I have found upon the death of our dear Aunt Millicent Smith whose father started business in the village in 1852. The business was started in a little thatched barn on 'the way to the Church of St. John the Baptist; it was formerly called the Red Lion Inn and was quite an important place. James Smith started up as a Farrier and Grocer; he rented the cottage from Dr. John Timbrill who was Vicar of this parish from 1852.

Before setting up business James Smith had served his time as an assistant at the firm of Messrs. Camp and Partridge, Tallow Chandlers of Cheltenham. In 1856 he took for his life's partner Elizabeth Fox, daughter of John Fox, Boot maker of Newsington Causeway, London, the said John Fox having previously served in the Battle of Waterloo.

In the year 1859 James left the little thatched shop and crossed the road to start business in larger premises, and this shop was called Smith's Supplies; the shop stayed in the family until 1926.

It should be mentioned that the Rev. Timbrill was Vicar of this parish for 68 years, he died on January 7th 1865 aged 96.

The Smith family can be traced back in Beckford Parish registers to the year 1649. Jonathan Smyth was christened March 31 1649 and his father John was buried on 22nd February 1663. His widow survived him 36 years so she must have been a good age. Jonathan's son William was baptized 1676 and William's son, John, a blacksmith who died in 1780 aged 80 years. These two generations appear to have been butchers.

William Smith attended a school at a very early age and he went to a thatched cottage that was called a Dame School kept by a Mrs. James. This was in the Rabbit Lane, formerly called Pig Lane until the rabbits got so numerous. In the year 1863 the Church of England school was opened and William Smith was one of the first scholars. The headmistress was a Miss Annie Stump and the official opening did not take place until 1864 on July 12th when a fete was held in the Towers orchard. The programme which says it was started off with a Public Dinner in the Assembly room at 1 o'clock with Mr. Surman in the chair. At 2 o'clock a Grand Fete Champetrel will take place to give effect to which engagements have been made with the following talented artists: Signor Edorvrilso, the Extraordinary Gymnast who will have the honour of appearing for the first time here in his elegant and unique Al Fresco Entertainment, Mr. C. Hoskins, the Primo Buffo, par excellence from Days Crystal Palace, Birmingham who will introduce the following comic effusions:

  • The Man in the Moon
  • The Happy Man
  • Do the Best you can
  • Analization
  • All the world's a watchmakers shop
  • The Song of Songs

And a fresh-as-paint, never to be forgotten grape vine oil and rattle snake twist, the popular-and ever pleasing Negro Minstrels will lend their valuable assistance on this occasion; a Lilliputian Bazaar and Wheel of Fortune under the superintendence of Ladies for the Benefit of School Funds; four original Aunt Sallies will be placed on the lawn under the management of Mons Jack and the more they are knocked about the better they will be pleased; dancing under the direction of an experienced M.C. throughout the afternoon. A military and quadrille band will attend. The Theatre Royal will be opened in aid of school funds at 7 o'clock for positively the last time (as the building is to be taken down immediately) when will be presented the Laughable Comedietta entitled THE YOUNG WIDOW. The whole entertainment will conclude with Buckstone's admirable farce called ‘A DEAD SHOT’. Refreshments on the ground at a moderate price. Tickets for the Dinner 2s. 6d. - for the Fete Champetre 1s. Od. - for the Theatre orchestra stalls 3s. 0d - and for reserved seats, 2s 0d. Pits is half price at a quarter to 9 letters per post attended to immediately. Carriages ordered at 10 o'clock.

During this same year, on May 23rd to be exact, Beckford suffered a most destructive fire. It was discovered at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, black smoke was issuing from the back of a large shed adjoining the railway, the Tewkesbury to Evesham line. The alarm was raised and messengers sent to Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and Evesham for the town engines. The Tewkesbury engine under Sgt. Herbert was the first to arrive, and was soon got into play, but owing to the great distance they had to bring the water the force was not as good as it should have been. The wind was high and the fire quickly spread to the rickyard. A frightful conflagration took place, there being one rick of hay, one of straw, one of peas and one of beans all burning at the same time and every effort was required to prevent the adjoining houses and buildings catching fire. Burning thatch was being blown in all directions and the first to suffer was Mr. Hemming whose premises adjoined the rickyard. The burning debris was conveyed to his house and the engines at once commenced playing on them but the wind and flames were too much and all that remained was the chimney stack, the fire then extended to Smiths Stores and to the police station where considerable damage was done, the stable and outhouses being entirely destroyed.

In a large pig sty adjoining Smiths Stores there were ten swine and the flames reached it before the pigs could be rescued. They were in the middle of a furious fire and the squealing was dreadful to hear. The scene which followed was incredible and I would hesitate to tell the story if it were not for an eye witness whose statement you could depend on.

Looking at the scene were a number of navies employed by the Evesham and Malvern Railway and as soon as it was possible to approach the pig sty several of the men made a rush and seized the pigs, which of course were all killed, and in fact nearly cooked. They commenced butchering them and with the greatest nonchalance began to eat before the very eyes of the owner and in one case we are assured one of the fellows finding that the meat not sufficiently cooked, held it on a fork to the burning embers.

The scene in the village beggared all description. The flames were flying in all directions and there was panic everywhere, each householder expecting his premises to suffer next and the cottagers were making arrangements to move their little all to a place of safety. The fire continued to rage until Wednesday morning. The origin of the fire was a mystery, it being suggested that it was caused by a spark from the engine working on the line.

There had been several complaints about the way the Tewkesbury fire engine was worked on this occasion, "most of the men, instead of being at there proper work being "here there and everywhere". Sgt. Herbert was always at his post and did his work most efficiently; but it is an utter impossibility that the chief can be expected to satisfactorily work an engine unless he has the proper class of men to back him."

It was decided that the present brigade was totally inefficient and at the next meeting of the Council they should decide what to do about it.

The Beckford fire brigade consisted of a cart drawn by two horses. The water was somehow put into the middle and the men pumped it out by standing on either side and working a kind of bellows. On February 8th 1870 when they were called to a fire at 2 a.m. at the Mill, Overbury, then occupied by a Mr. Pynchin, eleven men answered the call: (the other three were unable) Mr. George Jones, Chas Foort Sen., Chas Foort Jnr., Herbert Saunders, Henry Saunders, Chas. Ancill, Nathan Burge, Jos. Burge, Wm. White, W. Wall. Those who were unable, as the report states, were R. Timbrell, Esq., Captain James Smith (ill with rheumatism), Joseph Clarke (did not hear the bell).

In the meantime William had left the village school and walked some 3½ miles daily to a school at Kemerton. This was a private school run by a Mr. Rivers. In 1870 he went to a school in Bridgenorth kept by a Mr. Witheringstone in St. Mary's Street. He left here the following year and was apprenticed to his uncle, Mr. Richard Smith, Chemist and Druggist at 63 High Street, Bridgenorth. He stayed there for four years but in December 1874 his uncle died and he stayed on for two years as an assistant, after which he came home to assist in The Stores. Having done his apprenticeship in medicine he was able to dispense almost anything and the villagers would often consult him in preference to seeing a doctor.

On Monday 6th April Beckford and Bredon Hill Hunt Races were held, the stewards being the Right Hon. Earl of Coventry, Capt. Folland, A.H. Hudson, N.N. Dyer and Mr. T. Huband, Starter, Capt. Folland Judge, G. Baldwin, Esq. Clerk of the course, Mr. T. Timmins Clerk of the Scales, Mr. F. Pratt.

The weather was beautifully fine and the capital programme of sport coupled together with the locality selected for the gathering -the summit of Bredon Hill -drew a very large and fashionable company. The visitors were well repaid for their journey by the magnificent views which they obtained from the hill, extending as they did over a wide range of the country and by enjoying the clear and bracing atmosphere for which Bredon is noted.

The programme was not the usual conventional character, but contained at least one striking novelty in the shape of a stonewall steeplechase which excited great interest and was the means of displaying some clever and daring gentleman riding.

Considerable diversion was caused by the vagaries of a mad-brained German who had imbibed too freely. Boasting of his qualifications as a rider, he was taken in hand by a number of bookmakers, who persuaded him he should have a chance of displaying his great abilities in a race. They equipped him in full jockey dress after pretending to weigh him out, mounted him on a grey mare and started him off. He looked terribly in earnest, unconscious of his grotesque appearance.

Although he had hardly ever been in the saddle before, he galloped along the course at a wall regardless of his neck, but the horse having more prudence than its rider, declined to leap the obstruction. He galloped backwards and forwards along the course to the annoyance of the clerk who made an ineffectual attempt to stop his Quixotic career. At length, thinking he had carried off the race, he entered the enclosure with evident pride, and was "weighed in" as the winner. He again mounted his horse for another race, as he imagined, and disregarding all orders to dismount whilst his neck was unbroken galloped madly through the crowd at a wall; but this time he was not as lucky as before, for the horse stopped suddenly and pitched him right over the wall into a pond on the other side. Fortunately he was not injured but this cured his ardour.

When one sits down and thinks about it, it must have been quite an arduous task to get to the top of Bredon Hill in those days. They would either have had to go by coach or walk.

What a sight the races must have been. The programme consisted of a Maiden Plate of 19 guineas for bona fide hunters, the property of persons residing within the limits of the Earl of Coventry's Cotswold or North Cotswold Hunts and that had never won a flat race, hurdle race, or steeplechase to the value of 20 sovereigns. Four year old 11st 7lb, five -12st 3lb, six and aged -12st 7lb to be ridden by persons who have never ridden for hire; entrance £1.10s for the fund. Two miles on the flat.

Also there was a Stone Wall Hunters Steeplechase for a silver cup, not to exceed 19 sovereigns value. This was for half bred hunters that had been hunted with the Earl of Coventry's Worcestershire, Cotswold, or North Cotswold Hounds, and have never won a flat race, hurdle or steeplechase value 20 sovereigns. 12st each, to be ridden in ordinary hunting dress by persons who have never ridden for hire. Entrance fee was £1. 10s. 0d Three miles over fair stone walls and gorsed hurdles.

Another race was the Beckford stakes -an open scurry of £19 each with £10 added, any surplus over £19 to the 2nd horse. Catch weights not less than 11 stone. Two miles on the flat.

During this period a body of enterprising men took over a building in the station yard and decided to make gas to supply the village. This was the only time Beckford had gas; at the present time the village is all-electric even though the natural gas pipes are across the road only a mile or so away.

This business was called the Gas and Coal Company and they were registered with a capital of £600 in £5 shares, the subscribers being the Rev. G. Harrison, Clerk in Holy Orders 6 shares, Charles Foot, Beckford, Farmer 5 shares: James Smith, Grocer 5 shares: A.W. Nind, retired gent. 4 shares: W.T. Nibless, station master 2 shares. The company was registered without articles under Table A of the companies Act 1862 in accordance with which the subscribers appoint the first directors and are to act ad interim. The gas works were erected by Mr. Henry Skoines, gas engineer of Kings Cross. Although a lot of work went into it, after a few years it folded up. People got sick and tired of the breakdowns and it eventually went out of business. Gas pipes are still to be found in the older houses and we have in fact some still in ours.

A reading room was opened in Mrs. Smith's house and this was a huge success. It was used a couple of nights a week and was also a library; people lent daily papers for those who did not have one.

The shop was progressing well during all these affairs. The mail came on the train each morning, someone met it with a truck and collected the letter which were brought to the shop and delivered by the postman on a bicycle. In the evening, to catch the 7 o'clock train, someone pushed the truck back with the letters that had been posted that day. These went to the sorting office at Tewkesbury.

Bread was baked and delivered by horse and cart and sausages were also made. Smiths were quite famous for these and some were sent to London. Two pigs were killed each week. If they did not have sufficient to kill in their own sty at the back of the shop, then they went to the market down by the station and bought two. The market was held once a week and people drove their cattle to it from miles around. We are now reaching the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee on 21st June 1887. At a public meeting held in the schoolroom on Thursday, May 19th 1887 Mr. Hollin's in the chair, the following donations were promised in the room…


Capt. Case Walker £10. 0. 0
S. Hollins, Esq £5. 0. 0
F. Summer, Esq £10. 0. 0
Mr. Dudley £3. 3. 0
Mr. Slade £3. 3. 0
Mr. Crump £3. 0. 0
Mr. Nind £3. 0. 0
Mr. Campbell £2. 0. 0
Mr. Burge £1. 0. 0
Mr. Cross £1. 0. 0
Mr. Barton £1. 0. 0
Mr. Howe £1. 0. 0
Mr. G. Walker £1. 0. 0
Mr. W. Smith 10. 0
Mr. Arkell 5. 0

Total £45. 1. 0


S. Hollins, Esq. £5. 0 .0
Mr. Dudley £1.17. 0
Mr. Slade £1.17. 0


The following committee was appointed to ascertain the number and ages under 15 of inhabitants in each house in the parish, and to collect subscriptions for what may be decided upon in respect of the Queen's Jubilee Celebration at a future meeting:

Mr. Dudley, Mr. Slade, Mr. Crump, Mr. Howe, Mr. Nind.

It was decided that the next meeting should be in the schoolroom on Monday evening, May 23rd at 7 o'clock. Only subscribers to the fund to be present. At this meeting the following had been worked out:

  No. of houses in parish Inmates over 15 yrs Inmates under 15
Hall and estate 7 27 27
Beckford village 35 113 33
Little Beckford 16 41 26
Bangrove 5 17 5
Didcot & Evesham Road 14 42 26
Grafton 25 77 27

Totals 102 317 143

Total population : 460

The following subscriptions were promised in addition to those promised in the room at the last meeting:

Hall and Estate £l. 1. 0
Beckford Village £3. 9. 0
Little Beckford £1. 0. 6
Didcot £1. 3. 6
Grafton £2. 3. 0

Total: £8.17. 0

In addition, two donations of £1 0s 0d from Dawson Thomas, Esq. and Mr. Thomas Collins. It was proposed by Mr. Howe and seconded by Mr. Summer that a dinner should be given to all the inhabitants of the village above the age of 15 years and a tea to all under 15 years with sports to be held in the evening on Tuesday 21st of June. The balance of the fund, if any, was to be applied for the establishment of a Working Men's Club or reading room, or some other permanent memorial in the village. This was carried unanimously.

Mr. John Crump and Mr. John Walker were then authorised to purchase three rounds of beef and ham, then put them into pickle and the next meeting of the committee was fixed to be held in the schoolroom on Friday the 27th at 7 o'clock.

At this meeting Mr. Slade took the chair and the Treasurer reported having received the following further donations: Mr. Black £1. 0. 0., Mr. Hone £l. 0. 0., Dr. Prance 10s. 0., Mr. Woodward 10s. 0. Mr. Crump and Mr. Walker reported that they had ordered the 3 rounds of beef - one from each of the local butchers, who had all agreed to supply the joints at 8d per lb; and the committee decided the following joints of meat would be required:

3 rounds of salted beef 180 lb
6 roasting joints beef (ribs) 120 lb
3 legs mutton 30 lb
3 fillets veal 30 lb
2 hams 30 lb

Total 390 lb

Mr. Crump and Mr. Walker undertook to order the above, to receive it, arrange for the cooking and delivery to the dinner and everything in connection with the meat. They next decided that plum pudding should be a portion of the dinner -some to be served at the table, hot and some cold and that the following would be required: 120 lb of plum pudding, 100lb of plum cake and 200 lb of bread; Mr. Sam Nind and Mr. Colin Campbell to see to this portion of the feast and to have a sample pudding and cake with the price for each at the next meeting.

The next question was the beer, cider and tobacco, and it was decided that each person above the age of 15 should have one point with their dinner, and the men and others subject to the approval of the committee should have another pint about six o'clock, and a third pint towards the close of the proceedings and all smokers should have 1 ounce of tobacco. It was estimated that this would require 36 gallons of beer, 30 gallons of cider and 100 ounces of tobacco. Mr. Smith, Mr. Burge and Mr. Hall undertook to order it and see to safe storage of it all.

The following ladies were then appointed to take charge of the tea arrangements: Miss Burge, Miss Crump, Mrs. Dudley, Mrs. Summer, Miss Smith and Mrs. G. Walker. They thought that 8 lb of tea would be required to brew about 80 gallons of tea. Milk and sugar were to be ordered in proportion.

Mr. Summer offered the use of a shed in which the dinner could be held, and a field adjoining for the sports, and at the request of the committee he would get a tender for the fixing of tables, seats, etc, and bring to the next meeting of the committee.

It was decided that the first dinner should be at 1 o'clock and that all men, their wives and old people of either sex should sit down to this; it was estimated that the number would be about 140. The next dinner to follow immediately after the first: and to this the young people above the age of 15 to sit down, then all the children and others who had not had dinner to sit down for tea. Good joints of meat and plum pudding to be on the table at all the meals with plum cake in addition at the tea.

At the next meeting on June 3rd Mr. Sam Nind stated that he could get a band of players, a clarinet, cornet, 3 violins and base fiddle from Cheltenham for £6 for the day. He was authorised to offer them £5 and refreshments on the ground that the time for playing being 1.0 p.m. to 10.0 p.m.

The plum pudding at 7d per lb, seed cake at 5d per lb. and plum cake at 4d per lb was submitted at the meeting and it was resolved that Mr. Nind and Mr. Campbell should order the pudding at 7d lb and the plum cake at 4d leaving it in their hands as to whether the pudding should be placed on the tables hot. They were also asked to provide the mustard and salt. The committee promised to take part in the carving with other residents who might volunteer their services, each carver to bring his own knife and fork. Mr. Dudley and Mr. Slade undertook to hire plates and pint cups and mugs and smaller cups for tea allowing about El for same.

The chairman submitted a design for the programme which was accepted and the sum of £2 set aside for it.

It was suggested that a roundabout should be obtained for the amusement of the children at a cost not exceeding £6. The committee were not unanimous on this point owing to the expense and it was left for further consideration.

Mr. Nind thought that the allowance of drink agreed upon was not sufficient so it was agreed to order 30 more gallons of cider. A discussion took place as to the desirability of having a flag, this was unanimously approved -all were in favour of a Union Jack but were afraid the funds might not run to it. The chairman undertook to get prices, sizes, etc. In making the tea 24 gallons of water was used, this was put in the copper and when it boiled the fire was taken out and 8 half pounds of tea tied up in muslin bags was put into the water and allowed to stand for six minutes, then it was ladled out and put into cans into which sugar and milk had been put. It was found this tea was too strong and about 6 more gallons of water was added, this making 30 gallons of tea from 4lb at 2/6d per lb. Two brewings were made making 60 gallons in all to which was added 10 gallons of milk and 36 lb of sugar. It was estimated that 230 people had dinner, 200 had tea, 600 6-o'clock tea, making a total of 830 meals.

The balance at the end of all this was £20 so at a meeting in the school of the subscribers, Capt. Case Walker in the chair, it was decided to apply the above amount to the erection of a suitable memorial on the triangular bit of turf at the cross roads opposite the Cross House. The committee decided to erect a square stone obelisk with the following inscription upon it….

N V.R. Jubilee 1887 Beckford
E Ashton 2 miles
Elmley Castle 5½miles
Pershore 8¾ miles
Dumbleton 3 miles
Broadway 9 miles
Evesham 7¼ miles
Alderton 2½ milestone
Winchcombe 6 miles
Stanway 6¾ miles
S Teddington Hands 1½miles
Bishops Cleeve 6 miles
Cheltenham 9¼ miles
Ashchurch 4 miles
Tewkesbury 6 miles
Gloucester 16½ miles
Upton on Severn 12¾ miles
Malvern 19¾ miles


W Overbury 1¾ miles
Kemerton 2½ miles
Bredon 4 Miles
Tewkesbury 7 miles
Eckington 6 miles
Pershore 10 miles
Upton on Severn 10 miles
Malvern 17 miles
Worcester 18 miles

You will see that they made a slight error - they have Upton on Severn 10 miles on the west side and 12¾ on the south so it gains 2.374 miles on just one move round the edge. Now in 1976 this is often one of the questions asked when people come round on summer evenings on treasure hunts are asked to find where the shortest 2¾ miles is. It is surprising how many people we see trying to fathom this out.

The weather had been fine and warm for weeks leading up to this date so it was decided to have a grand celebration. The flag was to fly from the church tower In all principal towns and a thanksgiving service was held in the church, conducted by the curate-in-charge, after which people wended their way to a building and field kindly lent by Mr. Sumner where a dinner was given to 230 adults, followed by a tea for 180 children, sports were then held in the field where nearly £10 was distributed in prizes. Tea and refreshments were on hand all the afternoon and at 6 o'clock the sports were suspended and another substitute meal was partaken by all present consisting of cold meat, bread and butter, etc. and all who deserved it had tea and others had cider after which sweets and toys were presented to the children.

After tea the sports were resumed and were carried on until 9 o'clock with much spirit. Some of the party then left to witness the bonfires on the neighbouring hills while some remained round the fire in the field.

The band played at intervals all day and through the evening. The only toast all day was proposed by Captain Case Walker after dinner This was to her Majesty the Queen which was heartily responded to by all present. The programme for the day had a picture of the queen on the front and inside:

1:00pm God Save the Queen
  Dinner to all the married men, their wives and old people and young men over 15 years of age.
2:30pm Band
  Tea to all children and those not included in the above
Band - God Save the Queen
3:30pm Sports
6:00pm Refreshments

The programme of sports was as follows:

  • Hurdle Race 200 yards
  • 100 yards, Flat Race
  • 100 yards Flat Race (under 15)
  • Wheelbarrow Race
  • Three Legged Race
  • Donkey Race
  • Pony Race
  • Donkey Race, last in to win
  • Final Heat of Pony Race
  • Obstacle Race
  • Tug of War, married and single men
  • Tug of War, women
  • Pole Jump
  • Race for girls under 12
  • Race for women under 20
  • 6. Race for women aver 20 and under 40
  • Race for women over 40 and under 50
  • Race for women over 50 and over
  • Egg and spoon race for women


There was plenty of meat, pudding and cakes left over and this was distributed to the poor next day. The expenditure was as follows:

Meat:     36½ lb beef  
      31½ lb mutton  
      44 lb veal  
      45 lb gam  
  all at 8d per lb   £15. 4s 4d  
  Cooking   5s 0d  
  Salt and Mustard   2s 0d  
        £15. 11s 4d
152 lb plum pudding     at 7d  
43 loaves of bread     at 5d  
57 lb soda cake     at 5d  
75 lb fruit cake     at 4d  
5 lb butter     at 1/1d  
8 lb tea     at 2/6d  
Muslin bags     1/6  
36 lb sugar     at 3d  
10 gallons milk     at 1/4 £10 4s 9d
63 gallons cider     at 10d  
36 gallons beer     at 1/-  
Ginger beer     at 1/-  
116 oz tobacco     at 3d £5 16s 9d
Waiters       12s 0d
59 doz cups, plates mugs etc.   at 7½d  
Breakages   2/2½d  
Cleaning     2/- £2 0s 5½d
Fixing tables     £5. 13s 6d  
Whitewashing sheds     £1. 1s 1d  
Making trays     2s 6d £6 17s 0d
Sports prizes     £8 4s 6d  
Lbr. preparing ground     £1 6s 6d  
Sundries     3s 2d £9 14s 2d
Band     £4 0s 0d  
Programmes     £1 4s 6d  
labels     3s 6d  
2 doz. flags     11s 0d  
Sweets and toys     £1 11s 7d  
Postage     2s 1½d  
Bonfire on Bredon Hill     £1 0s 0d £8 12s 8½d

  TOTAL EXPENSES     £59 9s 2d


    £10 7s 10d

        £69 17s 0d

During this time the school was progressing well and catered for children as far away as Bengrove. They walked over the fields where they could in their pinnies and very often they brought only bread and cheese or dripping for midday.

It was decided to give a concert in the schoolroom in aid of the Hand Bell Society for the purchase of additional hand bells. There was a lengthy programme creditably carried out before a very appreciative audience. The choir and friends sang ‘Sweet and Low’ and ‘Happy To Be Thy Dreams’ and were warmly applauded. Captain and Mrs. Case Walker played a duet piano and violin. There were various other turns and to end the hand bell ringers performed ‘March of the Men of Harlech’, ‘Selection of Caledonian Airs’, ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’ and other tunes. The evening was most successful and the ringers thanked everyone most heartily.

Medals were given to some 80 schoolchildren who attended school and 100 children under the age of 15 by Messrs. Smith Bros.

The committee for the arrangements was as follows:

  • Captain Case Walker
  • Mr. G. Crump
  • Captain Freeman
  • Rev. G. Gough
  • Mr. W. Hall
  • Mr. F.H. Martin
  • Mr. S.H. Richardson
  • Mr. F. Slade
  • Mr. G.G. Smith

The following year, 1897, it was decided to go all out to get money for the church which was falling into a bad state, so a sale of work was arranged to be held in The Towers Arcade by kind permission of Mr. Dawson-Thomas. The weather was fine and there was a large attendance from surrounding villages.

The stallholders were congratulated upon the energy they had displayed and in providing, and also their taste in arranging the numerous articles on the heavily laden stalls. The object of the sale as everyone knew was to raise money for the church. It was a church of great antiquity, and no one could look at those beautiful Norman arches without being carried back in thought to the time when so much was done in the country for the glory of God in building some of their stately cathedrals, abbeys and parish churches of which Englishmen and countrymen were justly proud.

Little could be done except a few improvements such as cleaning the walls, renovating the heating apparatus and some of the pews which were in a bad plight. To renovate the whole church and restore it to its original beauty would necessitate a sum of not less than £3,000, which would compel them to enlist the sympathy and help of the county.

At the sale of work all the stalls were filled: a rummage sale consisting of lots of useful articles was presided over by Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Dudley, assisted by Miss Burge, Miss Smith, Mrs. Robinson and the Misses Hopton.

A stall of fancy goods containing pictures, pincushions and other useful things was looked after by Mrs. Pope and Mrs. Smith, assisted by Miss A. Smith and Mrs. Treasure. A dairy stall containing butter and eggs, etc. was attended by Mrs. G. Crump and Mrs. Richardson, a grocery stall by Messrs. Smith Bros. and there was a garden stall of flowers and plants and a book stall. An extra charge of 1d was made for the museum of curiosities which contained a number of curios, among these was a first edition of Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World (1614). Mr. John Crump attended to the weighing machine; Mrs. Clarke took care of the Aunt Sally and Mr. Smith the coconut alley.

Mr. Arkell acted as guide to people who wished to visit the church. During the day songs were given by various people accompanied by the piano and guitar, also violin solos were rendered. The Beckford Hand Bell Ringers gave several renderings and in the evening the Ashton Band played for dancing. The proceeds of the sale were £83 3s 10d.

On St. Thomas's day there was always a charity distributed. This consisted of clothes and bread and some year’s grocery as well. In the year 1901 the sum to be used came to £50 so when the people gathered at the Hall to receive their parcels of clothes they were surprised to receive groceries as well. After they had received the parcels, which were given to them by Captain Freeman, they adjourned to a room at the shop where they were given mugs of soup and tea by the Smith Brothers. This was very much appreciated; this whole procedure was known as mumping.

On Mondays the washing at the shop was done by heating the water in the furnace and using a dolly tub - one tub to wash, one to swill and one to starch. This was done either in the yard or in the wash house and the lady who came on a Monday to wash came back on Tuesday to iron, heating the irons on the hob. It would take her from 8 o'clock in the morning until 5 in the afternoon on both days and for this she received one shilling a day and her midday meal.

Mrs. Dudley decided to give the aged and poor men and women a tea on New Year's Eve. A bountiful tea in the schoolroom was provided, 60 being present. After doing justice to the tea provided, the tables were removed and seats placed before a tastefully arranged stage at the lower end of the room. A number of ladies gave a great deal of pleasure to those assembled by a dramatic performance entitled "The Sleeping Beauty" in which all the characters were so well sustained that it would be invidious to particularise. At the close of this portion of the entertainment, the room was cleared for dancing, and nearly the whole of the company joined in country dances for a time, varied by songs, until 10 o'clock when coffee and refreshments were handed round. Shortly afterwards the national anthem was sung and a vote of thanks to Mrs. Dudley for her cordial and warm hospitality was proposed by Mr. Slade. Hearty cheers were given and the party separated, well pleased with so agreeable commencement to a New Century.

On the following evening a repetition of the Comedietta was given for the benefit of the children of the village, of whom nearly 200 were present. They thoroughly enjoyed the (to them) novel entertainment. After they had dispersed the general public were admitted for a second performance and about 120 were present, who expressed their approval from time to time by their applause.

In 1905 a fund was started to provide a new organ to be fitted into the old case and removed from the west end to the north side of the tower. This was satisfactorily carried out by Messrs. Nicholson of Worcester for the sum of £180. The walls of that part of the church were re-plastered, the unsightly deal pews removed, and choir seats and block floors provided at a cost of £36. 7. 0. In February 1907 Mrs. Scott, late of the Manor House and now living at Buckland Manor kindly presented the church with a lovely altar frontal and curtains and on 7th February the new organ was dedicated. In December of the same year new lamps were fixed to the chandeliers by Messrs Wright and Butler for the sum of £7 10s 0d. In 1909 two new stoves and piping were placed in the church for the sum of £9 0s. 0d, thanks to Mr. Nicklin of Ashton under Hill.

In May 1910 our sweet-toned bells were re-hung by Messrs. Bond of Burford at a cost of £170, to the memory of our late parish warden, Mr. John Crump, of Grafton. To see more about the bells go to the bell ringing page.

On January 30th 1912 a faculty was granted to remove the modern plaster from the walls and roof, the three decker pulpit and reading desk. The clock was repaired by Messrs. Collins and Godfrey. The diameter of the face measured 6 ft 3ins whilst the numerals were nine inches in height. The interior of the clock was renovated by Mr. Asquith of Tewkesbury. At the reopening of the church a large congregation were present, the collection at the service amounted to £10 15s 0d. Afterwards some 80 parishioners adjourned to the church to listen to an organ recital by Mr. Harold Webb ARCO, late of Somerton, ‘who is shortly taking up an appointment at Bicester’ This was followed by a social entertainment.

All through these times the CEMS (Church of England Men's Society) continued to flourish. They held monthly meetings and as well as having lectures and playing different games the members re-gravelled paths and met each Wednesday to work in the churchyard where they cut grass, sowed grass seed, re-glazed the lamps, planted shrubs and of course ended the evening with some social activity. I must add here that in this village our churchyard has always been a joy and people often remark on this when they visit our church. We are lucky in having one gentleman in particular, who voluntarily puts in many hours to keep it tidy.

Also in the village was a very flourishing Pig Club. Without this the people would have found difficulty in feeding their pigs, and every house had one or two pigs at the bottom of the garden. You paid a shilling a month to be a member and you were allocated 40 lb of meal a month so the more scraps you could gather to put with this the more pigs you could feed. The butcher came round and killed the pigs on your own premises and there were several women who would clean the chitterlings. You would rush off with them, still warm, in an old zinc bath and fetch them back all ready for boiling in about three days time. Not a bit of the pig was wasted; you made faggots, brawn, and lard (with rosemary on top absolutely delicious on toast). The bacon was hung and salted and the joints were put in lead lined troughs with plenty of salt, which was bought in 14 lb bars which you crunched up yourself, the meat would last for months.

There were three charities of the total value of about £50 or £60 yearly records of which may be seen on tablets in the church. These read: The sum of £20 was given by Mrs. Elizabeth Hall of Bengrove in this parish, the interest thereof to be disposed of in bread to the poor by the minister and churchwardens yearly for ever.

The Rev. John Harpur, once a vicar of the parish in the year 1745 purchased a messuage and lands situate at Upton on Severn which he and his wife gave in trust, the rents whereof are to be disposed of yearly for ever in bread to the poor of this parish attending divine service at the discretion of the minister. A messuage and lands situated in this parish was given to certain trustees in trust to dispose of the rent of the same to the poor of this parish yearly and forever. When one sits back and thinks of these times, there were a lot of poor families. In most there were a good few children and the only work was farming and land work. It was no wonder that when they received their money they were only too pleased to adjourn to the shop for their soup and tea, where they would usually purchase corduroy trousers, which I might say stank the place out. The women were usually extravagant and bought black striped material which they would take home and make up into a best dress. The usual clothes were black or grey with small beads for collars and cuffs, a fine lace shawl if you were among the rich round your shoulders, and a large hat, either trimmed with ostrich feathers or ribbon with a huge hat pin through your bun to hold it on. Hat pins came in silver with amethyst or in the shape of hunting sticks or golf clubs; some of them were most ornate. All dresses were worn practically to the ankle and the poor folk always with a long white apron on top. Boots were to the knees fastened at the side with tiny black buttons and long gloves with even smaller buttons. For these you had a special button hook, a small one for the gloves and a larger one for the boots. Shirts were always of flannel or cotton and the men had long flannel or cotton nightshirts, long pants and thick vests, their socks were nearly always hand knitted. Ladies' petticoats were usually of red flannel.

The evenings were spent sewing clothes or samplers.  One marvels how their eyes stuck it.

The shop was always well stocked and I well remember my aunt telling me that people said you could buy anything at Smith's stores from a packet of peas to a second hand coffin. Bacon was salted on the premises and sugar came in tubs, also tea - they would make little 3 cornered bags with thick blue paper and weigh it into these. Of course paraffin was always plentiful as this was the main source of light for lamps. Soap was sold by the bar and you always kept some by you, it was considered a waste to use it straightaway you had to keep it for several weeks so that it got hard then it lasted longer. One sort of soap was called Nubolic soap ‘for the bath, toilet or laundry, nursery and kitchen use’, also Watson’s Matchless Cleanser ‘the best soap for all purposes’. Other common household commodities of the time were Symington's Pea Flour, Globe Polish (used in the household of the Queen), support home industries Bryant and Mays special patent safety matches ‘manufactured only at Fairfield Works, Bow, London’. Pears soap was advertised in the Parish magazine as ‘having the Highest Award for Toilet Soap at the Paris Exhibition 1889’: a Gold Medal was obtained in 1900, the highest award obtained for anything.

The rifle club was another great source of pleasure. The men met every week and a competition was held every year for a silver cup (this cup still adorns my sideboard). The cup was presented by Mr. C.T. Scott in 1909 and was won by my father in law (William's nephew) P.G. Smith 1909, P.J. Smith 1910, W. Carr 1911, W.G. Smith 1912, E.E. Bennett 1913, and E. E. Bennett 1914 when I presume the club closed because of the war.

William kept three horses at the Stores, they were named Thomas, Colin and Polly and they were all stabled in the yard behind the shop. One was used to pull the cart that delivered the bread and one for all other commodities, grocery and oil. At night the stable had to be put clean and the horse fed and watered. Then one went round closing the shutters.

One advertisement we have is The Patent Silk Ornament Company's embroidered washable appliqué initials and monograms, etc. 2-letter monogram in white 2/- per dozen, a whole list of Christian names in stock - white 3/- per dozen, red 3/6d per dozen, script initials 6d per gross, script 2-letter combinations l/- per gross. Designs and special quotations given for crests, coats of arms, etc. To be had at all first-class Berlin Wool and Drapery establishments throughout the world.

What a busy life they led. All their time was taken up working and thinking out something to entertain themselves. So many clothes were made at home and they were sewing samplers, doing drawn thread work, crocheting, macramé, raffia work, lace making, to name but a few occupations.

What a sight to see them going down to the privy at the bottom of the garden carrying a lantern in their hand, or filling the copper and putting the bath in front of the fire. The grate to be black leaded each morning the boots to be cleaned.

We are coming now to the year 1914 when war with Germany was declared but before I close I must write down the tale of a labourer. He was a farm labourer engaged in carrying corn from the harvest field to the garner till late at night and he failed to return in the morning at the very early hour assigned by his master. When the labourer finally arrived the following colloquy ensued "Where has thou bin to lazy vagabond? Be quick and let me know or there's the sack for thee" "Why Master, I've been in a trance, I've had a most tremendous dream, If master thee must know, I was so tired I fell asleep as soon as I got home to bed. I no sooner closed my eyes than I thought I was in heaven. A beautiful place it was too, full of rare orchards and green fields and the birds did sing so sweet. I thought I walked into a beautiful orchard, and there I seed crowds of old and young folks, all dressed so clean and tidy in their grey cloaks and clean shoes, and white smock frocks, as if they had been a-goin to hear the vicar preach when he gives away the coal tickets and the charity bread at Christmas. Old Betty Pugh was there and her daughter Nancy and old Betty had left off her crutches and could skip about the meadow like a four year old. I felt rather hungry and I found lumps of splendid fat bacon already boiled, and loaves of the finest white bread danglin like apples from the branches of the trees. I felt athirsty and I went down to the brook, but as I drank I found twasn't water, but the strongest and best perry as was adashing over the sandy bottom. All the poor creatures had their bellies full, they all sang and jumped about as though they were at wak Whit Monday. They was all so happy and frisky, I asked old Betty where the farmers was and her told I they was in tother place. I went down to one corner of the meadow and I seed a deep cave where smoke and flames gushed out. I tried to run away, I was so terribly frightened when a smutty fellow shuved I right down the dark hole. When I came down to the bottom and began to rub my bruises, I thought I should ha been afraid, it was so terribly hot and an ugly black fellow with a pitchfork took I along a long black passage and the awful sight I seed there I shall never forget. It was full of burning wood piles and flames, and the fat farmers for qenerations passed was bin roasted like fat eels in a fryingpan. Twas quite awful to hear em, and so overcome was I as I sat down in a chair as was mortal hot and wiped the sweat from my brow, when a dark fellow with a tail came in in a terrible rage and said "Get thee out of that chair, uns for they master”. He so roared and banged I as I awoke and found I had overslept myself".

At this termination of the rustic's narrative the whole harvest field was in a titter, and the farmer himself could not retain from participating in the boisterous laughter which the ready invention of the witty clown had elicited. Instead of giving him the sack he gave him an additional quart of drink and an extra piece of bacon.

A few sayings of the day were as follows:

  • As poor as a church mouse
  • As thin as a rail
  • As fat as a porpoise
  • As rough as a gale
  • As brave as a lion
  • As spry as a cat
  • As bright as a sixpence
  • As weak as a rat
  • As proud as a peacock
  • As sly as a fox
  • As mad as a March hare
  • As strong as an ox
  • As fair as a lily
  • As empty as air
  • As rich as Croesus
  • As cross as a bear
  • As pure as an Angel
  • As neat as a pin
  • As smart as a steel trap
  • As ugly as sin
  • As dead as a door nail
  • As white as a sheet
  • As fat as a pancake
  • As red as a beet
  • As round as an apple
  • As black as your hat
  • As brown as a berry
  • As blind as a bat
  • As mean as a nuser
  • As full as a tick
  • As plump as a partridge
  • As sharp as a stick
  • As clean as a penny
  • As dark as a pall
  • As hard as a millstone
  • As bitter as gall
  • As fine as a fiddle
  • As clear as a bell
  • As dry as a herring
  • As deep as a well
  • As light as a feather
  • As firm as a rock
  • As stiff as a poker
  • As calm as a clock
  • As green as a gosling
  • As brisk as a beel

And now let me stop lest you weary of me!

Now I will end with a little bit out of William's diary and hope that someone has found it interesting....

He says “I will conclude these pictures with the number 13, this figure so often occurs to me in one way or another. To commence with I was born on the 13th day of November and on my thirteenth birthday I got a severe reprimand from my parents for saying to my brothers and sisters ‘now I am 13 I will let you know’. I have never forgotten it. Next my dentist extracted 13 teeth at my last sitting. When the living part at the Stores was rebuilt the builders put 13 steps in the new stairs leading to my bedroom. In the Winter I wear 13 articles of clothing and at The Gables where I now live you will find 13 windows and inside 13 doors”.