The Farthest Promised Land — English Villagers, New Zealand Immigrants of the 1870s
8 The Midland Vales
8 The Midland Vales
OUR STUDY OF the emigration movement in the Wychwood Forest area of Oxfordshire's Cotswold hills, and in the northern wolds of Lincolnshire, suggests some tentative conclusions as to the factors responsible for the varying response to the emigration campaign. It would seem that New Zealand agents could expect their best results in parishes where, for one reason or another, the grip of the ruling rural hierarchy was weak. Conversely, the kind of parish that would least repay their attention, and probably refuse them even a hearing, would be one where control by the traditional hierarchy was well established. Drawing on studies of rural society in Victorian England it is not difficult to suggest a profile for a most unresponsive parish. It would be a close parish, with one compact village, dominated by the great house of a resident squire and by the parish church, served by a resident clergyman. There would be no wastes in the vicinity to tempt cottagers into wayward habits, or thoughts of independence. Village life would be marked by strong traditions of deference, there would be no nonconformity, and even the labourers' efforts for their own welfare would be under the patronage of their employers. On the other hand, the nature of the case suggests that there should be a marked correlation between positive responses to the emigration appeal, and the distribution of nonconformity - with both emigration and dissent making headway where hierarchical social control was weakest. Professor Everitt's perceptive study, The Pattern of Rural Dissent:the Nineteenth Century, is therefore very germane to our purposes.
Basing his findings on a close examination of four counties, Professor Everitt has characterised several types of rural parish and of rural economy in which the New Dissent arising from the eighteenth century Evangelical Awakening, had taken root by the mid-nineteenth century. One of these was the freeholders' parish. Everitt reports how in glancing through the Imperial Gazetteer, published in 1870, he noticed how dissenting chapels seemed often to be associated with parishes where the property was described as ‘divided’ or ‘much subdivided’.2 The gazetteer draws on the Return of 1860, which describes the parishes as either ‘in one hand’, ‘in a few hands’, ‘subdivided’, or ‘much subdivided’. The two former classes may be broadly grouped as ‘estate parishes’, dominated by a single magnate, or a few landowners; the two latter classes may be grouped as ‘freeholders’ parishes', containing many small and independent owners. Everitt's statistical examination of his four chosen counties shows a marked correlation between subdivision of land and the tendency to Dissent. While Everitt found freeholders' parishes to be the most obvious and page 165 numerous kind of rural society encouraging Dissent, he found several other forms of society in which it flourished, including boundary settlements, decayed market towns, industrial villages, and parishes consisting of a number of dispersed hamlets. Boundary settlements were those which developed on the boundary between two parishes, and tended to be particularly frequent in old forest districts, where wasteland was more abundant. Members of such a community tended to develop an independent outlook through using their settlement's ambiguous location to evade the jurisdiction of either parish. Of decayed market towns there were several hundred scattered throughout rural England. Alford, Caistor and Brigg are examples of such communities in mid-Victorian Lincolnshire. Though their markets had declined or disappeared, these centres tended to be more populous than neighbouring villages, to have no local squire but a large number of independent free-holders, and to have their agrarian economy diversified by various local crafts and small industries. Thus many industrial villages were former market towns, but they nevertheless form a sufficiently distinct species to be treated separately. The Wychwood villages of Taynton and Milton, with their quarries, are good examples. In Shipton-under-Wychwood parish, this area also provides a good example of the parish with dispersed settlement. In the mid-nineteenth century, beside its namesake village, the parish included the chapelry of Leafield, the townships of Milton and Ramsden, and the hamlets of Lyneham and Langley. Among the common elements which were shared by these varied forms of local community in which Dissent flourished, Everitt points first to an unusual degree of freedom, arising either from freeholding, from self-employment in crafts and trades, or from being situated well away from the parish church or the manor-house.
We must now also give further attention to our suggestion that access to wasteland was another significant factor in fostering independence and predisposing villagers to undertake the enterprise of emigrating. An article on ‘Labour Productivity in English Agriculture, 1850–1914’ by E. H. Hunt, 3throws much light on this matter. After a careful examination of a variety of evidence, Hunt concludes that the agricultural labourers of the south and east of England were caught in a vicious circle of low wages, poor nutrition, and low productivity, which was thus both a cause and a consequence of low wage-rates. He quotes, for example, the conclusion reached by Dr Edward Smith, after a very comprehensive survey conducted in 1864.
… although the health and strength of the people may be moderately well maintained on the existing dietary, it is more probable that mental vigour and activity, as well as moral courage and enterprise are less where the diet is low. There can be no doubt that the mental and physical condition of the farm labourer and his family is much better in those localities, where remunerative labour other than farm labour can be obtained, than in purely agricultural districts.4
Hunt shows that Dr. Smith's conclusions were strongly supported by page 166 large-scale scientifically based enquiries conducted early in the twentieth century. One finding of these enquiries was that serious protein deficiency was wide-spread. Hunt also points out that the high-wage areas enjoyed an additional advantage in the availability of relatively cheap coal.5 This greatly improved the labourers' lot, providing hot meals, a more comfortable home, and a means of drying wet clothes, invaluable when the working man often had no change of clothing. The rural labourer's typical physical circumstance in the low-wage areas from which the majority of New Zealand's assisted immigrants of the 1870s were drawn, was that he subsisted on a diet providing insufficient protein to ensure continuous health and vigour, his clothes were frequently damp for days on end, and his home was cold and comfortless. Few men in such conditions could be expected to develop the energy and initiative required to face the process of emigrating. Access, whether legal or illegal, to wood and game from the waste, was not therefore a matter of minor significance. Rather, it must often have made a crucial contribution to the acceptance of the physical and psychological challenge which emigration represented.
The two regions that we have already examined have provided clear illustrations of most of the aspects we have been discussing. It might be argued, however, that their villages were scarcely typical of those which provided the majority of the New Zealand immigrants, particularly on account of the economic and social consequences of the recent large-scale clearance and occupation of new farming land. Will the patterns we have been discussing still hold when we move from these hills, with their recently reclaimed farmlands, to the long-tilled lowland vales? For our answer we turn to a selection of villages in lowland districts of Warwickshire, Berkshire and Bedfordshire. We will look first at a number of parishes in the Feldon of east Warwickshire. The Feldon, or open field country, lies between the ancient forest of Arden to the west, and the Northampton Uplands, including the historic heights of Edgehill, to the east. At the time of Domesday the Feldon and its Edgehill fringe was the most densely peopled district of Warwickshire, and from the early sixteenth century onwards ‘all the old topographers, Leland, Speed, and their followers, speak of the Feldon as the corn-smiling valley’.6 Rider Haggard, viewing this region from the verge of Edgehill one spring evening in 1901, provides us with a useful description:
… the view was truly magnificent. Three or four hundred feet below, from the base of a steep wooded bank, stretched a gigantic plain comprising tens of thousands of acres of land, so gigantic indeed, that on the night of the Diamond Jubilee two hundred bonfires could be counted from this spot …. in the far, far distance the horizon melted into the pink evening sky. In the middle distance were clumps of sombre woodland, and to the north-east, crested by a windmill, the swelling hills, while nearer - their expanse broken only by the village of Kineton and a few homesteads - numberless irregularly-shaped and fenced meadows dotted with hedgerow timber, and here and there with herds of cattle, lay beneath us like a map bounded by the mighty wall of Edgehill.7page 167
Long Itchington is a large parish a few miles east of Leamington. The river Itchen follows a winding course from south to north across the parish, and the Warwick and Napton canal traverses it from east to west. There was a good deal about Long Itchington of the 1870s to suggest that it would not disappoint the emigration agent. It was an open, freeholders' parish. Settlement was fairly dispersed, as the village was of the ‘roadside’ type, extending for nearly three-quarters of a mile from east to west, with a large green, and there were two hamlets, Stoney Thorpe and Bascote. There were Independent and Primitive Methodist chapels. In the west of the parish were Bascote Heath and Long Itchington Wood, and across the boundaries of the neighbouring close parish of Ufton was the extensive Ufton Wood.8 It comes as no surprise that among the fifty-two adults selected in Leamington for Brogdens by C. R. Carter, to sail by the Halcione in April 1872, there should be a Long Itchington man, William Hitchcox.9 He appears in the 1871 census schedules as an unmarried labourer of 21, living with his widowed mother. In a letter to a sister, dated from Picton on 21 August 1873, he gave news of his doings, and endeavoured to persuade others to follow him, especially his brother John. He had tried gold digging, but had no luck, and had then taken a sawyer's job in the bush at nine shillings a day, and was very pleased with the life. He promised to meet any who would follow him, with five pound notes in his pocket, and concluded with some practical advice, and a strong appeal:
If my brothers and sisters come out here, tell them to bring a good ham with them, and a cheese, and some onions, and a pot or two of jam for they will find them useful on the voyage. Tell my brother John that the rabbits are so thick in this country, in some parts, they give 5s. per dozen for anyone that likes to go to destroy them. Dear sister, give my love to mother, and brothers and sisters, and all enquiring friends; and be sure to come here, and tell my neighbours not to be humbugged about on 2s. per day in the old country, but to come to the land of plenty, where they will get 9s. for eight hours work. There is no starving here; it is a very fine country, and provisions are very cheap.10
When William Hitchcox wrote this letter another Long Itchington man, Thomas Green, 35, quarryman, was already on the water, bound for New Zealand with his wife and daughter on the Punjaub. Probably Thomas Hitchcox, 28, farm labourer, of Long Itchington, who sailed on the Wennington in January 1874, was a brother of William's, persuaded to emigrate by William's letters. In any case, he took a bush job near Picton, and on 24 July 1874 wrote home to add his voice to the earlier persuasion:
Don't be afraid of the seas, my fellow working men. I would cross them a thousand times, if God spared me, if it was to my advantage. You can sit down and smoke your pipe and the wind will blow you along. I must tell you that I brought a good double-barrel gun with me, and am not afraid to use it in this country. I can go out and shoot pigs, and all kinds of wild fowls …. Don't be afraid to leave England, Tom, my lad, for a worse country you will never find, and yet fathers and mothers will persuade their children not to go abroad ….11page 168
William Hitchcox's brother John may also have emigrated, for a John Hitchcox, 35, farm labourer, sailed with his wife and five children on the Lady Jocelyn in November 1874. Altogether, at least forty-four villagers from Long Itchington took assisted immigrants' passages to New Zealand over the years 1872–4.
The parish of Stretton-on-Dunsmore, lying a mile or two to the north of Long Itchington, looks at least as promising as a source of emigrants. Like Princethorpe, its neighbour to the south, it grew up as a hamlet of Wolston, which borders it to the north. Stretton parish is elongated in shape, extending about four miles from east to west, but measuring only about a mile from north to south. The villagers of Stretton had had ample experience of the benefits of the waste. The long eastward extension of their parish embraced a substantial portion of Dunsmore Heath. To their west lay extensive woods, both in their own parish, and over the borders of the neighbouring parishes of Princethorpe and Wappenbury. Wappenbury Wood was a large one of from 300 to 400 acres. The villagers had also benefited from a Gardeners' Allotment Association, established in 1825, which provided plots of about 20 perches each.12 A Stretton man, George Allington, was one of the twelve agricultural labourers who were foundation members of the executive committee of Arch's National Union. In the autumn of 1874 Allington recruited a party of some 200 agricultural labourers to accompany him to New Zealand. On Sunday, 20 September 1874, he preached his farewell sermon in Stretton Primitive Methodist Chapel, where he had worshipped for many years. The party leaving the village included at least four married couples, and totalled at least sixteen persons. In all, fifty emigrants from this part of Warwickshire were farewelled at Leamington station on the morning of 22 September, by Joseph Arch and a large crowd of other well-wishers.13
A few weeks later, on 29 October, a larger party of ninety-six emigrants was farewelled from Leamington station.14 Their leader was Thomas Osborne, 50, farm labourer, of the village of Marton, which lies midway between Stretton and Long Itchington. Marton provided forty-one of the members of Osborne's party and at least two further Marton families left for New Zealand the following year. Marton was an open freeholders' parish in which the property was ‘much subdivided’.15
To strengthen our case as to the characteristics of parishes providing emigrants, we will now examine several parishes in this part of Warwickshire which did not respond to the recruiting campaign. No New Zealand assisted immigrants were found in a careful check of the 1871 census schedules of Bishop's Itchington, which lies a few miles to the south of Long Itchington. Bishop's Itchington was an estate parish, with its property ‘divided among a few’.16 It had suffered at the hands of a ruthless depopulator in the mid sixteenth century, and the results were still apparent in the early nineteenth century. By the 1840s, however, a marked growth in population was under way, leading to an increase of about two and a half times in the course of the nineteenth century. This increase, most page 169 unusual for a rural parish, was partly caused by the development of lime and cement works within its bounds. The building of Congregational and Methodist chapels in 1837 and 1859 respectively, was probably associated with the appearance of this industry.17 Thus, until recent times, the village had been of a closed, estate character, and the industrial development was probably too recent to have deeply affected the temperament of its farm labourers. The parish was virtually without woods, and its wasteland had disappeared at enclosure following an Act of 1775. The village was compact, with no outlying hamlets. A few miles to the east of Bishop's Itchington, on the edge of the Northampton Heights, lie the two rather similar parishes of Priors Hardwick and Fenny Compton. Both were without woods or wastes, and neither had any outlying hamlets. Fenny Compton was of an estate character with property ‘divided among a few’;18 in Priors Hardwick the property was ‘subdivided’.19 No assisted immigrant families were found in the 1871 census schedules of either parish, though there were possibly two single young men from Priors Hardwick. As our final negative illustration we will take the two closely associated parishes of Gaydon and Chadshunt, lying a mile or two south-west of Bishop's Itchington. Chadshunt was an estate parish, dominated by Chadshunt Hall, occupied by the lord of the manor, and with a population of only 38, for 1,388 acres, in 1871. The close nature of the two parishes taken together is indicated by their combined population of only 299, for a total of 2,906 acres. The countryside was virtually without woods or wastes. Only one emigrant family has been traced to these two parishes, that of John Webb, 38, gardener at Chadshunt, who sailed for New Zealand with his wife and four children on the Berar in October 1874. The birthplaces of his two older children indicate that John Webb had been living in Gaydon until a few years before emigrating. His wife had been born in Gaydon, but John's own birthplace was Wellesbourne, the village that initiated the Revolt of the Field. Possibly John had never felt at home in the small deferential village around Chadshunt Hall.
At the extreme south-east of Warwickshire, below the heights of Edgehill, lies the Vale of the Red Horse. Within the Vale, with the ramparts of Edgehill for its eastern boundary, lies Tysoe, a parish to which we must give more than passing attention. For few English rural communities has the past of the common people been so thoroughly and sensitively explored as for Tysoe, through the writings of members of the village's own Ashby family.20 It is therefore fortunate for our purposes that the parish provided a goodly number of emigrants for New Zealand. In the 1870s Týsoe was a large, open, freeholder's parish. Most of its population of 1,112 was concentrated in the three hamlets of Lower, or Temple Tysoe, Middle, or Church Tysoe, and Upper Tysoe. This division of the village into three distinct hamlets had been brought about by its water-supply. Each hamlet extends along a brook arising in the hills above. A road runs through the village, parallel to Edgehill, and there is a mile between the hamlets from extreme north to south. The parish has a long history of settlement and page 170 prosperous agriculture. The large parish church dates from the eleventh century, while the Red Horse which gives the Vale its name indicates close settlement in pre-Christian times. In Tysoe, as in so many Old World villages, the common people inherited many reminders of a long past, and from their childhood these were enriched by the memories and traditional folk history of the parish. Our brief study of Tysoe will serve to remind us that one of the prices paid for emigration was the wrench of breaking these strong links with the past.
The Red Horse represented the oldest strand of village tradition, providing a link with Saxon times. Until the last horse was ploughed out by the landlord of Sunrising Inn, following the enclosure award of 1798, it was scoured every year, on Palm Sunday, to remove any vegetation that had encroached on the light brown loam that gave the horse its colour. In the mid 1960s the maze of contradictory records and traditions surrounding the Red Horse was carefully investigated, with the aid of aerial photography and archeological techniques. It was discovered that there have been five horses cut into the slopes of Edgehill at various dates. The oldest and largest, an enormous galloping horse, nearly an acre in extent, would appear to have had some connection with a Saxon Spring and Sunrising Festival, and to have been scoured by the Saxon farmers each spring as a magic ritual to ensure a good summer and a fine crop.21 If the traditions about the Red Horse were vague and contradictory, the village memories of the Battle of Edgehill of 22 October 1642, were solid and rich in circumstantial detail. Miss Ashby tells how her father, Joseph Ashby
heard of the very words men had spoken on the day of the battle. ‘Which side be you on, fellow?’ cavaliers riding from Compton Wynyates had called out to a youth leaning on a gate. ‘Parlyment! Parlyment!’, he answered witlessly. Instantly one of the riders fired his musket in the air and off rushed the terrified lad up to the hills among the gorse and hawthorn bushes, and there stayed two days. There were lots of little stories: he even knew that Dame Wells had got up earlier that day than Dame Colcott, and that the riders from Compton had come in and seized her fragrant hot bread.22
But the village history more directly relevant to our story concerns the more recent fortunes of the land and its labourers. In her biography of her father, who was born in 1859 to a labouring life in the village, Miss Ashby has shown how his acute and sensitive mind built from the village traditions and his own wide reading an understanding of the fortunes of the community over the preceding generations. Then, one spring day in 1909, he happened to be in neighbouring Radway, and was called into the vicarage, where the aged vicar had just died, and presented by the deceased man's son with some old books relating to Tysoe, from his father's papers - including the parish register of births, deaths and marriages dating from the late sixteenth century, and the accounts of the Overseers of the Poor from the early eighteenth century onwards. Joseph, his wife Hannah, and their four children, thereupon began a fascinating joint enterprise in recon- page 171 structing the village past, and their neighbours brought other documents to their aid; deeds, a Vestry Minutebook, a farmer's notebook from the mid eighteenth century.23 The first major fruit of this family enterprise appeared in 1912: ‘One Hundred Years of Poor Law Administration in a Warwickshire Village’, by Joseph's oldest son, Arthur, who later, as Professor A. W. Ashby, did pioneer work in agricultural economics.
From their documents the Ashby family built up a picture of eighteenth century Tysoe as a happy and united community, ‘a village of yeoman, craftsmen, tradesmen, and a few labourers - not separate classes, but intermarrying, interapprenticed sections of the community, unified by farming in cooperation, and by as great mutual dependence in other ways’.24 Village affairs were administered through town meetings held in the church vestry, and the villagers conducted themselves not as ‘electors’ nor as ‘parishioners’ but as ‘neighbours’. The Overseers of the Poor conducted themselves as servants of the meeting, supplying the modest needs of those who came to them for aid with kindness and neighbourly consideration. Thus in 1750 when Widow Claridge was ailing, and fancied that the saline waters of a spring in a village seventeen miles distant would do her good, the overseers paid Isaac Clark three shillings to ride there and fetch some for her. But then came the hard times of the French Wars, and the problems of a rising population. Still the overseers endeavoured to administer relief in the old spirit, establishing a bakehouse to provide bread for the poor, and buying coal to sell cheaply to the poor now that an increased population could not get sufficient wood from the waste. But subtly, changes were coming over the village, the poor were slowly being pauperised, their ‘betters’ were beginning to put on airs. The Vicar, a farmer until the late eighteenth century, had been recorded as a ‘minister’, but now came new men who began to be registered as ‘Reverend Mister’. The enclosure of the open fields of Tysoe, by an Act of Parliament of 1796, was a major step on the road from the old spirit of civic community to the new individualism and class distinction. ‘Now was the time for a common religion to support a reasonable man's sense of common humanity’, comments Miss Ashby. ‘But instead the labourers built the “Primitive” chapel. They must get away even from more prosperous Methodists, into their own place where they could satisfy their hunger in a special relation to God.’25 It almost seemed as if the Vicars were leading the way in the degradation of the labourers, planting high hedges to separate themselves from the ‘parishioners’ whom they no longer considered as ‘neighbours’, and turning the Town Land money, which the villagers considered to be theirs as of right, into a ‘charity’ of unbleached calico and scarlet flannel.26
Such was the world into which were born Joseph Ashby, and the two score or more villagers who emigrated to New Zealand. The Industrial Revolution had influenced it little; the canals and railways, passing at a distance, had only a limited effect, and the price of coal was almost doubled in being transported the nine miles over the hills from the Oxford Canal. As late as 1912 Arthur Ashby described his Tysoe as ‘a large, prosperous page 172 old-world, agricultural parish’.27 Thus, in the 1870s, most of the villagers earned their living labouring in the fields of the parish, and in neighbouring depopulated Compton Wynyates. In their ‘street-and-smithy parliament’ they somehow kept alive something of the spirit of the more communal, egalitarian past. The round of the chapel year and the annual gaiety of Banbury Fair, helped the poor to keep their spirits up. Tysoe was clearly a community where both Arch's union and the emigration agents could expect to reap a harvest.
Miss Ashby gives us a vivid account, based on her father's memories, of Arch's visit to Tysoe in the summer of 1872 to found the union branch. The labourers downed their tools early that day, and by six o'clock the crowd on Tysoe green was being augmented by men and women arriving from neighbouring villages. No farmer was asked for the wagon which provided the usual platform for such a meeting, but instead the Sunday School platform from the Wesleyan chapel was manhandled to the green. A group of rough navvies arrived from a new railway being built some distance away, and farmers appeared from several miles around. Then, escorted by a band, Arch arrived. Josiah Smith, a lay preacher of Tysoe Primitive Methodist chapel, was chosen to chair the meeting. The alert young Joseph Ashby noted the Vicar and his wife and the agent of the village's chief landowner, the Marquis of Northampton, on the fringe of the crowd. The Vicar's face showed disapproval, the young agent's showed contempt. After Josiah's introduction, quoting cogent local facts about prices and wages and rents, Arch rose to speak and without poetry or rhetoric, his clear full voice put the labourers' case and the union's programme with unanswerable logic. The Vicar, wishing to undo the harm, demanded to be heard, but only laid himself open to telling interjections from the crowd. At the close, men flocked to join-the union, and Arch was escorted from the village to the new tune of ‘Ho, my comrades, see the signal waving in the sky’. It was Joseph Ashby's view that ‘these “Primitive” fellows and their fathers and mothers had held the fort of civilisation, not without losses, through the attritions of a hundred years’.29
The flow of emigration from Tysoe to New Zealand began only a month or two after Arch's meeting. George Hancox, 33, farm labourer, joined the Brogden party sailing by the Forfarshire from London on 12 November 1872, and his wife and two children accompanied him. On 15 March 1873, after a fortnight in New Zealand, he wrote from Wellington to recommend the country to his friends and relatives:
… We went to work on Monday morning and we have been working all the week eight hours a day, no longer. The second day, when we came home from work, there were two legs of mutton in the boiler for our supper, this seems enough to make a man dance after a hard day's work…. There is plenty of chance in this country. Farmers are advertising for farm labourers from 60 to 100 pounds a year and their living for man and wife to do the cooking. We are not obliged to work for Brogden at all at railway making; we can go where we like; he only wants us to pay 5s. per week, and that is not much in this country. We page 173 shall be able to pay that soon if God gives us our health and strength. Dear brother and sister, please give my best love to the members of my church, and tell W. Price that there is a great call for blacksmiths in this country - from 7s. to 9s. per day, and all other tradesmen. Please give our best love to mother, if she is alive, and tell her that I often think and pray about her, and one consolation is we may all meet in heaven at last if we live for it…. Tell mother I could keep her here without hurting me at all…. Tell any of my friends that living is cheap, and Jack is as good as his master. We have a Wesleyan Chapel close by; I went yesterday and it seemed as though I was at home, it was good to be there. There are no Primitives here, but I shall find some before long…. Tell any of the Tysoe men that this is the country for any steady, industrious men; but they can come out by the Government cheaper than the way we came…. Please give my love to T. Hancox and other friends and tell him I will write to him as soon as I can.30
This letter was forwarded to the Labourers' Union Chronicle by the Tysoe branch secretary, Thomas Hancox, to whom George had sent greetings. As with many union leaders, Thomas Hancox was not a farm labourer; the 1871 census schedules record him as a 43-year-old stone carver and maltster living at Lower Tysoe. The Tysoe branch prospered under his guidance. Three weeks after George Hancox's letter appeared in print, Joseph Arch paid Tysoe another visit, and the occasion indicates the strong links between the union branch and the Primitive Methodist Chapel. Arch was the guest preacher for the chapel's anniversary celebrated on Sunday, 27 July 1873. He addressed a ‘very large audience’ in the open air in the afternoon, and preached in the chapel again in the evening. On the Monday the union held a tea meeting, at which its members and their wives and children were entertained by the Tysoe drum and fife band. Following this, Thomas Hancox chaired a public meeting in a field rented for the occasion. An eloquent address by Arch led to further men joining the union.31 The branch set itself the aim of getting the whole place ‘in union’, and another large open air meeting was organised in November, to hear several visiting union speakers.31
On 13 December 1873 the branch's largest party of emigrants left for New Zealand, crossing the hills to Banbury to join the train taking Holloway's party to Plymouth.33 All three hamlets of Tysoe were represented. From Upper Tysoe came William Philpott, 51, farm labourer, with his wife and eight children; a young married couple, John and Mary Philpott, with their two-year-old daughter, and Cyrus Winter, 22, farm labourer, probably brother to Mary Philpott. From Church Tysoe came Ann Fessy, 23, servant, who accompanied William Philpott's family, and was probably a sister of his wife. From Lower Tysoe came two farm labourers, Matthew Townsend and Alfred Styles, each accompanied by a wife and four children. The members of this first party all landed at Bluff, and seem to have settled in Southland. Several cheerful, newsy letters from them were printed in the union newspaper. One, written to her grandmother in Tyson on 28 June 1875, by William Philpott's daughter Annie, was filled with news of this large family's material progress, and of how page 174 they were fitting happily into their new community. Annie compares their circumstances with those back in Tysoe:
… We were delighted to get such a number of letters, especially so many from your dear self. We have often felt sorry for you to think of the long cold winter you were getting, and many a poor old woman at Tysoe could not afford a good fire to warm her. I have often thought how I would like to give them a seat near our large fire of pine logs, and a meal of beef or mutton, but it is too far away.34
By 1881 William Philpott had freeholded land worth £390, while Matthew Townsend owned land worth £180, and Alfred Styles land worth £123. But the departure of these families, of others, who followed in 1874, and a flow to Canada in the ensuing years, was costly to the village. Miss Ashby has recorded how cottages that had been recovering from the denudedness of a generation before were stripped again to provide the blankets, sheets, towels, brushes and knives required by the emigrants. This, however, was not the greatest loss, for ‘the men and boys who left tended to be the more forceful and bright characters, the darlings of the families’.35
Once the Tysoe folk had shown the way, three families from Oxhill, Tysoe's neighbouring parish to the west, left for New Zealand in 1874. Oxhill was similar to Tysoe in being a wholly agricultural freeholders' parish, in which the property was ‘much subdivided’.36 It had also experienced the same pressure of population for a generation or two. It differed from Tysoe in being smaller (a population of 376 in 1871), and in having one nuclear village, with no hamlets. This probably explains why its Wesleyan chapel had been founded and nurtured from Tysoe, and why its villagers moved more slowly in this matter of emigration. A stronger spirit of independence may also have been nurtured among Tysoe's labourers by a longer experience of wasteland, which persisted on Edgehill till more recent times. It is perhaps significant that the wives of two of the Oxhill emigrant families had been born in Tysoe.
From the Vale of the Red Horse we shift our attention something more than thirty miles to the south, to the Vale of the White Horse in Berkshire.37 As we have already noted, emigration to New Zealand from this district resulted from the initiative of Arthur Clayden, a strong supporter of Arch and the National Union. Clayden's home was in Faringdon, and his recruits came mainly from this small market town and the surrounding parishes. Faringdon lies on the low hills of the Corallian Ridge, which separates the valley of the Thames from the Vale of the White Horse. The Vale takes its name from the great figure of a galloping horse carved, possibly in the Iron Age. into the white chalk of the slopes of the Downs above the village of Uffington. The two valleys, the intervening ridge, and the Downs which form the south side of the Vale, all run parallel to each other from west to east. In Victorian times Fanrigdon was a quiet rural centre, with a population of 3,252 in 1871. It had a long history of nonconformity, and there were Baptist, Quaker, Congregationalist, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels in the town. The road from page 175 Faringdon to Oxford followed the summit of the ridge, called locally ‘the hog's back’, through picturesque arable country, and past large farm houses, near or between the villages, which also top the ridge, to enjoy some of the finest outlooks in this part of England. The southern slopes of the ridge drain into the River Ock, which flows eastward through the Vale of the White Horse. Our main concern will be with the parish of Stanford in the Vale, lying to the east of Faringdon, in the western section of the Vale.
Much of this western stretch of the Vale was in permanent grass, as the land is low-lying and poorly drained. The soils, of clay and silt, were fertile, and almost all farmers managed a little cropping, mainly of fodder crops. The region had formerly been famous for its cheeses, which were shipped down the Thames to London. By the 1870s this industry was in decline, but in its place a new trade was arising - the railing of liquid milk to the same market. A notable feature of the agrarian history of the district was the long, unbroken connection of some families with certain farms and parishes. In 1916 John Orr was told by one Stanford farmer, ‘My ancestors and myself have been here for three hundred years, and none of us ever made a fortune’.38 In 1871 Stanford in the Vale was a parish of 3,895 acres, with a population of 1,152. Most of these lived in the main village, which was scattered in nature, built around a large green, but there was also a small outlying hamlet, Goosey, of a few scattered houses, also standing around an extensive green. The parish was an open one, and the land was much subdivided. There were Congregational and Primitive Methodist chapels in the village.39 There was, in fact, much about the parish to suggest that it should prove fruitful ground for union and emigration agents.
Between 1801 and 1861 the population of Stanford parish grew steadily from 746 to 1,277. Though the 1871 census showed a decline, there is evidence both in the report prepared by George Culley for the 1867 Royal Commission,40 and in the enumerators' schedules of the 1871 census, that over-population had created enduring problems. Culley found that the cottages of Stanford belonged to many different proprietors, and ranged from good to very bad. One, let at one shilling a week, was described as a ‘mere den’. Many of the bad cottages had been run up cheaply on the waste. Some land in Stanford belonging to the poor of another parish, was let to the poor of Stanford in allotments of an eighth of an acre, for which the rent was ten shillings, but some labourers had no allotments. The enumerators' schedules give ample evidence of a prolonged depression in the parish. The enumerator for Stanford village carefully indicated those persons who were out of employ. In a community almost entirely dependent on agriculture, one farm labourer in seven was shown as out of work. While these men stood idle, the farmers were making considerable use of the cheaper labour of women and boys. Thus, on the 561 acres of Bedlam Farms, John Brooks was employing five women and seven boys, but only ten men; and on William Penstone's 262-acre farm also, the three women and six boys outnumbered the seven men. Depression in the agricultural labour market page 176 had affected other callings in the village. A sawyer and a carpenter were out of employ. Beside the entry for a 33-year-old dressmaker with three children is the note ‘Husband gone away’. The entries for two other married women with children, one a ‘General Dealer’, the other a ‘Grocer etc:’, have the note ‘Husband in America’. This way of escape was, of course, only available to the man with a little capital, for there were no free passages to America. When, towards the end of 1872, Arthur Clayden began publicising Brogdens' generous terms for emigration to New Zealand, it is hardly surprising that he found takers in Stanford.
When the Forfarshire sailed from London on 12 November 1872, besides George Hancox of Tysoe, she carried at least five young men from Stanford in the Vale. One of these was Henry Simpson, 22, navvy, accompanied by his wife Mary and two young children. He was emigrating with two friends from Faringdon, the brothers Jesse Weaver, 18, labourer, and Henry Weaver, 16, navvy. In February 1974 Margaret Warman, a daughter of Jesse Weaver, living in Berkshire, wrote to the Oxford Mail41 telling something of this period in her father's life. The three young men were with the party which Brogdens sent south from Wellington to their Oamaru contract. When the railway works ended, Jesse Weaver moved north, following various callings. Eventually he returned to England in 1891, fully intending to go back to the colony. However, after meeting and marrying a Scottish girl, he had to change his plans and settle in the old country. His daughter recalls that he used to sing Irish folk songs, learnt from fellow navvies on the railway job, and tell many tales of the Maori people with whom he later worked in the North Island. His brother, and his friend Henry Simpson from Stanford, both remained in New Zealand.42 Henry Simpson is probably the man of that name who owned £70 worth of freehold at Palmerston in Otago in 1882. When he revisited his homeland later in life, Mrs Warman reports that her father was sorely tempted to accompany him back to New Zealand. The other two Stanford men in the Brogden party on the Forfarshire were the two Keen brothers, Henry, 20, and James, 18, both labourers.43 They must also have gone to the Oamaru railway works, as both appear to have owned freehold land in this part of the country in 1882. Six weeks after the departure of the Forfarshire party a Faringdon man, Henry Cox, 21, labourer, sailed under contract to Brogdens on the Lutterworth. In his first letter to his parents after arriving at Port Chalmers, he reported:
I have got a good master and mistress and am getting £40 a year…. You can go out pig-hunting or bull-hunting… We kill for the ship's company at Port Chalmers. We have to take it about 10 miles…. I have not drank beer since we landed on the 18th of April.44
The fact that Henry Cox had served part of an apprenticeship to a butcher in London probably secured him this job. A few years later he established a successful butchering business at Enfield in north Otago.45
Encouraged by good reports from these earlier emigrants, a party of twenty-six left Stanford for New Zealand, sailing on the ship Sussex from page 177 London on 17 April 1874, for Otago. The party included the three Keen brothers, William, 23, Frederick, 21, and George, 19, all farm labourers. In a letter to his parents a month after arrival, William wrote, ‘You can tell Uncle John and Aunt that we have not heard from Henry or James yet’, thus indicating that the earlier Brogden couple were his cousins. William's two brothers were single men, but he himself was married with two young children. In his letter William reported that Frederick and George had both taken good jobs on farms up country. He and his family were still in the barracks, on account of the shortage of housing, and, until the labour market revived with the coming of spring, he had been found work by the government at six shillings a day. Still, he was very pleased with his prospects:
This is after dinner, Sunday. We have just had a beautiful shoulder of mutton and potatoes; it's what I have not had for years before, but now we can have it any time we choose. This is a capital country for a working man to come to; there is no fear about living here, as you can get plenty of beef and mutton at 3d. a pound, and as good as any you can get in Stanford…. we are in view of a house now. House rent is very high now, so many coming in at once; we have to pay 12s. a week for the house, but Enoch and Louisa are going to live with us, so that will be only 6s. a week each.46
Enoch and Louisa appear in the passenger list of the Sussex as a married couple surnamed Willis, both aged 26, with a year-old daughter, Martha. An unmarried sister, Ann Willis, 25, general servant, also accompanied Enoch. Enoch wrote home to his parents on the same date (23 August 1874) as William Keen, and gave the same news of the prospect of a house, and of the excellent Sunday dinner in the barracks. Enoch was also working for the government at six shillings a day, but he commented that ‘That is better than 12 shillings [a week], and we don't work so hard either as we did at John Brooks’.47 Clearly, back in Stanford Enoch had been one of the men working for John Brooks on Bedlam Farm. Also in the Sussex party was James Mattingly, 40, farm labourer, his wife and seven children. This family are shown in the 1871 census as all born at, and living in Stanford.
On 28 December 1874, Arthur Clayden wrote to the Labourers' Union Chronicle to express his deep satisfaction with the results of the emigration movement he had initiated a little more than two years earlier. He estimated that some five hundred persons had left the district for New Zealand. He reported that:
Every letter that has come has been full of the most conclusive proof of the emigrants' welfare. The last letter I read was from the daughter of a large family man, who left this town about a year ago. He had been receiving here what Sir William Harcourt designated at Oxford the other day ‘the miserably inadequate wages of 10s. to 12s. per week’, and, having nearly as many mouths to feed, his straits and trials from year's end to year's end would tax Joseph Arch's powers of oratory to exaggerate. Now, mark the change produced by emigration.‘You would think father and uncle quite swells,’ writes the young woman, ‘if you were to see them going off to work on their own horses every morning. They have bought themselves an acre of land apiece, for which they have given £9, and they have fenced it in, and planted it and they will soon have a house apiece upon it’. They are abundantly happy, have plenty to eat and drink, and what seems even more remarkable to the toil-worn folks of this happy England of ours they have time and opportunity for healthful recreation. ‘I have just received,’ says the page 179 writer, ‘£10 2s. for a quarter's wage.’ The fact is that which was his burden here, his large family, is his fortune there. The best part of the letter was its enclosure of a post-office order for £3, sent, as the writer puts it, ‘to help you to keep Christmas with.’50
For our final examples of the effects of emigration movement on the long-tilled lowland vales of the Midlands, we will turn to the Vale of Bedford, to examine the results of Andrew Duncan's brief visit of April 1874. The Vale of Bedford is an extent of flat luxuriant countryside in the centre of the county, flanked to the south by the Chilterns, and with hillocky rolling country to the north. In Bedfordshire Duncan addressed emigration meetings at Cardington, Wilshamstead, Lidlington and Cople, all of which are in the Vale. A few general features of the district deserve note before we examine these particular parishes. John Bunyan's origins in Elstow, which borders Cardington and Wilshamstead, remind us of the district's long history of nonconformity. Pilgrim's Progress draws heavily on the landscape of the region, and its lowlying nature and stretches of heavy soil have been given universal currency as the Slough of Despond. The Continental refugees who contributed to Bedfordshire's nonconformity also left their mark on its industrial history, in the domestic manufacture of pillow lace. Although the industry was depressed by the competition of machine-made lace from the 1840s onward, there was no marked decrease in the number of lacemakers in Bedfordshire until after the 1881 census. While lacemaking had some unfortunate features, including long work hours, a deleterious effect on posture, and the flourishing of ‘lace schools’ in which children often learnt little except the craft, yet it did serve to supplement the income of the labouring home, and thus contributed to a better fed and more spirited populace.
Duncan's meeting at Cople was probably occasioned by the parish having a sympathetic clergyman, the Revd Havergal, who also accompanied Duncan to his meeting at Cardington.51 There appear to be no published reports of the Cople meeting, or of emigration from the parish. The characteristics of the parish do not suggest that it would have proved fruitful soil - it was a close, estate parish, with no history of nonconformity. At Wilshamstead the meeting was held in a barn lent for the occasion, and at the close several gave in their names for New Zealand.52 This parish had more than doubled in population between 1801 and 1871. Its village straggled for almost three miles across nearly the whole width of the parish, and there were also the hamlets of Chapel End and Littleworth. Wilshamstead possessed several other of the features that tended to foster the pirit of independence and enterprise associated with emigration. It contained a number of small freeholders, there was a Wesleyan chapel, and where the Chilterns flanked the parish to the south there were extensive woods. The story must also have been current of the local grocer's boy, William Morgan (1829–1883) who had emigrated to Australia in 1849, and made a fortune in the grocery trade in Adelaide.53 Duncan's other two meetings, at Cardington and Lidlington, led to the emigration of several page 180 families whom it has been possible to trace, and we will therefore give these parishes our closer attention.
Pillow-lace working, Bedfordshire. The lace was made on a ‘pillow’ or cushion, as shown, to intricate patterns set out on perforated parchment
Andrew Duncan's Lidlington meeting was perhaps his most successful in Bedfordshire. Lidlington of the 1870s was an open parish of 2,250 acres with a population of 827 in 1871. The land was ‘divided among a few’, with most of it owned by the Duke of Bedford.59 The village lies at the foot of a steep hill, part of the ridge of greensand which runs along the northern edge of the Chilterns. This hill is widely accepted as the original of Bunyan's Hill Difficulty. There was an outlying hamlet, Boughton End, and there were Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels, just to the east of Lidlington, on the hill slopes of the neighbouring parish of Millbrook, were extensive woodlands and further to the east below Millbrook parish church, was a tree-clad valley, traditionally regarded as the original of Bunyan's Valley of the Shadow of Death.60 Lidlington had been deeply affected by the Revolt of the Field and the Great Lock-out. Arch had held a great meeting in the large sand-pit to the south of the village, and it was here that Duncan gave his address on the evening of 14 April 1874.61 It is not surprising that he should have met with a ready response, for the Lidlington labourers had been locked out since early March.62 It seems that the local branch of the union had asked the farmers to raise the men's wages from thirteen shillings to fifteen shillings a week, and had been met with a prompt lock-out of all union members. They had stood firm, even though their employers had succeeded in recruiting men from a neighbouring village. When a union delegate from Leamington, named Jordan, held a meeting at Lidlington on 28 April, he found the men still firm for their union. There were forty-five villagers waiting for their papers to emigrate, probably all of these were the fruits of Duncan's meeting, one family had already emigrated, and fifty-one men had migrated. Jordan offered free fares to London to any men who would meet him at the railway station the next morning, assuring them that jobs would be found for them there. Several men took up his offer.63
The first of the recruits from Duncan's Lidlington meeting sailed on the Adamant from Plymouth on 7 May 1874, bound for Nelson. Among them were three farm labourer brothers surnamed Lineham: Thomas, 38, with page 182 his wife and six children; Alfred, 28, with his wife and two children; and Harry, 18, unmarried, who is shown in the 1871 census schedules living with his father, William, a farm labourer, and his mother Mary, a lacemaker. From the neighbouring parish of Ridgmont came Richard Allen, 38, bricklayer's labourer, with his wife and five children. All three of the wives of these emigrant families were listed as lacemakers in the 1871 census schedules. The Linehams and Allens were all to become pioneers of the isolated new settlement of Karamea, on Nelson's west coast, shortly after their arrival in New Zealand. From there, over a year after leaving England, Thomas Lineham wrote a letter to his parents, couched in terms befitting an emigrant from the Bunyan country. He reported that ‘God in his goodness has put us in a land of plenty’ and that although in the new settlement they had ‘no public means of grace’ yet ‘we find God in every time and place the same’.