English Bicknor Census 1841-1901 by Brian Carne and Jeff Carrick

English Bicknor Census 1841-1901

Brian Carne and Jeff Carrick

Meeting of 12th June 2014

The census was started to give Government an insight into the population and how it was changing so they could plan things such as how much corn to plant and how many men from each area should be conscripted to the militia. Before 1841 the census is useful for occupation, numbers etc but no names are recorded.

At this time (1841) Bicknor parish also included Lower Lydbrook, with its heavy industries, Stowfield and Symonds Yat East. Only three Hillersland houses were included, the rest – plus Redinghorne- were in West Dean.

Brian and Jeff showed how the census records can be used to reveal the history of Brian’s 17th century home – Whitehouse Farm.

The 1841 census shows tenant farmer John Crook (age ‘35’ – the census rounded down ages within 5 year brackets, he was actually 39), Harriet Crook (30), Sarah (8) and James (4). Also Ann Jacksons (12) and John Clayton, male servant (20). John Crook died age 46 and the tenancy transferred to his widow, he is buried on the north side of the chancel. The chest tomb for his family states she died aged 82 and was ‘a resident of Whitehouse Farm for nearly sixty years.’ In 1888 Harriet had transferred the tenancy to her grandson, John, who held this until 1937.

The 1851 census took place on the night 30/31 March. For Wales and Ireland there was a question on language spoken, Bicknor was included as it was a parish in the Monmouth Union – unsurprisingly most responded ‘English’. By this time Harriet was widowed with four children and two male servants – James Gunter (farm bailiff, born at Monmouth) and James Harris. Her eldest – Sarah – went on to marry Matthew Matthews, licensee of the Albert Inn in Joyford, in 1859. It was their son John who later held the Whitehouse tenancy.

The 1861 census shows Harriet had taken in lodgers. The unmarried schoolmaster of Bicknor School, James Kavanagh (22, of Yorkshire) lived there; together with grandson John who came to live here before he was one. He went on to Bicknor School whilst Kavanagh was in charge, and left at 7 to work on the farm.

The 1901 census lists the household as: John Matthews (41) farmer, his wife Fanny Alice (32) born in Herefordshire, son John (3) born in Bicknor, widowed mother Sarah Ann (68), brother Henry (25). By 1911 there were three sons and, for the first time, an (unmarried) female servant.

Interestingly, whilst Whitehouse Farm is not the oldest house in the village (Bicknor Court probably has Saxon origins) it is remarkably unaltered so looks more ancient, this is probably because it was a tenant farm so no-one invested hugely in redevelopments and additions.

Incidental bits of interest found in their census researches include:

- In 1841 Bicknor Cottage was actually called Ambrey Cottage (after its owner), in 1851 its name was Salt Box Cottage. After major building works it is called The Cottage in the 1881 census.

- In 1841 Ross Road from Dryslade Farm to the Rectory is called Bicknor Street. Our Bicknor Street is called Joyford.

- In 1841 Elizabeth Knight was tenant of Blackthorns Farm, although all male farm tenants were called ‘farmers’ the female is marked down as merely ‘farming’.

- Glebe Cottage, which was never part of the Glebe, is called Blackhouse in 1871, 1881 and 1891 census reports.

- Eastbach Farmhouse has an extra bit added on the roadside end of the house. In 1881 an unmarried bailiff was employed – was the extension added to keep him separated from family and servants? CS