Happy New Year from Gloucestershire Archives
- Credit: Gloucestershire Archives D2455/F4/5/1/4
The team at Gloucestershire Archives dust off the documents
Photograph of the Month
Complementing last month’s Victorian Christmas card, this rather twee and sentimental ‘A New Year Greeting’ was typical of fashionable cards of the time. It was printed by Meissner & Buch of Leipzig, who were founded in 1861 and became known for the high quality of their chromolithographic prints. With offices in London, Italy, France, Belgium and the United States, the company dominated the card and postcard markets, surviving both World Wars and not closing until 1972. The popularity of New Year has also waxed and waned over the years. From the Georgian period to the mid-Victorian, it easily eclipsed Christmas which had almost fallen into obscurity. Part of this was due to the after effects of the Reformation and the fact that for a time in the 1600s Christmas was officially banned both in England and Scotland. Even after religious tensions eased, celebrating Christmas was frowned upon for a long time – which allowed the New Year celebrations of Twelfth Night in England and Hogmanay in Scotland to take its place. It wasn’t really until the Victorian commercialisation of Christmas began in the 1840s (thanks largely to the Royal Family and Dickens) that New Year and Twelfth Night began to decline and Christmas was restored to its former medieval glory!
Spotlight on Maps
Among the most interesting maps held by Gloucestershire Archives are the county inclosure maps. Although some lands, chiefly around villages, had been inclosed much earlier, most of the Open Field land in Gloucestershire, as well as many commons and wastes, was inclosed between 1750 to 1850 by awards following Acts of Parliament.Although it’s often thought that every parish had an Inclosure Award, this isn’t so and of the over 300 ancient parishes in Gloucestershire, only about 200 were subject to an Inclosure Act. Most consist of a map with award and show the land distribution after the enclosure. The maps are usually well drawn and often show historical curiosities – as this 1815 inclosure map for Deerhurst and Leigh does in the shape of a red-coated man on horseback in the middle of the River Severn. This is Jeremiah Hawkins, who owned land on both sides of the river, but refused to pay to use the ferry at the nearby Haw passage and always forded the river on horseback. Local legend says that he made his servants do the same and at least one drowned!
Document of the Month
Winter was a time of hardship and this was one reason why the Christmas and New Year period involved an excess of eating. Even fit young adult workers needed to bulk up on a feast to get them through the rest of winter. For the poorest, oldest and feeblest members of a community it was a harsh time as all were physically vulnerable to hunger and cold. It was why charity became so prominent over the Christmas and New Year period. Poorer households would visit wealthier houses to beg for money or provisions of food and this could take many forms – from simple carol singing to performing plays or dances. This activity had several names; ‘Thomasing’ (after St. Thomas’s Day, December 21), ‘gooding’, ‘mumping’ and wassailing. For those unable to undertake or benefit from such community charity, the outcome was bleak, as this example from the parish of Naunton in 1786 shows; a beggar dying in a barn due to severe weather.
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‘A poor Beggar Man (whose Name and Parish
being unknown) was found dead in Ralph’s
barn thro the severity of the Wether &
was buried January the 21st by ye Parish.
And an affidavit of his burial in woollen on the January 26th’
This picture, taken in 1867, is a portrait of Becky Beard, aged 88. It was taken by the Rev. Edward Blackwell of Amberley who was a keen early photographer. His legacy is a set of five photograph albums, three of which are entitled ‘My Parish and Congregation’, from which this image comes. The albums include general views of the church and churchyard, vicarage and Rev Blackwell's family; plus portraits of parishioners. Many of the photographs have captions, giving dates, relationships, abodes, status and often other snippets of information. Sadly, this isn’t the case for Becky, but with a little detective work on the census records and parish registers we found that Rebecca was baptised on May 2, 1779 at Woodchester and her maiden name was Cordwell. She married Nathaniel Beard at Woodchester on February 20, 1803. Both were textile workers and they had one son, Charles, who was born in 1824. Nathaniel died in February 1846 and was buried at Woodchester. Becky passed away two years after this photograph was taken, aged 90, and was buried at Amberley on January 31, 1869. Readers can access census records and parish registers (and much more besides) free on Ancestry at Gloucestershire Archives, at any of Gloucestershire's Libraries or at Gloucestershire Family History Society's Centre. Alternatively, you can subscribe at home: Ancestry.co.uk).
Gloucestershire Archives, Clarence Row, Alvin Street, Gloucester, GL1 3DW, gloucestershire.gov.uk/archives
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