A Condensed History of the Barnett Family by By Brian Jones
is a history of the family of my grandfather, Walter Barnett. It covers the
migration of a rural family from the poverty and oppression of 18th
and 19th century Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to
a more affluent life in 20th century London.
print denotes the ancestors of Mabel Grace Becky Jones nee Barnett the
daughter of Walter Barnett.
let the reader get a feel of the areas the Barnetts lived in during the 18th
and 19th centuries, the following are descriptions of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire
and Huntingdonshire as given by one of the best loved of early Victorian
mapmakers, Thomas Moule. This text was first published in 1842.
county in England, about 36 miles in length, and 22 miles in breadth. It
contains 9 hundreds, 10 market towns, 124 parishes, and 107,936 inhabitants,
and sends two members of parliament. The Ouse and the Ivel are its chief
streams; and the Lea has its source here. The great range of chalk hills passes
through the county, whence it arises that it is more noted for pastures, than
for arable or woodland. It is a pleasant inland county, and diversified with
fruitful plains and rising hills, abounding in cattle, corn, and rich pastures;
it is noted for barley, bone, lace, and straw plait."
county of England, bounded by the counties of Bedfordshire, Essex,
Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Suffolk. It
is 50 miles in length from north to south, 25 broad from east to west. The air
and soil vary; the south and east are pleasant and healthy, but the north or
fenny country is low and watery. The Nen and Ouse, the Cam, and the Larke, are
its rivers; and the only hills of note are the trifling elevations called the
Gogmagog Hills. It is an agricultural county, and not unproductive. Population,
164,459. It returns seven members of parliament.’’
county of England, bounded by Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and
Northamptonshire. It is 22 miles long, and about 18 broad. The principal rivers
are the Ouse and Nen. It is divided into 4 hundreds, which contain 5 market
towns, 78 parishes, and 279 villages. The borders of the Ouse, which flows
across the Southeast part, consist of fertile and very beautiful meadows. The
middle and western parts are finely varied in their surface, fertile in corn,
and sprinkled with woods. The whole upland part was, in ancient times, a
forest, peculiarly adapted for hunting, whence the name of the county took its
rise. The north east part consists of fens, which join those of Ely; but they
are drained, so as to afford rich pasturage for cattle, and even large crops of
corn; and in the midst of them are shallow pools, abounding in fish. The
largest of these is a lake of considerable size, called Whittlesea Mere. Its chief
commodities are corn, malt, and cheese: and they fatten abundance of cattle.
Huntingdon is its chief town. Population 58,549. It sends 2 members to
gtgtgrandfather of Walter Barnett (1868-1932) was Richard Barnett
(1716-1781). He married Elizabeth Copperwheat (1725-1777) in
Blunham, Bedfordshire on the 3rd October 1745. It is thought that he
was an agricultural labourer throughout his working life. Richard and Elizabeth
had seven children, John born 1748, William born 1751, Elizabeth born 1753, Ann
and Mary born 1756, Ann born 1757 and Robert born 1758. All of there children
were born in Blunham. You will note that there were twins born in 1756 but
unfortunately they both died shortly after birth. Richard died in 1781
and Elizabeth 1777, both are buried in Blunham.
Copperwheat family can be traced back to Tudor times when John Copperwheat
was born in Oakley, Bedfordshire. This family lived in Oakley until Elizabeth
moved to Blunham on her marriage to Richard Barnett in 1745.
John Barnett (1685-1729) the father of Richard was born in Great Staughton,
Cambridgeshire in 1685. He married Mary Richardson (1690-1729) on the 20
December, 1714 in Willington, Bedfordshire. They had a further four children;
Sarah b1715-d1715, Mary b1719-d1719, John b1720 and Sarah b1722. As far is
known all were buried in Hail Weston, Cambridgeshire.
"BLUNHAM, is a parish, large
village, and station on the Bedford and Cambridge line of the North Eastern
railway; 7 miles east from Bedford, 6 south from St. Neots, 5 north west from
Biggleswade, and 50 from London, in the hundred of Wixamtree, union and county
court district of Biggleswade, rural deanery of Shefford, archdeaconry of
Bedford, and diocese of Ely, situated between the rivers Ouse and Ivel. The
church of St. Edmund is an ancient Norman structure, in excellent repair: it
has chancel, nave and aisles, and a very lofty tower, surmounted by pinnacles,
and containing 5 bells and a clock. The register dates from the year 1571. The
living is a rectory, yearly value £731, with about 255 acres of glebe, in the
gift of the Dowager Countess Cowper, and held by the Rev. Thomas Marlborough
Berry, M.A. of Trinity College, Dublin. Here are a National school for boys, a
School of Industry for girls and an Infant school, supported by contributions.
There are two chapels, one for Wesleyans and one for Baptists. Blunham formerly
had a market and a fair at the festival of St. James, granted to John Lord
Hastings in 1315. There is a church acre charity of the annual value of £1. 5s.
The old Manor House, now occupied as a farm-house, was formerly the residence
of Charles Grey, Earl of Kent: a barn standing near, having a boss on the
centre of one of the cross beams and other traces of carved work, is supposed
to have been the dining-hall. Blunham House is the residence of Sir Salusbury
Gillies Payne, bart., J.P. it is a plain brick building, pleasantly situated in
a park, through which the river Ivel flows; here are some fine elm and other
trees, of considerable age. The manor anciently belonged to the Earls of
Pembroke, from whom it descended by female heirs to the family of Hastings and
Grey, and is now the property of the Dowager Countess Cowper. The principal
landowners are the Dowager Countess Cowper and the rector. The soil is gravel.
The chief crops are wheat, oats, barley, and garden produce. The area, with
Moggerhanger, is 3,300 acres; rateable value, £3,459; population in 1871,
Richard's youngest son, Robert Barnett
(1758-1840) and Hannah Darling (1770-1801) married in Gamblingay,
Cambridgeshire on the 20th October 1788. They had five children; Ann
born 1789, John born 1792, Joseph born 1795, Mary born 1798 and William
born 1801. Hannah died in the November of 1801, shortly after the birth
of William. It is probable that her death was caused through complications
during the birth of William.
Robert married again on the 3rd
of March 1809 to Mary James, they had two children Jane and William.
NB: The names Barnard and Barnett
interchanged throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
Hannah Darling's parents, John Darling and Hannah
Meeks, had a further five children, two died in their first year and a boy
died aged 12 years. The surviving siblings of Hannah were Joseph born
1763 and Stephen born 1765. This family was living around Gamblingay,
Huntingdonshire at this time and were employed as farm workers.
Robert Barnett worked on the land
as an agricultural labourer around the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and
Huntingdonshire area. It is known that he worked in the parishes of Gambligay,
Cambs, and Chatteris, Cambs, and Everton, Hunts, and Potton, Beds. He probably
moved around these three counties chasing work using the Roundsman System,
although this has not been confirmed. The underemployed labourers who searched
for work, at this time, in different parishes used this system. Whenever they
found work and it was below a subsistence rate, their wages were topped up by
the parish overseer to a reasonable living wage.
The Roundsman System was thought to
be inefficient and wasteful, and was officially discouraged by order of the
magistrates in 1819, although it survived until 1834.
The farmworkers of this time were
also trapped within their environment because outside the market garden
district they had little prospect of setting up for themselves.
Robert Barnett died in 1840 at the age of 82
years. Both he and his wife Hannah are buried in Everton, Hunts.
The first time that I came across
the Roundsman System was with the grandfather of Robert Barnett (1758-1840),
William Copperwheat. Under removal and settlement procedures dated 1715,
William was removed from the village of Oakley, Bedfordshire and settled in
Ampthill, Bedfordshire by order of Churchwardens and Overseers for the poor of
the parish of Oakley. The following is the actual text transcribed from this
We the Churchwardens and Overseers
of the poor of the parish of Oakley in the County of Bedford whose names are
hereto subscribed, so here certify it to you the Churchwardens and Overseers of
the poor of the parish of Ampthill in the County of Bedford as aforesaid, or
any other whom it may concern; that William Copperwheat, weaver; his wife
Sarah, and Charles his son; that are removed out of our parish of Oakley to
dwell in your parish of Ampthill as aforesaid; are all of them inhabitants,
legally settled in our parish of Oakley as aforesaid and we are and shall be
always ready and willing to own them or theirs as such; at such time or times
as his or their necessities shall so require or which time or times as he or
they shall obtain or require a legal settlement elsewhere. In witness thereof
we have set to our hands and seals; this fourteenth day of February in the
second year of the reign of our sovereign Lord George by the Grace of God, King
of Great Britton, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith and in the year of
our Lord God Anno Christ 1715.
Signed & delivered in
Profonce of us
Thomas Smith Simon Gale
John Stoakes Church Wardens
Signed and acquired this certificate
February 16th Anno Domini
1715 by us
Two of his Majesty's Justices of the
For the County of Bedford aforesaid.
M. Davies Overseers of the poor
Below is an extract concerning the
village of Oakley from Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England for
a parish forming, with the parishes of Clapham and Milton-Ernest, a detached
portion of the hundred of STODDEN, county of BEDFORD, 4 miles
(N. W.) from Bedford, containing 486 inhabitants. The living is a discharged
vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Bedford, and diocese of Lincoln, rated in
the king's books at £8.14.9., endowed with £200 royal bounty, and in the
patronage of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College. The church, dedicated
to St. Mary, contains an ancient altar-tomb, and effigy in robes, of the
family of Reynes"
Joseph Barnett (1795-1877), the grandfather of Walter
Barnett, was born in 1795 in Everton, Huntingdonshire. On reaching working
age he became an agricultural labourer. Joseph moved to Tempsford,
Bedfordshire sometime in the early part of the 19th century where he met Charlotte
Jakins (1800-1871) of that parish. They were married on the 12th
October 1819 in Tempsford, after which they moved to Great Barford,
Bedfordshire*, where they raised their family of eleven children.
Charlotte Jakins came from a family of eight
children. Her parents, Thomas Jakins and Sarah Hawkes, worked as
farm workers around the village of Cockayne Hatling, Bedfordshire. Like the
Darling family, infant mortality was quite a high percentage of the children
born. Here again two of this family's infants died in their first year a
further boy died aged 6 years. The remaining surviving children were Sarah born
1787, John Cornelius born 1792, Lydia born 1794 and Thomas born 1796.
Great Barford is situated on the
West Bank of the River Ouse and has almost certainly been inhabited since
pre-historic times. There is evidence of circular Bronze Age burial barrows and
there was a Roman settlement just down the road at Sandy.
In the 9th and 10th centuries Gt.
Barford was occupied by the Danes until they were driven out at the "The
Battle of Bloody Bridge" by King Edward the Elder in 917.
After the Normans invaded England in
1066 they made their way northwards seizing and ravishing towns and villages
along each side of the river Ouse. This was the last major upheaval to occur in
Gt. Barford until the Poor Law riots of 1835.
It was in 1835 that Joseph
Barnett and other farm labourers of Bedfordshire were objecting to the
reform of the Poor Laws and in May of that year the riots of Amphill broke out.
This town was about 12 miles from Great Barford so the effect of the riots
would have been felt by the Barnetts. To give some idea of what the reforms
meant to the ordinary labourers like Joseph, I think we should evaluate
the typical state of their finances prior to 1835 and compare these with post
Average number of weeks worked 17
Average rate of wages per week 10/-
Amount of wages of the labourer at
his employment £8. 10/-
Additional pay for harvest £2. 00
Amount of earnings of labourer's
wife and children £10. 8/-
Allowance from parish * £14.00
Total income of family for year £34.
Outgoings for rent and fuel £6. 18/-
Net income applicable for food,
clothing, soap, candles etc £28.00
From this period under the new Poor Law
Act discretion was taken away from the individual parishes and grouped into
Poor Law Unions. Outdoor relief * in the form of cash handouts was from this
date to be strictly controlled and confined to the aged sick. There was to be
no more subsidising of wages nor provision of parish employment in hard times.
Therefore Joseph's net income after 1835 would have dropped by half to £14.00
There was no repeat of the poor law
riots after 1835, but the practice of Rick burning and farm sabotage remained
endemic through the 1830's and 1840's.
From 1819 to 1870 Joseph and Charlotte
Barnett were living at Brewers Hall Farm, Great Barford where most of
their eleven children were born. On reaching his middle to late seventies and
now a widower, Joseph was declared a pauper but was not reliant on the Union
Workhouse for subsidies at this time. By 1871 he had moved to Vine Cottages, a
row of dwellings that also housed his son-in-law William Wooton, a tailor, and
John Barnett his son, so one must assume that his kin helped out financially.
On the 2nd August 1877 he was admitted to the Bedford Workhouse.
He died in the Workhouse in the
early hours of Thursday morning, 11th October 1877 aged 82 years. The following
is a transcript from the Admission/Discharge book for the *Union Workhouse,
Bedford in the county of Bedfordshire:
" Thursday 2nd August 1877 -
Joseph Barnett - labourer - born 1795 - admitted - diet No 2 - admitted by
order of the Relieving Officer.
Thursday 11th October 1877 - Joseph Barnett
- discharged dead - last meal supper "
*The Workhouse was an institution
which provided basic sustenance for the very poor, infirm and aged. Workhouses
existed not only in Britain, but in parts of Europe and colonial America from
the 17th century, but were most notorious in Victorian Britain.
The 1834 Poor Law established a
central Poor Law Board based at Somerset House, with three Commissioners, and
with Edwin Chadwick as its first Secretary. Local parishes were combined into
larger Unions, with workhouses run by Guardians under the authority of a more
centralised administration. Conditions varied but were generally harsh and
punitive. On entering the workhouse an individual lost all voting rights and
was subject to a regime of meagre food and irksome work such as stone breaking.
In a notorious case of 1846, a select committee confirmed that inmates at the
Andover, Hampshire, Workhouse had been reduced by hunger to gnawing the rotting
bones they had been sent to pound. Workhouses subsequently became known as
"Bastilles" and popular opinion, influenced by the novels of Charles
Dickens, soon viewed them as places of oppression.
Gradually conditions improved, as
the middle classes became more sympathetic towards workhouse inmates and the
working class campaigned for political, economic, and social equality. In 1858
Louisa Twining set up a visiting society.
The reason for Joseph’s admission
was obviously because he was of a great age and probably infirm.
Charlotte died on the 11th of March 1871 aged
74 years and both she and Joseph are buried in Great Barford Parish
On the 25th August 1825 John
Barnett (1825-1882) was born at Brewers Hall Farm, Great Barford. He was
the third child of Joseph and Charlotte and by the age of 15
years was employed as a house servant for John Ayres, a local farmer. This job
lasted a few years until the early 1840’s when he started working as an
agricultural labourer. Circa 1847 he began walking out with Emma Dilly
(1825-1890), a young lady who originated from the parish of Islington,
On the 24th October 1848 they were
married according to the Rites of the Church of England at the Parish Church of
All Saints*, Great Barford, the ceremony being performed by the Reverend J P
Richardson and witnessed by John Gurney and Emma Chapman.
*There's probably been a church on
this site since the early 13th century when Hugh de Northgivell was vicar in
The most impressive part of the
church is the 15th Century tower. This tower houses five bells which were cast
in the reign of Charles I.
Shortly after the wedding, John
and Emma Barnett moved into the High Street, Great Barford where
most of their eight children were born.
To help supplement the family
finances John's wife and daughters were employed as lace makers. In Bedfordshire,
only the widespread practice of domestic industry - lace making in the north
and straw plait in the south - enabled families to survive economically by
providing employment for women and children. Daughters of farm labourers were
sent to lace school at a cost of 2p per week. During the 1850's and 1860's
wages for farm workers marginally increased as agriculture became more
prosperous, but land wages never kept pace with the wage of the city and town
John never got a chance to see some of
his sons and daughters move to the cities and better themselves, because at the
age of 56, on the 11th of March 1882, he was out riding when he was thrown from
his horse and killed. The following is the report that ran in the local
newspaper "The Bedfordshire Times" on Saturday 11th March 1882:
" Goldington - FATAL
ACCIDENT. A labourer named John Barnett of Gt. Barford, age 56, was
thrown from a horse near the old turnpike on the Goldington Road on Wednesday
and killed. The inquest was held at the Swan Inn on Thursday by Mr Whyley,
County Coroner, and the evidence adduced showed that the horse the deceased was
riding belonged to his master Mr Jefferies of Gt Barford. It was a quiet animal
to ride though it occasionally had been known to shy slightly. It was supposed
that the horse shied at the two posts on the right hand side of the road and
the man was thrown on his head and broke his neck. The jury returned a verdict
of 'Accidentally Killed' and recommended that the posts referred to be altered
or removed. "
Emma would out-live John by eight
years dying in Islington, London at the age of 64 years on the 18th April
1890. She was buried alongside her husband John in the Parish Cemetery
of Great Barford.
As was previously shown, infant
mortality was quite rampant in the latter part of the 18th century.
In the Darling family it ran at 50% and the Jakins family 38%. So I thought it
might be an idea to note what the infants of the 19th century
Barnett family succumbed to. The following are extracts taken from the relevant
Thomas William Barnett died 12
November 1865 at Great Barford, aged 1year 6months, cause of death fever and
Sarah Ann Barnett died 22 October
1865 at Great Barford, age 2months, cause of death decline.
These were the children of Joseph
Barnett (1843-1908) and his first wife Jane Harper (1840-1870)
See the following paragraph for the
details of Joseph's second marriage.
John Barnett son of William Barnett
(1821- ?) and 1st wife Harriet Shawley, died 24 January 1847 at Great Barford,
aged 12weeks, cause of death decline.
Mary Ann Barnett daughter of William
Barnett (1821- ?) and 2nd wife Mary Thody nee Mylot, died 25 September 1864 at
Great Barford, aged 17months, cause of death inflamation of the lungs.
Emily Jane Barnett daughter of James
(Jem) Barnett (1851-1891) and Fanny ?, died 19 July 1873 at Great Barford, aged
1year, cause of death croup.
Charlotte Lydia Barnett daughter of
George Barnett (1849-1910) and Mary Ann Harper (Jane's younger sister), died 3
February 1883 at Great Barford, aged 2 years, cause of death croup.
It is interesting to note that the
medical definition of decline in the Consise Oxford Dictionary is tuberculosis
or similar disease. I wonder if some of these children died from the hereditary
illness, cystic fibrosis, a chest disease that was known to have claimed at
least three members of the Barnett family, through three generations, during
the 20th century.
I think that at this point I should
say something about the only 19th century Barnett emigrant that is
known at this time. He was Joseph Barnett, the uncle of Walter. He was
born on the 26th of May 1843 and married Jane Harper in 1862, they
had two children, Thomas William, born1864, and Sarah Ann, born 1865. Both
these children died in 1865. Their marriage was short lived because on the 4th
of December 1870 Jane also died.
After the death of Jane, Joseph
moved into Vine Cottages and stayed with his father, old Joseph. It was
at this time that young Joseph started courting Mary Ann Duncombe culminating
in their marriage on the 27th June 1871 in Parish Church of Dowsby,
On the 5th November 1872
Mary Ann Barnett gave birth to her first born, Annie, and on the 8th
July 1874 she gave birth to her second child, Herbert. It was shortly after
this that they applied for assisted passage to emigrate to Canada. This was
eventually arranged, so in the Spring of 1875 Joseph and Mary Ann Barnett
sailed for their new life in North America. This was to be the start of a
dynasty of Barnetts who are still living in and around Oxford County, Ontario,
Canada, and some of Joseph's descendants have settled in the USA.
Below is an example of the type of
procedure that would have occurred for emigration from 18th century
Notice of Meeting to consent to
raising or borrowing Money for Emigration purposes. Hawnes Parish. Amphill
Union. Bedford County.
"Notice is hereby given that a
Meeting of the Owners of Property in this parish legally entitled to vote, in
person, or by proxy, and of the Ratepayers therein will be held at the School
Room Church End in this parish on Thursday the thirteenth day of January next
at Ten in the forenoon for tbe purpose of considering whether any and what Sum
or Sums of money, not exceeding half the Average yearly Poor Rate for the three
years now last past, shall be raised or borrowed as a fund. for defraying the
expenses of the Emigration of poor persons having settlements in this Parish,
and being willing to emigrate and of giving directions for raising or borrowing
such Sum or Sums to be paid out of or charged upon the Rates raised or to be
raised for the Relief of the Poor in the Parish, and to be applied under and
according to such rules, orders, and regulations, as the Commissioners for
administering the Laws for Relief of the Poor in England, shall in that behalf
direct. Dated this Eighth day of January 1848."
The results of a meeting similar to
the above would have accumulated the following funds and the eventual outlay
for three families emigrating to Ontario in 1874:
£ s d
Duke of Bedford 15 0 0
Baroness Rothschild 1 0 0
Rev. W S Baker 1 10 0
W L Smart Esq 3 0 0
Trustees of |Eversholt Estate 12 0 0
J Green Esq 1 0 0
Parker Esq 10 0
Mrs Gisborne 5 0
Mr Stannard 5 0
Mrs Pearson 2 0
Labourers’ Union 7 5 0
Mr Sprague 2 6
Mr Dimmock 5 0
A Friend 2 6
A Bricklayer 6
Mrs Sandys for Flannel 1 2 6
Miss Sandys 10 0
Miss M Sandys 5 0
Miss Saunders 5 0
Mr Sandys 3 0 1
Total 47 10 1
Agent Canadian Govt. for Passage 21
Railway Fares 8 12 9
Carriage to Ridgmount 5 0
Expenses of personnel from London 5
Paid for Flannel-12 yards each
family 1 2 6
Cash to purchase necessary articles
Liverpool etc. £5 2s 6d each family 15
Total 47 10 1
The other methods of assisted
emigration to Canada at this time would have been as follows:
Firstly there were two sisters, the
Misses Trevor, of Tingrith, Beds. Who assisted families to emigrate to Ontario,
Canada in the 1870’s. Over 100 families from the area emigrated in 1872/73 and
they named the settlement in Canada after their place of departure – Little
Tingrith. The parish of Tingrith, Bedfordshire is about 10 miles from Great
Barford. It’s possible that Joseph and Mary Ann Barnett may have been involved
in this type of migration scheme.
The other interesting fact relates
to the Farm Workers Strikes of the 1870,s and the formation of the Farm
Worker’s Union. One of the leading lights of this Union was a very ardent
supporter of the emigration schemes, mainly to Australia. Almost every edition
of the local papers of Bedfordshire carried large advertisements encouraging
people to emigrate to a better place, better working conditions and better pay
– usually to New Zealand or Australia, Canada was mentioned on occasion. The
Union would help place people and give assistance with passage arrangements.
There also were reports of Smallpox
outbreaks spreading across the Bedfordshire and epidemic proportions being
reported in the middle 1870’s. This might also have encouraged Joseph and Mary
Ann to emigrate.
On the 9th May 1875
Joseph Barnett age 31, and his family, Mary age 33, Annie age 2 and Herbert age
1 sailed from Liverpool on the S.S. Polynesian, a ship belonging to the
Montreal Ocean Steam Ship Company, for their journey to the New World .
They travelled steerage and the ship
stopped once at Londonderry N.I. to pick up more passengers before arriving in
Quebec City, Canada on the 9th May 1875. After passing through
stringent emigration inspections the family made its way to Ontario where they
settled in Oxford County in the Southwest of this Province. By 1881 Joseph had
become a farmer, which was certainly a great promotion from the farm labourer that
he was in Great Barford, Bedfordshire.
Joseph and Mary Ann Barnett would go
on to have a further six children born in Ontario, Canada. They were as
Emily Jane- born Jul 20, 1876, died
Apr 22, 1922
Louisa Clara born Jul 29, 1878, died
Nov 4, 1966
William Edward- born Feb 1, 1881,
died Apr 5, 1967
Ethel born Mar 18, 1883, died Aug 4,
Thomas Henry- born Jun 29, 1885,
John Wilburn- born Sep 7, 1888, died
Apr 22, 1945
Annie E Barnett, who was born in
Great Barford on the 5th November 1872, died in Oxford County,
Ontario on the 24th January 1942 and Herbert Barnett who was born on
the 8th July 1874 in Great Barford, also dying in Ontario in 1943.
John Barnett’s son Walter Barnett (1868-1932)
was born in the High Street, Great Barford on the 27th September 1868. He was
the youngest of the family having five brothers and two sisters. With the
coming of the 1870 Education Act Walter was entitled to free education
and by the time he was 5 years of age was attending the Great Barford National School.
He and some of his siblings were the first of his family who could read and
write, although there is proof that some of his uncles signed the parish
records at the time of their marriages'.
Schooling prior to 1870 was pretty
scant for the underprivileged. To give some idea of the state of education for
the poor people of Gt. Barford in the 18th and 19th centuries, the following is
an extract from "The Heritage of Great Barford":
" Sarah Foster, a widow in
Great Barford, made her first will on the 4th August 1731 and planned to set up
a charity school. She proposed to leave £500 to the vicar, churchwardens and
overseers and half the income of this was to be paid to ''an honest
schoolmaster of good morals and of the Church of England to teach 8 poor boys
and 8 poor girls to write, read and cast accounts, and bring them to be
catechised when the vicar requires it.
Unfortunately Mrs Foster cancelled
this will and the school never started.
In 1846 schooling was given on Sundays
and held in the church. There was a paid master, a paid mistress, and three
"gratuitous female teachers" who taught 49 boys and 75 girls at a
total cost of £5. 4s. A Dame school was held weekdays for 10 boys and 34 girls;
there was just the one paid mistress. The Sunday school returns for 1846/47
remark - " The boys' Sunday school is held in the church, the girls' in an
outhouse belonging to the vicarage; the people are miserably poor and there are
no resident gentry".
In 1848 there was a demand for a
village school. Trinity College, Cambridge gave £100, the Bedfordshire Board of
Education £50 and the Hon. the Privvy Council £115; and together with public
subscriptions a building fund of £550. 15s was raised. Trinity College gave a
piece of ground in the High Street.
With the money a school was built
and a house was provided for Mr. Robinson, the first headmaster, who received
£20 per annum salary. His assistant, Mrs Sharpe, received £15 a year.
Maintained by the church it was known as Great Barford National School.
In 1884, together with Goldington
School, it was administered by a specially appointed schoolboard. In 1902 it
was taken over by the Bedfordshire County Council as an elementary school
teaching children from 5 to 14 years.''
During the 1870's and 1880's a
period of stagnation and decline caused an agricultural recession in
Bedfordshire. This was a result of an increase in farm workers' wages to an all
time 19th century peak, which was shortly followed by an economic recession
that affected agriculture, as cheap American grain and Australian and New
Zealand meat started to swamp the country. To put the proverbial nail in the
coffin the domestic lace making industry was hit by the introduction of cheaper
machine made lace.
Obviously this caused household
incomes to go into decline, and the flight from the land became a flood. The
outcome of this was to motivate many of the land workers of Bedfordshire to
move to the cities, which were still feeling the benefits of the mid- Victorian
So in the late 1880's Walter
decided to try his luck in London. On reaching this city he was fortunate
enough to get accommodation with his older brother, John Frederick Barnett, who
had preceded him to the parish of Holloway, Islington. John was a brewer’s
labourer at this time probably working down at Brewery Road a short distance
from the house that he was renting at 101 Goodinge Road, Lower Holloway,
Islington was the birth parish of Walter’s
mother Emma, who eventually came back to live at 50 Pembroke Street,
Islington after the death of her husband John. The reason for her move
from Great Barford to London was probably due to the fact that after the death
of her husband she had to move out of the tied cottage on the High Street, Great
Also living in this house in
Goodinge Road with John and Walter were their sisters, Julia Matilda
Barnett and Charlotte Barnett. It appears that Julia was the housekeeper
whereas Charlotte was in domestic service. It must have been a reasonably sized
house because John was renting out rooms to two of his cousins, Charles and
Alfred Barnett plus another lodger, George Westman who hailed from Ashwell,
Hertforshire. At some time prior to March 1894, John was also renting rooms in
this house to his future sister-in-law, Rebekah Mead aka Springett
Prior to Charlotte living at 101
Goodinge Road she was a living-in servant with Benjamin Baucher, a corn
merchant, and his family at 31 Petherton Road, Islington.
Islington appeared in the Domesday
Book (1086), the record of land survey ordered by William I the Conqueror, as
Isendone. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-39) and the Great
Fire of London(1666), Islington became a more residential area of London. In
North Islington, medicinal wells were discovered; and the spa at Mr Sadler's
gave it's name to The Sadlers Wells Theatre the original home of the famous
British opera and ballet company.
Gradually, however, the rural feel
to the area was overtaken by the introduction of North Road (1812), the Regents
Canal (1812) and in 1850 the North London Railway which was where Walter
got his first chance at employment in London. Many new squares and terraces
were constructed towards the end of the 19th century among these was Goodinge
At the turn of the century Charlotte
and John Frederick would return to Great Barford where John became a publican.
On the 11th March 1903
Charlotte, now a domestic servant in Great Barford, gave birth to an
illegitimate boy, Mossie James Barnett. The father of this lad is thought to
have been one of Charlotte's brothers, possibly John Frederick. This is based
on the circumstantial evidence that Charlotte and John were living together in
London and Gt. Barford for the period 1891 to 1903 and from what I can surmise
they had a pretty close relationship.
On the other hand could it be
possible that Charlotte gave Mossie his middle name in honour of her brother
James, him being the father? One thing is for sure and without dispute if
family legend is to be believed, Charlotte had an incestuous relationship that
begot Mossie, which I for one cannot get to uptight about. As the old saying
goes " love conquers all ".
Unfortunately John Frederick, a
publican in Great Barford, died at the very young age of 36 years from the
"Publican's Disease", cirrhosis of the liver, on the 9th September
1903 with Charlotte at his bedside. This was only six months after the birth of
his "son", Mossie James Barnett.
I have a feeling that this liaison
between Charlotte and one of her brothers was a tragic love story that will
never be completely known or told in it's entirety, and will be buried with the
After this upheaval Charlotte
settled down in Great Barford where she brought up her son Mossie (1903-1983)
who would eventually go on to marry a lady named Selina (1904-1984).
The only other branch of the Barnett
family that was known to be living in Great Barford as the 19th century was
drawing to a close, was George Barnett another brother of Walter.
George, an agricultural labourer, together with his wife Mary, a lace maker,
and their children Amelia and Bertie, were living with Mary's father, Jacob
Harper, in a cottage on The Cross Road, Great Barford. George died on the 22nd
July 1910 and his wife Mary died on the 19th March 1924, both are
buried in the graveyard of All Saints Church, Great Barford.
Soon after his arrival in London Walter
managed to get a job as a railway porter and by 1894 had been promoted to a
shunter, a prestigious trade, which entailed the planning, and operation for
the onward transmission of goods trucks to their correct destinations.
It was whilst living at 101 Goodinge
Road that he met another lodger, Rebekah Mead aka Springett who
originally came from Stanway near Colchester, Essex. After a short time they
became engaged and were eventually married on the 26th March 1894 at St Lukes
Church, Holloway the ceremony being witnessed by Walter's sister
Charlotte and brother John Frederick.
Rebekah Springett had an unfortunate start in life, being
born in the Union Workhouse, Stanway in the County of Essex, on the 7th of May
1866. Her mother Susan Springett aka Mead was admitted to the Workhouse
on the 28th February 1866 by order of Samuel Houlding the local registrar, the
said Susan being pregnant.
The following is a transcript from
the Admission Book for the Lexden and Winstree *Union Workhouse, Stanway, Essex
for the period 1863 to 1870:
"28th February 1866 - Susan
Mead - aged 30 years - admitted pregnant - by order of Mr Houlding,
7th May 1866 - Susan Mead -
aged 30 years - gave birth to a female illegitimate child. "
As was stated previously, in 1834,
The Poor Law Amendment Act introduced centralised workhouses for groups of
parishes in England and Wales. The workhouses were designed to administer a
terribly basic level of welfare to the unfortunate of society who sought refuge
there. They were known as "Unions" and it was in these gaunt and
forbidding places that numbers of poor, unmarried mothers, many cast adrift from
their families by the stigma of illegitimacy, were forced to have their babies.
If they chose to stay in the workhouse once their child was born, they
sometimes found themselves deliberately separated from their offspring at an
early age. This may have applied to Susannah Springett (Susan Mead) in
The father of Rebekah is
thought to have been a married man, George Mead a farm labourer
of Stanway, Essex. It is probable that Rebekah was conceived in
September of 1865. This was the time of the 'Harvest Suppers' when the landed
gentry and farmers put on a spread for the workers of the estates. If Susan
was in service on the same estate as George and they were at the
same 'Harvest Supper' and with the beer flowing, one thing may have led to
This could have been another tragic
love story that went awry but unlike the saga concerning Charlotte, this one is
based on fairly good circumstantial evidence.
After much confusion it has now been
established that Rebekah’s mother was born Susannah Springett
in Fordham, Essex, in 1835, and baptised on the 1st November 1835.
Her parents were John Springett from Alphamstone, Essex and Susannah
Springett nee Leggett from Fordham, Essex. John and Susannah where married in
Fordham on the 5th August 1832. The siblings of young Susannah
were born in various villages around Colchester; Lexden and East Donyland being
In the Spring of 1881 the
grandmother of Rebekah Springett, Susannah Springett nee Leggett
was a widow living in the Alms Houses on Chapel Street, East Donyland, Essex
and was supported by the Alms House.
Rebekah Springett, aged 14 years, was working as a
domestic servant in the home of Louisa Clare Turner on East Hill, Colchester in
1881. Mrs Turner was the widow of a solicitor. The household comprised of five
adult Turners and two infants who were served by four servants. It is now
established that Rebekah, although born a Mead, considered herself a
Springett rather than a Mead.
Also in 1881 the mother of Rebekah,
Susannah Hoy nee Springett, was thought to be living as married woman in
Forrest Gate, Essex with Walter Hoy a landscape gardener.
Shortly after their marriage Rebekah
and Walter Barnett moved just down the road from their original lodgings
to set up home at 49 Goodinge Road where they raised a family of six boys and
two girls. Ernest, Edward, Albert and Horace like their father Walter
would all eventually end up working on the railways where two of them became
inspectors. Percy went into the Royal Navy but died age 26 from TB. Albert was
killed at age 18 when he was run over by a train. Cecil died an infant, from
what we now suspect to be cystic fibrosis, in 1904. The two daughters, Mabel
Grace Becky Barnett (1907-1982) and Ivy Barnett went into domestic service.
Walter died on the 22nd of January
1932 and Rebekah died on the 24th December 1946 in Hendon, London. Rebekah
moved to Hendon after being bombed out of her home, when Goodinge Road was
wiped out during an air raid in the Second World War.
( Rebekah Barnett nee Springett also
used the spelling Rebecca in her earlier life for her Christian name)
NB: For the narrative on the 20th
century Barnetts see the "Condensed History of the Descendants of
Walter and Rebekah Barnett"