Thursday, 21 January 2010

Memoir of a Family: Part Two

Last week, I began the serialisation of a journal kept by my wife's great aunt. Here is part two.

'My father, George, was born in Hordle (Tiptoe). His parents, my grandparents, were farmworkers and lived in a ‘tied cottage’. They had a family of five: Henry, George, John, William and Elizabeth.

My father started work in domestic service as a footman. By the time he had met my mother, he had travelled to Canada as a gentleman’s valet. He kept a diary of his journey, which told of getting lost in a forest and other adventures outside of his normal duties.

He had a love affair with a Miss Knight, of West End, who was a teacher. But it did not develop into a very close relationship, according to my father’s diary. He was anxious to marry her, but she did not respond. I think this was the start of his alcoholism, which was the cause of losing his job.

He was a gardener at the time of his marriage. My grandmother was very much against this, and warned my mother that he would not give up drinking.

He later worked for a local farmer who had bought Boyatt Farm, near Eastleigh. My parents moved into Little Boyatt Cottage. My mother, by now, must have been heart-broken. She must have realised her mother was right in her warning.

My mother arrived at Little Boyatt with two children, my brothers, Charles and Bert, and pregnant with Frank. Her youngest sister, Lily, accompanied her, either by train or with the farm wagons and their small amount of furniture.

I remember my mother saying how she first saw the house, which appeared to have no windows, surrounded by meadows. There was no road and, Boyatt Lane, which was the nearest, was very narrow and about a half a mile away.

The house was a small farmhouse, divided into two cottages. The water supply was a deep well which was on the other side of our part of the cottage. Drawing water was a very arduous task which my mother had to do very often, as my father went to work early and came home late. She still had to do this when she was pregnant and she said this caused all of us to be born with a caul over our heads.

The farmer and his family of four took over Boyatt and a smaller farm in Boyatt Lane, called ‘Lincolns’.

Life was very hard for both of my parents. My father spent his days ploughing the arable land, sowing the crops, harvesting and looking after the horses seven days a week, from daylight to dark, in the summer.'

Continued next week

To read from the beginning - click here

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges  


  1. How unfortunate that your father would be driven to alcoholism by the spurning of his true love. And how much more so for your mother to find she had fallen in love with the wrong man who would only make her life a sad one.

    (As a Canadian, I would love to hear those adventure-tales when he was a valet.)

  2. What a change in lifestyle between then and now! I am always struck by how much we have changed in so few years. That is why journals are the true recordings of history. This is amazing. I'm particularly intrigued by the mother's warning to her daughter because of her choice of man to marry. It's interesting how times have changed even in that respect.

    I am very hooked to these journal entries, Martin, so please do keep sharing them. Enjoyable, to say the least.


  3. So interesting. I did enjoy this.
    I think I'm so busy every single minute, but what if I had to find time to fetch water!! Gee.

  4. presumably he had stopped drinking by then?
    these tales of long ago are fascinating; it's so unlikely that these ordinary people kept diaries but they did and we are all the richer for having such an immediate nsight into their lives.

  5. I love these glimpses into a life -- you will have so much inspiration for a novel -- or several!

  6. Yes, some sad spots in those lives, for sure! Do you happen to know what a tied house is? I've never heard that term before!

  7. Kat

    I know. It's the stuff of period novels isn't it?

    I have no idea if George's Canadian diaries still exist, but yes, I would be intrigued to know their contents too.


    There is quite a bit, yet, to come. I'm so glad to hear that you're enjoying the extracts.


    Life was particularly hard for the women in those days. Often they had large families to care for under very primitive conditions by today's standards.


    Without giving too much away, my wife's great aunt compiled this journal from her own personal memories and those of her mother. She benefited from a good education, and that's probably why the story ever got written down at all.


    The cogs are already turning. Each time I post an extract, I see possible plotlines.


    A 'tied' house is a dwelling that goes with the job. In George's day, if a man lost his position, he also lost his home. As a child, I lived with my family in such a place. When my father left us, we were able to stay put, as long as he continued to work for the landlord. When he eventually left his job, me, my sister and my mother were given notice to quit, and were consequently, homeless.

  8. Martin, a fascinating insight into a past life.

  9. Titus

    Glad you enjoyed the post. Watch out for more to come.


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