Friday, July 3, 2020

The Woodreeve of Shimmings ...

Just checkin'. E-bay. With my first cuppa of the moning. Before getting down to the heavy research of the day ... and gollygeeeeeee ... bingo!  Struck gold! A carte de visite of one of my favourite Victorian Vocalists whom I have never seen pictured before! Message to head office in Melbourne ... I think we had better buy that before it disappears. Lizzie (contralto) didn't make into the 100 selected for the book, but, now that we have a photo, I shall blog her shortly, for posterity.

I continued my wander desultorily through the vendor's items ... and awwww .. this lovely photo surfaced ... surely he's real and not an actor playing Willie Hayseed ..?

And it's inscribed! No actor he ... Batchelor. Shimmings. Petworth. Hasten to the censi. Shimmings is a tiny place in 1861. Only seven houses. And number one is ... the Batchelor family!  Widowed father, three sons and a daughter. The younger sons are agricultural labourers ... father John and eldest son Daniel are .. what .. a woodreeve. A forest manager.

Well, our gentleman looks as if he were a wee bit venerable, and he seems to be able to read, so I think maybe he is John or David. Depending when the photo was taken. Look up the photographer ... and a splendid site tells all ... as I might have guessed, Frank Gaudrion Morgan flourished in the 1860s and 1870s ... so this is undoubtedly John the woodreeve. Born 1794. Petworth. Christened 30 March. Son of Edmund Batchelor and his wife Mary.

The 1841 census shows us that Shimmings -- already 7 dwellings -- is almost entirely populated by ag labs, with a couple of sawyers and a groom ... well, we are in forestry country. John is still an ag lab, and with his wife Hannah née Smart and seven children makes up the largest household in the hamlet ...  In 1851 they are still there, the boys are woodsmen, all the children are 'unmarried' but there is, nevertheless, a year old 'grandson' now in the house ..

John died in 1866 ... he would have been in his sixties, therefore, when this photo was taken ...  I wonder if the seven-home hamlet still exists ... I imagine John's forest will have shrunk in the 150 years since he left it ... those 'sawyers' ...

I had better stop wandering in the Sussex woodlands and get back to work ... but having met John, I wanted to find out just a little about him ...

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