Monday, 11 April 2011

Local History Society

So my grandmother’s been going to this monthly history society of a hamlet next to our village, partly to keep a family friend company.
It’s usually quite dull and entirely localised in its interests. Which is fine, really.
I went with her tonight, just for fun, and it was oddly interesting tonight. 

So there’s this family that still has descendants in the hamlet/village, the Dickinsons. They had this one son who was very much a bad egg. Got convicted for stealing a bushel of wheat from his neighbour (from whom he’d previously stolen - entirely for profit. I suspect personal vendettas) and was caught because he left a trail; his sack had a hole in.
He got transported to Bemuda for 7 years - for that reason alone, he got to come back after 4 years to work at Portsmouth for the remainder of his sentence.

Then about 10 years later, after spawning another 4 of his 6 children, he was transported to Australia, for stealing from a separate neighbour.
He never returned. But he did ok - he didn’t  bother trying to save up money to come back, so he married a fellow convict from Ireland (the authorities gave him leave to be a technical bigamist, what with separate continents) and had a bushel of brats there, too.
The descendent in Australia has been in touch with the woman who was looking through all these archives and giving the lecture.

That family also had a penchant for shot-gun marriages. Henry Dickinson was married just after his first child was born, and his grandchild was born just after or before the marriage, and so on. Apparently it’s still an odd family tradition today. Not a conscious one, though. Just that they were a bit of a wayward family.

But there are also interesting things about how census’s changed, and how people moved cottage to cottage and never really stayed put - so it makes it even harder to pinpoint where they were living, since they didn’t have house numbers or names back then, unless you were living on a farm or at the vicarage.
Then later, in the early 1900s, they started saying “near the vicarage” or “near the green” or “near the White Hart” (the decrepit pub).

Also what with the industrial revolution, and the desire to prove one way or another that industry damaged or killed people, they started to ask whether people were deaf, dumb or blind. And later, deaf, dumb, blind, imbecile, idiot or lunatic. Of course these were always left blank, cause our village is very lucky, and apart from that, in an agricultural area.

Really quite interesting, though a bit long-winded as she’s not an accustomed public speaker I think.
But there were pretty pictures of some of the cottages, that have been there since the 1800s and are still there, taken in the 1920s. <3

I rather liked this Dickinson guy, even though he left his wife and 6 kids. In the census 10 years before he died, she was still listed as ”married”. It was soon after that census that she decided she was a widow and he wasn’t coming back - he never wrote to her or anything. Not that convicts could, I imagine. Families had to just hope that they survived both boat journeys. 

1 comment:

e.f. bartlam said...

He sounds a lot like my kin in Georgia...and they've been in Georgia long enough to have been sent there for reasons similar to your man that ended up in Australia.