Private Sidney Gunnell, 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment

001 (3) - CopySidney Gunnell,  at the age of 26, had become an orphan. His father had died in 1910 and his mother in 1912.  As one of ten children of Thomas Gunnell and Mary Jane Goodyear, Sidney was of course not alone in the world. However, most of his siblings had gone into service, and most were in London. Annie and Agnes were living at Wakeswood, in service to Henry Longfellow Cooper and his wife. George and his wife were in Longparish. There were only three of them left at 4, Homefield, and he was the man of the house. His sister Jane was nineteen, and Constance May was seventeen.

He had joined the army in preference to going into service, and had been able to send money home over the years to help support the family. But now he was sitting in the army depot in Winchester, waiting for the call to go to France, and he did not share the gung-ho exuberance of some of his comrades, which was beginning to get on his nerves. He had put Jane down as his next of kin, as indeed she was, but he hoped to goodness that he would survive the war to look after his sisters.

And, still aged only 28, Sidney was not against the idea of living to a ripe old age himself…

Homefield early 1900s possibly

Homefield, early 1900s. The Gunnells lived at number 4, just out of sight on the left of the picture

Homefield 1 to 4 St Mary Bourne, Hampshire - Copy

Homefield today. The house in the foreground is #1.

You can see the Homefield terrace of five houses here, marked in yellow at the bottom right hand side of the map, below the ‘V’ for view.

Swampton area map - Copy

Homefield, numbers 1-5. Courtesy Basingstoke and Deane Council

The Rubicon Is Crossed


“The Demon”, Newton Wallop, 6th Earl of Portsmouth, caricature by Spy, Vanity Fair Magazine 21 August 1907

The Right Honourable Newton Wallop, 6th Earl of Portsmouth JP, DL (19 January 1856 – 4 December 1917), was a  Liberal politician, who had served as Under-Secretary of State for War under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman from 1905 to 1908.

Though he still visited London on occasion, these days he spent most of his time on his estate at Farleigh Wallop. And they would be celebrating ‘the Glorious Twelfth‘ with  a big shoot and house party. (Or at least, that had been the plan).


Hurstbourne Park II (burned down in 1965)

The new Hurstbourne Park  was a comfortable place to live. Its predecessor, which Jane Austen had often visited,  breathed Georgian elegance but was a cold and draughty place and he had shed few tears when it burned down on New Year’s Day 1891,  the year he succeeded to the earldom.

The capital and income which funded both the Earl’s building and his largesse came from his ownership of land. In 1873, his father owned 16,401 acres in Hampshire alone, with an income of £14,732. 1 And he was glad to say that he had managed to extend that further (and, in his opinion, manage it better) in his own lifetime.

1785 Portsmouth Estate Map of SMB lands - Copy - Copy

1785 Portsmouth Estate Map of SMB lands (Earl’s property thought to be preceded by ‘A’) Hampshire Record Office: 15M84/MP23/2

The Earl pulled himself out of his explanatory reverie. He felt an enormous weight of ‘noblesse oblige‘ on his shoulders. As one of the first people to hear the news of war (by telephone), he now felt responsible for all those who lived on his land, some of whom depended on its produce for their livelihood.

Why There is War

The following statement was issued from the Foreign Office last night: Owing to the summary rejection by the German Government of the request made by His Majesty’s Government for assurances that the neutrality of Belgium would be respected, His Majesty’s Ambassador in Berlin has received his passport, and His Majesty’s Government has declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11pm on August 4.

And then he remembered: he did have someone with whom to share the burden: the vicar. Lord Portsmouth was grateful that he had always made it a practice, when feasible, of sending his carriage (and now his motor car) for the priest to lunch with him on the first Friday of the month. Unfortunately the vicar did not yet have a telephone (he must see to that), but could be expected to be somewhere in the parish on a Tuesday. The Reverend William Tovani would know what should be done. He was a St Andrew’s man (whereas, as a Balliol graduate, Lord Portsmouth was quietly conscious of his own ‘effortless superiority’) but none the worse for that. A good man to have on your side in a crisis.

The Earl suddenly realised that the vicar had two sons of an age to be called up – his friend was about to be plunged into a deeply worrying time for his own family, without all that he would have to bear as being responsible for ‘the cure of souls’ in Hurstbourne Priors and St Mary Bourne.

First of all, they should toll the church bells, that would be the right thing to do. That is what they had done on the outbreak of the Boer War, and again on the death of Queen Victoria. Would it really be all over by Christmas, as some were saying?


St Peter’s Church, St Mary Bourne. MC.

St Andrews Parish Church, Hurstbourne Priors, Hampshire, UK.jpg"St Andrews Parish Church, Hurstbourne Priors, Hampshire, UK"
by Mike Cattell - Flickr:Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
The church of St Andrew the Apostle is the oldest existing church 
in the Diocese of Winchester.


1. Return of Owners of Land 1873 for England and Wales. source: Archive CD Books Project. Lists every person in the county who owned 1 acre of land or more in Hampshire, with name, place, extent of land and its value. Ref 0213-30

2. The fact that Hurstbourne Park burned down on 1 January 1891 comes from Dr Joseph Stevens’ history of the village.

A Tale of Inheritance: The Neales

George Neale

courtesy Caitlin family tree on ancestry

James John Neale looked up at the portrait of his father, that epitome of the Victorian Age, continuing to dominate all that he surveyed from his position hanging over the fireplace. George Neale II had been a hard taskmaster, but they got on much better now that James was able to monopolise the conversation – indeed it was rare these days to get any response at all. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Not that the exchanges were completely one-sided. Sometimes, late at night, as James smoked a post-prandial cigar in his study and swirled his brandy round in a snifter, he had the distinct and uncomfortable feeling that his father was watching him and, on one memorable occasion, a sidelong glance at the portrait caught his father raising an eyebrow at him in a most disdainful manner. That was the night James had decided to cut down on the brandy.

It was his grandfather, George Neale I, who had moved to St Mary Bourne from Dorset in the early nineteenth century, and set up shop as a carpenter and wheelwright.1 Either he had been able to bring a capital sum with him from Dorset, or his business prospered mightily, as he was able to buy the George Inn in the centre of the village (which had been going for at least 100 years, plot 54), which he put in his wife’s name. George and his wife lived, and had their carpenter’s shop, near the church in the Egbury Road (plot number 20 in the Tithe Map below, and they rented part of plot 23 behind as an orchard).

Church close up - Copy

Detail of Tithe Map held at Hampshire Record Office 1840

James never met his grandfather and had no recollection of his grandmother, who had died when he was only one year old. After George I’s death, Harriet Neale had continued the carpentry and wheelwright business right up until her own death twenty one years later, at the age of seventy-seven, with her unmarried daughter Ellen living with her and working as a dressmaker.

By 1861, her eldest son, George II, (the one in the portrait) had moved into his own house, set up as a grocer employing one man, and married the unfortunately named Olive Green (more amusing for her parents than for her, no doubt). James had been born at the end of 1860, the sixth and last child of his parents: he had an elder brother (inevitably called George) and four sisters.

By 1871, George II had branched out into farming and described himself as a ‘shopkeeper, wheelwright and occupier of 77 acres of land, employing two labourers and one boy’. He had also taken on the post office, as well as owning a grocer’s and a draper’s (the two were probably not in the same shop – it is hard to imagine buying cotton reels and cabbage together). And George III is described as a baker.

By 1878, George III has taken on Jamaica Farm, to the east of the village.

Jamaica 001

Ordnance Survey Map 1875










So far, so good. But then two things happened. George II died in September 1879 and the agricultural depression took firm hold. The History Blog explains it thus:

External as much as internal forces increasingly influenced the Victorian countryside.[2]  The poor harvests and deep depression especially in the arable sector in the 1820s and 1830s[3] was followed by recovery as rising home markets took agriculture into a so-called ‘Golden Age’ from the late 1840s to the early 1870s.[4]  The dominance of wheat production ended as grain prices collapsed under the flood of cheap imports from the New World after 1875.  Free trade meant that British farmers could not respond.  Markets for stock and dairy products and perishable cash and fruit crops benefited from rising real wages and growing demand, but they too experienced foreign competition with the development of refrigeration and canning after 1870.  The agricultural depression of the late 1880s and 1890s was widespread and crippling. [5]  It reflected the decline of agriculture’s share of national income from one-fifth in 1850 to one-twelfth by the 1980s.[6]


In settling George III into Jamaica Farm, it had no doubt been George II’s intention to settle his eldest son into a lucrative business, which would allow him to live in relative comfort and continue to build the Neale family fortunes. The habit of primogeniture dies hard in the British male bosom.

By allocating the shop(s) and the post office to the younger of his two sons, James John, George II had presumably intended to leave him adequately provided for, but not to the same standard (or with the same social prestige) as George III. But fate and international markets had, as it turned out, decreed otherwise.

George Neale juniorPoor George III. He had not done too badly in the end, he moved to Charlton Manor Farm and spent the next forty years or so in some comfort, married Agnes Withers and had nine children. When he died in 1938, he was to leave George Neale probate 1938a respectable but not huge sum of £5,000.

And what of James John? Well, in 1911 he is listed as ‘Neale and Son, grocers, drapers, and sub-postmasters’. By 1920, he was to cross through the green baize door and be listed among the ‘Private Residents’ in Kelly’s Directory as the owner of Hilliers Lodge in Stoke.

No wonder George II raised a quizzical eyebrow at him from time to time.

1 George Neale the first died at the age of 45 and was buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s Church, St Mary Bourne, on 13 October 1840. A copy of his will (1841B/42) is held in the Hampshire Record Office; it gives his occupation as carpenter and wheelwright.

Edwin Black Black-Hawkins Esq: A Man Of Means


Courtesy hockmeyer tree on


‘Northern’ Origins

Edwin was born in 1844 into a property-owning brewing family in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire. It would perhaps be fair to describe the Hawkins family as from the ‘beerage4 — though it appears that none of them was in fact ennobled. The family’s financial base was the Newbury area of Berkshire, but many of them gradually drifted south. Although this was not a great distance, moving to Great Bedwyn, Appleshaw and finally St Mary Bourne involved crossing a county line twice, ending up in the beautiful (the writer is admittedly prejudiced) Bourne Valley.

John Edward Hawkins at Diplands
Bourne Court

The first of the clan to arrive was John Edward Hawkins, Edwin’s uncle. He moved into Diplands, St Mary Bourne, in the early 1870s and was probably host to Dr Joseph Stevens who describes attending a Mummers’ play there in 1874.

ThomAS eDWARD hAWKINS at spring hill

By 1891 Edwin’s brother, Thomas Edward Hawkins, who had been Mayor of Newbury in 1878, had arrived and was living at Spring Hill. He was presumably already ill, as a male nurse is included in the household and in September the following year he died at the age of 52.

Edwin Black Black-Hawkins at Bourne Court

Next came Edwin Black Black-Hawkins himself,who is described in Kelly’s 1899 Directory as one of the principal landowners of St Mary Bourne. He lived at Bourne Court, at the south-east end of the village (formerly Upper Link House). From here he seems to have taken an active role in county life, probably huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ with the smart set, though the family also maintained a flat in Oakwood Court, Kensington.

HAgricultural Show Winchester EBBH wins prizes for horsese won prizes at the Winchester Agricultural Show in 1900 for two horses which he had bred, and also on several other occasions.

The ultimate Victorian pater familias, he and his wife Eleanor had eleven children (and yes, they did call the tenth one Decimus). However, despite their wealth, they did not escape the prevailing mortality rates: by 1911 three of these had died in early adulthood.

Eleanor Black-Hawkins

Edwin’s wife, Eleanor, was a frequent writer to The Times, and clearly regarded it as her duty to take an active part in public life, an attitude possibly explained by her two great uncles, one of whom had been headmaster of Harrow, and the other of Eton. Here she has an idea about those sitting idly at home during the Boer War occupying themselves by composing scrapbooks which could be used to entertain wounded soldiers:


Marion Black-Hawkins

Possibly the most interesting – if most eccentric – member of the family was Edwin’s youngest daughter Marion, who never married. The following extracts from her writings on the delights of keeping spiders, snakes and wasps as pets may give some hint as to the reason for her failure to find a husband. Here, an account of her pets reaches the pages of the Luton Times and Advertiser. 1909 Miss Black-Hawkins' pet waspsMiss Black-Hawkins pet snakes 1913snakes part 2And here she is writing for the ‘National Review’ again:

Marion Black-Hawkins writes for the National Review on spidersOn the other hand, it may all have been a prolonged tease…?

It is almost irresistible to imagine the Black-Hawkins relations as real-life counterparts of the Gascoyne D’Ascoyne family as played by Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets:

Note on Sources

1. In general, this post is based on the census records, as well as the trade directories for the area.

2. The newspaper extracts were sourced via the British Newspaper Archive.

3. The Hampshire Records Office is the source for the legal and property dealings of the Hawkins and Black-Hawkins family. (I keep on my desktop a link to the HRO catalogue search page, which is in constant use).

4. The National Archives provided the link to the London and Metropolitan Archives

The Company was incorporated in 1897 as “Hawkins and Parfitt South Berkshire Brewery Company Limited” upon the amalgamation of Edward Parfitt, Atlas Brewery, Newbury, and Thomas Edward Hawkins and Company, West Mills Brewery, Newbury. They were based at the Atlas Brewery, Bartholomew Street, Newbury, Berks.The company acquired John Platt and Son, Manor Brewery, Hungerford, c 1900, and Westcombe and Sons, St Nicholas Brewery, Newbury, 1902. Acquired Blandy, Hawkins and Co, Castle Brewery, Bridge Street, Reading (possibly successors to Stephens’ Mill Lane Brewery, later Willats and Blandy’s Mill Lane Brewery), 1910. The name was changed to “South Berkshire Brewery Limited” in 1913; and was acquired by H and G Simonds in 1920. In voluntary liquidation 1936.

4. Details of the sale of ‘Bourne Court, formerly Upper Link House’ can be found in the Hampshire Record Office in 165A06/144 for 2008; 159M88/1692, 187A09/7/3, 46M84/F80/41 and 46M84/F80/42 for 22-26 July 1950. The papers for the sale of ‘Upper Link Farm’ in 1865 (65M74/Z3) may also apply.