Ann Gibbons Pike, born in St Mary Bourne in 1845, was first and foremost the daughter of George Gibbons, the Parish Clerk, who was the son of William Gibbons, in turn the son of John Gibbons, who had moved to St Mary Bourne from the neighbouring village of Hurstbourne Tarrant some time in the 1770s.
She sat at her kitchen table, drinking a glass of parsnip wine, and looked up at the drawing of her as a young woman which had been done by the famous artist Edward Charles Barnes. He had gone on to paint an oil picture based on this, which he had sold, but he had promised her the drawing and she had always loved it. She was the model, but the man was based on no one she knew. He had quite an eye for the ladies, did Mr Barnes, and she was by no means his only model in the village (and everyone agreed that his women were much more lifelike than the men). He and his wife, Mary Anne, came to church from time to time, which is how she had got to know them. The vicar, together with her father, had applied a mixture of pressure and charm with the result that on 24 July 1875 Edward and Mary Ann had had their three children baptised together all on the same day, even though the oldest was seven years old by then!
She remembered the skirt she was wearing in the drawing, and having sewn on the border. She was also very proud of her boots, which had been made for her by her cousin Henry, one of the well-to-do Gibbons.
It was just after she had sat for this portrait that she had married Albert Pike, on 21 December 1872. In these parts, where farming was the main occupation, it was usual to have weddings around Christmas as the crops were dormant and days were so short that it was convenient to include marriage festivities in the general Yuletide celebrations.
Albert her husband could also trace his family back to the 1770s, when his grandfather William was born in the village. She could not say it had been love at first sight, as the families had known each other all their lives. Also, her father had been noticeably sad that, when it came to signing the register, whereas she of course wrote her name without difficulty, Albert could still only sign with his mark (although by that time most people could read and write 1). But he was a good man and if you wanted, as she did, to go on living in the village after marriage, you had to choose a husband from those already there and likely to remain. Then you had to find someone the right age, and single, and Church not Chapel (unless you happened to be Chapel yourself of course) so there were not that many pebbles on the beach from which to pick.
That being so, when the time came to find a husband for her younger sister, Jane, the obvious choice was Albert’s younger brother, Henry. The stork had been a little premature in leaving a child at Jane’s door when she was only eighteen. She had refused point blank to name the father, but luckily Henry was willing to take her on, which he did on 18 December 1873 (Ann did sometimes wonder if in fact Henry was the father, since he needed little persuasion). And Henry was able to sign his name, which gave great satisfaction to the Gibbons family (and presumably the Pikes as well?)
The Pike families tended to be larger than the Gibbons, which meant less of everything to pass on from generation to generation. She and Albert had not made that mistake, and she had borne him four sons and a daughter (Sidney, Mabel, Herbert, Edwin and James) and then stopped. They had all lived to adulthood and were doing well.
Their eldest, Sydney, had gone to work at the Huntley and Palmer‘s biscuit factory in Reading, where he had lived with Albert’s brother William. Then he moved .up to Wimbledon, working as a railway signalman. He shared a house with another signalman and his family until he met his wife Ellen, a Surrey girl.
And now Sidney had got their second youngest, Edwin, a job as a railway porter and they were living together in Wimbledon.
James, the youngest, had joined the army and gone out to South Africa, where he had been for six years . He was a bandsman – there was something rather splendid about playing rousing music to keep up the spirits of the men.1
And Mabel? She had gone into service, where she met someone called Alfred Cook, working as a chauffeur. Anyway, she is now Mrs Cook and living in style in a mews house in Porchester Gardens, Bayswater, where they have a little girl.
Albert had died in Winchester hospital in 1894, leaving Ann widowed at the age of forty-nine. The next son, Herbert, who was a good and loving boy, had stayed with her and kept her company. He had trained as a wood sawyer, and they could just about manage with the wage that he brought in.
Life had had its struggles, and these continued. But she was a survivor, and hoped her nearest and dearest would continue to survive, and even to thrive.
Taking periods of 25yrs the figures read thus—–
From 1813-1837——74.5% could not write
From 1837-1862——59.2% could not write
From 1862-1887——31.9% could not write (Dr. Joseph Stevens, A Parochial History of St Mary Bourne quoted by Kevin Holdway)
Parish clerks should be at least 20 years old, and known to the parson “as a man of honest conversation and sufficient for his reading, writing and competent skill in singing” Canon 91(1603). Functions – reading the lessons and epistles, singing in the choir, giving out the hymns, leading the responses, serving at the altar and other like duties, opening of the church, ringing the bell, digging graves if there be no sexton. The role of Sexton is usually combined in country parishes. They are the sacristan, the keeper of holy things relating to divine service. Responsible for the care of the church, vestments and vessels, keeping the church clean, ringing bells, opening/closing doors, digging graves and care of the churchyard.
The south door being the main entrance to the church, has always been the one used for funerals, this has been the reason given for the superstition forbidding its use for a bride who always enters by the small north door. Within living memory a bride, scorning superstition announced her intention of coming into the church by the more impressive south door. At that time there was a sexton in whose family the office had been for generations (George Gibbons parish clerk and sexton for forty years ) and to whom the tradition had been handed down the bride’s determination was met by a resistance so strong that, convinced if she persisted her procession would find a locked door with no key forthcoming. She gave in and used the north door.
Small-pox was a terrible scourge in the village from time to time, in some cases probably more severe than it might have been under more judicious treatment; So fearful was the visitation that George Gibbons the aged clerk and sexton, informed me that 13 persons, who had died of this disease, were buried about the same time in a plot of ground close to the south wall of the graveyard, and the earth at that spot had not since been disturbed. There is no doubt that the following extracts from the church register refers to this. (Joseph Stevens quoted by Kevin Holdway)
George Gibbons was parish clerk for 40 years from 1840- 1880. From 1880-1920. Walter Gibbons was clerk. He died in 1938 aged 91, and was succeeded by his son, Arthur, who resigned in 1929, thus ending a family record of service in that office extending over 89 years. (Kevin Holdway)
A note on sources
The information on Ann Gibbons Pike’s family is accurate, drawn from the trade directories, censuses and parish registers.
The information about George Gibbons as parish clerk comes from Stevens’ history of the village, and Kevin Holdway’s reading of various documents as he explains on his website, St Mary Bourne Revisited.
1</sup According to the Andover Advertiser of 21st May 1915,James Pike had served for six years in South Africa.
The information about the artist Edward Charles Barnes is historically accurate in that he is shown in the directory as living in St Mary Bourne in the 1870s and the scenery of many of his pictures is clearly taken from the Bourne Valley. We do not know, however, the identities of any of his models, still less whether Ann Gibbons Pike ever sat for him.