Case Closed

Just to spoil the fun of speculation, here – at last – are the facts. And the moral is that just because something is written down in black and white, it ain’t necessarily so.

Two old men, brothers, one of them a farmer and the other his labourer, are working on the harvest. Joe, the elder, dies. I don’t have his death certificate, so I don’t know the cause, but he was 79 and in 1859 that was a ripe old age. Maybe he simply over-exerted himself. He’s buried a couple of days later, on 14 August, and no doubt younger brother Sam was upset at losing him. But the harvest has to be brought in, so Sam and Joe’s son Charlie get on with it.

Maybe Sam is grieving and his concentration isn’t so good that morning. After all, he’s 72 and he’s had to get up at 5 am to start loading the wagon. It’s a big wagon, and with a full load needs 3 dray horses to pull it. Sam takes the rein of one of the shaft horses, and off they go. At a bend in the road he stands back to make way for the horse, but there isn’t enough space and the horse steps on his foot. That’s a few hundred kilos of horseflesh, and Sam doesn’t stand a chance: he falls, and the wagon runs over his chest. An inquest is held, and two days after the accident, on 24 August, Sam is buried. In the parish register, his burial immediately follows that of brother Joe ten days earlier.

The newspaper reporter got the results of the inquest right, but he conflated the brothers and got the name wrong. To add to the confusion, the clerk who copied the details of the Probate inquiry into Joe’s estate six months later wrote the date of his death as 12.9.1859 instead of 12.8.1859. Easily done. And there we have it.

I’m sorry to disappoint my readers: no foul play, no conspiracy to rid the village of its Hardwicks, no evil characters lurking in the hedges to push old rustics under the wheels of wagons. Just a sad way for an old man to end his days.


Strange Coincidence

This is a post script to my last post, and concerns a strange coincidence.

As I recounted, the two brothers Joseph and Samuel Hardwick died within weeks of one another in the summer of 1859. Samuel, who was 72, died when he was run over by a horse and wagon, according to his death certificate.

I have been aware of that fact for a long time. However, it was only now, as I was delving into what had happened to the family farm, that I have been sent a newspaper cutting describing the death of his brother Joseph, aged 78, just a few days later. And this is what it says:

HEATH: FATAL ACCIDENT: On Wednesday an inquest was held at the house of Mr Rome, The Elm Tree Inn, on the body of Joseph Hardwick, farmer, of Heath. The deceased left his home about five o’clock in the morning to assist in the harvest field. They were leading corn from the field to the stackyard about eight o’clock. They had come with a load out of the field with a four-wheeled wagon and three horses. There was a turn in the road, and the deceased was in it. He had hold of the head of one of the shaft horses. The horse turned round sharply, knocked him down and trod upon his foot, and the wheels passed over his chest. He breathed thrice and died. A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned. 

As my informant says, it looks like a case for Miss Marples – or is this a nineteenth century version of Midsomer Murders?

Hunting the Hardwicks

Genealogy has me in its clutches again! Yet another distant cousin has sailed into my sights, providing me with copies of wills made by my fifth and sixth great-grandfathers in the eighteenth century, as well as a few other documents.

I’m back with my Hardwick ancestors, a very prolific bunch by all accounts, but am still feeling dubious of claims by another distant cousin that we are actually all descended from Sir Jocelyn de HAVERMERE/Everemere de HARDEWYCKE/ Herdewycke/ Hardwicke etc who was born circa 1040 AD in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia during the reign of King Canute.  He fought on the wrong side at the Battle of Hastings, so William the Conqueror stripped him of his titles and confiscated his lands and possessions. Sir Jocelyn’s son was cannier: he married the daughter of a Norman knight, and had everything restored to him by King Henry I.

It’s a pretty tale, but I’m wary. To my knowledge, anyone who belonged to the household of the Hardwicks – including the lowest servants – or came from the village of Hardwick, could be given that surname. So we might just as well be descended from any of the Hardwick serfs – and not second cousin thirteen times removed to the great Bess of Hardwick and the Duke of Devonshire.

Be that as it may, by 1721 my sixth great-grandfather Thomas Hardwick had managed, by fair means or foul, to acquire two farms, which was convenient for him since he had two sons as well as two daughters.

I like the way Thomas wrote his will. He sounds like a straight-talking, no-nonsense kind of man, with none of the fancy formulations and legalese jargon you usually find. The clerk who wrote it had a clear, legible hand, too.

Sons James and John get a farm each, out of which they have to support their mother, either by giving her a home with them, or by paying her an annuity totalling £5. She only survived her husband by two years, so that wouldn’t have been a drain on their finances.

The newly-wed younger daughter Alice is left £20, and the elder daughter, Mary, married with a little girl, gets £10 and a “new calved cow”. Mary’s husband gets “my cloathes and wearing apparel except for a new pair of Boots” and his brothers-in-law have to supply him with sufficient land to keep one cow, summer and winter. Their little girl, Thomas’ granddaughter, is promised another “new calved cow” when she marries, but then comes the strange stipulation that she should be brought up by her uncles.

That makes me wonder. Why? Did Thomas think she wasn’t being treated properly at home? Or that her parents were feckless or too poor? Did she stay with her mother and father, and therefore not get her cow? Or did she, a little maid of seven at the time of her grandfather’s death, go to live with one of her uncles? Or did she spend 6 months here and 6 months there, and visit her parents in between?

I don’t suppose I will ever know, but I do feel sorry for that little girl and her parents.

Thomas Hardwick - Will 1721 - Heath Derbyshire

My fifth great-grandfather, Thomas’s son John, also didn’t do too badly. In his will he bequeaths £20 to each of his four oldest sons and two married daughters, and the farm he lives on goes to his youngest son. I was pleased that he treated his girls the same as his boys, but I was surprised that the baby of the family got the farm.

Then I found the will of the eldest brother – who sounds like a kind and caring husband and father – and realised that he, too, was a husbandman (i.e. farmer) with his own farm, so maybe John had already divided up some of his holdings among his lads before he died. John held his land from the Duke of Devonshire, so there must be some records at Chatsworth House (another link with Bess of Hardwick!) and maybe even some maps, showing who had what.

I was curious to know what happened to the old homestead, named as “Hallam’s Farm” in Thomas Hardwick’s will.

The “baby” who inherited it in 1779 was my fourth great-grandfather, Samuel Hardwick, and after his death in 1822 the farm passed to his elder son, Joseph, born in 1780, big brother of my third great-grandfather Samuel Jr, born in 1788.

At this point, that good old resource the census comes in useful.  From the 1841 and 1851 censuses, I could see that my third great-grandfather Samuel Jr lived next door to Joseph, and worked as an agricultural labourer, presumably for his brother. Whilst Samuel and his wife had twelve children in all (five of whom died), and Joseph had several daughters, he had only one son and heir, Charles: in 1851, a 35-year-old childless widower living with his parents on the family farm. Joseph and Samuel were now old men, and they both died within weeks of one another in August and September 1859, so Charles was left to carry on alone.

I suppose that, as it says in the old song, “The farmer wants a wife”: by 1871, Charles had not only a wife, but also a 13-year-old “general servant” called William Charles Hardwick to help him with his 30 acres. Were they related? I have found the boy’s parents and siblings, but can’t establish a blood connection with Charles. Maybe he was the boy’s godfather, and that would account for his middle name.

Whatever the situation, they must have got along well because when Charles died in 1889, he named William Charles Hardwick as his sole heir and executor. Various records have confirmed that William Charles married, had children, and was still farming in 1911 (the last census available). He died there in March 1943, so that should help us to locate the farm.

Back then to my newly discovered distant cousin, who lives not so far away from the ancestral home and is now avidly searching the records. And I am imagining plots for historical novels …

Musical Furniture Merry-Go-Round

Last year, I explained in these two posts – Musical Furniture and More Musical Chairs – how furniture does the rounds in our family. In the past few months, we have had the equivalent of a furniture symphony. Clearing my mother’s house out in July and September revealed many items that we really didn’t want to relinquish, but which could hardly be classed as heirlooms. The solution? Take them to our holiday home in Brittany and turn them to good use.

This was originally my house, bought in 1991, but over the last three decades all the family has spent at least one holiday a year here, so everyone feels it’s home, right down to the newest member of the family who is not yet a year old but has enjoyed two holidays here already. Bringing my mother’s things here conflates the two places that have been home to us longest, always there in the background, providing a sense of permanency as we all moved house over and over again.

Living room TT 1.jpg

So now, here is the dining table with two of its four chairs, that cost my parents 17/6 in 1938, and the bureau that my mother’s landlady sold her for £3 in 1935. The wardrobe that passed to my parents when my aunt died won’t go round the bend in the stairs, so it also now stands here in the living room, together with Mom’s rocking chair and Dad’s wing-backed chair, both desperately in need of reupholstering. Oh yes, my daughter has no fear of tackling that task and has already bought some material for the covers.  For the time being they are swathed in throws and blankets, and don’t look too bad.

Over in the corner by the window stands the Sherlock chair that first belonged to my granddaughter and was passed on to my mother last year: a perfect fit. Next to that, the occasional table my father made and opposite it, his bookshelf (still holding some of his books). Mom’s tea and dinner service will be happy to stay close to the table they have always graced, and much of her cut-glass and crystal is also on display. Another comfortable mid-century chair that I inherited from my ex-husband’s aunt, and passed on to my mother, now looks as if it has always been part of the kitchen, as do my mother’s two kitchen stools.

The 1930’s oak bedroom furniture is also here in Brittany: the bedhead and chest of drawers in my bedroom, the dressing table in another (and its triple mirror awaiting a decision, as it doesn’t really fit anywhere except maybe the bathroom). The little dressing table Mom found for £1 when she was first married, and that was mine throughout my childhood and teenage years, slots neatly into my granddaughter’s bedroom. The slipper chair – also in need of some TLC – adorns my daughter’s room, along with the doll’s cradle my grandfather made for me and which my daughter also played with when she was little.

Even my daughter admits that there is really no room left for the two easy chairs that originally belonged to my aunt, then to me, then to my mother, and now to my daughter –  if chairs are sentient, they must be very confused at such extreme musicality. They are destined to come to Switzerland in the spring to be renovated, and to replace two club chairs that my son-in-law inherited from his godmother and which will now go from the sitting room to his office.

We loaded the car to return to Switzerland, and there was no room for these armchairs, nor for the stuffed fish caught by my father in 1950, nor the stone birdbath sculpted by my grandfather. These will also have to wait until spring to be fetched. Books, china, ornaments, glass, pictures, textiles – my daughter’s poor little cocker spaniel cowered in her seat, as suitcases and boxes were piled up around her. But she survived the journey, as did most of our cargo: just one casualty, a picture I hadn’t wrapped properly suffered broken glass. I don’t have room at present to hang that one anyway, so not a tragedy.

And how miraculously everything found a place in our Swiss houses! Little echoes of our old family home and my mother’s spirit are everywhere, both in my place and in my daughter’s. I’m especially pleased with how well this 3D picture, embroidered by an old friend for my mother’s 90th birthday, and the vase made by my mother at pottery evening classes in the 1950’s, marry with my vintage table lamp.

Adrienne's picture

And finally, the two pieces of furniture that are literally musical: a small marquetry storage table containing a musical box movement, sent as a souvenir from Sorrento and for which my mother could never find a suitable place, now sits comfortably next to my longcase clock, a reproduction Comtoise with Westminster chimes, also made in Italy: compatriots united! Will they sing Italian duets together?


Figuring Out: Keto And Cobwebs

At my last visit to the doctor in September, I was horrified to see the number of kilos that flashed up on the scale. “That’s about 30 kg overweight,” I muttered dejectedly. My lovely GP, a wise, white-haired gentleman, shook his head. “No, no,” he said decidedly. “If you want to lose weight, then aim for 2 or 3 kg. That’s doable.”

All the women of my family have a tendency towards getting plump. “Traditionally built women,” says Alexander McCall Smith. “Good doers,” said my mother, who had learned to keep her weight in check over many years by physical hard work and cutting down on her calorie intake whenever her waistband began to feel tight. “We convert every ounce we eat into flesh and fat!”

I suppose that for my ancestors – a very long line of agricultural labourers, miners, blacksmiths, domestic servants and good old-fashioned housewives – that was a necessity for survival. They needed to derive every bit of energy they could from their meagre diets. Centuries of genetic selection have defined my metabolism. I instinctively go for cheese, crusty brown bread with half an inch of butter, fried crispy bacon and eggs. Carbohydrates and fat. I don’t really have a sweet tooth, probably the result of sugar being rationed until I was twelve, and my tastes had been formed. I can live without chocolate and puddings, though I enjoy them if they are available. And thereby lies the answer: if it’s in my fridge or food cupboard, I eat it.

When I was younger I got enough exercise to keep myself fit and within the acceptable BMI range. Now, I know I don’t move enough. And back in April and May, when I was swimming and riding my tricycle every day for miles in Sanibel, I proved it by getting much fitter (though my weight remained the same – muscle weighs heavier than fat!). However, I’m lazy and need someone to crack the whip – and for lack of another person to do that, I need to concentrate on finding my inner slave-driver.

A couple of years ago in England, I followed Slimming World for a few months and was delighted with the result: a whole stone gone! (That’s 14 lbs or about 6 kg.) But stress has always driven me to comfort eating, and that’s my excuse for putting on double what I’d lost, in the intervening period.

As happens so frequently, my clever daughter came to my rescue. She had been doing a lot of research into the LCHF regime – low carbs, high fat – and the results were impressive. My daughter, my son-in-law and my granddaughter (who had gained weight after her fourth baby) had fulfilled Hamlet’s wish: Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt! And they all reported increased energy levels, and a general feeling of well-being.

Now in the last two months I have spent quite a lot of time with my daughter in England and Brittany, so was able to share her meals and snacks as well as learn the theory of this way of eating. Oh yes, I admit I strayed from the path: I was in the company of family and old friends, too, and we were often invited for meals, so my diet in England was definitely High Fat, High Carbs, High Protein, with the expected result. But it was delicious.

In France, I exercised slightly more self-control and resisted the temptation to add a crusty baguette to my camembert, chèvre and époisses cheeses. It was such a joy to be eating those creamy cheeses, as well as Greek yoghourt, crème fraiche, avocado, bacon and eggs, with no guilty conscience! And, of course, seafood. An unpleasant side-effect was a certain degree of constipation, something that, with my intestinal history, is best avoided. I tried a fibrous cereal for breakfast, but much more effective is the fibre from plenty of fruit and vegetables. And prunes! I am also aiming not to eat unless I feel hungry.

I hopped on the scale once or twice in Brittany, but there was little variation in the swing of the needle. However, now I’ve been back for over a week, sticking to my eggs, cheese, cream, fish, fruit and vegetable diet, as well as keeping myself busy with domestic tasks. So I smiled to discover this morning that two of those superfluous kilos have gone. I still can’t fasten the jeans I was wearing two years ago, but the ones I’ve been wearing all summer are getting a bit loose!

While we were in Brittany, my daughter also led me astray – to a wool shop tucked away in a dingy part of town like a jewel in a mud pie. Here I couldn’t resist some very soft lightweight yarn by Katia called Lucy Lace, 40% wool, 40% acrylic and 20% alpaca. The balls looked and felt like fluffy kittens, and I bought a litter of five, plus one skein of very dark grey, also by Katia, called Sweet Lace, which is 80% acrylic, 10% wool and 10% mohair. I chose the chevron lace pattern again, and produced a striking cardigan using less than three skeins: featherweight but very warm, in fact almost weightless. A 50 g skein is 315 m in length, so goes a very long way.

Chevron cardigan

The chevron pattern fascinates me, and I wondered how it would look in the round, so with the remaining half ball and and one more skein, I made this cobweb shawl – very appropriately completed on Hallowe’en. Would it be overkill to wear them together?

Cobweb shawl

I have an entire skein of the variegated grey and about a quarter of a skein of the dark yarn, so perhaps I’ll just keep going round and round the perimeter of the shawl until it’s all used up and the shawl is about three metres in diameter – or wait for further inspiration.

A Walk


When I fell in love with this quirky little house twenty-six years ago I hoped my family would approve the choice. This description by my daughter reveals that the place has cast its spell over her, too – and from the reaction of her children and grandchildren, regular visitors over the past two and a half decades, it’s a deep-seated and abiding affection for our adopted Breton home. Come for s stroll with us …

The Little Wash-House

Across the pink gravel, through the gate made by our late handyman next to the camellia hedge and into the little cul-de-sac that is our street. At this time of year, October, most of the houses around are shuttered and empty and even those which are occupied stand mainly reticent and quiet. The sky is an intense blue and the air is fresh and sweet, despite the saltiness of the breeze, the trees are still mostly green although the wind is already beginning to encourage the leaves to loosen their grip.
Left around the first corner, then right around a second, accurately trimmed evergreen hedges border a lot of gardens, a small ditch on the left below a wall used to harbour snakes, they said. Now it is manicured and only of interest to the dogs who regularly come and leave their mark for the next sniffer. As I pass…

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More of Ar Mor

Seaview 7

No wifi can be a blessing when you’re on holiday, but the frustration of trying to upload a picture-heavy post from an Internet café when the signal is weak and the laptop is about to fall asleep is not to be underestimated. I had chosen 9 photos for my last post, comparing and contrasting moods on the same seaview from our Breton home, but the fates were against me. Now back in my wifi-equipped Swiss home, I’m giving it another go.

Cat in café I must say, though, that the traditional style Breton café in question was a delightful little place: run by two elderly ladies and a cat who adopted them, it makes a pleasant change from MacDonald’s et al.

The other photos speak for themselves.

Morning magic …

Trévou morning 2Trevou morning

and noonday calm …

Trévou noon

…. turning to a glowering sunset

Trévou dark

and finally, a glimpse of how it was about twenty years ago, before the hedges had grown and the trees weren’t so high, with the Thelwellian pony I mentioned in my last post.

Trévou w Pony