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The forest has poor soil and was not very suitable for agriculture. Small branches of trees would be cut for making staffs and peaty turf for fuel. Stones and clay were gathered for building materials. Where this land was previously under Royal authority, the new owners also acquired the common rights attached to the land. This meant that some people in the forest were rich landowners but with commoner rights. By the nineteenth century some landowners were attempting to restrict commoner rights, true commoners and other landowners often challenged these attempts. The courts appeared to be increasingly backing the restrictive landowners and fines and sentences were steadily getting more severe.
Barrister, J. Lieutenant of Sussex, and Ashdown commonerWilliam Augustus Raper assembled evidence for the defence, by collecting depositions from elderly Forest residence. Most of the crops in the area suffer from waterlogging in winter, and hardness and cracking during hot weather, making them extremely difficult to cultivate. The Sackville and de la Warr families own most of the forest and surrounding areas, so most commoners work for them, or are tenant farmers on their property. Herbrand de Sackville had come to England with William 1, settling in Essex.
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His grandson Jordan d. From the twelfth century the Commoners of Ashdown Forest had enjoyed the privilege of using the forest to graze their cattle and swine, and also to take birch and willow and alder wood for their repairs. They grazed their sheep and horses, as well as cattle and swine in the forest, cut litter for fuel, and for bedding the cow and the pigs, as well as scrub for fuel, and bushes for stopping gaps in outside fences hedge fences. Over the years parts of the forest had been enclosed for farming, with various blocks fenced with hedges, which served as wind breaks, and allowed the rotation of crops.
These were mainly grain such as corn, and hops for brewing. Peat was also used for manure and heating, and sometimes a potato house was built with sods and thatched with peat. The access to common right, which went with the many small and large holdings, scattered around the fringes of the forest provided a measure of independence for many families.
Men, women and children worked, gossiped and played in the forest. It was central to economic and social relations among local families, in the dispersed hamlets and cottages around the edges of the forest, each with cowhouse, garden, and one or two little crofts farms , green and flourishing and all cribbed from the waste. George Box, 5 th.
October , at St. On the 30 th. August , he married Mary Cripps of Crowboro. Mary was baptised 23 rd. It was here that George was born, grew up, went to school; and to church, here he would have helped gather the litter for their fire, as well as mould for the mixen, help to cultivate their croft, tend to the animals and the daily farm chores. However as Withyham is only a small hamlet, three miles on the Sussex side of the border, the family probably went to Tunbridge Wells, which is three miles on the Kent side of the border, for most of their commercial needs.
The photograph of George, on opposite page clearly shows it was taken at Tunbridge Wells. The beginning of the 19 th. There was a fragile peace agreement with the French at Amiens, but every one knew it was merely a truce that Napoleon needed to prepare his attack. Every one also knew when the attack came, it would not be up the Thames but would fall on the southern counties, and particularly on the beaches of Sussex, as Oliver Cromwell had successfully done in and taken the crown from Charles 1 st.
No foot of ground should be conceded that is not marked with the blood of the enemy. Camps appeared, armed towers were built, every quarter of a mile along the Sussex and Kentish coasts; fire beacons of furze and cord-wood, with their barrels of tar, stood ready to signal to inland counties the approach of the French. On Wednesday, , a national day of prayer and fasting was held, that England might be saved.
Their prayers were heard and England was saved by her Navy, when Nelson took Victory to sea once more. When she returned Trafalgar had been won, but Nelson was dead; the whole of England was rejoicing and mourning at the same time. George was just four years old, and would be cared for by his older sisters, Mary now 18, and Harriett There were a total of 11 children living at home. Harriett was the first to marry in The war years that had brought prosperity for the large landowners did nothing for the small landowners, and even less for the peasant farmers.
Even with full employment he could not earn more than a few shillings a week. When uncertain employment came with peace, the situation became intolerable. For their frustration three were hanged and deported; such was the savagery of the law and the penalties to which the working class were subjected. This was the environment when George and his family were growing up.
The pub was the social meeting place for the working men, then as it still is today a place to relax and socialise. News of letters from relatives and friends who had already taken the journey across the sea would have created lively discussion and debates. The likes of Thomas Henty a landowner of some renown, yet not sufficient to feel confident in the future prospects of England, had migrated to Australia in As had Henry Camfield, a young Kentish man, whose forebears had dwelt in a moated manor house called Groombridge Place. Shrinking fortunes had driven his father to one of the estate farms, where he and his family lived in a modern house, set among fields and orchards and hop gardens beside the river Medway and about three miles from Tunbridge Wells.
He was now taking what capital he had and two of his labourers and their wives to Swan River, hoping to find there a modest competence, no longer produced by farming a small estate at home. Deny brought workers with him, including the Lindsay family, who some of us are also related to. Unfortunately Dendy was hoodwinked by the unscrupulous J.
However Dendy was not the only one to be out-smarted by the Were brothers. It was tempting to level it at J. Feeling against the Weres was once again sharply critical". George Box married Mary Cripps in , at the parish church in Withyham. George signed his name to the marriage certificate, Mary made her mark. They settled there, and by they had three children, helping to make up the population of Withyham, then about people. He may well have been living at 44 Rugs Smith Cottage, where they are recorded in , now with 4 children, and George was by then an agricultural labourer.
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During the next ten years George and Mary are to experience grief, not once, but twice, with the death of two little boys, Ephraim born , and Benjamin a year earlier , both died in late s. George continued farming, and, from later reports growing Peach trees. The family remain at what, in was called 44 Rugsmith Green, there were only three families living at Rugsmith Green at that time, they were the Boxes, Taylers, and Martins, the men all agricultural labourers, about 40 years old, and raising young families. The children would have gone to school and played together.
Caroline 18, has now left the home, and is believed to be working as a cook. The Elliott family, first Abraham Elliott Sn. The next decade was to see great changes in the lives of George and his family. Gold is now discovered in Australia, and no doubt is the main topic for discussion at the pub, and around the table at home.
The big question; whether to go and try for a better life across the sea, or stay. Women no doubt shared their hopes and fears over a cuppa at the kitchen table. Newspaper and magazine advertisements extolling the advantages of a new and better life in the colonies; added to the lively debate. There were plenty of Uncles, Aunts, cousins and friends to offer their opinions, support or otherwise.
We can only imagine the mixed feelings of the each member of the family. Francis was probably all for the adventure of seeking his fortune on the gold fields. The older men may have thought their fortune lay in better opportunities for farming rather than on the gold fields. These fears would be weighed up against the future prospects of the family, in England and across the world. There surely would have been many anxious days and sleepless nights, perhaps especially for the women folk, who generally abided by what the men decided.
By the time the eldest son, William, married Elizabeth Avis, in Nov.
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