Our Family History


A Condensed History of the Barnett Family
by By Brian Jones



brianjones@cableinet.co.uk

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This is a history of the family of my grandfather, Walter Barnett. It covers the migration of a rural family from the poverty and oppression of 18th and 19th century Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to a more affluent life in 20th century London.

Bold print denotes the ancestors of Mabel Grace Becky Jones nee Barnett the daughter of Walter Barnett.

To let the reader get a feel of the areas the Barnetts lived in during the 18th and 19th centuries, the following are descriptions of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire as given by one of the best loved of early Victorian mapmakers, Thomas Moule. This text was first published in 1842.

Bedfordshire:

"A county in England, about 36 miles in length, and 22 miles in breadth. It contains 9 hundreds, 10 market towns, 124 parishes, and 107,936 inhabitants, and sends two members of parliament. The Ouse and the Ivel are its chief streams; and the Lea has its source here. The great range of chalk hills passes through the county, whence it arises that it is more noted for pastures, than for arable or woodland. It is a pleasant inland county, and diversified with fruitful plains and rising hills, abounding in cattle, corn, and rich pastures; it is noted for barley, bone, lace, and straw plait."

Cambridgeshire:

"A county of England, bounded by the counties of Bedfordshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Suffolk. It is 50 miles in length from north to south, 25 broad from east to west. The air and soil vary; the south and east are pleasant and healthy, but the north or fenny country is low and watery. The Nen and Ouse, the Cam, and the Larke, are its rivers; and the only hills of note are the trifling elevations called the Gogmagog Hills. It is an agricultural county, and not unproductive. Population, 164,459. It returns seven members of parliament.’’

Huntingdonshire:

"A county of England, bounded by Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. It is 22 miles long, and about 18 broad. The principal rivers are the Ouse and Nen. It is divided into 4 hundreds, which contain 5 market towns, 78 parishes, and 279 villages. The borders of the Ouse, which flows across the Southeast part, consist of fertile and very beautiful meadows. The middle and western parts are finely varied in their surface, fertile in corn, and sprinkled with woods. The whole upland part was, in ancient times, a forest, peculiarly adapted for hunting, whence the name of the county took its rise. The north east part consists of fens, which join those of Ely; but they are drained, so as to afford rich pasturage for cattle, and even large crops of corn; and in the midst of them are shallow pools, abounding in fish. The largest of these is a lake of considerable size, called Whittlesea Mere. Its chief commodities are corn, malt, and cheese: and they fatten abundance of cattle. Huntingdon is its chief town. Population 58,549. It sends 2 members to parliament.‘’

The gtgtgrandfather of Walter Barnett (1868-1932) was Richard Barnett (1716-1781). He married Elizabeth Copperwheat (1725-1777) in Blunham, Bedfordshire on the 3rd October 1745. It is thought that he was an agricultural labourer throughout his working life. Richard and Elizabeth had seven children, John born 1748, William born 1751, Elizabeth born 1753, Ann and Mary born 1756, Ann born 1757 and Robert born 1758. All of there children were born in Blunham. You will note that there were twins born in 1756 but unfortunately they both died shortly after birth. Richard died in 1781 and Elizabeth 1777, both are buried in Blunham.

The Copperwheat family can be traced back to Tudor times when John Copperwheat was born in Oakley, Bedfordshire. This family lived in Oakley until Elizabeth moved to Blunham on her marriage to Richard Barnett in 1745.

John Barnett (1685-1729) the father of Richard was born in Great Staughton, Cambridgeshire in 1685. He married Mary Richardson (1690-1729) on the 20 December, 1714 in Willington, Bedfordshire. They had a further four children; Sarah b1715-d1715, Mary b1719-d1719, John b1720 and Sarah b1722. As far is known all were buried in Hail Weston, Cambridgeshire.

Below is a transcript from the 1877 Kelly's Gazetteer for the village of Blunham, which will give the reader a geographical and historical view of this village as it was in the 19th century:

"BLUNHAM, is a parish, large village, and station on the Bedford and Cambridge line of the North Eastern railway; 7 miles east from Bedford, 6 south from St. Neots, 5 north west from Biggleswade, and 50 from London, in the hundred of Wixamtree, union and county court district of Biggleswade, rural deanery of Shefford, archdeaconry of Bedford, and diocese of Ely, situated between the rivers Ouse and Ivel. The church of St. Edmund is an ancient Norman structure, in excellent repair: it has chancel, nave and aisles, and a very lofty tower, surmounted by pinnacles, and containing 5 bells and a clock. The register dates from the year 1571. The living is a rectory, yearly value £731, with about 255 acres of glebe, in the gift of the Dowager Countess Cowper, and held by the Rev. Thomas Marlborough Berry, M.A. of Trinity College, Dublin. Here are a National school for boys, a School of Industry for girls and an Infant school, supported by contributions. There are two chapels, one for Wesleyans and one for Baptists. Blunham formerly had a market and a fair at the festival of St. James, granted to John Lord Hastings in 1315. There is a church acre charity of the annual value of £1. 5s. The old Manor House, now occupied as a farm-house, was formerly the residence of Charles Grey, Earl of Kent: a barn standing near, having a boss on the centre of one of the cross beams and other traces of carved work, is supposed to have been the dining-hall. Blunham House is the residence of Sir Salusbury Gillies Payne, bart., J.P. it is a plain brick building, pleasantly situated in a park, through which the river Ivel flows; here are some fine elm and other trees, of considerable age. The manor anciently belonged to the Earls of Pembroke, from whom it descended by female heirs to the family of Hastings and Grey, and is now the property of the Dowager Countess Cowper. The principal landowners are the Dowager Countess Cowper and the rector. The soil is gravel. The chief crops are wheat, oats, barley, and garden produce. The area, with Moggerhanger, is 3,300 acres; rateable value, £3,459; population in 1871, 563."

Richard's youngest son, Robert Barnett (1758-1840) and Hannah Darling (1770-1801) married in Gamblingay, Cambridgeshire on the 20th October 1788. They had five children; Ann born 1789, John born 1792, Joseph born 1795, Mary born 1798 and William born 1801. Hannah died in the November of 1801, shortly after the birth of William. It is probable that her death was caused through complications during the birth of William.

Robert married again on the 3rd of March 1809 to Mary James, they had two children Jane and William.

NB: The names Barnard and Barnett interchanged throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hannah Darling's parents, John Darling and Hannah Meeks, had a further five children, two died in their first year and a boy died aged 12 years. The surviving siblings of Hannah were Joseph born 1763 and Stephen born 1765. This family was living around Gamblingay, Huntingdonshire at this time and were employed as farm workers.

Robert Barnett worked on the land as an agricultural labourer around the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire area. It is known that he worked in the parishes of Gambligay, Cambs, and Chatteris, Cambs, and Everton, Hunts, and Potton, Beds. He probably moved around these three counties chasing work using the Roundsman System, although this has not been confirmed. The underemployed labourers who searched for work, at this time, in different parishes used this system. Whenever they found work and it was below a subsistence rate, their wages were topped up by the parish overseer to a reasonable living wage.

The Roundsman System was thought to be inefficient and wasteful, and was officially discouraged by order of the magistrates in 1819, although it survived until 1834.

The farmworkers of this time were also trapped within their environment because outside the market garden district they had little prospect of setting up for themselves. Robert Barnett died in 1840 at the age of 82 years. Both he and his wife Hannah are buried in Everton, Hunts.

The first time that I came across the Roundsman System was with the grandfather of Robert Barnett (1758-1840), William Copperwheat. Under removal and settlement procedures dated 1715, William was removed from the village of Oakley, Bedfordshire and settled in Ampthill, Bedfordshire by order of Churchwardens and Overseers for the poor of the parish of Oakley. The following is the actual text transcribed from this order.

We the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Oakley in the County of Bedford whose names are hereto subscribed, so here certify it to you the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Ampthill in the County of Bedford as aforesaid, or any other whom it may concern; that William Copperwheat, weaver; his wife Sarah, and Charles his son; that are removed out of our parish of Oakley to dwell in your parish of Ampthill as aforesaid; are all of them inhabitants, legally settled in our parish of Oakley as aforesaid and we are and shall be always ready and willing to own them or theirs as such; at such time or times as his or their necessities shall so require or which time or times as he or they shall obtain or require a legal settlement elsewhere. In witness thereof we have set to our hands and seals; this fourteenth day of February in the second year of the reign of our sovereign Lord George by the Grace of God, King of Great Britton, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith and in the year of our Lord God Anno Christ 1715.

Signed & delivered in
Profonce of us
Thomas Smith Simon Gale
John Stoakes Church Wardens
James Spencer
Edward Smith
Signed and acquired this certificate of
February 16th Anno Domini 1715 by us
Two of his Majesty's Justices of the Board
For the County of Bedford aforesaid.
M. Davies Overseers of the poor
M. Abbott

Below is an extract concerning the village of Oakley from Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England for 1831:

"OAKLEY, a parish forming, with the parishes of Clapham and Milton-Ernest, a detached portion of the hundred of STODDEN, county of BEDFORD, 4 miles (N. W.) from Bedford, containing 486 inhabitants. The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Bedford, and diocese of Lincoln, rated in the king's books at £8.14.9., endowed with £200 royal bounty, and in the patronage of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, contains an ancient altar-tomb, and effigy in robes, of the family of Reynes"

Joseph Barnett (1795-1877), the grandfather of Walter Barnett, was born in 1795 in Everton, Huntingdonshire. On reaching working age he became an agricultural labourer. Joseph moved to Tempsford, Bedfordshire sometime in the early part of the 19th century where he met Charlotte Jakins (1800-1871) of that parish. They were married on the 12th October 1819 in Tempsford, after which they moved to Great Barford, Bedfordshire*, where they raised their family of eleven children.

Charlotte Jakins came from a family of eight children. Her parents, Thomas Jakins and Sarah Hawkes, worked as farm workers around the village of Cockayne Hatling, Bedfordshire. Like the Darling family, infant mortality was quite a high percentage of the children born. Here again two of this family's infants died in their first year a further boy died aged 6 years. The remaining surviving children were Sarah born 1787, John Cornelius born 1792, Lydia born 1794 and Thomas born 1796.

Great Barford is situated on the West Bank of the River Ouse and has almost certainly been inhabited since pre-historic times. There is evidence of circular Bronze Age burial barrows and there was a Roman settlement just down the road at Sandy.

In the 9th and 10th centuries Gt. Barford was occupied by the Danes until they were driven out at the "The Battle of Bloody Bridge" by King Edward the Elder in 917.

After the Normans invaded England in 1066 they made their way northwards seizing and ravishing towns and villages along each side of the river Ouse. This was the last major upheaval to occur in Gt. Barford until the Poor Law riots of 1835.

It was in 1835 that Joseph Barnett and other farm labourers of Bedfordshire were objecting to the reform of the Poor Laws and in May of that year the riots of Amphill broke out. This town was about 12 miles from Great Barford so the effect of the riots would have been felt by the Barnetts. To give some idea of what the reforms meant to the ordinary labourers like Joseph, I think we should evaluate the typical state of their finances prior to 1835 and compare these with post 1835:

Pre 1835

Average number of weeks worked 17
Average rate of wages per week 10/-
Amount of wages of the labourer at his employment £8. 10/-
Additional pay for harvest £2. 00
Amount of earnings of labourer's wife and children £10. 8/-
Allowance from parish * £14.00
Total income of family for year £34. 18/-
Outgoings for rent and fuel £6. 18/-
Net income applicable for food, clothing, soap, candles etc £28.00

Post 1835

From this period under the new Poor Law Act discretion was taken away from the individual parishes and grouped into Poor Law Unions. Outdoor relief * in the form of cash handouts was from this date to be strictly controlled and confined to the aged sick. There was to be no more subsidising of wages nor provision of parish employment in hard times. Therefore Joseph's net income after 1835 would have dropped by half to £14.00 per annum.

There was no repeat of the poor law riots after 1835, but the practice of Rick burning and farm sabotage remained endemic through the 1830's and 1840's.

From 1819 to 1870 Joseph and Charlotte Barnett were living at Brewers Hall Farm, Great Barford where most of their eleven children were born. On reaching his middle to late seventies and now a widower, Joseph was declared a pauper but was not reliant on the Union Workhouse for subsidies at this time. By 1871 he had moved to Vine Cottages, a row of dwellings that also housed his son-in-law William Wooton, a tailor, and John Barnett his son, so one must assume that his kin helped out financially. On the 2nd August 1877 he was admitted to the Bedford Workhouse.

He died in the Workhouse in the early hours of Thursday morning, 11th October 1877 aged 82 years. The following is a transcript from the Admission/Discharge book for the *Union Workhouse, Bedford in the county of Bedfordshire:

" Thursday 2nd August 1877 - Joseph Barnett - labourer - born 1795 - admitted - diet No 2 - admitted by order of the Relieving Officer.

Thursday 11th October 1877 - Joseph Barnett - discharged dead - last meal supper "

*The Workhouse was an institution which provided basic sustenance for the very poor, infirm and aged. Workhouses existed not only in Britain, but in parts of Europe and colonial America from the 17th century, but were most notorious in Victorian Britain.

The 1834 Poor Law established a central Poor Law Board based at Somerset House, with three Commissioners, and with Edwin Chadwick as its first Secretary. Local parishes were combined into larger Unions, with workhouses run by Guardians under the authority of a more centralised administration. Conditions varied but were generally harsh and punitive. On entering the workhouse an individual lost all voting rights and was subject to a regime of meagre food and irksome work such as stone breaking. In a notorious case of 1846, a select committee confirmed that inmates at the Andover, Hampshire, Workhouse had been reduced by hunger to gnawing the rotting bones they had been sent to pound. Workhouses subsequently became known as "Bastilles" and popular opinion, influenced by the novels of Charles Dickens, soon viewed them as places of oppression.

Gradually conditions improved, as the middle classes became more sympathetic towards workhouse inmates and the working class campaigned for political, economic, and social equality. In 1858 Louisa Twining set up a visiting society.

The reason for Joseph’s admission was obviously because he was of a great age and probably infirm.

Charlotte died on the 11th of March 1871 aged 74 years and both she and Joseph are buried in Great Barford Parish cemetery.
,br> On the 25th August 1825 John Barnett (1825-1882) was born at Brewers Hall Farm, Great Barford. He was the third child of Joseph and Charlotte and by the age of 15 years was employed as a house servant for John Ayres, a local farmer. This job lasted a few years until the early 1840’s when he started working as an agricultural labourer. Circa 1847 he began walking out with Emma Dilly (1825-1890), a young lady who originated from the parish of Islington, London.

On the 24th October 1848 they were married according to the Rites of the Church of England at the Parish Church of All Saints*, Great Barford, the ceremony being performed by the Reverend J P Richardson and witnessed by John Gurney and Emma Chapman. *There's probably been a church on this site since the early 13th century when Hugh de Northgivell was vicar in 1229.

The most impressive part of the church is the 15th Century tower. This tower houses five bells which were cast in the reign of Charles I.

Shortly after the wedding, John and Emma Barnett moved into the High Street, Great Barford where most of their eight children were born.

To help supplement the family finances John's wife and daughters were employed as lace makers. In Bedfordshire, only the widespread practice of domestic industry - lace making in the north and straw plait in the south - enabled families to survive economically by providing employment for women and children. Daughters of farm labourers were sent to lace school at a cost of 2p per week. During the 1850's and 1860's wages for farm workers marginally increased as agriculture became more prosperous, but land wages never kept pace with the wage of the city and town dweller. John never got a chance to see some of his sons and daughters move to the cities and better themselves, because at the age of 56, on the 11th of March 1882, he was out riding when he was thrown from his horse and killed. The following is the report that ran in the local newspaper "The Bedfordshire Times" on Saturday 11th March 1882:

"Goldington - FATAL ACCIDENT. A labourer named John Barnett of Gt. Barford, age 56, was thrown from a horse near the old turnpike on the Goldington Road on Wednesday and killed. The inquest was held at the Swan Inn on Thursday by Mr Whyley, County Coroner, and the evidence adduced showed that the horse the deceased was riding belonged to his master Mr Jefferies of Gt Barford. It was a quiet animal to ride though it occasionally had been known to shy slightly. It was supposed that the horse shied at the two posts on the right hand side of the road and the man was thrown on his head and broke his neck. The jury returned a verdict of 'Accidentally Killed' and recommended that the posts referred to be altered or removed. "


Emma would out-live John by eight years dying in Islington, London at the age of 64 years on the 18th April 1890. She was buried alongside her husband John in the Parish Cemetery of Great Barford.

As was previously shown, infant mortality was quite rampant in the latter part of the 18th century. In the Darling family it ran at 50% and the Jakins family 38%. So I thought it might be an idea to note what the infants of the 19th century Barnett family succumbed to. The following are extracts taken from the relevant death certificates:

Thomas William Barnett died 12 November 1865 at Great Barford, aged 1year 6months, cause of death fever and decline.
Sarah Ann Barnett died 22 October 1865 at Great Barford, age 2months, cause of death decline.

These were the children of Joseph Barnett (1843-1908) and his first wife Jane Harper (1840-1870)

See the following paragraph for the details of Joseph's second marriage.

John Barnett son of William Barnett (1821- ?) and 1st wife Harriet Shawley, died 24 January 1847 at Great Barford, aged 12weeks, cause of death decline.

Mary Ann Barnett daughter of William Barnett (1821- ?) and 2nd wife Mary Thody nee Mylot, died 25 September 1864 at Great Barford, aged 17months, cause of death inflamation of the lungs.

Emily Jane Barnett daughter of James (Jem) Barnett (1851-1891) and Fanny ?, died 19 July 1873 at Great Barford, aged 1year, cause of death croup.

Charlotte Lydia Barnett daughter of George Barnett (1849-1910) and Mary Ann Harper (Jane's younger sister), died 3 February 1883 at Great Barford, aged 2 years, cause of death croup.

It is interesting to note that the medical definition of decline in the Consise Oxford Dictionary is tuberculosis or similar disease. I wonder if some of these children died from the hereditary illness, cystic fibrosis, a chest disease that was known to have claimed at least three members of the Barnett family, through three generations, during the 20th century.

I think that at this point I should say something about the only 19th century Barnett emigrant that is known at this time. He was Joseph Barnett, the uncle of Walter. He was born on the 26th of May 1843 and married Jane Harper in 1862, they had two children, Thomas William, born1864, and Sarah Ann, born 1865. Both these children died in 1865. Their marriage was short lived because on the 4th of December 1870 Jane also died.

After the death of Jane, Joseph moved into Vine Cottages and stayed with his father, old Joseph. It was at this time that young Joseph started courting Mary Ann Duncombe culminating in their marriage on the 27th June 1871 in Parish Church of Dowsby, Lincolnshire.

On the 5th November 1872 Mary Ann Barnett gave birth to her first born, Annie, and on the 8th July 1874 she gave birth to her second child, Herbert. It was shortly after this that they applied for assisted passage to emigrate to Canada. This was eventually arranged, so in the Spring of 1875 Joseph and Mary Ann Barnett sailed for their new life in North America. This was to be the start of a dynasty of Barnetts who are still living in and around Oxford County, Ontario, Canada, and some of Joseph's descendants have settled in the USA.

(Note: It would appear that Mary Ann and her husband Joseph Barnett made their designation Oxford County, Ontario, Canada as her older brother was already there and Joseph did not have any relatives in Canada. Glenn)

Below is an example of the type of procedure that would have occurred for emigration from 18th century Great Barford:

Notice of Meeting to consent to raising or borrowing Money for Emigration purposes. Hawnes Parish. Amphill Union. Bedford County.

"Notice is hereby given that a Meeting of the Owners of Property in this parish legally entitled to vote, in person, or by proxy, and of the Ratepayers therein will be held at the School Room Church End in this parish on Thursday the thirteenth day of January next at Ten in the forenoon for tbe purpose of considering whether any and what Sum or Sums of money, not exceeding half the Average yearly Poor Rate for the three years now last past, shall be raised or borrowed as a fund. for defraying the expenses of the Emigration of poor persons having settlements in this Parish, and being willing to emigrate and of giving directions for raising or borrowing such Sum or Sums to be paid out of or charged upon the Rates raised or to be raised for the Relief of the Poor in the Parish, and to be applied under and according to such rules, orders, and regulations, as the Commissioners for administering the Laws for Relief of the Poor in England, shall in that behalf direct. Dated this Eighth day of January 1848."


The results of a meeting similar to the above would have accumulated the following funds and the eventual outlay for three families emigrating to Ontario in 1874:

Subscriptions received:

                                                 £   s  d
Duke of Bedford                    15   0  0
Baroness Rothschild                1   0  0
Rev. W S Baker                       1 10  0
W L Smart Esq                        3   0  0
Trustees of |Eversholt Estate 12  0  0
J Green Esq                              1  0  0
Parker Esq                                  10  0
Mrs Gisborne                                5  0
Mr Stannard                                  5  0
Mrs Pearson                                  2  0
Labourers’ Union                      7  5  0
Mr Sprague                                   2  6
Mr Dimmock                                 5  0
A Friend                                         2  6
A Bricklayer                                      6
Mrs Sandys for Flannel             1  2  6
Miss Sandys                                 10  0
Miss M Sandys                               5  0
Miss Saunders                                5  0
Mr Sandys                                  3  0  1
Total                                        47 10  1

Payments Made:

Agent Canadian Govt. for Passage 21 17 4
Railway Fares 8 12 9
Carriage to Ridgmount 5 0
Expenses of personnel from London 5 0
Paid for Flannel-12 yards each family 1 2 6
Cash to purchase necessary articles in Liverpool etc. £5 2s 6d each family 15 7 6
Total 47 10 1

The other methods of assisted emigration to Canada at this time would have been as follows:

Firstly there were two sisters, the Misses Trevor, of Tingrith, Beds. Who assisted families to emigrate to Ontario, Canada in the 1870’s. Over 100 families from the area emigrated in 1872/73 and they named the settlement in Canada after their place of departure – Little Tingrith. The parish of Tingrith, Bedfordshire is about 10 miles from Great Barford. It’s possible that Joseph and Mary Ann Barnett may have been involved in this type of migration scheme.

The other interesting fact relates to the Farm Workers Strikes of the 1870,s and the formation of the Farm Worker’s Union. One of the leading lights of this Union was a very ardent supporter of the emigration schemes, mainly to Australia. Almost every edition of the local papers of Bedfordshire carried large advertisements encouraging people to emigrate to a better place, better working conditions and better pay – usually to New Zealand or Australia, Canada was mentioned on occasion. The Union would help place people and give assistance with passage arrangements.

There also were reports of Smallpox outbreaks spreading across the Bedfordshire and epidemic proportions being reported in the middle 1870’s. This might also have encouraged Joseph and Mary Ann to emigrate.

(Note: There is another possibility that he has not hit on here and far more probable. That is that William G. Duncombe helped them come to Canada. Especially if there was an epidemic there he would have wanted to get them out of England. Glenn)

On the 9th May 1875 Joseph Barnett age 31, and his family, Mary age 33, Annie age 2 and Herbert age 1 sailed from Liverpool on the S.S. Polynesian, a ship belonging to the Montreal Ocean Steam Ship Company, for their journey to the New World .

They travelled steerage and the ship stopped once at Londonderry N.I. to pick up more passengers before arriving in Quebec City, Canada on the 9th May 1875. After passing through stringent emigration inspections the family made its way to Ontario where they settled in Oxford County in the Southwest of this Province. By 1881 Joseph had become a farmer, which was certainly a great promotion from the farm labourer that he was in Great Barford, Bedfordshire.

Joseph and Mary Ann Barnett would go on to have a further six children born in Ontario, Canada. They were as follows:

Emily Jane- born Jul 20, 1876, died Apr 22, 1922
Louisa Clara born Jul 29, 1878, died Nov 4, 1966
William Edward- born Feb 1, 1881, died Apr 5, 1967
Ethel born Mar 18, 1883, died Aug 4, 1967
Thomas Henry- born Jun 29, 1885, died ?
John Wilburn- born Sep 7, 1888, died Apr 22, 1945

Annie E Barnett, who was born in Great Barford on the 5th November 1872, died in Oxford County, Ontario on the 24th January 1942 and Herbert Barnett who was born on the 8th July 1874 in Great Barford, also dying in Ontario in 1943.

John Barnett’s son Walter Barnett (1868-1932) was born in the High Street, Great Barford on the 27th September 1868. He was the youngest of the family having five brothers and two sisters. With the coming of the 1870 Education Act Walter was entitled to free education and by the time he was 5 years of age was attending the Great Barford National School. He and some of his siblings were the first of his family who could read and write, although there is proof that some of his uncles signed the parish records at the time of their marriages'.

Schooling prior to 1870 was pretty scant for the underprivileged. To give some idea of the state of education for the poor people of Gt. Barford in the 18th and 19th centuries, the following is an extract from "The Heritage of Great Barford":

" Sarah Foster, a widow in Great Barford, made her first will on the 4th August 1731 and planned to set up a charity school. She proposed to leave £500 to the vicar, churchwardens and overseers and half the income of this was to be paid to ''an honest schoolmaster of good morals and of the Church of England to teach 8 poor boys and 8 poor girls to write, read and cast accounts, and bring them to be catechised when the vicar requires it.

Unfortunately Mrs Foster cancelled this will and the school never started.

In 1846 schooling was given on Sundays and held in the church. There was a paid master, a paid mistress, and three "gratuitous female teachers" who taught 49 boys and 75 girls at a total cost of £5. 4s. A Dame school was held weekdays for 10 boys and 34 girls; there was just the one paid mistress. The Sunday school returns for 1846/47 remark - " The boys' Sunday school is held in the church, the girls' in an outhouse belonging to the vicarage; the people are miserably poor and there are no resident gentry".

In 1848 there was a demand for a village school. Trinity College, Cambridge gave £100, the Bedfordshire Board of Education £50 and the Hon. the Privvy Council £115; and together with public subscriptions a building fund of £550. 15s was raised. Trinity College gave a piece of ground in the High Street.

With the money a school was built and a house was provided for Mr. Robinson, the first headmaster, who received £20 per annum salary. His assistant, Mrs Sharpe, received £15 a year. Maintained by the church it was known as Great Barford National School.

In 1884, together with Goldington School, it was administered by a specially appointed schoolboard. In 1902 it was taken over by the Bedfordshire County Council as an elementary school teaching children from 5 to 14 years.''

During the 1870's and 1880's a period of stagnation and decline caused an agricultural recession in Bedfordshire. This was a result of an increase in farm workers' wages to an all time 19th century peak, which was shortly followed by an economic recession that affected agriculture, as cheap American grain and Australian and New Zealand meat started to swamp the country. To put the proverbial nail in the coffin the domestic lace making industry was hit by the introduction of cheaper machine made lace.

Obviously this caused household incomes to go into decline, and the flight from the land became a flood. The outcome of this was to motivate many of the land workers of Bedfordshire to move to the cities, which were still feeling the benefits of the mid- Victorian industrial revolution.

So in the late 1880's Walter decided to try his luck in London. On reaching this city he was fortunate enough to get accommodation with his older brother, John Frederick Barnett, who had preceded him to the parish of Holloway, Islington. John was a brewer’s labourer at this time probably working down at Brewery Road a short distance from the house that he was renting at 101 Goodinge Road, Lower Holloway, Islington.

Islington was the birth parish of Walter’s mother Emma, who eventually came back to live at 50 Pembroke Street, Islington after the death of her husband John. The reason for her move from Great Barford to London was probably due to the fact that after the death of her husband she had to move out of the tied cottage on the High Street, Great Barford.

Also living in this house in Goodinge Road with John and Walter were their sisters, Julia Matilda Barnett and Charlotte Barnett. It appears that Julia was the housekeeper whereas Charlotte was in domestic service. It must have been a reasonably sized house because John was renting out rooms to two of his cousins, Charles and Alfred Barnett plus another lodger, George Westman who hailed from Ashwell, Hertforshire. At some time prior to March 1894, John was also renting rooms in this house to his future sister-in-law, Rebekah Mead aka Springett (1866-1946).

Prior to Charlotte living at 101 Goodinge Road she was a living-in servant with Benjamin Baucher, a corn merchant, and his family at 31 Petherton Road, Islington.

Islington appeared in the Domesday Book (1086), the record of land survey ordered by William I the Conqueror, as Isendone. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-39) and the Great Fire of London(1666), Islington became a more residential area of London. In North Islington, medicinal wells were discovered; and the spa at Mr Sadler's gave it's name to The Sadlers Wells Theatre the original home of the famous British opera and ballet company.

Gradually, however, the rural feel to the area was overtaken by the introduction of North Road (1812), the Regents Canal (1812) and in 1850 the North London Railway which was where Walter got his first chance at employment in London. Many new squares and terraces were constructed towards the end of the 19th century among these was Goodinge Road.

At the turn of the century Charlotte and John Frederick would return to Great Barford where John became a publican.

On the 11th March 1903 Charlotte, now a domestic servant in Great Barford, gave birth to an illegitimate boy, Mossie James Barnett. The father of this lad is thought to have been one of Charlotte's brothers, possibly John Frederick. This is based on the circumstantial evidence that Charlotte and John were living together in London and Gt. Barford for the period 1891 to 1903 and from what I can surmise they had a pretty close relationship.

On the other hand could it be possible that Charlotte gave Mossie his middle name in honour of her brother James, him being the father? One thing is for sure and without dispute if family legend is to be believed, Charlotte had an incestuous relationship that begot Mossie, which I for one cannot get to uptight about. As the old saying goes " love conquers all ".

Unfortunately John Frederick, a publican in Great Barford, died at the very young age of 36 years from the "Publican's Disease", cirrhosis of the liver, on the 9th September 1903 with Charlotte at his bedside. This was only six months after the birth of his "son", Mossie James Barnett.

I have a feeling that this liaison between Charlotte and one of her brothers was a tragic love story that will never be completely known or told in it's entirety, and will be buried with the ancestors.

After this upheaval Charlotte settled down in Great Barford where she brought up her son Mossie (1903-1983) who would eventually go on to marry a lady named Selina (1904-1984).

The only other branch of the Barnett family that was known to be living in Great Barford as the 19th century was drawing to a close, was George Barnett another brother of Walter. George, an agricultural labourer, together with his wife Mary, a lace maker, and their children Amelia and Bertie, were living with Mary's father, Jacob Harper, in a cottage on The Cross Road, Great Barford. George died on the 22nd July 1910 and his wife Mary died on the 19th March 1924, both are buried in the graveyard of All Saints Church, Great Barford.

Soon after his arrival in London Walter managed to get a job as a railway porter and by 1894 had been promoted to a shunter, a prestigious trade, which entailed the planning, and operation for the onward transmission of goods trucks to their correct destinations.

It was whilst living at 101 Goodinge Road that he met another lodger, Rebekah Mead aka Springett who originally came from Stanway near Colchester, Essex. After a short time they became engaged and were eventually married on the 26th March 1894 at St Lukes Church, Holloway the ceremony being witnessed by Walter's sister Charlotte and brother John Frederick.

Rebekah Springett had an unfortunate start in life, being born in the Union Workhouse, Stanway in the County of Essex, on the 7th of May 1866. Her mother Susan Springett aka Mead was admitted to the Workhouse on the 28th February 1866 by order of Samuel Houlding the local registrar, the said Susan being pregnant.

The following is a transcript from the Admission Book for the Lexden and Winstree *Union Workhouse, Stanway, Essex for the period 1863 to 1870:

"28th February 1866 - Susan Mead - aged 30 years - admitted pregnant - by order of Mr Houlding, Registrar. 7th May 1866 - Susan Mead - aged 30 years - gave birth to a female illegitimate child. "


As was stated previously, in 1834, The Poor Law Amendment Act introduced centralised workhouses for groups of parishes in England and Wales. The workhouses were designed to administer a terribly basic level of welfare to the unfortunate of society who sought refuge there. They were known as "Unions" and it was in these gaunt and forbidding places that numbers of poor, unmarried mothers, many cast adrift from their families by the stigma of illegitimacy, were forced to have their babies. If they chose to stay in the workhouse once their child was born, they sometimes found themselves deliberately separated from their offspring at an early age. This may have applied to Susannah Springett (Susan Mead) in Stanway Workhouse.

The father of Rebekah is thought to have been a married man, George Mead a farm labourer of Stanway, Essex. It is probable that Rebekah was conceived in September of 1865. This was the time of the 'Harvest Suppers' when the landed gentry and farmers put on a spread for the workers of the estates. If Susan was in service on the same estate as George and they were at the same 'Harvest Supper' and with the beer flowing, one thing may have led to another?

This could have been another tragic love story that went awry but unlike the saga concerning Charlotte, this one is based on fairly good circumstantial evidence.

After much confusion it has now been established that Rebekah’s mother was born Susannah Springett in Fordham, Essex, in 1835, and baptised on the 1st November 1835. Her parents were John Springett from Alphamstone, Essex and Susannah Springett nee Leggett from Fordham, Essex. John and Susannah where married in Fordham on the 5th August 1832. The siblings of young Susannah were born in various villages around Colchester; Lexden and East Donyland being amongst them.

In the Spring of 1881 the grandmother of Rebekah Springett, Susannah Springett nee Leggett was a widow living in the Alms Houses on Chapel Street, East Donyland, Essex and was supported by the Alms House.

Rebekah Springett, aged 14 years, was working as a domestic servant in the home of Louisa Clare Turner on East Hill, Colchester in 1881. Mrs Turner was the widow of a solicitor. The household comprised of five adult Turners and two infants who were served by four servants. It is now established that Rebekah, although born a Mead, considered herself a Springett rather than a Mead.

Also in 1881 the mother of Rebekah, Susannah Hoy nee Springett, was thought to be living as married woman in Forrest Gate, Essex with Walter Hoy a landscape gardener.

Shortly after their marriage Rebekah and Walter Barnett moved just down the road from their original lodgings to set up home at 49 Goodinge Road where they raised a family of six boys and two girls. Ernest, Edward, Albert and Horace like their father Walter would all eventually end up working on the railways where two of them became inspectors. Percy went into the Royal Navy but died age 26 from TB. Albert was killed at age 18 when he was run over by a train. Cecil died an infant, from what we now suspect to be cystic fibrosis, in 1904. The two daughters, Mabel Grace Becky Barnett (1907-1982) and Ivy Barnett went into domestic service.

Walter died on the 22nd of January 1932 and Rebekah died on the 24th December 1946 in Hendon, London. Rebekah moved to Hendon after being bombed out of her home, when Goodinge Road was wiped out during an air raid in the Second World War.

( Rebekah Barnett nee Springett also used the spelling Rebecca in her earlier life for her Christian name)

NB: For the narrative on the 20th century Barnetts see the "Condensed History of the Descendants of Walter and Rebekah Barnett"

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