Sunday, September 27, 2009


Our English Roots

Charles Ford 1806-1864

Charles Ford was born November 4, 1806 in Owlpen, Gloucestershire, England. His parents were William and Sarah Dauncey Ford. According to Parish records he had eight brothers and three sisters. The Ford family lived in Owlpen for over 5 generations. It is assumed that William Ford was a supervisor for Sheppard’s cloth mill, one of the woollen mills in Uley since an old deed has William Ford living in Supervisor row on Woodstock Terrace in Uley. Sheppard’s mill, Dauncey Woollen mill, Jackson’s mill, Rockstowes mill were all working mills at that time. Uley is within walking distance of Owlpen.

Owlpen, a tiny English village in Gloucestershire county is so small that it cannot be found on most maps. It is surrounded by such colorful places as: Hetty Peglar’s Tump; Nibley Knoll; Stinchcomb Hill; Nympsfield Long Barrow; Wotton-under-Edge; Coaley Peak; Nailsworth; Uley Bury; Dursley; and Bagpath to name a few. It is 12 miles south of the city of Gloucester and about six miles east of the Severn River that flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

All that is left of the village of Owlpen today is a series of buildings called Owlpen Manor. The Manor stands in its own remote valley under the edge of the Coswolds, its domain of pasture and meadow land enclosed by an amphitheatre of steeply-rising hills crowned with beech woods. Here the peal-grey manor house with its enormous yews and attendant outbuildings form a remarkable group, nestling under the lee of the hillside. The Tudor manor house, built and rebuilt organically between about 1450 and 1720, its early formal garden and cluster of traditional buildings, posses a charm, presence and perfection of form and scale which have long been admired as one of the treasures of Cotswold scenery. There has almost certainly been a house on the site of the present manor since the times of the earliest settlement, attracted by the springs which rise under the house.”

Owlpen (pronounced locally “Olepen”) drives its name, it is thought, from the Saxon thane, Olla, who first set up his pen, or enclosure, by the springs that rise under the foundations, in the ninth century. The immediate area has many signs of earlier settlement. There are sites of round barrows and standing stones within a short walk of the manor. Uley Bury - the long, bare, flat-topped hill which shields the manor from the west wind - is an impressive multi-vallate, scarp-edge hill-fort of the middle iron age (300 B. C.), commanding spectacular views over the Severn Vale. Just by it is Hetty Peglar’s Tump, renamed “Uley Long Barrow”, a well-preserved middle neolithic chambered long barrow (2,900-2,400 B.C.).

The Owlpen estate has a recorded history of close on a thousand years, well documented for a manor of its size, whose owners were squires residing, far from typically in the earlier medieval period, on their own manor. Its history connects it with a number of old families, houses and estates throughout south west England, as well as Ireland. ( From “A Short History and Guide to Owlpen Manor:”)

In villages of Saxon origin, the ending “ley”, as in Dursley or Uley, meant ‘an enclosed clearing’, indicating a settlement carved out of the surrounding forest. It is probable that the great forest of Michael Wood did not end at Dursley, but continued up the valley to Uley. Roger de Berkeley, his family and friends would probably ride out from Dursley Castle to visit his manor house at Whitecourt with its two deer parks.

One can imagine the jingling, gaily dressed cavalcade, including the mounted knights of the castle, riding out on a cold day along the grassy rutted trackway by way of Wresden and Angeston, with donkey carts and packhorses to carry the plate and bedding, wines and stores, for the stay at Whitecourt. Lord Roger’s bailiff in Uley would have arranged for great log fires to be lit in all the rooms, and for a fresh supply of rushes to be strewn liberally over the floors. Local people would be employed as cooks, scullions, and menials and possibly a miller, and a verderer for the deer parks.

A small number of freemen would hold their land free from any lord, though they would look to Lord Roger to protect their interests, in return helping to plough his land or harvest his crops. Most of the people of Uley would be ‘Villeins’ or peasant farmers who ‘rented’ about 30 acres of arable land; they would usually have plough-oxen, pigs, sheep, and hereditary rights of cattle-pasture and pig-pannage on the Uley commons. They relied o Lord Roger for food and seed, and could not leave his land without permission. Their ‘rent’ would consist of grain, livestock, eggs and other produce, together with work on the Berkeley lands, especially at haymaking and harvesting. These tenant farmers would themselves employ ‘cottagers’ to do their labor.
Finally, there would still be quite a number of landless serfs descendants of the slaves of Roman Britain. They were the property of Lord Roger and could be sold at his whim. They had to be given two meals and two loaves of bread a day and had Sundays and Feast days off. Lord Roger was by no means stupid and only a stupid lord ill treated his serfs. They could hire themselves out, and some even managed to earn their freedom. Others might try to escape to a town outside the Hundred of Berkeley, or become outlaws in the forest, living on robbery and poaching; if caught they could expect to lose an arm or an eye, or to be sold at Bristol to a foreign buyer.

The manorial fields (usually three) each divided into strips of about an acre each, with little grass paths between them. A man would have strips in all the fields and had to go from one to the other; it was a communal system in which the whole of each field grew the same crip each year on a rotatory system, while everyone had his share of the good land and the bad. In the event of a dispute, the priest, and the other interested partied would meet in Lord Roger’s Hundred-court to settle the matter.

In the scrub land and forest beyond the Uley fields, the pugs and sheep ran wild; wattle could be collected for thatching, and firewood for cooking and heating. In the cottages the women would bake bread, make butter, feed the chickens, tend little vegetable allotments and spin and weave sheep’s wool into rough cloth. Children from the age of even would help their parents at home or in the fields. At other times they would gather in or around the church porch to listen to the priest telling Bible stories.

Life was hard in Uley, but there was always the possibility of a visit to the market in Dursley, a journey with Lord Roger’s wagons, or a church festival to help relieve the monotony. On May Day there would be races, wrestling, jumping, archery, dancing and much else. At Christmas everyone would attend Mass in church, then there would be feast at Whitecourt, followed by games such as Blindman’s Bluff.

In the event of trouble on the Welsh Marches, Lord Roger might ‘call up’ some of the younger men or old soldiers to help repel the wild tribesmen beyond the Severn River. The stories of these conscripts, suitably embroidered on their return would keep the Uley gossips busy for several weeks. (From “Uley - A Cotswold Village”.)

The nearby city of Stroud was famous for its scarlet cloth which clothed the British Army, and Uley, a short mile up the road from Owlpen was famous for its blue dyes and cloth. Neither had rivals in all of Europe. The census of 1608 of all able-bodied men below the age of 60, shows that of the 50 men recorded in the Parish of Uley, 28 were weavers, with the proportion much the same in the surrounding towns of Cam and Dursley.

The cloth business flourished because the humidity of the climate allowed the cloth to be worked up; the numerous springs provided an abundance of clear water; useful deposits of fuller’s earth were available; Woad, in great demand for dyeing, grew plentifully; and teasels used to raise the nap of fine cloth flourished.

All mills relied on water power; some made artificial lakes; others, more astute used steam engines for power. At the beginning of 1800, there were many cloth mills with the wheels turned by the stream. Nearly all the processes - washing, dyeing, stretching, shearing, etc. seem to have been done by hand. The carding, spinning, and weaving were all at first done n the worker’s own homes by hand. It has been stated that ten spinners were needed to provide sufficient yarn to keep one weaver employed. Almost every woman spun, but the unmarried ones had generally the most time for it so they were known as ‘spinsters’. In 1770, however, Arkwright invented the spinning jenny, a machine worked by water wheels.

About 1820 there were six large and twelve small mills working in Uley. But even after the spinning jenny was started in the mills, and spinners were no longer needed in the cottages, all the weaving was still done at home, and nearly every house had its loom. Those who worked in the mills received good wages for those days: 42 shillings a week compared to 9 shillings a week for farm workers. There were eleven public ale houses in Uley, and a terrible amount of the wages went in them. There was no saving for bad times.

Bad times began about1810 when Yorkshire started to make cloth using a quicker process. Wages skidded gradually to a low of 7 shillings a week. The Uley mills went smash. To pay for the poor, the taxes went sky high.

The nineteenth century was unfortunate for the Owlpen manor and the whole parish. The Stroudwater woollen cloth industry, for centuries the mainspring of the local economy, was under check after the Napoleonic Wars, (during the war they supplied uniforms for both sides.) and after a period of expansion with the new steam technology, it could not compete with the north. There were riots and panic and mass emigration from Uley and Owlpen in the 1830s.

Owlpen was badly hit by the failure of Edward Sheppard’s cloth mill in Uley, which employed “nearly all the families at Owlpen”, in 1837 Parson Cornwall at the time described in his diaries how “the improvident weavers were left, almost to a man, utterly desolate. I was obliged to engage to pay the bakers, or whole families would have starved.” The population of Owlpen declined almost overnight from 255 in 1831 to 94 by 1841, still more than the estate alone could employ. In 1838 it is recorded that 84% of the population of the parish were officially paupers. Parishioners moved to the iron and coal works of the Forest of Dean and South Wales or emigrated from Uley and Owlpen to America, Canada (in 1835), Australia (Owlpen House in the Hunter Valley is dated 1837) and New Zealand. The cottages were abandoned (we were told there were 200 empty houses in Uley).

It is no wonder that Charles Ford learned the shoemaking trade, left Owlpen, the home of his birth, and moved North to Staffordshire and married Hannah Steventon from Tipton in 1830. With poverty spread all around them Charles and his family had to make another decision to move.

On June 5, 1839 Charles, his wife, two sons, and brother Alfred boarded the ship Troy for New York harbor. They then headed for Martin county, Indiana to the Steventon farm, Hannah’s father’s place. It was there Charles farmed and worked at his trade, shoemaking, until their conversion to the LDS Church. They moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1845, were driven out by mobs in 1846 to Mt. Pisgah, then crossed the Great Plains in 1848 to settle in Salt Lake Valley.

Charles married Sarah Mitchell December 2, 1849 in Salt Lake City. She was born July 31, 1813 in Leed, Yorkshire, England, a daughter of Enoch and Mary Cooke Mitchell. They had one child, Mary Cook Ford born October 11, 1850 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She married Thomas Jefferson Clark July 4, 1864 while living in Washington, Utah. Sarah’s brother William Cooke Mitchell helped settle Parowan, Utah.

Charles also married Katherine Gambrell November 28, 1855. She died four years later; Johanna Caroline Ritersham October 3, 1863; and Johanna Frederica Tegen November 1, 1861. A son, Charles, was born June 4, 1864 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Not much is known about these women.

In the fall of 1863Charles again moved his family at the call of the prophet Brigham Young to settle Washington city in Southern Utah. Charles died there five months later. His wife, Sarah, stayed in Washington near her daughter, Mary. His first wife, Hannah died in 1871 in Salt Lake City. His sons, Alfred and Edwin moved their families to Kanab in 1873. Kanab was the newest frontier at the time and this time the family stayed to raise families.


nicky said...

So interesting to read the story of what happened to some of our predecessors at Owlpen. The Fords occur in the old deeds now at the manor house, certainly from the early C18.
Nicholas Mander, Owlpen

Joan Ford said...

We visited Owlpen in 1995. We didn't know that the manor had old deeds. It would have been nice to see them. We saw the Parish Records now located in Gloucester. Richard Foord born about 1672 in Owlpen who married Sarah Houlder is the last entry we could find. We don't know his parents.