Victorians & Edwardians

1837 to 1914


The period between 1837 to 1914 is an era that in many way has defined much of what we consider to be "Englishness" - if such a thing can be defined - of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Morally and politically, this period began with the passage of the Reform Act 1832 which introduced voting reform; it abolished tiny districts, gave representation to cities, gave the vote to small landowners, tenant farmers, shopkeepers, and householders who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more. But it also enshrined for the first time that only qualifying men were able to vote; the Act introduced the first explicit statutory bar to women voting

The 19th century also saw a strong religious drive for higher moral standards led by the nonconformist churches, such as the Methodists, and the Evangelical wing of the established Church of England. The pursuit of a moral purpose was to perhaps best manifested in the educational reforms through a series of Acts of Parliament in 1870, 1876, 1891, and 1897, that saw the establishment of the free school systems that we know today.  The British population not only approached universal literacy towards the end of the era but also became increasingly well-educated; the market for reading materials of all kinds boomed.

Victorian morality was a surprising new reality. The changes in moral standards and actual behaviour across the British were profound. Historian Harold Perkin wrote:

"Between 1780 and 1850 the English ceased to be one of the most aggressive, brutal, rowdy, outspoken, riotous, cruel and bloodthirsty nations in the world and became one of the most inhibited, polite, orderly, tender-minded, prudish and hypocritical"

Technologically, this era saw a staggering amount of innovations that proved key to Britain's power and prosperity. Doctors started moving away from tradition towards a science-based approach; modern medicine saw the light of day thanks to the adoption of the germ theory of disease and pioneering research in epidemiology. 

Domestically, the political agenda was increasingly liberal, with a number of shifts in the direction of gradual political and social reform. There were unprecedented demographic changes: the population of England and Wales almost doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901. Between 1837 and 1901 about 15 million emigrated from Great Britain, mostly to the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. 

International free trade was maintained by the country's naval and industrial supremacy, linked with global imperial expansion, particularly in Asia and Africa, made the British Empire the largest empire in history

The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 marked the end of the Victorian era. Her son and successor, Edward VII, was already the leader of a fashionable elite that set a style influenced by the art and fashions of continental Europe. Looking back through the prism of two world wars, the 1901-1914 period It is often seen as a lost golden age. The Edwardian era spanned the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, and is generally expanded to the start of the First World War.

The era was marked by significant shifts in politics among sections of society that had largely been excluded from power, such as labourers, servants, and the industrial working class; and increasingly, women started to be have a more active role in politics. 

In the Village

In Great Addington, the social changes brought in by inclosure were already 30 years in the past by the start of Queen Victoria's reign. The woollen industry was also largely a thing of the past. As with previous periods, this era saw both continuity in the families that lived in the village, but also significant change in the chief forms of employment in and around the village. 

The village also saw the introduction of the railways, which gave the village rapid access to not only the linked towns within the county, but also brought the country to Great Addington. One of the most visible legacies of the introduction of the railways is the use of red brick in buildings. Before the railways, as limestone was easily extracted in the area it was the obvious choice for building material. But with the introduction of the railways, cheap brick could be easily transported in large heavy quantities from the factories and swiftly began to replace stone as the cheapest material to use. It is during the 19th century that brick built houses and brick facades on older stone houses appeared. See the section Rivers, Roads & Rail for more information.

From the 1860's onwards, Great Addington also benefited from two significant land owners moving to and living in the village, taking over from the absentee landlords of the past 300 years. 

James Rennie Wilkinson acquired the Andrew estate in 1865 (itself the remnants of the Medieval de Vere manorial estate), built Shooters Hill, and lived there until his suicide in 1913. Though a quiet and reserved man, he very much the archetypal Victorian non-conformist, Liberal, social reformer; and was a prominent figure in Northamptonshire politics for nearly 50 years.

Sidney Leveson-Lane and his wife the Dowager Viscountess Downe, acquired Great Addington Manor House (then known as Addington Hall) and a significant amount of the land in the parish in the 1870's. Their extensive remodelling of the Jacobean Addington House and two large extensions - each as large as the original house - resulted in the Manor House that we see today. The couple settled into a quiet, but involved, life as "Lord & Lady of the Manor". They were perhaps the opposite of James Rennie Wilkinson. Where he represented social and educational reform, they were representative of the titled and privelleged aristocracy.

Two wealthy individuals, both of whom had an impact upon the village, but perhaps it is the reserved James Rennie Wilkinson, who had the greatest impact outside the village at the time, and deserves the greater recognition.

Sidney Leveson Lane & Dowager Viscountess Mary Isabel Downe

From 1877 to 1910 the Manor House and aproximatly half the village was in the possession of Sidney Leveson Lane and his wife the Dowager Vicountess Mary Isabel Downe. In many ways they represented the epitome of the Victorian Lord & Lady of the manor. Wealthy, connected, and from aristocratical backgrounds; they represented a continuation of the elite and privelleged, though generous benefactors to the needy, they were very much part of the privelleged society and expressed no interest in reform.

Dowager Viscountess Mary Isabel Downe & William Henry Dawnay, 7th Viscount Downe

Whilst there is much focus on Sidney Leveson-Lane, it is important to recognise that his wife, Mary Isabel Downe (nee Baggot), was a significant source of their wealth. Mary had been married and then widowed before she met Sidney Leveson-Lane. Mary's first husband was William Henry Dawney, 7th Viscount Downe and it is from this first marriage that she came into significant wealth and property.

The Dawnay family originally came from Aunay in Normandy, France. They  first came to prominence when John Dawnay  of Womersly, Yorkshire, became MP for Pontefract in 1661 in the Cavalier Parliament and was knighted by King Charles II. Some years later in 1681 he was  further rewarded by being raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Viscount Downe. With his new found wealth and status, John bought the Danby Estate including the 14th century Danby Castle near Whitby, in 1656 from the Earl Danvers. Over the following years the Dawnay family acquired Cowick Hall, Benningborough Hall, Wykeham Abbey,  Baldersby Park near Thirsk, and land in Rutland . 

William Henry Dawnay was born in 1812 and was the son of Reverend William Dawnay, 6th Viscount Downe, Rector of Sessay and Thormanby and Lydia Heathcote. William was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford where he gained an MA in 1837. After University in 1841 William became  MP for Rutland and in the course of his duties encountered Mary Isabel Bagot, then aged just 18. Mary was the daughter of the Right Reverend the Honourable Richard Bagot , Bishop of Bath and Wells and Lady Harriet Villiers. She was born in Blithfield, Staffordshire on 25  April 1825. After a brief courtship they became engaged. When he asked the Bishop of Bath and Wells for his daughters hand in marriage the Bishop, aware of William Dawnay’s great wealth, replied that he could have it provided that he agreed to build seven churches. William said that he would do so. William and Mary married on 25 July 1843.

On the death of his father in 1846, William relinquished his duties as an MP and became the 7th Viscount Downe, and Mary the Viscountess. They soon started a family and William, mindful of the agreement with his father–in-law, began to think about building and restoring churches. He began with restoring churches at Sessay, at  Wykeham near Scarborough and at Ashwell in Rutland. This work culminated in the building of the Church of St James and the associated village of Baldersby St James complete with a school and a vicarage. William Dawnay never saw his church finished. He died on January 26th 1857 aged 44 in Torquay, at that time a favoured winter resort for the wealthy upper classes and it also attracted visitors in poor health on account of its fresh air and mild climate.

Mary was widowed at 32, with 2 daughters and 8 sons. Their eldest son, Hugh had been born in 1844 and succeeded to the title but still being only 13, the family power rested with Mary as Viscountess. Mary continued to live at Baldersby Park, where she brought up her large family. As the Dowager Viscountess she exercised her influence in various aspects of the estate particularly with regard to ecclesiastical matters, the Church of St James and the adjacent school being the focal point.

Reverend Baring-Gould, a colleague of Edward Malleson and an acquaintance of the Viscountess recalled Mary in his memoirs:

“Viscountess Downe lived at Baldersby Park, beyond Topcliffe. After the death of Lord Downe, she married her cousin, a Mr Lane. She was still beautiful woman, with delicate features, full bright eyes, and grey hair. My predecessor she had liked greatly as he consulted her on everything about the parish."

Sidney Leveson Lane

Born in 1831, Sidney was the son of John Newton Lane and the Honorable Agnes Bagot, and was Mary's cousin. Sidney's grandfather had inherited a sugar plantation and slaves in Barbados, plus an estate in Kings Bromley, Staffordshire from a distant relative in 1794. Slave trading was abolished by the British government in 1807, but slavery continued until the 1834 Emancipation Act. Slave owners were compensated by the government for the loss of their 'property', and in 1836 John Newton Lane received f£4,746 1s 10d for the 224 slaves on the Seawells estate in Barbados - aproximately £350,000. This money was used to extend the hall at Kings Bromley and to build a wall around the park. 

Mary Isabel, Dowager Vicountess Downe

Sidney Leveson Lane, then aged 56, plus his brothers & sisters in 1886. Sidney is at the back standind in front of the doors. Ernald Lane is on the left.

Sidney Leveson Lane, Circa 1910

Sidneys's mother, Agnes, made sure that her six sons hadgood careers: three in the army, one a barrister, one in the church and one in the foreign office, and that her two daughters married well into the aristocracy. Whether through her intentions or not, many of her sons also happened to marry wealthy heiresses

Sidney was educated at Christ Church ,Oxford where he gained a BA and in 1853 was "called to the bar", meaning he had qualified as a barrister, though it is not clear whether he ever worked in a law practice. 

He was commissioned as an officer with the rank of Captain in the King's Own (1st Staffordshire) Militia in 1852, and with the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854, the militia were called out for home defence. The 1st Staffordshires assembled 1,171 strong for annual training at Lichfield on 20 April. On 16 May 1854 the regiment was invited to volunteer for permanent service, and 645 volunteers were selected to be embodied. On 30 May they proceeded to Dover to take on garrison duties. 

In January 1855 the 1st Staffordshire was one of the militia regiments invited to volunteer for overseas service: 596 men did so. The service companies - inclusing Sidney - embarked at Portsmouth on SS Hansa and arrived at Corfu in the Ionian Islands on 15 April. They were stationed at Fort Neuf Barracks. In August the regiment sent a detachment to Ithaca, then on 24 August the main body embarked on the transport Indiana for Argostoli on Cephalonia, from where it sent further detachments to Luxuri and Fort George. From the autumn of 1855 the regiment suffered badly from sickness: 25 men and three women and children died and at one period during the summer of 1856 a third of the regiment at Argostoli was in hospital. On 18 August 1856 three companies embarked for home on the Mauritius and arrived at Lichfield on 16 September. The main body of the regiment embarked on the Prince Arthur on 30 August and reached home on 22 September. The regiment was disembodied on 1 October 1856. It was awarded the Battle honour Mediterranean for this service.

Whilst the 1st Staffordshires were not involved in fighting during their posting to the Ionian island, they did suffer greatly with "fever" - probably Malaria. 

It is not clear how Mary and Sidney met, but 6 January 1863 the couple were married at Easingwold. She was nearly 37 and Sidney was 32. Prior to the wedding, a form of pre-nuptial agreement was drawn up and signed on the 3 January 1863 to censure that Sidney had no claim on the Dawnay estates through his marriage to Mary. A similar document had been drawn up when Mary had married William Dawnay.

In 1863, Sidney's brother, the Reverand Ernald Lane, as apointed as assistant priest - "curate" - at Baldersby who was also tutor to Lewis Dawnay, Mary’s second son. The position was perhaps a gift from Mary to the Lane family. Ernald was to go on and have significant career in the Church of England, becoming Dean of Rochester.

On 15 November 1863 Mary gave birth to her eleventh child, a son, Sidney Ernald Ralph Lane, to be followed by her twelth and last child, a daughter, Mary Beatrice Sidney Lane, in 1866.

Shortly afterwards Mary persuaded her good friend William Butterfield to design and oversee the building of a new church to replace the Dalton Chapel in memory of her first husband, thus St John’s Church, Dalton was built in 1868 at a fixed sum of £2,500.

When Hugh, the 8th Viscount Downe, achieved his majority, Mary and Sidney decided to move away from Yorkshire and around 1877 bought  Addington House at Great Addington in Northamptonshire and also a house in London, 8 , Belgrave Square, which remained their main residences  for the rest of their lives.

It is worth remembering that up until this point "Addington House" was relatively modest in size and very little had been done to change the building since it was first built in 1609. Sidney and Mary were therefore clearly seeing an opportunity to convert the 250 year old Jacobean hall, into a contemporary, luxury, Victorian property worthy of their wealth and status. 

The scale of their undertaking should not be underestimated. Sidney and Mary commissioned a significant amount of alteration and extension works, at trebling the size of the house, significantly altering the interiors, and introducing "modern" conveniences. Unusually for such works rather than employing local craftsmen an advert was placed in the Northamptonshire Mercury in 1878:

"Alterations and enlargements of the above named Mansion...persons desirous of contracting for the works must send in sealed tenders to Mr. George Redfern, clerk of the works, Great Addington Hall"

The works included the creation of the two large wings on either side of the central "E" shape of the Jacobean building, along with considerable extensions to the rear of the building, and a completely new roof. The remains of the original roof can be seen within the existing roof void. 

The inclosure map of 1803 shows a number of houses and buildings on the west side of Main street opposite the Hare and Hounds, including Harris's Yard (presumably associated with Samuel Harris who ran the pub and the bakery); and the home of Thomas Chapman, a labourer. Two of the properties were part of manor estate holdings and leased to tenants, but one property was held by Robert Andrews and leased to a tenant. On the 1817 Ordnance Survey (OS) preliminary survey by William Hyett the buildings can still be seen, but by the first published OS map of 1884 the houses are gone, the land has become part of the Manor house woodland garden, and a wall has been built down the length of Main street, and the entrance opposite Ringstead road is in place. 

It is difficult to know how much time Mary and Sidney spent in Great Addington. The census records of 1881 show them at Baldersby Park with 5 other members of the family and over 40 staff. In 1891, they are at Puckaster House on the Isle of Wight (believed to have been in the family possession through inheritance from one of Sidney's uncles) with 2 other members of the family and 15 servants. In  the 1901 census Sidney is at a house in Scotland, which may have been rented for a holiday as it does not seem to have any family connections. 

There are very few newspaper articles about Mary and Sidney and they seemed to have been quite content to live a quiet life between their properties in Northamptonshire and London. The earlier articles seems to be records of their attendance at weddings, garden parties, grand balls, and hunts. Later articles seem to be solely related to agriculture and farming. In the Northampton Mercury of June 1910 there is one longer article about Sidney which describes him as "genial, popular, and scholarly", and also mentions that he has become "lame" and "restrained from the active life of his younger days"; it also describes him as an "old English country gentleman". Great Addington villagers of the period referred to Sidney as "Squire Lane".

There are references to their generous nature both towards the villagers and also in monies given to repair works at the church, including the restoration of the church porch.

William Boon who was born in 1902, when interviewed in the 1980's recalled a mixture of his own memories of Sidney Leveson Lane and also stories about Mary Isabel who had died two years before he was born:

"Sidney Lane and his wife Lady Downe lived in the Manor House, he was more of less the Squire of the village....Squire Lane had a butler who dressed in pin stripes and tails on high days and holidays, there was also a Pantry and Kitchen maid as well as a Scullery maid, in pecking order. The Squire had two pairs of horses and a carriage. Mr. Birchby used to drive the Squire's horses, he lived in the house next to the Hare & Hounds pub...The kitchen garden stretched up to the Ring (Rushwell Close) and I remember ploughing it up and turning it into a kitchen garden. Lady Downe had a soup kitchen where the poor folk were given a hot meal each day to prevent them from starving. Every Saturday everyone went along to the Manor for a dish full of dripping, it was the done thing. Squire Lane owned John Tyler's farm (Manor Farm), Top Lodge at the Poplars (Finedone Poplars) and also Patch Farm in 10 acre field...After Squire Lane died all his farms were sold, he also owned Beeches Farm in Little Addington. I remember sitting on a wall and watching the horses being sold. I helped to cart bricks from the railway station with two horses to build Beeches Farm house".

Mary died on 14 April 1900 at her London home and was buried next to her first husband ,William Dawnay in the Churchyard of St James, Dalton - a church that he had commissioned to be built. She was joined following his sudden death on 29th December 1910 by Sidney (aged 79) who is buried next to her. The three graves can be found screened behind a low hedge at the eastern end of the Church of St James, Baldersby, Thirsk, Yorkshire.

Sidney and Marys' son, Sidney Ernald Ralph Lane, inherited the majority of the family estate, he lived in London rather than Great Addington and sold their land and properties in Great Addington circa 1919.

James Rennie Wilkinson, date unknown.

The last image of James Rennie Wilkinson, circa 1912. The photograph was taken at the home of Charles Wicksteed. James is on the far right of the picture.

Great Addington football team photographed outside Shooters Hill. The image date is somewhere between 1895 and 1904.

Newspaper article from 1913 carrying the report of James's death.

Photograph showing school children at Shooters Hill, circa 1920.

The Great Works & Tragic Death of James Rennie Wilkinson

In contrast the aristocratic background of the Sidney & Mary at the Manor House, James Rennie Wilkinon who built and lived Shooters Hill house - though wealthy - was from a far different background and remained a driven man, with a passionate zeal for social and educational reform until he tragically took his own life whilst suffering from depression.

The Northamptonshire Mercury article regarding his death in March 1913, published just days after his death, reads:

"Northamptonshire loses one of the most remarkable men who have ever moved in the public life of the county....he has been actively engaged in our public affairs for nearly half a century. He was a staunch Liberal and Nonconformist, a life-long advocate of is no exageration to say that, irrespective of (political) party, he was the most trusted man in the county."

James was descended from two separate families that moved from the Dumfries area of Scotland around 1800 and settled in Bradford, Yorkshire. The two families were named Rennie and Milligan. Originally, poor crofters, the two separate families seem to have rapidly established themselves and found success.

James Rennie Wilkinson grandparents – James Rennie and Susan Milligan - were born in Dumfries, Scotland in the 1780’s. They were living in Bradford in the early years of the 19th century and James Rennie was involved in at least two companies; Milligan, Rennie & Co and Rennie, Tetley & Co, trading as linen and woollen drapers and stuff (cloth) merchants. James and Susans’ house in Bradford was a fine early Victorian detached house so clearly the family were prospering.

Susan’s brother, Robert Milligan, was elected the first mayor of Bradford in 1847 and then Liberal Member of Parliament in 1851. He died in 1862 and the one newspaper of the time commented:

"Robert began life as a penniless lad and died the master of a princely fortune".

James and Susan Rennie had one child, Mary (born 1819) who married Thomas Jowett Wilkinson of Leeds. In the census records of 1851 he is listed as Silversmith, Jeweller, and Watchmaker.

Mary died at the age of 25 in 1844, the same year that James Rennie Wilkinson (6 March 1844) was born and it is likely that the two facts are related.

Thomas Wilkinson remarried 6 years later in February 1850 to Mary Grace Horsfall. By 1861 they are living in a large Victorian mansion named Spring Hill, in Headingley, Leeds. By 1871, Thomas is listed as Silversmith and Banker. The scale of their new house, its setting in this wealthy area of Leeds, and that he was now listed as a Banker, indicates that Thomas and Mary were doing very well indeed.

However, James Rennie Wilkinson is not in the household at the time the census was taken in 1861.  Instead he is not far from Great Addington. Aged 17, he is staying in the house of Thomas Milligan, a farmer in Dean, Bedfordshire just 12 miles away, and listed as pupil. As children at school at that time are listed as scholars, he was probably learning how to manage a large farm estate.

Thomas Milligan is presumably connected in some way to his grandmothers side of the family. The 1861 census records shows that Thomas Milligan owned 956 acres and employed 32 men and 6 boys. He also managed another 870 acres, 29 men and 7 boys for another land owner.  Clearly a very substantial farming business.  He was born in Otley, Yorkshire in 1807 – there is still a place in Otley called Milligans yard. When Thomas Milligan died James Rennie Milligan was one of the executors of his estate which was valued at £14,000, about £1,000,000 today.

Also in the house in 1861 is Thomas’s youngest son, John Duncan Milligan who is an infant aged just 11 months. 

Just 4 years later in 1865, James Rennie Wilkinson aged 21, purchases 430 acres of land in Great & Little Addington and Ringstead - buying most of the land holding of the Andrews family (see Georgians section). This was a very significant investment. It is not known what James was doing between 1861 and 1865, or where he got the money from, but we do know that his father was by now a wealthy banker in Leeds, and the family had extensive connections to the rich and powerful in Leeds and Bradford.

Two years later James married Elizabeth Braybrooks (born in Spaldwick in1840), on September 25th 1867. Her family may have some connection with the Miligans of Dean – Elizabeth’s father is recorded as a “wooll stapler” - a type of wool merchant. In 1861 she had been a governess to a family in Glendon near Wellingborough. 

James and Elizabeth settle for the remainder of their life in Great Addington, but never have any children.

From the outset, James seems driven to bring about social reform. In the late 1860’s, when he was about 25 year old James has a building known as “The Board Room” constructed in the village as a combination of school, non-conformist chapel, and meeting room. At this time there was no free education and it was not until the Education Act of 1870 that a publicly funded school was built in 1873. With the new "free school" being opened, James then gave the Board Room to the parish as a community cenbtre and non-conformist chapel. He continued to talk at organised events there for the rest of his life. It stood where Chapel Close now is. He also purchased land in Little Addington and built a Reading Room there for the benefit of the villagers.

In the 1871 census James's occupation is listed as farmer with 400 acres of land and employing 12 men and 5 boys on the land. There are two servants in the house, both called Harriet – Harriet Eaton from Woodford and Harriet Moore from Pytchley.  The house in Great Addington they are living in is called New Farm House at that time and is specifically mentioned in the village description introduction of the 1871 Census, “The whole of the Parish of Great Addington including Browns Lodge and Colemans Mill, also Mr Wilkinsons...New Farm lodge”. This is mot likely be Shooters Hill, as there is no property in Great Addington called New Farm.

In 1878, James decided to stop farming himself and puts all of his livestock and farming equipment up for sale.

By 1881, James’s father Thomas is listed as a “retired banker” and is living with his second wife Mary in Wellingborough, in Newstead House, Hatton Park Road. It is unknown why they moved to Wellingborough from Leeds.

The census of that year shows James and Elizabeth have two new live in servants – Mary Read and Elizabeth Moore. James’s occupation is now given as Landowner. In the houses nearest to Shooters Hill house many of the residents occupations would indicate that they probably worked for the Wilkinsons, for instance John Hollis whose occupation is given as groom and gardener.

The first elections for Northamptonshire County Council were held on the 17th January 1889. James Rennie Wilkinson stood as a Liberal Candidate for the area and was elected unopposed. He remained the councillor for the ward for the rest of his life.  The 5th Earl Spencer, Viscount Althorp, head of the Liberal Party in Northamptonshire was appointed as the councils first Chairman and James was Vice-Chairman of Northamptonshire County Council from 1893 until 1908. He also served as Chair of the Education Committee for the same period. Charles Wicksteed, the engineering business owner and founder of Wicksteed Park was also a member of the committee and appears to have been a friend of James; he was also from Leeds, though there is no known connection between the families there.

The name of the house as Shooters Hill first appears in the 1891 census. Again there are new live-in servants, Sarah Giles and Minne Sivies. Also in the house is a visitor, 16 year old Rennie Beuzeville Byles, James’s nephew.

Reappearing in James's story and now living in the village in 1891 is John Duncan Milligan, the son of Thomas Milligan from Dean, who is listed as farmer and manages the land that James owned. It would seem that John had moved to the village around the time that James had decided to stop farming himself and either appointed John Milligan as his farm manager, or let that land to him as a tenant.

Newpaper archives from the time record the fact that both James and John often spoke at Temperance Movement meetings across the area. The Temperance Movement was a social movement that campaigned against the recreational use and sale of alcohol, and promoted total abstinence. In the 19th century, high levels of alcohol consumption and drunkenness were seen by social reformers as a danger to society's wellbeing, leading to social issues such as poverty, child neglect, immorality and economic decline. Temperance societies began to be formed in the 1830s to campaign against alcohol. Specific groups were created over periods of time dedicated to the different aspects of drinking. For example, in 1847, the Band of Hope was created to persuade children not to start drinking alcohol. Most of these temperance groups were aimed at the working class. Temperance was also supported by some religious groups, particularly the Nonconformist Churches. In 1884 the National Temperance Federation, which was associated with the Liberal Party, was founded as an umbrella organisation. The Conservative Party largely supported the interests of the alcohol industry and opposed temperance. Although the temperance movement met with local success in parts of Britain, it failed to impose national prohibition, and disappeared as a significant force following the Second World War. 

Just one year later, on Tuesday 23 August 1892, John Milligan took his own life, he was 32. The inquest took place just 3 days later on Friday, 26 August 1892 at the Leopard (House) Inn, Great Addington. In the report it states that John was living in the village with his mother and sister, "at the large farm house near Great Addington", and that his older brother, Robert Arthur Milligan, was a surgeon in Northampton.

The inquest jurors were all from the Addingtons; Thomas Coleman (foreman), Thomas Parkin, John Harris, Harry Hudson, Simeon Abbott, George Knight, Joseph Loakes, Thomas Hackney, David Payne, Robert Loakes, David Abbott, and John Hollis. Mr. Gerald Hunnybun, solicitor, represent the family - he was also James Rennie Wilkinson's solicitor. Inspector Tarry, of Thrapston, was also present. The Coroner, Mr. Parker,  remarked:

"all these inquiries were painful, but the present one was unusually so, as the last time he came there the deceased was foreman of the jury. It was very sad, therefore, that they should now find him corpse instead of being about and active"

The jury crossed the road to the deceased's residence to view the body, which would indicate that the large farm house mentioned was in fact Home Farm. It was reported that:

"(Robert Milligan) was sent for last Friday to see the deceased, and found him very much depressed and suffering from sleeplessness. He could find no cause for it...He gave him a draught, and the deceased seemed better in the morning...(Robert) came down on Monday evening and saw him again...He then appeared much the same, and complained of sleeplessness and pains the head. He had another draught that night, but on Tuesday morning he was still depressed. Witness advised him to go away for a time to be free from the worry of work, and he consented to do so. Arrangements were to made for a companion to with him. (John) walked to Ringstead (and Addington) Station with (Robert), who left by the morning train for Northampton...he was apprehensive of mental trouble. He complained on Sunday of a pain in his head, and seemed to be affected by the great heat. On the day before his death he was four hours in the broiling sun, attending machinery on the farm."

Another witness, Amelia Carpenter, wife of John Carpenter, of Little Addington said on Tuesday she was engaged in washing the deceased's residence when at about ten minutes to eleven she heard the report of a gun as she was in the kitchen. She ran upstairs to the sitting-room, from where she thought the noise came and found John lying on the floor. Just after Robert got back to Northampton he received a telegram, and, returning to Great Addington, found his brother was dead. 

In October, 1900 Elizabeth Wilkinson died aged 60. Her funeral at All Saints church Great Addington was attended by family and friends including the Wicksteed and Timpson families.  

A years later in the 1901 census, James was now 57 and widowed. Also living in the house is his niece, Mary Prior, who was listed as the housekeeper. She was the daughter of Elizabeth’s sister Sarah. She continued to live there until his death. Again, there are two new servants living in the house, Annie Bedsworth and Martha Braddick.

In December 1910, James was asked at short notice to stand as the Liberal Candidate for Member of Parliament for North Northamptonshire. He felt it was unlikely that he would win, especially at such short notice, but did not want to let his friends and colleagues down. He lost to the Conservative candidate.

The last census record that James appears in is for 1911. He was now 67. His niece, Mary Prior, is still living in the house though she now gives no occupation. The two new servants are Margaret Jinks, age 17, who is the housemaid and Ellen Packwood, age 21, who is the cook. All three women are single.

On Wednesday 12th March 1913 James took his own life by drowning himself in the lock on the river Nene near the railway station, (now demolished). The inquest was held on the following day:

Sarah Ann Sharp of the Mill House...said Mr. Wilkinson called at her house....He gave her three letters, one for her husband, one for Mr. (Herbert) Howard and one for Mrs. Byles” (James’s sister who was visiting him at that time)...Sarah thought it was strange that James should give her a letter for his own sister and took it immediately to the house, on her way she met her husband and sent him after James."

Herbert Howard, who by now was living at Home Farm and farmed the Wilkinson estate, was in the meadow near the river with a Mr. Peck. They saw James cross the bridge over the river and walk towards the lock. Howard and Peck went towards James and saw that he “sat on the wall of the lock and appeared to slide in. The lock was about 10 feet deep”. Peck ran towards Ringstead for assistance and Howard ran to fetch a ladder. A porter from the station, Harry Holley, jumped into the water and with assistance from Howard was able to get James out of the lock. “He was unconscious, but after artificial respiration..he appeared to come around slightly, his heart beating faintly”. However, as he was being carried to the house he stopped breathing.

Reports from his doctor and solicitor, Gerald Hunneybun, indicates that James had suffered from depression and in his doctors view, worked too hard which was a contributing factor to his depression.

The inquest was held the next day at Shooters Hill. Mr Parker was the coroner. Alfred Gray of Addington was the foreman of the jury. Gerald Hunneybun, solictor, represented the family. The Coronoer read parts of the letter he had left for his sister, Susan Mary Byles (nee Wilkinson), who had been staying with him: 

"My life is unsupportable. It is trouble with the estate. By the time this letter reaches you I shall be in the water in the lock. It will be terrible work, but in my position my life would be a curse to you all"

Susan and also Gerald Hunneybun said that James had been deluded on the matter of his finances. Gerald also said that James had been depressed the year before but had recovered, adding: 

"he was not bad enough to be placed under restraint, although they exercised more or less a watch over him".

Dr Robb of Irthlingborough also gave evidence that James had suffered "from a great depression" a year earlier.

In a speach at Northamptonshire County Council, teh Chairman of the council made reference to his loss being linked "to an hereditary ailment". There may therefore be a connection between James's death and his mothers death some 77 years earlier when he had just been born. 

His death was widely reported across England with articles in newspapers in Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Exeter etc. Moving obituaries were printed in the local press and local council leaders and the local MP wrote about him and his work in liberalism, non-conformist religion, temperance movements, and education.

The report of his funeral is quite touching and shows the high regard he was held in by all. His funeral was attended by family, friends, politicians and local industrialists.

"For the private mourners and a number of very intimate friends, there was a service at Mr. Wilkinson’s house, Shooters hill. In the garden he had loved others waited; half-way down the carriage drive to the road there were the teachers and scholars of the little Sunday School he had cared for; and in the road the entrance to the drive was a large crowd (of hundreds) of sorrowing visitors —men who had worked with Mr. Wilkinson as County Councillors, as Guardians of the Poor, as preachers, Sunday School teachers, temperance reformers, politicians, and many who, utterly opposed to him in opinion, revered his character and his life. The coffin, and the coach in which it was placed, were covered with beautiful wreaths. After the private carriages which followed, the Sunday school teachers and scholars walked, and the others formed behind for the short procession through the village. It was a very sad and silent march, for although Mr. Wilkinson's life was one to cause joy rather than grief, the shock of the end had deeply touched all. Many of the villagers walked in the procession and others stood in front of their cottages. All the blinds were drawn: the whole village was in mourning." 

His estate was worth £39,821 but after debts, wages etc was £20,878 – that is the equivalent of £1.6million today. The executors of his will were, Rennie Beauziville Byles, nephew; Herbert Garner Horsfall Wilkinson, nephew; and Gerald Hunnybun, his solicitor. Mary Prior received  £100 plus £140 a year for life. His two nephews received £100 each, and £20 went to Amelia Carpenter. The remainder of his estate was split 2/5 to his sister Mary Byles, 2/5 to his sister-in-law Emily widow of his brother Charles Herbert Wilkinson, and 1/5 to his brother Frank Colin Wilkinson.

In June of that year most of the land and property - apart from Shooters Hill house - was sold. Herbert Howard purchased the farm - referred to at that time as Brook Farm - and associated lands, plus a number of other cottages. In September of the same year all of James and Elizabeths’ possessions that they had accumulated in the nearly 50 years they lived at Shooters Hill Villa were put up for sale and the house cleared. Within a few years James & Elizabeth were largely forgotten. It is a shame that somebody who gave so much of their life to help both the village and the wider Northamptonshire community at a time of great social reform is now largely forgotten.

Education, both of children and of adults, was a passion for James and it is perhaps fitting to end this section with the details of an article that appeared in the local press in the 1880’s:

“On Thursday week...the children connected with the Nonconformist Sunday schools, at Thrapston, enjoyed their annual treat. Four large wagons and two vans were lent by obliging the residence of J. Rennie Wilkinson. The juveniles at once proceeded to engage in the various games and pastimes provided for them by their teachers and kind entertainers. About 300 to 400 children altogether (including many of the village children, specially invited by Mr & Mrs Wilkinson) took part in the amusements and in the plentiful supply of cake, buns, tea etc provided.”

I can’t think of many people today who would open their garden to 400 children plus teachers.

In 1922 David Edward Mitchell brought the Shooters Hill house and then brought up other properties in Great Addington as they became available, including parts of the Sidney Leveson Lane estate from his heir, Sidney Ernald Lane.

1841 The first modern census.

The extract pictured here shows the Rev. James Tyley (who recorded so much about the village during his near 60 years of residence here) living in the Rectory  The street name given as Back Street is now Cranford Road. The households are listed from the Church heading out of the village. Thomas Colson (farmer) and Sarah Colson lived at Huxloe House, Charles Abbott (carpenter) & Ann Abbott and family lived at Rush Glenn Cottage, and Thomas Sharp (shepherd) and Jane Sharpe lived at Gardeners Cottage. 

1841 to 1911 - The Changing Village

The first official census of England and Wales was on 10 March 1801, however information was gathered on the basis of totals - i.e. total number of males, total number of females etc - all we have from that time are simple numerical counts that the Rev. James Tyley recorded in the parish register.

It is the 1841 which is regarded as the first truly modern census. The fact that it broadly coincides with the start of the Victorian period and was then taken every 10 years up until 1911, means it is an invaluable source of information that enables the inhabitants of the village to be understood, and tracked, at the named individual level throughout this period. For the first time, the head of each household was given a form to fill in on behalf of everyone in the household on a certain day. This system has stood the test of time, and it still forms the basis of the method we use today. 

The majority of houses did not have names at that point in time and those that did are generally different from the ones we use today. There are only two buildings in the village that have the ame name now as then - Leopard House and the Hare and Hounds. Where relevant I have used the modern house name to help give a context.  


The 1841 Census gives the names of every person living in the village. Some 35,000 Census enumerators (all men) armed with pencils delivered a separate form to each household, recording almost 16 million people in England and Wales. People were supposed to complete the forms themselves, though this was a real challenge since at this time many people could not read or write. There is no doubt that in many cases the forms were completed on behalf of those who could not write, this led to many transcription errors, with names often misspelt or altered - Hannah became Anna, Loake, becomes Loakes etc

The 1841 census gave the address, the name, the age (grouped by gender) and occupation. They also had to indicate whether they were from born in Northamptonshire or somewhere else; the somewhere else being simply an indication as to:

 "whether born in Scotland, Ireland or Foreign Parts"

A quite remarkable fact is that every single person in the census is recorded a being from Northamptonshire. This was clearly a time when people were born, lived and died in the same area.

What is not clear from this census was the relationships between individuals - though we can make reasonable guesses in many cases. Later census asked for explicit relationship information - wife, brother, daughter, niece etc.

Only 13 women are recorded as having an occupation. The abbreviation "F S" is used against 9 of the women and which stood for Female Servant. One woman is given as "Independent" meaning that she were living on their own means and had no profession. The other 3 women are a Lace Maker, a Nurse, and a Publican - Mary Warmsley, aged 50, who is running the Hare & Hounds.

The men of the village are overwhelmingly working on the land. Out of the 70 who give their occupations, 47 (or 67%) work on or are connected to the land. There are a number of craftsmen as you would expect - blacksmith, carpenters, watch maker, and wheelwrights (a maker of carts as well as wheels). A further 10 others with the initials "M S" against their name are Male Servants, mainly teenage boys or young men. Most of those employing servants - female or male - were typically the wealthy land owners, so it is reasonable to suggest that everyone was dependent upon the land to give direct or indirect employment.

There is only 1 individual who neither works on the land, or as a craftsman, or as a servant. William Mitchell, aged 40, works in a "Paper Mill". This is the only person employed in "industry". What is also notable is that there are no Weavers listed anymore. What had been a major industry in the 18th century in the area, with Kettering as its epicentre, has now moved to East Anglia and Yorkshire. The rapid decline in the woollen industry in the Kettering area was quite devastating for the local economy, so much so, that in an 1817 petition to Parliament it was stated that 1,123 people were in receipt of poor relief. In 1821, out of a total population of 3,668 in Kettering, it was declared that 1,805 paupers. The impact of the collapse of the local economy was have been profound and affected not only the town of Kettering, but also the surounding villages. Great Addington and other villages in the area had been linked to the woollen industry and the decline must have had a significant impact. The movement of the industry away from the area and the economic decline in the early 19th century had led to a de-industrialisation and the village population was now dependent upon the land, much as it had done during the Medieval period.

Out of 266 people living in the village, 38 were named Abbott - nearly 15% of the entire village!. The Abbott's at this time were 8 separate families - though with shared ancestors. Other common surnames were Beeby (20 people), Harris (19), Ball (15), and Ward (14). Other long standing village names were Hackney, Lovell, and Vorley. 

Thomas Sharpe is oldest resident, aged 86 (born in 1755) and living in Gardeners Cottage. The youngest is a 2 day old infant child of William & Jane Abbott, who is baptised as Mary, 4 months later. They have three other children, Hannah (5), Robert (3), and Sarah (aged 1); Mary Abbot (69) is also living in the house with them.

William and Jane Abbott had married in 1835 and were both from Great Addington, Jane's maiden name was also Abbott - so clearly would have been a relation. They lived in one of the cottages in the High Street and William was employed as Agricultural Labourer. Presumably the couple later separated as by 1851 Jane is head of the household and is "relieved from the parish", meaning that she has no work and is dependent on charity from the parish funds. She is living with her daughters Hannah (15) and Sarah (11) - who are both listed as Lace Makers - Mary born in 1841, and a son, William, born in 1844. William Abbott is a lodger in a boarding house in Thrapston and along with other lodgers in the same house is working as a Bricklayers Labourer. He is still lodging - though in a different house - in 1861 and also still working as a Bricklayers Labourer. In that same year Jane is still in Great Addington and is now listed as a Lace Maker and Head of the family. One can only assume that the couple had separated at some point between 1841 and 1851, though remained married.

1847 Village Directory

The village directory of 1847 lists the following individuals in the village:

Boughton-Leigh, would be John Ward-Boughton-Leigh (1790-1868) the son of William Zouch Lucas-Ward and Mary Lamb. He married Theodosia de Malsburgh Leigh, daughter of Sir Egerton Leigh, 2nd Bt. and Theodosia Anna Maria Boughton, in 1811. He was given the name of John Lucas-Ward at birth, but in 1831 changed it to John Ward-Boughton-Leigh. Though "Lord of the Manor", it is not believed that John Ward-Boughton-Leigh ever lived in Great Addington, preferring Brownsover Hall, Warwickshire instead.

1864 Village Directory

*The R. P. Ganell is an unusual name with an Irish origin. This individual is not listed elsewhere and no other records have been found.

Lawrence Hudson, the wheelwright, who is mentioned in the 1847 and 1867 village directories died in 1867, aged 72. His property was put up for sale and the notice of auction appeared in the Northamptonshire Mercury newspaper of Jan 1868. The details given are interresting as they give a detailed decription of the size and quality of a master-craftsmans house. It also shows that he owned a number of other properties that he would have let to tenants, bringing in extra income. The auction was to take place at the Leopard Inn on Thursday 30th January 1868.

Lot 1 - All that desirable... Dwellinghouse...containing parlour, sitting-room, kitchen, back kitchen, scullery, outhouses, together with the workshops, barn, sawpit, large yard, well-stocked orchard....for many years in the occupation of the late Mr. Lawrence Hudson.

Lot 2 - All those two freehold cottages...stone built and in the occupation of A. Chapman and Thos. Abbott.

Lot 3 - All that stone-built and thatched House...together with four stone-built and tiled cottages...Gardens in the occupation of E. Hudson, John Abbott, D. Harris and H Lovell.

Lot 4 - All that freehold stone-built five-roomed cottage....Little Addington...with barn, workshop and outhouses...also a large the occupation of William Hudson.

At the time of his death, Lawrence was married to his second wife, Elizabeth (nee Coston, from Hampshire). The couple had married in 1858, Lawrence already had a number of grown up children from his first marriage, the eldest of which, Henry Hudson, was a wheelwright like his father and was 37 when his father married the 34 year old Elizabeth. 

Lace & Shoe Making

Lacemaking was an important source of income for the poorer classes in the counties of Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and a significant number of villagers earned their living from this industry.  The 1861 census lists 10 females in the village working as lace makers. The hand-made lace industry was already in decline by then, so this is a substantial number.

By 1861, the shoe industry in Northamptonshire had been established for almost a 100 years. Originally based in the towns of Northampton and Wellingborough, shoe manufacturing had developed from a local craft into a national industry with strong links to London shoe manufacturers. Northamptonshire provided a skilled labour force, on good transport links (turnpikes, canals and navigable rivers) at a lower cost than in London. The industry spread down the Nene valley and along the turnpike roads from Northampton. 

Originally, the shoe makers worked from home, often assisted by their wives, children, or other family members. Factories began to be built in the larger towns so that owners could further industrialise the process where their employees would work, but outworkers, in the backstreets of towns or in the villages, remained an essential element of the industry.  In 1861 there are 14 men in the village employed as Shoe Makers, and circa 80 employed on the land. 

Scandal, Divorce and Womens rights at the Rectory 1873

The Rector of Great Addington in 1873 was Richard Doke (age 41), he was unmarried and had two servants, Anna James (age 41) and Martha Glover (age 22). 

Anna had been christened Hannah Griffiths, but had always been known as Anna. In 1864, at Great Addington church, she married Joseph James who was living in Liverpool at that time, though he had been born in Cardigan. Richard Doke was the Rector at the wedding.

Joseph James who was a Master Mariner - somebody who was qualified to the highest level to command any ship of any size. Anna and her husband lived for the majority of the time in Cardigan in Wales, but whilst Joseph was away at sea for long periods of time Anna would act as housekeeper for Richard Doke. Why Anna travelled all the way to Great Addington and how she and Richard knew each other is unknown. 

In 1871 Joseph  returned from sea and instead of returning to Cardigan, he came to Great Addington and lived with his wife Anna at the Rectory - quite why Richard Doke allowed this and how Joseph was employed during this time is again unknown. 

In late 1871 it was revealed that Martha was pregnant by Joseph and after returning to her parents home in Great Gidding she gave birth to a girl, also named Martha, in May 1872.

In October 1872 Anna went to court seeking a divorce from her husband. In her petition for divorce she alledged that:

"during the last six months of the year 1871 and the early part of of 1872...Joseph James...habitually committed adultery with Martha Glover then a domestic servant at the Rectory Great Addington"

In the petition, Anna also accused Joseph of cruelty - including physical violence and verbal abuse.

"On the night of 21st May 1872...Joseph....abused and threatened (Anna)...she was compelled from fear of sever bodily injury to leave...and pass the night elsewhere"

The newspaper report of the time stated: 

"The disputes between the parties seemed to have arisen about money, and on several occasions (Mr James) was alleged to have struck his wife in the course of their quarrels. The adultery was clearly proved, but the evidence as to the cruelty so slight that the learned judge could not act upon it"

While divorce is common these day, historically divorce in England was very difficult to obtain and women were not permitted to apply for a divorce - they had very limted rights and were, in law, seen as part of the husbands possessions. The term "'relict" - something left behind - being applied to women who's husband had died before them. 

Between 1700 and 1857 there was less than 400 divorces, the majority of which were in the aristocracy. It was only following the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 that divorce became a civil matter, women could now instigate a divorce proceedings and the control of the case was taken away from the Church and its Ecclesiastical Courts.  Divorce however remained rare, especially those cases brought by women. The main reasons for so few divorces in Victorian England included the length of time it took to obtain a divorce, fear of publicity, loss of access to children, loss of property, loss of a means of support, social shame, and the costs that few could afford. Women could now file for divorce, but needed a reason in addition to adultery, such as incest, rape, bigamy, cruelty or desertion, whereas the husband needed merely to prove his wife’s infidelity — a remnant of the original procedure for obtaining a divorce.

In 1858 the handling of the legal process for divorce was transferred from the ecclesiastical courts to a newly established civil court, the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes. In 1873 responsibility was passed to a division of the new Supreme Court. All divorce cases were heard in courts in London, thus the costs and complexity still made it difficult for all but a few.

Therefore for Anna to instigate a divorce in 1873 is quite a remarkable event, she must have had support - at the very least financially - from her brother-in-law Samuel Owen who was a successful solicitor in Cardigan - it would be logical to assume that he also gave her legal assistance.

Anna got her divorce granted in May 1873. It would have been one of less than 300 granted in England that year. She was also awarded alimony, but then had to go repeatedly to court over the following years to try and force Joseph to make the alimony payments.

In the 1881 census she is at visiting the home of her sister and brother-in-law in Cardigan but by the census of 1891 she is back in Great Addington and working as Housekeeper for Richard Doke who was still Rector. 

Martha married a William Owens in November 1873 in Great Gidding. Martha's daughter was brought up by Martha's parents in Great Gidding.

Extract from Anna (Hannah) James's petition for divorce from 1872 where she states that she had to leave the home through fear of severe bodily harm.

Anna & Josephs' wedding certificate from 1864


If we jump forward 40 years from the first census to the one carried out in 1881 we find a number of very significant changes has taken place in the village. 

The village is perhaps at its peak in the Victorian period, the population has jumped from 266 in 1841 to 319 and the working male population from 70 to 121. We also get much more information about the residents, including where they were born. All the women now have occupations listed, and the relationship between different members of the same household is also now given - wife, daughter, son, visitor, lodger etc. In the village at this time were 96 children, 11 years or under, making 20% of the village population.

Another change that has occurred is the number of people who were not born the village, 119 (37%) do not come from either Great or Little Addington. Unlike in 1841 when everybody was born in Northamptonshire, by 1881 57 (17%) are also not from the county. This may be in part due to James Rennie Wilkinson and also Sidney Leveson Lane. James and his wife seems to have introduced people from the Huntingdon area to move here (see the section about James Rennie Wilkinson for more information). Sidney and his wife had originally been living in Yorkshire and again seem to have brought people down to work for them. There are others though from Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, London, Lancashire, and Suffolk, living in the village through work or family.

Perhaps the most significant change was in the nature of employment for the villagers. In 1841 there was 1 person listed as a shoe maker, by 1861 this had risen to 14, but by 1881 this had dropped to just 3. Agricultural work had also declined with just 37% of the men working the land, as opposed to 67% in 1841. The reason for this change is that iron-ore was "discovered" in the parishes around Great Addington, and agriculture was in a sustained decline. The iron quarries and mines were the dominant employer of the men with 48 working in the sector. 

Agriculture was still important but with just 45 men, including the farmers themselves, this reflecting in many ways the continued decline in agriculture that had started at the being of the 19th century. The agricultural economy had worse times to come, with wheat prices falling to their lowest for 150 years in the late 19th century. The price of wheat in Britain declined from 56s 0d a quarter in 1867–71 to 27s 3d in 1894–98. The low point came in 1894–95, when prices reached their lowest level for 150 years, 22s. 10d. In many parts of the country the collapse of the agricultural economy led to depopulation of the rural villages, Great Addington was lucky, the "new" iron-stone quarries were literally on the edge of the parish and the men could walk or cycle to the quarries. Industry became the biggest employer, even in the rural communities.

Women's Occupations 

Of the 91 women in the village, many give their occupation as "wife", usually with a prefix to indicate their husbands occupation i.e. Iron Miners Wife, Boot Makers Wife, and even a Retired Farmer Wife

However, 45 have distinct occupations. There are 19 Lace Makers, 20% of all the women in the village - compared to just 1 lace maker in 1841. Lace making had become as important an employer for women as the quarries were to the men. Of the remainder, 15 work in service, 7 are dressmakers or seamstresses, and 2 are teachers. Hannah Knight helps run the Hare & Hounds, public house with her husband. Sarah Beeby is listed as Fund Holder(?)

Eliza Tierney is the Housekeeper-in-charge at the Manor House and it is reasonable to assume that she had control of a considerable sum of money to ensure that the Manor House was staffed, supplied, and maintained to the standards expected of Sidney Leveson Lane and the Dowager Viscountess Mary Isabel Downe. 


16 people who lived in the village were employed as servants in some form or another, from Eliza Tierney, aged 37, from St Margarets, London who was Housekeeper in Charge of the Manor Hall to 13 year old Ellen Tyler, of Great Addington, listed as Servant Nurse Maid. Only 2 men are listed as working in some form of serving capacity, John Hollis, 38, from Wollaston, who is Groom and Head Gardener, and Samuel Hackney,40, from Great Addington, widowed, Under Gardener.


There were 9 paupers listed in the village, with all but 3 being in their 70's or 80's. One family stands out though, Charles Wilson (54), Mary Wilson (55), and their daughter Mary Anne (28) are all listed as paupers. At a time of booming local industry and a still active agricultural sector in the are, it is unusual to find a whole family reliant upon the parish for charity and we can only assume that there were some additional factors that was affecting the family. 

If somebody was a pauper they had to fill out extra paperwork as part of the census in particular a document entitled "Supplemental Schedule 7, for the Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes ".


By 1881 the Acts of Parliament from 1870 and 1880 made it practically compulsory for children to attend a school - though parents still had to pay. The census of 1881 lists two teachers, both of whom were female; Mary Jane Glover, 30, from Worcestershire and Fanny Gumbley, 20, from Birmingham. They were lodging in what is believed to be All Saints Cottage with Harry & Janet Wilson. As educated young women from a big city, Mary & Fanny must have seemed quite different to the parents of the village - especially when we consider that many of those parents could not read or write.

In 1880 the school age was set in law as being between 5 and 10. In Great Addington in 1881 there are 72 children listed as "scholars" with ages ranging from 2 to 13, though the oldest boy was John Chapman, age 11. Boys aged 12 and upwards are all listed as working. For girls, the age of 13 seemed to be the dividing line, of the 8 girls of that age in the village 3 are still at school but 5 have started working.


If we again step forward another 30 years to 1911 we see how much further the village has changed. 

Queen Victoria had died in 1901 and the decade that followed was a period that is almost impossible to look back on without considering the war that was to come. It was a period of further technical and social change, though what is perhaps overlooked is the wide gap between the wealthy and the working class. The right to vote for women was driven by the suffragette movement that started to take direct political action after 1903, but was blocked by the Liberal's who were in power from 1906.

In Great Addington it is difficult not to see this period as the lead up to WW1. Much of the Victorian status quo in the village came to an end just before the war. For nearly 50 years this had been epitomised by the liberal politician and social reformer, James Rennie Wilkinson of Shooters Hill, at one end of the village, and the wealthy country squire of Sidney Leveson Lane at the other end of the village in the Manor House. Sidney died suddenly, though of natural causes, in 1910. James committed suicide in March 1913.

With the death of these two highly regarded individuals the village entered a period of change that was to last for nearly 40 year, as between them, the two men had owned most of the land and houses in the village and provided for much of the local employment.

The census of April 1911 added more questions for the householders to answer, including: for married women only, the number of years of their present marriage, the number of children born of that marriage, the number still living, and the number that had died. As well as their occupation, the census asked that each working persons should list what industry they were employed, and if by a government, municipal or other public body, the name of that body. 

In 1911, there were 102 men employed in the village. As with the 1841 and 1881 census the numbers working on the land had remained broadly the same at 45. The number working in the quarries and mines had declined significantly from 48 in 1881 to just 19. Just 7 work in the boot and shoe industry. Something new has appeared, with Francis Joseph Ball (age 23), who lived with his parents and two elder brother, listed as Chauffeur.

37 of the 97 working age women are listed as having occupations, though there are no lace makers anymore. Most are employed in service or run the local shops or post office.

The population of the village had declined since the heights of 1881, with 274 people living in the village of which 136 were not born in either Great or Little Addington, and 59 came from outside the county. As with 1881, those from outside the county came from a variety of other areas including Bedfordshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, and Wales.

There are 72 children, 26% of the population, and 22 are 65 or over.

Three people work for Northamptonshire Council Education Committee and one works for Thrapston District Council. Other employers mentioned are: Islip Iron Ore Blast Furnance, Cranford Iron Ore Co., Wellingborough Iron Ore Co., and Irthlingborough Iron Ore Co.

William Boon

William Boon was born in Irthlingborough in 1902, the son of Henry & Susan Boon (nee Mayes). The family had split up and his mother remarried by 1906 and in 1911 William was living with his father, who worked as an agricultural labourer. William's brother, Charlie, lived in a separate house in the village with his grandmother, Eliza Boon. William died at his home in Great Addington in 1989, aged 87. We have the transcript of an conversation Roseanne Duncan recorded with William in 1983, in which William reminisces about life in the village, and which brings to life many of the people from the Edwardian period.

"There were allotments in the field beyond the brook, to the left of the Woodford Road, and many villages had small holdings and kept pigs. Children used to net sparrows to make sparrow pie. Terrier dogs were used to catch the rates in the hayricks. As kid we used to fight over who would open the field gates when we saw the farmers riding up on their horses as they used to throw pennies to us. We kids in those days used to play in the fields or down in the Spinney, we got hold of an old tin and used to slide down the hill in Springfield. 

When I was a lad a man named Allen lived in Brickle's house (Rush Glen Cottage) and he was a cobbler. In that row of cottages (now demolished), beside the church, each one had a living room, a kitchen, a bedroom and a box room, and they were all neatly kept. The woman in the end one used to scrub the pavements once or twice a week. 

Ploughboys were lads who walked beside the ploughman's horses and turned them at the end of each furrow. My horse, Blossom, understood without the need for a ploughboy. The blacksmith was called Jim Hudson, the Smithy was in front of Jubilee Cottages which used to be the barn. There were two houses, the blacksmith lived in one and I lived in the other. I was woken in the mornings to the sound of the anvil ringing and the smell of the smithy, the old village sounds and smells. The blacksmith kept three cows, some pigs, and hens. I used to take the cows to graze at Generals Corner, there was no traffic to worry about in those days.

As lads (1920's?) we used to gather at the Hare & Hounds for a drink and a gossip. We used to direct what traffic there was out of Ringstead Road, as there were no white lines then. 

The river used to flood a lot in those days, people used to have skating parties, they took food and drink with them and had great fun. Folk in these days were much more friendly than they are now, everyone used to stop in the street and pass the time of day, its all rush now."


1899 OS map with some of the local iron-ore working areas highlighted

Ironstone has been worked in Northamptonshire from the Iron Age through to the 16th century, but had largely been forgotten until interest was sparked by The Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park, London in 1851 where samples of iron ore from the Woodford estate of Colonel (later General) Charles Arbuthnot, of Woodford House at the end of Cranford Road, were exhibited, which gave rise to the "discovery" of Northamptonshire ironstone.  The Arbuthnot's quarry appears to have been short-lived. There was a further experiment in commercial quarrying from about 1860 and again in 1866. The early attempts suffered from a lack of transport facilities and the ore must have been taken away by horse and cart, but in 1866 the Kettering to Thrapston railway opened and a connecting tramway was constructed from close to Woodford House to the railway at Twywell. The quarrying (and some underground mining) lasted from 1866 to 1886, starting near Woodford House and extending north of the road later on. There were also quarries south west of Twywell Station on the north side of the road between 1881 and 1883. There was also a brickworks near there. The main tramway (standard gauge) had steam locomotives from the start but some of the quarries were connected to it by narrow gauge lines and these were worked by hand or by horse until 1883. There were some visible remains of the quarries and buildings at least until 1986.

Part of the ground north of the road near Woodford House was reworked between 1914 and 1926 when quarries in Twywell Parish were extended. The ground here was landscaped and returned to cultivation in 1965.

These quarries were to the west of Woodford village. Another quarry to the north of the village operated from 1867 but was closed by 1892. This quarry was connected to a tipping dock on the railway east of Twywell Station by a horse operated 4 foot gauge tramway.

During the late Victorian period, quarries to extract the iron ore sprang up all over the county adjacent to railways which were used to transport it to smelting furnaces. The area between Kettering and Thrapston was one of the earliest of the major iron ore sites, with quarries as shown on the map. Small railway lines or tramways went from the quarries to the collection points on the railway - either at Cranford, Twywell or Willywatts Mill.

The quarrying adjacent to the Ringstead Road midway between Great Addington and Willywatts Mill, led to the discovery of the 5th century Saxon urn now held by the Birtish Museum. See the Anglo-Saxons & Vikings section for more information.

The map shown is based on the 1899 OS map, by which time many of the quarries shown are already marked as "old quarry". New quarries were being opened throughout this time, including between Ringstead and Raunds, around Burton Latimer, and between Finedon and Wellingborough. Some of the quarries were "open cast" - basically giant trenches, whilst others were more traditional underground "adit" mines.

Iron Ore Mine, near Islip, Northamptonshire

Image source unknown. Photographed in 2010 - about 60 years after the mine closed

Iron Ore Quarry, Finedon, Northamptonshire, circa 1905

Source unknown

Haulage train at Islip Furnaces. Date unknown. Source: B. Duncan collection

Islip Iron quarries and mines, 1930 

Source unknown

Islip Mines - 1930 report

In 1930 a field study was undertaken of the working underground mines near Islip by S.R. Beaver during 26th and 27th March, 1930. Though some years after the Victorian & Edwardian period, the notes taken do give an insight into the working of these local mines, which in many ways had not changed greatly in the intervening years.

The Islip Iron Co. workings were based on land lying within the circle of five villages: Islip, Twywell, Slipton, Sudborough and Lowick; except the large area of Drayton Park in the centre of this area.   There was both surface quarrying (open-cast) as well as adit mining.  These widely scattered mines and quarries necessitate miles of tramways, which converge on the the furnaces which were located to the side of the modern A14, between Junction11 (Cranford) and Junction 12 (Thrapston & Islip). There was a minimum of 5 locomotives in regular use, with a  tramway system worked to a  timetable, transporting wagons of ore and limestone from the quarries at regular times each day. 

At the time of the study in 1930 there were underground 4 mines, though only 3 in active production.  The most striking feature of the mines near Slipton was the smallness of the tunnels, which were about 3 meters wide and 3 meters high. Horse transport was used underground to haul the wagons of ore to the entrance, where the ore was tipped into hoppers which were then hauled by locomotives to the furnaces.  Men worked in pairs - miner and labourer - each pair could fill 5 wagons of 1.7 tonnes each per day which was low when compared with most of the opencast workings. The men would dill holes, pack them with explosives and blast the rock out. The men paid the mine owners for their own explosives. The ventilation in the mine was entirely natural with no fans used to clear dust and provide fresh air. Only occasionally were props necessary to support the roof - indeed, there was no room for them! - the narrow tunnels for the most part tended to prevent roof falls, but in many places old rails and timber are used to make a roof and occasionally brick pillars were used at junction points. 

The rates of pay in the mines varied considerably, being based on the difficulty of mining, so that, for example, two mines close to each other would have different rates; even in the same mine rates would vary dependent upon the area being worked. It was all based on piece-work. A miner earned on average, about 9s per day, though some could earn up to 12s per day. A labourer would earn 7s per day.  The daily hours worked were 8 hours underground, from about 7:00am until 3.00pm., but with piece-work these were not necessarily strictly adhered to. The numbers of men employed at the time of the study of the 3 mines were :  Willowclose 30, Church South 18, Church North 9, a total of 57.