A Walk Around the Village in 1740

NOTE. The people referred to in this account really existed on that day, in that year. With hindsight it has been possible to enhance some of the situations, but each and every man, woman and child mentioned can be traced back through the church registers of Baptism, Marriage and Burial. This is as near accurate as it can be.

Today its the seventeenth day of September in the year 1750. Its a good, dry September morning as we expected it would be, for the summer has been a good one and the harvest well up to the best expectations.

Let me take you, my visitor, for a stroll around the village to meet some of the people who live here. Most of the families are connected with the farming industry in some way or another, for this is a very agricultural settlement.

That's the church of St John the Baptist, quite old and much used. The Rector is the Reverend Johannes Pococke, himself the son of Edward Pococke, the former incumbent who died about thirty years ago. He lives in the Rectory behind that tall brick wall with the iron gate set in it.

Good King George the Second is on the throne now, and there has been great excitement because Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to march on London and take the throne. He was beaten of course, the last battle being only four years ago.

Down there is Glebe Farm. The farmer is Isaac Whites and his wife Martha. He has been there for many years, and I expect that his son will carry on at the farm.

Let's go up towards the village street, up here. In the cottage over there Mary Alder lives. She and her husband Thomas have been there for thirty years and their three children are all grown up. That's Edward Appleford who came here from Marlborough to marry Triphene but although they've been married for eight years, there are no children.

There's a cluster of Applefords just here. Thomas and Mary, who was a Buckerfield from Ogbourne, live next door. They also have no children and I believe that Mary is very frail. Living there also is Martha Appleford, widow Appleford she is called, whose husband died nine years ago. She had four children, whose ages are from eighteen to nine. years. Times must be very hard for her, but like many other women she works on the farm. Oh yes! I nearly forgot. There’s another Appleford family here, John and Mary. They have four young children but they tell me that little John is very poorly. They have already lost one little girl six years ago at the age of five. Their latest little one, Elisha, is just one month old.

Now here's the corner of the main street of Mildenhall going off to the right. Stephen and Elizabeth Blanchet live in that cottage. They have a ten year old boy and Mary aged seven. Over there is John Rawlings house. His wife died some twenty years ago and he has brought up the four children himself, including twin girls. He lives on his own now.

In that cottage Robert and Mary Seymour live. He is very ill and his wife has little Mary to look after too. Mary is only five. There’s the Smiths' house. Thomas and Elizabeth have four children but two others - both little girls - died quite young.

I was talking to the Rector the other day - that's the Reverend Johannes Pococke of course -and he told me that over the past ten years the number of babies who have died was thirteen out of a total of eighty-five and that is over fourteen percent.

The Reekes family live over there, that's Joseph and Hannah with their two children John and Richard. They tell me that she is expecting a third child very soon. Old Mary Batchelor lives with them and she is very ill and not expected to last much longer. John Hatt is a widower now, and he had nine children. The Plasted family live next door - Joseph and his new wife Mary.

Another widow lives there too, Sarah Hill. Her husband died twelve years ago and her children have now all left. Just off the street there’s a little block of four cottages built with backs to the road. One of the families is the Lookers, Stephen and Rebecca, married some fifteen years ago now with their family of eight children, from fourteen to three months. One of their little girls died as a baby. Next door is another Looker family. Their son Thomas is engaged to be married to Elizabeth Cannings, a village girl, while Thomas's sister Mary has just married another Thomas and they have a baby of eighteen months. Old Thomas, once the village blacksmith lives with them but he is very frail now.

I told you about Elizabeth Cannings. She comes from a large family. The father is Stephen and he has been married to Mary for about twenty-six years. They had six children now aged twenty-four down to twelve. William, the youngest, is a very poorly lad. The second daughter Mary married Thomas Seymour, another village man, about eight years ago.

"Hello Mary !". That's Mary Cook. They've three fine children. I hear that Elizabeth Britain, who also lives in that house, is going to marry John Crook of Ramsbury quite soon. Of course, to marry out of the village is unusual, but when it does happen it is usually to Marlborough, Ramsbury, Axford or Ogbourne.

Housing is a big problem in a village like this. Some of the farms have workers cottages but the population is rising rapidly and the housing does not keep up. I suppose it will always be like that. That is why the Sims family of Thomas and Joanna with their son Thomas, together with Tom's brother William and his wife and their four children, all live there together.

You may have wondered about the names that children are given at their baptism. The Rector and I looked over the past fifty years in the Church register of Baptisms and counted up the names. Among the girls, Mary was the most popular, Sarah next and Elizabeth third. These three names accounted for sixty-three percent of all girl's names. The boys have John in first place, then Thomas and William in third place. These three made up fifty-seven percent of names given. In those fifty years 147 girls are baptised (nearly three a year). The boys were more numerous. There were 170 of them.

You were asking about the population of the parish? It's about 330, but no one is quite certain because no count has ever taken place. In 1086 there were about 150 people in Mildenhalle, as it was called then, so the population has about doubled in the five hundred years since then. It does seem to me that, with larger families and more survivals amongst the infants, the population of Mildenhall must rise, because there’s plenty of work on the farms and food is always needed.

 The Developing Parish

 

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