The Elsoms of Spalding
The Elsoms of Spalding are a branch of the Elsoms of Boston. The founder of this branch was Isaac Elsom, son of John Elsom, cabinet maker. His Christian name is somewhat of a curiosity. He was known throughout his life as Isaac. But there seems to have been a fairly general impression from an early date that he had a second Christian name that that second Christian name was Algiers. In that belief his apprenticeship indenture is drafted as between John Norton and Isaac Algiers Elsom; and, at a later date, real property was so conveyed to him. When, however, he was approaching 60 years if age, he was assured by old friends that his real name was Isaac Joseph. To settle the matter, he obtained his baptismal certificate. A copy of the entry in the Register of baptisms of Boston Parish Church of December 1822 -which copy is dated Sept. 5, 1881, duly signed, is before me now. The full name disclosed is Joseph Isaac, son of John and Jane Elsom!
His commencement at Mr. Norton’s ropewalk was not at all auspicious. On the very first morning he was turning the wheel for a man named William East. He was an excellent workman, but of a savage temper. For some small delinquency he took the new boy by the ears and knocked his head against a post! The boy, crying with pain, went and reported to his master. The master, knowing too well the character of his man was so indignant that he discharged him at once!
After this it was fair sailing. Master and boy took to each other and were so well satisfied with each other that after an association of four or five years, they agreed for a further term; and on the 29th of November, 1836, when Elsom was 14 years of age, he was bound apprentice with his master for a term of six years.
It was during his apprenticeship that Elsom was “tattooed”. This tattoo mark in the shape of an anchor was plainly discernible on one of his arms throughout his life. This has never been explained, but Elsom always had a liking for the sea; and it was possibly with some idea of a seafaring life that the tattoo was consented to. However, he persevered with the rope making business and made progress in all its branches.
There is a well-known public house in Boston called the “Ropers’ Arms”. It was a regular rendezvous for ropemakers, of which there were a good many in Boston 80 years ago. One day, in the spring of 1842, when young Elsom was serving his last year of his apprenticeship, his master met his old employee, William East. In the course of conversation, Mr Norton told East that he was going to send Elsom to Spilsby to manage the business of a ropemaker friend of his who had temporarily broken down in health. “That boy”, said East, “What can he know about managing a business?” “I’ll back that boy against you, any day” was the reply. There was another company present, and the result was a challenge and a wager. There was at that time a well-known article of manufacture called ‘three thread marline’. The ‘threads’ were spun 120 yards long, three of which were laid and twisted together to form a ‘cord’. To spin and lay 30 of these cords was considered a fair days work for a man and wheel boy. Elsom, during a busy season, would often do 45 by working overtime. So it was arranged that Elsom and East should be pitted against each other in the spinning of 60 cords of ‘three thread marline’ in one day. It was a day in the month of May and both commenced at 4 o’clock in the morning. Elsom had a lad named John Johnson to turn the wheel for him, while East had tow boys to turn the wheel – one at each end of the rope walk (which was a breach of the understanding) so that he might have less walking to do. Notwithstanding this, however, Elsom had accomplished his 60 cords by 7 o’clock in the evening, whereas East had to keep at it till past 8 o’clock!
The visit to Spilsby was duly paid and gave great satisfaction to the sick man, as well as to his employee. Elsom completed his apprenticeship on attaining the age of 20 years on November 29, 1842; which event was celebrated, as was customary in those days, by the firing of a cannon; and he continued to work for his master as man at two shillings a week more wages that he paid any other man!
Having thus worked for upwards of two years as man, Elsom turned his thoughts toward commencing business on his own account. He was advised to choose some town outside Boston where there was a good weekly market, and Spalding was spoken of as a likely place. In the early Spring of 1845, Elsom found his way to Spalding. There was at that time in Spalding an unoccupied ropewalk. IT had been a ropewalk for a great number of years. It was just inside a grass field, and ran parallel with Pinchbeck Street and Pinchbeck Road. It was about 180 yards in length and had been in the hands of a Mr. Hames, ropemaker, and the field was in the occupation of Mr Francis Holmes, poulterer, a relative of the ropemaker. After viewing other more or less likely situations, Elsom came to terms with Mr. Francis Hamer and took the ropewalk as from Lady Day 1845.
Elsom at once took lodgings in Westlode Street and commenced business. With the assistance of a strong lad, he soon produced a variety of goods suitable to farmers and prepared for his first market. On his first market day a most interesting incident happened. While standing at his stall in the Market Place – nearly opposite the “hole in the wall” passage, his old master, Mr. Norton, appeared on the scene, and introduced him to a considerable number of his own customers who were in the habit of attending Spalding market, in some such words as these, “Now, this is my old apprentice. You may have had a lot of things from me which he has made. He is commencing for himself and if you would please me, give him your support!” The result was that a goodly number of his old master’s customers became his own!
Among the above were the Robinsons of Pinchbeck and the Allens of Pinchbeck and Surfleet. Mr. John Robinson, now living retired in High Street, Spalding, proved a particularly good friend. This gentleman seemed to find great pleasure in recommending the new Spalding ropemaker to his farmer friends, and thus the young tradesman obtained encouraging support.
Six months after commencing business, a four-roomed cottage in Pinchbeck Street, now No. 9, was vacant. Elsom, well aware of what was in prospect, took this cottage and gave up his lodgings. He used the front room as a shop and lived in the kitchen, having first got together a few articles of furniture. An old lady in the neighbourhood appeared on the scene about twice a week and “squared up” for him, and so things continued until Lady Day, 1846, when on April 9, at Leake Parish Church, he married Eliza West, daughter of Mr. John West of Wrangle, and brought her to the cottage in Pinchbeck Street, Spalding.
Mrs. Elsom, the mother of the Elsoms of Spalding was a woman of more than ordinary character. She was the fourth daughter of John and Elizabeth West, and was born, as we have already noticed, on July 18, 1824. It is no disparagement of her brothers and sisters to say that she was, taking all in all, the pick of the family. As a young woman she was of attractive appearance., and in her old age she was beautiful! At the time of her marriage she was five feet and four inches in height, was proportionately built and of good carriage. She was thoroughly domesticated, could milk a cow, make up butter, and was an excellent cook. In addition, she was an excellent reader, a good pen-woman, and had a useful knowledge of accounts. She kept her husband’s books and did his business and other correspondence for upwards of forty years. She had also a taste for poetry, especially blank verse, and could recite effectively considerable passages of Milton’s Paradise Lost.
At the time of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Elsom there was a toll gate, belonging to what was known as the “Donnington Turnpike Trust” across the high way, at what might be termed the junction of Pinchbeck Street and Pinchbeck Road. South of that gate the high way was paved, the centre with granite sets, and the sides with flint cobbles; north of the gate the road was unpaved. The toll house was kept by Mr. & Mrs. John Winkley, whose son, Jerry, daughter, Amy, both in their ‘teens, were living with them. But in 1848, the toll gate was removed a half-mile further along the Pinchbeck Road, and the toll gate was removed a half-mile further along the Pinchbeck Road, and the toll house became vacant. The old toll house being more roomy than the cottage, Mr. and Mrs. Elsom, having the opportunity, moved into it, and in that old house, or in the addition subsequently added to it, most of their children were born. Eliza, their first-born, saw the light on August 9, 1848.
We have seen that Elsom hired the rope walk of Mr. Francis Hames, Poulterer. He was then residing in Pinchbeck Street, in a house now occupied by Mr. Longstaffe, auctioneer and valuer. The owner of the field was Mr. Maddock, a clergyman living in London, who was also the owner of the house in which Hames resided, and certain pieces of garden land. Landlord and tenant did not get on well together, the result being that the landlord gave the tenant notice to quit and offered the tenancy of the field to Elsom – one of the conditions of the tenancy, however, being that the rope walk was to be shifted from the West side to the North side of the field. The agreement, bearing the signatures of landlord and tenant is dated June 24, 1851.
The conditions of this agreement are (some of them) rather particular – one of which was that the field was to be grazed and mown for hay in alternate years. A modification of this was afterwards consented to – the field was divided by a low fence into two parts, so that a hay crop could be got every
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year. To show the fertility of the soil, however, it may be stated that one year, before the division of the field, the crop was such that 10 tons of good quality hay was sold to Messrs Stableforth and Dandy, wholesale grocers etc.
Added note. During the earlier part of Mr. Elsom’s tenancy of this meadow land, when needed for hay, he needed agistment for his cow. Such accommodation was found in a field further along the Pinchbeck Road, near the railway crossing, which field soon became part of the cemetery. Mrs. Elsom has frequently put the cream into the churn, and started her husband in churning it, while she has gone to milk the cow; and by such time as she has returned with her pail of new milk, her husband has produced butter!
I should, however, have mentioned before this that by the Spring of 1850, Mr. Elsom’s business had so increased that he felt it desirable to take an apprentice. Mrs. Elsom’s brother, Frederick West, was then a lad of about 13 years of age. I do not know if any indentures of apprenticeship were ever signed; but an apprenticeship for all practical purposes was entered into. He came to Spalding in 1850 and remained as apprentice and man until about 1858. Mary Ann, the second child of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom was born May 20, 1850. Also about this time – probably a little earlier – an experienced man was engaged, whose Christian name was John. Of his surname, I am uncertain. It might have been Harrison, or Adderson or Addison: we only knew him as John. He would be, when engaged, about 40 years of age. he was barely of medium height and build, and of sandy complexion. At first, he lived in the house with Master & Mistress, but afterwards lodged somewhere in the “Abbey Yard”. While spinning in the ropewalk, his steps were very short, which brought forth the friendly criticism of a fellow workman, “Nine times over a cabbage leaf!” He smoked a short clay pipe, which, with long use, became black and polished. He was a good-tempered fellow, most willing and obliging, and ready to give a help in harvesting hay and corn or in digging potatoes. While living in the house he would, in Winter time, get up early, light the fire and polish the grate! Alas, he had his weakness. He was given to occasional outbreaks of drinking and fighting! After one such outbreak about 1861 he left his employment and the neighbourhood and was never heard of again.
As we have seen, Mr. & Mrs. Elsom entered the old toll house as tenants in 1848; but in 1852 the house itself with the adjoining yard and garden land came into the market. In the bill of sale the “lot” is described as a “parcel of building land” and the house as “Building material” -the expectation apparently being that the house would be immediately pulled down. One of the conditions of sale was that the purchaser of the land – “about 750 square yards” – was to give in addition the sum of £15 for the “building material”. The sale was conducted on March 16, 1852, at the Bull Inn, Church Gate, near the High Bridge. At first, Elsom did not take any part, but was an interested watcher of the proceedings. Someone started the bidding at £100 and it slowly went on by £10 bids to about £170. Then £5 bids were accepted until £190 was reached. Lastly Elsom chipped in with a £200 bid! The company seemed taken by surprise, and the auctioneer “knocked it down”. “Why, Elsom,” said one of the company, “I believe you meant having it all the time!” To whom he made reply, “I did!” This was a good purchase. The “about 750 square yards”, according to later government measurement, turned out to be 796 square yards, and the estate was conveyed to the purchaser free of legal charge. Thus for the sum of £215, Mr. Elsom became possessor of his first freehold property, consisting of old toll house, weigh house, stable and other outbuildings with yard and garden. The settlement was completed just three weeks after the sale – April 6, 1852; and such was the interest manifested by many of Elsom’s customers that they settled their accounts immediately, enabling him to complete his purchase without borrowing money!
The third child of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom – their first-born son – Isaac, was born in the old toll house nearly ten weeks later; and this entry has been written by him on July 6, 1923, in a room of the house built by his father in 1886, on part of the old gardenland, at the corner of the old “Stepping Stone Lane” (now “Ling’s Road”) and Pinchbeck Street (or Road), and known as “Stoneleigh”.
At this time Mr. Elsom seriously took up the question of farming. As we have seen, he was already occupying more than 3 acres of grass land, but he had some desire to grow corn and roots as well. He was offered the tenancy of a small farm of some 25 acres, with house and building, at Surfleet, which he accepted. The farm is situated about half mile from the Parish Church, on what is known as the Risegate Road, in Surfleet Cheal. This farm he occupied for about seven years. The first foreman or “groundkeeper” was Mrs. Elsom’s brother, Edward West.
There was at that time a Mr. Pearson living in a nice house just over the railway crossing, on the West side of the Pinchbeck Rd. (The house is at the junction of what is now Park Road with Pinchbeck Road, and just in the Pinchbeck parish, and is now occupied by Mrs. Ward, of the Salvation Army). Mr. Pearson saw Mr. Elsom returning from Surfleet one day and the following conversation took place. “Why, where have you been?” “I’ve been farming.” “Farming!” “Where have you been farming?” “At Surfleet. I’ve taken a little farm there.” “Why. If I’d known you wanted a little farm I could have let you have mine, much nearer to your home, and better land.” The upshot was that this little farm was taken also. Its area was some 15 or 16 acres, situate in the parish of Pinchbeck, but near to Spalding. The bulk of it fronted on what is known as “Woolram Wygate”, a field of rather more than 3 acres being on the South side, adjoining the orchard, and 3 fields on the North side, 2 grass and one arable, 10 acres in all. A triangular piece of some 2 acres was just over the Two Plank Bridge. Thus he became the occupier of more than 40 acres.
The fourth child of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom, John, was born November 18, 1853.
The next year, 1854, was an important one in more than one respect. During this year Mr. Elsom enlarged the old toll house by the erection of what was practically a four-roomed house. At the South end of the tall house was a stable, the entrance to which was by two half-doors opening from the Street. This stable was pulled down and in its place the cottage built. But it had no front door and no staircase; and no two rooms communicated directly with each other. The front room on the ground floor was entered from the South room of the old house; and the room above from the South bed room. The back room on the ground floor was approached from the yard (near the kitchen door), by means of the old stable door frame and half doors and became known as the “warehouse”; while the room above the “warehouse” chamber was reached by a step ladder. The two rooms in front became know as the “parlour” and “best bedroom”.
The Crimean War broke out in this year and wheat-growing became a profitable business for farmers.
The year 1856 is an interesting one to the writer of these Jottings, as this is the year, in all probability, the year of his earliest memories. The writer was four years of age on the 13th June, and he remembers distinctly an incident of that day, as well as incidents both before and later in that year. A few words may be written concerning the old home as I remember it. The old toll bar house, weigh house and garden wall supporting the present iron gates and palisading. The old weigh house served the purpose of store house. The North room of the house was the rope maker’s shop. The South room was the living room or front kitchen. All the South-east corner of this room was a sort of “dresser”, which was a cupboard with two doors, and above this cupboard were two short drawers. (This dresser the writer has now in his possession, in his pantry.) Over this dresser in the south wall of this room was a small window looking up Pinchbeck Street. (The old house, I should have said, stood where Nos 13 & 14 now stand.) Over this dresser too, was a clock with its pendulum and weights Within the cupboard the gas meter was fixed. In the South-west corner was the door leading to the new parlour. Over the parlour mantel piece was an engraving of Boston Church, while over the cupboard on the other hand were pictures of a man and boy pulling a boat ashore. Behind the living room was the kitchen or back kitchen in which were copper, mangle and sink, attached to which were hard and soft water pumps. At the rear of the shop ad approached from the kitchen was the dairy, with its one North window. The West wall and lean-to roof of the dairy was shaded by a large elder tree, under which also were kept various dairy utensils. Immediately behind the front door was a cupboard beneath the staircase, which staircase was entered from the living room. Upstairs there were, of course, the two bedrooms over the shop and living room; but that room over the shop had been divided into two small rooms separated by a wooden partition in which a pane of glass had been inserted for the admission of light. The back room was the smaller of the two and was known as the dark chamber, and was reached from the staircase, about 2 1/2 or 3 feet below the landing. On the landing, between two bedroom doors, was a useful storage cupboard, in which apples etc. were sometimes kept.
Outside the house, between the parlour and cottage No 10, Pinchbeck St. (where cottage No. 11 now stands) was a large gate, and also a stile, by which entrance was obtained to the back door, yard and garden. Right opposite this entrance might be seen a small haystack, or the remains of one. At the rear of the house were a cowshed, pig sty etc.; while at the rear of the weigh house, and occupying a considerable proportion of the land, was a garden, in which were planted gooseberry and currant bushes and raspberry canes etc. There was a box-bordered path from East to West and also from North to South. At the end of the path to the North and affixed to the North wall was an arbour of wooden framework, over which was trained from either side, rambling hops. There were also several rose bushes trained up that North wall, one of which was a beautiful red moss rose, very fragrant. I suppose potatoes and other vegetables would be grown; but what I particularly remember was a huge quantity of horse radish! At the rear of the house and yard and garden, of course was the cricket field, now the football field.
No description of the old home could be complete without considerable reference to the “field” on the opposite side of the public highway. This, as we have seen, was a piece of meadow land of rather more than 3 acres in area. While four-sided, it was by no means square. Its West side, or frontage was some 180 yards long. Its North-east side, which was not straight but somewhat semi-circular, was about 164 yards log. Its East and South sides were very much shorter. The piece of land is named in the agreement between landlord and tenant, “Coney Garth” or “Coney Green”. It was a remnant of a once famous and extensive park, which extruded Northward toward Pinchbeck. In the Coney Garth portion of this park was erected the Norman castle, in which Ivo Tailboy, nephew of William the Conqueror, resided and ruled. The moat which surrounded the castle, might still be traced. A pond near the centre of the field, was but a portion of this moat.
Entrance to this field was gained by means of a gate and gateway, which stood about midway of the frontage or West side. On the North side of this gateway, between the hedgerow and the public pathway, was an open ditch, belonging to the Spalding and Pinchbeck drainage scheme. On the South side of this gateway, the ditch had been filled in, so that there was a stretch of waste land between the hedge and the footpath, about 3 yards wide. Inside the field, as we have seen, and near the North-east boundary, was the rope walk.
In the hedgerows of the field were between forty and fifty trees – ash, elm and poplar. The poplars included four beautiful specimens of the tall Lombardy variety. One of these was situate nearly opposite Stepping Stone Lane, now King’s Rd. Two others stood about opposite the residence of the late R.P. Foster, vetinary surgeon. A fourth was on the South boundary and formed the junction of a wooden fence with an elder hedge. On the North and Eastern sides of the field were several aspen poplars which so greatly overhung the adjoining land, that the landlord, yielding to complaints, had them cut down.
On the South side of the gateway was s beautiful wich elm, very rugged and knotty. Its boughs were in three groups – first, second and topmost. It was a favourite practice of climbers to climb up the trunk and swing down by the branches.
On the North side of the gateway was an ash tree, whose trunk was so devoured by worms that they ultimately accomplished its destruction, so that the tree had to be taken down.
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Between the worm eaten tree and the ropewalk were six or seven ash trees and one of elm The elm tree was uprooted by a whirlwind which passed over the district. The ash trees were very fine specimens – tall, smooth, clean and shapely, straight of trunk and containing a large portion of timber.
In the North-east hedgerow, alongside the ropewalk, were more than a dozen trees, rather near together, mostly tall elms. About midway was an ash tree, the trunk of which was wholly overgrown with ivy. Several of the elms had holes in them, in which sparrows and starlings built their nests and reared their young. The trees on the east side were elms and aspen poplars. Rooks and magpies here nested in the elms until disturbed by boys. In the South-east corner of the field was a hovel, built of thorn faggots and straw, for shelter of stock, bear which was generally a stack or part of a stack of corn or hay or straw.
Such was the field. There have been, and still are, many “fields”; but to us children there was but one field, viz. “the” field – our playground, where the buttercups and daisies grew in such profusion; and in which might be seen grazing a cow or two, a horse or two, or a score of sheep, while in the rope walk might be seen at work, father, uncle Fred, old John and a boy or two.
It will now be opportune to speak of the family circle as the writer of these notes first remembers it. Mr. & Mrs. Elsom were in their early thirties – about 33 and 31 respectively. Mr Elsom was of a dark complexion, with dark grey eyes and dark bushy whiskers, with shaven mouth and chin. He was five feet eight inches in height, somewhat slightly built, not more than 10 1/2 stones in weight. He had a rather small hand, with a rather sensitive touch, and had only to feel a bale of hemp to know its quality. He had a very elastic step and was quick in all his movements. Mrs. Elsom I have described elsewhere. My two elder sisters, Eliza and Mary Ann, or Polly, wore what were described as Tuscan bonnets, and were bright, intelligent and happy girls. Then beside myself, there were Johnny, a rather fretful child, and baby Nellie. And of course there was uncle Fred, and possibly a young domestic servant.
On July, 1856, death first entered the family of the Elsoms of Spalding, for on that day, Eliza, the eldest child, who was eighteen days short of eight years of age, passed into the Spirit World like a ripe old Christian! Her body was carried in its coffin to the cemetery in the spring cart of Mr. Allen Reynolds, miller and baker of Holbeach Road, Spalding, a dear friend of the family; in whose cart, one time or another, all the members of the Elsom family had many a happy ride! Mr. & Mrs. Reynolds had no children of their own, but seemed to find pleasure in numerous and various acts to members of our family, as long as they lived. The writer has much satisfaction in recording this fact.
In the year 1857, considerable alterations and extensions took place in the old toll bar estate. The gateway to the yard and the back of the house in Pinchbeck Street were done away with; and a cottage was built between the parlour and the cottage now known as No. 10 Pinchbeck St. The new cottage built in the old gateway is now known as No 11 Pinchbeck St., and is now occupied by two sisters, the Misses Barker. Of course, a slice of the old yard was required to form a small yard and garden for the new cottage. Also a breach was made in the North Wall near the arbour to form a new gateway, and the old gate, which had done duty in Pinchbeck St. was brought and fixed in the new opening. The old garden ceased to be, and was made to serve the various purposes of a small farmyard. On two sides of the yard buildings were erected for the accommodation of horses, cows, pigs and poultry. In one building, known as the “copper house”, was a copper for the boiling of potatoes for the pigs and fowls, under the fire of which, we children roasted potatoes for ourselves! A cornstack sometimes occupied the centre of the yard, while a straw stack was generally to be found in the North-east corner. Many a merry game did we children and our companions have of an evening among the stacks and buildings, lighted as we were, by a street lamp which stood in the street near the Stepping Stone Lane corner!
On the 21st of this year, while the other children were in the harvest field, the “barn” piece, Jane, the 6th child of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom was born; thus restoring the number of children to five again.
About the year 1858, Mr. Elsom bought a piece of land. Its situation was in the parish of Pinchbeck, on the East side of the Spalding and Pinchbeck high road, about a mile and a third from Spalding High Bridge, and two thirds of a mile from Pinchbeck Church. Its Eastern boundary was the Blue Gowt Pup, or Little Graft, a branch of the main Blue Gowt Drain, It was bounded on the south by a narrow piece of land, on which for many years there stood what was known as a post wind corn mill. From the circumstance of the piece of land which Mr. Elsom bought became known by him and his family and employees as the “mill piece”. The mill, like many other wind mill in the district, has been demolished, but the mill house still stands, some distance from the road; as also the small orchard at the rear of the land on the West bank of the Blue Gowt Pup. The area of the piece of land which Mr. Elsom bought, was, including hedges, 5 1/2 acres; and it cost him, with legal and other expenses, £610. Many a pleasant day have I spent in that “mill piece”. It was good land and in a good situation, but it was not a good purchase; for after cultivating or letting it for many years with fluctuating success, he eventually sold it for £540.
On the 9th February, 1859, Mr. & Mrs. Elsom’s seventh child, and fifth daughter, was born. She was named Eliza after her mother and after the child who had died; but somehow or other, no one seemed to care to call her Eliza, and she became known as “Lillie”.
About this time, William East appeared on the scene. Possibly he had heard that “uncle Fred” had left the employment of Mr. Elsom some months before and had obtained a situation at Louth. Anyhow, East came from Boston to Spalding, seeking work. Since his dismissal by Mr. Norton of Boston in 1832, he had been manager of the rope walk of Mr. Thomas Slator of that town, and had been in business on his own account; but while East was an excellent workman, he was by no means a good man of business. So he came to Spalding and sought work of Mr. Elsom. Mr. Elsom was busy with a corn dressing machine in the yard, dressing wheat, when East called. Elsom being anxious to finish the wheat dressing, and East being willing to help, the latter continued to assist for the remainder of the day. The next day he commenced work in the rope walk, where he continued some years.
It will be convenient to deal with William East finally. He would be nearly if not quite, 60 years of age when he commenced work for Mr. Elsom. He was an excellent workman, and, in addition to every branch of rope making, he was skilled in clock-line and mattress making. After working for and with Mr. Elsom some 8 or 10 years, he was persuaded, despite his years, to re-start in business for himself. So he secured a strip of land for a rope walk by the river side, near his cottage, North of the Gas Works, and soon appeared with a stall in the market on market days. But this lasted for but a short time. One day, Mr. Elsom saw Mrs. East in the Street, and having enquired, learned that they had difficulty in making a living. So he said, “Well, if he likes to come to the ropewalk, I can always find him a job of some sort. He can begin when he likes and leave off when he likes, and I will pay him by the hour.” So as long as he was at all able, he filled up his time, partly at the rope walk (generally in the heckle chamber) and partly at home making mattresses. He died about 1875, aged about 75 years.
Also about 1859, there came into the rope walk to turn the wheel etc, a red haired, stiffly built lad who was known as “Chapman”. But this was not his real name. His real name was William Dennison. His mother married a Mr. Thomas Chapman, a working bootmaker and well-known local preacher of Double Street, Spalding, and thus became known as “Bill Chapman”; but he was also known as “Rolley Chapman”. In the rope walk, he was called “Chatty”. Chatty was a character – a born humourist. O the games he played in that rope walk with one or other! After working some years in the rope walk, he left to be apprenticed to a coach smith. He afterwards lived at Lincoln and died there at about 60 years of age.
About 1859 or 1860 Mr. Elsom had to give up his little farm at Surfleet. But he still retained the tenancy of Mr. Pearson’s land, which, together with the “mill” piece and the rope walk “field”, provided him with holdings of about 24 acres. So there was still regular employment for a man and horse. At this juncture there cam from Norwich to Spalding a Norfolk man, named Thomas Allen, with his wife and family, consisting of one son and two daughters. They resided in a cottage in Barnes Court. Allen got work on the land with Mr. Elsom. His son “cobbled” boots and shoes. Mrs Allen went out charring. The daughters got into domestic service.
Allen was not an old man when he commenced to work for Mr. Elsom. Certainly he was under fifty years of age. But he was given to Romance. We boys delighted to get him started in giving tales of his prowess in various situations in the County of Norfolk; and when we totalled up the years of his marvellous doings, here, there and elsewhere, we made him out to be considerably over a hundred years old! And so we always spoke of him as “old Tom”! Yes, Tom had his weaknesses, but the job required to be done was never unwelcome, and the day was never too long! His grandson and great-grandson are still living in Spalding.
Probably the most interesting family event of the year 1860 was the birth of George, the 8th child and 3rd son of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom, which occurred on March 18.
In the spring of 1862, late in March or early in April, Richard Day commenced work at the ropewalk. He was a son of Zachariah Day, fisherman, of Commercial Road, and was about 14 1/2 years old. He had learned a good deal of the business of rope making with Mr. William Hames, ropemaker of Spalding. After working from Mr. Elsom for about five years, during which time he became a most excellent workman, he left to take charge of the rope making business of a Mr. Flint of Donnington. After an absence of about five years, he returned to Mr. Elsom, and continued to work in that rope walk, either for Mr. Elsom, his son George, George’s widow, or her sons, until stricken by cancer. He died in August, 1915 aged 68 years.
William West Elsom, ninth child and fourth son of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom, was born on April 28, 1862; and Harriet (Hattie) tenth child and sixth daughter, on March 21, 1863.
Perhaps this is the time to mention a few of the domestic servants who gave assistance to Mrs. Elsom in the work of the house. Three of these were from Surfleet, viz. Betsy Murdin, Amy Ann Holmes and Sarah Taylor.
Betsy Murdin was in the family during the infancy of the writer and was called by him “Burley”. She was afterwards married to a man called Tidswell, who occupied a small farm in what was known as “Bird’s Drove”, Surfleet. She dies a few years since. her son is now in possession.
Amy Ann Holmes was a daughter of a Mr. Holes, who lived in Station Road in Surfleet and was at one time Superintendent of the Free Methodist Sunday School. A lame brother of Amy’s became a local preacher but he died early. Another brother, Barnabas, was apprenticed with a miller of Surfleet, at the old post wind mill, which formerly stood on the left hand side of the road, going towards Gosberton. He afterwards held situations at or near Stamford, but finally settled in Wisbech, where, for many years, he conducted a successful grocery and Baker business. He died a few years since, but his widow, a Surfleet native, is still living in Glen Cottage, William Street, while his son, Arthur, carries on the business. Amy Ann never married. After leaving our family she had several situations in Spalding and elsewhere, but finally found her way to her brother-in-law’s, in whose home she died in the Spring of 1897, aged about 60 years.
Sally Taylor is best remembered for her liveliness of spirit. She has a good voice, was fond of singing, and knew the best of the popular songs of the time. She was frequently heard singing while milking the cows in the cow shed, such songs as, “beautiful star in Heaven so bright”, “O Willie, we have missed you”, “Safe, safe, at home” etc. etc. What became of her, the writer cannot say, but his memory of her is very pleasant.
(End of Book 5. Book 6 continues.)
But the best remembered of the domestics if the old Toll Bar house was Sarah Allen – “Sally” of “Sally in out Ally”, as we children called her, eldest daughter of “old Tom”. She was rather rough in her manner, but thoroughly good-hearted, and willing. She would, if required, play with the children for hours together, and would never report their bad conduct. She eventually married a bricklayer named Hayes, whom she survived several years. During her widowhood she occupied one of the Alms Houses in Double Street, where I have frequently visited her. She would never permit me to address her as Mrs. Hayes, always Sally! She always held members of our family in the highest respect. She died in her 80th year and was committed to the earth by the writer. A son of hers, Arthur Allen (illegitimate) is still living and working in the town, whose son is chief joiner for W. Jepson, builder and contractor.
In the Spring of 1863, Mr. Elsom made a very important new departure. He had recently bought the house and shop, 31 New Road, for about £300. Family requirements, together with increase of business justified this purchase. The house and shop had been built for a grocer, but for many years they had been used as a “Public House”, bearing the sign of the Lord Nelson. John Harrison Allen was landlord at the time of Mr. Elsom’s purchase. After giving him notice, he allowed the licence to lapse, and spent some £50 in fitting up the premises as Rope Makers shop and residence. About the 1st of May, therefore, when Hattie was a baby of five or six weeks, there was a grand flit! The house was in three stories. Beside the shop, there was also a good roomy dry cellar and a loft in the yard. From the top front windows there was a pleasant view northward, and occasionally, people were seen crossing the Vernatts Drain via Two Plank Bridge. Some of the happiest hours of the lives of the Elsoms of Spalding were spent in the various apartments of the old “Lord Nelson”.
It may not be out of place if I refer briefly to one or two pleasant memories of the old home. It is the month of November about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The various members of the family are gathered together for tea at the two tables in the “living” or “front” kitchen, when a knock at the front door is heard. An old pedlar is there of the name of Dickinson or Dickerson. He is a native of Wrangle or Leake or one of the villages on that side of Boston. Having been announced, a hearty “Come in” is given, to which is added, “You are just right for a cup of tea with us”. Whereupon the old man puts down his basket and his bag, and draws up to the well-spread table of plain and wholesome food. Pleasant enquiries are made and answered while cups of tea and bread and butter are enjoyed. When all have finished, the visitor pushes back his chair and first takes up his bag. Out of that bag is taken a violin, which being duly tuned, discourses sweet but very homely music. He knows all the favourite children’s hymns and tunes, and these he sings with sympathy accompanied by the equally sympathetic tones of his dearly loved “fiddle”. Among other melodies are “Mothers of Salem”, “Sweet Heaven of rest”, “Realms of the Blest” etc. Having gone through his programme of some half-dozen airs, he returns his instrument to its bag, and takes up his basket. A small trade in cottons, tapes, buttons, hooks and eyes is done; afterwards a kindly farewell is taken and other similar calls made. Thus from Wainfleet to Spalding this musical and pious tradesman earned a simple livelihood.
Another memory. It is the month of May and about 6.30 in the evening. Mr. Elsom has finished his work for the day in ropewalk and shop, has taken tea, washed and changed. He passes out of the back door into the yard and calls for the boys, to which my brother John and I respond. We pass out of the yard gate on to the Pinchbeck Road. Pause at the field gate and cast a glance at the sheep, cattle or horses which may be grazing there. Then a quiet walk along the road across the railway to Woolram Wygate otherwise Horrads Lane; at the North-east corner of which is the “toll bar”, which since 1848 has done duty for the one which at that time was closed. A short distance along this lane, on the left adjoining Horrad’s orchard is a three acre field – the first reached of father’s little farm. Here we take a brief stay to look at the growing crop – it may be corn, or potatoes or roots. Then on to the grass field a little further along to the right. Through this we walk till we reach the barn and crew yard. Here we have a young stock of calves, pigs etc. etc. to look at. After which we walk along a five acre field of arable land -the “barn piece” to the Vernatt’s Drain; and, turning to the left, we walk along its Southern bank until we reach “Two Plank Bridge”. Crossing which, we stop to look at the crop growing upon a triangular 2 acre field on the North bank to the left. Then we turn to the right and walk along the public footpath (now closed) on the North bank of the drain until we reach Sharpe’s Bridge. Here we turn left along the Pinchbeck Road, passing the “Parting Pot”, now “Vernatt’s Inn” on the right, and also the old post windmill and so reach the “mill piece”. This is the last piece we have to visit; which done, we return home – a mile along the Pinchbeck Road, southward. We have thus once more done our farming.
After removal to 31 New Road, considerable alterations were made to the old home. The additions made in 1854 – parlour, best bed room, warehouse, warehouse chamber, were wholly separated from the old toll-bar house, and provided with front door, middle door, back door, door frames, stair case etc. etc., together with outhouses etc. so as to constitute another residence. The same remains to this day as No. 12 Pinchbeck St. The first tenant of the old toll bar house was a Mrs Smith, with whom lived a single daughter, together with a married daughter and her husband named Singleton, a boot and shoe maker. Mrs. Smith did the washing for No 31 New Road. The old house was eventually pulled down about 1888.
With the removal from Pinchbeck Street to New Road in May, 1863, came a considerable expansion of business. Family affairs also got a move on. Mary Ann, Mr. & Mrs. Elsom’s eldest living child, though only 13 years of age was apprenticed to the millinary business with Mr. C.M. Pennington; and in August, their eldest son, Isaac, having left school for harvest holidays did not return, but commenced to work in the ropewalk. On March 21, 1865, when Hattie was just two years old, Kate, the eleventh child and seventh daughter was born.
About this time the country was visited by a terrible cattle plague. Whole herds of cattle in all parts of the country were either carried off by it or had to be slaughtered. With others who suffered locally was Mr. Elsom, who after considerable veterinary treatment, had to burry two beasts in lime, and by way of prevention, had to slaughter two others. The carcases of those slaughtered were salted and made good eating – some of which was given to the poor. On January 26, 1867, Florence, the twelfth child and eighth daughter was born.
Probably during the year 1867, Mr. Elsom’s second son, John, left home to learn farming on Hazlewood Farm, Palmer’s Green.
The harvest of 1868 was an extraordinary one. It was early – corn cutting becoming general by the middle of July. The “mill piece” crop of wheat, standing quite the usual time, was carted on August 1. Large farms yielded an average of upwards of six quarters of wheat to the acre; while odd fields yielded seven, eight, and occasionally, nine quarters.
About 1870 or 1871, Mr. Elsom had to give up “Pearson’s Farm”, the land, with certain life interests, having been sold by the heir, Mr. Enoch Pearson, to a Mr. Southwell, boot maker, who sold it again to Mr. Ashby Maples, solicitor, father of the present Mr. A.K. Maples. Thus there remained only two fields – the Mill piece and the rope walk field.
In 1871 & 2 there occurred three deaths in the family; on March 17, 1871, Mary Ann, aged 20 years, 9 months & 17 days; on May 13, 1871, Florence, aged 4 years, 3 months & 17 days; and on March 9, 1872, Kate, aged 6 years, 11 months and 17 days. Thus the family circle was reduced to the two parent and 8 children.
At the latter end of August, 1872, Richard Day, after an absence of about 5 years, returned to the service of Mr. Elsom, and continued in that service or in that of his successors until 1915, when he died, aged 68.
On August, 31, 1872, Mr. Elsom’s eldest son, Isaac, having offered himself and been provisionally accepted as a Free Methodist Minister, left home for Gainsboro.
The nine years – from 1863 to 1872 – had been years of considerable business expansion. “Elsom’s” goods were famous in the whole of the Spalding district, especially between Spalding and Sutton Bridge. Occasionally, sheep netting was sent into Cornwall, and even to Australia and New Zealand. No promise was made for goods on a given date that was not carried out.
The next fourteen or fifteen years were, on the whole a repetition of those from 1863 to 1872. Agriculture reached a high altitude of prosperity in 1872, when a most successful County Show was held in Spalding. After that there was decline. There were bad seasons from 1879 to 1882. trade in agricultural towns suffered with the farming interest. Then followed a gradual improvement.
Socially, the Elsom family attained some importance in the town of Spalding. The girls were sent to a good school to finish and were taught to play the piano; and younger boys had better school opportunities than their elder brothers. Gradually, all were got into situations with a view to their earning a livelihood – all eventually leaving home except George who remained with his father in the business.
Before writing the last paragraph, it should have been stated that about 1872, Mr. Elsom, having been given due notice to quit, the ropewalk field was sold by the owner to a Spalding tradesman. Mr. Elsom, though he had been tenant for some 21 years, was never given an opportunity of purchase! The purchaser was Mr. W. Stanger, Stonemason, a neighbour of New Road, who at once mapped out the field in building plots. Mr. Elsom had some difficulty in purchasing the ropewalk strip, objection being made to a ropewalk being near good class houses. however, an agreement was eventually come to, and Mr. Elsom purchased about 130 yards of the ropewalk, together with a piece of the frontage adjacent.
On November 29, 1885, Mr. Elsom completed his 63rd year; and as his strenuous life had begun to tell upon his health, he deemed it wise to retire from business. So he came to terms with his son George – the business of Isaac Elsom terminating on December 31st 1885, and that of George Elsom commencing on January 1st, 1886.
In the Spring of 1886, Mr. & Mrs Elsom removed from 31 New Road, where they had lived for 23 years and occupied temporarily their cottage, No 12, Pinchbeck Street. In August of that year an agreement was entered into with Mr. Christopher Harrison of Cowbit Road, for the erection of a seven roomed house at the corner of Pinchbeck Street (or Pinchbeck Road) and Stepping Stone Road (now King’s Road). The first brick was laid by Mr. Elsom’s grandson, Isaac Charles Elsom, a lad in his 8th year. The house was named “Stoneleigh”, after “Stoneleigh”, Tottenham Green, London. Mr. & Mrs Elsom entered into occupation just before Christmas. The three adjoining houses were built by Mr. W. Jepson in 1888.
The ten years 1888 to 1898 were in many respects the happiest years of the joint lives of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom. Mr. Elsom was active and went for walks and drives and little railway trips. Mrs. Elsom loved her home and made much of it. At different times, one or both visited Holt, Bacup and Wisbech, where their eldest son was stationed; and London and Boston were somewhat frequently resorted to.
For six and twenty years the family circle of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom remained unbroken; but in May 1898, their second son, John, died at Enfield of consumption of the bowels in his 45th year. This was followed only too quickly, by the death of George – successor to the business – in April 1901, of consumption of the lungs, aged 41. This last bereavement occurred on the 55th anniversary of their wedding day! But for nearly another ten years they were spared to battle together the rigours of life’s winter. Mr. Elsom while retaining almost to the last wonderful elasticity of step, suffered from defective sight and hearing; while Mrs. Elsom was for 5 or 6 years an invalid. Mr. Elsom passed peacefully away on December 10, 1910, aged 88 years, and Mrs Elsom on April 15, 1911, aged 86 3/4.
For upwards of 60 years, Mr. & Mrs. Elsom were associated with the United Methodist Church. Soon after their marriage, they became regular attendants at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Broad Street, Spalding. During the great agitation which existed in Wesleyan Methodism from 1848 to 1852, they sympathised with the Reformers; and when, immediately after the expulsions of Easter Sunday, March 28, 1852, separate services were commenced on Sunday, April 4, in the old Assembly Room, they joined in with the “Reformers”. They both became members of this “Wesleyan Reform Church”, under the ministry of its first minister, Rev. William Booth – afterwards the famous “General Booth” of the “Salvation Army”. Mr. Elsom drove Mr. Booth to some of his appointments in the large Spalding Circuit. The twelve children of Mr. & Mrs. Elsom were regular scholars of the Sunday School. Mr. Elsom became a trustee of the Chapel erected in the Crescent in 1857, and outlived all his fellow trustees of that time. He never took a prominent part in the affairs of the church apart from his trusteeship: but his trusteeship he always took seriously. Mrs. Elsom retained to the last, possession of the first ticket of membership received from Mr. Booth, and it is still in the keeping of her daughter Harriet.
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