Answers to Questions


FAWCETT, Childwick Hall, St Michaels, c1863-1890

July, 2010



St Albans

Alister Rayner (alister.rayner @t of London wrote: I found on your website a reference to a book entitled "Hertfordshire Men of Mark 1887", which includes, apparently, a portrait of my great great grandfather, Edmund Alderson Fawcett of Sandford. Edmund moved from the family seat in Sandford, Westmoreland, to Childwick Hall, where he bred shorthorn cattle for export to Australia, as well as producing my great grandfather (EA Sandford Fawcett)  If you have a copy of the above book, would it be possible to send me a photo or scan of the portrait, and perhaps of the associated article?

The following is the text of the chapter on E. A. Fawcett from Hertfordshire Men of Mark, and at the end I have added a few additional observations:

We are again reminded of how narrow is the line of  cleavage in party politics by the life of Mr. Edmund Alderson Fawcett, of Childwick Hall. Stern and inflexible as a Fair-trader he is doubtless dubbed as a bigot by some of the more narrow-minded of Free-traders who may live in smug contentment; the other hand, merciless and unsparing as a zealous champion of cottagers' home reform, he has incurred the deep displeasure of landlords of the type of the Duke of Richmond.

In all his actions and distinctive line of public conduct, whether for the nonce he is erratic or regular and prudent, it is easy to trace Mr. Fawcett's every movement to a desire to profit by the wise words, that "foolish legislation is a rope of sand which perishes in the twisting." And when a man's outward life is governed by a powerful feeling in the soul, no petty consideration of offending or pleasing the few will avail. It may not seem natural to the "orthodox". that a relentless Fair-trader should at the same time be a warm­hearted friend of the cottagers' cause, yet in actual life we find that this is so with Mr. Fawcett.

He has a distinct personnel. He knows, too, the value of vigilance in politics. There is no occasion when service can possibly be performed in behalf of any of the movements he has at heart that is allowed to slip by unused. He is a walking encyclopaedia of reference for the Protectionist' crusade, and offhand can give the effectual retort to any passing criticism. Figures and facts, metaphors bold and free, come forth at a second's notice most apposite for the occasion. There must have been times when this has been freely noticed. Before a company of Free-traders his presence is almost as disturbing as was the introduction of Æneas when conducted by the poet Virgil through the shades below inspiring terror among the ghosts of the Greeks who had fought at Troy :-

"The Grecian chiefs, and Agamemnon's host,

When they beheld the Man with shining arms,

Amid those shades, trembled with sudden fear.
Part turned their backs in flight as when they sought
Their ships . . . . . . part raised
A feeble outcry, but the sound commenced

Died on their gasping lips."

Our subject comes from the county of Westmoreland; Sandford, near Appleby, being his birthplace. From his father he inherited Sandford Hall, which was purchased by his ancestors in the reign of Charles II. Mr. Fawcett's mother was a daughter of William Alderson, Esq., of Keld Swaledale, Richmond, Yorkshire, and a near relation of Baron Alderson's. When eleven years of age, young Fawcett came to London, and having been educated in the city went into the counting-house of his uncle, who was an agent for silk manufacturers. Upon the retirement of the uncle, and at the age of nineteen, he started for himself, remaining connected with the silk trade until the French Treaty was made.

At the St. Albans Farmers' Club he has often spoken with vehemence on the subject of the ruined silk industry, and this explanation of his close personal contact with the business, lends additional authority and value to his many comments upon a subject so intimate to him. From the English commercial view, so far at any rate as the silk trade is concerned, the indictment against the French Treaty is a heavy one. Admitting silk goods free of duty, it has destroyed the silk business in this country, where formerly thousands of hands were employed in spinning, weaving, dyeing, &c.

At the outset Mr. Fawcett predicted the chaos of the industry as a result of the Treaty. But the warnings received, generally, only a cynical welcome. Yet the word of caution was not withheld. In the money columns of The Times, Mr. Fawcett industriously propagated the truth, but a prophet is not received in his own country. The sequel is a sad one. We are now importing per annum over £10,000,000 worth of silk manufactured goods used by the upper classes of society, whilst our work people at home are wanting bread. To those who organise Fair Trade movements, Mr. Fawcett's help is most valuable.

There is probably no local gentleman who has so ready available data of the best description, He can confute and refute Sir James Caird himself, and has more than once publicly corrected Sir James's figures. That Government official, for instance, now admits that Irish produce is worth twenty million pounds a year less since the operation of Free Trade, but Mr. Fawcett is inclined to estimate the loss even higher than that. This is a serious reflection for the Conservative Government, and he pertinently asks, Will the new Government be acting prudently by making the Irish farmers pay rents which will soon ruin them?

Mr. Fawcett, like the Grand Old Man, thinks his rest cannot long be delayed. In harness to the last has been one of the best prized privileges of many a notable man, and our subject seems almost to glory in pursuing an active life to the end of his days. As a public speaker he possesses a ductility and versatility of talents, and these are quickened by the store of general knowledge which a long and busy life has brought with it. Fluency and breadth of sympathy mark all his utterances. Still, it is of course, no disparagement to say that he is not a Demosthenes. He does not lack fire nor warmth of delivery, but he does lack declamation. There is probably no finer declaimer around St. Albans than Mr. W. H. Aylen, of London Colney, and perhaps for thoroughness in the mastery of a complex subject of dry facts and figures, there are few to excel Mr. Fawcett.

Each of these gentlemen does much to raise the tone of local public speaking, which in the rank and file of general life is too often neglected. The Bar, the Pulpit, and the Platform alike furnish lamentable proofs that the art of public speaking is not sufficiently nor carefully cultivated as a rule. Mr. Fawcett, however, as we have said, can always carry attention, but he errs on the side of being too studious, too solid. Still he is an emotional sympathiser with the poor, nearly rises to indignation in the demand for better labourers' cottages, and in this cause he toils untiringly, and evidently con amore. But if he were struggling for the suppression of the slave trade, instead of the eradication of a moral malaria, it would be fulsome flattery to write of him ;-

" His was the thunder-his the avenging rod-­

  The wrath-the delegated voice of God,

Which shook the nations through his lips and blazed,

Till vanquished senates trembled as he praised."

He can state arguments cogently and with the force of intelligence; but these very qualifications in the absence of declamation leave the listener insatiated, wanting some influence to interest as well as instruct him. These friendly lines are penned because we believe that, in spite of his age, Mr. Fawcett still has the capacity to stir the deeper feelings of an audience of at any rate limited size.

In pursuing his movement for better labourers' cottages, Mr. Fawcett will be doing as much good work for the cause of morality as for domestic comfort in humble life. It is not complete satisfaction to be told by the Duke of Richmond that many landlords are doing their duty. We have heard that before and believe it. Yet in some districts there is a shameful herding together of labourers' families. At a recent inquest it was proved that the dead and the living were in the same bedroom to the extent of eight persons of various ages and of both sexes. Is this the state of things the Duke of Richmond is proud of?

When Mr. Fawcett was speaking at the Norwich Show in the presence and under the presidency of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, he pointed to the grave domestic position of many farm labourers. As an incentive to reform, he suggested that the society should annually offer an award of one hundred pounds to the landlord who had made the best and most suitable provision for his cottagers. This the Duke of Richmond construed into an insult to the landlords. We are sorry for his Grace, for he will assuredly find that if this pressing subject is wisely ventilated the power of public opinion will be far too serious to permit the Legislature to long delay urgent attention to this matter. What Mr. Fawcett is quite right in insisting upon is, that, however exceptional such instances may be, it should be impossible for any case similar to that we have alluded to, of family immorality, to exist as the result of brothers and sisters being compelled to share the same sleeping apartments.

Mr. Fawcett purchased the lease of Childwick Hall 24 years ago, and has since devoted considerable capital and thought to agricultural pursuits in the neighbourhood. But his farming experience is not limited to those 24 years. Upon Sandford Hall becoming his property he there continued the breeding of Shorthorn cattle, which his ancestors had been in the habit of doing for the past 200 years.

In the year 1852 he exhibited three bulls at the Kendal Show, and won the first three prizes, beating animals bred by Colonel Townely and Mr. Ellison, of Sizer Castle. The dam of Van Tromp, the first prize bull at the Highland Show in 1864, was purchased from Mr. Fawcett. He also bred the bull, Lord of Warlaby, winner of the first prize at the Bath and West of England Show in 1864; he also won both the first prizes for females at the Birmingham Show in 1871, since which he has not exhibited. At his sale in 1880, Mr. I. N. Edwards purchased the cow Fame, celebrated for milking and breeding, from which cow the highest priced animals which have been sold at Westminster Lodge [St Albans] are descended. Messrs. Rothschilds also purchased the cow Cherry Ripe from him, the dam of Captain Cherry, the winner of the first prize at the Royal Show; and Baron Ryedale, the first bull used at Sandringham, is descended from animals bred by him. Lord Verulam presided at one of his sales and Lord Grimston at another.

In 1877 Mr. Fawcett was present at the banquet in the Town Hall given to the Mayor (Mr. W. Cannon Smith) in commemoration of the town having been raised to the dignity of a city, and proposed the toast, "Prosperity to the City and Trade of St. Albans." On that occasion he made a speech which resulted in procuring the road round the end of the Abbey, and the closing of the footpath through the building. He also attended the meeting of Conservatives at the Westminster Palace Hotel, prior to the 1885 Election, and seconded the proposal to bring forward Lord Grimston for the county. He also presided at the meeting of agricultural labourers held in Harpenden in 1885, and attended meetings at St. Albans, Redbourn, Harpenden, &c., in support of Lord Grimston. He also assisted to procure the election of the late Sir Richard Musgrave for Cumberland, by forming a London committee for that purpose. Mr. Fawcett also supported the election of the Hon. William Lowther and Lord Bective for Westmoreland, in the same year. Mr. Fawcett is the vice-president of the St. Albans Farmers' Club, and has made many speeches, which have been fully published in The Herts Standard and many other agricultural papers.

He was elected a member of the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1864, and was nominated by the late Earl of Feversham. Assisted by Mr. W. George and others, he took action which led to the dissolution of the St. Albans Highway Board, in consequence of the increased expenditure sustained by the ratepayers. He is of opinion that the entire taxation of the country will have to be placed upon the income tax, if the present one-sided Free Trade is continued. He is in favour of the total abolition of tithes, rent­charges, land tax, lords' rents, and all such payments by equitable enfranchisement over a reasonable period. He holds that the owners of property should pay all rates and taxes upon it, or if paid by the tenants, should be deducted the same as income tax from the rents.

He believes that the farmers in the United Kingdom will not be able to pay any rents if the present Free Trade continues, and that direct or indirect taxation will in the end have to be adopted; Custom House duties must be entirely abolished, and all rates and taxes, excepting income tax; or, otherwise, everything must bear its fair share of taxation, unless all the industrial classes in the kingdom are to be ruined, and obliged to emigrate to obtain a living. The money which ought to circulate here is now going abroad in payment for the goods, or food, which might, and ought to be, produced at home, and hence the want of employment and misery at present in all our large towns, and especially in the manufacturing and agricultural districts. Labourers' cottages, he contends, ought to have gardens of a reasonable size, and they ought to be provided by the landowners, and the labourers should have them rent free. It would, however, he thinks, be very unjust for the taxpayers to ha\'e to purchase land to let out in allotments at a great loss.

Mr. Gladstone's Irish proposals he regards as most absurd, and asks, How would any parliament in Dublin improve the position of the Farmers in Ireland? The one-sided Free Trade has reduced the income from the produce of the soil to such an extent that the farmers cannot pay any rent. They hope by supporting Parnell to get the land rent free, and Mr. Gladstone would have the English taxpayers pay for it, and incur a loss of five to six million pounds per annum. Mr. Fawcett points to the fact that no immediate measures are offered by any political party to help the farmers, who must er become bankrupt, or emigrate before their funds are entirely exhausted.

No man more than our subject ought to have hailed with satisfaction Lord Randolph Churchill's advent to power and office as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lord Randolph was in favour, we know, of retrenching Government salaries to the tune of many millions. And at the Farmers' Club and elsewhere Mr. Fawcett has always unsparingly condemned these monstrous stipends as well as the system of giving pensions to persons who have done little or nothing for them. Good Conservative as he is. he believes that although it is impossible to predict how long the people will bear this state of things, the day will nevertheless be found not to be far off when they will refuse to pay the unreasonable taxation now extracted from the country. Nor does he conceal his conviction that the taxation should be borne by those persons who are best able to pay it, and not by the hardworking and industrial classes who have enough to do to provide ordinary necessaries.

The facts embodied in this sketch will thus be found to amply justify the opening lines, that the life of Mr. Fawcett well illustrates how narrow is the line of cleavage between thee great political parties of the nineteenth-century. These are the men who remind us of the quatrain :-

"Then none was for a party, then all were for the State,

Then the great man helped the poor, and the poor man loved the great.

Then lands were fairly portioned, then spoils were fairly sold,

The Romans were like brothers in the brave days of old."

# # # # # # # #

This is one of the longest articles in the book - but the flowery political verbosity is typical of the rest of the book.

It is important to realise that when E. A. Fawcett moved to Childwick Hall Farm. the Childwickbury estate belonged to the Toulmin family, who sold it to J Blundell Maple in the early 1880s. During much of the 1880s J Blundelel Maple (who founded the Childwickbury Stud) was living in Childwickbury at the same time as E. A. Fawcett was living at Childwick Hall.

I have checked my file of extracts from the Hertfordshire Advertiser and found several relevant references to Mr Fawcett. In each case more research from the newspaper and other sources is needed as I only have random references which do not tell the whole story.

In January 1866 he appeared before the magistrates for the non-payment of the poor rate for the parish of St Michael's. The case seems to resolve around a technicality as to whether the valuation list for the parish, used to draw up the rate, was valid, as it had not been properly approved.  I only have details of on hearing (from the Herts Advertiser of 20th January 1866) but it is clear that, if Mr Fawcett's objection proves to be valid, the whole rate (and possibly earlier rate collections) were invalid for everyone - which could raise significant problems for the overseers of the poor. [Was the non-payment a political ploy attacking the whole process of paying rates??]

On the 21st April, 1866 the following news item appeared in the Herts Advertiser.

Nomination of Overseers. – St Michael's Parish Vestry Meeting. – On Friday afternoon, (the 13th inst.), a vestry meeting very numerously attended, was held in the schoolroom, for the passing of the churchwardens' accounts, the appointment of churchwardens and stonewardens, and the nomination of overseers for the parish of St Michael. – The Rev B Hutchinson  (vicar) presided. Mr H H Toulmin  and Mr Purrott, jun., were elected churchwardens, and Mr William Sanders, Mr Charles Dickinson, and Mr J Bailey, stonewardens. None of the overseers were present. The following were the gentlemen nominated: For the Borough, Mr Thomas Wilshin, Mr George Sanders, Mr Robert Josling, Mr T D Bowman, Mr A Ashworth, Mr J Morris. For the Liberty, Mr E A Fawcett, Mr W Cragg, Mr C Dickinson, Mr R Smith, Mr G Robbins and Mr H Roberts.

Mr Fawcett obviously became overseer as his name appears in a case reported in the Herts Advertiser of 8th February 1868 relating to the fact that Frederick Barford came into possession of Townsend Farm on 29th September, 1866, from Mr Cullum. The issue related to a trial before the Liberty Petty Sessions to recover poor rates for the parish of St Michaels which Mr. Barford claimed (unsuccessfully) should have been due before he took over the farm, as they were collected in arrears. The problem appears to have arisen because of problems from the rate having been declared illegal in 1866.. The press report of the case includes the following exchange:

Mr Barford (to Mr Edwards [current overseer]): Who was your predecessor in office?

Mr. Edwards: Mr Fawcett and Mr Craig. Mr Cullam was overseer in 1865.

Mr Searancke: It was in Mr Fawcett's year of office that we got so behind.

The next reference I have is from the Herts Advertiser of 12th April 1886, which shows he was vice president of the St Albans Farmers Club at a meeting where my great grandfather, Jacob Reynolds, attended.:



A largely attended meeting in connection with the recently formed St Albans Farmers’ Club, was held in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, St Albans, on Saturday afternoon, when a discussion was initiated by Mr William George , of the Oak Farm, on the comparative value of the produce of a farm of 370 acres in the years 1882-5. Mr A. E Fawcett   of Childwick Hall, vice president of the club, occupied the chair, among those also being present being Major-General Bigge  (Lye House), Messrs E Arnold, W H Aylen, H Bailey  (Cuckmans), G Bate, Belgrove, G Cartwright, A J Dixon, G Duckworth , H George, W. George, W George  jun., O R Ilott, Low, G Nott, C T Part, J Purrott, W Purrott, J Reynolds, Whitbread Roberts, J Robins, Sinclair, J Slimmon, Henry Smith, John Smith, T Smith, W Smith , T Willshin, G Willshin, F W Silvester, J Selby, Hayward Edwards , J E Holinshead (hon sec), &c.

The Chairman having opened the meeting, the following gentlemen were elected members of the club:– Mr I N Edwards, Mr C Dymoke Green, Major Gape, Capt. Peacocke, Messrs Hayward Edwards, W Purrott, F W Silvester (Hedges), W R Winch (North Mymms), H T Hodgson (Harpenden), S V R Adey (St Albans), H Balderson (Hemel Hempstead), W Finch (Corner Farm), James Selby (Buttlers Green), J S Woollatt and R Burnett (Aldenham Lodge).

[There follows an account of farming costs … including a reference to the use of manure (bones and nitrate of soda), manure (London dung) and soot. }

The report of the St Albans Farmers Club reported on 4th April 1891 reports that Mr. H. J. Toulmin was elected vice chairman to replace Mr Fawcett, who had left the district.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

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