The Great Hook Norton Farm Mystery

My Great Grandfather Ellis John Grey was a Farmer. He came to that profession when he was possibly in his 50’s. He had previously been a Gardener and a Rural Messenger for the Post Office, before embarking on a career on the railways. During his time with the Midland Railway Company his jobs included Porter, Pointsman, Gateman and Signalman. On leaving the railway company he became a Publican and finally at some point returned to his wife’s roots in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire and became a Farmer. See my blog on Ellis John Grey.

Two pieces of paperwork led me to his change of occupation. The first being his wife Jane’s death certificate in 1897. On the certificate Jane’s occupation is given as “Wife of Ellis John Grey, Farmer”. Secondly on the 1901 Census for Hook Norton his occupation again is listed as Farmer.

But why I hear you cry have I entitled this blog as ‘The Great Hook Norton Farm Mystery’. It’s because I am trying to find out the location of the farm and whether it was wholly or part of the farm that belonged to his wife’s parents. Sometimes our research creates more questions than it gives answers.

On Ellis’s death in July 1907 his daughter Elena Maria Woodcraft was appointed as Administratrix of his estate. On the 07 October 1907 there was an auction at Netting Farm on the instructions of Elena. Everything was to be sold including 5 Cart Horses and Colts, 3 Pigs, Barley, Oats, Meadow Hay, Harnesses, Implements and Furniture. I am assuming that Ellis was a tenant farmer and did not own the land.

From the Banbury Guardian – 26 September 1907

On a visit to Hook Norton back in 2007 I was introduced to a lovely lady who turned out to be my father’s cousin. She informed me that the farm had been off Netting Street. Looking at old maps really gives no indication as to the exact whereabouts of the farm or of it’s size. The 1901 Census only gives the address of Netting for Ellis and 2 of his sons who were living and working with him.

1901 Census showing Ellis John Grey’s occupation as a farmer and the address as Netting.

Ellis and his wife Jane had been living most of their married life in Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire. They had made the return to Jane’s childhood home of Hook Norton sometime after the birth of their last child in 1892. Jane’s father, James Hall, who was a farmer had died in 1882 leaving her mother, Elizabeth, with the farm. Had the move back been to assist her aging mother? If so was Netting Farm originally the Hall’s farm?

Back in 1851 James is on the census as an Agricultural Labourer. On the 1861 census he is listed as a Carter. He has probably bought himself a horse and cart and is busy moving items around for people in this rural location. Moving further up the career ladder by 1871 he is farming 11 acres and employing 1 man and a boy. Further advancement by the 1881 census has him farming 22 acres. But the problem is the location of this land. The census records really don’t help here. The enumerators unfortunately did not give many addresses in the village. Each household just follows on from the previous one, with only a few of the larger properties having their address duly noted. The 1891 census, after James’s death, lists his widow Elizabeth, a farmer, in Thrutting. I cannot find Thrutting on any map but Elizabeth’s neighbours address on this census is Scotland Road. I am thinking that Scotland Road may well be Scotland End which appears on the 1901 census. Scotland End runs into Netting Street which is where we find Ellis farming in 1901.

None of Jane’s siblings took over their parents farm. I think it is reasonable to assume that Jane and Ellis came back to Hook Norton to help on the farm. Jane died three years before her mother. It looks like on her death Elizabeth leaves the farm in the hands of her son-in-law Ellis.

I suppose at the moment I cannot be certain that this is true. Maybe one day an illusive bit of information will drop in my lap then it will either confirm or destroy my theories.

Poster advertising the auction at Netting Farm. Someone has written next to each item how much it raised.

Newspaper extract copyright THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD from the website britishnewspaperarchive