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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

George Tucker 1802-1886 - a man with no luck

Hamptworth and Landford in George's time
My 3rd great grandfather, yet another George, is the ancestor for whom I feel sorriest.  The poor man was born in the wrong county, at the wrong time, and at the wrong end of his family.

George Tucker, born on 27th November 1802 and baptised at Landford on 12th December.  He was the ninth child and youngest son of William Tucker and Mary Rice, who married on 23rd April, 1788 in St Laurence Church, Downton.  He had two brothers, William (1788-1861) and John (1797- ) and eight sisters, at least five of whom lived to adulthood.  At least one sibling died in infancy.  All the children were born in Hamptworth, which was a small rural settlement within walking distance of both Downton and Landford.

George's siblings married into local families - Pratt, Moody, Eldridge, Cooper and Harrison families.  Although they were all baptised in Landford, they preferred to marry in Downton.  This was probably due to the dilapidated state of the Landford church, which was rebuilt in 1858.

A church school was not opened until 1848, although a dame school had been operating since about 1818.  So George and his siblings did not have the opportunity for schooling.  (Note: Older brother William must have had some opportunity for education since he was a churchwarden at St Andrews, Landford later in life.)  By 1851, some of the children in Hamptworth were described as scholars, but most children over 10 were working with their fathers.  Lace making was a common home industry for the women and girls during this time.

On 31st August 1825, George married Hannah Isaac from Rockbourne in Hampshire.  She was the daughter of George Isaac and Sarah Biddlecombe.  Rockbourne is located on the western side of the New Forest, within walking distance of Downton.  I wonder if George and Hannah met each other at the annual Market Fair?  (Farmers and other employers often engaged labourers and domestic servants at the annual fair in those days.)

A research paper 
Agricultural labourers early 19th century

contains one of many accounts of the poverty and hunger being felt in Wiltshire during the late 1820s, 30s and later, the very time that my 3rd great grandfather was establishing a family.  In the late 20s, the crops failed and the Enclosure acts resulted in many rural workers losing the right to grow their own produce and  graze their animals on common land.  Additionally, with larger land holdings, the landowners engaged fewer permanent workers, and men such as George Tucker who in earlier times could rely on their yeoman and copyhold farming relatives for work were forced to take on casual employment.  This meant that for long periods during the winter months they were unable to find work.  And with mechanisation of farming methods, wages were reduced - Wiltshire wages were much lower than in the north.

From the early 30s to the 50s, there were mass migrations of Wiltshire labourers and their families, not only to the cities but also to Canada and Australia.

Mid 19th century farm workers
But for whatever reason, this George stayed put.  The 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 census showed him remaining in Hamptworth, even though his sons George (b 1832) and William (b 1834) had moved to Southampton and London long before.  In the 1851 census, a daughter Mary Tucker aged 10, a scholar is listed, but her survival or whereabouts in later years is unknown.

Doorway to the Cuckoo Inn at Hamptworth near Downton
I visited Hamptworth in 2008 and found it a rural area with scattered cottages.  The most obvious building is the Cuckoo Inn, where we had lunch.  I was invited to pull a beer with the landlord, after I explained that my great great great grandfather probably sat in the same room.  The pub is over 200 years old.

George's wife Hannah died of "decay of iodine" on 1st May 1872 in Downton.  Her husband George was described on her death certificate as a (general) labourer, suggesting that he may have retired from farmwork.

Union Workhouse at Britford near Salisbury
By 1881, George Tucker was a resident of the Alderbury Union Workhouse at Britford, just outside Salisbury.  He died on 14th February 1886, aged 83 of senile decay.  He was described as a domestic gardener - everyone who was able had to work, probably engaged very cheaply by local residents.
In 1869, an official reported on the Workhouse:
 Inmates.— The paupers are classified according to the order, and are divided into nine classes. The men wear coats, trousers, and waistcoats, of army cloth or fustian; the women, chambray and print cotton gowns, and all have the proper under clothing, stockings, &c. The men work at the pump, the will, gypsum pounding, and garden work.

For more information, see the following web link:

And so ends my Tucker links with Wiltshire.  From the 1880s, none of my close ancestors lived in Hamptworth, Landford or Downton - they were engulfed by the industrial revolution and had moved to Southampton and London.

The only exception was George's daughter Ann (1829-1882), who married George Dibden of Nomansland, near Hamptworth.  It is understood Dibdens still live around that area.


  1. A wonderful story and excellent research by you Margaret

  2. Margaret I have Eldridge family in this area so will check if there is a connection.