John and his ancestors lived in Owslebury, a village in central southern England about four miles from the ancient city of Winchester. The village is just within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park. John was baptised there on the 18th of June 1782, a son of Edward Boyes who was a yeoman farmer and his first wife Eleanor (née Woods).
Owslebury lies at the top of a hill, on the Roman road which once led from Winchester (known then as Venta Belgarum) to the coastal fort at Portchester (Portus Adurni).
In the 18th century the village belonged to the Marwell estate.
The soil is clay with underlying chalk and the traditional land-use was a mixture of arable and grazing for sheep. The village was well known for its sheep shearers of whom John was one. The farming account book of Richard Hinxman of Titchfield and Botley recorded that on the 1st of June 1822 he paid the Owslebury Company of Shearers to shear about 840 sheep at Fairthorn at the rate of 4s a score.
The Boyes family had been farmers in the countryside south east of Winchester for centuries when John was born in Owslebury in 1782. The earliest of his ancestors mentioned in the records of the manor was a John Boyes who was named in a list of the tenants of Sir Edward Seymour, esquire of Marwell, which was made some time between 1601 and 1625.
As a yeoman, John’s father, Edward Boyes, was relatively well off. He leased his farm from the manor of Marwell and he would have employed several men to help him. John was the youngest of thet four children whom he had with his first wife Eleanor. There were two girls called Elizabeth and Susanne and a boy called Edward. But their mother, Eleanor, died when John was only two years old leaving Edward to look after his children alone.
Just under two years later Edward got married again to a local girl called Alice Prickett who was much younger than him. Their first child, born in 1787, was a boy whom they named William. Two more children followed — Alice and Benjamin.
In February 1795, when John was only twelve years old and Benjamin was still under three, their father Edward died.
John’s step-mother Alice re-married just five months later and he, his brothers and sisters and his step-brother and step-sister, were probably brought up in the household of her new husband who was called Charles Page.
Despite what must have been a difficult upbringing, John grew up to become a successful and respected member of the community. When he was twenty one years old he married a girl called Faith Newlyn. The wedding was held in St. Andrew’s church in Owslebury on the 8th of September 1803.
John’s wife Faith had been born in London but her father, William Newlyn, came from a family who had farmed in that part of Hampshire for centuries. Her earliest known ancestors were the Newlyn family of Tichborne, the Goldfinch family of Compton, and the Complyns whose earliest known ancestors lived in Weeke which is now a part of Winchester. Two of Faith’s Complyn ancestors, William and Agnes, who died during the reign of King Henry VII, are commemorated by an engraved brass plate in the church at Weeke. In 1803, when Faith married John, she was living with her parents in Owslebury.
John was an arable and sheep farmer and he and Faith lived in the small hamlet of Hensting which is towards the south western end of the parish of Owslebury not fra from Colden Common. His farm, of which he was a copyholder, was part of the Manor of Marwell. (Copyhold was a form of land tenure which is now obsolete; it was similar to a lease but subject to the rules and customs of the Manor.) They lived just above the head of a small lake called Fishers Pond. An area of woodland on a ridge above Hensting is still known as Boyes’s Copse. The accounts of the manor show that in 1818 John was farming 60 acres of land.
John became a well known and popular farmer who organised and led the annual shearing of the sheep which at that time formed the mainstay of the village’s economy. His half brother, Benjamin Boyes, was also a farmer and he too lived his whole life in Owslebury. His house, which is still known as “Boyes Farm”, is next to the Ship Inn in the centre of the village.
We have a description of John Boyes in 1831. He was 5 feet 9 inches tall with a brown complexion, brown hair, and blue eyes.
It seems that John Boyes was an ambitious man. He was not content to simply continue farming his land.
As well as looking after his farm, John was employed by the lady of the manor, Lady Mildmay, in what was intriguingly described as a “confidential situation”.
The advertisement on the left, from the Hampshire Chronicle on Monday the 5th of September 1825, shows that he put his farm up for sale by auction in five lots. (Note that the village was called Henstead instead of Hensting; some old maps refer to it with that name but most contemporary documents use Hensting.) It appears that some, but not all of the lots, might have sold, because in 1840, when the tithe map for the parish was made, most of the fields mentioned no longer belonged to John but he still owned the house and he had by then acquired some other fields.
We can only guess what John might have been planning to do if he did succeed in selling the whole farm.
At Michaelmas, soon after the auction, John paid £5 5s 6d rent to the manor. So his farm must have been bigger than his half-brother Benjamin’s, who only paid £4 0s 6d.
In August 1830, John borrowed £500 from a Mr. Southwell in Winchester, with the farm as security. Whatever he intended to do with the money his plans were almost certainly upset by events that occurred later that year.
John lived in turbulent times. Government borrowing to fund the Napoleonic wars had caused inflation which was an unfamiliar and worrying phenomenon to the people of the time. Income tax had been introduced for the first time and machines, mainly in the form of horse powered threshing machines, were beginning to appear on farms, reducing the need for labour. Troops returning from the wars created a glut of labour across Europe which caused a drop in wages. In the face of falling corn prices, Parliament introduced import tariffs which protected land owners incomes but raised the price of food. At the same time, the French Revolution had created an increasing sense of social justice, especially among the poorer classes. The result was social unrest. This was the era of the Luddites and the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
In 1830, in many parts of southern England, there were so called “Swing Riots”. Typically, a letter would be sent demanding that wages be increased and that threshing machines be destroyed. It would often be signed “Captain Swing”. Soon afterwards a mob would gather, buildings would be damaged and threshing machines destroyed. Then the mob would disperse or move on.
These disturbances began in Kent in August 1830 and shortly afterwards spread to Sussex and Surrey. They reached Hampshire during the third week of November 1830 when mobs were reported near the Sussex border at Emsworth and in Havant and Gosport. More mobs soon gathered in the Meon valley and at Micheldever, Barton Stacey and Overton.
The government, mindful of the French Revolution less than 40 years before, were determined to crush these demonstrations but many people of all classes were sympathetic to the rioters.
On the 23rd of November 1830 John Boyes was travelling along the road to Marwell with some sacks. As he passed Farmer Smith’s yard he heard a lot of noise. He went in to investigate and came across a group of men breaking up Mr. Smith’s threshing machine. Mr. Smith saw John and sent out one of his servants to bring him in to his house. Mr. Deacle of Marwell Court Farm was already with Mr. Smith and he told John that the mob had carried his threshing machine out into a field and destroyed it. They had also visited Mr. Lowndes’ farm and forced him to hand over two half sovereigns. Boyes, Smith and Deacle discussed what they could do to calm the situation. Together they wrote a note calling for wages to be increased, then they all signed it and went outside to read it to the crowd to try and placate them. It worked to some degree but they were still angry and insisted that John, who was himself a farm owner and an employer, take the note to the other farmers and land owners in the district and ask them to sign it as well.
The note read: “We the undersigned are willing to give 2/- per day for able bodied men and 9/- per week single men on consideration of our rents and tithes being abated in proportion.”
John agreed to do this and accompanied the angry crowd as they went from place to place. He persuaded nine farmers and land owners to sign the paper including Mrs. Long, the lady of Marwell Hall. The mob, however, wanted money as well. They demanded £12 or £14 from Mrs. Long and she eventually agreed to give them five sovereigns which satisfied them. (Marwell Hall may today be seen in the grounds of Marwell Zoo; the Long family had re-built the house in 1816.)
At about 3 o’ clock the crowd reached Rosehill, the seat of Lord Northesk. (Rosehill, also known as Longwood House was demolished in the 1970s, having become unsafe.) There they destroyed an old winnowing machine and were confronted by Moses Stanbrook who was Lord Northesk’s steward. John Boyes asked Mr. Stanbrook to sign the paper which he eventually did. The crowd then demanded five sovereigns but he said did not have that much cash and asked them whether they would accept a £5 note instead. After some discussion they did so with a cheer. Mr. Stanbrook considered that John Boyes was responsible for this extortion and later gave evidence to that effect in court.
The mob left Rosehill for Owslebury Down where they met with other groups from Upham and Bishops Waltham. John Boyes left them there and went down to a public house in Owslebury. Some of the rioters came to the pub later and spent some time drinking. As they left one of them said to Boyes, “We’ll meet again tomorrow and get some more”. Boyes replied, “You’ve got too much, I’m afraid, already”, and persuaded them to that it would be in their best interest to go back to work tomorrow as usual.
The Government were determined to make an example of the rioters and on the 23rd of November 1830 King William IV issued a proclamation ordering the ‘apprehension of riotous persons’.
A special court was held in Winchester in December 1830 at which the Hampshire Swing rioters, including those from Owslebury, were tried. John Boyes was among them. There were 65 magistrates in attendance and, it was reported, “a larger number of the Gentlemen of the County than was ever before witnessed.”
The trial was held in the Great Hall at Winchester. The illustration shows another trial being held in that same hall 16 years later.
As a farm owner who had seemed to back the labourers’ demands, John Boyes was seen by some people as a class traitor. Other people pointed out that he had helped to calm down a situation which could have become much more ugly. Lord Northesk’s steward Moses Stanbrook was particularly angry with John and was the main witness against him. The case was picked up by the national press and many people were sympathetic to him. At first he was acquitted, but the judge, Mr. Wilde, was unhappy with the verdict and asked the Attorney General for a re-trial. A liberal newspaper, Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, which later campaigned vigorously for John’s release, described the incident thus:
“Boyes was tried and acquitted; but he (Mr. Wilde) being unable to account for the acquittal, considering the evidence to have been clear against him, and feeling that, although the jury were most respectable men, they might possibly entertain some sympathy for him in consequence of his situation in life, thought it his duty to send a communication to the Attorney-General, stating that Boyes was deeply responsible for the acts which had taken place; that he thought he should not be allowed to escape; and recommending that he be tried before a different Jury in the other court. The Attorney-General sent to him (Mr. Wilde) to come into the other court, and the result was, that Boyes was then tried and convicted.”
Moses Stanbrook asked for a reward for helping to apprehend John Boyes and two others. He was awarded £25.
John Boyes and most of the rioters were sentenced to be transported for seven years. A few were executed. John was taken from Winchester prison to Portsmouth where he was kept on the prison hulk Hardy while he awaited transportation. The prison records describe his behaviour there as “orderly”. Conditions on board the hulks were notoriously bad, even for the time. The port-holes were kept closed to prevent the prisoners escaping so ventilation was poor and disease was rife. The Hardy, though, may have been more comfortable than most. After the Napoleonic wars she had been converted to a store-ship and had been used in that capacity at St. Helena where Napoleon was imprisoned. After his death she was returned to England and used as hospital ship for some years, and then to house the convicted Swing rioters who were awaiting deportation.
On February the 6th 1831 John sailed for Van Diemen’s Land (known today as Tasmania) on the Eliza commanded by Captain John Groves. There were 224 convicts on board, all described as “machine breakers”. They arrived in Hobart on the 29th of May where the prisoners’ arrival was recorded — John’s offence was listed as: “Conspiracy to raise wages”. At first John was put to work for a Mr. W.G. Brown. Later he was employed on public works. He was generally well behaved during his stay in Tasmania but on the 21st of February 1834 he was reprimanded for being drunk while on watchman’s duty.
Almost as soon as John had left England there were moves in parliament to have him released. Lord Palmerston wrote to Lord Melbourne saying: “Could you not take an indulgent view of Boys’s case on the condition for which I would be responsible that there should be no other Hampshire men with any claim to mercy. The poor devil has been pretty well punished, for besides his transportation he has lost a little Property he had and which has been forfeited by his becoming a convicted felon.”
John Boyes’ tenure of his farm as a copyholder meant that, as a convicted felon, the farm should have been be forfeited and reverted to the Manor of Marwell. This was a concern for Mr. Southwell in Winchester who had loaned John £500 with the farm as security and he took legal advice on the matter. In the event, the report of the loss of John’s farm was premature because his family continued to live there. That was probably due to the kindness of Lady Mildmay who was the widowed Lady of the Manor of Marwell. The loan from Mr. Southwell was presumably repaid.
Several petitions addressed to the King were presented to Lord Melbourne. Lady Mildmay’s steward, Carew Mildmay Ricketts, supported them. He was quoted in several newspapers as saying that:
“so far from believing that John Boyes had any bad motive for his conduct, that he, Mr. Carew Mildmay Ricketts, verily believed that his, John Boyes’s, example and presence with the mob, prevented a great deal of mischief, and that he believed a more honest and punctual man than John Boyes did not exist”.
William Cobbett, the well known journalist, diarist, and radical politician, also campaigned on John’s behalf.
John did not serve his full sentence. In June 1834 the Home Secretary, Lord Melbourne, began the process of granting him a pardon, and in early March the following year the Hobart Town Courier reported that John had been issued with a ticket-of-leave to return home on the Chapman. The Times in London described his return as follows:
“Preparations are making by joyful hundreds to escort him in triumph along the same road along which he and others were dragged from Winchester gaol to the hulks in the dead of a cold winter’s night, when poor wives and children could only take a farewell of husbands and fathers by crouching in hedges or on banks by the road side in the inclement season. It is singular that his arrival is just in time for him to join the company of sheep-shearers of whom, for years, he was captain.”
Upon his return to Owslebury John returned to his farm in Hensting, his wife, and his children, where he resumed his life as a yeoman farmer.
In August 1835 264 more ‘machine breakers’ (as they were called) were pardoned but many more remained in Van Diemen’s Land. John wrote an eloquent and impassioned Letter to the Salisbury and Winchester Journal pleading for the return of his fellow convicts who were still there.
The events in Owslebury in 1830 were so well known that a folk song was written about them. The Owslebury Lads was collected in 1906 by the folk song collector George Gardiner who deposited a copy in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
The location of John Boyes’ farm house in Hensting is shown by the red cross on the map. It was near to the much larger Hensting Farm which was occupied by the Blundell family to whom John’s wife Faith was distantly related by marriage. (Faith’s uncle John Newlyn had married Nanny Winkworth whose brother Thomas Winkworth had married Benjamin Blundell.)
In 1840, when the tithe map for the parish was drawn up, most of John’s land was arable with some woodland and hedge-rows. In addition, his status as a copyholder of the Marwell estate entitled him to graze his sheep on the common land.
John spent the rest of his life as a respectable yeoman farmer in Hesting. By 1851 he was farming fifty acres and employing five men.
John Boyes died in Hensting on the 25th of March 1856 of old age (described as “natural decay” on the death certificate). His wife Faith died four and a half years later on Christmas day in 1860. They were both buried in the church yard in Owslebury. Their son Edward was present at both of their deaths.
John Boyes left a will in which he appointed James Vear, a timber merchant from Twyford, as his executor. James was the husband of Mary Winkworth Newlyn who was a cousin of John Boyes’ wife Faith. But John’s children were dissatisfied with his handling of the estate and in 1862 they obtained an order from the High Court forcing the farm in Hensting to be sold. The following notice was placed in the Hampshire Chronicle on Saturday 22 March 1862:
“To be SOLD, pursuant to a Decree of the High Court of Chancery, made in a Cause of "BOYES v. VEAR," with the approbation of the Vice-Chancellor Sir John Stuart, in four lots, by Mr. RICHARD AUSTIN, the Person appointed by the said Judge, at the George Hotel, Winchester, in the county of Hants, on Saturday the 12th day of April 1862, at three o'clock in the afternoon precisely, — a valuable COPYHOLD ESTATE,
Consisting of 59a. 1r. 17p. of superior Arable and Wood Land,
with Farm Buildings and other conveniences thereon, situate at Hensting, in the parish of Owslebury, in the county of Southampton, late the property of John Boyes, of Hensting aforesaid, Yeoman, deceased, and now in hand, particulars whereof may be had of Mr. C.J. Hampton, of 6, New Boswell-court, Lincoln’s-inn, London, solicitor; of Messrs. Dobinson and Geare, of Lincoln’s-inn- fields, London, solicitors; and, in the country, of Mr. Chas. Warner, solicitor, St. Thomas-street, Winchester; Mr. Frederick Bowker, solicitor, St. Peter’s-street, Winchester; of the Auctioneer; and at the place of sale.
ALFRED HALL, Chief Clerk.”
John Boyes and Faith Newlyn’s children
John Boyes and his wife Faith had six sons and four daughters, all of whom were born and brought up within the parish of Owslebury.
John and Faith’s first child, John, was born in 1805. Their last, Anna, in 1824.
William was the first of their children to survive childhood. His daughter Harriett, whom he had with his second wife Harriet was the mother of Sidney Parsons and a great-grandmother of the present author.
To read about John & Faith’s children follow this link — The Children of John Boyes and Faith Newlyn.
Ancestors of John Boyes
Father — Edward Boyes, a farmer who lived in Owslebury
Mother — Eleanor Woods, who was born in Chilcombe which is about a mile to the east of Winchester and a few miles north of Owslebury
Grandfather — Edward Boyes, a farmer in Owslebury
Grandmother — Rachel Paige, who married Edward in Twyford, a village adjoining Owslebury to the west
Grandfather — Mathew Woods, a farmer in Chilcombe
Grandmother — Eleanor Chapman
Great-grandfather — Robert Boyes, a farmer in Owslebury
Great-grandmother — Hannah (surname unknown)
Great-grandfather — William Page, a farmer in Owslebury who for many years was a churchwarden there
Great-grandmother — Anne (surname unknown)
Great-grandfather — unknown
Great-grandmother — unknown
Great-grandfather — Robert Chapman, a farmer in Chilcombe
Great-grandmother — Hannah Harfield, who married Robert Chapman in Chilcombe in 1721
You are free to make use of the information in these web pages in any way that you wish but please be aware that the author, Mike Parsons, is unable to accept respsonsibility for any errors or omissions.
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The information in these web pages comes from a number of sources including: Hampshire County Records Office, Somerset Heritage Centre; Dorset County Records Office; Southampton City Archives; the General Register Office; several on-line newspaper archives; several on-line transcriptions of Parish Register Entries; and several on-line indexes of births, marriages and deaths. The research has also been guided at times by the published work of others, both on-line and in the form of printed books, and by information from personal correspondence with other researchers, for all of which thanks are given. However, all of the information in these web pages has been independently verified by the author from original sources, facimile copies, or, in the case of a few parish register entries, transcriptions published by on-line genealogy sites. The author is aware that some other researchers have in some cases drawn different conclusions and have published information which is at variance from that shown in these web pages.
Copyright © 2013 Mike Parsons. All rights reserved.