He was the second child of George Parsons, a farmer whose family originated in Kington Magna in North Dorset but who lived for much of his life at Manor Farm in Charlton Horethorne in Somerset. John’s grandfather William Parsons had a farm in Kington Magna but also owned an inn and several houses in Holton which is a small village near Wincanton. John’s father George had married Jane Peters from the wealthy Peters family who had connections to Lord Portman (after whom Portman Square in London is named) who was a major land-owner in the south west of England. Several of John’s brothers acted as stewards for Lord Portman and one of them, George Parsons, was an inventor and entrepeneur who founded the Parrett Works near Martock in Somerset.
John was born in Kington Magna in 1808 and was about seven years old when his parents moved to Charlton Horethorne where they lived in the imposing old manor house in the centre of the village, next to the church.
Charlton Horethorne, the village where John lived until he married, is in the south eastern part of the county of Somerset. About twelve miles to the east of Charlton Horethorne the old town of Shaftesbury stands on a hill top with its abbey which was founded by King Alfred in the 9th century and immediately to the north of Shaftesbury is the village of Motcombe and the hamlet of Enmore Green which lies within the boundaries of Motcombe at the foot of Tout hill which leads up to the centre of Shaftesbury.
In the 18th and 19th centuries Motcombe and Enmore Green were well known for their cheese and in the first half of the 19th century the largest cheese maker in the area was George Case who lived in Enmore Green.
George Case (1773-1858) had the largest farm in Enmore Green. He was a widower with four daughters but no living son; his first wife Hannah, the mother of his children, had died in 1821 giving birth and the child, a boy, had died just six days later. Nine months later he married again; his second wife was Arabella Hicks (née Pollard), a widow from Berrow in Somerset. She died in 1835, two years before the first of George’s daughters married.
George was a Wesleyan Methodist and his children had been baptised in Methodist chapels.
In 1841 John Parsons married George Case’s youngest daughter, Sarah. She was the last of her sisters to marry and she was only 21 years old whereas John was 32 or 33. They married by licence in the parish church at Motcombe on the 16th of March with Sarah’s sister Jane Hall and her brother-in-law William Wereat Perks, who was her sister Ann’s husband, as witnesses.
Sarah’s father was about 65 years old when she married John. After the marriage John lived in Enmore Green to help George run the farm and eventually George retired leaving John in charge. The entry for Motcombe in Hunt’s Trade Directory for 1851 lists John Parsons and George Case as two of the most noteworthy inhabitants. It reads as follows:
“MOTCOMBE - a large village 1½ miles N.W. from Shaftesbury. The Church, St. Mary, a modern erection, is in the perpendicular style, surrounded with a square tower; the living is united to that of Gillingham. A new Church has also lately been erected at Enmore Green. At Motcombe is a large school upon the National plan, built and supported by the lord of the manor, the Marquis of Westminster; this nobleman has a fine mansion here, called Motcombe House. The parish, with the hamlet of Enmore Green, comprises 4780 acres, and in 1841, had 1560 inhabitants.
Case, Mr George, Enmore Green
Parsons, Mr John
Westminster, Marquis of, Motcombe House”
John and Sarah’s first child, Sarah, was born just over two years after they married. Eight more children were born while they were living in Enmore Green and another one after they had moved to Somerset. For details of their children see below.
In January 1848 John was travelling home from a cheese market in Salisbury when he was robbed. He obtained help and then went in pursuit of the men who were soon caught. The subsequent trial was reported in many newspapers. The following report was published in the Morning Advertiser on the 10th of March:
WESTERN CIRCUIT - SALISBURY, MARCH 8.
(Before the Hon. Sir William Wightman, Knt.)
George Smith was, this morning, put upon his trial, charged with having (in company with three other persons unknown, and being armed with offensive weapons, to wit, bludgeons) feloneously robbed Mr. John Parsons of 1 canvass bag, 3 guineas, 20 sovereigns, 20s., 1 cheque for 44l., 1 other cheque for 25l. 17s. 6d., 5 keys, and 2 account-books, the property of the said John Parsons, of Enmore Green, near Shaftesbury, in this county. The robbery was committed on Tuesday, 11th day of January last, near to the village of Barford St. Martin’s.
The prisoner was also charged with having robbed James Pickett, on the highway, and stealing from his person 1 sovereign, 1s., and other articles, his property, at Little Bedwin, on the 8th day of January last.
Mr. Stock prosecuted, and Mr. Harney defended the prisoner.
Mr. John Parsons was first examined, who stated that on Tuesday, the 11th of January last, he attended Salisbury twelfth-day cheese-market. At about a quarter-past four in the afternoon, he set out to go home, when on the turn-pike road, near to Barford Bridge, on the Shaftesbury-road, from Salisbury, four men came out from behind the hedge, one with a stick rushed out of the plantation near; this was about twenty minutes past five, in the evening of Tuesday, the 11th of January; one man took hold of the reins of his horse and called out “Money we want, and money we will have,” crying out at the same time to his accomplices, “Turn him out of the gig,” waving at the same time a large stick in a threatening manner. Two men then came behind the gig, and turned out from his (prosecutor’s) pockets all the money he had about him. The thieves appeared to have been on the spring of the gig; they took from him 30l. in gold and silver, two old guineas, and two cheques, one for 44l. on the Wilts and Dorset Bank; another for 25l. 17s. 6d. on the Shaftesbury bank, a bunch of keys, a banker’s book, an account book, and two cheque-books, all of which they took from him. As the robbers were going away, he (Mr. Parsons) asked them not to take the books, as they were of no use to them. They then threw them on to the road. he believed the prisoner to be one of the men who robbed him that night, but he would not positively swear to him. The thieves went on towards Barford, on the road towards Salisbury. In the parish of Barford Saint Martin’s he was robbed. His man went and watched the thieves, while he went to a cottage, and there found Lot Hilberd; he there asked for a stick, when he again got into his gig, and returned to the spot where he had been robbed, where he found his man waiting. Then all three went in pursuit of the robbers. Meeting a Mr. Brown about half a mile on this side of Barford, he joined in the pursuit. He went then to the village and got the assistance of a police constable. They all went in pursuit on the Hindon road. Hibberd and Brown went first, himself and man followed. On coming up to the first men in pursuit, he found them struggling with the prisoner. A stick was taken from him, and the prisoner given into custody of the police
Other evidence having been given, The Learned Judge summed up, after which the Jury returned a vote of Guilty.
The prisoner was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation.
Having married into a family of Wesleyan Methodists John became one too and was an active member of the movement. He was asked to lay the foundation stone of new Wesleyan Chapel in Fisherton, on the outskirts of Salisbury, in 1860 and also in Glastonbury in 1863. In 1864 he chaired a meeting of the Wesleyan Local Preachers’ Mutual Aid Association in Shepton Mallett in Somerset. He often preached in Chapels and in 1866 he was expelled from the Motcombe Friendly Society for refusing to walk in procession to the (Church of England) church — a court later overturned the expulsion after finding that the stewards of the society had exceeded their powers. In 1867 John presided at a public meeting in Yeovil to raise funds for the Wesleyan Chapel there. In 1867 he gave a speech as President of the day and Sunday schools of the Weslyan Chapel in his old home village, Charlton Horethorne.
In 1857 John’s father-in-law George Case died and the following year John inherited £1000 from his mother’s brother John Weston Peters. He soon began to think of moving to a larger farm and within a couple of years the family was in the process of relocating to Pylle in Somerset, about three miles south of Shepton Mallett. Their new home, Hedge Farm, was reached by a lane which led off from an old Roman road, the Fosse Way, and at the road junction stood a Methodist chapel. John leased the farm from Lord Portman for whom his brothers George, Henry and Uriah had worked as land agents. The rector of the parish church at Pylle, the Reverend William Wilkins Gale, who was descended from the Gales of Malmesbury, was a brother of John Parsons’ brother George’s wife Elizabeth. Today, the land surrounding Hedge Farm is used as a parking area for the Glastonbury festival.
When the 1861 census was taken John and Sarah were still living at Enmore Green but their younger children were in Pylle. Jane, who was the eldest of their children still living at home, was listed as the head of the household at Hedge Farm despite being only 14 years old. By the end of that year John and Sarah had completed their move to Pylle and the following year the last of their children, William, was born there.
John lived in Pylle until he died on the 3rd of January 1868 at the relatively early age of 59 years.
After John died his wife continued to live at Hedge Farm with some of her children until in 1871 she married a local farmer called William Haines who was a widower and a Wesleyan preacher. Sarah and William moved to West Camel in Somerset. William died there in 1906 and Sarah the following year.
After Sarah died her children erected a memorial to her and their father John in the churchyard in Charlton Horethorne. The inscription reads as follows:
“Our dear mother Sara Parsons (nee Case) died 30 October 1907 aged 88. Also our dear father John Parsons died January 3rd 1868 aged 59 Stone erected by their children Sarah, John, Ellen, Freeborn, Mary, Anne, Emily and William”
Children of John and Sarah Parsons
John and Sarah had ten children, nine of whom were born while they were living in Enmore Green. Their last child, William, was born at Hedge Farm in Pylle.
• Sarah was John and Sarah’s first child. She was born on the 4th of July 1843 in Motcombe. As a young girl she spent time in the home of a Wesleyan minister called Thomas Bolas and his family who lived in Andover in Hampshire. In 1869 she married George Taylor whose brother Thomas had married Sarah’s sister Annie the previous year. George was the son of a farmer and had been born in Street, near Glastonbury, in Somerset. After they married Sarah and George lived for some years in Ilchester where where George farmed. They had four children while they were living in Ilchester — John, Ada, Zilla and Jesse. In about 1880 they moved to New Zealand where they lived at Kaikoura in South Island. Sarah’s brother Freeborn was already living there as were some of her cousins, sons of her uncle George Parsons, who had moved there about ten years earlier. Sarah and George had three more children in New Zealand — Fanny, Ethel and George. Sarah’s husband George died in Kaikoura in November 1909 and Sarah died there in December 1924.
• John was born in Motcombe in about 1845. He was educated as a boarder at the Wesleyan Collegiate Institution in Taunton. The school is now known as Queen’s College having adopted that name in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. He became a stationer and book-seller and he never married. After his father died in 1868 he lived at Hedge Farm with his mother for a while and then in North Cadbury in Somerset. Some years after his mother married again he lived with her and her new husband at his farm in West Camel. After she died in 1907, having survived her second husband by about 18 months, John lived in lodgings, first in Bournemouth and then in Aldershot. He died at the manor house in Charlton Horethorne in September 1915. His sister Jane was appointed the administrator of his estate.
• Jane, John and Sarah’s third child, was born in Motcombe in about 1847. She was 14 years old when she moved to Hedge Farm near Shepton Mallet in Somerset and in the 1861 census she was recorded as the head of the household there while her parents were still in their old home at Motcombe. When she was 20 years old she married Dr. Thomas William Hammond, by licence, in Burnham on Sea. Dr. Hammond was a general practitioner in Bruton in Somerset and Jane lived with him there at first but after a year or so they moved to Penarth, a small town on Cardiff Bay about four miles from Cardiff. They had six children — Janet (who was born in Bruton), John, Freeborn, Sarah, Wilhelmina and Garnet who were all born in Penarth. Jane’s husband Thomas died in 1891 and five years later she married a Penarth hay and corn merchant called John Langley. Jane and John Langley both died in 1923.
• George was born in Motcombe on the 28th of February 1848. He was educated at the same Wesleyan school in Taunton as his elder brother John. His whereabouts from then until he married at the age of 39 are, as yet, unknown. His marriage licence described him as a “gentleman” and gave his residence as North Cadbury. The girl he married was Maud Eliza Cole whose father Luke was a farmer in North Cadbury who had lived for some years in Australia where Maud had been born in 1868. Soon after they married George and Maud moved to New Zealand where he kept the Atiamuri Hotel in central North Island. They spent the rest of their lives in New Zealand, dying in 1931 and 1935 respectively. George and Maud had five children — Claude St George Milo Cole (1888-1975), Margery Maud Grace (1891-1984), William Henry John Luke (1896-1958), Freeborn Rosse George Cole (1899-1955) and Edwardena Mary Thelma (1906-1990). Milo was wounded at Gallipoli and, in 1920, he married his cousin Muriel Marion Parsons who was a daughter of Freeborn Parsons and Antonetta Phabayn. George and Maud’s youngest son was often called Rosse, a name which he was given because George mistakenly believed that the Parsons family were related to the Earls of Rosse of Birr Castle in Ireland whose surname happened to be Parsons.
• Anne was born on the 8th of April 1851 while her parents were still living at Enmore Green in Motcombe. She was 16 years old when her father died and later that year she married Thomas Taylor, a farmer from Montacute in Somerset. The following year Anne’s sister Sarah married Thomas’s brother George. Anne and Thomas lived in Montacute for at least five years before moving to Pimperne in Dorset (near Blandford) where they lived in the manor house. Thomas farmed 700 acres. They had six children — William, Blanche, Grace, Theodora, Hilda and Winifred. Thomas died in 1901 after which Anne continued to live in Pimperne for many years. She died at Upwey House in Weymouth in 1936. Anne and Thomas had six children — William Robert (1870-1935), Blanche (1871-1936), Grace (1873-1959), Theodora Mary (1877-1941), Hilda (1878-1940) and Winifred (born 1880).
• Ellen was born in about 1853 and was about 14 years old when her father died. She lived with her mother at Hedge Farm for a while but by 1859, when she married Thomas Henry Lockyer at the age of 25, she was living in Up Cerne in Dorset. The wedding was in Up Cerne and her brother John was a witness. Thomas Lockyer was a farmer. At first he and Ellen lived at Hurn Bridge near Christchurch in Dorset. Later they moved to Barton St. David in Somerset where he was a miller, then to Michelmersh near Romsey in Hampshire where he farmed. A few years later he became a farm bailiff at Tisbury in Wiltshire and then at Church Crookham near Fleet in Hampshire. Finally they moved to Alton in Hampshire where Ellen died in 1924 and he died in 1930. Ellen and Thomas had three children — Henry John William Claude (1883-1953), Isabelle Henrietta Margaret (1884-1939) and Lilian Ellen (1887-1969).
• Freeborn was born on Christmas Eve in the year 1854 at Enmore Green in Dorset. He married Emily Antonetta, a daughter of the Reverend John Findon Smith Phabayn who was for 44 years the vicar at Charlton Horethorne. In 1876 Freeborn moved with Antonetta to New Zealand where they lived for the rest of their lives. He died there in 1937. Freeborn Parsons has his own biographical web page giving more details of his life.
• Mary was born in 1857. She never married although a rumour has been published in a privately circulated book, and on the Ancestry web site, that she had had an illegitimate child whose birth was never registered; however the published account, although it is detailed and plausible, is incompatible at several points with the official records. In later life Mary lived alone in London.
• Emily was born in Motcombe on the 10th of December 1858 and moved, with her family, to Pylle about three years later. Her father died when she was 9 years old and her mother re-married three years later. As a young woman Emily lived in Weymouth where she worked as a governess for the family of a wealthy Irishman called John Carmichael. Emily got married when she was 32 years old. The ceremony was on the 10th of February 1891 in North Cadbury and her husband was a farmer called William James Marshall who had been born in Devon but was living in Castle Cary in Somerset at the time. Emily and William moved several times during their married life. At first they lived in Corscombe in West Dorset where he farmed. Two years later they were in West Coker in Somerset. By 1901 they were living in Broughton in Hampshire where William worked as a farm bailiff, and in 1911 they were living in East Cams Cottage in Fareham in Hampshire. In their later years Emily and William lived in Yeovil in Somerset. They had three children — Emily Amelia Florence (1892-1968), Barbara Ellen (1894-1983) and Edgar Anthony (1896-1975).
• William was the only one of John and Sarah’s children to be born while they were living at Pylle. He worked as a farmer and seems never to have married. In the 1881 census he was visiting his sister Ann and her husband Thomas Taylor in Pimperne. In 1891 he was visiting his sister Emily and her husband William Marshall in Corscombe. In 1901 he was living with his mother and stepfather in West Camel, and in 1911 he was visiting his cousin Major Weston Parsons in Charlton Horethorne. After then his whereabouts are not known.
Ancestors of John Parsons
Grandfather — William Parsons, a farmer and inn-keeper who lived most of his life in Holton, near Wincanton, in Somerset.
Grandmother — Mary West, William’s wife, who came from Stowell in Somerset
Grandfather — John Peters
Grandmother — Jane Gatehouse from Kington Magna in Dorset
Great-grandfather — Moses Parsons of Kington Magna in Dorset
Great-grandmother — Martha Turl
Great-gandfather — William West who was born in Stalbridge in Dorset but spent most of his life in Stowell in Somerset
Great-grandmother — Mary Tulk who was also born in Stalbridge
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 © 2018 Mike Parsons. All rights reserved.