Jacob Smith, the man behind the shop at 17 Townsend, arrived in Chitterne with 16 shillings in his pocket, a basket of carpenter’s tools and an ambition to better himself. This is how he worked his way towards his goal.
He was born in 1837 at Bushton, north Wiltshire, and came to Chitterne sometime before 1860, because that’s when he married assistant school mistress Elizabeth Holloway at her home village of Erlestoke.
In 1861 Jacob and Elizabeth were living in Bidden Lane, Chitterne St Mary, next door to James Polden, a mason and the Parish Clerk. Jacob was working as a carpenter, so he may have been working with James Polden on the new church. We know that Jacob helped install the church clock in the tower. Elizabeth was a new mother to one-month-old baby Herbert at the time of the census.
By the 1871 census Jacob and Elizabeth had moved to Flint House in Chitterne All Saints, and Jacob had taken over the carpenter and wheelwright’s business from the Abery family. This business was later run by the family of Jacob’s daughter Alice’s husband, Frederick Carter, and then by Polden and Feltham. The Smiths established a grocer’s shop at Flint House and Elizabeth was listed as a shopkeeper. The couple had their four children and an apprentice carpenter living with them.
10 years later in 1881 the Smith family have moved up again and are living at number 17 Townsend with seven of their eight children. Jacob, 43, is a wheelwright and grocer, Elizabeth, 44, is a ‘grocer’s wife’ and their second son John, or H J Smith later known as Jack Smith, 17, is a baker. Jack Smith, as we saw in the last blog, went on to own the shop and bakehouse after his parents’ deaths. The two cottages next door, on the site of number 16 Townsend, are listed as uninhabited in 1881. The couple’s eldest son Herbert was apprenticed to a grocer at Maldon in Essex and later emigrated to British Columbia, Canada.
In the 1891 census Jacob is said to be a wheelwright, grocer, baker and farmer, so he has added yet another string to his bow, farming. He may have been leasing Glebe Farm from the church by this time, as we are told he did by the time our photo was taken in 1897, but he was still living at Townsend with Elizabeth in the Grocer’s Shop, though by this time his children were helping out. Two daughters, Jeanette and Margaret, were shop assistants and son Sidney was assistant wheelwright, whereas son Jack had branched out on his own as a carrier and dealer.
Jacob seems to have been able to create businesses at the drop of a hat. He and Elizabeth bred a family of entrepreneurs, to start with anyway. Son Herbert became a grocer in a new land, daughter Alice married a wheelwright and was set up at Flint House, son Jack became a dealer, a carrier and later a farmer, and daughter Margaret married and ran a grocer’s shop in Tilshead. The only children who didn’t follow this trend were the youngest two unmarried sons, Sidney and Arthur, who were left running the shop and bakery business. According to Jacob’s great grandson PD, Sidney fell in with a bad crowd and lost the lot. Is this when Jack Smith stepped in, bought the business and paid off the mortgage? We may never know.