Jacob Smith – entrepreneur

Jacob Smith, centre, threshing with some of his sons in 1897, said to be at Glebe Farm. Arthur Smith extreme left, Jack Smith third from left with jacket and cap, Sidney Smith extreme right.

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.


The Poldens of Flint House

As promised, here is more on the Polden family featured in the earlier photo of Flint House. Clement Polden was born in 1857, the eldest son of Abdon Polden the mason and Alma Feltham. He started up Polden & Feltham aged 21 years in 1878 with his cousin Jimmy Feltham. Building up the business must have been Clement’s main aim because he remained unmarried until 1901 when he was 43 or 44 years old. His wife was Lydia Poolman, a woman 11 years his junior and daughter of William Meade Poolman, innkeeper at The White Hart.

Clement and Lydia’s sons, Owen and Alban, carried on the family tradition, working in the business and marrying late, or in Owen’s case, not marrying at all. Owen and Alban lived at Flint House, with their mother after Clement’s death in 1929, until she died in 1939, and then Alban’s wife Olive joined them in 1940. Owen died in 1972.

Wedding of Alban Polden and Olive Burt 1940 L to R: Owen, Alban, Alfred Burt, Olive, Florence Burt, unknown
Wedding of Alban Polden and Olive Burt 1940
L to R: Owen, Alban, Alfred Burt, Olive, Florence Burt, unknown

Alban had married his first cousin Olive Burt in 1940 after his mother’s death. Olive was the daughter of blacksmith Alfred Burt and Clement’s sister, Florence Polden, and, because of Olive’s close family relationship to Alban they never had children. In 1971 Alban and Olive built a bungalow for themselves they named The Walnut Tree in part of Flint House garden facing Back Road. Flint House was sold in 1972. Alban died in 1985. After his death Olive moved to Highworth, Swindon, to be near her niece, and died there at the end of 1997.

The Wedding of Ivy (Polly) Polden and Arthur Williams 1929 Polly's brothers Owen and Alban are 8th and 10th from left in middle row. Her mother Lydia is seated fifth from left.
The Wedding of Ivy (Polly) Polden and Arthur Williams 1929
Polly’s brothers Owen and Alban are 8th and 10th from left in middle row. Her mother Lydia is seated fifth from left.

In September 1929 Clement and Lydia’s daughter, Ivy – known as Polly – married Arthur Williams. Arthur was a butcher from Bournemouth, he and Polly lived there above his butcher shop. They had one son. Polly died in 1986. So no descendants from this particular family remain in Chitterne today although there are villagers amongst us related to the wider Feltham, Polden and Poolman families.