Alfred Stokes 1839-1930 Gentleman of the Land

Here’s a real old Chitterne gent sat outside enjoying the sunshine and a quiet smoke on his 90th birthday. I am excited because this is the first local photo I have seen of someone smoking a clay pipe. You may remember my previous blogs on the subject of clay pipes and my collection of bits of them dug up in our garden and I wonder if this pipe was also made of clay from the old Clay Pits in Chitterne.

However, back to the gentleman, he is Alfred Stokes born in Chitterne on the 9th June 1839, pictured here on the 9th June 1929, outside number 31 Chitterne (Pitt’s House), at the home of Frank and Ellen Sheppard. Alfred did not live there, he had left his home in Bidden Lane in 1920 after a lifetime spent in the village, maybe to live with one of his ten children. So perhaps, in 1929, he was visiting Stephen Sheppard, Frank’s father, who was of a similar age to Alfred.

Alfred was the fourth generation of the Stokes family to live and work the land here since his ancestors arrived in Chitterne in the 1700s. His father Samuel had died aged 27 years in 1839, the same year Alfred was born, so it was just him and his mother Mary, nee Furnell, until she married again in 1845 to Daniel Feltham, but not for long because Daniel died in 1847. Mary was an unlucky woman, widowed three times, and Alfred her only living child.

In adulthood Alfred married Maria Wadhams and had a large family. They lived at New Barn field settlement to start with, then 104 Chitterne St Mary, before finally moving to 84 Bidden Lane. Maria died in 1921, just after she and Alfred had left the village. Alfred died in January 1930, six or seven months after these photos were taken, both are buried here in Chitterne St Mary graveyard.

There must have been hundreds, if not thousands of farm workers like Alfred in Chitterne in past centuries, yet we rarely get to see annotated portraits of them. So it’s especially good to see these great photographs of an ordinary working man, not forgetting his clay pipe, an added bonus!

My grateful thanks to TH for another set of treasures from the Feltham hoard, incidentally two of Alfred’s daughters, Alice and Rhoda, married local Felthams.