J is for Jane Hicks

Jane Hicks Diary

In the mid 1800s Jane Hicks lived with her husband, Richard, and their children at nearby Hicks Farm. They set up a small dairy farm and sold their butter and eggs in local towns. 

After the birth of their first son, Richard Dale, in 1843, twenty-nine year old Jane began to keep a diary of everyday events. Her notes paint a picture of what life was like in this rural community before Bournemouth existed.

Jane Hicks (née Brown) in later life.

She died in 1896, aged 82, at the home of her son Walter in Yarrawanga, Victoria, Australia.

Hicks Farm Cottage.

Hicks Farm Cottage where the family lived.

1759 map showing Muccleshell

Where Jane grew up, and Hicks Farm where she lived with husband Richard Hicks and their family.

The Journal of Mrs Jane Hicks of Muccleshell, Holdenhurst Parish Of Christchurch, County of Southamptonshire

Diary Entry 1 - March 1843 - October 1844

 

Jane Brown was born in 1814 in Moredown (Moordown), which is now within the northern part of Bournemouth.

She grew up in the neighbouring hamlet of Muccleshell on the south bank of the River Stour.

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1759 map locating Muccleshell , Moredown and Holdenhurst 

 

Muccleshell no longer exists as a village, having been swallowed up by Bournemouth by the 1930s. The village that Jane knew in the 1840s was home to around 120 people. Today it is part of the Conservation Area in Throop.

 

 

Diary Entry 2 - 31st May, 1842

Richard Hicks, was a yeoman farmer. He was the son of farmer Charles Hicks (1778-1857) and Jane Dale (1779-1850) who lived at Kings Farm, near Throop Mill. He was Jane Brown's next-door neighbour. Jane and Richard married on the 31st May, 1842 in Holdenhurst church. They moved into nearby Hicks Farm, also owned by the Hicks family. Here the couple set up a dairy farm with a few cows, sheep and chickens.

 

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Hicks farm cottage was built in 1727 and demolished in 1959.

A red brick farmhouse stands on the site today. 

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 Holdenhurst Church

St John the Evangelist Church at Holdenhurst was built in the 1830s to replace an older Saxon Church where Jane's relatives were church wardens. This became the mother church for the new resort town of Bourne.

Diary Entry 3 - 1843

Jane began writing her diary in 1843, a month after baby Dale, their first child, was born.

She used limited punctuation, refers to her husband, Richard, as 'R' and often uses an occasional French term. The extracts below are transcribed as originally written.

 

1843

March 26            

We went to Xchurch. Mrs. S. nursed the Baby at Jenkins while I went to Church. R et myself returned without her, had some trouble to dress the Baby, was very low on account of Mrs. Sansoms leaving.

Xchurch (Christchurch) is about 5 miles away. Mrs. S. would be Mrs. Sansom, the nurse. Her departure appears to leave the inexperienced Jane struggling with her first baby.

 

Diary Entry 4 - 1843

 

April 8

Mary did not please me but I allowed her to go see her Grandma on condition she should return next night.

 

April 9

Missed Flannel petticoat had reason to believe Mary had it on she did not return.

 

April 10

About tea time Mary returned with an excuse the Grandma was so ill.

 

April 11

We were invited to Mrs. Cooper's but did not go on account of Mary's being all day making butter and taking some tea.

 

April 13

Mary left me. Harriet came.

 

Mary was a live-in servant, possibly a replacement for Mrs. Sansom, but she did not appear to settle into her role at all well.

The fact that the family had servants suggests that they regarded themselves as a 'cut-above' the average farming family and must have been relatively wealthy.

 

Harriet may be Jane's sister-in-law, Harriet Hicks, who was living with the Jenkins in Christchurch.

Diary Entry 5 - 1843

 

April 24

Marshall came to live with me.

 

This may be Sarah Marshall, an 18 year old girl who lived at Muccleshell Cottage with her parents. She is referred to often in the diary and appears to be the new servant.

 

April 27

Harriet left. She carried the Baby to Iford for me. We met Richard and rode home. Ann Bacon came to live here.

 

With Sarah Marshall living in, Harriet Hicks could return home.

Ann Bacon was a 13 year old girl who lived with her parents at Throop Dairy, under a mile away. She was probably providing temporary help.

 

May 31

Harriet came again R went to Exchurch brought Ann et Ann Rogers. They were all here to tea.

Exchurch and Xch are Jane's abbreviations for Christchurch.

Today was Jane and Richard’s first wedding anniversary. Taking tea is one of Jane's most noted activities. Tea was still a fairly new drink and was often amongst the local smugglers' booty.

 

Diary Entry 6 - 1843

June 2

Went to Wimborne. R was very cross because it was late.

Wimborne is about 7 miles away and had a livestock market, which would have been visited regularly by farmers, such as the Hicks family.

 

June 3

Jenkins came to stay with me, we walked to Parley to tea. R was cross as possible the Water was high F and I stayed there.

Staying overnight when visiting people in a different village was a common practice as it was difficult and dangerous to travel in the dark, especially when the river was in flood.

 

June 11

Richard, myself, Ann Rogers walked to Mrs. Burges's. I went to Church. Mrs. B. nursed. R shewd off his airs again coming out of Church.

Ann Rogers was the new nursemaid and Mrs Burgess may have been a professional wet-nurse for baby Dale.

Jane appears to consider Richard something of a social climber. Other diary entries refer to him owning a 'gig', a lightweight carriage, which suggests that as a yeoman farmer he was relatively wealthy.

 

June 14

R et moi had a rough because I was not willing for A. Rogers to take the Baby out in the rain. Ann went to Xchurch with him. I went after Mrs. Cooper to come to tea with me. Ann Hicks called for Rogers to go for walk for R returned to tea.

The recently married couple had frequent arguments, which Jane recorded in her diary.

 

Diary Entry 7 - 1843

 

July 15

Marshall was here to work. We went to Bourne quite late.

The first mention of Bourne, which was at this time just beginning to develop as the new seaside resort of Bournemouth. The new villas got their grocery supplies from local traders, including milk, butter and eggs from the Hicks' dairy.

 

August 12

Went to Ringwood to sign the conveyance of Bourne Houses ....

It is unclear what this refers to, but her grandfather had some years earlier left £300 to Jane and her brother, which may have been invested in property in the expanding, up-market resort.

 

September 11

They [?] have been to Turf cart; sold 5 couple of Fowls this Morning. Went to Xchurch in Evening. Bought 4 Pr Stockings.

As well as selling milk, butter and eggs, Jane and Richard make money by selling chickens and ducks for meat. 

 

Turf carts were common traffic on the heath. Cutting turf for fuel was an ancient commoners' right, known as 'turbary'.

Diary Entry 8 - 1843

 

September 12

Baked bread; et pies for the Men's dinner. Mrs Martin was here Washing they finished their pudding for supper.

This is likely to be harvest time and Jane is feeding the gangs of men working in the fields, while a neighbour is helping with the laundry.

 

September 14

Mrs. Martin came to washing iron. R went to Wimbourne fair. We were brewing.

The Wimborne Minster fair took place twice annually until 1876. The main events involved the buying and selling of horses, cattle and cheese.

 

September 22

We drove A James home, brought back Jane went to Hicks's Harvest sup returned early; Richard stayed late. did not enjoy it.

Harvest suppers were held to celebrate the completion of harvest. This one was hosted by Richard's parents.

 

September 25

I drove Mr James to Wimbourne returned to tea Jane James took care of the Baby and got dinner for me. The Threshing Machine was here.

Threshing Machines marked a turning point in the mechanisation of agriculture. However, a decade earlier in the 1830s, their introduction sparked riots with farm labourers smashing and burning the new machinery which was taking away their jobs and livelihoods. 

 

October 30

 Joe drove me to Peter Warne's I spent a very uncomfortable [?] but Mr et Miss Warn returned to tea when it was altogether so pleasant.

The surname Warne, well-known in the Christchurch area, was associated a generation earlier with a notorious smuggling family. Jane was related to the Warnes through her father's marriage to Mary Hatchard.

 

Diary Entry 9 - 1844

 

January 1

We went to Lord Malmesbury's Ball S Marshall stayed with Eliza and the Baby.

Lord Malmesbury was an important local landowner. The Hicks were his tenant farmers and paid rents each quarter year. The New Year's Day Ball would have been held at Heron Court, just across the River Stour.

 

April 3

Baby was born. I was rather Poorly an hour or two before I called any body sent for Mrs. Harvey. Mrs Carter came some time after Baby was born Mr Westcott might as well have stayed at home thought the Baby would have died but a little Dolbys soon put him to rights so far.

Their second baby, Walter Charles, is born at home with Jane's married friends acting as midwives due to the doctor arriving late. The 'Dolbys' given to revive the ailing newborn may have been gin, often used as a working class remedy for illness. Jane refers to Mrs Harvey in other diary entries as someone to whom she turns when in need of a drop of gin!

 

April 28

Nurse took Baby to see Mrs Carter. Richd drove me down to Church to return thanks after dinner. We went for a ride to Iford took the Babys with us.

Jane's first outing after the birth is to church to 'return thanks' for a successful birth. Deaths in child birth, for both mother and child, were commonplace in those days.

 

Diary Entry 10 - 1844

 

May 1

We had Castlemans clerk and Old Airs here I walked with him into the Field to Richd who took the Pony and went to Bourne to see Castleman. Airs dined here.

The Castlemans were an influential Wimborne family involved in the funding and construction of a new Southampton - Dorchester railway line. It was knicknamed Castleman's Corkscrew because it wound through the New Forest linking the smaller market towns. It enabled the local farmers to sell fresh produce to London.  Later diary entries suggest that Richard became involved as a 'machine and drillman' in the track laying phase at Sway.

 

May 25

Richd went to Wimbourne and Poole in search of money but returned without money. Mr Westcotts Man came for his Bill I agreed with E Edwards.

The money was probably to pay Dr Westcott's medical bill for attending Jane's birth. Jane takes on another new servant, Eliza Edwards.

 

August 3

It was a very rough Day I Borrowed J Eckton's Donkey et Cart took the Girls et Children to Xchurch to get me a Frock made. R. came home to supper.

Jane appears to be taking on childminding. Donkey carts were popular forms of transport of women - Jane Austen used one to do her shopping in Alton.

Diary Entry 11 - 1844

END NOTE

  • The Hicks family did not remain in the Bournemouth area. The 1840s were difficult years for farmers with bad weather leading to poor harvests.
  • Between 1845 and 1852 they lived in various locations on the coast, in the New Forest and near Salisbury, possibly moving around in relation to Richard's work on the railway construction.
  • They had five more children, although one daughter died in her infancy.
  • In 1852 they emigrated to Australia, taking four of their children with them. Nine year old Dale stayed with his paternal grandfather to work on the family farm.
  • They had a further two children while living in Australia and by 1878 had settled in Yarrawonga, Victoria, near the Murray River where they purchased land to grow wheat.
  • Richard died in Yarrawonga from a stroke in 1890, aged 79.
  • Jane died in 1896, aged 82, at her son Walter's house, also in Yarrawonga.

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  • Dale Hicks, first son of Jane and Richard, was running his own grocery business in Poole by 1871. He married local girl, Kate Osment, and later moved to run a grocery business in Kent.
  • He died in 1906, aged 63.

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