Thursday, November 24, 2011

19th Century Scandal at Lower Shaw Farm

Story telling is an integral part of both summer and winter events at Lower Shaw Farm. Whether seated beneath a star lit sky or gathered around the coal burning stove in the former calving sheds, the farm provides an evocative setting for tales of days gone by.

However the 18th century farm, former home of the Tuckey family, could tell a yarn or two of its own, including a love story that ended up in the courts.

Mary Ann, daughter of labourer James Weston, was employed by Mary Tuckey as a farm servant at Lower Shaw Farm in the early 1850s. Her lover, Charles Ody was the youngest of Noah Ody's ten children.

The Ody family was well known in the close knit agricultural community of the two Lydiard parishes. Noah farmed land at Braydon and Hayes Knoll in Purton as well as the 206 acre Flaxlands Farm owned by Lord Bolingbroke of Lydiard Park.

Perhaps Mary Ann had marriage in mind? Several of the wealthy Ody sons married daughters of farm labourers. Mary Ann was a few years older than twenty one year old Charles but was this a tale of Cider with Rosie or Tess of the D'Urbervilles?

In 1855 Mary Ann gave birth to a baby girl, but by then the relationship had obviously ended. She applied to the courts for maintenance for her child and Charles was served with a bastardy order.

Giving evidence, the unmarried Mary Ann told how Charles had made occasional payments of 1s 6d (7p worth about £47 today) since his daughter was fifteen weeks old, often using a go between named Jane Hughes.

Jane also gave evidence and told how she had seen Mr Ody give Mary a sovereign at the Fox and Hounds public house at Coped Hall. "They had been talking about the child and he said he'd pay 1s 6d a week and he said he'd pay that money to the child," said Jane. The court awarded an order for this amount.

Little Elizabeth Weston wasn't the only illegitimate Ody child, but she does seem to be the most unfortunate.

Sarah Ody's daughter Matilda was raised by grandparents Noah and Sarah and Elizabeth Russell had a son William at the time of her marriage to Walter Ody, while John Ody's illegitimate son Robert Saunders received an inheritance in his Uncle Noah's will.

By the time of the 1861 census Charles was farming at Minety where he lived with his wife Emma and their two young sons William and Thomas.

Meanwhile Mary Ann was living with her father and brother at Coped Hall. The census returns reveal that unmarried Mary had two daughters, Elizabeth 5 and one year old Mary Jane.

Lower Shaw Farm offers weekend breaks, events and courses for adults and for families. If you are looking for a relaxing break, a stimulating weekend of new experiences, or wanting to learn a new skill, visit their website for further details.

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