Thomas Jones was Mary Jones’s first son and my great great great grandfather. He must have been a pretty inspiring character. Born into poverty and sent to work as a farm boy at the age of eleven he worked his way up to become the Estate Builder a role which his son Jude also did. That his eldest son Fredrick (my great great grandfather) became a headmaster and later a Reeve to the Earl of Chichester is testament to how hard he must have worked to ensure his children got the best education possible.
The following is an extract written by Federick Jones my GG grandfather of how Tom ended up at Stanmer:
Four years before the downfall of Napoleon at Waterloo my father, Thomas Jones was born at Stonecross Laughton. His grandfather had a small holding of about 5 acres which was owned by him. But the cruel times of early nineteenth century were too much for the little farmer and he like many others went under, eventually falling on the Parish. An old churchwarden and overseer of Hellingly told me that at that time nearly all the labourers and many of the handymen received assistance from the Parish. Seventy-two being outside the Rectory door one Monday morning asking for employment. From the old estate are books, one may realise how severe was the struggle for the poor how great must have been their privations. What a hard and strenuous existence they endured through the paucity and scarcity of money and food.
In the year 1821 a young handsome woman with finely chiselled features and lovely eyes might have been seen wearily plodding her way down Falmer hill after along walk through through the mud and clay of the Laughton and Ringmer roads. She was accompanied by a delicate looking little boy, with refined features, the reflection of his mothers beauty, eleven years old and dressed like a scarecrow! His trousers were a postillions riding breeches cut down to fit him and which he had to wear for several years. His boots heavy and cumbersome were totally unfit for a delicate lad and his weary suppliant look told of his bitter experience in wearily walking to his future home. He had been eyyed out at the sake payees experience and a generous parish had boarded him out to a relentless oppressor.
Soon they were in the midst of the Beeches and Elms of Stanmer Park. The sheep bells were tintabulating on the downs the rooks were cawing mid the lofty tops of the elms — of the rookery. Soon as they approached the old church of the ancient elms that dated back to the times when Pelhams were Kitcheners to the Tudors. Now his travels were ended for a generous parish had got rid of an expensive nuisance by boarding out this fragile lad, not yet in his teens to a farmer who then cultivated the home farm. This compulsory service was little better than white slavery- kicks and cuffs combined with hard fare, long weary hours and work beyond their strength was the universal custom, and this my father soon found was his lot. But notwithstanding the loss of his only friend, a mother whom he had always adored and revered, he had found a haven far from the clownish and cruel life from which he had been banished. Stanmer his future paradise and home for life was in deed a charming abode nestled in a fertile valley in the downs with lovely beeches and elms varied with walnut and oak and fragrant with violets and cowslips.
This fertile vale with its village of ancient flint cottages covered with Horsham stone, flocks of southdown sheep to herds of sleek red Sussex oxen grazing round the mansion of the Pelhams, is one of those restful and picturesque spots that are the charm and the glory of Old England.
My father’s new home was the farmhouse near the church facing an old timbered barn. His master was not more hard and severe than the generality of farmers in early parts of the last century. They did not take boys from neighbouring parishes out of goodness but for gain, hence work was unceasing, exacting and long weary hours and hard fare was the customary rule. Up at five O’clock winter and summer, breakfast of bread and milk, for dinner a hunk of bread, home made cheese washed down with water from the adjoining deep well and at harvest a horn of home brewed ale. On Sundays a dinner of hard pudding and fat pork with an occasional change of Bacon. A meat pudding was a rare meal and a joint only appeared at the harvest home or Christmas time. My father never forgot his farmhouse fare. We always had plenty of pork and bacon, once he bought a fat show pig of 70 stones!!
Boys were employed to tend the sheep or the herds of cattle, and this was my father’s occupation. Once when walking with my father through Tenant Lane he pointed out a Hawthorne tree in the open park and said that the old tree reminded him of a severe thrashing he had when about fourteen from his master. On finding him a few yards from his flock, his master thrashed with a hunting whip till he ran under the Hawthorne for protection. His master followed with the intention of continuing his cruelty, but he found his match. The poor herd boy turned again with his crook hitting the horse on the head so rapidly that he caused his master to retreat in a huff.