Employment in Kingsclere

The only means of transportation being a horse and cart , Kingsclere was almost a self supporting community. Only the commodities which really could not be produced in and around the village were purchased from outside.

The types of employment in Kingsclere were as follows:-

Agricultural labourers, bakers, beer-retailers, blacksmiths and farriers, boot and shoe makers, bricklayers, butlers, builders, carpenters, carters carriers, coopers, doctors, drapers, dressmakers, farmers, grocers, grooms, hairdressers, horse trainers, innkeepers, ironmonger, land measurer, maltsters, millers, painters, policemen, postmen, sack and twine manufacturer, sawyers, schoolteachers, seeds-men, shepherds, tanners, tailors, thatchers, watercress planters and wood dealers. There were 17 insurance agents including one for railway passengers. Although they also had other occupations as for example Alfred Arnsby who was also a bookseller and stationer.

The large houses gave employment to both men and women. Elm Grove employed seven gardeners as well as a number of girls inside the house. In addition to employing a number of residents in the house or to live in the cottages, indirect employment was given by having local tradesmen call with stores for the house. The local saddler and blacksmith was helped in this way by Park House Stables. The late Mrs Grace Neal said how difficult it would have been for the village to have carried on without the stables. At the end of the 19th century when the late Mr Tom Wellman (Snr) was a blacksmith, he was up at 3 a.m. sometimes having a four mile walk to be at a farm by 6 a.m. to shoe the horses. The working week was from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and until 4 p.m. on Saturday, a 70 hour week for 18/- (90p)

The brewery, rope-works, four mills, two blacksmiths shops and a tannery all gave employment to the village as well as a host of farms. Timber was sawn in Parsonage Yard by hand and later by steam engine in a pit. The skins of hide from cattle were tanned in North Street. Mr Bennet who lived in Union Lane was a skilled man at the rope works, off George Street, he made pig nets, halters and plough reins. One day the authors uncle, Garrie Foster, was talking to him and said “Your plough reins are no good for me, they’re tapered down just where the wear comes along the back on the horse.” “Can make them for you just as you want them”, came the reply and after that he did just that.

A number of people took in washing to help supplement the meagre wages, one laundry employing eople was at 5 North Street. Shops gave employment to dressmakers and assistants. There were two shoe repairers and at one time show or boots could actually be made in the village. Priors shop in Swan Street, sold everything including bread, coal, china, hay to the army at Aldershot and exported hams to France. They sold twopenny cakes shaped like flower pots which were sometimes used as birthday cakes.

Women collected flints in a quarter measure from the Downs and were paid by the cubic yard. In the summer time they were collected from Cannon Heath, Polhampton Lodge and Frost Hill and taken by stem engine to Union Lane where they were stored until required for road repairs. In winter time soil from the banks with plenty of water and flints were mixed together and placed on the roadway then a steam roller went over it to effect a repair. Sand was placed each side of Park House under the instruction of the trainer whilst the roads on the downs were swept daily.

It was a picturesque sight standing on one of the hills where as many as 40 teams of horses could be seen drawing the ploughs and other implements. Even more so at harvest time when the horses were pulling the binders as the golden sheaves fell to the ground.
Those wishing to help at harvest time used to meet at The Pound (at the bottom of Bear Hill), where a man wearing gold earrings was in charge of the party and the practice was to proceed to the harvest fields beside the Winchester Road. In 1900 children were paid 1/- per day and if they did not do as they were told the man in charge would not hesitate to use his whip.

After the binder had cut the corn the labourers placed six of the sheaves together with the tied strings on the inside to allow the rain to run off the straw. The corn was considered to be ready for carting when it had stood in the shocks for three clear Sundays, although the weather had a lot to do with the timing. Alas I (the author) can remember seeing green shoots appearing from the ears of corn in a wet season. After the corn had been carted it was custom for the women to go gleaning the stray ears of corn to take home. The late Mrs Alice Dollery’s family used to glean, tying the ears to make a sheaf. After it was taken home her Mother used to thresh it by banging it on the cement. The oats were for the horse, while the wheat was taken to my Grandfather at Lower Mill, who ground it to flour, which lasted the year through for bread and lardy cakes.

At Newbury Fair, a familiar sight was farmers hiring men for the coming year. The on the lapels of their coats were either pieces of corn or horses hair indicating whether they were cowmen or carters. During the early 1800’s a shepherd received £9 9s. annually, a carter £9, under carter £4 10s., boys £2, maids £5, under maids £4 while casual rates at harvesting were about 1/- per day for men, 6d for women and 4d for a daily women. By 1867 a farm labourer received 6/- a week and £4 extra for harvest. There was no such thing as overtime. By the early 1900’s wages had risen, one man left his employment to work for my grandfather for an extra shilling making it 11/- per week.

Perhaps the farm labourer was lucky in having a brewery on his doorstep because farmers did provide their men with beer, which was taken to the field by wagon and horses. The smaller barrels were hung on the horses collar.

Most farmers made butter. As there were no refrigerators, my Mother used to get up at 6 a.m. during the summer to churn the cream into butter before temperatures became too high. The cream was placed in a bucket and lowered down into the well for a few hours to keep it cool. She used to walk round the village delivering it to her customers.

Mrs Alice Dollery lived at the Star Farm. When her parents killed a pig joint were sold in the village for 3/-. Rabbits were shot and sold for 6d. and 9d. each. Milk could be purchased straight from the farms. As a girl Mrs Eddie Nash used to earn a penny by collecting milk each day from Mr Garrett’s farm in Newbury Road and taking it to Mr Charles Stevens at the School House. I remember up to the early 1940’s Lassie Lawrence cycling round with milk which she sold from the churn.

Wages and prices were both low. My Grandfather bought a truck load of coal which was collected from Burghclere Station by horse and wagon in July of one year for 26/- a ton. Rents were about 1/6 or 2/6 a week. A pound of chocolates were 7d., six aniseed balls a farthing, beer 2d a pint and cider 1d. A whole cheese weighing 12lbs was only 3/-
Local historian, the late Dr Guyon Bull, reported in the Kingsclere News (March 1963) that from 1771 onwards half the people who died in Kingsclere were either farmers or farm labourers. In the 1841 census in the Dell alone there were 34 agricultural Labourers. How this has changed! Much of the farmland has been built upon, Heatheralls, Tower Hill (Cedar Drive), Strokins Meadow, Bushnells Field and the allotments (Longcroft Road), Elm Grove (Thornley, Fawconer and Ash Grove), Yew Treet Farm (Poveys Mead), Field Gate and Old House (The Paddock), Fox Grove Farm (Foxes Lane) and still being built Wellmans Meadow and Hardy’s Field with this loss of agricultural land and with mechanisation less people are required to till the soil.

Our village has changed during the 20th Century perhaps more than any other time. It was fortunate that 40 types of employment were available in and around the village. With four mills closed, the brewery, rope works, tannery, sawmill and the closing of the Kingsclere Hospital and the amalgamation of the KWRDC with the Basingstoke Council meant another 111 people had to work outside the village.

Before the age of the motor car people had to either walk to work or cycle. Now with so many families having access to their own transport or travelling by service bus, working further away from home or even commuting daily to London causes no problems.