Each night of card playing that passed by, I heard more about Nana’s ‘Olden Days’, they were so long ago that when her lots of brothers and sisters heard a rare car coming down the road, they all raced to hang over the gate to stare. Whenever she talked of her, ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’, as she called them, she used a serious quiet voice, kind of like she thought they might overhear and pop up at any-time to tell her off.
Her stories about her life on the parents, Bainesse farm, told of ‘Father’ and how he was a ‘cruel’, ‘hard man’ with an ‘awful temper’. But she was sort of proud about ‘Mother’ and how she coped doing all the farm work and looking after the kids.
Nana’s mother and my great grandmother, Ellen Gilbert, had been born into, a well to do family, in England in 1874. Her father, Charles Gilbert, from Coventry in England was a horse dealer and trained horses for the gentry. He also ran a victuallers, a stopping over place for travelers to eat and change horses on long journeys.
Sadly, the day after she turned four years old, Ellen’s father passed away. My cousin, another Ellen, found the following interesting newspaper clippings from the time of Charles Gilbert’s death.
Death Notice in the Tamworth Herald – 19 January 1878
GILBERT – On the 17th inst., at Wigginton, of acute inflammation of the lungs and pleurisy, Charles Gilbert, aged 48 years.
Advertisement in the Tamworth Herald 9 Feb 1878 and also on 2 Feb 1878 and 16 Feb 1878.
Owing to the recent sudden death of that eminent Midland Counties Horse Dealer, Mr. Charles Gilbert, of Wigginton. MR. JOHN B. LYTHALL, of Birmingham, is instructed by the Executors to SELL by AUCTION, at Wigginton, SALE OF HIGH-CLASS HUNTERS AND OTHER HORSES, AT WIGGINTON, CLOSE TO TAMWORTH, London and North Western Railway.
BY MR. JOHN B. LYTHALL. NOTICE.- DAY OF SALE ALTERED TO THURSDAY. FEBRUARY 21st.
ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 1878, (instead of Tuesday, February 19th), Without the slightest Reserve) the entire Stud of about 30 HORSES, comprising : Valuable weight-carrying and other Hunters; Harness Horses, Hacks; grand Cobs, Ponies, &c. ; and the two well known thorough-breds, “Pemmican” and ” Miss Alice.”
The above are a Sound Genuine lot of Horses, selected to suit the requirements of Mr. Gilbert’s connections, which comprised the leading Members of the Nobility and Gentry of the Midland Counties, including most of the M. F. H.
At the same time will be Sold, the COWS. PIGS, RICKS of HAY, CARRIAGES, BREAKS, CARTS, and the Extensive collection of SADDLERY, HARNESS, & HORSE-CLOTHING All nearly new, and of the first quality.
The Horses may be seen on Friday and Saturday, February 15th and 16th only, at Wigginton. 1½ mile from Tamworth Station.
Catalogues, may be obtained from: the Auctioneer, Bingley Hall, Birmingham.
Sale at Eleven o’clock.
Advertisement in the Tamworth Herald 2 Feb 1878 and 9 Feb 1878
WIGGINTON, near Tamworth, – To HORSE DEALERS.
To be LET, the RESIDENCE and BUSINESS PREMISES of the late Mr. Charles Gilbert, of Wigginton, Horse Dealer. The House is new, and very pleasantly situated in its own Grounds, at Wigginton, one mile from Tamworth. It contains a spacious Entrance Hall, four Rooms up stairs, and four Rooms down stairs, with all suitable Out-buildings. The Garden, Lawn, and Grounds are tastefully laid out. There are very extensive Stables, all quite new; they contain Seventeen loose Boxes and five Stalls, besides a good Saddle Room. The Business of a Horse Dealer has been successfully carried on upon the Premises for several years, and the Executors of Mr. Gilbert will require payment for the Goodwill of the trade. The Premises may be Let on Lease for seven or ten years. The above is well worth the attention of a Horse Dealer possessed of some capital. – For particulars, apply to Mrs. Gilbert, of Wigginton; and Mr. John Pearman, of Atherstone, the Executors; or to Mr. John Evans, Solicitor, Tamworth.
Charles Gilbert’s widow Maria Gilbert, died on 6 January 1890, in Stoke Green near Coventry, leaving Ellen Gilbert, sixteen at the time, and her siblings orphaned. She then came out to New Zealand to join other family members here already.
Nana’s Father, Philip George, Tetley-Jones’, also came from a posh family, back home in the ‘old country’, as Nana liked to call England. His family were famous for making, ‘Tetley’s Tea’ for cuppa’s.
He grew up in a large house called, ‘Broadwater’ at Framlingham, in Suffolk and it was Nana’s life-long dream to go to Surrey in England, one day, and see where the family had lived. She thought it was in a very beautiful part of the English countryside.
Philip George, however, had become a problem for his family (no-one knew what he had done to get them mad at him), but they sent him to New Zealand to get him out of their hair. Back then, ‘well to do families’ coped with troublesome, ‘black sheep’, children by shipping them off to the colonies. They were known as, ‘remittance men’, living off of cheques sent to them from their families back in England.
In New Zealand, Philip George Jones,(he had dropped the ‘Tetley’ part), and Ellen Gilbert, after meeting in Palmerston North, were married at the Foxton, Presbyterian Church, in 1895, by the Reverend Duncan, a pioneer Presbyterian missionary in the area.
His mother, my great, great grandmother, Sarah Jane Tetley, paid to set her son up on a farm of his own, on the best land just outside of Palmerston North. However he had a problem with drinking and gambling, often disappearing away on trips into town for weeks on end, staying at a hotel until he ran out of money. There is a family story he once even gambled away his horse and cart to get home with.
Eventually, after he lost two farms the family were reduced to leasing some poor sandy land at Bainesse, owned by Ani Ratima, a member of a local Maori family, in exchange for a peppercorn rental, and free billies of milk. Because Philip George was AWOL so much, the children all had to pitch in helping ‘Mother’ keep up milking the cows morning and night and the other farm chores.
One of Nana’s jobs was taking the cows out grazing, the long acre, (the roadside), early in the morning and late at night. This was illegal, so as she sat in the long grass at the side of the road letting the cows have a chew, she had to keep an eagle eye out for the Inspector. Once when she spotted him she quickly shooed the cows up a friendly drive-way.
After doing their farm chores, the children had a long, hard slog getting to school, walking miles barefooted,in all weathers. Remembering her kid memories all these years later, overcame Nana with sadness, and I could see tears come in her eyes.