Sarah Partridge’s origins were very different from those of her husband Richard Chester. Her father was a blacksmith, which implied a considerable amount of mobility. Sarah’s father, Samuel Partridge was born in Pulverbatch and baptised in St. Edith’s Parish Church on 19 February 1764[i]. His parents, John and Mary Partridge had at least two other children, Edward and Isabella.
The map in Figure 18 shows the area of Shropshire where Samuel Partridge spent his life. He had left home and was a twenty-year-old journeyman blacksmith when he married twenty-four-year-old Mary Crow in Pontesbury. The evidence for his trade is from Samuel’s later life. However, the frequent moves in his twenties and thirties are consistent with the life of a blacksmith – as was his relatively early marriage. Marriage generally had to wait until the means to support a family had been saved up - or until a pregnancy forced the issue. Craftsmen generally had the means to marry earlier than agricultural labourers and Mary was not apparently pregnant when they married. Mary’s origins are not clear. A Mary Crow was baptised[ii] in Onibury on 29 August 1756, the (illegitimate) daughter of Ann Crow. She would have been eight years older than Samuel, rather than the four years implied by the ages on their gravestone, but people often concealed such age differences. Onibury is also eighteen miles from Pontesbury – a fair distance. Possibly two people working away from home met and married. Whoever she was, she moved with her husband, and their first two children Richard and Samuel were born in Atcham, about nine miles from Pontesbury and close to Shrewsbury. In about 1790 the family moved again to Lydbury North where Mary, John and Edward were born. The next and final move for the family was to the hamlet of Kempton in Clunbury Parish. The next two children were christened in the parish church at Clunbury, Sarah on 26 October 1800 and a second Samuel (presumably the older child born in 1788 died) in 1805.
The children grew up in Kempton where their father was settled as a master blacksmith. It seems likely that Samuel worked for the Walcot estate. Since at least 1462[iii] the estate had been the home of the Walcots, one of the most ancient families in south-west Shropshire. They had been associated with the election of Members of Parliament for the borough of Bishops Castle for many years, and since 1695 the elections had been contested, with the outcome determined by bribery. John Walcot inherited the estate in 1726 and developed the estate in line with his interest in gardening. He fell into debt through the accumulation of electioneering expenses and left the management of the estate to his son Charles. Charles aged twenty-three was influenced by his uncle Sir Francis Dashwood, notoriously a member of the so-called Hell Fire Club. In popular imagination this was an organisation devoted to satanic rituals and debauchery. There is little hard evidence for this and Dashwood held a number of government posts including that of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Whatever the truth John Walcot was persuaded to sell the estate to Robert Clive, ‘Clive of India’ in 1763. He had gained fame and a very considerable fortune as a soldier in India. He set out to build a political career using his fortune and position. He was elected MP for Shrewsbury in 1761 and subsequently set out to increase his political influence by acquiring estates that gave him control of parliamentary seats. The purchase of Walcot for £92,000 gave Clive influence over the voters of Bishops Castle, securing the seat for his cousin George Clive in 1763. Robert Clive committed suicide in 1774 and his son Edward occupied Walcot for the next sixty-five years, while members of the Clive family held on to the Bishops Castle parliamentary seats until the Reform Act of 1832 removed the franchise. Edward married the sister and heiress of Lord Powys who died unmarried. Clive inherited the Herbert estate including Powys Castle, through his wife and he became Earl of Powis and Viscount Clive. The Dictionary of National Biography gives this account:
Samuel Partridge’s move to Kempton in about 1800 coincided with a major phase in the development and beautification of Walcot Park that Edward carried out. The house itself had been substantially improved by Robert Clive who employed the architect William Chambers to embellish it internally and build a substantial and elegant stable block. Edward employed the landscape designer William Emes from 1774. Major architectural work started in the early nineteenth century with the creation of an Indian Temple known as The Hermitage, and continued for the next twenty-five years. Amongst the improvements was a hothouse modelled on those at Kew and described as ‘the most spacious and costly I ever beheld’. There was also a 25-acre arboretum and a lake in front of the house created from existing fishponds. These improvements would have kept a number of craftsmen permanently employed, and it seems likely that Samuel Partridge was one of these. In 1841 the census for Samuel’s household[iv] shows himself and three other blacksmiths - his son, grandson and another journeyman. This seems to be a significantly greater number than the normal activities of the area would justify. If we consider the numbers of blacksmiths across the 28 parishes examined in Chapter 8 there were only 19 blacksmiths in Bagshaw’s Directory for 1851. Significantly, there was none in Kempton, so it might be assumed that the business broke up when Samuel died in 1841. Edward Clive had already died in 1839, and so the estate no longer needed the long established blacksmiths business. The 1851 census shows Richard, Samuel’s eldest son still in Kempton, aged 65 and still giving his occupation as ‘blacksmith’[v]. Presumably he was no longer working in such a way as to interest Bagshaw’s for an entry in their directory. Samuel’s grandson Samuel Chester was working as a blacksmith in Stokesay[vi], also without getting a mention in Bagshaw’s directory.
Samuel’s eldest son, Richard, baptised in 1786, moved back to Atcham where he was born. There were presumably contacts from the family’s time there that encouraged this move. Richard married Mary Pearce in Atcham on 24 December 1812 when he was 26 and she was a couple of years younger. Mary was a Lydbury girl and she and Richard would have known each other when they were children. Richard worked as a maltster during the twelve or so years when their seven children were born. Between 1819 and 1822 they had a farm at Berwick. Both malting and farming would have required a little capital and this presumably came from Richard’s father Samuel.
Richard and Mary’s eldest son, also Richard (II), was a saddler. By 1841, he was the only Partridge left in Atcham. The girls might have married there, but the rest of the family had moved. By 1881, only Mary Ann was still traceable in Shropshire as an unmarried domestic servant, aged 58 in Shrewsbury. In 1841 Richard (II) was lodging at the inn[vii]. In 1851, he was still in Atcham[viii] aged 36 and unmarried, working for William Peach, a saddler and maltster who employed two other men besides Richard. Perhaps Peach had acquired Richard’s (I) malting business.
Richard (I) and Mary had moved to Kempton sometime after 1825 when their last child Beatrice was born and died in infancy. They went to live and work with his father Samuel in the blacksmith business. Samuel’s wife Mary had died in 1824 when she was 64. It may have been her death that brought Richard back to Kempton from Atcham. The return of Richard created an establishment of three generations; old Samuel, his son Richard and his grandson Samuel Chesteriv, along with another journeyman blacksmith William Lawley.
There is still a smithy in Kempton (Figure 20) and it is tempting to imagine the scene in 1841 with two young men and the older Richard working at tasks for the estate and shoeing horses while the old man supervised operations. Mr Mold was still working there in 1998, more or less retired. Molds had been blacksmiths in the area since the middle of the nineteenth century. He believed that the smithy had been used for Walcot estate work, and that there was another smithy elsewhere on the estate. There were still tools there that probably dated back to the time that the Partridges had worked the smithy.
Sarah Partridge, the youngest daughter of Samuel and Mary married 23 year old Richard Chester on 4 August 1820 in the parish church at Clunbury (front cover). Richard was a farm labourer, and was presumably working on one of the local farms. He came from Newcastle beyond Clun. There may have been some connection through their mothers - Richard’s mother Elizabeth Bytheway and Sarah’s mother Mary Crow both came from Onibury. By 1841, Sarah and Richard had moved back to Newcastle, but their eldest son Samuel Chester was working as a journeyman blacksmith in the Kempton establishment of his grandfather Samuel Partridge.
The connection of the Partridges and Chesters with Kempton ended in August 1855 when Richard’s (I) wife Mary died. Richard had died three months before. Their gravestone in Clunbury churchyard (left) reads "Richard Partridge and Mary his wife of Kempton. He died 24 May 1855 aged 68. She died 12 August 1855 aged 67. All are of the dust and all return to dust again ECCLES III 20"
[i] Pulverbatch, Shropshire. Transcript of the Registers of St. Edith's Parish Church by R. C. Couzens, 1959. Society of Genealogists, SH/R 71. CMB 1542 - 1812.
[iii] ‘Clive, Walcot & Bishops Castle’ by David Preshous published in ‘The Gale of Life’ 2000, pages 173-185
[iv] 1841: Census (HO107/919/19) - Living in Kempton, near Clunbury, Shropshire. (all born in Shropshire)
Samuel Partridge age 70 [=70-75], blacksmith;
Richard Partridge, age 50 [=50-55], blacksmith;
Mary Partridge, age 50 [=50-55];
William Lawley, age 25 [=25-30], occupation J [= Journeyman];
Samuel Chester, age 20 [=20-25], occupation as above, journeyman;
Mary Meredith, no age given, F[emale] S[ervant].
[v] 1851: Census - (HO107/1983 ff. 40). Reg. Dist: 353 Clun Union, Sub Dist: 1 Clun, ED 2a. Parish: Clunbury, Village: Kempton, Schedule: 52.
head Richard Partridge, married aged 65, blacksmith, born Salop, Atcham;
wife Mary, aged 60, born Salop, Lydbury;
servant Mary Barret, unmarried aged 12, house servant, born Salop, B[ishops] Castle;
[vi] 1851: Census (HO107/1982 folio 644) Living at Wettleton, Stokesay, near the vicarage,
head Samuel Chester, married age 29 blacksmith born Clunbury, Shropshire; with ....
wife Emma age 23 born Stokesay;
son John age 1 born Stokesay;
[vii] 1841: Census - (HO107/904/1 ff. 6 p 4) Village: Atcham (part of), Shropshire.
Elizabeth Fainall[?Tainall?], aged 4?, Innkeeper, born Shropshire;
Mary -do-, aged 22, born Shropshire;
Elizabeth -do-, aged 20, born Shropshire;
Jane -do-, aged 15, born Shropshire;
John -do-, aged 9, born Shropshire;
Mary Corbett, aged 20. F[emale]. S[ervant]., born Shropshire;
Richard Partridge, aged 25[-30], saddler, born Shropshire;
[viii] 1851: Census - (HO107/1991 ff. 367 - from the Surname Index by Shropshire Family History Society). Village: Atcham, Shropshire, Schedule: 9.
William Peach, head, married, aged 27, saddler & maltster employing 3 men, born Salop, Atcham;
Jane Peach, wife, aged 29, born Salop, Bewsley;
Benjamin Peach, brother, aged 14, born Salop, Atcham;
Richard Partridge, servant, unmarried aged 36, saddler, born Salop, Atcham;
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