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Old west Surrey; some notes and memories online

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name for the mountain-ash, ' twig-bean.' An old English
name for this tree, which grows commonly in the neigh-
bourhood, is ' quick-beam ' or ' quicken-beam.' Possibly the
transition from beam to bean has come about from the
three-year-old suckers being much sought after as bean-
poles. Bean-poles remind one of pea-sticks, locally called
' pea-rises,' but generally pronounced ' pea-rices.'

Junipers, which are wild about the hills, are always
' jinnipers.'

In the case of a name that presents no particular mean-
ing there seems to be a tendency to convert it into some-
thing with a sense to it, as in the ' twig-bean.'






OLD WEST SURREY

A countryman brought me some stewing pears. I asked
what he called them.

' Cattle-axe,' he answered.

I thought a moment and then said : ' Oh yes, Catillac,
giving the name somewhat the French pronunciation, but, as
I thought, suitably anglicised.

' No,' he said ; ' Cattle-axe.'

It was so evident that he would not be satisfied without
the name suggesting some kind of meaning, that to humour
him I said : ' Ah, I suppose they're called Cattle-axe because
they're so big and heavy that if a bullock was grazing in an
orchard and one came down on his head it would hit him a
whack almost like a pole-axe.'

He at once brightened up and said, ' Yes, that's just it.'

' Dew's Ann ' (Deux Ans), I have had in a bill for apples.

' Winter-pickets ' was an old name for sloes, the fruit of
the blackthorn.

Yeast with the older people is still called ' barm,' and
faggots are ' bavins,' pronounced ' bahv'n.' A thorn is a
' bush.' They say of a dog limping on three legs, ' He's got
a bush in his foot.'

The ' a ' is always broad, sometimes very much lengthened
or drawn out. Driving along one summer day I came upon
the scene of an accident. The tail-board of a farm cart had
come out and had let down a tub with a loose cover. The
road was covered with a beery-smelling foaming pool.

' What's that ? ' I asked ; ' beer ? '

One word alone the carter answered, but he made the
most of it

' BAA-A-A-A-A-RM.'

Twenty was always ' a score ' to the old folks ; a hen-
coop w r as 'a rip ' ; five shillings was ' a crown.' Why we



OLD COUNTRY FOLK



have dropped the word ' crown ' and yet kept the ' half-
crown ' it would be difficult to say.

' I be'ant no scholard ' means ' I cannot read or write.'
Accounts were kept by notches on hazel sticks. The old
people never say 'deaf,' always 'hard of hearing.' Forty
years ago, when a mischievous boy pulled
down or destroyed a bird's nest, he called it
' mucking the nest.' The old woodman spoke
of trees that had been drawn up tall and
spindly in a thick wood as " drah'd up
liinmer/

Feeling unwell was expressed in different
ways : ' I'm feeling sadly,' or ' very middling,'
or ' not up to much.' Being faint or weak
for want of food was expressed as ' I feel a
bit leary ' or ' lear.' Very near the German
lehr.

To shut (locally shet) in the sense of
joining or fitting together is still used. The
blacksmith ' shets ' the tire of the wheel ; the
horse is ' shet ' into the cart. He is also
' shet ' out. A woman's work carelessly and
inefficiently done is ' slummacking ' : ' She does
her work in a siummacking sort of way.'

To give an ordinary greeting is to pass
the time of day ' or ' give the time of day.'
One neighbour who had squabbled with and been cut by
another said : ' She passed me by and never so much as
give me the time of day.'

Fern it is a county of bracken was always ' farn/
The word so pronounced has passed into place-names, as
Farnham and Farncombe, and appears also in personal
names.

2 F



A BILL ON A
HAZEL STICK



226 OLD WEST SURREY

' Store ' is used as a verb in the sense of ' to value,' or, as
in old days, ' to set store by.' An old friend, pointing to a
little pink-banded basin on her dresser shelf, said, ' That
basin was my mother's : I stores that, same as I does
everything as was her'n.'

Sure-ly, as an exclamation of surprise, has a strong
accent on the second syllable.

The word ' corn ' is turned into two distinct syllables,
thus, ' coh-wern.'

' Milk ' is also made a dissyllable ' may-ulk ; ' this is almost
identical with the Swedish mjdlk.

' Fast,' in the sense of steady, firm, steadfast, is retained
in the old carter's cry in the hay-field, ' Stand fast,' when
he is about to move the horses on. It is a warning to the
men on the top of the load.

To gobble is to ' gollop.' ' Don't gollop your food ' was
said to a child who was eating too fast.

The convenient ' any when,' a useful companion to ' any-
where and anyhow,' is still in common use among the older
people. I have even heard of ' anywhen-abouts.' ' Soine-
when ' and ' oft-times ' are also in use.

' Do I dare do so ' meant 'may I do it,' or ' have I leave
to do it ' as, ' Please, mother, do I dare go to bed ? '

Among the local names of ordinary tools, a pick is
always ' peck ' ; a deep, narrow-bladed spade, used in
cutting trenches in stiff soil for laying drain-pipes, is a
' graft ' ; a digging fork is an ' eevle ' I have never seen
the word written, but this is how it sounds.

A stump of a tree that has been cut down is a
' stam.' ' Ship ' is the plural of sheep.

A middle-aged or old man of the labouring class is



OLD COUNTRY FOLK 227

always spoken of as Master So-and-so. The older people
habitually spoke of any squire's wife with the prefix
' Lady ' instead of ' Mrs.' It was no confusion of mind
about social distinctions, but the custom of the country.

The clock was generally spoken of as ' she ' : ' she's
a bit slow.'

To give a hint or make a suggestion was thus
worded. The clergyman was one day surprised and slightly
alarmed by a worthy old soul stopping in front of him
with a beaming face and pulling up her outer petticoat to
reveal a warm red one underneath the gift of his wife.
' Thank you, sir,' for ' putting it into your lady to give
me this beautiful petticoat.'

A word is sometimes used in a sense whose intention
it is difficult to make out, as in this authentic instance.

' So you're goin' to buy a pony off Master D., be you.
Well, you'd better take care how you deals with he ; he's
a very religious man ! '

Sometimes, after a solemn pause, a rejoinder or a
supplementary remark is made with an air of profound
wisdom, and as if to throw quite a new light on the
subject.

Two labourers stood at the edge of a field, some ten
feet above a hollow lane, where I was driving, and passing
a farm cart, with barely an inch to spare. The cart had
stopped and had one wheel already a little way up the
steep bank.

' Lane's ter narrer.'

' Yus ' (long pause, and then this profound remark) ;
' it ain't wide enough.'

One day I missed a garden labourer and said to the
one who worked with him, ' Where's Jim ? '



228 OLD WEST SURREY

'Jim, he ain't coine this mornin' ; he ain't up to much.
He's got a colic ' (long and earnest pause) ' in his
inside.'

The villagers like to make out what their church bells
say, and to poke fun at each other on the subject.

Dunsfold has three bells. They bang out a challenge
to the neighbouring villages : ' WHO BEATS WE ? ' Hascombe,
next door to the east, has only two, but found she could
answer quite to her own satisfaction : ' WE DO.' Both say
that Hambledon, who has only one, dolefully bewails her-
self: 'A-OH.'

Truculent Dunsfold says of Chiddingfold, which has six
bells, that they say ' POOR CHIDD'N FOLD, HUN GRY'AN COLD.'
But this is pure envy, for Chiddingfold is a fine large
place, quite as well-to-do as any of them.

There are old customs about tolling for a death that
are still followed, such as tolling three times three for a
man, three times two for a woman, and the small bell for
a child ; but the details of the custom appear to vary
from place to place.

Dunsfold has a favourite saying : ' We won't be druv,'
signifying, ' We may be kindly led, but will not be driven.'

A saying, frequent in the district, in praise of a man
who is wide-awake or more than ordinarily intelligent is :
4 He's got his head screwed on the right way.'



CHAPTER XII

OLD COUNTRY FOLK ; SOME OF THEIR WAYS

SOME kind of belief in witchcraft certainly existed among
labouring people, at any rate, up to the middle of the nine-
teenth century. I can well remember how often we used
to hear about it when I was a child.

I have tried to gather some details from two or three
of my oldest cottage friends, but, either they have nothing
to tell me, or they are shy of acknowledging that it was
once a belief among them. Only one of them can re-
member anything at all definite. This was about a witch-
woman who gave a girl baby some cakes, the supposed
consequence of which Avas that the child wasted away, its
limbs shrinking almost to nothing. The mother said its arms
felt like little sticks when it was in bed with her at night.

The continuation of the narrative was so vague and
inconsequent that I could make nothing more of it except
that the bright idea struck some one that the witch should
be paid for the cakes, which would break the spell. Two-
pence was accordingly sent, sealed down; the sealing was
considered of great importance.

A quarter of a pound of new pins was boiled with
certain ceremonies and incantations, but I could not ascer-
tain how the thing worked ; pins were also stuck in door-
ways. Pins seemed always to figure in these practices, both
in the cause of aggressive enmity and in that of defence.



230 OLD WEST SURREY

An old custom that I remember in my young days,
as a strong expression of public opinion, was the perform-
ance of ' Rough music.'

If a man was known to beat his wife, he was first
warned. The warning was a quiet one enough not a
word was spoken ; but some one went at night with a
bag of chaff, and laid a train of it from the roadway up
to the cottage door. It meant, ' We know that thrashing
is going on here.' If the man took the hint and treated
his wife better, nothing more happened. But if the ill-
treatment went on, a number of men and boys came some
other night with kettles and pans and fire-irons, and any-
thing they could lay their hands on to make a noise with,
and gave him ' Rough music.' The din was something
dreadful, but the effect was said to be salutary. My home
was half a mile from the village, but every now and then
on summer nights we used to hear the discordant strains
of this orchestra of public protest and indignation.

The daily life of the cottager varied so little in one
cottage or another, or in one village or the next, that
the usual restriction of ideas and interests was only to
be expected ; but every now and then it was a pleasure
to find some cottage housewife with a distinct taste for
some occupation, or a general aptitude for wider interests.
Sometimes it was patchwork, or beautiful plain needle-
work ; a thing that by long practice became almost an
extra sense. The skill often remained, even when sight
was much impaired ; and I am told by some one, whose
word I absolutely trust, of an old woman who lived on the
outskirts of Godalming who could still stitch shirt-fronts
when totally blind.

My old friend, ninety years of age, whose portrait



OLD COUNTRY FOLK 231

comes presently, though her memory is failing, was a
woman of excellent general ability. It was she who
described to me the making of rushlights and tinder.
When asking her something about women's work on the
farms in harvest-time she told me how she ' used to turn
the fan, winnowing.' She could not describe the imple-
ment quite clearly, but said, ' I'll make you a pattern.'
The next time I went to see her she had made this little
model with some split sticks, pins, tin-tacks, and string.
The hand winnowing-fan stood on the barn floor. In




MODEL OF



front of it was a sieve, partly supported by an upright
stick, worked by a man, while another shovelled the
grain into the sieve.

As the man riddled the corn through the sieve, the
chaff was blown aside by the wind made by the revolving
flaps of stout sacking nailed to the axle of the machine.

' I should like to show you the book I wrote,' she said
one day.

' What ! you wrote a book I ' I said.

She got up she was sitting on the foot of her bed




THE COTTAGE PORCH



[ 232 ]



OLD COUNTRY FOLK 233

and opened a drawer of her chest of drawers. After a
little searching she produced an old penny account-book.

' It's the story of my life,' she said ; ' I did mean to
fill the book, but I never got no further.'

It was all written in capital letters with a dot care-
fully put between each word. For all its odd childishness




THE WRITER OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY

there was something about it that seemed to give so
pleasant an idea of the simple happiness and contentment
of rural life in the early nineteenth century, that I copied
it out just as it was, and photographed two pages.

WHEN I WAS A LITTEL GIRL
THE TROUTH TO YOU I TELL
I LIVED WITH MY DEAR
FRENS A TOME THEY
REAP A LITTEL COW AND
I CANNOT - TELL YOU
HOW I IN JOYED A RON
TO FICH HER HOME

2 G



234 OLD WEST SURREY

YES I LIVED WITH MY
DEAR FRENS SO KIND
THEN THE COW WENT
OUT TO GRASS AND
THE TIME SO MERRELY
PAST WHEN I WENT
IN THE COMMON
HER TO FIND



MY FATHER WHENT A WAY
TO HES LABOUR ALL THE DAY
WHILE MY MOTHER ALL HER
WORK DID DO A TOME AND
THE PUDING WAS SO NIES
THAT WAS MEAD WITH
MILK AND RICE DOUNT YOU
THINK THAT I HAD A GOOD HOME



IT WAS THEN A GOOD LIVING
THEY DID GET AND IT WAS
BY THE SEET OF THER
BROW MY KIND FRINES
I NEVER CAN FORGET
AND IT WAS WHEN THY
KEEP THAT L1TTEL COW



IT WAS THEN I LIVED HAPPY
AND FREE THEN THE
BUTTER WAS SENT TO
SHOP AND SOME OTHER
GOODS WE GOT THE TIME
AGINE I NEVER MORE
SHELL ' SEE



THEN SOME PIGS THEY DID
KEEP TO MAKE THER OWN
MEAT AND THERE GARDENES
WELL STORED WITH CORN
THEY MADE THER OWN
BRED WITH THER OWN
GROWN WETE TWAS BEFOR
MY YOUNGS SISTER WAS BORN



OLD COUNTRY FOLK 235

AND THEN MY FATHER THOUGHT
HE WOLD . HELD . A LLTTEL .
COT AND TO WHICH THEN
HE SOON DID BEGIN BUT
MY FATHERS HALTH DID (NT
FEAIL AND IT BLUE A DIFFERS
GALE BEFORE HE GOT IT
REDEY TO LIVE IN



, HE'- W

ANP'TO- 11 tf/C



My FATHmsvHAlTH'I)fpvY%TH.47: //E'U\s r BE- A!VP' '

'



BEFORE "44' GOTH?

Rpy*T'UVE> -I A/ THS'FOO/VP



- A' tolV




THE MANUSCRIPT



MY MOTHER WAS SO KIND
AND SHE NEVER HAD A
MIND A WAY THEN A
GOSPING TO ROME SHE
WORKED WITH ALL HER MIGHT
AND IT WAS HER
HARTS DELIGHT -TO-BE WITH
HER CHILDRING AT TOME



236 OLD WEST SURREY

MY FATHER SAID ONE DAY
HE WAS GOING A LITTLE WAY
I MOST STAY AT TOME HE WOLD
NOT BE LONG BUT I NEW
THAT HE WAS WERE AND I
AFTER HIM DID CREP FOR
FEAR HE WOLD FOLE IN TO
THE POOND



I DHUGED HIM A LONG TILL
MY MOTHER HE MAT WILE
THE LITTLE ONES I LEFT
THEM ALONE SHE SAID MY
DEAREST DEAR HOW COULD
YOU WONDER HEAR
I AM A FREAD THAT YOU
NEVER WILL GET HOME



AND THEN MY MOTHER SEAD
YOUR TIRED I AM AFREAD
TO CARRY YOU IT IS MY
GOOD WILL NOW YOU
MAY THINK IT QUER BUT
AS TRUE AS I AM HERE
SHE CARRIED HIM ON HER
BACK UP THE HILL



THEN MY FATHER DIED

AND WE ALL . BETTERLY GRID

BUT MY MOTHER SED IT IS THE

LORDS WILL SO MY BROTHER

SED IEL WORK THEN MY

FATHERS PLES TO FELL

SO A WEY THEN \VE \VENT

LIKE TO DOVES HAPPY AS

THT KING AND QUIN

OF IN THE MORNING AT

6 AND HOME AT NIGHT AT 9



OLD COUNTRY FOLK 237

The ending is a little abrupt and disdainful of both
rhyme and rhythm.

They worked long hours in those old days, children and all.
Children of six and seven years of age were employed on
the farms, just as they were fifty years before. An example
of such children's work is given in the case of William
Cobbett, who was a West Surrey man, born near Farnham
in 1762. A 'Life of William Cobbett,' published in 1835,
says that he ' was employed at a very early age in driving the
small birds from the turnip seed, and the rooks from the
peas. His next employment was weeding wheat, and leading
a single horse at harrowing barley. Hoeing peas followed,
and hence he arrived at the honour (to use his own words)
of joining the reapers at harvest, driving the team and
holding the plough. William and his brothers were strong
and laborious, and their father used to boast, with honest
pride, that the eldest boy, who was then but fifteen, did as
much work as any three men in the parish of Farnham.'

I can remember quite small boys scaring birds in the
fields ' Keeping the crows ' or ' minding the crows ' it
was called.

The children were better disciplined and therefore better
mannered in these old, hard-working days. Boys in a
labourer's family, when a meal was ready, having made
themselves clean, stood in a row while grace was said, and
did not sit down till they were told.

' I mind when we always ate off wooden trenchers, not
crockern plates,' said one of my old friends. ' When we
used to have a meat puclden, it was boiled in a pudden
cloth, not in a basin as now. There was meat and



238 OLD WEST SURREY

vegetables and all inside. Each child got a piece of the
pudden (the paste), some of the vegetables and some gravy.
The meat was kept for next day. It was just the same
in the farms, the children didn't dare sit down till they
was told.'

Children had not so much playtime in the older days,
but girls had more than boys. When several were together
they formed a ring and played by various rules. The
simplest form of game I remember was played by a ring
of children sitting on the grass. One stood out in the
middle and gave the signal to the others, who all imitated
what she did. The leader would stand up and raise her
arms, and wave them up and down three times. Then she
would sit down and rock her body three times to and
fro. After a few such antics, the last of them in a sitting
position, she would jump up and twirl round and sit down
again quickly. This was really pretty, and was considered
the crowning moment and great joke of the whole game,
and was often repeated during its progress.

The farmers were very strict about men coming to their
time in the morning. If a man came late he lost a quarter
of the day's pay ; very likely he was told he was not Avanted
at all that day. Labourers' wages were thirteen to sixteen
shillings a week, but then the rent of a cottage was only two
shillings. This makes nearly the same average of proportion
between rent and wages as now ; the usual reckoning being
that one day's wages pays the weekly rent. But in the old
days, in the smith's, carpenter's, and other trades, they
worked six days in the week ; now they only work five.

Fifty years ago mechanics earned from eighteen to
twenty shillings for a week of six clays, labourers ten to



OLD COUNTRY FOLK 239

thirteen shillings, farm hands eight to ten shillings, women
for field work, eightpence a day. Mechanics now earn from
thirty-three to forty-two shillings for a week of five days,
labourers eighteen to thirty shillings, farm labourers thir-
teen to sixteen shillings.

Farmers used to hire their men by the year, but they
would discharge them two days before the year was up so
that they could not ' claim the parish.' In this way the
farmer escaped some payment of rates.

It was wonderful how labouring people contrived to live
in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, with their low
wages, and the price of bread at one time up to tenpence
and even a shilling for the four-pound loaf; when the
price of wheat ranged from 30 to 36 a load, and even
went as high as 40.

In and about the year 1812 a farm labourer had twelve
shillings a week. I have a true record of such a one.
There were seven mouths to feed. He was paid in wheat.
He had to wheel or carry the corn between two and three
miles to the mill and bring back the flour. It was then
mixed with bran, beans, peas, or anything of the sort that
could be obtained, and even then the amount was in-
sufficient. ' We was hungry always never had a bellyful.'

Yet some of these sparely-fed people were wonderfully
strong. An old man spoke proudly of his mother. ' She
was a six-foot woman ; she could pick up and carry two
bags (sacks) of meal, one under each arm ; in pattens too ! '

Eighty years ago a sack-lifter in Guildford corn-market
laid a wager that he would lift a sack of corn in Guildford



240 OLD WEST SURREY

market and put it down in Farnham market within live
hours. The distance is ten miles. A sack of wheat is four
bushels and weighs over two hundredweight.

A crowd of people followed him out of Guildford ;
down the High Street, over the bridge, and up the very
steep ascent of the old road on to the Hog's Back. Twice
only he put down his burden and rested for twenty
minutes ; on Guild-down and by the railing of Poyle Park.

He finished well within the time, and as he put down
his sack in Farnham market he merely said : ' Well, I
won it.' Then, looking round he said, ' Would any one
like to lay me I don't take it back ? '

Neither men nor women spared themselves as to labour
or long hours. I know of a carpenter with his two sons,
Godalming men, who finished a fencing job at Portsmouth
one evening at half-past five, and walked all night the
thirty-seven miles back to Godalming to be ready at the
master's place at six the next morning to see about the
next job. They not only walked but trundled a hand-
cart with their tools, including spades and iron bars. They
thought nothing of walking to jobs at Putney, Wimbledon,
or Wandsworth.

Mothers of labourers' families were glad to get their
girls out at an early age into any respectable family where
they would be fed in return for their work.

One old woman that I knew well told me that she
went out at the age of twelve.

' It was a carpenter's family,' she said, ' and there was
eleven children. Yes, that was my first place, for a year.
I didn't get no wages, only my food, one frock and one
bonnet, and a shillin' to take home.



OLD COUNTRY FOLK

Then I was hired for a year to go to a farm where
the master was a widower, and after that at another farm
where there was two ladies. They was the particularest
ladies I ever knowd. It ud do any girl good to go and
live with such as they. There was the oak stairs it was
always a clean pail of water to every two steps ; and I'd as
much pride in it as they had.

' My wages never got as fur as four pound. Best place
I ever lived in was at Mr. Woods's at Hambledon. Quietest
and best master I ever lived with. There was the red-
brick kitchen-floor. I used to flow he down with a green
broom; best of brooms for bricks; makes the floors red.
You makes 'em of the green broom as grows on the
common. After I left, there was always a bit of green
holly at Christmas, and any win'fall apples he always
give me. Ah ! he was a good master. He minded me
when I was married, and time and again he sent me a
bit of beef till he died and then my beef died.

' One farm I lived in was nigh some rough ground
where tramp people lived, and my missis use to send me
out with beautiful gruel to the tramp women in the
tents when there was a baby come. It was a very old
farmhouse where I lived, with gurt beams athurt the
ceilin'.

' But Mr. Woods he was the best man. One day after
I left him I was at his place, and he had a cold leg of
mutton, and what does he do but take a knife and cut'n
in two and give me one piece.

' And one time when bread was so dear he says, " Here's
a shillin' to get a loaf" Ah! we soon cut he up.

' I'm seventy-six, and some days don't know how to

move about. The rheumatics they do crucify me some-

2 H



242 OLD WEST SURREY

thing crool. I says if any one wants to punish me let 'em
give me a stoopin' job. It seems to turn my heart upside
down.'

Among my earliest country recollections is that of a
fine old butcher, who used to go round slaughtering pigs.
Some pigs were among our garden economies, and his visits
were therefore periodical. Apart from the gruesome duties
of his trade he was a genial creature, and we children
generally contrived to get a little talk with him. He had




HOG-FORM AND CUTTING-UP KNIFE

a favourite euphemism for sticking or killing a pig ; he
always called it ' Puttin' a knife in.' ' Where I puts a
knife in I gets a pint ' was a remark that I remember.

The hog-form, a low oak bench on short legs, played
an important part in the later ceremony of scraping off the
hair, after the newly-slaughtered animal had been scalded
in boiling water, and, again a few days later, when the
butcher returned to cut up the carcase.

In buying pigs, or indeed any other stock or produce,


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