Augustus J C HARE wrote an autobiography in six volumes published in 1896 and 1900. From this I have pieced together the story of John who lived from 1814 to 1890. Before 1840 he became a servant in the household of the adopted mother of Augustus, Maria Hare who was his father’s brother’s widow. After she died in 1870 John stayed on with Augustus until 1882 when his first wife Mary nee LEA died at the age of 81. Her grave is at Hurstmonceaux, deep in the Sussex countryside behind that of Augustus, with the inscription
“Mary Gidman – A servant loved and honoured in the Hare family for 56 years”.
John died aged 76 on 7th October 1890, at 93 Newton St, Macclesfield, a man of “independent means”, in the presence of his brother in law Alfred GIDMAN of 15 Hurdsfield Rd Macclesfield. This relationship occurred because John, a “gentleman”, married Mary GIDMAN, a spinster, on 16th May 1884 by Licence at “St Paul’s for St John”, Macclesfield. On the certificate his father is James, a Servant. For reasons which will become clear, I cannot be sure as to how they were related. She is a 39 year old spinster, her father Edward a tailor, and it is possible that she is a first cousin once removed of 70 year old John.
In the 1881 census, John and Mary, his first wife, were at “Holmhurst” in Hastings Saint Mary as GOODMAN where Mary was the housekeeper and John was the Butler [not “miller” as on the LDS index although the indexed name is as it is on the census page]. His birthplace is given as Calverley, Cheshire.
Apparently John was lucky to be alive because he nearly died in Italy in 1858. Augustus relates that “on our return [from a cruise] we found John alarmingly ill in consequence of a sunstroke while fallen asleep on the balcony at Amalfi. I believe he was only saved by the violent bleedings of an Italian doctor”. It wasn’t as if he was unused to the heat because in 1857 “we took our two old servants, Lea and John, to Lucerne where the family was established for the long hot summer”. Christmas 1858 was spent in Rome with Maria Hare writing “our faithful Gidman pair managing everything for us as usual” then they went on to Amalfi. Again in Italy in 1863 they were stuck at a station near Orvieto. Augustus says “someone had to remain to guard the luggage and knowing what a fearful hardship it would be considered by our cross-grained John, I remained sitting upon it without any food except a few biscuits for twenty-four hours”.
In 1841 and 1851 John and Mary are in the previous HARE home, Lime House, Herstmonceaux employed by Maria HARE, fundholder, born Cheshire. John was born in Siddington Cheshire and Mary in “Darrington Staffordshire” [about thirty miles apart and actually Dorrington, Woore, Shropshire where she was christened in June 1801. At this point the boundaries of these three counties were adjacent and Shropshire was just two miles wide]. Siddington is close by Calverley.
John and Mary were married on 21st March 1846 in the parish church at Cheswardine, Shropshire because that was where her family lived.
[After being seriously ill with a “brain fever” - young Augustus’ description - Mary later had a stillborn child on 16th February 1847 in Herstmonceaux]
On the marriage certificate John’s father is Thomas, a Farmer. Hannah and James CHALLENER were the witnesses.
Mary wrote to the 12 year old Augustus, telling him about the event - “My sister Hannah and her husband went with me to church at Cheswardine…. We went by rail to Chelford and then took a one-horse fly to Thornycroft to John’s grandfather’s”.
Unfortunately she does not name him but in 1851, as in 1841, Thomas 77 is living there, in the grounds, and at Thorneycroft Lodge is his son Evan 52 [whose son Edward was father to John’s second wife]. John was 38 on the 1851 census page [he is 25 on the 1841 when ages were rounded down].
The earliest I can date John’s association with the HARE family is 1840 because Augustus recalls one of his childhood visits to Stoke on Terne, Shropshire in 1840, where his adopted grandfather Oswald LEYCESTER [aged over 90 in the 1841 census] was the Rector. He says “John used to make beautiful arrows for me with the reeds which grew in the marshy meadows”. Oswald was the father of Maria, and Augustus says they were from “one of the oldest families in Cheshire”. Augustus also mentions his “cousins” named Thorn[e]ycroft who lived at Thorneycroft Hall, a mansion in Siddington which is near Astbury.
In 1851 a George Gidman was a footman with another branch of the Thornycroft family some twenty miles away. So it seems very likely that it was through these connections that John came to be employed by Maria but where can we find his father and was he Thomas or James.
Thomas and wife Elizabeth, aged 77 in 1851, certainly had connections with Thorneycroft – but he was retired by 1841. He says in his 1858 Will, the year before he died,” I give unto my son Edward the silver cup that was given to me by Mr Rowland Sargeant in memory of the late Edward Thorneycroft Esquire.” Unfortunately the Will does not refer to any grandchildren. His son Thomas was too young to be John’s father. So why did John have a different father with quite distinct occupations on the two marriage certificates?
I believe a clue lies in the surname and place of birth given by John in the 1881 census. Thomas had a daughter Ann who would be around 19 when John was born but she didn’t get married until 9 years later in 1823, to a John MOORS.
Calve[r]ley is about 15 miles from Siddington, in Bunbury parish. An exhaustive search of the registers by a former churchwarden didn’t find a Gidman there until 1871. However he did note a baptism on 14th August 1814 of “John, base son of Anne GOODMAN, servant of Calveley” and I have a copy of the entry which is very clear. Perhaps John was brought up by his grandparents and this could account for him choosing father Thomas on the first marriage certificate and Siddington for his place of birth on the 1851 census.
I do not know where Anne was a servant and James [the father’s name on John’s second marriage certificate] was an uncommon name in the Gidman clan at that time. There was one born in 1777 in the locality about whom I have no more information. However as he wasn’t named at John’s baptism nor on the 1846 marriage certificate perhaps I can discount him as the father. So John married and died as a Gidman but his antecedents may never be known.