Welcome to the last post in my series about the history of my own house in Yeovil. So far, we have travelled back through time to the 1930s when a solicitor’s accountant (Barton Wey) lived in my house. Then we visited Albert Bollen who owned the land the house was later built on for a brief period in 1894, before his death a year later. A Yeovil man, he rose from a labouring background to becoming a solicitor himself. This time, we meet the men who were involved with the same land in the 1840s; the owner and the tenant.
The beginning of this story is not a baptism or birth, but a map. The 1848 Tithe Map for Preston Plucknett to be precise. Before Yeovil grew to its current size, there were many small villages on its western outskirts. Places like Thorn, Brympton, Lufton and of course Preston (or Preston Plucknett), were villages in their own right. Now of course, these villages are slowly being consumed by Yeovil as it expands ever closer to the larger villages of Odcombe and Montacute. This link to Google Maps will give you some idea of the area today.
Back in the 1840s however, Preston was its own separate village. Its history is too great to go into in this post, but local historian Bob Osborn has some excellent information here. The 1848 Tithe Map (found at KnowYourPlace-Somerset), shows that my house was in fact a field at that time. It was part of plot 137 and you can see the track that would later become Preston Grove. The accompanying apportionment contains a wealth of detail. It tells us that the owner of plot 137 was one Robert Tucker and the occupier was one Joseph Roberts. The two men were also owner and occupier of plots 132-134, 136-139 and 141-148. Plot 135 was owned by Robert Tucker but occupied by one Gouly de Chaville. More about him another time!
These plots of land occupied by Joseph Roberts made up a total of 105 acres, 2 rods and 5 perches. Not a bad size and worth £5 5 shillings and 6 pence to the local vicar. For more information on how tithes worked, see my previous blog post on the subject. Altogether, this land was farming land and a part of Preston Lower Farm. The majority was pasture and meadow land, with plot 137 named as ‘Second Close’- this was also pasture. An additional aspect I would like to research in future is whether this was land for sheep or cattle.
Who were the people?
So the tithe map has told us who owned and occupied the land, but what more is there to know? As you might imagine, the owner Robert Tucker was quite a well to do gentleman in Yeovil. Both he and his father (another Robert Tucker!) appear in the Somerset Electoral Register of 1832 for Yeovil Parish. They both lived in Hendford (another part of Yeovil) and both held a freehold house each, Robert senior in Milford and Robert junior in Hendford. This was what qualified them to be able to vote. Robert senior died on 16 October 1841 (in Yeovil) at the age of 75. He was a ‘gentleman’ according to his death certificate. Robert junior died 26 years later on 27 October 1867, at Hendford in Yeovil. He was 65 and a ‘landed proprietor.’ This certainly has airs and graces, but describes him quite accurately!
From what I have discovered, Robert junior was one of the many Yeovil glove manufacturers. He contributed to his community as Churchwarden, Town Commissioner and later Mayor of Yeovil (1858-1860). You can find this information and much, much more on Bob Osborn’s Yeovil website.
But what about Joseph Roberts? There is certainly no handy biography of him to be found. But it turns out that Joseph was another man who elevated himself above his initial station in life.
Joseph was born to James and Jane Roberts in Marston Magna, Somerset. His baptism took place on 29 May 1806 in Marston. Joseph’s obituary states that he began his business life at the ‘early’ age of 18 and was connected for many years with his brother-in-law George Hart. George was a well-known auctioneer and valuer in Yeovil and Martock. The marriage of Joseph and George’s sister Mary took place on Christmas Eve of 1829 at Martock parish church. George was in fact, one of the witnesses.
The move to Preston
A mere two years later in 1831, Joseph and wife Mary moved to Preston Plucknett and occupied Preston Lower Farm. According to the obituary, Joseph also farmed a large holding in Tisbury at the same time (on the Pyt House Estate). This may explain why Joseph had moved from Preston to West Tisbury by the time of the 1861 Census. The rest of his family moved with him and they may have moved as early as 1855. Joseph was included in Kelly’s Directory for Wiltshire as being a farmer of West Tisbury for that year.
Before the move though, Joseph and Mary farmed Preston Lower Farm for about twenty years, whilst their family steadily grew. From the various census records found,  Joseph and Mary had nine children during their time together: Jane, James, George, John, Francis, Joseph, William, Thomas, William and Mary Anna. Following up with all of these children is a project for another day!
By the time of the 1851 Census, Joseph was employing seven labourers on Preston farm. After the move to Tisbury and Pythouse farm, the size of Joseph’s farming land increased significantly to 440 acres. I am not surprised that Joseph needed to employ ten labourers and three boys to help him work the land! The most important piece of information on the 1861 Census though, is that Joseph is now calling himself a ‘landed proprietor’ as well. This certainly signals a rise in status, but the size of the farm also tells us that he had the funds for a holding that large. Even if it was rented, he must have had the means to pay that rent.
A rise in social status
But Joseph did not stop there. By the time of the 1871 Census, not only had the family moved again, but Joseph was reporting a further change of occupation. The family were living at Jackley House in the village of Wyke, near Axminster in Devon (in Dorset at the time). From the looks of things, son William (to be determined which William!) was farming 200 acres and employing five men and two boys to help. His father Joseph was calling himself a ‘surveyor and landowner,’ which suggests that he had made the move from farming and renting land (as he had Preston Lower Farm from Robert Tucker) to owning land that others farmed.
This is borne out by various newspaper appearances that Joseph makes in his later years. In 1878, Joseph was named an umpire for a dispute over farming land, a referee for a similar case in 1886 and a named evaluator of farming land in another similar case of 1887. The latter article calls Joseph ‘a land surveyor of over 50 years’ experience.’ It is probably not surprising to learn that his obituary mentions that he valued land in 14 counties and a high value was placed upon his judgment in the matter of land surveying. Perhaps the early contact with his brother-in-law paved the way for Joseph in the world of land surveying.
A return to Preston
From 1872, Joseph moved back to Preston where he apparently ‘carried on the business of an estate agent and auctioneer.’ His son William was involved too for a time. Joseph also founded the company Roberts, Son & Tory. This company is certainly something that warrants further research. Sadly, Joseph’s wife Mary died on 09 March 1877 of bronchitis. According to her death certificate, Mary was 73.
Mary’s age is rather interesting though, as she died twenty years before her husband. Looking for a baptism of a Mary Hart in about 1804 in her birthplace of Martock, returns a curious result. The only baptism in the right place and at the right time was for a girl named Mary Hart who was aged 10 years old when she was baptised on 29 May 1805. Her parents were Joseph and Sarah Hart and Mary was baptised with her siblings Ann (aged 16), Thomas (aged 13) and Avis. If this is correct, then Joseph’s wife Mary was a good ten years older than her husband and ten years older than every age she gave on every record found! This deserves some further research, but if correct, Mary must have looked amazing for her age!
For most of the rest of Joseph’s life, he lived in Preston Plucknett,  although not at Preston Lower Farm again. This time around, he could afford to live in a ‘private house’ (the exact address is not clear). He could also continue to pay to be included in the local directories. For both the 1889 and 1895 editions, he can be found under the list of private residents of Preston Plucknett. At some point before his death, Joseph moved back to Marston Magna, to live with his son William, at Marston Court. Joseph’s obituary records that he had apparently always wanted to end his life in the place it began. Joseph Roberts died at Marston Court on 28 March 1897 at the grand old age of 90.
An impressive monument
One further wonderful discovery made during the research for this post (of which there is much more to perform), is that Joseph was buried in St. James’ Church in Preston Plucknett and has a rather impressive obelisk shaped memorial! This memorial also marks his wife Mary (supposedly born on 14 April 1804), their son George and their grandson Harold (a son of William Roberts). If that is not a mark of elevated status, I do not know what is!
We have finally reached the end of the journey into the history of my house, at least as far as this blog is concerned. There are many more stories that did not make the final posts and much more to discover besides. I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering Barton Wey, Albert Bollen and Robert Tucker and Joseph Roberts. I hope you have enjoyed their stories as much as I have!
 Tithe apportionments. England. Preston Plucknett, Somerset. 1848. TUCKER, Robert (Owner) and ROBERTS, Joseph (Occupier). Plan number: 137. Collection: Diocese of Bath and Wells; Tithe Maps and appotionments; Tithe appotionments. D/D/rt/A/475. Somerset Heritage Centre, Taunton, Somerset, England.
 Electoral listings. England. Yeovil Parish, Stone Hundred, Somerset. 1832. TUCKER, Robert, the younger and TUCKER, Robert, the elder. Nos. 5498-5499. p. 120. In: Raymonds Electoral Registers (1996) The Somerset Electoral Register Western Division 1832. Exeter: S. A. & M. J. Raymond.
 Deaths (CR) England. Yeovil, Somerset. 16 October 1841. TUCKER, Robert. Entry no. 313.
 Deaths (CR) England. Yeovil, Somerset. 27 October 1867. TUCKER, Robert. Entry no. 374.
 Baptisms (PR) England. Marston Magna, Somerset. 29 May 1806. ROBERTS, Joseph. Collection: Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1531-1812. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Marriages (PR) England. Martock, Somerset. 29 May 1806. ROBERTS, Joseph. Collection: Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1531-1812. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Directories. England. (1855) Post Office Directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire & Dorsetshire. London: Kelly & Co. p. 119 . Collection: UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Southern Times and Dorset County Herald. (1878) In the Court of the Queen’s Bench on Wednesday last…[Emas Shutler v. Alexander Osborne]. Southern Times and Dorset County Herald. 29 June. p. 5c. Collection: British Newspapers, 1710-1965. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Shepton Mallet Journal. (1886) Important case under the Agricultural Holdings Act. Shepton Mallet Journal. 16 July. p. 5d. Collection: British Newspapers, 1710-1965. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Western Times. (1887) A Farmer’s Appeal against Rates; Important decision. Western Times. 29 January. p. 3e. Collection: British Newspapers, 1710-1965. www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Deaths (CR) England. Preston [Plucknett], Somerset. 09 March 1877. ROBERTS, Mary. Entry no. 27.
 Baptisms (PR) England. Martock, Somerset. 29 May 1805. HART, Mary. Collection: Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1531-1812. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Directories. England. (1889) Kelly’s Directory of Somersetshire. London: Kelly & Co. p. 314 . Collection: UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Directories. England. (1895) Kelly’s Directory of Somersetshire, Gloucestershire and the City of Bristol. London: Kelly & Co. Limited. p. 352 . Collection: UK, City and County Directories, 1766 – 1946. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 26 November 2020.
 Deaths (CR) England. Marston Magna, Somerset. 28 March 1897. ROBERTS, Joseph. Entry no. 488.
 Monumental Inscriptions. England. St. James’ Church, Preston Plucknett, Yeovil, Somerset. ROBERTS family. Transcribed by Rhiannon Lloyd, 29 November 2020.