/ About / Hall Of Fame / Margaret Pocock



Margaret Pocock's story originates in March 2013 as a general enquiry from Tony Pocock of Adelaide SA about her life in the village. She was the enquirers GGG grandmother.  I found her details living in Creech St Michael on the 1841 and 1851 census's and other records and replying on the website giving details to our Australian searchers.

Later that year Tony paid a planned visit to England and while he was in Somerset I was able to show him the parishes, including Stoke St Gregory where the story seemed to start.  

While Tony was in the UK he was also able to find details of Margaret's family connections. This included some Pocock's who still lived in Stoke St Gregory – possibly cousins. Together with a great deal of information about three of the Pocock son's service in the army from the National Archives in Kew.

Nigel Finch and I, in talking to Tony thought that her story should be worthy of an entry in our Hall of Fame if only to prove that the real history of our country is also written by the unsung and not just by the kings and generals.

Margaret's Story – from Waterloo to Brussels
Telling the story of the famous, or infamous, is often easy to do with a wealth of information written at the time.  Writing about a person whose life is obscured by greater events can be only told against the backdrop of the general history of the period and how it might have affected them, reading a great deal between the lines. 

Throughout this narrative the dates are those given from the contemporary records and as many of the characters were not literate the dates do not always tally.

The late eighteenth and early nineteenth century were times of great political and economic uncertainty, the labouring classes relying on hard manual labour to eke out a meagre existence for their families. 

Her Birth and Marriage
Margaret's story starts in Templemore, Ireland, a small town in County Tipperary.  She was born about 1800 although the actual birth date is not known as Irish records did not start until 1809.  Calculating her age from my sources show a wide variation in the dates. 

 

The Waterloo Man   

We first find her as the wife of John Pocock a soldier discharged from the 28th Regiment of Foot. They were married in the parish church in Templemore.  He had served in the army and fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. On finishing his service after about 19 years John then aged 37 was not in the best of health being as his papers show “ . being worn out with rheumatics. . .”. He was granted a small army pension to survive on but decided also to take a wife and helpmate. 

A search of the Irish records revealed that they were married on the 9th of April 1821 by banns at the Anglican church of St Marys in Templemore. The curate was William N Falknere.  They were both recorded as 'Church of Ireland' faith. The witnesses were Joseph Blen and Richard Kyte, were they fellow soldiers of Johns?  His army records show him as being discharged in 1819. 

Returning to England, he took up his former job as a boatman living in Stoke St Gregory.  Their first child John was born in 1822 and then in October 1823 the second William arrived,but sadly he did not survive and died in April 1824.

John Senior's Settlement Examination
Because he could not prove settlement an 'examination' in July of 1824, before two Justices of the Peace, T Ware and M Blake, it was decided that while John thought he was born in Middlezoy, as his boatman father had been a parishioner in Creech John (and his small family) were judged to belong in his fathers parish and this is where he should return.  During the hearing no mention is recorded of John's long and valiant military service. 

John's poor health deteriorated and he died six months later. He was buried in Stoke St Gregory on the 26th of December that same year.

His third son, Robert was born in January 1825 a month after John Senior's death. Margaret  found herself with two young children without the means to support them. I have no record of where she would have found help.  The river boatman community was, according to a book written by Tony Haskell, a semi-nomadic group making a hard living delivering heavy goods up and down the Parrett and the Tone rivers long before the advent of the canal and railways.  

Margaret, who I believe had red hair and a strong Irish accent, may not have found whole hearted support within this community. Being destitute she would have had to seek help from the parish.

Just over a year later (28th october 1826) we see that Margaret is served with a 'Movement Order' to Creech; this being based on her late husbands parish.  It is possible her Irish antecedents would affect the Overseers decision.  

Moved to Creech
She is pregnant again and would have been escorted with her two young children the seven miles during the winter to Creech by parish officers to be met and “delivered to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor and provide for her as an inhabitant” of Creech parish.  

On the birth of Edward the Justices of the Peace in Creech St Michael decided that the father of the child was determined to be James Loveridge a boatman of Stoke St Gregory although in reading the Filiation Order dated the 22nd of February 1827, he had to be summoned to appear and in the words of the order “. . . hath not shown any cause why he shall not be the reputed father of the bastard child . . .”   He was ordered to pay the parish overseers; fifteen shillings for his apprehension, 12 shillings for the cost of the Order and 15 shillings towards the maintenance of the child. This was a large sum in those days when a days work might have only been about a shilling or two. It does not say if the money was paid however.  Both James and Margaret had to pay the for the child's keep, James 1/6d (one shilling and six pence.) with Margaret had to pay 9d (nine pence) a week “ . . .while the bastard child shall be chargeable to the said parish . .  

Margaret's family in the 1830's would be John and Robert, the legitimate sons, and she would have three other children surviving, Edward, the illegitimate son of James Loveridge, Henry father unknown but also likely to be James Loveridge. George (father not yet found but baptism records name the child as 'George Dyer') and the only daughter Elizabeth, the baptism records also show the child as 'Elizabeth Dyer'.  A Filiation order dated 22nd January 1837 states that the father is George Dyer. He has to pay the Overseers of the Poor the sum of thirteen shillings for maintenance and support and a regular weekly payment of one shilling and sixpence.

Baptisms from the Parish Records
Thursday the 26th of February 1837 was again very cold, the exceptionally harsh winter weather continuing. Margaret and three of her children; Henry aged seven, George aged two and Elizabeth, who was only a few months old, came to the parish church along with seven other village children to be baptised. John and Robert had been baptised previously but probably were at work. George had also been recorded in the baptisms in 1835 as a Bastard son.  Edward (10) is also missing, was he working?

In July of this year Civil Registration would be launched so whether this had an influence on the large number of baptisms is not clear. It was thought at the time that baptism was an alternative to registration. Elizabeth was not to survive, and her death, aged about seven months, is shown in the parish records on 1st October.

At the end of year the larger than life vicar Rev. Henry Cresswell  (also mentioned in this website) had noted in the parish records that there were 76 baptisms during the year. This was about three times more than in the two previous years.

A few years later in the 1841 census she is living with four of her children, Robert 15 and Edward 13 are both working as agricultural labourers, bringing in money for the family. John is already working as a mason but lodging with George Brass.

Taking the King's shilling
By March of 1845 Edward (about 18) joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery signing on in Taunton. A few months later his older brother Robert then 20 also joined the RRA. As they were employed as farmer labourers, this would have been an asset in the Artillery as horses were used to pull the guns. John the eldest son followed his brothers soon after. On all their army papers they used the surname of POKE. I suspect that this may have to avoid ribald comments from their comrades at muster each morning although as they were not literate a short name would be easier to recognise. They may also have been influenced by the fact that at the time was a John Poke of a similar age living in Creech who, like John, was a stone mason so the boys must have known him.

As the years go by and the elder boys leave home Margaret has to feed herself so at the time of the 1851 census she is shown as earning her living as a laundress to supplement the money from Henry (20) and George (15) who are still living with her. Both are working as agricultural labourers (Ag Lab). Later that year Edward is discharged from the army as unfit for further service. This is after only six years, army life takes a heavy toll of its soldiers. (It is believed that Edward died about 1876 in Bridgwater aged 52.)

 

Henry decides to join the army and in April of 1854 joins the 65th Regiment of Foot he also uses the name Poke.  Private Poke was to serve for over 20 years in the far flung places of the British Empire including the West Indies and New Zealand where he was awarded the New Zealand War medal, taking part in the Taranaki and Waikato campaigns between 1860 and 1865. 

He had four good conduct badges and received a silver medal and £5 gratuity on his discharge at Woolwich in 1874. 

By 1861 Margaret is living alone at North End, a few houses down from North End Farm and near the the mill at junction at Langaller Lane. We find George and two other labourers, Joseph Howe and Joseph Colman from Creech working in Wookey and lodging with Joseph Brinson's family.

The later years
The next record for Margaret is on the 1871 census and she is still living at North End. Robert then aged 44 had returned to Creech and is living with his mother.  He is not married but is getting a pension (Chelsea) in the Occupation column so while his mother is a 'pauper' (meaning she may need aid from the parish) he would have been able to support her.  Robert was to die in the later part of 1871. 

George had finally married Maria Dibble in 1864 who was a few years older that him. They had lived just over a mile away in a house at Walford Farm on the road to Bridgwater. It is probable that on the death of Robert he and Maria moved in with his mother to support her during her last few years.  She was to receive 'out relief' as a pauper, possibly a few shillings a week and bread. This assumption is based on a typical entry in the Register of Out Relief for 1879.  Unfortunately the earlier records are missing.

Sadly her final days were spent in Taunton Union Workhouse.  She was admitted on the 18th July 1878, the reason for admission was “aged”.  Her date of birth is given as 1794 which indicates she was 84 years of age. She was failing fast and the spartan conditions may not have helped.  Within four months she died. Her death is stated as being on the 19th October and her burial is noted as in “St Mary's Cemetery” in the workhouse register by the master, John Blizard. 

A single line in the Death records from the General Records Office of 1878 states;
Margaret Pocock, 84   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Taunton 5c 250
An entry from the official death certificate reads;

Note the death is recorded as November and not October as given in records from the Taunton Workhouse.

This anomaly was puzzling to her descendant Tony Pocock, so on a visit to the UK in June 2015 he visited the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton and discovered an entry on page 34 of the Creech St Michael burial records that indicated that the family of George and Henry her sons took her for a more fitting funeral, not as stated by the workhouse register.

Walking into Taunton and conveying her frail remains to be interred, possibly near her daughters grave, in the Creech churchyard. A simple ceremony would have been conducted by the vicar James Bownes and recorded on the 24th of November 1878. A very touching family tribute to Margaret, at rest in the village she came to call home for over 50 years.

Her life spanned violent times with the English being engaged in foreign wars waging for much of the period. With her sons, like many families, joining up to fight for “King and Country”. So she played her part but without a mention in the history books. I do hope that this short essay has put this omission to rights.

The Two Youngest sons
The 1881 census records George and Maria living in North End with George working as a labourer on the railway. Marie died in the middle of 1885. George died on the 20th November 1885 leaving brother Henry £56 in his will.

Henry married Charlotte Aplin about 1875 they are living on the Ilminster road in Ruishton working as an Ag Lab. (army pensioner) with Robert aged 14 (who's son is he?) and Charlotte's sister Mary. A marriage certificate would be needed as there are two Henry's listed.

Henry aged 59 was a Market Gardner on the 1891 census living alone in Foxhole.

The Australian Connection
John the eldest son is the one member of Margaret's family is missing from this narrative and it is his descendants who bring another focus to life Margaret's family. John joined the Royal Artillery using the Poke name and married Jane Bakon in Williton. He moved around the South of England and went off to fight in the Crimea but found himself and family in Australia stationed the at newly built Fort Denison in Sydney harbour, this was to protect Sydney against Russian attack.

On his discharge from the army he reverted to the name of Pocock and like many other military men and their families decided that Australia would be a good place to start a new life. His descendants prospered and spread throughout the colony.

Postscript

As a footnote to this record is that Edward Robert Pocock, one of Margaret and John's many descendants, travelled the world not as a soldier but as a diplomat.

Edward was educated at Adelaide University, awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1956 attending Balliol College Oxford, he was a Harkness Fellow at Princeton University USA in 1958. He worked as a diplomat for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1961–1996.

He became Australia’s ambassador in various posting; South Korea, USSR, France, Pakistan (High Commissioner), European Union (Brussels) retiring in 1996.

© This essay is copyright protected and may not be reproduced in any format or media without my permission.

E R J Chown Bsc (Hons).

September 2014

I have drawn inspiration from various sources not least is The history of Creech St Michael by June Small OBE and Tony Haskell's book By Waterway to Taunton. Both give a flavour of the lives of working people in our village.

References;

1841, 1851, 1861, 1871 Census's courtesy of Ancestry.com

Parish and other records at the Somerset Heritage Centre

Documents from the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society

Military history from the 28th North Gloucester Regiment of Foot

Irish Records

“Blame in on the Nimroud” by Tony Pocock, a history of the Pocock family in Australia.

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