A rapeseed (canola) field at Homestall Farm, one of the farms where William Martin lived and worked.


William Martin (1821-1902)


Baptism:
29 April, 1821, East Grinstead, Sussex, UK

Father:
Richard Martin

Mother:
Hannah Waters

Death:
9 Feb, 1902. Homestall Farm, Sussex, UK

Marriage:
1). Sarah Mitchell, 15 October, 1842 East Grinstead, Sussex

Children:
George (1843-1926)
Richard (b. 1845)
Eliza (b.1848)
Elisabeth (b. 1850)
Alfred (1853 -1933)
Michael (b. 1856)
Mary (b. 1858)
Emma (b. 1860)
Sarah (b. 1863)
Hannah (b. 1865)

Marriage:
2). Hannah Brown, 27 September 1890, East Grinstead

Child:
Isabella Jane (1891-1985) m. James Henry ("Harry") Davidson, 1918, Glen Innes, Australia.


Some occupations in our family history occur regularly, and some not so often.  And one of these is "mole catcher".  While William Martin generally described himself as a farm labourer, on at least one occasion he was more precise, saying his work was catching (and presumably killing) the moles which interfered with the crops.

William, our Helen Davidson's maternal grandfather, lived and worked in Sussex in southern England in the 19th century, and as such, his working life and family life were totally intertwined.  He and his family moved from farm to farm around the village of Ashurst Wood, a short distance from the main town of East Grinstead,  living and working on the farms.  In total, William and Sarah had 10 children, all of them born on whatever farm he was working on at the time of the births.  His work descriptions varied from the generic "farm labourer" to "carter" and most originally in one instance "mole catcher". 

                  right: mole catchers at work in a 19the century painting by James Lewis Walters, held in the   Carmarthenshire County Museum

The farms he worked on were never more than a few miles apart, just inside the border of an area known as the High Weald.  It's only 50kms south of London, half way to the south coast and is often described as an area of outstanding natural beauty combined with a fascinating history".

The High Weald website says it's a
" medieval landscape of wooded, rolling hills studded with sandstone outcrops; small, irregular-shaped fields; scattered farmsteads; and ancient routeways. The 1461km area covers parts of Kent, Sussex and Surrey at the heart of South East England. "

above left: The location of the High Weald, in SE England, and above right: the farms between East Grinstead and Ashurst Wood, where William spent his life.
William was born in 1821, the first son of farm labourer Richard Martin and his wife Hannah.  Which farm is uncertain, but wherever, it was near the village of Ashurst Wood, some four kilometres from the regional centre of East Grinstead. By his mid teens, William would have been out working himself and in 1841 he was 20 years old and  a servant at the farm known as Luxford's (or Luckford's).  On the UK Census of 1841, one of William's co-workers was a 15 year old servant girl, Sarah Mitchell. Eighteen months later, William and Sarah married at St Swithin's Church, in East Grinstead (right). 

One of the first farms they lived and worked at was Busses Farm, a kilometre or two further away from East Grinstead, a little closer to Ashurst Wood.

After 10 years of marriage, the young couple had four children, at least three of them born at Busses Farm. 

By the time of the 1861 Census, William and Sarah had moved on, to a farm cottage at Shovelstrode Farm, some three kilometres away, and for that census, William gave his work as a "carter", an occupation he was to return to in later years, alternating it with farm work. Their next move was to nearby Water Farm, before a final shift, by 1881, to Homestall Farm, two kilometres north of Ashurst Wood.

By this time, Sarah's health was deteriorating,  She suffered with dropsy, a condition often caused by chronic heart disease, and her unmarried daughter Mary was called on to nurse her mother in her illness.  She lingered on until October 1885, dying at home at the cottage at Homestall Farm.

At the time of Sarah's death, William was aged 65, and still working on the farm.  In East Grinstead, he met Hannah Brown, a housemaid in her mid thirties. Hannah had a young son, Bramwell, living with her. After five years of widowerhood, William, then 70 years old, married Hannah in the Zion Chapel in East Grinstead (right), and took his new bride and her son back to Homestall Farm. 

The marriage didn't last, but it did produce one child - a daughter, Isabella Jane, known as Jennie.
By the turn of the 20th century, Hannah, Jennie and Bramwell had all left Homestall Farm, with Hannah going so far as to say she was a widow in 1901, when in fact, William was still alive, even if only for another year.

He died in 1902 aged 80, of heart disease, at home in Homestall, under the care of his daughter Emma.

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