Thursday 15 December 2011

Adey comes to Sheppey

Adey is an unusual name from my family's history and is one that I would love to have been called. Unfortunately it was allowed to die out before it got to my turn to be named but I'll take you down the path it took until then, hopefully it won't be considered a boring indulgence.

Adey Faulkner was born in Ospringe, nr. Faversham in Kent in 1822, and his father, also an Adey, had been born in 1796. By 1847, exactly a hundred years before I was born, he had moved across The Swale and was living at the eastern end of Sheppey, and thus starting the Faulkners' link with Sheppey. Its also a pretty fair bet that he came across via the small boat ferry at Harty Ferry, one of three along The Swale at the time.
During the first three months of 1847, aged 25, he had married a 20 yr old Doddington girl by the name of Mary Marchant and within four years they already had two children.
So by 1851 Adey was working as a farm labourer and living with his family in a small farm cottage at Stonepitts Farm, out on the marshes, two miles below Eastchurch village. In those days there were a great numbers of these farms and their small cottages strung out across the bleak and waterlogged marshes of southern Sheppey. Rose Cottage and Cod's House at Elmley are a couple of the few that remain. Like all the farm cottages on the marshes in those days, Adey's would of had no sanitation, no lighting other than candles or oil lamps and water gathered from either a well or even ditches. The malarial mosquitoes which abounded on the marshes saw many people suffering with and often die of, the ague (malaria)and periods of extreme cold and snow in the winter months must of been particually excruciating to bear.
To compound the misery at the time, these workers cottages were only available while you were employed by the owner and you often found yourself sharing with other families, despite the cramped conditions. Become unemployable and you and your family were homeless again.
The 1851 Census at the Stonepitts cottage Adey was in illustrates this quite clearly:-

Adey Faulkner 28
Mary Faulkner - wife 23
Adey Faulkner - son 2
James Faulkner - son 5 mths
James Newman - lodger/farm labourer 26
Harriet Newman - wife 20

Much later in 1909, Stonepitts Farm was bought by the Aero Club who were desperate to move from their airfield at nearby Muswell Manor, Leysdown. They immediately began turning it into both an airfield for their members and an aeroplane factory for the Shorts Bros.. It of course then went on to became both a military airfield in WW1 and WW2 before ending up in its current form - several prisons. The photo below shows Stonepitts Farmhouse in 1911, surrounded by the early aeroplane sheds.

Also in 1851 and living on Sheppey, were the Thomas family, who lived at Parsonage Farm, near Halfway village in the centre of Sheppey. Thomas, like a big percentage of Sheppey at the time, was also a farm labourer and his second daughter Martha was born that year. Ten years later in 1861, the Thomas family were housed in another farm cottage, this time somewhere along the Harty Road but Martha aged just 10, was
living, and working, at nearby Elliots Farm as a Housemaid. Martha was would marry into the Faulkner family a little later.
Also by 1861 Adey Faulkner and his ever growing family had moved from Stonepitts and were now living in a cottage at New Rides farm along the Leysdown Road below Eastchurch. Adey continued to be employed as a farm labourer, as was his son Adey, now 12 and employed as a Carter.

This general merry-go-round of families moving from farm to farm was typical of the period as both farmers and their labourers struggled to earn a living. During the last quarter of the 1800's there had been a gradual shift away from agriculture to industry and even in those days, an increase in the amount of imported food, so farmers were seeing their profits starting to drop. It was a very traumatic time for the farm labourers and their families and they were constantly moving from farm to farm, as jobs were easily lost for the slightest of reasons. Adey Snr, to his credit, seems to have managed to stay employed throughout these times and even ten years later in 1871 was still employed as a farm labourer and living at New Rides Farm, aged 49, and by today's standards probably looking like an old man. Not only that, with his wife Mary having died in 1861 and his three sons all left home, he now found himself lodging there in a cottage with another family.

Adey Jnr meanwhile had moved a few miles further along the Leysdown Road, was employed as a farm labourer and was living with a family of seven and two lodgers, all crammed in to No.5 Tills Cottages at New House Farm. This farm is still there today, sits on high ground looking south across Capel Fleet and the Harty Road below and also towards Elliots Farm where the young Martha Thomas had been working ten years before. Fate however, now found the 19yr old Martha living back with her parents and alongside Adey Jnr at No.3 Tills Cottages at New House Farm. Clearly they had also been doing some courting because in the autumn of 1871 they needed to become a married couple with their first son, Adey, being born in early 1872. My eventual Grandad Albert was also one of his four siblings. Unfortunately, this baby Adey was the last in the family to be named so but we can follow him on until his eventual death and the demise of the name, in 1926.

1872 was also monumental for the fact that schooling for children became compulsory and as a result two small schools were built at Leysdown and Harty. The Harty schoolhouse was alongside Harty church and was only pulled down a couple of years ago to make way for the new bungalow there. Imagine the children from the many farms and cottages dotted across the whole of Harty making their way there on foot using just tracks and footpaths across the marshes in winter! Ironically this new education system also had the unfortunate effect of increasing the poverty experienced by these already poor farm workers' families, because it limited the earning ability of children to provide cheap labour on the farms. They were now expected to attend school every day and were only allowed to leave at thirteen if they had gained a School-leaving Certificate. No Certificate meant compulsory staying on for another year. Local school records also highlight the poverty suffered by these families with children arriving at school wearing no socks and often even no shoes and frozen cold with no coats or jackets.
Quite which school Adey's children would of gone to I don't know but I imagine that the Leysdown one would of been much easier to walk to from Till's Cottages than the much further Harty one.

Adey Snr was to eventually die in 1884, aged 62, but before that in 1881, Adey and his family were now to be found living in a cottage at the far more pleasant surroundings of Whyburns Farm in Minster. Minster since the year dot had always been the dominant and ruling parish over most of Sheppey and was to remain that way for a few years more until Sheerness began to spread out from the hulks of the dockyard there. The village was on high ground, warmer than the wilds of Harty and most importantly had shops, churches and schools all close by. The farm, of which the farmhouse still remains, was situated alongside Wards Hill Road, just below the village, and ironically I now live further down the same road. Adey was employed there as a Waggoner, and although it wasn't a huge farm it did encompass part of what is now known as The Glen village green and park.

It is also worth noting here that in Kentish records for the time the position of Waggoner or Carter was generally regarded as a fairly prestigious and well paid one. They would be responsible for the complete welfare of the farm's horses, without which little could happen. As a result the Waggoner would be employed on a year's contract, guaranteeing his family their living regardless of weather and sickness and would often receive other benefits such as free cottage, coal and faggots. Whether Adey was beneficiary of such a standard of living is unknown but it would be nice to think so. And if he needed a constant reminder of the price of failure, just a few hundred yards up the road was the Sheppey Union Workhouse!

It is difficult to know exactly but it appears throughout this potted history that our Adeys all managed to stay one step ahead of unemployment which was quite credible and seemed to involve regular moves to new farms. As a result, by 1891 he left Whyburns and was now living with Martha and their sons at Ripney Hill Farm, halway between Minster and Sheerness and only a few miles from Martha's birthplace at Parsonage Farm, she had almost travelled in a full circle. The majority of Ripney Hill Farm is now covered by the Sheerness Golf Club but in 1891 both Adey and four of his sons were working there as Farm Servants, I assume that was another name for labourers. The average wage for the farm workers at the time was less than three shillings a day and in an effort to improve conditions for themselves and their workers, in 1894 local farmers formed local branches of the National Agricultural Union. A large number of the farm workers joined this Union in the hope that it would bring better security but there is little to suggest that it actually did.

The last record of Adey and Martha and their family, including the younger Adey, mostly living together was in 1901, they were living in the short High Street of Minster village itself. The High Street even now, is still barely much more than a hundred yards long but in those days was full on both sides by mostly wooden shacks on both sides of the street, some of which had become shops. Eventually in the 1920's many of them were destroyed in a fire that quickly spread along the High Street.
In 1901, despite now living in the very heart of the village, the Faulkner's had hardly improved their situation, the shacks were in very poor condition and things such as water and oil for lamps still had to be bought from the daily cart rounds, or water sometimes bucketed from a local communual well.
Here Adey and three of his sons were as usual still employed in the area as Agricultural Labourers, although there was an indication that times were changing. A fourth son was lodging in Queenborough and now employed as a railway plater on the Island's new railways.

Adey died there in 1907, aged 59 but for some reason I cannot find Martha's date of death. Their son, the last Adey, by 1911 was living as a boarder at Neats Cottages, between Queenborough and Minster and working as a labourer. Eventually he died in 1926 and is buried in an un-marked pauper's grave in the Sheppey Cemetery, which I have located. The last of an unusual name.
One last photograph that I must share with you, is that of my Great Grandmother Martha in her later years in Minster. There are those that say I have inhereted her severe look - I prefer to think that even then someone might of mentioned the word twitcher.


  1. Not to everyones taste I suppose Derek but a fascinating piece of social history. It is so interesting that you can still pinpoint the actual farms where your ancestors struggled to survive - I can still remember my junior school where some children were clothed in little more than rags, but walking across those marshes without shoes or a coat doesn't bear thinking about.
    If you still haven't been to the Blue Town Museum yet, I'm sure that you will find it worth your while for there are items from across the Island and they have a sizeable section on aviation.
    Loved your punchline by the way, and Martha does look somewhat formidable.
    Ken L

  2. Ken,
    You get the details of where they lived from the Census's that were published in recent years for every 10 years from 1841 to 1911. In those are detailed the occupants of each house/cottage and their ages and occupations.

  3. I struggle for weeks to make a posting and now your blog prints my note twice - it's just as well that you understand computers Ade- er - Derek.

  4. Hi Derek,

    Great account of the family history something that I am trying to do when I am not out birding and taking photos. Had a great afternoon out at Shellness Wednesday. 17 Snow Buntings on the beach and 3 SEO and a Barn Owl on the way home along the acces track outside No.40. I have posted a few photos on my Flickr account . If you are interested take a look .Click on the link below or copy and past.


  5. Thanks Mike, you should give the history a good go, its really absorbing.
    17 Snow Buntings was a great count - there was a Shorelark seen by the blockhouse on Thursday.

  6. Interesting post Derek, tells a good story. The Sheppey stern stare seems to have continued down the line!

    Hope to be back up on the island on Friday - coming back for more!


  7. Fascinating and engaging story. Never come across the name Adey before, might it be short for Adrian?

  8. I really don't know Sidney, it makes sense but was Adrian a common name in those times?
    It was a real shame that it was allowed to die out in the family, from 1900 onwards the Faulkner line carried on with several males in each generation but none named Adey.

  9. Derek, Saw the name Aidan on TV the other day

  10. I loved your detailed retelling of your family history. Your story enabled me to add light to mine. My gg grandfather was Isaac Moore who Martha at such a tender young age was employed by in 1861. Thanks for your shared memories.

  11. doing family research on the Dines side of my family and found out my great grandfather when younger lived with his family on elliots farm at Sheppey so this is really useful. thank u xx