James Pethard, referred to as Jim, features in Chapter IV of A H Savory’s Grain and Chaff from an English Manor:
Jim was my first head carter, and he dearly loved a horse. He had, as the saying is, forgotten more about horses than most men ever knew, and what he didn’t know wasn’t worth knowing.
He was a cheery man, and when I went to Aldington was about to be married [to his second wife, Jane Stephens, c1842-1892]. Not being much of a “scholard”, his first request was that I would write out his name and that of his intended, for the publication of the banns. A group of men was standing round at the time, and I asked him how his somewhat unusual name was spelt. Seeing that he was puzzled, I hazarded a guess myself, repeating the six letters [the normal spelling is seven letters] in order slowly. He was greatly surprised and pleased to recognise that my attempt was correct and, turning to the bystanders, remarked with the utmost sincerity, “There ain’t many as could have done that, mind you!” I felt that my reputation for scholarship was established.
Jim was a fisherman, and was no representative of “a worm at one end and a fool at the other”. I gave him leave to fish in my brooks; he was wily, patient and successful, and one day brought me a nice salmon-trout, by no means common in these streams.
I admired Jim’s loyalty to his late master [Thomas Blyth], if not his veracity, at the valuation of the stock, which I took over as it stood. Being aware that there was a lame one or two among the horses, I warned my valuer beforehand. We entered the stable and my valuer, thinking to catch Jim off his guard, asked causally which they were. Jim was quite ready for him and answered without a moment’s hesitation. “Nerrun, sir” (never a one). They were, however, easily detected when trotted out on the road.
Jim was a capital hand at “getting up” a horse for sale; an extra sack or two of corn, constant grooming and rest in the stable, with the aid of some mysterious powders which, I think, contained arsenic, soon brought out the “dapples” which he called “crown-pieces” on their coats, and in a couple of months’ time one scarcely recognised the somewhat angular beast upon which his labours had wrought a miracle and put a £10 note at least on the value.
Jim became a widower, but eventually married again; a good woman [Mary Ann Hayes, c1841-1926, whom he married in 1893], who made a capital wife. Shortly before the wedding, when he came to see me on some business, my wife happened to be present; she was very anxious to find out the date in order that we might attend. Jim was shy, not wishing it to be generally known, and nothing could be got out of him. On leaving, however, he repented and, looking back over his shoulder, made the announcement, “Our job comes off next Thursday,” then closing the door quickly, he was gone.
He got my permission to visit his mother [Esther Pethard, died 1874] and son [one of his sons from his first marriage], both ailing in Birmingham, and on his return I made inquiries. The boy was better, but about his mother he said, “I don’t take so much notice of she, for her be regular weared out” – not unkindly or undutifully intended, but just a plain statement of fact, simply put; for she was a very old woman, and could not in the course of nature be expected to live much longer.
That Jim had a tender heart I know, for when we lost a very favourite horse, one which “you could not put at the wrong job”, I found him weeping and much distressed. Later he said, “When you lose a horse I reckon it’s a double loss, for you haven’t got the horse or the money.”
He was an excellent ploughman, and considerable skill is demanded to manage the long wood plough, locally made, and still the best implement of the sort on the adhesive land of the Vale of Evesham.
Very few of my men suffered from rheumatism, but Jim was an exception. I think he applied horse embrocation to himself; he would extol its efficacy, and would tell how, when the pain attacked his shoulder, the remedy “druv it” to his back; applied to the latter, “it druv it” to his legs; and so on indefinitely.
Jim had sufficient foresight to view with alarm the gradual dispersion of most of the oldest and best farmers in the neighbourhood, and the conversion to grass of the arable land, owing to the unfair and dangerous competition of American wheat. When we discussed the subject and foretold the straits to which the country would be reduced in the event of war with a great European Power, he concluded these forebodings with the habitual remark, “Well, what I says is, them as lives longest will see the most.”
James Pethard was born at Bishampton about 1834, the son of William Pethard and his wife, Esther (née Cole). The family moved to Aldington in the late 1830s. The Pethard family had long been associated with Badsey and Aldington as James’ grandfather and great-grandfather had been born in the village.
James married Elizabeth Bishop at Worcester in 1856 and returned to live in Aldington immediately after marriage. The first of their five children were born at Aldington: Mary Ann (1857-1862) and John (1860-1884). They lived at Manor Cottage, Aldington, in 1861. By 1862 they were living at Church Lench where three more children were born: William (1862-1886), Martha (1864-1964) and James (1866-1947). Elizabeth died At Church Lench in 1869 and James was back in Aldington by 1871 with his four surviving children, lodging with the Sallis family in a cottage near the Manor. He was employed as carter at the Manor, firstly working for Thomas Blyth and then Arthur Savory.
In the December quarter of 1873, James married Jane Stephens from Abbots Morton. They had two children: Owen (1875-1875) and Kate (1876-1947). By 1881 they were living at The Fields, Bengeworth, where James was employed as a Garden Labourer. By the mid 1880s, James was working as Farm Bailiff at Claybrook, Badsey. Claybrook Farm was bought by Arthur Savory in 1891, so James was back in his employ. Jane died at Claybrook in 1892. James married for a third time, in 1893, to widow Mary Ann Hayes of Bretforton. James’ death was registered at Birmingham in 1900, but he was buried at Bretforton and his abode was given as Bretforton. Mary Ann died at Bretforton in 1926.