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FINCH, Reuben (c1863-1926) of Whitfurrows, Wickhamford – a mischievous life

Life in Wickhamford

Reuben Finch was recorded in Wickhamford at the census of 3rd April 1881.  His name appears last in the list of inhabitants, living at ‘Cider Mill Shed’, which seems to have been a building at Whitfurrows, at the eastern end of the village on the Broadway Road.  He was an agricultural labourer and a boarder with the Hardiman family.  They consisted of Charles and his wife Susanna, together with four daughters and three sons, aged between two and eighteen.  Reuben (or ‘Reubin’ as it was spelled by the enumerator) was eighteen years old and his place of birth was recorded as ‘Redmarley, Gloucestershire’.  This was the small village of Redmarley D’Abitot, a few miles south of Newent.  He would have been born in ca 1863.

His name appeared in the Worcestershire Chronicle of 28th June 1884 in a dispute between ‘Employer and Servant’.  It was reported that Reuben Finch, labourer, Pendock (a village about a mile from Redmarley D’Abitot) was summoned by John Pope, farmer, Wickhamford, for unlawfully leaving his employment on April 22. The claimant was awarded £1, which he estimated was the damage he had sustained, and he expressed a wish to enforce his contract with the defendant.  Finch was informed that he would be summoned again if he disregarded the order.  John Pope was the tenant of Wickhamford Manor.  He was a farmer employing four men and three boys on his 204 acres in 1881.  He had been born in Newent, so there may have been some geographic link to Reuben Finch?

The next event may or may not have involved Reuben Finch.  The Hardiman’s eldest daughter, Caroline, became pregnant in late 1886.  If seems as if her family disowned her, as she was unmarried, and she was placed in the Evesham Union workhouse.  On 26th June 1887, she gave birth to a daughter, but died as a consequence of the delivery.  Her child, according to the workhouse records, died 15 hours after her birth.  Mother and daughter were buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist, Wickhamford on 1st July, in an unmarked grave.

Life after Wickhamford

Reuben Finch left Wickhamford at some time around the period of Caroline Hardiman’s pregnancy and he appears again in a newspaper item on 17th March 1888.  The Gloucester Citizen reported that Reuben Finch and George Griffiths, of Ruardean (in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire) were summoned for cruelly ill-treating a horse.  Griffiths was the owner and Finch his workman.  The horse was found to have old and new shoulder injuries whilst pulling a cart.  Grithiths was fined 5/-, but the case against Finch was dismissed.  Despite this case, Reuben Finch was summoned again for horse cruelty, as reported in the Gloucester Journal of 19th January 1889.  Still living in Ruardean, he was seen by P.C. White, driving four horses and a wagon.  One horse was found to have an old shoulder wound and there were fresh bloodstains on the collar, which did not fit properly.  Despite his denying he knew anything about the matter, he was fined 5/- and costs.

He appears to have left Ruardean after this second court case and he was called as a witness in a child cruelty case in Malvern in May 1889, according to a piece in Berrow’s Worcester Journal.  A Mary Smith, of Madresfield, was in court for beating her step-child with a stick and other acts of violence.  On February 24th, Reuben Finch was lodging at the defendant’s house and reported his concerns to a neighbour.  At the trial it was said the he would be able to give evidence for the prosecution, but he failed to attend court. It was stated that he had enlisted in the Army.  In any case, the defendant was fined 40/- and 30/- costs, and ordered to keep the peace for six months or pay £5.

If Reuben Finch did indeed join the Army at this time, there is no surviving service record for him.  The last information concerning him is a death recorded in the Monmouth area in the first quarter of 1926.  This man, whose name was spelled ‘Rheuben’, was aged 63 years, which would tie in with Reuben’s birth year of ca 1863.

Although Reuben Finch appears in the 1881 census, there is no record of him in 1891, 1901 or 1911.  If the story of his enlistment was correct, he may have been overseas.  The Electoral Rolls for Harewood, Herefordshire for 1920 and 1921, have a man of that name listed.  Harewood is not too far from Redmarley D’Abitot, so this could be the correct person.   He should appear in the 1871 census, before his period in Wickhamford, but no-one of that or similar name was recorded.  Also, there is no record of the birth of a Reuben Finch in or about 1863.

Potential Family Background of Reuben Finch (c1863-1926)

It is possible that he came from a family of travellers, who did not bother to register births or to complete census returns.  In the Newspaper Archives there are a couple of events concerning a Reuben Finch before 1863.  As this is an unusual name, he could be the father of the Wickhamford man.

The Worcester Chronicle of 9th December 1863 reported, at length, on the case of the manslaughter of William Boughton in the city 7th September.  A Reuben Finch was present at the scene of the death and was a witness to the events that took place.  He was a waggoner, of Mill Street, who accused the defendant of the knife attack which resulted in a fatality.  Reuben Finch was also a witness to a fatal accident in 1865, as reported in the Worcester Chronicle of 10th May.  He and the deceased were on a wagon, loaded with timber, when the other man fell between the shafts of the wagon and was crushed to death.

There is a Death Register entry for a Reuben Finch in Worcester district in the third quarter of 1865, but ages were not recorded at that time.

Tom Locke – March 2020