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Notes on a Vision of the Past

Milton Lilbourne > A vision of the past by Fred Gale, 1899


“Old Jemmy” and his servant “Zcharlot”

Who was the delightful “Old Jemmy” portrayed so affectionately? Fred Gale mentions Old Jemmy’s timber and building business, and a short history of Milton Lilbourne written by George Ferris in the 1920s tells us that this trade was carried on by the Warwick family. The surname Warwick first appears in the Milton Lilbourne parish records in 1734. In 1763 James Warwick, a carpenter, married Elizabeth Reeves at Milton, and their son James was baptized February 4th 1766. This James can be identified as our Old Jemmy.

The 1841 census revealed three Warwick households in Milton Lilbourne. One is headed by James Warwick, by now aged 70, described as a carpenter. Living with him is Charlotte Goddard, a servant aged 45. In 1851 James is 84, unmarried, and of independent means, and Charlotte, now described as housekeeper, is 60 and also unmarried. She is the “Zcharlot” described in the articles.

James died 3rd September 1852 and was buried at Milton Lilbourne. He left instructions in his will for Charlotte and her sisters to share a cottage rent-free for life. He also gave Ł30 to be spent on clothing and bed linen for the poor of the parish, "... regard being had in the first place ... to those who are oldest and most deserving." The 1830 Captain Swing riots are mentioned in Fred Gale’s articles as a watershed in village life. Some farmers in the parish were robbed and their property attacked by the rioters, but the Warwick holdings were left untouched. Proof, perhaps, of the respect felt for Old Jemmy in the area?

Where exactly was Old Jemmy's house? The Milton Lilbourne Tithe Award (1843) and map (1842), held at the Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office, show that James Warwick, his brother Guy, and his nephew James Warwick Junior had between them a sizeable interest in the parish. Most of Old Jemmy's land and property was leased to tenants. He kept to himself a few meadows, an orchard, the carpenter's shop and yard, and the Great House (number 255 on the Tithe Award.)

The Great House, whose ancient kitchen is described so well by Fred Gale, is said to have been the site of the residence of the King's Warden of Savernake Forest during Medieval times. It was auctioned along with Old Jemmy’s other lands and property at the Phoenix Inn, Pewsey, on May 11th 1853. The Great House passed into the Somerset family, either at the sale or soon afterwards. Sadly, it did not long survive Old Jemmy, being destroyed by fire, probably in the 1850s or early 1860s. In the mid-1860s King Hall was built on the site by John Somerset. All that remains today at King Hall from Old Jemmy's time are the wrought-iron entrance gates, stable blocks, and some garden wall.

The Lady of the Manor

Who was the Lady of the Manor about whom Old Jemmy's guests loved to gossip? She can be identified as Miss Elizabeth Penruddocke (died 1839) of Fyfield Manor House, situated between Milton Lilbourne and Pewsey. Another branch of the Penruddockes lived at Compton Chamberlain. An ancestor was Colonel John Penruddocke, beheaded in 1655 for taking part in an unsuccessful Royalist rising against Cromwell.

The Vicar

Who was the vicar of Milton Lilbourne described in these articles? He was John Henry Gale, known as Parson Gale, who held the post for 47 years. When Parson Gale died in January 1893 (not 1892 as stated in the article) the obituary in the Marlborough Times reflected the widespread sorrow felt at his loss.

Fred Gale

Who was Frederick Gale, the author of these articles? He seems to have been a brother of Parson Gale. The Marlborough Times reports in October 1893 that "Mr F. Gale, brother of the late Rev. J.H. Gale", was present at the planting of the May Tree in Milton to commemorate the Royal Wedding. Their father, the Rev Thomas Hinxman Gale, although Vicar of Milton from 1813, also held the living of Godmersham in Kent, where he preferred to reside. This explains why Fred tells us he first visited the village in 1846.

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