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Old 25-03-13, 10:52
AndyHoldcroft AndyHoldcroft is offline
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Default Family transcript 14: Life story of Isaac Holdcroft

Below is the transcript of an account of his life by Isaac Holdcroft, the brother of my Great Great Grandfather, William Holdcroft.

ISAAC HOLDCROFTS LIFE STORY (1825-1915)

1825 Weeford

Born at Weeford near Litchfield, my father had a blacksmith livery by the
side of the Turnpike Road leading from Liverpool to London. The mail
coaches went that way, the infantry, cavalry and artillery also Pickford’s
luggage wagons and Lord Derby and gentlemen from the north with their
carriages and postbags. Dog carts drawn by dogs and droves of Irishmen
in the summer time, they cut the corn with a sickle in those days, about
fifty of them would enter a field and would have it all cut down before
night, then they would come to my father’s at night and have milk to their
meal. We kept cows, then they would sit down in the yard and play the
fiddle or fife and dance, there was no pub about there so we children had
a nice time of it. What with the bugle, playing on the coach, the military
bands and the Irishmen it kept us all alive. Sometime the cavalry would
dismount for ten minutes, the officers would come and light their cigars,
there were no matches then except homemade ones, brimstone
homemade ones, the men would refresh themselves at the pump.
I would ride a donkey to meet the mail coach at the Bull’s Head at
Thurston to fetch the letter bag each morning and take it back at night. I
had a rough job, sometimes the donkey would run me in a hedge or rub
my legs against a wall and sometime he would not go at all, then they
brought me a pony and it was all right and I could go along proper, I used
to fill the time up with cleaning the bits and helping in the stables and
laying the cloth for dinner in the servants hall and make myself generally
useful. The butler used to play the violin at nights and I had to get on the
table and dance a hornpipe to please them, they used to call me little Jim.
As time went on I went up to London with the groom, we both rode on
the saddles there and back, we were 3 days each way going and coming
back. We were in London 3 months the time of her majesties coronation.
Well in time the family went abroad and I went home, my next place was
with a clergyman at Walton Warren near Stafford I was there a few
months when he had a better living to go to in Bolton in Lancashire so I
left him and came by coach home. I had not been home long before a
cousin of mine came from Birmingham to ask me to go to live with a
doctor to act as groom, I stayed with him 12 months and I enjoyed myself
very much driving about the town. I had only been with him 12 months
when he had an appointment as house surgeon at the Stafford Asylum so I
had to leave there. I then went to live with a doctor at Stourbridge, my job
there was to clean boots and knives, clean the surgery, answer the bell
and go out with the doctor about the country, well I stayed with him
about 12 months then I left and went home by coach, I stayed at home about a month then I heard of a situation as groom under a coachman at a
place called Wassell Grove not far from Stourbridge with a Mr Fryer. I
was very happy while there, I left because I wanted more wages. Then I
got a place at Ombersley near Worchester with a Captain Winnington
with good carriages, I went there by coach and when I got there he was
dead! He died on the Isle of Wight. I stayed about a month, the servants
all left, I took the horses to Sir J Winnington at Bewdley Court and came
home once more. I had not been home long before the coachman at
Manly Hall met with an accident and broke his leg, they sent for me to go
and assist them in the stable whilst he was in bed. I had not been there
long before the coachman, a George Holdcroft my second cousin, came
to see me, they wanted a groom at Packington Hall so I went and was
engaged. I was there only 13 months when Mrs Levett died and we all
had to leave. She was very good, she left all the servants legacies I came
in for £10 so thought it was a pretty good start, the first I put in the
savings bank well then Mr Levett from Wickman came and wanted me
to go live with him and I went there and stayed 2 years, I was very happy
while there, twas there I met my Octavia. Then I went to live with Mr
Levett’s sister, a maiden lady in Gloucestershire I was with her 2 years
then she came to live at Elford, this was all right as I could go to
Wickman and do abit of courting as my Octavia was still at Wickman. I
was with her about 3 years altogether. When I left there I stayed at home
a little while then got married; as nothing else to do. Then Mr Levett of
Wickman sent for me he wanted me to go as coachman to Mrs Wilson of
Barton so I came and was coachman for 8 years, then she had me in the
house as butler, I stayed there till the young ladies got married, they then
reduced the establishment so I left. I was with her for 13 years altogether.
r did not want to be moving about any more so I took to carrying barrels
for Mr Edwin Geary, I had that for 32 years. Part of that time at the 3
Horseshoes Inn which I took to in 1889 and did fairly well till the latter
part of the time when things did not turn out as well, trade being bad and
other causes so I left it. I was there till 1909 just 20 years and came to the
cottage here where I lived when I first came to Barton and I thank God
for giving me good health to live and see my family grow up and doing
well.

Though troubles assail
And dangers affright
Though friends should all fail
And foes all unite
Yet one thing secures us
Whatever betides
The Scriptures assures us
The Lord will provide
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Old 26-03-13, 02:09
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Janet Janet is offline
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Very picturesque prose! That's very interesting to me about how positions were filled by word of mouth and personal connections, and how frequently they fell through, and the reasons why. In my family we have a coachman in those same decades, my greatgrandfather, and I've often wondered how he came to fill the positions he had. This gives me some very good insights. Thanks, Andy.
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Old 26-03-13, 08:02
AndyHoldcroft AndyHoldcroft is offline
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Thank you Janet! I agree with the prose comment: very redolent of a different era but certainly both very evocative & commendable given how little formal education h must have received. His sister in law (my Great Great Grandmother) for example I believe was illiterate. I also agree about your comments regarding posts: clearly service was not the "job for life" that popular history often makes it out to be: no wonder he ended up as his own boss running a pub in Barton Under Needwood in Staffordshire. I attach a photo of him. Quite the Victorian gentleman (taken c1900 at his daughter's wedding)
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File Type: jpg Isaac Holdcroft.jpg (8.3 KB, 4 views)
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Old 26-03-13, 13:15
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The face fits the prose.
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Old 27-03-13, 09:14
AndyHoldcroft AndyHoldcroft is offline
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Agreed! Just annoyed I forgot to attach it to original post!
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Old 27-03-13, 10:49
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tenterfieldjulie tenterfieldjulie is offline
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Fascinating Andy .. and very envious that you have such a marvellous written account of your ancestor's life and the circumstances of how, where and why he lived.
I just want to know a few snippets!! Julie
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Old 27-03-13, 15:33
AndyHoldcroft AndyHoldcroft is offline
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Thank you Julie: I am privileged that several of my ancestors had an eye for changing times & posterity & the skill to capture it: and of course that their accounts survived. It is the "human" side of past lives which most appeal to me
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