Sunday, 4 February 2007
Snowdrops in Kintbury
Yesterday as a break from the usual CRUWYS research I went on a trip to Kintbury and East Woodhay where I was able to meet up with my friend Polly. Kintbury was the home of my maternal SMART, FAITHFULL and TIDBURY ancestors. My great-great-great-great-grandparents Benjamin SMART and Susanna FAITHFULL married at St Mary's Church, Kintbury, on 14th December 1819. They had eight children, all of whom were born in Kintbury. Benjamin was swept up in the machine breakers' riots which shattered the peace of this quiet Berkshire village for a few days in November 1830. By this time Benjamin had five children and Susanna was pregnant with their sixth child, Caroline, my great-great-great-grandmother. Life was particularly hard for agricultural labourers such as Benjamin. Prisoners in Reading Gaol apparently received a better diet than the average agricultural labourer. The harvests of 1828, 1829 and 1830 had been particularly poor after three wet summers in a row. The winters of 1828-1829 and 1829-1830 were particularly harsh, and the latter was reportedly the worst for nearly a hundred years. The introduction of cheap new threshing machines on the local farms meant that the labourers were unemployed for most of the winter months and were forced to rely upon meagre hand-outs from the parish rate for survival. The so-called Swing Riots took place throughout the southern counties of England but the villagers of Kintbury were treated particularly harshly for their actions. Troops were called out from London to break up the disturbances, and the rioters were rounded up and arrested. Benjamin was arrested but not committed for trial, being "discharged under his own, or someone else's recognizance". Some of the other villagers were not so lucky. William SMITH alias WINTERBOURN, the leader of the Kintbury rioters, was hanged at Reading Gaol on 11th January 1831. Twelve men from Kintbury were transported to Australia and two were sent to Reading Gaol for a spell of hard labour.I spent some time looking round the churchyard exploring the gravestones. I could not have picked a better day for my visit. It was a beautiful clear sunny day and, as can be seen from the photograph, the churchyard was covered in a carpet of snowdrops. I found what appeared to be five FAITHFULL gravestones but sadly they were so weathered and worn that it was barely possible to make out any of the inscriptions. Benjamin and Susanna SMART are both buried in Kintbury but their graves are unmarked. I was told that William SMITH alias WINTERBOURN has a gravestone near the entrance of the church but I was unable to locate it. Visiting the village today it is hard to believe that it was once the centre of such dramatic events.