John Bodman (1798 – 1861)

  John Bodman (1798 – 1861) & Maria Gulliver (1800 – 1875)

John and Mary Bodman’s oldest child, John Bodman married Maria Gulliver on 8th October 1820 at Hinton Charterhouse. They had both just turned 20.

Just 18 months later, some three quarters of a year after the birth of their first child Jenny, John and Maria had to look to the parish of Farleigh Hungerford for support. To obtain this they had to prove â ˜residency’ in the parish and had to submit to a Settlement Examination. This was to prove he was not an intinerant labourer. The examination was taken under Oath on 3rd March in front of one of his ‘Majesties Justices”.

In the court, as evidence, it was revealed that John Bodman, seven years earlier (when he would have been just seventeen) hired himself as  yearly servant to John Bailey of the parish of Wingfield at six guineas per year and lived with his master under that hiring agreement for seven years. Living in that parish for three years.

He then moved to Farleigh Hungerford, where he hired himself as a servant to a Mr Robert Rabbit and agreed to have ten shillings per week for a year and was to do what was required of him. For some time he looked after the horses, went milling and when the hay making time came he was employed by Robert Rabbit to go mowing. He then earned at the rate of a pound a week. He also went reaping and on those occasions agreed to do it for a certain sum per acre and not by the day. He continued to work with his master on this piecework basis and also earned ten shillings per week as had been previously agreed. Robert Rabbit confirmed this in Court and also told that John had lived in his house for about one and a half years and had also threshed oats at a fixed price per acre as a day labourer and had also been employed to put up some bounds at a certain sum per lug without any reference to a the weekly wages first agreed upon. The expenses for the examination are shown in the Parish records.

The Overseas Accounts for Farleigh Hungerford show:-
4.1822 To summons and expense for John Bodman 7s
Gave John Bodman 1s
3.4.1822 To expenses to Bath farmer Rabbit and myself about John Bodman 10s
To John Bodman’s Examination 5s
Gave Bodman 1s
Paid farmer Rabbit.s expenses from Maiden to Radley and back 6s 6d
9.4.1822 information warrant & orders of removal of John Bodman,  wife and child to Wingfield parish 14s 6d
Gave Bodman’s wife 1s
26.4.1822  Gave Bodman’s wife 2s
To removing John Bodman’s wife and child from Farley to Wingfield by order 2s
15.11.1822 Paid for warrant for John Bodman 5s 6d

7.1.1823 Paid farmer Bullock & farmer Pike expenses
to Shepton (Mallet) & back about John Bodman £1.11.10d
3.4.1826 The expenses to Trowbridge for a warrant for John Bodman 15s
These conditions for farm workers did not improve over the first half of the 19th century. The ending of the Napoleonic War in 1815 and the consequent recession in agriculture had led to a sharp reduction in the wages of farm labourers and to appalling hardship, poverty and misery among their families. This was especially marked in the corn growing regions where there was little alternative employment and labourers were completely dependant on their employers. The counties of Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire became notorious for low wages, poor housing and miserable conditions of farm labourers. Average weekly wage rates on chalk lands of Wiltshire during the winter months in the period 1770 – 1830 were as follows:-
      1770      5s 0d
      1794      6s 0d
      1804     8s 0d
      1814     12s 0d
      1817      8s 0d
1823      7s 0d
      1830      7s 0d
However, in real terms the average weekly wage in 1985 would buy 14 loaves of bread and by 1814 this had dropped to 9!

One effect of wages which barely enabled families to exist was that farm labourers, like John Bodman, were compelled to rely more and more on relief from the poor rates, a process which accelerated the degradation, helplessness and hopelessness of the workforce.

Just four years after John Bodman’s settlement examination in 1826, William Corbett during his Rural Rides through Wiltshire, wrote scathingly of the conditions of the labourers; In the valley of Avon from Marlborough to Salisbury he observed:- “In taking my leave of this beautiful vale, I have to express my deep shame as an Englishman, at beholding the extreme poverty of those who cause this vale to produce such quantities of food and raiment. This is, I verily believe it, the worst used labouring people on the face of the earth. Dogs and hogs and horses are treated with more civility; and as to the food and lodging, how gladly would the labourers change with them!”
It was the combination of low wages, poor conditions, unemployment together with bad winters and poor harvests of 1829 and 1830 that finally led to the great explosion of anger and frustration through the corn-lands of the region, the ‘Captain Swing’ riots of November 1830. In several parts of the region, the riots, machine breaking or other forms of violence or intimidation was preceded by threatening letters allegedly form the mythical ’Captain Swing’ whose name gage a unity to the whole movement. Although only lasting for a few weeks, the riots had a dramatic effect on the region. It was the recent memory of the Swing riots that led to the attempt of some labourers to set up a Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers at Tolpuddle in 1833 and 1834. Six of them were prosecuted nad transported. It led to public outcry and the Tolpuddle Martyrs as they were known as, were brought back to England. Conditions were slow to improve during the rest of the 19th century and this led to many farm workers seeking work in the growing industrialised towns and to emigration overseas.

It is likely that against this background, John and Maria’s lives must have been very difficult and did not improve a great deal as the century progressed. We do know however that John Bodman and his family were poor enough to receive charity at Christmas between 1831 and 1838. John was in receipt of the following payments from Dr. Edward Fryer’s Charity for Poor People in the parish of Farleigh Hungerford and Wingfield.:-
             Christmas 1831     7s 0d
             Christmas 1832     4s 2d
             Christmas 1833     7s 3d
Christmas 1838    £1 12s
Three years after the Settlement examination, the family had moved to Westwood and by 1829 had moved to Wingfield. Where they lived until at least 1861. This is confirmed by the census records of that time.
John and Maria had the following children:-

Jenny Bodman               born 1821 Wingfield
Henry Tucker Bodman baptised 24 Jun 1821 Farleigh Hungerford
John Bodman                 baptised 28 Mar 1824 Farleigh Hungerford
Matilda Bodman            baptised 16 Oct 1825 Westwood
Benjamin Bodman        born 1829 Wingfield
Richard Bodman      born 1830, baptised 8 Aug. Wingfield   click here
Joseph Bodman             born 1833 Wingfield
Maria Bodman               born abt 1837 Wingfield
John Bodman                 born 6th Dec 1839 Wingfield
Jacob Bodman                born 1843

Richard Bodman was born one year after the swing riots. These arose from the terrible conditions that the farm labourers were living in.
The 1861 census for Wingfield shows John and Maria Bodman living there. Their ages are at a slight variance with the 1851 census and also Maria’s place of birth is given as Shepton Mallett!. John’s occupation was given as a labourer and they had a lodger Robert Crook, who was also a labourer. John’s mother’s maiden name was Crook.

Two of their sons and their families were also living there. Joseph and Charlotte Bodman aged 24 and 28 and their family. Charlotte Bodman and Dinah Ward were sisters.

John Bodman died at Wingfield on 13th August 1861 aged 68. After an inquest the cause of death was established as “Visitation of God, Rupture of the vessel of the heart”.
Maria survived him for 14 years and died aged 75 on 8th August 1875. She was living at nearby French Grass, Bradford upon Avon.