Will Miss Holborow Please Stand Up?

Do you ever have “Duh! How could I have not seen that?!” moments? No, me neither. Ahem. And of those moments – which I definitely don’t have – this is very much not one of those moments … if you see what I mean!

But it’s a bit of a reminder for me in terms of checking other sources when confronted with brick walls and blind alleys. And nobody needs to be ashamed to have such kicks up the metaphorical behind. It’s a good thing to flex those research muscles.

Even if the result does make you smack your forehead …

Many, many years ago on a trip to my local record’s office, I was flicking through a school logbook for reference to my great-grandmother, Edith Hurcombe, or her sisters. Which I found (more here), with them being recorded as joining the school in 1924.

Bromham as it appears in the Ordnance Surveyor’s Drawings of 1808-1811 – the edge of Devizes in red in the bottom corner, Nether Street Farm is at the very end of Nether Street.

However, that wasn’t the only thing of interest that I found: between June 1912 and March 1913, there were several references to a Miss Holborow being an assistant teacher at the school in Bromham, just outside Devizes in Wiltshire.

10 June 1912 – Miss Holborow took up her duties as supply certificated assistant mistress this morning. Her arrival has been notified to the county accountant by Mr Pearce. She is taking charge of Class II (Standards III & IV) and the ordinary times tables.

10 October 1912 – Miss Holborow commenced duties as “supply” assistant in place of Miss Puckridge who is still absent.

11 October 1912 – Sent notice to Count accountant of Miss Puckridge’s absence also of Miss Holborow’s commencement of duties.

29 November 1912 – Miss Holborow assistant teacher absent all day with permission.

20 December 1912 – Break up today for Christmas holiday , a fornight – to reopen on January 6th 1913. Miss Holborow who has been serving as a supply leaves today.

19 March 1913 – Miss Holborow a former assistant teacher visited for a few minutes.

No mention of her first name. Other teachers – including the male ones – are also only referred to as Mr or Miss so I won’t get too aerated about women being erased. But it’s been a little worry at the back of my brain for many years – who was this Miss Holborow? All of my Holborows were far away from Devizes at this time! Knowing that the primary reason for women stopping being teachers was getting married (which was a legal requirement until the Sex Disqualification Removal Act was passed in 1919, although some areas did circumvent [or chose to ignore!] this and did employ married female teachers) I searched for a local marriage, but no dice.

A friend of mine recommended checking out the Teacher Registration records at FMP – but no Holborows there at all, which only really told me that she didn’t progress to be a fully qualified teacher. So who was she? Was I destined to never pin a name on the nameless teacher?

But then this week I decided to come at it from a different angle … What other Holborows were in the area? My first response was: none. My second response, however, was stunning in its blinding obviousness, and took my right back to why I had been looking at that school logbook in the first place!

My 2 x great-grandfather, Alfred William Hurcombe, had moved his family from Tresham in Gloucestershire to Netherstreet (a small cluster of settlement within the parish of Bromham) because his employer had moved farms. The employer? Dick Holborow. Could there be a connection there? Seemed to be quite likely. However, I couldn’t find a Dick or Richard Holborow that matched up with what I needed. But! I did know that Burden Court Farm in Tresham had once been the residence of the aforementioned Dick (in fact, we have met Burden Court before …) so with a bit of a whack on the noggin, I realised that “Dick” was actually Daniel Francis Holborow, the son of Daniel and Anne Eliza Holborow. Daniel senior had died relatively young, aged 42, in November 1897.

Alfred William Hurcombe as a young man, colourized.

I knew that in 1939, Alfred and his family were in Netherstreet:

Then I thought about Dick/Daniel. Where was he and where was his family? Well, turns out that they weren’t that far away! Just a few houses down the page, at Netherstreet Farm – exactly where he should be. But no indications of any Miss Holborow who could’ve been a teacher in 1912.

Unless … maybe Daniel had a sister or a niece …?

Well. Daniel had two siblings. The youngest, William Robert, served with the 2nd Battalion, “B” Company, Gordon Highlanders during WWI. On 1st July 1916, as the Battle of the Somme began, William was in the first wave of the assault. Going over the top at 7:30am, the battalion attacked the village of Mametz being held up by uncut German barbed wire and heavy machine gunfire. Despite this, they pressed on and took their objectives. The battalion suffered very heavily in the days fighting. 16 officers and 445 other ranks, were killed, wounded, or listed as missing. William was one of the men killed, aged just 21.

William’s elder sister, Marguerite Mary, was a viable option, as she was born in 1891. Of note was her marriage certificate of 1914. I had completely missed the place of residence of her husband, Frank Benjamin Leonard.

Yes, Bromham. Could she have been the Miss Holborow in question? I had no way of knowing. But I was interested to note that she was not present with the rest of the family in the 1911 census return. Where was she?

Ancestry refused to show her name in their search results as the record hasn’t been indexed. FMP, however, popped her right up – and crikey.

She is recorded as a student at Salisbury Teaching College in Barnard’s Cross, Salisbury. The primary location of the College was in Kings House, located in The Close, right next to Salisbury Cathedral. It was one of the first five teacher training colleges to be founded by the National Society for the Church of England. Opening in January 1841 with just one student, the demand for teachers soon rose so they opened a second location in Barnard’s Cross Quarter (presumably somewhere on today’s St Ann Street, although details online are vague). This lasted until the demand for female teachers lessened, until the college itself closed in 1968. The primary building is now Salisbury Museum (and I am almost ashamed to admit that despite attending college in Salisbury and spending many summer afternoons in the cathedral close – and having even sung in the Cathedral itself – I have never visited the museum!).

Connection to Bromham? Check! Connection to teaching? Check! I would be happy to take that my mystery Miss Holborow is, indeed, Marguerite.

But the fun times don’t end there.

In 1921 the Hurcombe family is still living in Gloucestershire, Alfred in the employ of A E Holborow of Burden Court Farm (A E being Anne Eliza, Daniel/Dick’s mother).

And Daniel Holborow is there at Burden Court Farm, with his widowed mother (the aforementioned A E Holborow), sister, niece and nephew, as well as a general domestic servant.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have seen that my great-grandmother, Edith Hurcombe, is enumerated in the 1921 census as being in service to Mrs B Leonard, of 2 Lawn Mansions, West Hampstead, London. Checking the address in 1921, we find Mr Frank Benjamin Leonard at home, married but with no family present. Because his wife was visiting the family back in Gloucestershire, allowing Edith a chance to visit her family too, no doubt!

But we are not quite finished yet. In 1911, we find Frank’s father (Benjamin) living at … Nether Street Farm which is being farmed by Frank’s brother, Ivor. Benjamin died there in 1912. In 1921, Ivor and his wife and family are still at Nether Street Farm. However, in 1924 they emigrated to New Zealand.

I find it such a peculiar set of circumstances that my great-grandmother worked for a family who were tenants on the same farm that her father’s employer then took over, and that she later married someone with the same surname as her father’s employer. Was it known that her husband, Joseph, was a 4th cousin of Daniel Francis? That we will never know. Is this the source of the family legend that a great-grandfather was “done out” of a farm, with a lot of mixed-up confusion? That we will also never know.

Alfred William Hurcombe with wife, Harriet nee Robins, outside their cottage in Netherstreet.

So from a mysterious mention in a school logbook, to tangled webs between families! Not too bad for something that has long lain dormant on my Mystery List: it only needed to be looked at with fresh eyes – and the assistance of the 1921 census!

I also note that the current tenants of Netherstreet Farm are descendants of Marguerite and Frank Benjamin Leonard, which is nice, but there will be more on this at a later date!

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