CHAPTER FIVE

The Hancorn family of Millhalf, Whitney.

Next must be recalled the memory of William Waringís excellent wife, my much loved grandmother. Born in 1776, she married at an early age in 1793, scarcely more than 16, when he was 33. She must have been pretty then for she was a fine handsome matron when I first saw her (to remember) at Phillipsburg in July 1833 when 57. She had a smooth fair skin, filled out well with fleshiness and a very mild genial voice which was always exerted on the side of honesty,propriety, christian morality and forbearance. Her sufferings or his miscalculations, or both had rendered her petulant towards some of grandfatherís sayings and doings, but I never heard her use an acrimonious word, such as farmersí wives in England are so given to, who drive their servants with the bitterest language and often seem to become so impatient and irritable as to be unable to use any other towards their household, though soft as a flute towards customers and superiors.. (Those violenceís used to make me shiver and spoiled the beauty of the climate and scenery for me and even the enjoyment of the superior table provision and general good treatment of a guest or lodger, by the kind voiced motherly landladies, as day and night changed to each other so do the tones of these womens tongues,)

Grandmotherís maiden name was Gwen Hancorn - same name as her grandmotherís - in full Gwenllian, pronounced like "gwenthlean" with the tongue turned back to the "L" position when pronouncing the "th" - a whispered L. It is a common name along the Welsh borders and through Wales.

Grandmotherís father - Samuel Hancorn of the Millhalf, a fine estate in the parish of Whitney in the fine valley of the Wye and which he owned, married a neighbourís daughter named [Catherine] Bowen and father told me that he remembered seeing his greatgrandmother Bowen and her old servant Ann Jinks. [Jenkins?] They were conspicuous then (about 1799) from adhering to an old style of bonnet or rather hat, with immensely broad brims, then out of fashion. The crowns were very small and narrow. Special cheeselike boxes were used to keep them in. Father was to go to her funeral but it was a wet day and he was not allowed. The old lady could not content herself to live with her daughter, Mrs Samuel Hancorn, more than a week at a time preferring to be in her own house above the Mill, with her old favourite servant (diary Ď68 p. 39).

Grandmotherís other grandmother - Samuel Hancornís mother Gwen - died in 1771 aged 84 and a Martha D. Hancornís tomb in Whitney Churchyard bears the date of her death 1774 aged 74, so born in 1700 and Gwen in 1687. There were for three generations of the Millhalf Hancorns three sons named by the same names, Samuel, Thomas and John.

Grandmotherís Uncle Thomas [Hancorn] was a bachelor and a physician but would sputter about the farm spudding weeds, etc. The Millhalf, as indeed all Herefordshire was very productive of apples and cider was and is yet the common drink. Every workman boarding at home, must have his cider and we little ones used to have to draw the three quart bottles full for each one very morning and four quarts in harvest time. Samuel Hancorn drank cider almost incessantly and always of the best, - never any "sperrits". He was buried at Whitney in 1804 aged 90. Doctor Thomas [Hancorn] was drinking a visitorís health one day at his brotherís, from the quart jug as was commonly the way, when the jug fell and Samuelís mother said "Oh Doctor! How unlucky! Youíve broke your jug, and Gwen (grandmother) broke the fellow to it yesterday!" He was dead aged 85. This happened in 1778 when grandmother was two years old. Another Thomas Hancorn, a cousin probably from Carriers House died 1792 aged 74. There are also tombs to Richard D. Hancorn 1750 aged 89 and John Hancorn 1782 aged 61.

[There are a number of errors in this last paragraph either due to the transcription from the original or failure in the memory of William Griffith Waring. The Thomas Hancorn who died in 1778 aged 85 was Gwen Hancornís grandfather and the Thomas Hancorn who died in 1792 aged 74 was the Doctor Thomas Hancorn son of Thomas Hancorn who died in 1778 and brother of Samuel Hancorn who died in 1804. The Richard D. Hancorn who died in 1750 and his wife Martha D. Hancorn who died 1774 were of another branch of Hancorns who lived at Whitney. The "D" in their names is probably there because, Richardís grandmother was an Eleanor Duppa. The John Hancorn who died in 1782 was a brother of Samuel and Doctor Thomas].

They were a vigorous stock living in a healthy fruitful country, and there are many of them now in the valley of the Dore as well as along the Wye. When I was visiting James Hiles of Poston Lodge on a high ridge (Stockley Hill, east of Peterchurch) I went to see the Reverent Mr Lowther, rector of Turnastone, by invitation, having met him on the way to Poston and had some talk with him on the road. He was a younger brother of Lord Lowther and his brother or cousin had a few years before fallen into a crevasse in an Alpine glacier with two or three others - a sad event - much in the papers then (diary Ď68 p135). On my way across fields I passed near a hay stack and found that it was blazing on one side. I looked about but there was no house near, nor any person visible but an old man and woman in a field hoeing turnips. I hurried to them and asked for help but they seemed entirely indifferently and too stolid and stupid to do anything but "nick-nick" with their hoes. They said it was -------- Hancornís hay stack and "Some of em should come". The next nearest place was the church and rectory, but it was too late for help when I got there although the compacted hay burned very slowly in the calm damp air.

The Hancorn eye, bright brown, large, full, strenuous, piercing, is very noticeable in all that have Hancorn blood. The original stock is said to have been Spanish refugees, three brothers, one of whom bought the Clock Mills property, opposite Winforton, one the Millhalf and one settled near Swansea. The family coat of arms was three cocks still to be seen on stones at Whitney (diary Ď67 Aug 4). [Tombstone of Richard D. and Martha D. Hancorn]

One of the Swansea Hancorns visited Father at Breinton and for a mischievous prank, such as was much in vogue then, he pulled the props from a rick of hay to allow it to topple over. Grandmotherís brother Samuel Hancorn was wasteful. Sold the grand oaks off the estate to build a fine mansion although the farm house of superior stone is very solid and good, some immense stones lining the fireplace and the recessed seats on each side, all smooth and well fitting, likely to stand for other centuries yet. The roof too, of thin large flags from the Welsh hills.

Samuel Hancorn died young and then his brother Thomas who was an ironmonger in Shrewsbury and a bachelor like his Uncle Doctor Thomas came into the property. He put his younger brother John on it. John had been started in farming at Breinton as told above. He married there an elder sister of my good nurse Ann Cooper named Sarah, who, unlike Ann was a worthless slatternly creature, quite unfit to raise a family and already a mother by some stray father. Her son before marriage, William Cooper, I shall have to speak of. He was bound out while young, lived with us when a boy, drove me to Hereford May 1833 when leaving Didley for America, and I saw him in 1869 (diary p37,38 & 115) at Flaxley, Gloucestershire, with an excellent wife and charming family, all grown up. Sarah Hancornís children raised by herself did not turn out so well. As told above, John Hancorn after getting Breinton Farm through his brother-in-law (Grandfather Waring giving way for him and repaying to his mother for him an advance of £50 which Grandfather felt to be a great hardship), John failed there soon but his brother Thomas getting the Millhalf, he went there. Thomas Hancorn told Uncle Edmond when he stayed with him in Shrewsbury that being at Millhalf and seeing the children poorly dressed and everything out of order, he had offered to send some part worn clothes if she would accept them for making-over. "Oh yes! Thank you surely." When he got home he filled a large box and sent it by carrierís wagon. Next time he went to the Millhalf all was ragged as ever. He took occasion to ask "Did you get the box of clothes I sent?", "No - I donít remember", "They must have come" he said, "I got the receipt. Suppose we look". In a lumber room was the box and piles of things. It had never been opened.

John Hancorn died young soon after getting the Millhalf as his own, by the death of his bachelor brother Thomas. His son Thomas then came into it and he went fairly headlong (about 1822) into horse-racing and all other speediest ways of wrecking a fortune. He had to sell all his right and has been a poor tavern keeper with poor health and a second wife with a large family. A pleasant, good-natured tall man, who must have looked well in his days of gaiety. I went to see him June 10th 1868 (diary 114 etc). When near his house. The Anchor, Lydhrook, Forest of Dean, I met a little girl of 12 with Hancorn eyes. I said "Your name is Hancorn?", "Yes." "Well, I was never here before. I came from America and yet I know you!" Her father was sick in bed and they were to leave next month. They were very kind to me. A very curious adventure - a discovery of Tyrone photographs and people there that fairly astounded me is briefly alluded to in diary Ď68 p114. On Sunday January 31st 1869 I was at William Coopers by appointment on a visit and he had written to Thomas Hancorn and family whom I had visited as above some months before, to come over and meet me. We had a pleasant time, the Red Hill Cottage was full. Thomasís oldest son John, the reputed heir to the Millhalf (an entailed property) was along. He was in a drug store in the South of England. His photo is among mine, (at Edís). Father thought it most likely that Esquire Dew, who bought Thomas Hancorn out of the Millhalf had found lawyerís means to break the entail. Father said he had been solicited to sign a surrender as a distant possible heir, but he had refused. March 1884, we have the good news that John is likely to get his inheritance. I should be glad to hear of a Hancorn coming into his old home again.

I have told how I met a sister of Thomas Hancornís, Catherine [baptised 3rd August 1817] at Woods Eaves - lately died about 1878, also (1879) her sister Mary [baptised 11th June 1820], Mrs Carter and her daughter Bessie who died Feb/March 1884 at Brooklyn, leaving two children. Mrs Carter well known to my sister Mrs Graham (Fanny). I saw her in New York from my return from England in March 1869. Thomasí eldest daughter Catherine [baptised 1832], by his first wife, was housekeeper for a church dignitaryís widow living in grand style with many servants and often changing one of her residence to another. Catherine had been with her long and is yet probably. I took tea with her May 15th 1868 and some of the upper servants in Hereford. She was very lady-like,evidently greatly respected and probably more of a real lady than her ladyís self. Thomas Hancorn has a brother Samuel [baptised 14th July 1822] - said to be in the army.

Grandmother had two sisters, Elizabeth [baptised 25th July 1784] and Catherine [baptised 10th May 1789]. Grandmotherís sister Catherine married a baker in Kington [Samuel James 5th November 1815]. She was only a few (six ) years older than father and they were playmates at the Millhalf. She was always held in the highest regard by father and by uncle Edmond and she loved all her life at Kington or the Millhalf and died at Kington September 8th 1877 aged 89 and was buried at Whitney. Her husband died in 1832, in the year before I heft England. He was a silent man of glum austere aspect and I was much afraid of him on that account although he in no way maltreated me, but spoke and acted kindly when there was an occasion for his speaking. I first saw him (to remember) in 1822 when I was nearly six. I had been at deathís door with whooping cough, soon after Robertís birth in 1821, - I had always been weakly and was very small and feeble. Father told me in 1867 that I was so weak and nervous when little that I could not bear any noise or to have any of my sisters come into the room or the baby boy brother Robert and they were angry about it. He brought me back from Kington and met Doctor Cam at Letton. "What little boy have you there?" asked the doctor "My boy" - "Why, I thought he was dead". He had given me up.

After my death was fully expected by the doctors as well as the family I began to take a turn for the better after a blister put on my chest !! I can well remember burning stinging heat of it, and how I begged to have it taken off and how they said that it must not be touched. Then there was screaming on all sides when an uncovering disclosed large blisters the water from which wet me all round when they snipped them.

Sometime after Uncle James being at our house (Breinton) it was proposed by the affect of the change of air and the neighbourhood of the Welsh hills. Late in the day I was sent on the house to ride behind him 20 miles. I could not get any hold of his tightly buttoned buff grey overcoat, or balance myself with my short weak legs. I was soon raw with the friction and if his horse trotted I was obliged to scream. I remember his telling me over and over again "Itís only a mile or two further" as we kept on in the black dark night, seeing a candlelight sparkling in a window now and then. Sometimes he stopped at a wayside "public" and I would think my ride at an end only to have it recommenced with greater suffering than ever. I donít remember arriving but remember finding myself (Book III pp.18) late next morning in bed with clammy clothes soaked and sticking all about me. But kind aunt kissed and comforted and excused an solaced me so tenderly that I did not sink into the ground when I was taken own into a bright little parlor with a nice fire in a little grate. Great-grandmother (there on a visit) on one side humped up in a muddle of black clothes and smiling great aunt on the other and three cousins Sam and red cheeked Ann (born June 2nd 1816, four months and one day before me, she died in 1890 aged 74) and little Tom on the other, looking and laughing at the pitiful little new arrival. Little Tomís name for me was Ďbilly wadiglesí and aunt called me by that name to the last. He Thomas Hancorn James died October 19th 1866. I went soon after Emma was born on August 22nd. Was there on Guy Fawkes Day November 5th, when an effigy of Fawkes was burnt and among other things a fire engine was played, four men on each side working the barlike handles. I was there too in the winter for uncle would distress me, perhaps unwittingly by insisting on my eating potatoes. They were touched with frost and so nauseous to me that I was tried in the extreme. I remember his engaging me a pair of shoes at his brotherís across the way, John James, as mine had all out and I began in thinking very kind after all. And I especially remember how I liked breakfast of rolls, muffins or crumpets, often stale to be sure, the unsold stock of yesterday morningís baking, but delicious to me when warmed and buttered, by appetite being sharp after late reducing sickness and now a change to the fresh air of the Welsh hills close on our west. Then the rusks at teatime too. I use to like to watch the baker making all the good things, a chubby young man whom I thought like the picture of George IV as Prince Regent, on the parlor wall and was greatly pleased when I told him so. The bakery seemed very ancient I remember being carried about by a boy when recovering from whooping cough and his saying how light I was and my petulance prompting me to beat him on the face provoked by his laughing at me, and how all seemed pleased as well as myself when I ate a soft boiled egg with a relish and another day a boiled kidney of mutton. I was exceedingly fretful then and would take affront at those playing with me and was no doubt made worse by the petting which my weak state induced and by motherís nervousness and change of tempers.

I was at Kington again for a while two or three years later, probably in 1825, when I could play ball with Sam, who was a wild boy, a year or two older than me. We were together at the races up on the bald top of Bradnor ? Hill. Uncle seemed then to pay no attention to the bakery or to his shop for the sale of bread, cakes, flour and bacon. He was drinking hard and drank himself to death. When in Kington in 1867 (Diary August 1st) I saw a large raised tomb to his memory - he died May 15th 1832.

Aunt James was no doubt too indulgent to her two boys and they caused her loving heart great distress in later years. Anne never married but stayed with her mother, helped her to help the boys in straits brought on by their imprudence and prodigal behavior. Tom married a wife who after his death in Chelsea, London about 1866 caused the sister and mother cruel trouble. Sam could not be controlled by his mother, so was sent to America with me a year after his fatherís death. He worried me greatly. His mother had given me money for him in case of need which I was not to tell him of. When we landed in Philadelphia he wanted to go to New York, so went and I sent the money (£15) to Uncle Edmond for him. Uncle had the letter yet (1891) which I sent with it. He would not take uncleís advise, got into bad company, left his situations, and was found after long disappearance in the wretchedist possible condition to be alive and to be able to walk. Uncle got him cleaned up and dressed and sent him home, sending part of the money to a correspondent in Liverpool to forward to him from there. I heard aunt say that I was so quiet and steady, Sam would probably copy from me. But it is not as easy to improve as to degrade, and I fear while he was no better for me, that I was much harmed by association with him. He became a station master, then lost that position, got others, was an agent in Brecon when I was there in August 1867 (see August 5, 6 and 7 diary). Had a second wife and second family in fairy comfortable circumstances, treated me very kindly, for he was a good husband in his wild way. Later he moved onto Kington and kept The Harp, a little tavern belonging to his mother. His second wife seemed a very good and pleasant woman. She had lived in some situation in Windsor Castle and in figure and even face much like the pictures of the Queen. Had nice little children, smart, mostly girls. He died at Kington in 1882 aged about 67.

I know no other brother or sister of Grandmotherís [Gwen Hancorn] but John and Catherine.