JOSEPH BETTERIDGE - A Yeoman of Arle

Whilst the Gregory Welch family were the gentry of the area, and held much of the land in Arle and Hesters Way and lived in the 19th and early 20th Centuries at Arle House, this family has long gone - as has Arle House. Not so the Betteridge family who have lived in the area in much more modest circumstances, one of whose tiny cottages still exists.

The founder member of this local family, namely Joseph Betteridge, appears to have arrived in Arle with his wife, Mary, and their five children, namely William, Mary, Richard, Martha, and John, circa 1807. Like many farmers and agricultural workers, Joseph and his family moved about a lot, for their first two children were born at Sevenhampton, the second two at Eldersfield, and daughter, Martha was born at Badgeworth.

Joseph appears in the Manor Court Rolls for Cheltenham, when in 1807 designated Yeoman, he was granted land in Arle and Hesters Way, two selions (cultivated strips) in Townsend field and one selion in Barbridge Field, which was previously owned by Thomas Buckle.

Unlike the gentry, Joseph must have been a thrifty, hard-working man, and he owned a cottage and land in Shuthonger, near Twyning, left to him by his brother.

William, his eldest son, and John resided in Arle as evidenced by the 1841 and 1851 census returns, but it is probable that Richard settled on the Shuthonger estate, whilst grandson, Richard (son of William) settled in nearby Swindon (Village). There being no nearer church at the time, the family appears to have attended Swindon Church and in later years, St. Mark's.

Joseph may not have been rich by the standards of that time, but he was comfortably off. His will made in 1813 shows that he had freehold, leasehold and copyhold lands in Arle, Hesters Way and Alstone, as well as ready money, securities for money, goods, chattles, cattle, cocks, hay and implements of husbandry. All of these were left to his wife Mary during her life. After her decease, 20 was to go to son, William, along with one hogshead, his watch, and one chest at Twining. He also gave to William a recently purchased parcel of land in Barbridge field, but should William die without issue, then the land was to go to his two brothers, Richard and John.

To his daughter, Mary Acocks, wife of Thomas Acocks, blacksmith of Swindon, he left one chest of drawers, two flat irons, one oak chair, one silver teaspoon, her grandmother's gold ring, a trunk, a child's bed basket, a pair of tongs and a fire shovel.

To his son Richard, he left the premises in Shuthonger, chargeable with the payment of 60 to the said Mary Acocks. Should Richard die without issue, the land was to go to William and John.

To son, John, he left his land in Arle which he (Joseph) then occupied, and also arable land in Townsend field. Should John die without issue, then the land was to go to brothers, William and Richard. John did in fact die without issue.

To William and John, he also gave two cottages in Alstone. These were purchased from Mr. Street, upon trust to allow his daughter Martha Waine the rent and profits thereof, outside the control of her husband, unusual at the time. The two cottages stood at the junction of Arle Road with Gloucester Road, on the north side (below) but were demolished some years ago. Two new houses were built in their place.

To son, John, Joseph also gave a bed, bedstead, sheets, blankets, bed quilt, one pot, one kettle, one cider pipe, one quarter hogshead, two tables, a clock, a cupboard, two chairs, a great chair, a pair of bellows, a chest, a cheese press, a cowl and dough scale, a tub and iron sway from the kitchen chimney.

Daughter Martha Waine received two chairs, one oak chair, a tea table, dressing table, a swing glass, two silver teaspoons, and her mother's wedding ring, the great fire shovel, tongs, a glass box, a brass pot, and two flat irons. It was the custom in those days to have one iron heating on the fire whilst using the other. When that went cold, they were changed over.

To daughter, Mary, he gave a further 50, and his pewter was to be shared between both daughters. The residue, after his wife's death was to go to John. He signed the will and when he died in 1825 at the age of 87, he was buried in Swindon Churchyard, where his wife, Mary, was later buried in 1839, aged 96 (a great age for those times).

The goods mentioned are typical of the possessions of a farming family of the 18th and 19th Centuries. It is difficult to put a value on them. As far as money is concerned, one has to multiply by at least 30 to get some idea of today's value.

What is particularly interesting about Joseph's will is that written at the foot of the third page in another hand and rather confused is the following:

Dated 20/5/1825

If William and any of his family make any truble (sic) about any of that at Twining, he shall not have any that I have at Arle for our son Richard shall have Arle. He was to have the land at Barbridge and the money and moneysworth as he was to have for the house that whe (sic) lived in shall not be sold after the death of our son John Betteridge for Richard to have if John left no children lawfully begotten but if William do not trouble about Twining he shall have 20 paid to him by Richard out of the house and land if he takes to it after the death of John.

The mark X of Joseph Betteridge.

This addition seems to have been written as an afterthought and hastily before Joseph passed away, and the fact that he put X instead of his signature probably accounts for the rather garbled addition. It is evident he expected dissent between his sons, if this had not already begun.

Fortunately both William and John left wills and though not as lengthy as that of Joseph, they serve to show how the family fared after their parents' deaths. John died without issue and left to his niece, Elizabeth a freehold cottage and garden at Fiddlers Green, then occupied by William, subject to her paying one shilling (5p) to her father.

To nephew, Richard, son of William, he left a freehold piece of pasture (half an acre) at Arle in his (John's) occupation, also subject to a charge of 10 to nephew Richard Waine, and 5 each to nephews William and Thomas Waine.

To niece Jane Acocks, daughter of his sister Mary, he left a freehold piece of pasture (half an acre), adjoining the aforesaid piece, subject to the payment of a legacy of 20 to his sister Mary Bennet. Also to nephew, John Waine he left 10 and to his brother William a clothes chest, and to niece Mary Waine a chest of drawers. The residue was to be sold and the proceeds divided between his (John's) brothers and sisters. John was also buried in Swindon in 1844.

Of William's will, proved in 1851, he made his son Richard ,and his son-in-law John Wicksey, executors. He bequeathed to his daughter Elizabeth all growing crops, furniture and personal estate, after all expenses paid. To daughter Mary Ann he left 10 to be paid her by her siblings, namely William, Richard, Joseph, John, and Elizabeth.

He refers to property surrendered in the Manor Court to him by brother, Richard, which was to go to Elizabeth Wicksey. The one acre 25 perches in Townsend field fronting the lane leading out to Arle End Road next to Townsend Lane was to be divided into four equal parts to go to sons, John, Joseph, Richard, and daughter, Elizabeth Wicksey. William's wife Ann must have pre-deceased him as she is not mentioned in the will. William too was buried at Swindon, at the age of 79.

The wills are useful insofar as they not only show relationships but also give some idea of the possessions and land owned by this modest farming family.

Of the descendents of William and Ann, we know only that his eldest son, Richard, was born in Churcham in 1801. Richard came to Arle with his father and settled in Swindon, as shown in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. Richard and his wife also called Ann had one son, Joseph and three daughters. He left his land in Arle to his wife, then in his occupation and part in the occupation of John Haines. After her death the land passed to son Joseph, and daughter Jane Cole, wife of Mark Cole, butcher of Cheltenham.

Joseph lived for some years at Swindon before moving to Arle with his family after 1861. He married Hannah Bullingham at Swindon in 1850 and their first four children were baptised there. Presumably he moved to Arle after 1862 to occupy the premises left to him by his father, Richard. He and Hannah had nine children of whom eight are mentioned in Hannah's will, proved in 1908. Her husband's will gives little detail.


Elmhurst and woodbine Cottages before
their very recent renovation

The wills indexes put Hannah at being at Woodbine Cottage, Arle, but the will itself says she was at Number 62 Waterloo Street, Cheltenham. Son, Robert Henry of the Farmers Arms of Worcester Street, Cheltenham was trustee and executor with power to dispose of her estate and divide the proceeds between her children and grandchildren. She signed the will, and like other forbears of that family, was buried in Swindon Churchyard near her late husband Joseph, in 1905 aged 76.

By this time the family was scattered, but still living at Woodbine Cottage, Arle was Charles Edward Betteridge and his wife and only child, Alice Isabel, who in 1918 married Chief Petty Officer, John William Booth at St. Marks. He was the son of Stephen Booth of Elmhurst. The wedding photo shows the group standing in front of Woodbine Cottage at the junction of Tanners Lane and Village Road. The cottage was later occupied by the young couple, who were neighbours of Mrs. Webb of Box Cottage, formerly a Booth. Isabel was a great, great, great grandchild of the first Joseph Betteridge, and so it appears living on what was formerly his land.


Betteridge Wedding

Of the other children of Joseph and Hannah, only Alfred Mark appears to have stayed in the area of Hesters Way, for all of his and Alice's ten children were baptised at St. Marks and attended Red Roofs School. Of this large family, Ernest Charles set up a haulage business and moved to Manchester where he died in 1940, aged 49. He left a wife, two sons and a daughter.

Alfred Mark died in 1936 and was then of Station Street. He left only a brief will leaving everything to his wife, Susanna, and merely made his mark X to his will. Whether Alice died soon after the birth of her last child is not known. Perhaps she was worn out with excessive childbearing, for often there was only a year between them. Perhaps Alfred re-married to get a mother for his motherless children, which men often did in the days when childbearing was so hazardous.

The irony of all this is that long after the Gregory Welch family and their pretentious home are gone, the tiny cottage in which the first Joseph and perhaps his sons dwelt, nearly 200 years ago still stands, and there are still Betteridges living on the Hesters Way estate. Are they descendents of this proud yeoman? I wonder who has the chest of drawers, the silver spoons and the gold rings.

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