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Person Sheet

Name Alfred Pocock
Event Date Place Note Source
Birth ABT 1839 Melksham, Wiltshire, England   162
Death 12 APR 1920      
Burial APR 1920 Baptist Burial Ground, Bratton, Wiltshire, England    
Father Isaac Pocock
Mother Martha Pearce
Emma Hayward (ABT 1840 - 10 SEP 1932)

1851 census (Bratton B091) son, 12

Info is from the book "Without A Shilling"
Alfred was born in 1839, probably at Woodrow Farm, Melksham, and for us is perhaps the most interesting of Isaac's children. Obviously helped on his parent's farm and in 1861 at the age of 22 he is operating a farm of 510 Acres at Bratton, assisted by his brother Isaac and sisters Tabitha, Naomi and Martha Annie. This was a large farm for the time, Alfred was employing sixteen labourers and there is no doubt that he was a competent farmer and an astute bushiness man. In the year of 1858, Alfred, as one would expect was baptized at the Back St. Baptist Chapel at Trowbridge, but in 1867 he was "dismissed" or transferred to the Bratton Baptists where he became a highly respected "Pillar of the Church".
In 1866 Alfred had married his cousin Emma Hayward of Boyd's Farm, Corsham, Emma being the daughter of Mary and James Hayward, her mother Mary being the daughter of Harry and Hester Pocock. Alfred continued to be successful in his farming activities and was now a prominent member of the Bratton Baptist Church together with the heads of two of the most prominent families in the area - the Whitakers and the Peeves.
Previously the Whitaker family were early landowners in the Bratton area and the family records are available in addition to a delightful book by Dr.Marjorie Peeves which sets down much of their contents and also deals with the Peeves family in some detail. The Peeves family were the originators of the Bratton Iron Works which encompassed a wide variety of metal working, much of it directed towards agriculture and these two families provided many of the men of Bratton with employment. Henry Peeves and John Whitaker together with Alfred Pocock were the worthies of the Baptist Church and were concerned with just about every activity that took place in the village, from the Betterment Societies, the installation of gas lighting to the organisation of the Jubilee Hall, all in addition to their business and Church work.
Alfred's wife Emma was a lady who, without doubt, merits a few lines to herself and in addition to written evidence, we were extremely fortunate to meet a Miss Ruth Newman, a life long member of the Bratton Baptist Church who remembers her in great detail.
Emma Pocock was a determined and somewhat frightening lady, most certainly not to be trifled with and would not in any way be deflected from her chosen course. Emma had, even for that time, a particularly flamboyant taste in hats and at all times was conscious of her position in the village. At the time of the service in the Baptist Church the assembled congregation and the officiating Pastor would wait until, resplendent in her latest headgear, Emma would majestically enter the Church to take her reserved seat in the front of the congregation where no doubt she could cast a critical eye on the unfortunate preacher. When Emma was comfortably installed the service would then begin.
The records of the Church show that she steadfastly refused to be baptized at Bratton, in spite of Alfred's position there, but demanded and was given baptism at Back St. Baptist Church in Trowbridge. Marjorie Reeves quotes at length from Polly Whitaker's diary and cookery book showing her collection of recipes gathered from all quarters including "Mrs Alfred Pocock's Powder Cake" which brings back to Marjorie Reeves memory "formidable Baptist lady who always had her own urn and her own place at Baptist tea meetings."
1881 (in Will written then) Alfred inherits half of real westate amnd residual personal estate of William COX then of Garland's farm Sparsholt.
As we have previously mentioned in the chapter concerning Alfred's elder brother James, the latter half of the 19th Century was much concerned with Improvement Societies, Bands of Hope, Temperance Movements, etc, and in November 1886 the Bratton Mutual improvement Society was inaugurated symbolic of the Victorian spirit. Its avowed object was the intellectual improvement of its members, but it was specifically ruled that "... nothing at any meeting shall be introduced which (either in Religion or Politics) is of a party or denominational character ...". Members were elected and paid a subscription of one shilling, and at first women were excluded but were later admitted.
They opened with a concert on the 9th December 1886 given a packed house at the National School. Non-members paid 3d and oddly enough they took 29/10d at the door. Songs and duets were "... ably rendered by the members kindly assisted by their lady friends ..." as the newspaper report puts it. The post-master Mr.Cross, and his son played in a violin trio, the Vicar's daughter played piano pieces, John Whitaker read from Cowper's 'Conversations' and lots of people sang, ending with a glee 'Silvery Moon' by Alfred and Isaac Pocock and others.
Alfred and his brother Isaac appeared to be in great demand for their obvious vocal talents as they perform at virtually all the musical activities in the village. In addition to the host of societies designed to improve the education and social awareness of the lower orders, vast numbers of tracts on a great range of subjects were circulated, just to name one or two:- "On Dress: its Fetters, Frivolities and Follies from a Sanitary point of View"; "On washing the Children'; "On Rubbish, or a few words for Rich and Poor - on the use and abuse of Ashpits" Charles Kingsley contributed The two Breaths on ventilation and good breathing". From the National Health Society came "How to be Strong and Beautiful, Hints on Dress for Girls". However amusing these titles may now appear, in some quarters in this year of 1990 there is talk of the desirability of returning to "Victorian Values" whatever they were supposed to have been but I wonder how popular today would be the Victorian leaflet on The Rights of Women" which says:-

The Rights of Woman! what are they? The Right to labour, love and pray,
The Right to weep with those who weep; the Right to wake while others sleep.
The Right to show a spirit meek when angry words a quarrel seek;
The Right to wear a modest dress, when fashions bold around may press...
The Right by scripture and by choice to be without a public voice,
Humbly at home her Bible search; meekly keep silence in the church.
Are these thy Rights? then murmur not that woman's mission is thy lot;
Improve the talents God has given. Live to His praise and rest in heaven

However uplifting the Bratton Mutual Improvement Society may well have been, one could speculate on how many of the worthy inhabitants of the village enjoyed the cultural experience of 'Signor Bentolotto' and his 'Extraordinary Exhibition of the Industrious Fleas' when they visited Bratton, in which fleas dressed as ladies and gentlemen dance a waltz to music played by an orchestra composed of twelve fleas 'playing on different instruments of proportional size, the music is audible' etc. etc. Perhaps to fully appreciate Signor Bentolotto's Extraordinary Exhibition to the full, a visit to the Duke Inn before the performance would be advisable.
The Bratton Baptists developed a strong sense of spiritual responsibility towards the surrounding villages. The zeal for village preaching was strong amd the Bratton Church became committed to a plan of founding and serving its own village outstations, and several were built, but, as far as our story is concerned, the building of a Baptist Chapel at Great Cheverell is of interest.
The essence of the story is best taken from the paper 'The Baptist Times and Freeman' end it opens with reminding its readers of the determined efforts to stamp out non-conformity in the village of Bratton. At Great Cheverell, a small village near to Bratton, a small chapel had been built on a piece of life-hold land by one Mark Sawyer which in time reverted back to the Lord of the Manor. For some years the chapel had been rented from him but then the property was put up for sale at auction. Local Baptists were naturally anxious to retain the place that had become bound up with their faith and bid far beyond its value; but the Church of England Rector (the only other bidder) who had for years been keenly antagonistic to this solitary representative of the Free Church life and liberty in the village outbid the Baptists - in fact, paying double its market value.
Further than that, he also purchased at the same time an old disused room once occupied as a Wesleyan mission hall, so that the last hope of a nonconformist meeting place seemed gone. But all was not lost, for at the same sale, a small orchard on the main road was purchased by a friendly farmer, who was none other than our Alfred Pocock. The Baptists opened negotiations with the Rector with a view to a continued tenancy of the building he had just purchased, but not surprisingly had no result.
In the dilemma Mr Alfred Pocock, our friendly farmer, came forward and offered to present the orchard he had purchased as a site for a new freehold chapel. The Bratton Church rose to the occasion and led the way with donations and promises amounting to 105. To quote the newspaper "... for what seemed to be a dire calamity is turning out to be a blessing in disguise, and the Rector has, by his high handed action, given the greatest stimulus to Non-Conformity that Cheverell had known for many generations ...".
Plans were drawn for the new chapel, money raised and the building work commenced and for many around it was a great "day of rejoicing" when the memorial stone was laid by Mr. Pocock, the donor of the land, on the 28th. of August, 1907. Sympathizers and supporters arrived from Bratton, Calne, Devizes. Trowbridge, Warminster, Westbury etc., and as the weather was fine and warm, tea was provided in Mr.Dean's orchard, and the company sat down in relays of 150 "... till the wants of all were satisfied ...".
After tea a move was made to the building site and here the stone-laying ceremony took place preceded by singing from a good old fashioned village choir; much scripture reading by the Rev.Hobbs, followed by John Whitaker and Henry Reeves who "... referred in eulogistic terms to Mr Alfred Pocock, the donor of the site, who had come forward in a critical moment and rendered timely and generous aid by the gift of sufficient land and then, in a few well chosen words presented Mr.Pocock with a silver trowel with which he might well and truly lay the memorial stone ...".
It was fortunate that an amateur photographer was amongst the company and even more fortunate that some prints of the day's proceedings have survived and we have reproduced those that we have seen. We make no apologies for spending a little time with this story. for what happened in Great Cheverill was also taking place in countless other villages where the ordinary folk felt, rightly or wrongly, that the Anglican Church had no real place in their lives and with great determination thry set up their own nonconformist establishments. It is rather sad, today in 1990, to see so many of these non-conformist chapels, established back in the 19th Century with so much effort and dedication, now that they are either empty and decaying, are converted to luxury residences, or are housing small businesses of one sort or another. One hopes that the silver trowel has survived and that the present owner at least knows a little of the story behind its origin. As Alfred and Emma did not have any children it has probably passed to a distant relative.
As Alfred became rather more prosperous, we feel that he, or perhaps Emma, thought that a 'town' type of house would be more appropriate to his standing, rather than actually living in a farm house and it is difficult to visualize Emma as a hard working farmer's wife, making cheeses, and feeding the chickens. Alfred and Emma moved to the very centre of Bratton to the delightful 18th Century house known as Melbourne House, which is a far cry from back in 1741 when Margaret Pocock was Removed from Bradford - on Avon under the Poor Laws because she had become a Pauper.
In Directories after 1911 Alfred Pocock is listed as a private resident of Melbourne House, Bratton, which was a social move up from being listed as a farmer. Melbourne House has an interesting modern connection, quite trivial in its way, but at the time of the Falklands War it was, and still is, the home of General Sir Jeremy Moore.
Alfred Pocock of Bratton died on April 12th 1920 and in his will all effects and estates passed to his wife Emma, there being no children of the marriage. Emma Pocock continued to live in Bratton, no doubt still an intimidating figure, until her death on the 10th September 1932. Under the terms of her will she made a legacy of 200 entitled - 'The Charity of Emma Pocock for the Minister of the Baptist Chapel.' Alfred and his wife Emma are buried in the Bratton Baptist Burial ground.