Edwin was born into a large Derbyshire farming family in May 1823. Seemingly he and his brothers and sisters enjoyed an almost idyllic childhood living on the farm
….sadly this couldn’t be said of his adult life.
It had all started off so promising as he and at least two of his siblings acquired small farms of their own.
His typical day’s work was long and arduous, as this was at the time when the grass had to be cut down with a scythe, left to dry out and then collected and carried by the farm essential - the cart.
It was then stored in the hay loft, which on most farms was located above the stables.
….At least two heavy horses were needed to work on every farm… we must remember, this was before the days of that wonderful agricultural implement - the tractor.
Sadly cleanliness on farms of this era was not of a primary concern, and they proved to be a place where disease could easily spread.- Edwin’s farm would be no different; ….It was usual practice for horses, cattle and hens to mix together in the filth which covered the farmyard
In the Summer of 1850 Edwin married Mary, a young lady from Leicestershire and before the end of 1855 they had produced a son and four daughters.
Life was looking good for the family and then at the end of 1857 tragedy struck with a savage blow…
During the last week of that year their six year old daughter died from what was reported as an ‘infectious disease’. It’s not known if this was the Typhoid epidemic which was rife at that time or Diphtheria caused by the insanitary conditions on the farm…but even worse was to come, for one week later both their five year old and three year old daughters also died on the same day from the same disease…
…..Within one week Edwin and his wife had lost three of their precious little girls.
These three sisters were laid to rest together in the same grave in the village churchyard.
It’s so hard to try and understand the utter despair this family must have suffered and coped with at this terrible time….but cope they did – country folk were noted for their stoicism
….. In the late Summer of 1858 a son was born who was given his father's name, and a daughter followed the next year. By 1861 the family seemed to be getting their lives back into something resembling normality and another son was born in the Spring of that year
....Sadly just a few months after giving birth to this latest baby Mary developed an infection from which she failed to recover – she died the following November aged thirty seven..
Edwin buried his beloved wife in the same grave
as their three little daughters…Poor man must have
been inconsolable…in less than four years he’d
lost his wife and three of his much loved children.
When I saw their tombstone in the village churchyard
I unashamedly wept at the poignancy of it standing so solitary
- a lasting reminder of this family's sorrow
I assume Edwin must have now employed a nursemaid for his baby son and two year old daughter….his older son and daughter aged nine and ten years were now of an age where they could help out on the farm.
It’s probably a good thing that he had the running of his farm and the welfare of his seven men and two dairymaids to care for - it gave him little time for grieving.
Three years later in April 1864 Edwin married for a second time to Sophia, a young lady fourteen years his junior. Sadly this union was doomed, for just ten months into their marriage Sophia was badly burned in an accident on the farm, an accident from which she never recovered – poor lady suffered what must have been absolute agony for two full days before dying from her injuries. She was just twenty seven years of age.
After this latest tragedy a devastated Edwin suffered what appears to have been a breakdown in his health – hardly surprising for a man who’d tragically lost two wives and three daughters in the space of eight years…
….The next report I have of him is five years later in 1870 when he’d left Derbyshire and moved into Staffordshire taking his three youngest children with him – the oldest two were now in employment away from home. By this time he’d met and married his third wife Amy, and Edwin was employed as a labourer on a farm…..Whether his own farm had burned down at the time of Sophia’s death is unknown, but it’s obvious Edwin felt he could no longer remain living there after all the sadness associated with it.
During the next few years Edwin’s life seems to have finally entered a period of calm and hopefully happiness, until his death in 1880 at the age of fifty seven.
It is small consolation to know that he didn’t live long enough to see the death two years later of yet another of his children - his twenty five year old son,who reportedly died from an agricultural accident.
Since researching Edwin’s story I’m left to wonder why one man should have had to endure so much sorrow in his life…