Biographical details of John Powell, Head gamekeeper at Michaelchurch Court, and his family
1878 - 2011
This account of their family history was prepared by members of the Powell family and is reproduced here as part of a wider collection of family documents published with their kind permission.
Ewyas Lacy Study Group
John Powell (1878 - 1960)
John Powell, the fourth son of James and Agnes, was born on 18th August 1878 at Lower House, Cleonger, Herefordshire. John attended Church School, Cleonger, leaving at 12 years of age.
For a short while John worked at Cleonger Manor Court, attending to the horses. One of his other duties was to take a wheelchair bound lady to church and she told him that Mr Henry Trafford, of Michaelchurch Court, was seeking a gamekeeper's Boy. John was 14 or 15 years of age at the time and when he applied for the vacant position he was appointed.
The Head Gamekeeper at Michaelchurch Court was Mr Walker and he resided at The Gigfran, Michaelchurch Escley. Mr Walker provided John with lodgings at The Gigfran. After a couple of years lodging with Mr Walker, John moved to The Wilderness where he lodged with a Mrs Jenkins.
At about 19 years of age John applied for and was appointed to the position of Under Gamekeeper at an estate in Berkshire. By coincidence he lodged in an area known as The Wilderness. During this period the estate owner rented the rights to a shoot just outside Paris, France for a period of two years and John accompanied him on his overseas travel.
When John returned to England he was in need of a job. His brothers were all working in the coalmines and John joined them although he was employed as a surface worker.
In 1903, at the age of 25, John saw an advertisement for the position of Head Gamekeeper at Michaelchurch Court. He applied and was appointed, he even returned to lodge with Mrs Jenkins at The Wilderness.
In 1906 at Temple Balsall, Warwickshire, John married Grace Sarah Wheeler. Grace had been living, prior to the marriage, at Escley Cottage, Michaelchurch with her aunt, Mary Howell. Her cousin Mary Pothecary who ran a dress making business employed Grace as a dressmaker. Following the marriage John and Grace lived for a time in part of the house at The Wilderness.
John and Grace had three children between them:
John James born on 7th July 1907
George born on 13th September 1908
Edith born on 16th February 1911
About a month after Edith was born the family moved to Barn Cottage, still in Michaelchurch.
In 1912 there was a great shock when Mr Trafford the owner of Michaelchurch Court died. A short while after Mrs Trafford and her two children moved to London. The Michaelchurch shooting rights were rented out to a Mrs Allen who subsequently employed John as her Gamekeeper.
War broke out in 1914 and John volunteered but he was not called up until 1915 when he joined The Herefordshire Regiment. He was later transferred to the 3rd Monmouth's and was sent to Cromer, Norfolk on invasion guard duty.
Following his discharge in 1919 John applied to The Michaelchurch Estate for the tenancy of a smallholding, the Gigfran, Michaelchurch. His application was successful and the family moved to the Gigfran where they remained until 1932.
In 1932 they applied for the tenancy of Bridge Farm, Michaelchurch, which was still part of the Michaelchurch Court Estate. This was a 112-acre concern and had the additional benefit of a larger house. The family remained at bridge farm until 1945 when John & Grace retired.
After retirement they rented a cottage and a few acres in Longtown. The cottage was called Perth y Perton and was owned by a Mr John Powell. When Mr Powell, the cottage owner, died in 1949 John purchased Perth y Perton at auction.
Although John and Grace's two sons married and moved away Edith remained at Perth y Perton until her own retirement, at the tender age of 93, when she moved to Dulas Court, Dulas, Herefordshire.
Grace Powell died in 1957, age 80 and was buried at Michaelchurch Escley, John Powell died in 1967, aged 90 and was buried alongside his wife.
Edith Powell 16th February 1911 - 7th February 2011
Edie was a fiercely independent single lady who spent a very large part of her life caring for her parents. Edie was born in Michaelchurch and went to school there -although the family moved to Longtown in 1945 Edie always considered Michaelchurch her real home. Even in her later years she claimed never to have really settled down at Perth Y Perton. At the tender age of 93 Edie decided that it was time for her to " retire" and she moved to her new home, Dulas Court, where she spent seven of the happiest years of her life.
Early life revolved around the Michaelchurch Estate, where Edie's father, John, was the gamekeeper. Life was never easy and money was difficult to come by but it didn't mean there was no enjoyment. Walking from Michaelchurch to Longtown Village Hall for the Saturday night dance was an often-discussed social highlight.
In 1919 the Family moved to The Gigfran, where they farmed until 1932 before moving again, this time to Bridge Farm (across the road from St. Michaels) where they remained until 1945.
John & George (My dad), married and moved away leaving Edie at home with her parents - the time they spent together at Bridge Farm was always remembered as a happy time - stock to tend, lots of visitors and with fixed prices during the war years the money supply had eased somewhat.
The young nephews came onto the scene just after the move to Perth Y Perton. And it wasn't long before they were taught, under the watchful eye of Auntie Ede, how to be useful
Cropping thistles, catching moles, cutting grass, collecting apples, making hay, skimming milk, churning butter, feeding chickens and collecting eggs were all considered to be legitimate life skills without which we were unlikely to succeed.
It wasn't all work though and we all spent many happy hours looking for crayfish or simply throwing stones into the Olchon Brook.
Summer visits were always timed to coincide with The Longtown Show and it was here in the mid 1950s that Graham had his first lesson in strategy and economics -Edie advised him that if he came last in the boy's 60 yard race (where the prize money was 2 shillings and sixpence) he would get a good start hi the men's 100 yard handicap race - the plan worked well and Graham won a pound. The joy was slightly tainted when the prize money was presented - the secretary told Graham - " you're a professional sportsman now, you'll never be able to play rugby for Wales!"
Graham didn't play rugby for Wales but he did play for Coventry Welsh, until Auntie Edie almost scuppered his career! A game against Neath was widely reported hi the Western Mail, not because of the fantastic performance of Graham but for the arrival of both the police and 2 ambulances following an on the pitch fight that spilled over into the crowd. Edie thought my dad would be interested so she sent him the press cutting. It didn't go down well!
Edie loved sport and when television delivered it into the parlour she was an avid follower of football, rugby and any other sport they showed - except cricket. In later years this enthusiasm continued but the tendency to fall asleep before the end of the game meant that she would often telephone to find out what the final score had been.
Edie's parents passed away - Grace in 1957 and John in 1967. An orderly family -Grace was 80, John was 90 and today Edie would have been 100.
In the 70s Nic, Christopher and Sarah came along and for these townie kids a visit to Auntie Edie's was always an adventure. Nic and Sarah, with their dad obviously, called into The Crown on one trip, where a group of farmers were discussing the events of the day. After walking up to Perth Y Perton Sarah enquired of Auntie Edie " what language do they speak in Longtown?
Sarah had the pleasure of spending a week with Edie during which she was introduced to one of Edie's other great joys - The Thursday Club. Sarah claims to have eaten more cake in that one afternoon than she'd previously ever thought possible. Edie organised the outings for a number of years and would often phone to ask for advice on possible destinations. Anywhere new was an adventure and all in great company, real friends many of whom still called into Dulas Court for a chat.
Another important event was the weekly visit to church - Edie claimed she was " not religious, but she was a believer"
Edie didn't need asking twice if she'd like a day out. At the age of 85 she persuaded Graham to take her to Porthcawl for the day. On arrival there were two important items on the " to do" list. Get an ice cream and - take me on the big dipper (which was actually a water splash). We ate the ice creams, had two goes on the water splash (one of which was free - the guy who ran it said she deserved another go having waited 85 years for her first ride). We got wet but Edie went home happy.
At the age of 90 Edie went to London for the weekend. The car journey to London was undertaken in silence. The British Lions were playing a crucial test match in Australia and we had to listen to the whole match, on the radio. A visit to the theatre in the afternoon to see The Lion King saw the 90 year old standing, clapping and cheering (along with 100 other children). Back to the hotel for a rest - not quite -Tim Henman was playing a match at Wimbledon so we had to watch that on the TV -then a carvery for dinner, a choice of chicken, beef or pork meant only one thing.. .three trips to the buffet... plus two glasses of sherry as it was a special occasion! An early start to the next day - an open top bus ride, a trip on the river and a ride on the London Eye - at the top of the Eye Edie was stood up marvelling at the view. A young lady in her early twenties was sitting sobbing in fear. Edie walked over and told her to " pull yourself together" A couple of minutes later the young lady was pointing out the sights to her new friend.
Edie was loved by us all, a fun loving gentle lady who enjoyed her life to the full. Whichever one of the staff at Dulas went in with her cup of tea they would usually be met by the same cry " Oh, I'm so glad it's you" . Everyone seemed to feel better after they'd been in her company for a while.
Visits to Dulas court though could be a fraught affair unless you'd prepared beforehand. Question one was always " what's happened in Longtown?" I'd try to recall as much as I could - births, deaths, marriages, tittle tattle, houses bought and sold. It was rarely good enough and there were words I used to dread -you've missed out ..whatever it was. The reality was that Jenny Probert always knew far more that me and made sure Edie was up speed on current events as soon as she went on duty.
Three or four weeks ago I talked to Edie about her forthcoming birthday - as always she said, " please no fuss and no party" but secretly she was looking forward to everyone calling in to see her. I told her that if she didn't want to go to the party we'd hold it without her.. .and that's exactly what we are going to do. She'll be there and she'll be pleased that so many of her friends could come along. After such a good innings it seems appropriate to be going to the cricket pavilion - cricket the only sport she didn't like!