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The Tale of Two Gardeners

Baptismal records, marriage certificates and the census often give us an occupation for an ancestor, but how often do we look for more clues as to how our ancestors earned their daily crust. In this blog occupational clues that can be found in estate records have been explored to add some detail to the work undertaken by two gardeners.

George Lumsdaine and David Evamy both appear on the 1861 census as gent(leman)’s gardener. George is living at Hillbutts and David at neighbouring Abbott Street – both within easy reach of the gardens and parkland of Kingston Lacy House, Dorset: the home of the Bankes family.

David, born about 1790, is the younger of the two gardeners and was first recorded working at Kingston Lacy in January 1815, earning 1/10 a day. He generally worked 6 days a week and was paid every three weeks. Occasionally the wages ledger details the work David undertook – planting hollies; routing old hedges; turning gravel; mowing; attending the stables and catching rats. The 1834 tithe apportionments show that David leased three plots of land from his employer – a house and garden; a field for pasture and a field suitable for arable use. So far no records have been found to show if David and his family used this land just to produce food for themselves or whether surplus produce was sold to supplement the wages received from working full time as a gardener.

George, born about 1786, is likely to have been David’s boss as he was responsible for maintaining the wages ledger from September 1819 and was the only gardener to be a permanent member of staff at this time. In addition to his annual wages of £9,600 George received boardwages of 9/- per week when the Bankes family was not in residence. George was probably the highest ranking servant at Kingston Lacy when the family were not in residence at Kingston Lacy. Looking at the payments he recorded in the wages ledger George not only managed the wages for all the day labourers, he also organised baskets of produce to be transported to the family in London and ensured that the house and gardens would be in a fit state for the family’s return. There is, unfortunately, no indication of how much of his time was spent on non gardening activities. Although George bought a house in Hillbutts from Nicholas Pardy in 1863 he appears to have continued to make use of the accommodation provided for the servants. It is tempting to speculate that living in the staff quarters of Kingston Lacy house or one of the out-buildings meant he was also responsible for the buildings security.

By exploring beyond the initial clues found on the census and confirmed by baptism and marriage records two very different roles have emerged giving further insight into the variety of work undertaken by two men who both described themselves as gardener and worked for the same employer.

The Bankes archive documents can be viewed at Dorset History Centre, Dorchester. The Dorset History Centre also has free access to in their family research room.

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