Reflections on Matthew Gardner's account book for work, 1851


Reflections on Matthew Gardner's account book for work, 1851


Reflections on Matthew Gardner's account book for work, 1851


If you don't believe in the Archers, try the Gardners; for one thing, they're true. An Oakridge Lynch resident, Mrs Nurding, has unearthed a real—life document more fascinating than you would be likely to find in a year's fiction—reading or listening.

It is a thick manuscript notebook inscribed, in the copperplate handwriting of the day, “Matthew Gardner’s Account Book for Work, August 18th 1851, Iles's Green".

From that date on, right through the second half of the Victorian century, it records the family work routines in a way that will strike the contemporary reader as both familiar and remote. Well—known locations keep cropping up like Edgeworth, Sapperton, Pinbury Park, Bird's Frith, Daneway, Park Corner; though the names of the characters (Isaac, Joshua, Jacob yes, and Jethro too) have so antique a ring that you'd think a modern script—writer had dreamed them up.

But they're real — as real as those cash lists complete with careful old—currency sums down to halfpennies and farthings, no doubt valuable data in itself to specialist historians.

This is more, though, than just a local account book. It's also a spasmodic diary and public chronicle, recording not only domestic happenings of note but wider events as well — a kind of early What’s On, you might say, filled out with a few weirder items of national news as if to show how frivolous, if not downright demented, these are in comparison.

Reality and sanity, certainly, begin at home. 'Mary and I went to Bisley Church with my brother Isaac, being the day he was united to his Dearly Beloved", an 1857 entry records.

Some of the material is nearer to Thomas Hardy than the Archers, Like the mournfully meticulous noting of the exact amount of money (down to "in the pocket along with pension money, 7d”) found in a dead relative's pockets; or the laconic recording of a man who was "shot dead by his son Fred in a field near the Barn.” Just like that.

But mostly the local excitements were about the theatrical Cotswold weather - snow blocking the
to London and-back.”

Royalty was thinner on the Gloucestershire ground in those distant days which may perhaps help to explain an interest in exotic monarchies and their ways, as exemplified in the strange, sudden entry recording that "the family of the Shah of Persia are (1889) 154 Sons and 560 Daughters” There is also, nearer home, a disturbed glance at the reformed calendar ("There was a general Conflageration about it”) though we'd already had a century to get used to it.

England caught up with the Gregorian reform in 1752, by which time we already found ourselves eleven days behind the rest of Europe. Can Oakridge still have been missing its lost eleven days?

My own favourite entry, however, is essentially domestic and is dated May 24, 1876, with Mr Joshua Gardiner recording a kind of stern public proclamation to Mr James Whiting; understand you have been telling the inhabitants of the village it was me or my boy that put the Pin in your Cushion at the Chapel. Of this we are both innocent I think you had better take it away at once or if I hear anything more about it I shall remove it myself. I think the best place for you and the Cushion would be in one of the free seats."

Any further adventures of the Chapel Cushion, with or without pin, sadly remain unrecorded, If this is the funniest entry, the grimmest is surely one dated ten years earlier, about three villagers who with others "Insulted Two Police Officers on Oakridge Common, receiving two months' hard labour at Gloucester. One of them, according to Joshua Gardiner's note, "died in twelve days after he came home from the ill treatment he received undergoing his Punishment.”

The man, Jethro Haines, is seen as "the first martyr" against the common enclosure then in process. Here, with a vengeance, is a ghost from battles long ago.

Note. 'The spelling follows that in the manuscript. Matthew Gardner spells his name without an "I” but "Gardiner" seems to be mostly used for other members of the family,


P. Farrel


The Pat Carrick Collection


Refections on Matthew Gardner's Account Book for Work , 1851.pdf


P. Farrel, “Reflections on Matthew Gardner's account book for work, 1851,” Oakridge Community Archives, accessed March 21, 2019,

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