Commemorations of the Riots

1994: Planting the 'Holdaway Yew' at Headley Grange1996: Talks at the Selborne Association

On the morning of St George's Day, 23rd April 1994, a group of some 20 people gathered in the High Street at Headley. Thankfully, the earlier rain had cleared giving rise to a bright spring day.
The party included descendants of four of the rioters: Keith Holdaway (Robert Holdaway), Marjorie Burwood (Aaron Harding), Phil Viney (Matthew Triggs) and Jean Vivian (John Newland), along with members of their families. Jill Chambers (author of Hampshire Machine Breakers) and representatives from the two villages and the cast of the play This Bloody Crew were also present.

We walked from the Holly Bush inn down to Headley workhouse, the path that Robert Holdaway had taken in desperation more than 163 years before, when he discovered his Selborne men had gone back on their word and attacked the place while he was meeting the Headley rector and farmers inside the pub.
In the grounds of the workhouse, now a private house called Headley Grange, we planted a cutting of the famous Selborne Yew Tree in memory of Robert and the other rioters who had been transported for their actions at this place.

We then retired for lunch at the Crown Inn, where Matthew Triggs' wife had passed her last days, and met Norma Townsend from Australia, over here researching the history of the Swing Rioters transported to NSW.

Many notes and addresses were swapped in what we felt had been a happy and successful occasion, and probably unique in the history of the 'Swing' riots.

At the October 1996 meeting of the Selborne Association, local author John Owen Smith brought along three descendants of men convicted for the Selborne Workhouse Riot of 1830, to speak about how the families had fared after their breadwinners had been imprisoned or transported.  This transcript tells some of what they had to say about their ancestors.

Robert HoldawayJohn NewlandMatthew Triggs

Nigel Mulcaster tells of his great-great-great-grandfather, Robert Holdaway, who had been condemned by the court as leader of the mob and transported for life: 

At the time of the riot, Robert lived at Selborne with his second wife Sarah and his eight children, three by a first marriage.  After his transportation, Sarah moved to Alverstoke near Gosport with most of her children, and was living in Windmill Row in 1841.  There on 30th September 1843 she married Eli Newman, a native of Farringdon who was a labourer and had four children of his own.

They were living in Farringdon in 1846, when they had a daughter Emma Lavinia Newman, and appeared to live there until Sarah’s death by suicide on 31st May 1869 aged 67 years.  The report in the Hampshire Chronicle recorded: ‘It appeared that the deceased had complained very much of late of pains in her head, and at times became very weak and nervous, hardly knowing what she said or did.  Her husband left her at 6 o’clock in the morning, and on returning for dinner found the doors fastened from the inside.  On breaking open the back door he found the deceased hanging by a rope to a beam in the wash house.’  It seems a tragic end for a woman who had such a hard life, and was unable to join Robert in Australia with her children because she could not raise the money.

Sarah is buried in Farringdon churchyard next to the old yew tree.  Her gravestone is also dedicated to the memory of her husband Eli, who died on 26th September 1878 aged 80, but we have subsequently found that he is buried at Church Crookham without a headstone.

My great-great-grandfather, Frederick Robert Holdaway, was Robert’s third child by his marriage to  Sarah, and was 4 years old when his father was transported.  He appears on the 1841 census in New Alresford living with his mother’s brother Richard Freeman, a butcher.

In 1843 he joined the Royal Navy and changed his surname to HOLLOWAY, possibly because he was embarrassed about his father’s convict record.  He did his boys training at HMS Fisgard and served on a number of ships including Penguin, Siren, Madagascar, Impregnable, Dauntless and Irresistible.  He passed his exams for boatswain in 1856.  We do not know if he was involved in any battles or if he was awarded any medals.

While in Plymouth in 1847 he married Ann Tremeer.  On his marriage certificate he not only retained the surname Holloway for himself, but gave it as his father’s surname too.  Frederick and Ann had four children, namely Emily Elizabeth, Anne, Frederick William (my great grandfather) and Alice Jane.

Later in Frederick’s naval career, the family moved to Worthing and he joined the coast guard, at this time part of the navy.  He retired from the navy in 1869 on a pension of £36 17s per annum, and worked for the Surveyor’s Office at Worthing Town Hall for nearly twelve years, receiving a reference in 1881 saying that he had proved himself to be a thoroughly steady, honest, hard working man and a good servant in every respect.

Some time between then and 1888, he moved with his wife and youngest daughter to Alton.  His wife died on 10th March 1888 and is buried in Alton Cemetery.  In the 1891 census we find him living on his own in Young’s Cottage, and he had changed his surname back to HOLDAWAY.  He died of ‘senile decay’ on 26th May 1898 aged 72 and was buried with his wife.  He had purchased the grave under the name of Holloway, and his wife was buried as a Holloway.  In the burial book at Alton Cemetery there is a pencilled note saying, ‘rather a query over the name’!

Their daughter Alice Jane married Alfred James Simpson at Alton in 1890 also under the surname Holloway.  This couple had nine children, and there are probably descendants living in the Alton area now who might be trying to trace their ancestors with the name of Holloway without much success.  We have been in touch with one, who was most amazed to hear the story.

Their son, Frederick William, was born in Plymouth in 1861 and also joined the Navy like his father.  He served for twelve years and left the service in 1890 as an Able Seaman.  He married in 1911 and changed his name back to Holdaway.  He had four sons and a daughter — my grandfather Frederick Robert Holdaway being born in 1912.  Frederick Robert died in Guildford as recently as 1992, the year before Jo Smith published his book One Monday in November — if only Jo had known, he could have picked up the phone during his research and spoken to him.

More information on Robert Holdaway

Jean Vivian tells of her great-great-grandfather, John Newland the legendary ‘Trumpeter’ of Selborne:

The first question most people ask me on hearing of my great-great-grandfather’s involvement with the Selborne riots is, “why wasn’t he transported along with all the other participants?”  A very good question.  For if, in fact, John Newland had really been the leader and organiser of the mob he would surely have suffered the same fate instead of getting off with a six-month prison sentence.

The answer, of course, is that he was not the leader — not in the accepted sense of the word — but because he had a horn or bugle, most likely kept from his military service, he was persuaded to walk in front of the mob.  It must have made the jeering, noisy throng look pretty impressive.

I am sure he felt it the right thing to do at the time, because although he was a hard-working man, he had a large family to keep on very little money.  In fact, the Newland family were paupers, most likely supplementing their living on hand-outs.  I try to imagine what it must have been like for him after the fuss had all died down.  With the other rioters sentenced and transported, how must he have felt then?  I have to assume he kept rather quiet about it, and I’ll tell you why.

In 1976 a letter appeared in the Farnham Herald from a man living in Tasmania asking if there were any of the Newland family still living in the area.  My father wrote to him and received an answer almost by return.  It turned out that he was a cousin.  His father, my father’s uncle George, had emigrated to Tasmania, settled well and had a family.  Now they wanted to know the family history.  Had great uncle George dropped a few hints I wonder?

My father had been born and brought up in Bentley and so it seemed the obvious place to start until an aunt told us that she thought the family had originally come from Selborne.  Now, to be honest, I had only the vaguest idea where Selborne was, in spite of the fact that we had lived in Blackmoor when I was a child.

Anyway, my parents, sister and I came to Selborne one day hoping the vicar would have the parish records to hand, but no such luck, they were by this time all at the Hampshire Record Office at Winchester.  While we were here in the village, though, we decided to visit the museum in the Wakes and we found a reference to a John Newland, “The Trumpeter,” allegedly the leader of the Selborne riots.  Could this man be one of our ancestors, we wondered?

My father was cautious, but a visit to the Record Office confirmed the line from John Newland through his son James to his son Frederick, my father’s father.  Now we knew the connection, but nothing more.  And that was how it stayed for a while.

My father died two years later, my mother’s health declined, and sadly the correspondence with Tasmania petered out.  Nothing more happened until three years ago (1993).  I was working in Aldershot at that time, and over lunch one day some colleagues and I were discussing our family backgrounds.  I can’t remember how the subject came up, but of course I proudly mentioned my link to Selborne and then, only a few days later, one of the ladies who had been present brought me in a copy of an Alton newspaper which ran an article about someone having written a book — and play — about the Selborne riots. 

Well, this sounded interesting so I rang and booked a couple of seats for the play.  What a revelation.  The myth was exposed, but interesting nonetheless.  It was a strange feeling seeing your ancestors playing out events before your eyes, I can tell you.

The strangest part of all, though, was that about three months before this happened, I had written a short story about James Newland as a boy in Selborne.  Nothing strange in that you might think, except, I had never written anything before and I still don’t know what prompted me to then.  I had created a completely fictitious family for him, but now suddenly I had the real one, courtesy of Jo Smith who was, of course, the writer of the play.

He kindly agreed to read what I had written, and from that I had the encouragement to make the story into a book, now almost completed [subsequently became Echoes of a Trumpet].  It is still fiction of course, but now has some factual bits woven in.

Together with research done at the Hampshire record Office and information supplied to me by Jo, I have been able to build up a fairly comprehensive picture of the Newland family and I like to think that I can now understand why John Newland did what he did.  My father — and his father before him — were quiet, but strongly principled people.  They were always ready to stand up for anyone suffering any form of injustice, and so am I.  Is this John Newland’s legacy?  I like to think so. 

In conclusion, I would just like to say that over the past three years in my quest to find out more about my family, I have met some interesting and friendly people, not least of all other ‘descendants’ of the Selborne rioters.  My one hope is that they can forgive me for not being ‘transported’ as well.

More information on John NewlandEchoes of a Trumpet

[The myth that the ‘Trumpeter’ was leader of the riot had been based largely on interviews which W H Hudson recorded with two daughters of John Newland early this century, and published in his book ‘Hampshire Days.’  In fact these daughters had not been born at the time of the riot, and were passing on to him a family legend which appears to have grown with the telling—JOS]

Ann, wife of Philip Viney, tells of Philip's great-great-grandfather, Matthew Triggs, the only Headley man to be transported for the riot.

We began searching into our family history in 1986 and found Matthew’s wife Mary and the children on the various census records, but no trace of Matthew at all; we searched the burial records but still could not find out what had happened to him — it was a complete mystery.

A year later we went to our first Headley Society meeting.  On sale they had a small book produced by Arford WI on Headley Grange — the old workhouse.  I picked up a book and there jumping out from the page was Matthew Triggs’ name — we had at last found out what happened to him — to us it was a little bit like striking gold.

When Matthew was transported, he left behind his wife Mary, just 30, and five children ranging in age from 10 to a few months old, and you can imagine what a struggle they had to survive.  However, somehow they managed and grew to maturity, with four of them marrying; William the eldest joined the navy and died in war.

Mary Triggs and the family continued to live in Hollywater after Matthew was transported, at the home of Jane Tuckey who was the grandmother of Mary and who owned the cottage. Matthew's youngest child was Sarah, and she remembered having to get up early in the mornings to make sure the old lady did not fall and hurt herself. The family lived there until Jane died in 1840, aged 90, when the cottage was sold to Andrew Warren and the money shared among the family.

The family then moved, staying within Headley parish. At some time Sarah might have gone to the Dame School in Hollywater, for we know she could write and sew well.

At 12½, Sarah had a son, Henry James, by D. Berry of Liphook who, it seems, was claimed by Mary, baptised as her son and brought up by her.  No doubt, as happens in society today, Mary found it hard to bring up five children with no man to help with discipline.

To earn a living, Sarah took up dressmaking and at 19 she married James Upperton, a shoemaker, in Headley Parish Church — what a pity Matthew was not there to see his youngest daughter married.  Times, it seems, were to get better for Sarah.

The family kept in touch with one another; Jane was visiting Sara, her sister, and James on census night 1851, at Arford.  When Jane, then widowed, married for a second time, to Charles Osborne at Headley Parish Church, Sarah and James witnessed the event.

In 1861, still living in Arford, James as well as being a boot & shoe maker was also a grocer employing one man.  Meanwhile Mary was in lodgings in Headley with Henry James noted as her son, a pupil teacher of 18, while she was a charwoman to earn money.

By 1871, Sarah & James were living at The Crown Inn, Arford — James was innkeeper, but also still a grocer.  Also on the 1871 census was Sarah’s niece Harriet Gauntlett — she was the daughter of Sarah’s sister Hannah, and very like her too.  Whether Harriet was there for the day or living permanently with her aunt and uncle is not known, but I suspect the latter as Harriet was one of nine children and her father had died when she was only six.  Probably Sarah remembered her own fatherless childhood and took Harriet into her own home to help her sister over her difficulties.

It was about this time that Mary moved into The Crown Inn with her daughter Sarah, and it was there she died of dropsy in August 1876.  She was 72, had lived to see four of her children married and had 15 known grandchildren.

Sarah and James also lived for a time at the Holly Bush in Headley before moving to Barley Mow Hill (Alderton’s Cottages) and then to Headley Hill Road.  Sarah obviously thought a great deal of her niece Harriet, as it was from her home that she married Frederick Gauntlett in Headley Parish Church in July 1888.

Sarah was widowed early in 1891 and was able to live well on her own means.  She died in 1898 leaving her personal estate and effects to be divided equally between two nieces, one of whom was Harriet.  The gross value of her estate was £157 6s 8d.

Mary and Matthew’s second child was John, Philip’s great grandfather.  When he was 18 he lodged with James Gauntlett and his family in Hollywater.  He was an agricultural labourer then ,but in later years he worked his way up to bricklayer — the same trade as his father.  When he was 22 he married Anne Langford, a dressmaker, in Headley Parish Church.  Her father was a miller and they lived in Lower House Farm, Lindford.

For many years Anne and John lived in Headley High Street where they raised five children.  In June 1882 The Ancient Order of Foresters opened a new Court in Headley, meeting at the Holly Bush.  John became a member and it was probably they who paid for his convalescence at Eastbourne at 10/- a week after severe illness (anaemia and very irregular action of the heart) in 1883.  They moved to Headley Hill Road, where he died of TB in January 1887.

To complete the story of Matthew himself, he spent the remainder of his life in a neighbourhood of West Maitland at the Hunter River, working for Harper.  In 1837 according to the convict muster he was with Mrs Harper at Maitland.  He received a conditional pardon in October 1837, but this meant he could not return to England.  It is not known if he had any contact with his family, for although he could read he could not write.  He died in November 1853 in Maitland Hospital — 23 years before his wife Mary —and is buried in West Maitland.

More information on Matthew Triggs

— This site maintained by John Owen Smith