April 2018 Print E-mail

Local History
We are working toward an autumn event celebrating our Wl's 100*‘ anniversary and village shops and trades since the late C19. The WI have been mining their archives and we are
exploring directories, newspapers and magazines, especially The Hambledonian, to track shop and business development. Soon We will hope to talk with long term residents about their memories of how and where they shopped. Do let us know if you would like to contribute, and even if you do not want to talk with us — how about checking out your albums, house deeds and attics to see what you can find that might help us illuminate our history?

Finally, don't miss Ken Jones' fascinating piece about the local farmer and businessman John
Goldsmith, his friendship With William Cobbett and his part in the Hampshire Petition of 1817
tackling the corrupt electoral system of the day.

William Cobbett and John Goldsmith 
Hands up those Who know Who William Cobbett was? Oh well, never mind! He was an author, farmer, journalist and member of parliament, who was born in Farnham in 1763 and lived and farmed at Botley for many years. His most famous book is Rural Rides in which he documented his travels on horseback over several of the Southern counties. He was a sort of TripAdvisor of his day. He did visit Hambledon and didn't exactly give it five stars! He described it as a tumble-down rubbishy place. Not too good for house prices at the time! Anyway, on his journey through Hambledon he describes going up to West End in order to see his "friend" (and probably to get a free nights board and lodging).

His friend turned out to be John Goldsmith, the great, great, great grandfather of Nicholas Goldsmith, son of Brigid and the late John Goldsmith of Little Symonds. John was also a farmer and businessman and he had two particular passions. He was concerned about the great poverty at the time and devoted part of his life trying to alleviate the appalling effects of this (yes, even in Hambledon) such that he became known as "the poor man's friend". His other passion was to try and reform the unfair and corrupt system of electing MPs to Parliament.
Unless you were a man, wealthy, and with property, you didn't get a vote, and even if you did it was not a secret ballot. It was here that he found common ground with Cobbett and they Worked together over many years.

So John was troubled about the poverty which surrounded him. The price of grain became such
that the cost of feeding a family exceeded a labourer's weekly wage. After the Napoleonic Wars
there was a slump and much unemployment in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas. Dockers
and returning sailors found themselves destitute. In Hambledon, 80 families were in receipt of
charitable donations in order to survive. In 1824, John, together With William Higgins of Fairfield
and John Foster of Park bought 20 properties in the village and made them available to the poor
at affordable rents. When County elections came around John realised that poor freeholders could not afford to travel to the polling station so he and Mr T Butler (probably of Bury Lodge) passed the hat round among the better off residents so that all who wished to vote could actually get there. Not entirely philanthropic since they would all vote for reform candidates whom John was supporting. Hambledon in those days was generally of a radical persuasion. 

Back in 1806, at the election, 45 votes Were cast for independent candidates (who favoured reform), and only 26 for the Tories (who didn't). Almost certainly John Goldsmith was
one of the 45.

In 1817, a meeting was held on the Widley Fairground on Portsdown Hill. This was in
support of the campaign for Parliamentary reform and was attended by about 5000 people. Cobbett invited John Goldsmith to take the chair, and asked his friend Richard Hinxman, another

Hampshire farmer, to act as secretary of the meeting. They discussed and approved the  Hampshire Petition" written the clay before by Cobbett. It became a key feature of the  campaign. For John to be appointed chairman must have been in recognition of his tireless involvement in this effort to reduce the unfairness and corruption of the electoral system. Their efforts clearly got up the nose of the Government and many attempts were made to silence them. However, they persevered, and this led to the eventual passing of the Great Reform Act in Parliament in 1832

Last year, the great, great, great grandson of William Cobbett's friend Richard Hinxman, (also
Richard Hinxman), arranged an event for The William Cobbett Society to celebrate this occasion.
Members of the Goldsmith and Hinxman families attended and visited West End and Portsdown Hill in recognition of this critical meeting in 1817. The two great, great, great grandsons of William Cobbett's supporters met at West End. John enjoyed field sports and his name features
in a list of Hambledon men issued with game certificates in the 1820's and 1830's. He is also
recorded as a member of the Hambledon cricket team when it seemed to be Winning most of its
matches. There is a portrait of him in Little Symonds and behind him is another portrait of someone. Guess who? Yes, William Cobbett, confirmation surely of their close friendship and membership of that band of brothers who took on the Government and represented the poor and disenfranchised in the fight for justice. The "poor man's friend" indeed.
Ken Jones