Upton in the Nineteenth Century

In 1801 the population of Upton was 217. By 1841 it had increased to 284, by 1851 to 337. However it decreased to 285 in 1871, but increased again to 415 in 1881 “due to Railway Labourers”. By 1891 it was down to 245 and at the end of the century it was 213, almost back to the same as at the start.

The 1841 census gives the first detailed documentation of life in the village, but unfortunately not much idea of where they lived.. Mr. Joseph Humfrey, Francis Caudwell, Richard Whitehorn and William Butler were farmers. There were two blacksmiths, Richard James and Thomas Pitt. John Butcher was the grocer, and Daniel Buttler was the publican.

Upton was in the news in 1846. The Bucks Gazette reported on 12 December 1846, although it might not be our Upton:

Hair-Cutting Gratis

From a Correspondent to the Times

“I must tell you a ridiculous thing that occurred in a small village in Oxfordshire last week, and which caused a diminution in my congregation of yesterday. A man, wearing a certain badge of authority and calling at each house, informed the inhabitants that he was a Government Barber, sent from London, to cut all the poor people’s hair gratis, it having been ascertained as the most effectual way of keeping off the cholera, which had already made its appearance. The fellow succeeded in carrying away with him sufficient hair to make several wigs, and the deluded people were obliged to set to and make warm caps to defend their bare heads from the cold which set in next day”

On 19th December the Bucks Gazette reported the following:

Mortality among Agricultural Labourers in Berkshire

“So destructive have been the ravages of fever in some parts of Berkshire that in the parish of Upton, a hamlet adjoining Bluebery, in that county, the population of which was 142 seven weeks ago, is now reduced to 73, sixty-nine having died within that short period – many through want. Among the number are four children of the minister, who, on attending the dying beds of the victims, caught the infection and conveyed it to his dwelling, whereby he lost four of his offspring. “

There must have been a bit of exaggeration as the parish registers only indicate that only 21 persons died at that time from fever, and no mention of the Minister’s (Rev. MacDonald) children. However, the population had recovered by 1851!

The 1851 census gives a better picture of the village. Mr. John Humphrey was farming 574 acres from “Humphrey’s Farm, later Manor Farm. William Butler lived at and farmed “Butler’s Farm”. So far we have been unable to identify the farmhouse. Martha Humphrey lived at Humfrey’s Lower Farm, probably Middle Farm, with fer two sons, Nathaniel and Philip who were farmers, together farming 620 acres and employing 25 labourers. Henry Webb farmed 30 acres at Frogalley, employing 3 labourers. He was also a Dealer. Richard Whitehorn was also a farmer, farming 170 acres and employing 8 labourers.

John James kept the Grocer’s shop and was also the blacksmith, employing Thomas Pitt as a journeyman. Daniel Butler was still the publican at the George & Dragon. There must have been some building going on at that time as three bricklayers were lodging there, and several others in the village. They could have been enlarging the Methodist Church.

1861 saw George Butler giving up farming and becoming the grocer. The farmers were then Thomas Izzard (who came from Bucknell in Oxfordshire), Nathaniel Humfrey, Nathaniel Butler (who had 28 acres down Frog Alley), William Butler, and Philip Humfrey. Daniel Butler was still publican, the pub being identified on the census as the “George and Dragon”.

1871 saw the first resident ministers. Thomas Welch was a groom and gardener, but also the Methodist local preacher. Richard Hooper was the first vicar of Upton and Aston Upthorpe. Daniel Butler was still publican.

It was noted above that the population was swelled in 1881 by railway labourers. Most were accommodated in eleven huts, probably situated between the Vicarage and Station House. Others were lodging in the village. They appeared to have come from all over the country, together with their wives and children. Thomas Scott, a Civil Engineer (presumably for the railway) was the sole occupant of Prospect House. Daniel Butler, by now aged 68, was still living at the “George and Dragon”, but his son Joseph was publican. This was the year the Station House was built, the date being built into the chimney in black bricks.

The Methodist Church

The first Methodist church in the Village was built in High Street and was opened on 1st July 1842 by Rev. P.C. Turner. The ground had been purchased for £1. and the church was built for £99-15-6. The main donors were the Humphrey family and Daniel Lousley. £10-17-6 was raised during an “afternoon collection”. It was an amazing sum in those days.