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Question Date :

Monday 4th July 2011 10:07

Question:
I have an old book called “Stanhope on the Epistles”, with a number of inscriptions. At the back of the book is a kind of diary entry: 'The harvest for the year 1818, I began reaping July 28th and I finished the whole on 25th August, namesly wheat, barley, oates and beans. What is remarkable [is that] I carried my clover seed on 25th August. It was never known to be better than at that early period. Signed Robert Smith Senr, Faulstone Farm, Bishopston.' Elsewhere are two other inscriptions, 'The gift of Miss Evans to Robert Smith Junior, March 23rd 1809' and 'Robert Smith Junr, 1823'. What can you tell me about Faulstone Farm, the Robert Smiths, Miss Evans, Stanhope and so on?

Answer:
Faulstone Farm identifies the Bishopstone as that in the Ebble Valley, a few miles south of Wilton, rather than that in the north-east of Wiltshire, six miles east of Swindon. Faulstone is one of Bishopstone's six townships. The farm came into the possession of the earls of Pembroke in 1649 and was sold by the Pembroke estate in 1919 to its tenant, William H. Brown. From 1779 to 1809 the principal lessee was Mrs Diana Evans, a daughter of the Furbar family who had leased the farm since 1721; she in turn sublet the farm to Robert Smith the elder until her death, when he took on the lease. It looks as though Mrs Evans gave the book to Robert Smith the younger at about the time she relinquished the tenancy and shortly before her death. Smith was succeeded as lessee in 1823 by John Sidford. Given the second inscription it seems likely that the first Robert Smith died in 1823, though I have not been able to trace his burial in Bishopstone.

His book was a commentary on the New Testament by George Stanhope (1660-1728), Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, who published his work under the title of 'Paraphrase and comment on the Epistles and Gospels' in four volumes between 1705 and 1708. The book was reprinted throughout the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century, the British Library holding the first edition, five others of the eighteenth century and one of 1851. It is not a straightforward biblical commentary, like Peake's, but instead is arranged by the church calendar, to provide background information and comment on the passages specified for readings for services throughout the year. As such it is something which would have belonged to and been of most use to a clerk in holy orders, not a farmer. From our subsequent discussion, from which it emerged that your copy is a 1709 printing of the fourth of the four volumes of the first edition, I think the book came down through the Furbar family and on to the Smiths as a keepsake. The fact that Smith used the blank leaves for a diary note strengthens my belief. Unfortunately, I have not been able to trace a Furbar who might have been a parish priest, which would have accounted for the book coming into the family's possession.

The bibliography includes links to on-line resources, but that for the Dictionary of National Biography may only be available if your local library has a subscription and can provide you with a log-in.

Bibliography:
Bayntun Family History website: section on Faulstone: http://www.bayntun-history.com/FaulstonHouse.html

Crowley, D.A.: A history of Wiltshire, vol. 11: Downton Hundred, Elstub and Everleigh Hundred. Oxford UP for the institute of Historical Research, 1980), pp 3-19 and on the web at: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=115482

Gallop, E.: Bishopstone: a history of the farms, houses and people of a south Wiltshire village. Wiltshire County Council Library and Museum Service, 1988, pp 60-61.

Stanhope, G.: A paraphrase and comment on the Epistles and Gospels …. [entries in the British Library Integrated Catalogue]: http://catalogue.bl.uk/F/K984N61L7G3YD672VQ3QPY5PU7IBK34KKN28RK2EL3DH4F3FTK-03707?func=short-0&set_number=079921

Warner, R.L.: ‘Stanhope, George’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 52, Spruce-Strakosh, Oxford UP, 2004, pp. 119-121 and on the web, subject to access privilege at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/26246

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