John Burton A'Bear
of Manor Farm, Aldsworth & elsewhere
As the eldest son of John Burton A'Bear Senior and his wife, Jane Ann May, John Burton was named after his father, according to family tradition. He was born on 26th January 1858 in Hurst, Berkshire where his father was probably farming with the help of his wife's family who owned several farms in the area. Two years later, the family moved into the ancient family home at Hill Farm, Harehatch and it was here that John grew up.
Naturally, John followed his father into farming. He inherited the family estate in 1881, soon after he had come of age, though his mother seems to have remained a major influence within the business. At the age of thirty-two, John found himself a young bride amongst the close-knit farming community of Berkshire. Elizabeth Manners Aldridge, was the niece of his maternal aunt. Known as Lizzie to the family, she married John at St. John's Church in Woodley, where her family lived, and the two moved out of the family home t a farm in Pinkney's Green, near Maidenhead. For nearly four years they were happy together and brought a family of three into the World: twins, John & Burton, the former of whom sadly died, and Hedley John or 'Jack'. In May 1894 however, at the age of only twenty-eight, Lizzie died. She was buried next to the path at the church where they had married.
This sad time for John for added to by the unfortunate loss of the ancient family home. Farming was not easy at this time and he had been struggling to keep this place going since his father's death. It is probably that he was obliged to continue paying an annuity out of the estate to his father's elder brother, but, in 1894, the latter died. John was released from his obligations and, unfortunately, the only way forward was to sell up. His mother retired to Wargrave several siblings emigrated to New Zealand.
Happier times returned in 1896 when John found a new love, in his cousin, Ada May (who was also a cousin to Lizzie). So that John did not have to pass the grave of his first wife on his way to church, the two decided to get married at St. Pancras in London. With his mother and younger siblings still at the Hill, John and his young family took on Row Lane Farm, next to the church in Dunsden in Oxfordshire. It was just across the fields from Ada's sister and her husband, Walter Ford, at Bishopslands. Almost at once, Ada became pregnant and here were born the first two children in a vast family of eleven. Business matters were still not going too well however and, in 1899, the A'Bears moved to Letcombe Regis, near Wantage, where John managed a farm for a while. The place was dreadful however. Ada could not bear it more than a year and she insisted they move again. With the help of Walter Ford's old friend, George Shoreland, they found a farm to rent: Cowfields' Farm in Rotherfield Peppard. With the neighbouring Highlands and Grey's Farm included, there was plenty of land to support the rapidly growing family. Things were on the up and John and Ada lived there for the next nineteen years.
By 1919, Mr. Shoreland had decided that he needed to sell off Greys Farm. John could not manage without it, but his landlord found him alternative accommodation. There were no big farms available in Oxfordshire or Berkshire, but Mr. Shoreland knew of one in Gloucestershire. Manor Farm in Aldsworth was owned by Chirstchurch Collge, Oxford. It was roughly 600 acres of mostly arable land with a very large manor house. John thought this ideal for his family of fifteen and so agreed. Moving day was one that the family were to never forget. On a cold but sunny morning, a special train was hired to take all the farm equipment from from Henley to Fairford. The furniture went in a van and the family by car.
It was at Manor Farm that John spent the remaining eighteen years of his life. With the help of his sons, he ran an excellent business, winning many prizes for his livestock at the local shows. As the years passed, he moved from his favourite cricket, to playing bowls; and it was here, at Aldsworth, that the author of the 'History of Wargrave' came to visit him in 1928 to examine the old family papers. Like his descendants, John was always very proud of his ancient lineage.
He died on 30th August 1937 and was buried in Aldsworth Churchyard.
|© David Nash Ford 2001. All Rights Reserved.|