Our theme for next year, ‘Reconnect 2020’, is about ecology,
land use and climate change.
We are curating a programme of talks, walks, workshops, events, displays, cross curricular educational activities and volunteer opportunities, which embed positive messages about low carbon lifestyles, protecting biodiversity and small scale farming, exploring issues around food and growing, and providing access to high quality produce, key to the well-being and future of people and the soil
We will encourage a diverse and practical approach to learning, engaging the senses, developing relationships, sharing ideas and challenging mainstream practice. Collaboration with Cotesbach Estate provides access to historic, unspoilt environmental resources including the organic garden and farmland. And our unique archive is a mine of historic perspective, stories of lives before fossil fuels, as unimaginable to us as our lives would be to them. As technology saps intuition, increasing vulnerability to mental illness, so people crave the comparative simplicity of the past. Yet the past reveals anything but ‘simple’: hardship, economic upheaval, social inequality, amongst many factors which changed and shaped the land – so what does this teach us about ourselves and how can this knowledge help us build a better future?
CET aspires to be part of culture in the making as well as offering a doorway to the past. We hope this project will help attract creative initiatives, a sense of belonging, an awareness of our evolving charity and how it can benefit many – in time, we hope, becoming a resilient hub, with regional, national and global reach through partnerships with individuals and related organisations.
‘Reconnect 2020’ will help promote the core purpose of
Cotesbach Educational Trust, and its vision, equally relevant today as at the
launch of our organisation in 2007, of:
‘Reconnecting with place and land to develop
skills for the future’
refurbishments at the house built as Cotesbach Rectory revealed an inscription
inside a window frame. Archive volunteers were asked whether any of our
documents could shed light on the writers’ identity.
The joiners in
question were George Bennett (1849-1903) and James (‘Jemmy’ or ‘Jimmy’) Edward
Daniels (c1852-1908). They are not
mentioned by name in the Archive but there are records of a number of payments
to their employer, the Rugby firm of J. Parnell & Son, who were charged
with building the Rectory.
The two workmen were
quite difficult to trace because they were always on the move. George Bennett,
the son of a framework knitter, was born and bred in Lutterworth but in the
1871 census is living as a lodger in Stoke Albany, Northamptonshire. By the
time of his marriage to Sarah Ann Foster in the chapel of Wroxall Abbey (where
she was a servant) in November 1879, his address is given as Caldecote in north
Warwickshire. The 1881 census finds George and his wife Sarah living in a
village called Thursley in Surrey. Street directories (listing George as
‘foreman carpenter’) locate the couple in Rugby in the mid-1880s and their
three children were born there in the years 1883-1889, but by 1891 the family can
be found living in Walsall in Staffordshire. This move was George’s last; he
left Parnell’s, took a job on the railway and died in Walsall in 1903.
It seems odd that a carpenter
and joiner should need to move so often and so far afield to find employment,
yet the pattern is not uncommon when we look at the censuses. Here is George
Bennett in Stoke Albany in 1871:
neighbours include two other carpenters/joiners and a bricklayer, all from
outside the area and all lodging with local families – and this circumstance is
what gives the clue to the puzzle. The men are evidently in the village for a
building project of some kind; they are not looking for work but are a team
sent by an employer to complete a job. This prompts us to look a little more
closely at the firm of J. Parnell and Son; what kind of projects did they
undertake that would require them to send workmen around the country? The
answer lies in their reputation not as a small local building company but as an
esteemed national concern working with some of the best known architects of the
day (Edwin Lutyens and Alfred Waterhouse, for example) and constructing some
prestigious edifices. They specialised in ecclesiastical architecture,
restoring and extending churches all over the country. Locally, they were
responsible for the enlargement (including the addition of the second tower) at
St Andrew’s, Rugby in 1877-1885 and the construction of the Chapel and the
gymnasium (1871) and the Temple Reading Room (1878-1879) at Rugby School.
Further afield, they built chapels, libraries and whole colleges (notably
Keble) at Oxford, and refurbished castles from Lindisfarne to Herstmonceux in
Sussex. They must have carried out the restoration (completed in 1872) of the
church at Stoke Albany where George Bennett was lodging in 1871, and the church
at Thursley (restored in the early 1880s) near which George and Sarah were
living in 1881. The firm is known to have built Caldecote Hall in Warwickshire,
which was constructed during the years 1879 and 1880; Caldecote was the address
given by George Bennett at his marriage on 25th November 1879.
James Daniels (his
usual name – of which more later) was also very mobile, although his various
comings and goings were not quite so closely related to the demands of the
building trade. He was born in Horsley, a village near Stroud in
Gloucestershire, but not baptised until his family had settled in Rugby a few
years later. Successive censuses in 1861, 1871 and 1881 place James in Rugby,
but he married Emily Smalley at the Independent Chapel in Kilsby on 11th
December 1873 (quite possibly while he was still working on Cotesbach Rectory)
and the couple must have moved to Wales soon afterwards as their daughter,
Florence Emily, was born in Abergavenny in the last quarter of 1874. Another
daughter, Mary Jane, was born there a year later. By the beginning of 1877, the
Daniels family was back in Warwickshire and a son, Frederick William, was born
in Newbold. The 1880s were spent in Rugby, with listings of James in the census
of 1881 and a street directory of 1889.
We can place James (now
calling himself Edward James Daniels) in Aston in the spring of 1891 due to an unfortunate
brush with the law; on 31st March, as reported in the newspapers, he
stole a woman’s purse. He was in custody in Warwick Jail when the census of
1891 was taken on the night of 5th April and, when his case came to
court on the 7th, he was sentenced to a month’s hard labour. This
was not James’s first court appearance; there was, in November 1888, the small
matter of his being on a neighbour’s premises ‘for unlawful purposes’ and the
subsequent assault of said neighbour, for which a £5 fine was imposed by Rugby magistrates.
Neither would it be his last appearance, although by the time he stood in the
dock in Derby charged with bigamy he was calling himself Harry Knight.
Giving evidence at
James’s trial, his daughter said that her father had changed his name in 1897,
after he had left her mother and ‘following some trouble at Birmingham’. It was
in the name of Harry Knight (‘bachelor’) that he had married Jemima Elizabeth
Hodgkinson (spinster) at St Werburgh’s Church in Derby on 21st
January 1900. James/Harry was apprehended on the bigamy charge ‘as he came out
of Derby Prison’ on Saturday 15th March 1901, according to the
arresting officer. He had just served a month for ‘loitering with intent to
commit a felony’ in Derby’s fish market. Bigamy having been proved to the
jury’s satisfaction at the Summer Assizes, he was sent back to jail for a further
three-month term with hard labour. James Edward Daniels, still using the
assumed name of Harry Knight, died in Derby in the spring of 1908.