Thomas Hodge was an estate carpenter in Simonsbath from about 1849 to 1860. Both he and James Harvey were listed as carpenters in the village in the 1851 Census but Mr Harvey appears to left Simonsbath shortly afterwards.
Thomas Hodge was born in North Molton in 1815. He was the son of Thomas Hodge (baptised 1777) and his wife Mary (nee Chaunter; baptised 1773). They were both from North Molton and had married there on 19 October 1803. Thomas Hodge junior was Thomas and Mary’s sixth child. His father was a woolcomber but Thomas trained as a wheelwright and was described as such when he married Jane Thorne on 12 August 1840 at North Molton. Jane was the daughter of John Thorne – a North Molton shoemaker - and his wife Joan and had been baptised on 8 August 1819.
Thomas and Jane Hodge continued to live in North Molton after their marriage and it is there that their three sons - William, John, and Peter - were baptised. (William was later to become the estate carpenter at Simonsbath). However sometime between 1846 and 1849 the family moved to Simonsbath where their youngest child, Thomas was baptised in 1849. The family are recorded in Simonsbath in the Census of 1851. It is believed that they lived in one of the Pound Cottages.
James Harvey, the earliest known Exmoor Estate carpenter, is believed to have left the village at about this time. He is listed in the 1851 Census but by then his wife and son had already moved back to Wolverley. Thomas may have been James Harvey’s successor but with some overlap between the two.
A change of management
This was a particularly significant time in the history of the village. In 1841 John Knight had moved to Rome, (where he died in 1850) and his son, Frederic, had taken over the management of the Exmoor estate. Frederic adopted a different approach to his father - particularly building and letting farms - and presumably there was a great deal of work for the estate carpenter at this time. [More to follow]
We do not yet know how long Thomas Hodge and his family lived in Simonsbath but by 1861 they had moved to Heasley Mill, North Molton and he was working there as a carpenter, as was his eldest son, William (20).
The family may have moved to Withypool in the late 1860s as Thomas and Jane had a son, Henry, who was born there in 1869. However by 1871 they were back in Heasley Mill and Thomas (aged 65) and Jane were still living there at the time of the 1881 Census.
It seems probable that Jane died in 1888 (aged 68) and by 1891 Thomas was lodging with John and Grace Sturges. He was then 75 and is still described as being a wheelwright.
© Graham Wills