Jacob Smith: a self-made man

Jacob Smith arrived in Chitterne with his basket of tools and only sixteen shillings in his pocket. He set to work and made his fortune by his own hands and ingenuity. At his death he left a carpenter/wheelwright's business, a shop and bakehouse, the tenancy of a farm and 1900 in the bank.

Born about 1837 to agricultural workers Jasper and Ruth Smith in the tiny village of Bushton, near Swindon, north Wiltshire. He at first worked on the land, but also acquired the skills of a carpenter and wheelwright before arriving in Chitterne.

In Chitterne he met and married Elizabeth Holloway, a teacher at the school, who hailed from Erlestoke. They married in Erlestoke on 4th February 1860 and eldest son Herbert was born there in 1861. Just after this Jacob helped to install the clock in the tower of the newly built church at Chitterne.

Jacob and Elizabeth had eight children; the last seven were born in Chitterne. At first they lived in Bidden Lane but by 1871 they were living in Flint House and running the shop there, but by 1881 they were installed in the house and grocery shop in Townsend that Jacob had built. The bakehouse was the opposite side of the road and in 1881 second son John was the baker. Later youngest son Arthur took over and continued baking until 1918. The bakehouse was demolished many years ago.

Jacob made the funeral bier in memory of Nathaniel Gibbs who died in 1892, which is still in the church today. The body of Arthur Smith, the baker, was wheeled on the bier from the Baptist Chapel to All Saints churchyard to be buried in 1948.

Jacob Smith was a dedicated Baptist but the family had been Church people until the time in the 19th century when no services were being held due to the lack of a clergyman. No stand-in could be found for less than 2 guineas a Sunday and that was beyond Church means. Jacob heard of a Shrewton man who walked to Chitterne and back twice of a Sunday to take services at the Chapel. He decided that those were the sort of people he wanted to join so from that time he became a Baptist and most of the family did too. He was a deacon in 1883 and his sons Herbert and Henry John (known as Jack) were baptised in 1883 and 1884; his daughter Margaret's wedding was the first to be held in the rebuilt chapel, newly licenced for weddings in 1905.

In the 1890's Jacob was the tenant of Glebe Farm and this photograph taken about 1897 a year or two before his death, shows him wearing a bowler hat with his men threshing the corn with 'thrasher' driven by a portable steam engine. Both machines were horse-drawn. To the right of the photo, with great lumps of steam coal at his feet is Sidney Smith, one of Jacob's sons. Son Arthur is at the extreme left side of the photo and in front of him wearing a jacket is son Jack, who lived at the top of Bidden Lane and was a tenant farmer and a carrier to Salisbury.

I am grateful to Jacob's great-grandson Peter Dickinson for this information.

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