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Thomas Belcher, Farmer, 1794-1852. Lived at the Manor House

Thomas Belcher, farmer, held a number of official positions and gives the impression of having been a higher flyer socially than his brother Michael. His occupancy of the imposing Manor House, built in the early or mid 19th century on the site of the old Sukars Hall, would have given him status. Thomas was the second son of Michael “the elder” Belcher and his wife Mary. He was baptised in Gnosall on 7th October 1794. On 19 June 1826 at Gnosall, he married Mary Meeson, born 1794 to parents John and Elizabeth. From the Tithe Awards, Mary Belcher owned quite a lot of land which was let to Thomas Bettelley (1983-4, 1994-7). Was this Mary, Thomas’s mother, or Mary, Thomas’s wife? They had children as follows, Thomas being listed Farmer: Eliza born 7th April 1827, baptised 22 April 1827 Mary Ann baptised 7 April 1828 (she married John Lees in 1854). Thomas baptised 30 October 1829, died 1871 In 1829 Thomas Belcher handled the estate of deceased farmer Mr Williams and the sale of the farmhouse and land at Audmore. On 16 Oct 1830, two of his lambs were reported stolen in the Staffordshire Advertiser. (Navvies were often blamed for stealing sheep.) The Gnosall Association for the Prosecution of Felons included James, Michael, Joseph and Thomas Belcher. In 1837. Thomas Belcher was its Treasurer; he was also a Charity Trustee. He was the executor of Elizabeth Hill, spinster, in May 1835 and one of the Parish Guardians. Notices appeared in the Staffordshire Advertiser in the 1820s and 1830s threatening prosecution of anyone trespassing or going after “the Game upon the Common Lands of the Manor of Gnosall and the Farms and Land occupied by Thomas Belcher” and Thomas Reynolds/Matthew Haynes. On 20 Jan. 1835 and 7 Feb. 1835 Thomas Belcher advertised to let “a comfortable Dwelling House situate at Gnosall, comprising parlour, kitchen, brewhouse, pantry, cellar, and three very comfortable bedrooms, with an excellent garden.” This was presumably the same house on the High Street that his father had advertised at the beginning of the century, new-built of brick in 1805. (1227-9) The late 1830s Tithe listing shows him owning properties on the High Street 1226-9 and 1239-41. The latter and 1226 he rented out to his brother James, and two neigbouring houses with gardens (1227-9) he rented out to Thomas Fox, a shoemaker, and Thomas Fox, a sexton. He himself was already living at the Manor House (1167 on the Tithes map), along with the adjacent garden, orchard and Sukars Croft field, and the Acres. These he rented from the Bishop of Lichfield along with a great deal of other property, mostly farmland and pasture but including a house and garden on the High Street (1230) next to the houses he owned. It’s unclear what this was used for. The 1841 census has him living at the Manor House with his wife, son Thomas, and five servants. The two girls were at school in Seighford. In 1851 the girls were back at the Manor House, with the rest of the family, five indoor and four outdoor servants, including waggoners and a cowman. Thomas Belcher farmed 308 acres. He died on 9th October 1852 and was buried at St Lawrence, in grave I-06, to the right of main gate. “He was a kind Husband, an affectionate Father, and a faithful Friend.” A few days later, the Workhouse Board in Newport applied for permission to elect another Guardian to replace him. In early 1852 he had apparently written a testimonial George Jordan’s Super-Phosphate of Lime and the Preston Chronicle carried this for the following two years. Thomas Belcher, 1829-1871 Thomas Belcher Jr was baptised at Gnosall on 30 October 1829, married Eliza Whittle from Sheriffhales in 1854, and continued farming from the Manor House. The first part of the 1861 census is missing, but in 1871 he was living at the Manor House with his wife, two sons, Thomas and William, two daughters, a housemaid and a ploughboy. He was listed as Farmer. He died on 3rd December 1871 aged 42 and was buried at Gnosall, grave i-07. The Manor House then passed out of the family. Felicity Potter
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