My family’s association with Stanmer started rather inauspiciously in 1821 and ended quite tragically in 1937. In the intervening one hundred and eighteen years, we contributed significantly to the estate. Our history closely mirrored that of the Pelhams.
Thomas Jones, my 3x great-grandfather, was an illegitimate child and at the mercy of Laughton Parish. He first set his eyes on Stanmer at only eleven years old when he was left by his mother to work as a farm boy. Tom was the eldest of 5, all illegitimate to 5 different fathers. One can only imagine the poverty he had come from for him to view his newfound situation as an improvement.
I know all of this as Tom’s son, Fredrick, left notebooks detailing his father’s life. In his words.
This compulsory service was little better than white slavery – kicks and cuffs combined with hard fare, long weary hours and work beyond their strength was the universal custom, and this my father soon found was his lot.
However, Tom soon found a place for himself. Despite no education, he worked his way up to be the estate builder. Tom fell in love with and married one of the countess’ ladies-in-waiting, Mary Kirby. They had 3 sons and a daughter, all of whom contributed to the Chichester estate. The boys were talented craftsmen and artists, and all three carved and painted. Stanmer church is the crowning glory of their talent. Even today, the family has furniture and paintings proudly displayed in our houses across the country.
Tom’s eldest son Fredrick became a teacher. He was headmaster at East Hoathly Primary School, as were his two sons. On retirement, he became Reeve to the Earl of Chichester, his boyhood friend.
Jude Jones, Tom’s second son, stayed at Stanmer and became the estate carpenter. He had two sons his youngest, Frank, inherited that mantle. However, Lewis joined the Royal Navy and ultimately emigrated to Canada. He was one of the first members of the Royal Canadian Navy. Jude and Frank worked together for many years, and they did much of the work on the Church. It was Frank who was the most talented, and he did most of the detailed work. Jude also had a daughter Lil, who lived with her brother Frank and was the last Jones to live on the estate.
Reuben Jones, Tom’s third son, spent many years working in London but became custodian of Hastings Castle, part of the Chichester estate, in retirement. So, he had kept his ties with the Pelhams, and they looked after him in retirement.
Tom’s daughter Ann never married but lived out her years looking after her parents on the estate, dying relatively young just a few years after her mother.
So, where are we now?
The Joneses’ time at Stanmer ended tragically in 1937 when Frank committed suicide with a shotgun. The story is a sad one. A life-long sufferer from epilepsy, he had decided it was all too much. Frank never married, nor did his sister Lil who moved to East Hoathly shortly after his death. However, Lewis’s line thrives in Canada. In recent years, through my DNA, I have managed to make contact with some of them. I’m not sure if they were aware of their proud historical connection to a small estate just outside Brighton, but I have been able to fill them in a bit.
Reuben’s line is somewhat hazy. He left his first wife, Mary, on the estate when he moved to London, later marrying Amy after his first wife died, with whom he was living. He had children with his second wife, and my research suggests that their descendants stayed in London. However, I have been unable to establish whether the line still exists. Jones is a common surname; it is not always that easy to establish relationships.
Fredrick’s line thrives. We are not only accountants, managers and teachers. The artistic and creative genes have been passed down too. We are successful writers, engineers, filmmakers, and artists. We also serve our country in the Army and RAF. We are Joneses, proud of our lineage and proud of our family’s contribution to the Stanmer estate.