Revisiting a house in Horse Lane

This is something I wrote a couple of years ago:

In 1851, the Masefield family of Ledbury must have considered themselves most fortunate; George Masefield and his family lived in a large property in Horse Lane, with three servants and a governess. He was a solicitor, born in Newport in 1812, and married to Frances Maria. Frances was thirty-six years old and she had been born in Ledbury, so maybe that was where they had met. They had a large family, William, George Edward, Richard Briscoe, Robert, Henrietta Mary, John Basil and newly born Frances Anne.

In 1861 the family were still living in Horse Lane, still with four servants, and on the evening of the census, Ann Holbrook, George’s sister-in-law (who sounds wealthy, she’s a ‘fund-holder’) and three other visitors, Helen Watts and her two daughters, are in the house too. Ann Holbrook can’t be the same person who was in the Ledbury Union (poor house) in 1841… Ann Holbrook who was born in the same year as George’s sister-in-law, the fund holder, and the Ledbury Union which was in Horse Lane… a mystery…

In 1871, the family, rather reduced in numbers because no doubt the children married or moved away, George is still there, and Frances is now rather endearingly called Fanny. In 1881 only John is living at home with his parents, unmarried and a secretary… Meanwhile, in the Knapp House in Ledbury, George Edward, the second son, is living with  his own wife, Caroline, and their children, Reginald, Frances, John and George…

Little John Masefield, only three years old, was destined to become the Poet Laureate…


Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

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