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Berkshire Family Historian
September 1999

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main PageSeptember 1999 contents

The Jerome chronicles

Family life through half a millennium

Barry Jerome

JEROME family tree

The Jerome Family Tree


My story begins with Giles Gerom who was born in France and came to England to live and work. During the first part of the sixteenth century the French population escalated. The rural population grew rapidly, expanding by approximately l0% every decade. By 1550 France was, in the words of a contemporary 'crammed as full as an egg'. This seems to be the most likely reason for Giles coming to England rather than to escape religious persecution, which did not begin until later in the century.

Berkshire was famous for its wool trade with centres in Newbury, Reading and Abingdon. Fortunes were built on the trade that must have attracted many skilled workers to the area. On 1st July 1544 Giles received denization from Henry VIII for himself, his wife and two children. At this time he was a fuller living in Chieveley, Berkshire.

Fulling was a process used to clean and thicken the wool that involved the use of a fine clay called Fuller's Earth. As a fuller, Giles' skills would have been much in demand and this is probably the reason why he settled firstly in Chieveley and then in Yattendon. This was the start of nearly three hundred years' association with Yattendon by the Jerome family.

Giles died and was buried at Yattendon on 29 January 1582. The next generation was Ric(hard) Jerrom and although it cannot be proved, as the parish records do not begin until 1558, there seems little doubt that Ric was Giles' son. Ric married Margaret Coxe at Beenham on 4 Feb 1573 and during the following twenty years they had nine children all born at Yattendon. Whether or not Ric continued in his father's trade as a fuller is not known, but it seems likely as a hundred years later the Jerrom family was still involved in clay that by 1700 was used for brick making.

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century other Jerroms start to appear in Berkshire in the Reading area and at Sandford in Oxfordshire, across the river from Abingdon. Both Reading and Abingdon were associated with the wool trade. It may be coincidence but one theory is that the families originated from Giles' other unidentified children who moved from Yattendon. The family in Sandford moved into Abingdon and within a generation become wealthy. In his will Henry Jerrom left the modern equivalent of nearly 1million in property and goods to his family and friends. However, by the next generation the property was largely mortgaged - probably as the result of the heavy taxes imposed by Charles I during his occupation of Abingdon in the civil war.

1544. The war with France and the threatened invasion, which was attempted the following year, necessitated a more stringent account of strangers in this country to be taken, more especially in the southern shires which were liable to attack from France. Those of the able bodied strangers who would not become denizens and be sworn to the English King were compelled to leave the country, while the very young and the aged and impotent were allowed to remain, Letters of Denization being provided for them. Of course it was against the French that these measures were taken, nearly one thousand nine hundred of whom procured Letters of Denization in 1 544, while for the subjects of the Emperor less than two hundred were granted.

Extract from the Proceedings of the Huguenot Society

Of my direct family in Yattendon; several of Ric's children moved away, only William stayed. William was the fifth of Ric and Margaret's children, born in 1583, the year after Giles' death. William married Joane and by 1610, when they had the first of their seven children, the wool industry was in serious decline as a result of a change in fashion and competition from mainland Europe. Attempts were made by the government to avert unemployment and large-scale poverty by encouraging silk weaving. Silkworms were grown as an alternative for weavers and large plantations of mulberry trees were established locally on the Norreys estate to feed them.

Of William and Joane's children their eldest William married and brought up a family at Yattendon, Richard and Mary both died tragically young aged 14 and 13 respectively. William (the elder) also died relatively young compared to other generations of the family. There is no indication why the children died in their teens or William when he was 55 years old. It may have been poverty that made them susceptible to disease. The plague was a frequent visitor to towns and villages, as well as smallpox and diphtheria. In the 1625 outbreak in Reading Mary Jerome, a widow, was paid the substantial sum of four shillings per week to inspect bodies to see if they had died of the plague.

My family line continued with William and Joane's youngest son Samuel who was born on 8 June 1628. He was ten years old when his father died. The years following William's death must have been a worrying time for Joane as most of the family were in their teens and early twenties during the civil war. By the spring of 1642 when the war began the whole economy and social order was on the point of breakdown. As well as poverty and religious differences there were widespread enclosure riots. During the first three years of the civil war many battles and skirmishes were fought in Berkshire and the Thames valley. Towns frequently changed hands from Royalist held to Parliament and back again. Young men were pressed into military service for one side or the other as the armies marched through. Raids were also made on rural crops and livestock to feed the troops.

There is no evidence of what happened to William and Joane's middle son Thomas after his baptism and although it is possible that his marriage and burial are missing from the parish records it raises the question whether he became a casualty of the war. Joane survived her husband by more than thirty years dying in 1669 having lived through the civil war, the period of the Commonwealth and changes in English life during the seventeenth century.

Samuel married Johane about 1650 but I have not found where it took place. Like most parishes Yattendon's records have several gaps during the period of the civil war and Commonwealth. Four of their children are recorded in the parish records in 1651, 1663, 1666 and 1670. Two more are in the Bishops' Transcripts in 1654 and 1656. There were probably two or three more children during the seven-year gap from 1656 to 1663. In particular there is no baptism for Nicholas Jerrom who married Arm Cheney at Yattendon in 1682 and may well have been born about 1660. My line continued through Isaac Jerrom. He was Samuel and Johane's youngest son baptised on 5 April 1670.

As the wool industry went into decline the brick making industry was beginning to grow. Berkshire was short of natural building stone and from the sixteenth century bricks were widely used for vernacular buildings. In the seventeenth century brick was used predominantly in church towers and most buildings in Berkshire used brick. It is not certain when the Jerome family first became involved in brick making but by 1731 Isaac Jerrom owned sufficient land at Burnt Hill to make bricks from the local clay. There was a thriving brick making industry in the area around Yattendon. The local geology provided the clays and sands needed to make the bricks and the extensive woodlands provided the fuel to fire them.

Berkshire in the eighteenth century was still very rural. Most of the population lived and worked in numerous villages, hamlets and farms. None of the half a dozen market towns were built up beyond their commercial centres. The forest extended to the River Loddon and Royal deer were hunted as far as the outskirts of Reading. Farming in the open fields and commons was carried on in traditional methods. Change was coming however with Jethro Tull['s inventions and the improved methods on George III's 'model farm' towards the end of the century which required fields to be enclosed by hedges.

Isaac married Johane Fuse on 19 October 1691 at Yattendon. They lived at Burnt Hill at the far eastern end of the parish, bordering the adjacent parishes of Ashampstead, Stanford Dingley and Bradfield. Of Isaac and Johane's seven children, Alice died in infancy and Johane tragically died aged 22 years. The other children all outlived their parents and are mentioned in Isaac's will of 1731. The land was divided between two of his sons Samuel and Isaac and money from his estate was divided between all of the other surviving offspring.

Of the two brothers, Samuel married Hannah and Isaac married Rachel Lock. They both lived on the plots of land left to them by their father. Isaac and Rachel had seven children between 1729 and 1750. Samuel and Hannah appear to have had two children (but once again this may be missing records), William born in 1716 and Samuel in 1719. Baby Samuel died before he was a year old. In 1722 Elizabeth Fuse' a poor child of Englefield'was apprenticed to Samuel Jerom, and may well have been related to Samuel's mother Johane (nee Fuse).

My direct family line continued through Samuel and his eldest son William. William married firstly Elizabeth and they had two sons William and Daniel. I have not found a burial record for Elizabeth but William appears to have married Rachel in 1741 and they had eight children between 1742 and 1755. William and his father Samuel both died within a month of each other in 1765. Samuel's land seems to have been divided between William's daughter Hannah and his son William.

In 1773 Robert Weston produced a detailed map of Yattendon which contained the owners and occupiers of the land. Members of the Jerom family owned three adjacent plots on Burnt Hill. Isaac, who was now a widower, had the biggest plot; William Jerom and John Hope (who had married Hannah Jerom a year earlier) owned the other two plots. It is a fascinating map for anyone researching families in Yattendon. There is a copy of it on the wall inside Yattendon Church (as well as in the Berkshire Record Office).

During the latter part of the century some of the family gave up their land in Burnt Hill and moved to Bucklebury. Isaac's land stayed in the family for another three generations however. Isaac died in 1778 and his son Isaac occupied the land until he died in 1806. Isaac did not leave a will and it was nearly four years later when his son Richard presented himself, under oath, as the beneficiary. Richard and his son John were living there in adjacent cottages when the tithe map was made in 1844 and when the land was subsequently sold in 1853.

This has been something of a diversion as my direct family interest was with those who moved to Bucklebury around the end of the century. My line follows James Jerom, one of William's sons who was a younger brother to Hannah and William. James Jerom was born at Yattendon on 26th March 1751, married Hannah Bond in 1792 and their first child Jonathon was baptised on 17th March 1793. At some point James moved to Bucklebury Alley, an area on the far west edge of Bucklebury parish, where he brought up his family.

During the Napoleonic wars militia units were raised to assist the army in the event of invasion. Men were conscripted by a ballot system. If a man was chosen in the ballot but was unwilling to serve, he found and sometimes paid a substitute in his place. John Jerome of Bucklebury was selected by ballot in 1805 and provided a substitute on loth September that year.

The enclosure movement that assisted the agricultural revolution in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century completed the traditional pattern of ordered countryside familiar to us today. Many enclosures did not benefit the inhabitants of the parish, especially the poorer members who relied on commoners' rights to collect firewood and graze their animals. Many of these became dependent on the 'poor rate'. Some Lords of the Manor also took advantage of it to build grand new manor houses on the newly enclosed land.

Parishioners vigorously contested the Bucklebury enclosure. A campaign and petition were organised by John Morton, a well-known local lay preacher, who was concerned about the impact it would have on the local people. The petition collected a large number of names and he also started a subscription with his own money to raise funds to pay for solicitors in London to help fight the enclosure.

The Bucklebury Enclosure

The Bucklebury enclosure bill was thrown out by 38 Noes to 6 Ayes, a majority of 32, on Thursday 8th May 1834. In summarising the reason the bill was thrown out "as it would only benefit the Lord of the Manor. The people who currently had rights to collect fuel and graze animals would have become paupers dependent on the poor rate."

James seems to have been infamous in the parish as he was mentioned several times in the Manor Court Leet. In 1818 and 1819 he was fined, with several others, for not attending the Court Leet. On 7th November 1834 it was noted that pigsties erected in Bucklebury Alley, near the road, by James Jerom, James Kimber, Thomas Brundon and George Brooker were a nuisance. James Jerom and his son James both put their names on the petition, as did John Hope (Hannah's husband).

James and Hannah's eldest son Jonathon started the trend for migration that continued to the present day. Until then, apart from the move from France, the family had moved only the short distance from Yattendon to Bucklebury. Little is known of Jonathon's early life between his baptism in 1793 and the baptism of his first child, Matilda, at Kingston-upon-Thames in 1891. In the intervening 30 years he trained as a baker, married Arm Jones from Wales and moved to Kingston. From here Jonathon and his young family moved to Richmond, still working as a baker, then back to Kingston again where my family line continued through George Jerome who was born in 1831.

It is uncertain why Jonathon and his family's next move was to Shiplake, also on the Thames, north of Reading. In Shiplake Jonathon was employed as an agricultural labourer rather than as a baker. Kingston at that time was a thriving coaching town and each day "four and twenty coaches ran through the market place". Traffic on the old wooden bridge had become so congested that in 1828 a new stone toll bridge was opened. Poverty and disease were a problem and cholera was common in Kingston during the 1800s causing many deaths. It is possible that Jonathon moved away to protect his family from this constant threat of disease.

Jonathon and Arm had two more daughters in Shiplake then tragedy struck in January 1835 with the death of their eldest daughter Matilda aged 13 years. In 1838 they moved again, this time to Henley-on-Thames where they finally settled and their last child Jonathon was born. George Jerome was Jonathon and Ann's third child, born at Kingston. His early years were spent in Shiplake and he was about ten years old when the family moved to Henley. Spending all of his life in towns and villages on the Thames it was natural for George to be involved in an industry around the river, becoming a boatman and fisherman.

Henley's prosperity came to an abrupt halt when the Great Western Railway was built bypassing the town. By 1857 when a branch line was opened much of Henley's previously thriving trade had been drawn away. Photographs of the town taken around 1850 show it in a state of decay. The river that had brought its previous prosperity over the centuries eventually saved the town. A Regatta had started in 1839 but the turning point came when it received Royal patronage in 1851 and gave Henley international fame and fortune. George's youngest brother Jonathon became closely involved with the Regatta.

Frederick Jerome 1862-1932

George married Ruth Woodley in 1853 and they had a total of fourteen children. George's younger brother Jonathon had an even larger family. He married Mary Arm Clements in 1858 and they had seventeen children. But several of them did not survive childhood. Frederick Jerome was born in Henley-on-Thames on 5th April 1862.

He was George and Ruth's sixth child and grew up in Henley becoming prosperous in his younger days owning boats on the River Thames. He was a bachelor into his late thirties before he met Rosina White, a children's nanny to the Palmer family in Reading (of Huntley and Palmers biscuits). Frederick and Rosina married in 1899 and settled in Dorking, Surrey, where they raised a family of five children. They owned and ran a poultry and fishmonger's shop. Frederick became well known in the area with the nickname of 'stasher' owing to his large moustache.

Frederick Jerome (junior) was born at Dorking at the start of the new century on 18th January l900, the eldest son of Frederick and Rosina. At the age of 14 he went to the Arethusa training ship and joined the Royal Navy in the closing stages of the First World War. Fred's preference was to join the merchant navy but possibly by misunderstanding, or perhaps the pressure to enrol in the armed forces, Frederick signed his son up for the Royal Navy. Fred met Harriett Lucas at Brockham Fair when he was on home leave and they married in 1922. Their first child was Frederick Ronald (Ron). The ships Fred served in were mainly stationed at Chatham and so in 1924 they moved with baby Ron to Gillingham in Kent to be closer to the naval base. The family was completed with Patricia Betty's (Betty) birth in 1931.

Fred's career in the Navy spanned almost 30 years including active service in the Second World War. He was on convoy support duty in the North Sea, saw action at Narvik and was then posted to the Pacific in the war against the Japanese. He retired from the RN in 1946 as a Commissioned Gunner and joined the Admiralty staff in Gillingham, working there until it was relocated to Bath in the early 1960s when he retired.

Frederick Ronald (Ron) was born on loth September 1922. It was this part of my family tree that almost ended on three different occasions before I appeared on the scene. The first incident was when Ron was five years old. He had a near fatal accident when he fell 50 feet down a slope at the back of Gillingham laundry and was not expected to live. Having survived he took the Royal Airforce entrance examination during the summer Of 1939. He was accepted into the RAF and after officer training as an engineer went on active service in August 1942 in the Special Duties 138 squadron, which at this time of the war was dropping agents behind enemy lines and supplies to the Resistance. The next incident was in January 1943 when the aircraft he was flying in was attacked and set on fire and he escaped by parachute. This was followed only a month later when he was shot down in France on another mission. He survived yet again, but was captured and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Poland.

After the war Ron married Winifred Edith Legg and I was born on 13th August 1946. Ron left the RAF and worked initially for HM Customs and then the Kuwait Oil Company. My sister, Karla Arm, was born in 1951. Ron was now a qualified mechanical engineer and worked as a Marine Superintendent for a number of shipping companies. During the later stages of his career, and prior to retiring he worked on the Thames Barrier.

Acknowledgenients Peter Baigent and Cliff Greetham who have shared their research with me and made this article possible

This study of the Jerome faniily was the basis of the display that won the Society's family history competition earlier this year.

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updated 12th June 2001