John Dickenson lived 80 years, all in Gloucestershire. Born in 1788 during George III’s reign, he lived through the subsequent reigns of George IV and William IV, before, at the age of 49, seeing Victoria become his Queen. By the time he died, she had been on the throne for over 20 years.
John was born in Chedworth, near the Roman Villa of the same name. He worked as a farm labourer, and at a young age started work for the Brookes family, who lived at Elmestree House in Doughton, Tetbury. The house still exists today – seconds away from its nearest neighbour, Highgrove House, home of the Prince of Wales.
Although he must have been in his teens when he started work for the Brookeses, John did not move on when he reached adulthood, or when he married. Agricultural and farm labour was to prove an increasingly insecure job to have as the 19th century progressed, but John was lucky enough to have a secure position.
And so he remained with the family – for 60 years. By 1841, two of his youngest children were also working at Elmestree as servants – Patience and George, both in their teens. John and his wife, Mary, were living two houses away from the main house, with 12-year-old John Jr.
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Elmestree House is bottom left, by the main road, on this map. On the right hand side is the Highgrove estate.
Eventually, the elderly John seems to have retired, and a John Dickenson, 73 year old widower and farm labourer, is listed in the census at Sutgrove, Miserdine, within the Stroud district. This may be the same John; a Mary Dickenson is listed in the Stroud district deaths the year before.
And the regime at Elmestree had changed, too. In 1841, Mary Brookes, aged approximately 35, had been the wife of the head of household, she and her husband rattling around the house with their servants.
But ten years later, the house was full of younger people – 28-year-old magistrate and landed proprietor William Brookes lived there with his wife Eleanor and their four young children… together with their footman, cook, nurse, housemaid and undernurse.
But when John died – in 1858 at the age of 80 – his former employers decided to mark his long service with them by burying him back in Tetbury, with a headstone commemorating his place in their history:
To the memory of John Dickenson, who died Nov 2nd 1858 aged 80. He was a faithful servant in the Family of the Brookses of Elmestree of the long period of sixty years.