SUMACH

 

In the sixteenth century a cottage was built across the way from the manor on the south east side, and it can be suggested that the family of Dancer were the original inhabitants, because of two wills. In 1641 Mathew Dancer was born on July 25th to Joseph and Dorcas Dancer, and in 1648 a daughter Sarah was born, and in 1660 Joseph was born. Mathew was 'supressed' at the Sessions from "selling ale" for two years. in 1681 and he left the village and went to live in Wendover. The next year Mother Dorcas died and was buried on November 23rd. at Monks Risborough.

The next year 1683 Joseph married Audrey, and their first child William was born at the end of the year, 30th December. Daughter Mary, born the next year lived only until she was two, and was buried on her brother's birthday. In 1693, on 3rd August a second son, Mathew was baptized. In 1698 Joseph Dancer was appointed Petty Constable and Tithing Man for Monks Risborough, a post of some responsibility in the village, but fortune did not smile on the family. Young Mathew died aged 19, in 1712, and younger son Joseph died the following year. Fate struck again the next year, and daughter Martha died. Audrey and Joseph lived quietly at the cottage with son William and his wife, who unfortunately had no children. In 1731 Audrey died followed two years later by her husband.

Only six years later in 1739, William died leaving "to Sarah, my beloved wife, a household, land, arable land, grass ground in the common, …… one shilling each to my nieces and nephews at Wendover.”

Three year later, Sarah died too, bequeathing all the lands etc. to her "sister Annis, and to brother-in-law, Mathew Dancer of Wendover forty shillings". So the Dancer family ended their association with Askett. The second will was dated 1739, but it was not until 1742 that William Bell of the Manor, was laid to rest "in a coffin the same as that made for Will Dancer".

In 1742 the house was bought by William Collings, described as "gentleman", who came with his wife and baby son, also named William. Young William grew up and married Jane, but they had no children who survived, so he invited William and Mary Hester from Cadmore End to live in the extended part of the cottage and carry on his trade as wheelwright at the forge at the end of the garden by the sumach tree. William and Mary brought with them their two little girls and increased their family over the years to six, including son Giles born in 1769.

By 1789 when William had died, Giles had learned his trade and had married Susanna that same year. His mother died two years later, and they named their first daughter Mary, but she died when she was fifteen.

Old William Collings died two years later in 1812, leaving his son William to live with the Hesters for the next twenty one years.

In 1796 another Giles Hester was born, the second in a family of seven, and learned his father's trade. By 1818 he married Rebecca and the following year their first son was born and named Giles, but he died aged two. Four more children were born, until 1829 another boy was named Giles, who grew up to follow the family tradition.

In 1833 William Collings made his will at the age of eighty, and the following year he died, bequeathing "to Giles Hester, junior, of Askett, wheelwright, who now resides in the house jointly occupied by him and myself, and who is my tenant at will, all my household goods, culinary utensils and other household articles, except my china, silver, table and teaspoons, wearing apparell, upon condition he shall pay all the every expense attending the decent internment of my body after my decease …. and shall have the use of the house and workshops with no rent for twelve months, and no interest or any debts owing to be charged to him or his widow .... To my nephew Thomas Collings, all my wearing apparell (including one pair of silver buckles) and one chest in which to deposit same. To Elizabeth King, sister of Thomas Collings (and who lived next door at Lavender Cottage) all the china, one silver tablespoon and all the silver teaspoons, of which I may die possessed. To John Eggleton, farmer and Thomas Whiteshead of Stone, nephew of my late wife Jane, £5 each as executors, to hold my copyhold dwellinghouse, premises and workshop, in trust for twelve months, then sell and divide …. "

Unfortunately Giles Hester, junior, had died the year before, and so the clause that gave his widow (Rebecca) the same years free rent and the right to the everyday household goods must have come as a boon.

Christopher, born in 1810 had got married the year his father died, and took his bride and mother to Prestwood where he set up as wheelwright. Grandfather Giles lived until he was eighty four years old, until the typhus epidemic in 1853, when Hannah, Christopher's widow also died, as did many others.

Most of the Hester family left Askett, some to carry on the family tradition as wheelwright, in

Prestwood; William (who lost his young wife in the epidemic) went to Princes Risborough and later to West Wycombe. Young Giles who had been born in 1829 carried on the wheelwrights business until 1865, when he left the village, to live until 1911, as an old man of eighty two in the U.S.A.

Near the end of the nineteenth century, the wheelwrights business was taken over by Henry Baldwin, who had served his apprenticeship under Giles Hester. Peter Baldwin, his son, learned the trade also, as apprentice, but by the beginning of the twentieth century John Ayres lived at Sumach and the wheelwrights business. He added the trade of carriage builder and undertaker, employing many apprentices who did not work for him very long.

Coffins of all sizes were made and top hats were worn for expensive funerals. Horses were harnessed at seven o'clock each morning, in readiness for funerals - or for Mr Ayres to ride short or long distances, for instance, for a breakfast drink at the White Cross.

He had three daughters, Rose, Mabel and Dora - who lived at Sumach until they married, but in

1931 “Sumach, with ten acres of land, the wheelwrights shop and smithy, timber sheds and stabling, a very fine barn, Chiltern Cottage and three small cottages" was sold.

Mr & Mrs Howden and their two sons came to live at Sumach, and at the beginning of the war decided to start a small school, with their own sons as the first pupils, and very quickly the numbers increased, as the war brought many families to the village from London. There were over sixty children in and around Askett at this time amongst whom were the twin sons of the famous wood engraver, Eric Fitch, and the sons of John Nash the painter, who lived at Meadle.

The end four rooms were used, and upstairs, which was reached by a staircase which kept its flap door at the top.

As the numbers increased an extra room was built at the back in the garden. Football and other games were played in the fields opposite and the pond was used for nature studies. Several ex-pupils remember the oddly mixed cocoa they had as part of their meals, amongst other memories of the little school.

In 1949 Mrs Howden went to Manor Farm, Kimble to continue the school, renaming it Ladymede. Mr & Mrs Craig moved from Askett Villa to Sumach, living there until 1966, when Mr & Mrs Thackery went to live there with their daughter.

Footnote: Ray Thackray says that she moved into Sumach in 1970, but not with her parents who were no longer alive at this time.

Margaret Jackson, known as Peggy, (late of Haxtead Cottage) used to teach at Sumach with Mrs Howden.

Peggy says that there was no re-naming when the school moved to Ladymede. It had always been called Ladymede within her memory.

 

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