Hunting for Nathaniel

One of the godsends of digitisation in recent years has been that of local newspapers by the British Newspaper Archive.  Anyone who has scrolled manually through endless pages of microfilmed newspapers searching for mentions of their ancestor will surely agree.  In the following post I have included the newspaper references so that it will aid others researching him and his family and it will hopefully  illustrate what a wide variety of items can be turned up if you are lucky.  Even the very poor can make their mark in the papers though usually when they are called before the magistrate for whatever reason.

Nathaniel Hunt

Nathaniel Hunt

My Great Great Great Grandfather was a farmer called Nathaniel Hunt whose farm – Owlgreaves Farm – was in Shipley in Derbyshire.  Much to my surprise when I looked he seemed to be in the local newspapers a great deal – both the Nottinghamshire,  the Derbyshire and even the Sheffield ones.

I knew only the basic facts about Nathaniel.  I couldn’t find his parents with any certainty as he was described by the census as the adopted son of Nathaniel Hunt senior along with his brother Charles.  I knew he married Dorothy Dunn in 1851 giving his adoptive father’s name.  He made regular appearances in the censuses (including twice in 1881) had a number of children (among them a Samuel Fox Hunt) and died in 1889 aged 66 the year after his wife.  I’d even found his gravestone in Marlpool cemetery although I think it has now been laid flat to make it safe.  I also know he left £2255 4s 2d when he died.

What I didn’t know was what kind of man he was but when I searched for him in the newspaper archive it came up with over 30 hits.  One of the last was his son Nathaniel for drinking after hours!


His appearances start with the announcement of the marriage of Mr Nathaniel Hunt to Miss Dorothy Dunn at Heanor Church on Thursday 15 May 1851 which was reported in the Derby Mercury.  There’s a bit of a lull until 1867 as he was probably too busy earning a living and raising his children to bother much with parish matters.

Parish constable

However in the Derby Mercury of 3 April 1867 at the Smalley Special Sessions to appoint parish officers his name appears as one of the four Parish Constables for Heanor for the year commencing Lady Day 1867 together with George Burton, George Oldershaw and William Flint.

Sale of land for Building

Later that year in the Nottinghamshire Guardian of 12 July, his name appears as the occupant (not the owner) of three small plots of land in Langley Mill which were being sold by auction at the Erewash Hotel in Langley Mill at 4 o’clock on Monday 15 July.  The land was sold of as suitable for Building so he was obviously not going to be farming that any more.

Carting coals without a license

Three years later in the Derby Mercury of 30 March 1870 he was again appointed as a Parish Constable along with Isaac Bircumshaw, George Turner and Job Turton but he must have been a bit embarrassed later that year when he was charged with carting coals without a license.   It seems that you needed a license to do this with a horse and he had bought one not realising you needed one per horse. He used three horses to cart coals for the local colliery company Barber and Walker and was charged a fine of £20.  The magistrates had never had one of these cases before so reduced his fine down to £5 with a recommendation to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to further mitigate it down to 50 shillings.

Overseer of the Poor

Nathaniel was made the Overseer of the Poor for Shipley in April 1874 along with William Bentley.  This fact was reported both in the Derbyshire Times of 1 April and the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 31 March following the Petty Sessions meeting held at Heanor the previous Monday.    He was coming up in the world!

Building a House and Shop at Langley Mill

It was also in 1874 that Nathaniel received planning permission to build a house and shop in Langley Mill from the Local Board at their meeting in April.  I think it was to build a butcher’s shop for his son but I will need to consult my Dad as to where it was likely to be as he remembers one belonging to the Hunt family in Langley Mill.

Landowners and the Modern Domesday

His next appearance is as a result of the 1873 Return of Owners of Land compiled by local government boards in 1872 from the rates records.  The Derby Mercury published sections for Derbyshire in serial form and Nathaniel’s “H” section appeared on the 21 June 1876.  According to this he only owned 2 acres, 2 rods and a perch with a gross estimated rental value (presumably per annum) of £38 8s.  So although his farm was large it seems he actually owned only 2 acres of it.

Keeping a Ferocious Dog

Like all farmers Nathaniel kept at least one dog and in the few family photos I have there are quite a few unnamed photos of dogs.  However in 1879 he was had up for keeping a ferocious dog.  It appears that a little boy named Edwin Meakin had been bitten by the dog and despite Nathaniel paying him 30 shillings for his injuries and promising to pay the doctor’s bill he was still prosecuted.  It was reported in the Nottingham Evening Post of 28 February 1879 in the Police News section and Nathaniel was ordered to pay 9 shillings in costs and to keep the dog under control.  Quite an expensive bite!  You do feel as you read the account that you want to know more – what kind of dog was it? – was Edwin teasing it?  what was Edwin doing on Nathaniel’s farm? what were his injuries?

George Poaching

The next mention of Nathaniel in the papers is not actually related much to him but refers to a man aptly named George Poaching.  George was captured with his dog  as they were out to catch rabbits on Nathaniel’s land on Sunday 19 November 1879.  William Morris who was presumably the local gamekeeper was the one who caught him not Nathaniel or possibly there would have been another ferocious dog case.

Prime beasts and prizes at the Agricultural Show

Nathaniel obviously kept his stock in prime condition as he also won prizes for his stock at the local Agricultural Show.  According to the Derby Daily Telegraph of 21 November 1879 he won 1st prize in 3 of the Horse classes – Horse or mare of the cart kind – Foal of the cart kind  – and Pony – and also came second in one of the sheep classes – a pen of 5 ewes short wool.  Perhaps his ferocious dog was to keep others from nobbling his exhibits?

Basford Board of Guardians

Nathaniel was obviously becoming more involved in local affairs as in 1883 he was elected to the Basford Poor Law Union’s Board of Guardians.  This was reported in the Nottinghamshire Guardian of 20 April which gave the full list of guardians elected but Nathaniel as the member for Shipley was unable to be at that meeting.

Selling Adulterated Milk

Nathaniel seems to have gone one step forward and two back as his next newspaper appearance was for selling adulterated milk.  The Derby Mercury of 18 March 1885 reported that he had been summoned for having sold watered milk on 25 February.  Nathaniel made the court laugh when he gave his evidence.  He said that he had been ill and unable to supervise the dairy.  Apparently the dairymaid had been used to rinse out the utensils and add the rinsing water to the milk in her last employ and that as a result he had no idea how much water had been added.  He was let off with a fine of 6d plus costs.

Later that year in June he had a lamb stolen and then in September of 1886 half a peck of apples was also stolen.

The next items appeared after his death.


This was reported in the Derby Mercury of Wednesday 12 June 1889 – that he died at this residence on Saturday. 

“He was out on his farm on Thursday apparently in his usual health.  The deceased gentleman was an ardent Conservative in politics and highly respected amongst all classes.”

Probate sales

There seem to have been at least two sales of his estate after his death. The first is reported in the Nottingham Evening Post of 5 November 1889. 

“Yesterday evening Mr J Peet, auctioneer, Langley Mill, offered for sale eight lots of freehold property, the estate of the late Mr Nathaniel Hunt, farmer, Shipley.  A large company assembled at the Midland Hotel, Langley Mill.” 

There were four messuages with gardens and a piece of land adjoining fronting the turnpike road near the Midland Railway Station at Langley Mill which were purchased by Mr George Newmarch of Nottingham for £465. 

A dwelling-house and shop (with beer-off attached)  – and which was obviously not the butchers shop I thought it would be when I saw the planning permission above – as well as a large garden and piece of land situate in Bridge Street Langley Mill was sold to the Carrington Brewery Company for £570. ( I will need to investigate what pub this turned into.)

Two messuages with shop and one dwelling house abutting on the main road at Langley Mill, and some houses in the rear of Dunn Terrace were withdrawn at £790.

So he had a fair bit of property and now I will need to get busy with the local maps to identify exactly where they were.

The second sale was of his livestock advertised in the Derby Mercury of 27 November 1889.  It was to take place at Owl Graves Farm the following day and was for the farming stock both live and dead, implements, dairy utensils, horse tackle and small portion of the household furniture.  It itemises all the stock as 65 head of horned stock, 67 sheep, 14 horses (and gives their names, sizes and characters) and 20 couples fowls and 13 Geese. 

It even gave details of the trains to get there from Derby and said it was half a mile from Shipley Gate Station on the Midland Railway and one and a quarter miles from Ilkeston on the Great Northern Railway.

So all in all I now have a better picture of Nathaniel and his aspirations, servants, property and what pies he had his fingers in, as well as many more things to research in the Archives.  I am not sure if I would have liked him although his death notice says he was highly respected but that is not the same thing as being generally liked…..

Jacqui Kirk