My Pa took the trouble to keep a diary and he “published” it before he died in 2005 along with those of his father and his Grandfather. I still like to pick up the book and today scanned and OCRed a couple of pages. It’s a cracking read. This is a snippet from my Gt. Grandfather’s diary – Francis Robert Griffith (born 1828). They lived at The Rectory in Corsley, Wiltshire and had not a care in the world it would seem………………………………
“…We added rabbits, ducks, pigeons and even turkeys to our farmyard, selling the eggs, chickens and rabbits to our innocent mother who gave us very remunerative prices for all we had to dispose of.
I very soon developed a love for fancy pigeons, and having bought from Charley “the sole right” to keep this class of stock, I built myself a nice pigeon house 12′ x 12′, nailing hurdles on a frame of wood and covering the whole with clay plaster and whitewash. The back was about 10 feet high with rows of nesting shelves and the front wired in with a self acting “trap” which let the birds in but would not allow them to go out when adjusted. All my pocket money went from this time in pigeons of which I soon got up a fairly good stock (some worth a guinea each) under the kind advice of a retired surgeon living in the village, who gave me some beauties, and I soon obtained a sound knowledge of the points of, and had a love for, these birds which has never left me, and even at this present time I never lose an opportunity of looking with a fancier’s admiration at the most perfect specimens I can see at any poultry shows I may visit. Ralph coming home for the holidays from school suggested as “something to do” that we should make a “cave” in the hard sand under a rising field at the top of our garden, and we soon set vigorously to work after buying a couple of spades and picks, and putting up a windlass we sunk a shaft 6 feet square and 15 feet deep in a few days. We then excavated a tunnel under the rising land at the back and, having carried this some 20 feet, we cut a good sized room at the end, with seats, candlebox, “grub shelf” etc. in the walls. I cannot remember the exact size of this room, but I think it was 3 feet across and round in shape. We were contemplating a fresh “bore” from this room with a still larger apartment at the end, when the holidays came to their natural termination!
Our Uncle Joseph, a stout Divine, came with his wife shortly after this on a visit to Corsley, and one morning he was seen to go up to the “top walk” an hour before breakfast. This was a quiet place in which to think over his next sermon as he walked to and fro, but in spite of much ringing of the alarm bell at the top of the house he did not return to breakfast, and could nowhere be found, which in a person of his sober and methodical habits was considered very extraordinary.
In due time the bell rang again for luncheon, but still no Joseph appeared. Considerable alarm now began to permeate the Rectory, and it was proposed to send out search parties in all directions, for well we knew that no slight reason would cause him to absent himself from the substantial mid-day meal.
“At this point I observed, as a joke – the feeling all the while that it was an improper time for jocularity – “perhaps he is in our pit”. I was at once sent up to see if such a dreadful accident could have happened, and calling out when near the brink of the pit, “Are you there 0! Uncle?” a faint but hoarse voice replied ‘Yes! I’ve been here for hours! What do you boys mean by making such a horrid pitfall?” It was a very hoarse and hungry Joseph that we drew up out of the pit that day! It appeared that he had observed a large “spoil” neap above the walk and finding our excavation, and a ladder ready he incautiously descended to examine our work, but our frail ladder was not calculated to bear 17 stone weightsr and so it happened that as he mounted to rise from the depths of the pit each rung gave way under him and he found there was nothing for it but to wait till he was found, having “halooed” till he was hoarse, to no purpose. After a good dinner and a nap he was quite tame again and we were able to discuss and laugh over the matter, but after this the hole was examined and pronounced unsafe and the mouth was filled in, to our great grief, after the Christmas holidays.
Next holidays our energies took a different turn – there were some fine high lime trees at the top of the garden with convenient branches for climbing and on the highest of the group Ralph and I determined to build an eyrie. We pulled a large wine cask to pieces, and, having fixed a pulley at the site we had selected, we hauled up the staves and with strong nails built with them a double seated railed-in nest with a shelf for books and fruit; while overhead we hoisted a large sheet, abstracted from a double bed, over the top of the tree cutting off a branch or two that proved too high. We had thus a comfortable and absolutely private place, so long as the leaves were on the tree, and Charlie and my young sister Adelaide used to pick baskets or hats of gooseberries and strawberries which we had the pleasure of drawing up by a string we let down. To give the architects of this airy abode their due I should mention that on my return to Corsley in 1864 my father’s successor Mr. Waugh called my attention to the fact that the last of the staves of which it was built had fallen down only a week or two before my visit 22 years after erection! He had watched its gradual demolition by the high winds of autumn for several years, with admiration of the strength of the work. Soon after the building of this “nest” came chaos, my father died suddenly, Ralph at Oxford, Charlie at school in Leicester and thence as a cadet to India and I was sent to reside with our Uncle Hotchkin at Thimbleby Rectory in Lincolnshire until some definite line of life could be settled on for me”.