Little Bentley Hall Waterways and Garden Show 2019



Little Bentley

PHOTO c1915 Courtesy of Heather A. Johnson

Detective work has proved that this group of soldiers and civilians are posing at Ravens Green, nr. Little Bentley in Essex – the beer house bears no name but it was known locally as the ‘Gamekeepers Arms’*

In the above image, the beer house board reads:-

"HENRY JOHN NEAL. Licensed Retailer of Beer to be Consumed on the Premises. DEALER IN TOBACCO".

In Kelly’s 1914 Directory, "John Neal" is listed as Beer Retailer at Little Bentley – this will be Henry John.?

There was a "Public House in Ravens Green called the Gamekeepers Arms. This quiet house was taken over before the First World War by Mr. & Mrs. Neal. None of the family drank beer (or any other form of alcohol) and as only 4 gallons of beer were consumed during the week in the bar, business was very poor.

When the War broke out, Mr. Neal **went off to fight and Mrs. Neal’s name "Sarah Jane" went up over the door as licensee. The arrival of the Somerset Regiment*** who were stationed in Little Bentley for a time revived the trade. Mrs. Neal was an excellent cook and served some of the Officers with their evening meal. The Gamekeepers Arms soon became a popular meeting place and remained so until its closure in the middle of the century."

Courtesy of

We will never know how many of the lads photographed that day made it home?

The Gamekeepers Arms

The beer house building at Ravens Green, near Little Bentley was listed as the ‘Gamekeepers Arms’ in the 1911 Census. 61 year old Norfolk-born widower James Thirkettle was living there as ‘Beer House Keeper’, along with Housekeeper Margaret Smith (widow). There was no such listing for a Beer House in the 1901 Census. The property still stands – however, the building looks somewhat different today, having been renovated and converted into one private house …. called ‘Gamekeepers’.

Henry John Neal

Henry was born in the last quarter of 1865, in Great Bromley. In April 1891 Census, he was living with his widowed father and one sister – his mother had died 7 years earlier. Like father and grandfather before him, Henry was an Agricultural Labourer – until he changed careers and became a Beer Retailer.

In the last quarter of 1891, Henry married one Sarah Jane Copping – who had been born in the Suffolk village of Grundisburgh. However it came about, Sarah found her way to Great Bromley – working as a Scullery Maid at ‘The Lodge’ in April 1891. The couple had five children.

It’s assumed that Henry and Sarah are standing to the right of the Sgt. on the far left of the photograph? Perhaps 12 yr old daughter Ethel stands beside her mother, with 6 yr old Frederick amongst the group of soldiers? 21 yr old daughter Ivy may be the other female (because daughter Beatrice was not working/living at home then)? Sons Edward (18yr) and Harry (14yr) may be two of the young men standing at the back?

WW1 Enlistment, as it may have affected Henry – as an older man

The Military Service Act 27 January 1916 regulated enlistment and meant that every British male who:-

(on 15 August 1915) was usually resident in Great Britain and who had attained the age of 19 but was not yet 41; and (on 2 November 1915) was unmarried or a widower without dependent children was conscripted. All men had to pass certain physical tests and be have enlisted for the ‘Short Service’ of the war.

However, the May 1916 Act extended the call up to married men and, by the end of the war, married men of fifty were being conscripted into the Army.

Given Henry John Neal’s age in 1916 (51+), perhaps the afore-quoted phrase "went off to fight" could be interpreted as him ENLISTING in the Army and, perhaps, only serving in (for instance) a regiment such as the Army Service Corps - within the UK.? Such a man would be welcomed by the Army, if he possessed the skills the Army could use .... however, he would not necessarily be rushed off to the trenches.??

www.1914-1918.HYPERLINK ""net/Forum Members acknowledged

Somerset Regiment/ Yeomanary.

It is believed that the "Somerset Regiment" aforementioned, was the 1/1st West Somerset Regiment – in reality, they are the only regiment with Somerset connections that can be placed in the area:-

In August 1914, the 1/1st West Somerset Yeomanry moved with Brigade to Winchester after mobilising but, by 15th August, they had moved on to Ardleigh. By September 1915, the regiment had moved again - to Thorpe-le-Soken. In the October, the Yeomanry then moved on to Great Bentley and went to Tendring in November. After that, it sailed from Liverpool to see service at Gallipoli and Egypt.

Courtesy of War Forum Members acknowledged

Heather A. Johnson 2014

UP-DATE on the ‘Gamekeepers Arms, Ravens Green ’ photograph  13th Sept 2016 :

In May 2016, the story (as already told) took an unexpected turn when a gentleman researching his Uncle saw the ‘Gamekeepers Arms’ photograph on this website. He could identify the soldier holding the dog!

The following is an amazing tale about one of the lives behind the faces in the photograph:-

On 22 April 1864, in Horton House, nr Ilminster, Somerset, England, one Ellen Catherine Gardner gave birth to her fifth child - a boy. He was given the name of James Thomas Benedictus Marwood Gardner - after maternal grandfather, James Thomas Benedictus Notley, and great-grandmother Mary Marwood.? "Jim" for short.

There was a strong nautical connection in the family. His grandfather had been made a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy in 1818, and his Aunt Emma was married to one John Powles Cheyne, a Royal Navy Commander. There was also a yacht owned by Jim's father, Charles Hurst Gardner, which was kept on the south coast?near Burton Bradstock.?

On 18 September 1879, aged 15, Jim became an Apprentice indentured for four years into the Merchant Navy, bound to one Henry H. Allan of London.? Sometime after serving this apprenticeship, Jim was visiting his mother Ellen when she asked him to go to the bank and withdraw money to fund a trip to Monte Carlo.? Tired of his mother's gambling, Jim decided that the money could be better spent elsewhere, so he set off for the U.S.A. where his date of immigration is recorded as 1885.?

Settling in Pasadena, California, Jim worked as a stage driver of a coach and six.? Beginning in 1895, he began to visit Catalina Island in the summer seasons - when the island was beginning to grow as a tourist attraction. Jim, along with many other visitors camped on the island in the "Tent City" near the beach at Avalon.? Initially, Jim worked as a swimming teacher and then began taking people out fishing. At first, Jim used the boats of an already established islander called Chris Ringsen but, as the popularity of Avalon grew, he was able to set up his own boat stand and "headquarters". ?

?One of the pioneers of game fishing, the author Charles Frederick Holder, began using Jim as his boatman, leading to many famous catches, including the first tuna taken with rod and line. Jim became one of the top boatmen on the island?and was much in demand among the sport fishermen who visited from all over the U.S.A. and sometimes from further afield.? Jim's boats included the "Nellie G", "Tunita" and "Fortuna" and, by 1903, he had built up a fleet of three power yachts and four glass bottomed boats.?

It was on Catalina Island that Jim met Helen Hardwick, a daughter of one of the contractors working on the island.? They were married in Los Angeles in February 1897 and went on to have a son, Charles Hurst Gardner, who was born in "Tent City" on Avalon.

?Following the death of his mother at the end of 1908, Jim returned to England. His wife Helen and son Charles joined him and they are all recorded in the 1911 UK census as living at Brownsey’s in Winterhay, Ilminster – Jim’s occupation was noted as a "Horse Trainer".? However, Helen was not happy in England and later returned to the USA, as did their son. Helen then divorced Jim, the action taking effect from November 1913.

Jim suffered another blow the following year - when his brother Charles died of pneumonia in March 1914, aged just 53.

In the September of 1914, lying about his true age of 50, Jim enlisted in the West Somerset Yeomanry - giving his age as 30.? Having been working as a "Horse Trainer" up to this point, breaking in horses in Somerset, at Athelney, and Shepton Beauchamp, the cavalry was a natural choice.?

The 1/1st West Somerset Yeomanry were sent to Essex in preparation for a possible invasion by the Germans. They were billeted in Little Bentley for nine weeks before moving on to Tendring Union.? There they trained?as cavalry for the first part of 1915 until it was decided to send them out to Gallipoli as infantry, without their horses.

On 25 September 1915, Jim and his West Somerset Yeomanry sailed out of Liverpool on the White Star liner ‘Olympic’, sister ship to the Titanic. They were bound for Mudros in the Dardanelles.? Jim took his dog "Chum" with him and Chum became the regiment’s mascot.?? Chum’s surviving dog collar is testament to this … all the places Jim, Chum and the 1/1st? West Somerset Yeomanry visited together during the First World War are engraved upon it.?

On one of the collar’s two brass labels, the engravings read:?"MY NAME IS "CHUM";?"Mascot of the West Somerset Yeomanry";?"From Sept. 3rd 1914 to Sept. 28 1916"; together with all the places the Yeomanry visited during their service are engraved [sic]: "Tendering"; "Frinton on Sea"; "Plough Corner" [twixt Weeley Heath and Little Clacton]; "Liverpool"; "Mudros" [Dardanelles, just off Gallipoli]; "Lemnos" ?[a Greek island]; "Sulva Bay" [Suvla, Gallipoli peninsula]; "Alababa"[Lala Baba]; "Anafarta"; "Chocolate Hill"; "Pimple"; "Hill 60"; "Sidi Bishi"; "Alexandria"; "Sisters Street"; "Cairo"; "Minnea"; "Quarra"; "Karga" [Kharga Oasis], "Southampton".

?On the collar’s second brass label, engravings read:? "OWNER J.T.B.M. GARDNER, CATALINA ISLAND CALIFORNIA". ?

In later life, Jim described Chum as a "wonderful dog, devoted and obedient" and would tell how Chum would venture out at night with cans around his neck; jump into pools of water to fill them; and then bring them back for the troops.

In September 1916, Jim was considered not to be physically fit for active service. He took his dog Chum back to England with him and he was discharged from the British Army. After returning from the war, Jim was known to attach his three WW1 medals to Chum's collar and let Chum display them!

Jim spent the latter years of his life in Bristol - at one time working as a night watchman, keeping an eye on the ships at the docks in Avonmouth - he died on 9th May 1939 in Bristol - aged 75. Jim’s descendants are still going strong in the USA.

It is now certain that the photograph was taken in the autumn of 1914. Attention has been drawn to a letter written in Little Bentley, which has been published online by a Canadian War Museum & Vancouver Island University ‘Letter and Image Project’.

On 31 December 1914, 15 year old Ruby Carter of ‘Dairy Farm’, Ravens Green wrote to her Uncle Fred (Frederick Ernest Carter, who was over in France/Flanders, with the Canadian Expeditionary Force): "Did we tell you in our last letter that we had over 100 soldier billeted here for 9 wks the farms around had some as well. They were the West Somerset Yeomanry, from here they went to Tendring Union where they still remain. There are over 600 & a very fine lot of fellows they are too.

?Every now & again they have to go down to Cook's Green, which is somewhere by Clacton & Holland; & guard the coast. We have had a lot of foggy weather lately so of course they have had to go more often. … I am also sending you a few photo's of the boys we had billeted here. …"

No photographs accompany Fred Carter’s archived letters so it may never be known if one of those aforementioned photographs sent to Uncle Fred included an identical one of the pub. It was only a short walk from ‘Dairy Farm’ (now believed to be called ‘Brampton Hall Farm’) to the ‘Gamekeepers Arms’ – just across a couple of fields. It is deduced that some of the soldiers Ruby wrote to her Uncle Fred about must be in the photograph.

Grateful thanks to Joe Farler (Jim’s life-story & accompanying photographs of him); Suzanne Hedger (photographs of the dog collar); and Nigel Dyson (Little Bentley website).




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