Westbourne 1824 – 1830
There appears to be no mention of our own George Pile (or Piles) in Westbourne records prior to his wedding in 1824 but it is possible that he is related to the other Piles in Westbourne in the early nineteenth century, probably a brother to William Piles. Even his place and date of birth is unknown, the 1841 census only suggests he was born in Sussex and records which give an age point to a year of birth between 1795 and 1802.
What is known is that George was an agricultural labourer and as such would have probably lived in virtual poverty, we know that in the years after his marriage he obtained financial assistance from the Select Vestry in Westbourne particularly in the winter when work and food would have been scarce. He rented a garden in North Street and may have kept some livestock such as pigs or chickens to supplement the family’s living and could possibly have grown some produce.
When his second son, David married in 1847 and again in 1854 he described his father as a joiner and cabinetmaker respectively and, although there is no contemporary evidence of this in Westbourne records George may have supplemented his income further with these trades. Alternatively his main trade may have been as a joiner with agricultural work supplementing this when joinery work was hard to come by. David could, of course, just have been making his father’s standing seem better.
George Pile married Martha Martin at the parish church of St John the Baptist at Westbourne on Monday 7 June 1824, the was marriage performed by the curate Edward Cornwall and was witnessed by George and Rosetta Fossey and John Wooldridge. Like most farm labourers of the time George was illiterate, being only able to “make his mark” in the marriage register.
Interestingly Martha is not described as a spinster in the marriage record and this gives a clue as to her previous life, Martha had in fact been married before. She was born Martha Ranger at Petworth to William and Sarah Rainger and christened there on 2 May 1790. At some point she left Petworth for Funtington, possibly to obtain work, where on 18 May 1815 she married John Martin.
On 10 September 1815 Martha gave birth to a daughter, Emma at Westbourne and on 6 July 1817 a daughter Frances. The next entry in the parish baptism register for Martha is the christening of a son Thomas William Henry Martin on 11 June 1820 but no father is recorded, I presume at present that John Martin died shortly before the birth.
Nothing is known of Martha’s life in the few years after her son’s birth but she was pregnant again with George’s son, William when she married George Pile in 1824. William Pile was baptised, at the parish church on September 19.
In December 1824 George applied for financial assistance from the Westbourne Select Vestry; there are two entries in the Minute Book one on 3 December when George was granted relief of three shillings and again on 17th when he received five shillings, this last entry also states that he had worked four days for the church in the last month and his payment of 5/- is further recorded in the Overseer’s accounts. The Select Vestry does not record paupers who were receiving long-term relief and generally only includes occasional payments over and above these, therefore it is not possible to know how much relief George received regularly.
Two years later a second child, David, arrived. He was baptised by curate Edwin Jacob at St John’s church on 23 July 1826. Once more, in December, George applied to the Select Vestry for relief, this time the Minute Book entry records that George had a “bad leg” and was presumably unable to work, he was granted four shillings.
In May 1827 Martha Pile asked the Select Vestry to assist in their purchase of new shoes and she was given four shillings.
On the 5 October 1827, the Minutes record:
The wife of George Pyle who has a child named Henry (next word illegible) aged about 7 years her husband wishes to have advanced 20 weeks at -/6 per week the overseers are to comply with his request. [view original document]
George adds his “mark” and confirms the entry. This is obviously not George’s natural child as the minute is quite specific in saying that the child is that of “the wife of George Pyle”. Almost certainly this is (Thomas William) Henry Martin, Martha’s son by her previous marriage to John Martin.
In February 1828 the Vestry Minutes record that George fell ill and on the 22nd he was granted seven shillings relief. Martha was pregnant again and within a few months Sarah the first of four daughters was born, she was baptised on 6 April. A second daughter, Ann was baptised two years later on 2 May 1830. Before their next child was born George and his family would be plunged into chaos.