Whistler Family - Farmers of the Hampshire Downs

    Scenes from Basingstoke and the Area

Farmers of the Hampshire Downs

George, a younger son of William and Martha Whistler, was baptised at St Michael’s Church, Basingstoke, on 13 August 1802. He became established as a leaseholder of large-scale farming operations on the Hampshire Downs.

From about 1825 to 1835 George Whistler was the farmer at Ewhurst Farm located north-west of Basingstoke near Baughurst. He married Mary Tubb at St Leonard’s Church, Sherfield-on-Loddon on 8 December 1825 (1). A son William Henry Whistler was born at Ewhurst Farm in 1826. Mary died aged twenty-two and was buried at St Mary’s Church, Ewhurst, on 24 September 1828.

George’s second wife was Mary’s younger sister Jane. Their eldest son George Whistler was baptised at Ewhurst on 9 November 1834 (2).

On 29 September 1835, a fire spread rapidly through the stacks of corn and hay ricks on Whistler’s farm (3). The suspected arson may have been related to the social unrest that led to the Swing Riots of 1830 (4).

At the time of the 1841 census George and Jane Whistler were living with their children at Down Grange Farm, Basingstoke.

The 1851 census found the family at Viables Farm, Basingstoke, where George Whistler was a farmer of 860 acres, employing 20 men. The farmhouse was the home to George, his wife Jane and their seven sons: George (aged 17), Richard (aged 15), Charles (aged 13), Alfred (aged 11), Septimus (aged 7), Walter (aged 3), and Albert (aged 2 months). A daughter Ellen was born in 1853.

In about 1857 the Whistler family moved to Litchfield Grange farm, west of Basingstoke near Ashe where, in the 1861 census, George Whistler was a farmer of 660 acres (5). In 1861 George Whistler was now a widower living with his unmarried sons Richard (aged 25), Charles (aged 23) and Septimus (aged 17) while the two younger sons, Walter (aged 13) and Albert (aged 10), were pupils at the Salt Hill Grammar School in the village of Farnham Royal in Buckinghamshire, and seven-year-old Ellen was a schoolgirl at a small boarding school in Church Street, Basingstoke.

George Whistler was also the leaseholder of Cannon Heath Farm in Kingsclere, located west of Basingstoke with nearby placenames including Ashe, Hannington, Ewhurst and Baughurst. The lease of Cannon Heath Farm was mentioned in his will.

There is also a record of a George Whistler as a farmer at Nutley, a community south-west of Basingstoke (6). Possibly he held the lease for a number of farming operations which he may then have sub-let to a resident farmer.

Jane, the wife of George Whistler, died in 1860, aged 48. George Whistler, aged 66, died on 8 November 1868 at Hinton Ampner, a village east of Winchester (7).

Their children, traced from the available records, are described next.

Albert, the youngest of the Whistler brothers, became a farmer in Hinton Ampner. The evidence from the 1871 census is that his brother Septimus Whistler took over the farming operation at Litchfield Grange, Ashe.

Cannon Heath Farm, Kingsclere, became the home of Alfred Whistler and his family;
      see   Cannon Heath Farm, Kingsclere

At various times Walter Whistler worked both at Alfred’s farm in Kingsclere and Albert’s farm in Hinton Ampner.

Richard Whistler became a tenant farmer in the Berkshire parish of Winkfield;
      see   Australian Wildflowers and Flags

William Henry Whistler
William, the son of George Whistler with his first wife Mary, was mentioned in the will of his maternal grandmother Sarah Tubb of Sherfield-on-Loddon, who died on 20 August 1849. Her will dated 12 June 1849 was probated in the Archdeaconry Court of Winchester on 7 August 1850 (8). After this date William has not been located in England. He was not named in the will of his father George Whistler, dated 24 October 1868; so possibly he was dead at the time the will was written.

In the United States, on the census day 17 August 1850, William H Whistler, aged 25, born in England, was living in Franklin Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. His reported occupation was peddler. A few weeks later, on 4 September 1850, a census taker recorded William Whistler, aged 25, born in England, peddler, living in Pittsburgh Ward 2, Pennsylvania. Maybe this was the same William Whistler. Possibly, but not confirmed, he was from the Whistler family of the Hampshire Downs.

There was a family connection to Pennsylvania – in the 1850 United States census, Charles Whistler, the uncle of William Henry Whistler of the Hampshire Downs, was established in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh;
      see   Pennsylvania – Hands Across the Sea

Charles and Septimus Whistler
The two Whistler brothers Charles and Septimus both were married in England and left the Hampshire Downs for a new life in America.

Charles Whistler and Annie Cocking were married on 3 December 1863 at Fulstow, a village in Lincolnshire. Annie was born in Pennsylvania to English-born parents. When Annie was a young girl the Cocking family returned to England to run a farming operation in Fulstow (9).

In 1864 Charles and Annie Whistler crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in Iowa where Charles established a successful career as a teacher of ‘scientific farming’. In 1884 Charles and his family moved to Florida for his health, living in Jacksonville and later Tallahassee. Charles died in 1904, in his 66th year, at Plant City, near Tampa, Florida. A newspaper obituary noted that ‘he was a man of fine education and address and an excellent conversationalist’. He was survived by his wife Annie and daughter (10). Annie Whistler passed away in 1919 at Plant City (11).

On 17 January 1865 the wedding of Septimus Whistler and Eliza May took place at the parish church of Ashe (12). In the 1871 census for Ashe, Septimus Whistler, aged 27, was a farmer of 600 acres living with his young family at Litchfield Grange farm. The decision to emigrate to America may have been motivated by the agricultural depression of the 1870s that affected British farming. The passenger list of the steamship Alsatia, arriving in New York on 30 April 1880, identified the Whistler family as Septimus, a farmer, his wife and their children Emily (aged 13), Frank (aged 10), Florence (aged 7), May (aged 6), Kate (aged 3) and an ‘infant’ (13).

At the census in June 1880 Septimus and his family had joined his brother Charles in Webster City, Hamilton County, Iowa. Septimus Whistler settled in Palo Alto County, Iowa, where a daughter Beatrice was born in February 1885 (14).

In 1905 Septimus Whistler’s barn was damaged by a tornado that also destroyed a number of windmills in the area (15).

In his senior years Septimus Whistler returned to live in England where he died. On 15 March 1922 The Emmetsburg Democrat, Iowa, printed the obituary: (16)

A short time ago Septimus Whistler, who was for many years a resident of Palo Alto county, passed away at his home at Newberry [Newbury], England. He was, we understand, seventy-eight years of age. He was a native of that country and spent his early life in the land of his birth. He was married in 1862 [1865] to Miss Eliza May. He came to Palo Alto county forty-one years ago. He and Mrs Whistler and seven sons and daughters for a long time lived on their homestead near Mallard. Eleven years ago, Mrs Whistler having previously passed away, Mr Whistler returned to England where some time later he remarried. He was tenderly nursed during his last illness by his sorrowing wife, who, with one son and five daughters, survive him. The son is Arthur S. Whistler, who lives in Colorado. The daughters are Mrs May Reigard of Pennsylvania, Mrs Florence Baker [Bekker] of Canada, Mrs Katherin Blake of Rodman, Mrs Beatrice Blake of Lamoni, and Mrs Emily Laubenthal of Whittemore. A son, Francis Whistler, passed away thirty years ago. Mr Whistler was a successful farmer, a peaceful, upright citizen, a kind and loving father and husband, a typical Christian gentleman and an obliging friend and neighbor. All who knew him respected him and will learn with profound regret of his death.

Ellen Whistler
Ellen, the only daughter of George and Jane Whistler, married Arthur Webb Neate at St Anne’s Church, South Lambeth, London, on 29 September 1877. A biographical note states: (17)

Arthur Webb Neate of Hungerford [Berkshire] was a farmer who set up business as a land agent and auctioneer in the 1870s. By 1883 he had premises in both Charnham Street, Hungerford, and 51 Cheap Street, Newbury, and advertised himself as land agent, auctioneer and surveyor. He later moved to 15 High Street, Hungerford (by 1887) and to 8 St Mary's Hill (later part of Cheap Street), Newbury (by 1911, having been at Albion House, Oxford Street, Newbury ca. 1887–1907). From 1911 he advertised as land agent, auctioneer, surveyor and valuer. By 1915 the firm had become A.W. Neate & Sons.

George Whistler
In the 1851 census, George Whistler, 17 years old, the eldest of the seven sons of George and Jane Whistler, was living with his parents and brothers at Viables Farm, Basingstoke. A record of him living in England after this date has not been found. He was named in the will of his father to suggest that he was living in 1868 when the will was written.

George Whistler of New Zealand died in 1872 without a will. Probate records filed in 1873 in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand gave the details that in September 1872 George Whistler travelled to Melbourne, Australia for an operation at Melbourne Hospital where he died on 8 October 1872, aged 41. His birthplace was stated as Hampshire, England (18). He was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Australia (19). Possibly, but not confirmed, he was the same George Whistler who had lived at Viables Farm, Basingstoke.

The New Zealand Southland Times, 24 January 1876, printed a notice of an auction to sell ‘choice freehold Sections in the New River Hundred, belonging to the estate of the late George Whistler’ (20).

Appendix: Family History in Census Returns
    George Whistler and Sons
    The Whistler Brothers of Iowa

Source Notes


(1) The marriage register of Sherfield-on-Loddon has an entry on 8 December 1825 for George Whistler, of the parish of Ewhurst, bachelor and Mary Tubb, of the parish, spinster, by licence, with consent of parents; witnesses: Samuel Tubb, Sarah Whistler (photocopy ordered from the HRO).

(2) A transcript of the parish register of Ewhurst, Hampshire is available at the Library of the Society of Genealogists, London. In entries dated from 1826 to 1834, George Whistler was described as a ‘yeoman of Ewhurst Farm’. The 1851 census reported the birthplace of George’s wife Jane as Bramley, Hampshire. From FamilySearch Historical Records online, Mary Tubb was baptised at Bramley on 20 April 1806, and Jane Tubb, born 13 March 1812, was baptised at Bramley on 26 March 1812. They were both daughters of Richard and Sarah Tubb. The will of Sarah Tubb, widow of Sherfield, dated 12 June 1849 and proved in Winchester on 7 August 1850, mentioned her daughter Jane, the wife of George Whistler, and her grandson William Whistler, son of her late daughter Mary Whistler (copy of will ordered from the HRO).
The second marriage of George Whistler may have been of doubtful legality. An Act of 1835 prohibited marriage with one’s deceased wife’s sister, although such marriages continued to be celebrated illegally and were frequently tolerated by society (webpage: The Literary Encyclopedia, Deceased Wife’s Sister Act, 1835 ). It appears that it was not until 1841 that the marriage of George Whistler and Jane Tubb was registered at St Martin’s Church, Birmingham – possibly the distance from Basingstoke ensured some secrecy for the event.
As an historical note, Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince of Wales, spoke in the Lords in favour of a bill to legalize marriage with a deceased wife’s sister. His interest was that this would allow Princess Beatrice to marry the Grand Duke of Hesse, whose wife, their sister Princess Alice, had died tragically in December 1878 (Christopher Hibbert, The Royal Victorians: King Edward VII, His Family and Friends, p. 140).

(3) Jackson’s Oxford Journal, Saturday, 3 October 1835 (British Library 19th century newspapers online):

A fire broke out on Tuesday night on the farm of Mr Whistler, of Baughurst, near Newbury, Berks, which spread so rapidly that before any effectual means of extinguishing it could be procured, no less than 19 ricks of corn and hay had fallen a sacrifice to the flames. The fire is supposed to have been the work of an incendiary, but nothing is yet known positively as to its origin.

(4) ‘Swing Riots and Cliddesden Convicts, 1830–1’, V.C.H. (Victoria County History) Hampshire, viewed online.

(5) ‘Ashe’, V.C.H. Hampshire, Vol. 4, p. 201.

(6) George Whistler, a farmer at Kingsclere, and George Whistler, a farmer at Nutley, are included in the Post Office Directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire & Dorsetshire, 1855. On 10 March 1860 the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Portsmouth, reported from the County Bench, Basingstoke: ‘Albert Goodyer and Charles Kimber were charged with stealing nine bushels of oats, the property of Mr. George Whistler, of Nutley; the case was adjourned until next bench day’ (British Library 19th century newspapers online). An 1859 directory listed George Whistler as the farmer at Cannon Heath Farm (William White, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 1859, pp. 472–6, reprinted at the webpage: Kingsclere History ). An 1865 directory named George Whistler as the farmer at both Litchfield Grange, Ashe, and Cannon Heath Farm, Kingsclere (Postal and Commercial Directory of Hampshire with the Isle of Wight, 1865).

(7) Death registrations were found from the GRO Online Index. The will of George Whistler, dated 24 October 1868, was proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Winchester on 30 January 1869 (HRO).

(8) Copy of will ordered from the Hampshire Record Office.

(9) St Lawrence Church, Fulstow, Lincolnshire transcribed marriage record at FreeREG online: Charles Whistler, aged 25, bachelor, farmer, son of George Whistler, farmer, & Annie Cocking, aged 26, spinster, daughter of John Cocking, farmer, both of the parish, witnesses: John Cocking, Jane Cocking.
In the 1851 census for Fulstow, Lincolnshire, John Cocking was a farmer of 243 acres, living with his wife Mary. His children Ann (aged 14, the future wife of Charles Whistler), Jane (aged 10), Robert (aged 8) and John (aged 6), were listed as British Subjects born in the United States. Younger daughters Mary (aged 4) and Sarah (aged 2) were born in Fulstow (1851 census reference: HO107/2112, folio 498, p. 4). In the 1861 census, Ann Cocking, now aged 24, was living in Fulstow with her grandmother, also named Ann Cocking. Her birthplace was given as Philadelphia. Her father, John Cocking, and siblings were also living in Fulstow (1861 census references: RG 9/2387, folio 43, p. 20 & folio 38, p. 10).

(10) The biographical information about Charles Whistler was obtained from a newspaper obituary kindly provided by a family contact of Sylvia Harvey.

(11) Annie Whistler, widow, was buried 26 November 1919 at Plant City, Hillsborough, Florida. The burial record gave the details that she was born 5 March 1837 in Pennsylvania; and her parents, both born in England, were John Cocking and Nancy Edwards (Florida Deaths, FamilySearch Historical Records).

(12) The record of the wedding in Ashe on 17 January 1865 gave the details as Septimus Whistler, bachelor, miller, father: George Whistler, yeoman, and Eliza May, spinster, father: Jonathan May, gentleman; residence of both bride and groom: Litchfield in Ashe; witnesses: Richard Whistler [brother of Septimus], Sarah Mills Whistler [wife of Richard], and Ellen Whistler (photocopy from marriage register ordered from the HRO).

(13) New York Passenger Lists, 1820–1957, online database at the Ancestry website.

(14) An 1895 census stated that Beatrice Whistler was born in Palo Alto County and her birth date was recorded in the 1900 census for West Bend Township, Palo Alto County, Iowa.

(15) Newspaper report, 30 August 1905, the Emmetsburg Democrat, Emmetsburg, Palo Alto, Iowa (transcribed at the webpage: Palo Alto Co, IA USGenWeb Project ). The newspaper report noted that all the tornado losses were ‘insured in the Mutuals’.

(16) Website: NewspaperARCHIVE.com

(17) ‘Records of Neates of Hungerford and Newbury, estate agents’, Berkshire Record Office, Reference: D/EX 898, online description at The National Archives Discovery database.

(18) New Zealand Probate Records, FamilySearch online.

(19) Find_A_Grave website.

(20) Digitised New Zealand newspapers Papers Past .

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Revision date: 2021