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Help and advice for Gloucestershire: Tobacco growing in the Cotswolds

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Tobacco Growing in the Vale of Evesham,
Winchcombe and District,
and John Stratford.
By Gerald H. Stratford.


Chapter 14. Much has been written in the past about John Stratford, the tobacco grower, and the name is still well known in the Winchcombe Area of Gloucestershire, in connection with the crops, and, not only has he been written about, but large amounts regarding his Ancestors, and further generations.

What type of man was John Stratford?. I suppose the reader will have to draw their own conclusions, and there have been in the past, and may be in the present for all I know, several derogatory remarks made of the Family, such as in one of the Answers before written, that, they were contentious and well known for it in the County.

Lord North, is on record saying, 'The Support and Gratitude of this Ancient and Honourable Family is never to be depended upon, and Sir John Blake wrote, The two Stratford brothers, are the two most slippery customers, that I have ever had the misfortune to be acquainted with.'

Are any of these remarks worthy of John Stratford of tobacco fame. The Family was certainly associated for two centuries with the rest of the Gentry of Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Ireland, both in Trade and Marriage. John Stratford of the Warwickshire Branch, whose Grandfather went to Ireland in the year 1660, had bestowed upon him the Earldom of Alborough, and at that time they are quoted along with the King Family, as the richest in the Kingdom, even by Anglo Irish Standards. But, alas all has gone, some by Marriage, some by no male Heirs and Family Squabbles.

Was John Stratford being self centred in his different ventures, and just out for his own gain all the time, and using the poor of Winchcombe as a support in his Financial troubles? Maybe so, and maybe not, although it is fair to say that no business man is constantly going to run at a loss, just to assist the poor and needy in his area. This would of course be financial suicide, even for the richest of people.

According to the different Documents we have read, he appears to have gone from one Trade to another, and certainly in his earlier days, after serving his Apprenticeship, or, was it after his Marriage to Joan Robinson. It would appear that John Robinson's father, Peter Robinson was a very wealthy man, and endowed with several daughters. It is probable that Joan Robinson was used to a high standard of living in London, and that John Stratford, as he stated, started off with two hundred pounds, which was a lot of money. But, being a younger son, or one of many, did he not receive as large an inheritance as he might otherwise have. Maybe he tried desperately to make a success of Business, and therefore diversified in Trades in his attempt to make money, which the other members of the Stratford Family obviously had at that particular time.

In my opinion, for what it is worth, I think that in many ways he was too trusting, and when you consider the afor mentioned written Complaints, made by Rouse Stratford, he appears to be completely innocent of the Charges, if his reply is the truth, and appears to have, as my Father had, the attitude of 'Anything for a quiet life.'

He certainly took risks in his Business, dealing and growing tobacco, but, as one Document shows, he had several Partners in these ventures. Although he was obviously the Senior Partner, I cannot imagine, that the others did not condone his actions and decisions, or even urge the same.

It is very noticeable that Ralph Stratford, his Step Brother, is not involved with the tobacco saga, or was he dead ? It was stated by Doctor Joan Thirsk, that John Stratford had a brother Edward Stratford, which would be true if the given Pedigree be correct, but, the Document that relates to Edward Stratford would strongly suggest that because of Edward's age, that he would not be John Stratford's Brother, as he would may be too young, or was he his nephew? It also very noticeable that other members of the Stratford Family, especially at Farmcote and Hawling are not mentioned any where in any of the Complaints or other Documents, and unless they were silent Partners, were not involved with John Stratford's Enterprises, and if not, why not?

There is not available at this time, any other Bills of Complaint, other than described of inter Family falling out at this time, so we must presume that John Stratford had been on friendly terms on the Stratford side.

A different story appears to be told regarding his Brothers in Law, who married his wife's Sisters. Were they conspiring to obtain his Estates, ? may be, and if so why ? The Documents do not tell us whether they succeeded or not, but the Estates of the Family were still with us until the middle of the Eighteenth Century, so therefore we must again presume that they were held on to at this injuncture of time. If some of the Lands did go, or were forfeit, was not John Stratford on good enough Terms to go to the rest of the Family for Financial Assistance, or did he ? and was refused, we shall probably never know.

To finally assess John Stratford's Enterprises, and his downfalls, we must admit that he did in fact have a go, whether for self gain, or to assist the poor of Winchcombe, or both, but it did not always turn out as he expected, and he put his Trust in other People's influence, and Word, which, is not always a good thing to do, and he learnt the hard way. If the Royal Proclamation Prohibiting the growing of tobacco had not come about, it might have been a different story, and may be, just may be, when I now go home to Farmcote, Hawling, and Winchcombe, and many other places in the Cotswolds, the name may still have been resident, where as now it is heard and known no more.

Data transcribed by Colin Hinson from:
A document written by
Gerald H. Stratford in 1988.
Reproduced here by permission
© Gerald H. Stratford.