The 1800s

As 1799 drew to a close the Enclosure of Ufford with Bainton and Ashton was over. The landscape and the people were changed forever. For youngsters like Mary and William's daughter, and son-in-law, Sarah and Ben Johnson, the challenge of a new century and a new way of farming was probably exciting. For the older generation like Mary Fell, it was probably all too much. Two years later she died.

At this point our knowledge of who owned and lived in the cottage is weakest. However, on 17th November 1837 a local gentleman, William Wyles of Southorpe, made a will which left, "all to his wife, Ann, for life, thence to his daughter, Elizabeth, wife of William Grossmith, thence to her children to be tenants in common" (not joint tenants). This may seem irrelevant at first but his possessions included land and property in Ashton and in Deeping St James - including the Cottage! How did he come to own it? The answer is we don't know. In 1808 a nearby pair of cottages were owned by Benjamin Wiles who, the Ufford Bishop's Transcripts imply, was William Wyles's brother. Perhaps Ben and Elizabeth (nee Fell) sold it to William Wyles to raise money and thereafter paid him rent? It does seem that Johnsons continued to live in the cottage for many years.

Pamela Broster, who lived at Gamekeepers Cottage in Ashton, did a lot of work on the history of the village. She worked out who most probably lived in Berry Cottage based on the census returns. It seems most probably that in 1841 it was "Hannah Johnson (widow) and son George". In 1851 it was "George Johnson aged 34 born Ashton". And it 1861 it was "John Johnson, unmarried, aged 59 born Ashton". These Johnsons are probably the descendants of Benjamin and Sarah (nee Fell) but we can't be sure.

So in 1837 William Wyles owns the cottage and has willed it to his wife, Ann. However, he survived her so when he died on 10th October 1854 everything went to his daughter Elizabeth until she died on 20th January 1864 when it went to her son and daughter, Lucy and John Grossmith.

The Grossmith family were significant Ashton residents in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The farm next to Berry Cottage was known as Grossmiths Farm until the house and land were separated in 1995, and there is a cottage called Grossmiths Cottage a little further along the road.

Lucy and John's inheritance included Berry Cottage and also some lands in Deeping St James. We know this because they decided to partition their inheritance, John taking the Deeping St James land while Lucy kept the land in Ashton. We don’t know if the paddock awarded to Mary Fell still belonged to the cottage at this point. Perhaps it had been sold by Ben and Sarah in the early part of the century? The picture shows the original deed of partition and, below it, the title on the reverse side, showing their names.


Perhaps John Johnson died at about this time, or perhaps he was evicted? Either way, by 1868 Lucy Grossmith had married John Grooby and changed her surname. We know this because in 1868 John Grooby borrowed £50 on a mortgage against the house from Mr Francis Brown, a gentleman from Peterborough (it was in the days before building societies!). What the money was for we have no idea but the mortgage document shows that he borrowed the money "in right of his wife" and refers to the cottage as "formerly in the occupation of Mary Fell and now of Sarah Grooby".

In the 1871 census, John and Lucy Grooby lived in the cottage and Lucy stayed there until 1923.

Next: the 20th Century

© Brian Smith 2015