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Neptune and Noah

Anne-Marie Ford    -    6 January 2012

1902 was not a good year for young Noah Pike, who fell foul of the law twice in just a few months, nor for his father, Neptune, who represented his son in the first case, provided bail in the second, and was then charged with a misdemeanour himself. Noah’s first escapade involved being stopped for driving an unlit cart, along with another local man, Thomas Rawlings. The Hampshire and Berkshire Gazette of 25th October 1902, under the title “Unlighted Vehicles,” remarked:

Noah Pike, gipsy, who was represented by his father, and Thomas Rawlings, a loud-voiced and rather brazen individual, were ordered to pay 5/- each for driving vehicles at Pamber on the night of the 16th October to which no lights were attached. Pike had a lamp in his cart and when stopped by P.C. Pett he fixed it in the socket and lit it. Rawlings, who was driving another cart in front, had no lamp whatever. He went and tried to borrow one, but failed, so he drove on another mile and a half without a lamp.

It seems a little harsh that Noah, who amended his error, should be fined the same as Thomas, who did not. Noah’s father, Neptune, who represented his son in the case, was married to Patience Doe; the Pike family travelling mostly in Berkshire and Hampshire, and occasionally Wiltshire. Neptune had been born in the December quarter of 1859 in the registration district of Basingstoke, Hampshire, and together he and Patience had nine known children: Milly, born around 1883; John, named for Neptune’s brother, baptised 14th December 1884 in the parish of Tadley, son of a hawker; young Noah, the name of Neptune’s father, born in the December quarter of 1886 and baptised in Mortimer, Berkshire on 6th October 1886, the son of a hawker. Liberty, born in 1889 and Susan, using Neptune’s mother’s name, two years later, were baptised together on 20th September 1891 in theparish of Bentley, Hampshire, children of a licensed hawker. Alice was baptised on 10th September 1893, also in Bentley, the daughter of a licensed hawker,as was her brother, Neptune, on 15th September 1895, andSylvanus, whose name was a tribute to Neptune’s grandfather, on 19th September 1897, son of a hawker of Tadley. The last known child, little Lily Louisa, named for a sister, was born at the turn of the century, in 1899.

Neptune himself came from a large family of ten known children, his siblings being Matilda, Eliza, Louisa, Susan, James, John, Mary Ann, Honor and Esther. They were the children of Noah, baptised 28th July 1829, who married Susannah Smith in the September quarter of 1850 in the Alton district of Hampshire. The 1861 census finds Noah, 33, tinker, with Susannah, Matilda, Eliza and Neptum (sic). By 1871 their family has grown and now includes Eliza, Nepton (sic), Susan, James and three unnamed children, all in tents at Mortimer, Hampshire. In the 1881 census Noah, described as a cane chair bottomer, aged 52, can be found in New Road, Tadley, Hampshire, with children Neptune (21); Susan (17); James (15); John (11); Mary Ann (10); Honor (9); Esther (7). Although Susannah is not there, Noah still describes himself as married, rather than a widower, so it is probable that she was merely from home at the time of the census.

This is confirmed by the 1891 census, where Noah and Susan are discovered in a house, no. 9, Gas House Road, Newbury, Berkshire, with adult children John and Esther. The couple remain in the area, it seems, and the 1901 census records Noah, 81, a pedlar and hawker, living with his wife, Susan, 75, who claims birth in Bicester, Oxfordshire, in the St. Nicholas district of Newbury.

Noah was himself descended, like the young Noah who began this story, from the union of a Pike and a Doe, his father being Silvanus Pike, born around 1792, whose wife was Anne Doe. The known children from this union are Septura, baptised 30th June 1815 in the district of Hungerford, Berkshire; as was Peter, baptised 14th November 1817, andNepthali, son of a chair bottomer, who was baptised in the district of Silchester, Hampshire in 1819. I have found no other reference to Nepthali, but suggest he is probably the Neptune Pike, son of Silvanus, who married Jane Bradaway, daughter of John, in the September quarter of 1850 in the district of Alton, Hampshire. Neptune’s death is recorded in the June quarter of 1899, “aged 80” in the registration district of Kingsclere, in Hampshire, which seems to confirm this hypothesis.

Two daughters of Silvanus and Anne, Sophia and H/Esther, were both baptised in the district of Hungerford, Berkshire, on 6th February 1823 and 28th July 1825 respectively. A son, Noah, followed, baptised on 28th July 1829 who, interestingly, married a Susannah Smith in the district of Alton, Hampshire in the same September quarter of 1850 as his brother, Neptune. This would seem to suggest the possibility of a double wedding. Noah and Susannah were to also name their first son Neptune, presumably as a tribute to Noah’s brother. The last two known children of Silvanus and Anne were both daughters, Honor, who was baptised 20th November 1831 in the parish of Collingbourne Kingston, in Wiltshire, and Rebecca, who was baptised on 29th March 18 35 in Hurstbourne Tarrant, in the county of Hampshire.

The 1861 census records show Silvanus Pike, aged 69, and his wife, Anne, the same age,residing at Pamber, in the registration district of Basingstoke, Hampshire. Also present in the area is their son, Neptune, with his wife Jane, and children Edward and John. And although Anne has disappeared from the records by the next census, Silvanus is still visible, aged 78. His death is recorded in the June quarter of 1878, “aged 85,” in the registration district of Reading, Berkshire.

To return to young Noah – and the year of 1902 – in December he was accused of stealing. The Hampshire and Berkshire Gazette of 13th December records, under the title, “Alleged Theft of a Rabbit Skin,” that, “a young gipsy named Noah Pike was . . . charged with stealing a rabbit skin, value 1d, the property of Maurice Holley, of Pamber Heath.” The witnesses were a child, Joseph Holley, aged 8 (son of the prosecutor), and a young lad who was a neighbour of the Holleys. Joseph, who was alone in the house on Tuesday, said “ the prisoner called that day, asked if they had any rabbit skins, and went into the pantry, . . . he took one of the two rabbit skins which were hanging there. He came out, and opening a knife, said to the boy, ‘If you speak to me much I will kill you.’ Then he went, taking the skin with him.” Philip West, a broom-maker, living next door, said “the prisoner also called at his house on Tuesday for rabbit skins. He came from the direction of the prosecutor’s and had several skins hanging to his basket.”Noah Pike was remanded andreleased upon his father depositing the sum of £3 security, for his appearance the following Wednesday.

Clearly, the case is a petty one, and the testimony of a child questionable, not to say melodramatic; that Neptune supported his son, and was able to provide the bail money of a not inconsiderable sum, indicates that he made a reasonable living. The following week, The Hampshire and Berkshire Gazettecarried a story, “About a Rabbit Skin,” reporting that the case had been dismissed:

[Joseph Holley] afterwards went to the encampment with the policeman and Philip West for the purpose of identifying the prisoner, and he did so. At first the prisoner hung his head down, so he went back and had another look to make sure he was the man. He was quite certain it was the prisoner and not Liberty Pike [young Noah’s brother]. – Philip West also repeated his evidence, adding that he, too, went to the encampment. It was dark when they saw the prisoner there, and they went back for a second look as Joseph Holley could not quite recognise him the first time.

The prisoner, who pleaded not guilty, then gave evidence on his own behalf. He said he had been living at the encampment at Silchester since October, and he bought skins for his father. On Tuesday, the 9th, he went to Sherborne, starting about half past eight . . . [arriving at] Pamber about eleven, and reached Monk Sherborne about twelve o’clock. . . . He got home about three o’clock and didn’t go out any more that day. . . . The Bench came to the conclusion that, though there was a suspicion that the prisoner had been to Pamber that day, there was not sufficient evidence to prove that he committed this larceny and the case was accordingly dismissed.

Unfortunately, Neptune then had to wait to be called, as his case followed closely upon that of his son’s. The local newspaper offers a postscript to the original case, in which “Neptune Pike, gipsy, father of the defendant in the first case,” was charged with “allowing his horse to stray on the highway,” and was fined 6/6d, including costs. A not inexpensive time for the Pikes in the closing months of 1902.

Copyright © 2012 Anne-Marie Ford