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Frederick Poole and the Boer War

The exploits of one Broughton farmer who went to the Boer War and returned with his horse which is buried in the fields behind Church Farm

Frederick Poole who fought in the Boer War in full military uniform on horseback Rectory Lane

One of the most unusual and exceptional village photographs shows a middle aged man in full regimental dress on a horse in Rectory Drive. This is Frederick Poole who lived at Church Farm and who was reputed to have gone to the Boer War (1899-1902) with his horse. Both returned safely and when the horse died it was buried in the Poor’s Close field which lies behind Church Farm.

The picture throws up many questions and with the passage of over a hundred years it is difficult to discover all the answers, but we do know something about the life of Frederick Poole.

He was born in Upper Broughton in 1852, his parent were John Poole, an agricultural labourer and Emma Poole who was a lace worker, Frederick had two sisters Eliza and Marianna. In the 1871 census Frederick is a shoe maker. He married Mary Grace Hewitt in 1876 at St Peter’s Church in Nottingham and the 1881 census says she is a dressmaker. In the same census Frederick described himself as a 'cordwainer' a word that is rarely used nowadays but which derived from 'cordovan' or 'cordwain', the leather produced in Córdoba in Spain. Traditionally a codwainer made luxury shoes and boots from the finest leather.

Sadly Mary Grace died in 1890 and by the following year he is a grazier, living in Church Lane with his nephew Owen Hewitt who is 11. There is a record of him being appointed as a parish constable for the village at the Bingham Petty Sessions House in 1892.

In January 1895 he married Mary Ann Price at St James Church in Nottingham.

By 1901 he has moved to Church Farm in Rectory Lane, at that time the farm was owned by the Church. Frederick and Mary have three children: Pollie Mabel born in 1896, Benjamin in 1897 and George in 1899. Owen Hewitt, Frederick’s nephew is still living with them and he is described as a ‘Cattle Man on Farm’. Another daughter Maude was born in 1902.

At what point did Frederick decide that he would travel out to South Africa to fight the Boers? He had a farm, a wife and three children. There was no conscription for the Boer War, so Frederick must have gone of his own volition?

Initially British tactics in the Boer War were better suited to fighting on the flat open plains of Europe and Salisbury, whereas the Boers would often fortify positions on a hill overlooking a river, wait for the British to arrive and attack them. The British Army with the attitude of  ‘if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em’ called for a yeomanry of volunteers, men who could ride a horse and shoot from horseback in the manner of the Boers. This was the only way to meet the Boer on his own terms. Men came from all over the empire, particularly Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain. Many came out of a sense of adventure, others to avenge the defeat the British had suffered in the first Boer War. Frederick was presumably one of these men.

We know nothing of how long he was away and what battles he was involved in. At some point he returned home. Sadly his daughter Pollie died in 1901, was Frederick still away?

We do know he died in 1933 and that there is a plaque in the church attesting to his service as a Churchwarden for 25 years.

In 2010 when we interviewed former villagers about their memories, several of them spoke very warmly of Frederick’s son George who farmed at Pond Farm and married Annie Marson in 1930, she was always referred to as ‘Sis’ as she was brought up as the only girl in a family of boys.

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