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The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

Recent Posts

Tom Sandall's Journal: 1863 - 1880



Paris in the 1860s


In 1863 I went for my holiday with my father & Mrs S No 2 (TS's stepmother) to the Lake District - Windermere &c and had a very enjoyable trip, so much so that I made up my mind that when I got married I should go on the same trip. Of course we drove about a good deal as Mrs S was not a very active walker.

An exciting episode this year was the disappearance on 3 Sept of Escott, a clerk at the Wellingborough Branch taking with him £500 in notes and getting by fraud from the London & Westminster Bank £400 more. He and a friend named Turner went to Llangollen and were taken by the Police at Liverpool when starting for Australia. They got four years penal servitude.[2]


I accompanied my father and Mrs S to Dover for the holidays with Willie. Uncle William[2] joined us and he, Willie and I went to Paris for a week staying at the Hotel de Lille d’Albion where we much enjoyed ourselves.


In 1865 the Boémé family being at Llandudno I joined them for a few days as part of my holiday.

During these years 1861 to 1868 Connie and I used to go for some enjoyable drives in my father’s pony carriage to Buckingham, Olney, Castle Ashby, Ecton to the Hawkes’ and Dawes. Over to Mr Chapman at Waldridge, Naseby, Rothwell, Moulton (Mr Marsh’s), the recounting of which brings to mind many pleasing recollections. Weston Underwood (Cowpers Oak) was another favourite expedition. I also used to go hunting in the winter months, getting my ledger printing done overnight when the meet was near on the following day.

Cowper's Oak, Weston Underwood


In the autumn of 1866 I again went for my holiday with Alick Boémé but this time to Barmouth staying at the Sons of Gerol Arms and Aberystwyth &c. The day we drove to the Devil’s Bridge “Brinley Richards” the musical composer was on the box seat of the coach.


On 11 May 1867 my step mother died at the Bank, Northampton and was buried in the same grave as my mother in the Northampton Cemetery.


In 1868 the Bank Directors having given me an extra rise of £20 instead of the usual £10 and I having bought No 13 Langham Place out of my savings, Connie and I agreed to be married and on the 3rd of Sept 1868 the wait duly came off on a sweltering hot day. There were present at our wedding at All Saints Church Northampton the Vicar Rev S Gedge and Rev R C King, the Vicar of St Katharine’s, Mr & Mrs John Higgins, Mr & Mrs Dorrell, Mrs White, Lucy & Grace Parsons, Jane Rosbe, my father & Willie, Mr & Mrs Butterfield, Charlie, Alick, Lottie, Emily & Herbert Boemé, Mr & Mrs Franklin, Mr & Mrs Wm Higgins & my uncle Mr Wm Sandall.

SANDALL – BOÉMÉ – At All Saints’, Northampton, on 3rd September, 1868, by the Rev Sydney Gedge, Vicar, assisted by the Rev R Collins King, Thomas, eldest son of R Sandall, Esq, of the Northamptonshire Banking Company, to Constance Emma Ecklemans, eldest daughter of M A Boémé, Esq , of the Northamptonshire Union Bank. Cutting from the Northampton Herald.

For our honeymoon trip we went first to Matlock Bath and the next day on to Furness Abbey & so into the Lake District where we took long walking excursions, amongst other walks going from Ullswater up to the top of Helvellyn Mountain and down the other side to Grasmere. When we returned to Northampton the bells of St Sepulchre were rung and on arrival at Langham Place we found my father and Mrs Boémé there to welcome us.

Church of St Sepulchre, Northampton. St Katharine's Church is no

longer standing.

In December 1868(3) my father married his third wife (Mrs S No 2 having died 1867), Sarah Mower Fisher, an old friend of my mother’s when she was at Baston and Miss Fisher’s father was at that time curate in charge of Greatford Rectory. My father had known and corresponded with her for 35 years or more and the match was therefore a very suitable one and she proved in after years when my father’s health broke down a most devoted wife under very trying circumstances, for which I have always felt deeply grateful to her.


The year 1869 we spent at Northampton was not very eventful. We had many pleasant drives, visiting our friends at Ecton and elsewhere and in the autumn Alick Boémé agreed to accompany us into North Wales. Thinking to make head-quarters at Llanfairfechan but not liking the prospect at low water on arrival, we went back to Penmaenmawr (Mrs Lyons, Green Hill). We had many enjoyable trips and also vivid impressions of several dampings with mountain mist!, once walking down the Pass of Llanberis with the result that we had to go to bed there whilst our clothes were dried. And again when Mr and Mrs Butterfield & Sarah came over from Llandudno and Mr Butterfield, Sarah, Alick and I were caught on Foel Lus and got back to our lodgings soaked and had to dress up in makeshift toggery. Further particulars are in Connie’s diary.

Penmaenmawr, Caernarfonshire

On Christmas Day 1869 was born early in the morning our first born son Thomas Edward(4) who was baptized on 16th Jan 1870 at St Katharine’s, Northampton, Alick Boémé and Anne North being sponsors.


This year 1870 my father had his first attack of paralysis. When at the request of Mr Ashdown who attended him, we had a specialist down from London to advise, whilst he lay very ill and almost unconscious my only brother William was married to Sarah only daughter of Mr James Butterfield and Editor of the Northampton Herald Newspaper, my brother at that time having a business as a Chemist and Druggist in The Drapery, Northampton.(5)


On 4th May 1871 Alick Boémé was married at St Edward’s Church Northampton to Maria only child of the late Thomas Dunkley of Northampton.

In 1871 we spent our holidays in South Wales going first to Aberystwyth at the end of May, staying at the Hotel there - a large one which we had to ourselves, and from there went to Tenby for a week visiting Pembroke Dock and the many ruins round about.


On 24 Feb 1872 our second son was born and was baptized on 21st March at St Katharine’s, Robert Alexander(6), his two grandfathers and Mrs S being his sponsors.

In May my father had a return of ill health and as there was but little probability of his being able to resume his duties he resigned his position of General Manager of the Branch and the Directors granted him a pension. They at the same time appointed Mr Kempson who had succeeded my Father at Stamford Branch to be General Manager and offered to me the vacant post at Stamford, which I gladly accepted, as besides the improved position and salary I had the pleasure of returning to the house where I was born and had spent the happy days of childhood.(7)

My father and Mrs S on leaving the Bank House on the Parade Northampton, went to live at 13 Langham Place, the house I had bought, where he continued to reside for 11 years until his death.

Langham Place, Northampton, where first Tom and Connie and then Tom's father and second stepmother lived.

In the autumn of 1872 we went for an enjoyable holiday on the South Coast going from place to place – Dover, Folkestone, Hastings, Eastbourne where Mr & Mrs Boémé and Lottie were staying (Mrs Boémé being very unwell), Brighton and the Isle of Wight &c.


On 6 May 1873 Arthur was born and was baptized at St Michael’s, Stamford on Whitsunday (Ist June), Alick and Minnie Parsons being his godparents.

St Michael's Church, Stamford, before it was turned into shops.

In August of this year we left our infant son with Mrs Osborn (Howlett North’s old servant Mary) and went with the two boys accompanied by Lottie Boémé(8) to Shanklin in the Isle of Wight (staying with a Mrs Lane, the “Loquacious Mrs Lane” as one of her friends called her in her visitors’ book). Whilst staying there we went to Southampton and over on a P&O steamer which was just ready for its first voyage. There were many on board and whilst they were there they had a “fire” drill getting the hose to work in 2 or 3 minutes and all in their place at the bows &c, which was most interesting.

Connie’s mother Mrs Boémé died on the 7th November 1873.

My old friend Frank Hewitt being at this date doing well and keeping two nag horses, I in the winter of 1873-4 and 1874-5 used to go hunting with him and had many enjoyable and healthful days out either with the Cottesmore or FitzWilliam hounds.


In the spring of 1874 Connie & the children with Jane Rosbe(9) and Bertie Boémé(10) went to stay at Hunstanton, Arthur having whooping cough they hoped to get rid of, and I used to go down for the weekend. One Saturday I had the pleasure of riding in a special train – the only time in my life, it happening that the mayor of Stamford that year Mr Musson was also going to Hunstanton and as the Gt Eastern train did not wait for the Stamford train he ordered a special to catch the other train at Lynn and did so. It was good fun to see the folks wondering what swells were coming.

The Promenade, Hunstanton

In the autumn we had a very good time in Switzerland with a Cooks party starting on 10th August, more particularly set forth in Connie’s diary.

1875 - 1876

At the Annual Meeting of the Stamford Corn Market Co in Feb 1875 I was first elected a Director of the Company.

Our holiday excursion to Scotland and for a few days to Scarborough is fully recounted in Connie’s diary, as also the trip to Llandudno in 1876 when we went with the three boys to Llandudno accompanied by Emily and Herbert Boémé, fixing ourselves at 84 Mostyn St.

In March 1876 I was elected one of the Borough Auditors in the place of Mr R W George deceased. F A Hewitt was the other auditor and held the office till 1882.


In 1877 our holiday was spent at the Land’s End &c making our head quarters at Penzance. We went to Weston Super Mare then to Teignmouth for the Sunday, Devonport to Penzance, from which we took excursions to Land’s End, St Ives – we left home on 23 August and were away 3 weeks.


On 8 June 1878 Sophy was born (Charlotte Sophia) named after her two grandmothers and was baptized at St Michael’s Stamford on 11th July, Mr & Mrs Edmund Law of Northampton being sponsors.

On 3 Oct 1878 at 8 Leopold Place, Edinburgh Mr Boémé married his second wife (Miss Margaret Gulland(11), sister of Mr John Gulland of Edinburgh, Miss Gulland had for many years kept a young ladies’ school at Northampton), who proved a very devoted helpmate and added I know no doubt to his happiness during his declining years to a considerable effect.


30th April 1880 Cecil was born and was baptized on Whitsunday Herbert Cecil, Mr and Mrs Herbert Smith being godparents and named Cecil as it was Lord Exeter’s birthday, a fact which was pleasing as he always had the church bells of Stamford ringing on that day for about 15 years, until his Lordship’s death in 1895.

William Alleyne Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Exeter (1825 - 1895)

[1] The high-profile case of Matthew Henry Escott and his accomplice was widely reported. A detailed account can be found in the Sheffield Independent of 5 December 1863.

[2] TS’s bachelor uncle William Sandall (1803 – 1873), originally from Rippingale in Lincolnshire, had moved to Northampton where he owned a grocery and drapery business.

[3] The wedding was actually on 29 October 1868, less than two months after Thomas and Constance’s. It took place in St Mary’s Church, Islington, London, close to the residence of Sarah’s sister, Mrs Martha White.

[4] Known as Edward or Eddy.

[5] William and Sarah were not married until 16 April 1872, after Robert Sandall’s second stroke.

[6] Known in the family as Robby

[7] 63 High Street, Stamford (currently occupied by Space NK).

[8] Connie's younger sister, Charlotte Boémé

[9] Jane Rosbe was Tom's cousin

[10] Connie's youngest brother, Herbert.

[11] Margaret Johnston Gulland b.1844 was 31 years younger than her husband and two years younger than Connie. She was to become a firm friend of the whole Boémé/Sandall family.

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