Making good at Clyffe Hall

For much of the second half of the nineteenth century, the Hon Louisa Hay, a Bouverie by birth, lived in family property – Clyffe Hall.

Like any house, this one needed repairs from time to time, both to the house and grounds. To judge from this piece of invoice from 1884, it would seem that James Gye and his team were regulars at Clyffe Hall, making good or just helping out. The front of this scrap of paper covers August and the start of September in 1884.

This piece of invoice concerned work done for the Hon Louisan Hay of Clyffe Hall, Market Lavington by James Gye in 1884

We can’t imagine that Mr Gye’s skilled builders and carpenters were keen on being told to do farm work, to help out the honourable lady.

The greenhouse, which got repair, was, of course, the domain of star employee, James Lye, the fuchsia growing champion. Repairs to that structure would have been seen as essential.

The back of the same scrap of invoice

The reverse side of the invoice certainly has a December date on it and the last item is of interest, partly because, these days we wouldn’t re-handle shears. We’d buy new ones. Perhaps they were a favourite pair of James Lye’s. The other interest is the spelling. OK – James has not spelt handle the way we would, but the other word, ‘verells’ can help us with 1884 Market Lavington pronunciation. The word is surely what we would call ferrule. That’s the metal clamp used to fix the wooden handles to the metal shear blade. It looks as though we can tell that the f sound was softened to a v.

We learn about wages, too. It would seem that James Gye charged about four shillings a day for labour. If that’s what the labourer received, it comes to £1 for a five day week. So the skilled worker was certainly getting no more than £50 a year. That’s equivalent of about £25000 today.

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