Text and research by Clare McCann, Curator of Send and Ripley Museum; family story from Robert Sermon (grandson of Francis Sermon)
Sometime ago I embarked on some research regarding my house in Potters Lane and I have been able to add a little to that project, thanks to some unexpected visitors…
Robert Serman, his wife Diana, sister Susan and her husband Gordon arrived unexpectedly at our garden gate last summer on a quest to seek out their grandfather’s former home. They wrote afterwards that as soon as they saw that oblique doorway, they knew they had found the right house! Although the doorway remains, the house is of course much changed from how it looked in 1908 when their father, George stood there for a photo with his dad holding a shotgun.
The 1891 census for Send makes no mention of the Serman family. The farmer at Cricketshill was William Butt aged 65 with his son Edwin and a servant .The farmer and son were born in Edgware Middlesex so clearly not local. In this census there was only a caretaker at Sendholme so the house was presumably either between owners or all the family were away from home when the census was taken. By 1901 the Lancaster family were at Send Holme and William Hounshom aged 60, Eliza 59, William 36, and Frank 30 at the farm. The description is no longer farmer but bailiff. Again Mr Hounshom was not locally born so presumably taken on to run the property by Mr Lancaster. The Hobby family are also listed at Cricketshill and he was the butler at the big house.
It does not seem as though Mr Lancaster had much luck with his bailiffs as in Kelly’s Directory of 1905 the bailiff had changed again and Samuel Evans is farm Bailiff. By 1907 Francis Serman has arrived as farm bailiff (in fact he almost certainly arrived in 1906 as his son was baptised in Send that year) and Kellys records him as there until 1913. By 1915 Edward Langridge is bailiff so he must have replaced Francis when he enlisted.
The handwritten 1911 census shows Francis George Serman as “bailiff” at Crickets Hill Farm in Potters Lane, Send and Annie, his wife, as “manager of dairy school.” In 1901 the census shows them at Ashampstead, where he was a “stockman on farm” and she “school mistress”.
Francis Serman was born in 1868 to George H. Serman and Amelia Clifford Serman in Icomb, Gloucestershire, where his father was “farmer of 90 acres” at Lower Farm, Icomb. Francis and Annie were married in 1894 in Icomb, where she was the village schoolmistress.
The family think that Francis and Annie had lost their first child while living at Ashampton but George’s older sister, Olive, was born there in 1904 . However while living in Send, Francis and Annie had a son. Local records show a son George was baptised in 1906.
We know that Francis served in WW I as part of the army veterinary corps attached to the cavalry perhaps provisioning horses. It looks as though he enlisted in 1914 although he was 46 years old at that time. The family find it hard to understand why he did enlist but speculate that, as in the film Warhorse, his horses might have been requisitioned. It is certain that the army would have required skilled men to deal with the horses at the front.
Francis Serman survived the war, but only just I gather. The official records record his service medal and show his service dates as 1914 to 1920. The family have papers from Francis’s daughter Olive relating to his war service including a pension book recording weekly pension payments of something like eight shillings.
According to the family he returned from the 1914-18 war badly disabled (possibly gas) and lived in Deddington, Oxfordshire with his family where his wife had two neighbouring cottages on the Market Square inherited from aunts. Francis Serman died in Banbury, in the 1935. His ill health and early death had an effect on the family as George, a promising student, had to leave school to help support the family.