|In the wonderful churchyard of All Saints Epping Upland in Essex, one particular gravestone is worth closer inspection. It is that of John Jones which can be found at the start of the yew avenue.
It was uncovered a few years ago when the churchyard was being renovated. It is made of Welsh slate and has a fine inscription. It is intriguing to think about how a Welshman from Caernarfon ended up being buried in a small Essex churchyard some 170 years ago, far away from his family and Welsh roots. The clue of course was in his trade, as the inscription proudly proclaimed him to be a "Drover".|
The cattle droves were an old established trade. William Camden in the 16th century visited a "beast fair" at Northallerton, Yorkshire, where he found buyers from Middlesex. In the lifetime of John Jones from 1780 until 1835, the cattle trade was at it's peak, but he was not to know that it had reached it's zenith, and that the demise of his trade would be complete by the end of the century.
It is likely that Mr Jones started his journey somewhere in North Wales, around the Menai Straits or Anglesey. At that time some 60,000 cattle a year were making this journey, and in 1810 some 14,000 cattle came from Anglesey. A large drove would consist of hundreds of cattle with a team of drovers with their dogs and ponies. Having arrived in the South East the cattle would need to be rested, and fattened up for which they purchased grazing at a rate of a farthing or half-penny a head of cattle. On the journey they would have had way-side grazing or used common-land which was adequate for the Welsh cattle or "runts" as they were termed. John Jones would have been familiar with the fairs at Hertford, Harlow Bush, Romford, Billericay, Brentwood, and the market at Smithfield in London. He may have visited Barnet fair on his way south, before moving into Essex.
Drovers were well respected members of their community. A drovers wage was twice that of an ordinary labourer; "8d per day for Dai Edwards to take cattle to Buscot" in Wiltshire and not only was he entrusted with valuable livestock, but he would also have been relied upon to deliver letters and important documents as well as payments. After a successful drove he would have carried large amounts of money, and his expensive tomb-stone bears witness to his status in life. He may have planned to visit Little London at Berden, north of Bishops Stortford on his way home.
The Little London at Chigwell shown on the 1786 map was in decline, because it does not appear on the ordnance survey map of 1805. He was probably hoping to be home for Christmas.|
One can only speculate on the reason for his death; falling from his horse, being attacked, or contracting cholera or smallpox which were common diseases at the time. The 1820's and 30's were a period of great depression, and hunger stalked the land.