Today Wick Farmhouse is a substantial six bedroom house overlooking the Prinnels housing development in West Swindon.
Once part of the extensive Bolingbroke estate, the former 150 acre dairy farm dates back to the medieval period. Aerial photographs taken in the 1970s clearly show the ridge and furrow pattern of open field farming.
During the 19th century Wick Farm was home to Jonas Clarke senior for more than 26 years. The Clarke family were pretty unconventional by Victorian social mores. Although married in his late twenties, Jonas soon began an alliance with a servant girl called Alice Pinnell. Thirty years and seven children later they eventually married at St. Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze in 1853, after the death of Jonas' first wife.
Following Jonas senior's death in 1862 the tenancy at Wick Farm passed to his son, Jonas Clarke junior. A desirable property, the Clarke family obviously wanted to keep their stake in the farm, resulting in a Victorian mystery, which today remains unsolved.
On 3rd April 1881 - census night, Jonas junior, aged 56, head of the Wick Farm household, is apparently in residence. With him is his cousin Kate, employed as his housekeeper, and three young children, Jonas 4, Sarah S. aged 2 years and two week old Robert. Cousin Kate was the children's mother but their birth certificates contain no details of a father.
However, Jonas couldn't possibly have been at the farm on census night. He had died in February of the previous year.
To add to the mystery, a report in the North Wilts Herald the previous month stated that - 'Mr Jonas Clark, farmer of Lydiard' was summoned for the non payment of £24 6s 3d poor rate.
Were the Clarke family trying to keep his death a secret? In a small rural parish this would have been impossible, or would it? Perhaps Kate was trying to hang on to the farm? Was Jonas the father of her three illegitimate children? Was she really a 'cousin’ or was the relationship more intimate - like his father, Jonas junior already had a wife.
Whatever Kate's intentions an auction held at the farm on 4th March 1881 saw the sale of 60 head of cattle, 7 cart horses and colts, 2 Nag Geldings, a grey pony and all the agricultural implements and dairy utensils.
By the end of that same year local farmer Thomas Richard Plummer Kinchin had taken over the tenancy. Ten years later and Kate's family no longer appears to be living in Lydiard Tregoze.
Jonas and Alice had children baptised at the following churches:
All Saints'. Oaksey. Jane Feb. 17th 1822 Sarah Feb. 5th 1824 Jonas Jan. 22nd 1826 Benjamin Jan. 19th 1829
St. Michael's. Brinkworth
Mary Clarke Pinnell 14th Oct. 1827
Ann Clarke Pinnel 11th June 1837
Various Clarke Pinnell marriages took place at:
St. Mary's. Lydiard Tregoze
28th October 1839
John William Wyatt a farmer from Wootton Bassett to Alice Clark Pinnell.
A double wedding took place on 4th May 1841 between -
Thomas Hall a yeoman from Broad Blunsdon to Sarah Clark Pinnell
and Francis Carey a yeoman from Broad Blunsdon and Jane Clark Pinnell.
4th May 1847
William Knapp a grocer from Swindon to Mary Clark Pinnnel on 2nd June 1853
Jonas Clark a yeoman from Lydiard Tregoze to Alice Pinnell on 26th February 1859
Jonas Clarke a yeoman from Lydiard Tregoze to Elizabeth Bathe Humphries, widow of Abraham Humphries on 11th June 1860
Walter Lowden a draper from Aldershot to Anne Clarke
A memorial in the churchyard at St. Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze records the burial of: Jonas Clarke died March 31st 1862 aged 74; Cordelia Ann Carey, his granddaughter, died December 8th 1861 aged 16 years old and Jonas Carey, his grandson, died January 18th 1863 aged 14.