At the outbreak of World War 1 the small parish of Stoulton, like many similar parishes, had changed little over the centuries, the people worked on the land, they paid rent for their homes and worked on the land that belonged to someone else.,, even the farmers of the larger farms were tenants. There were two major landlords, Lord Somers whose family seat was at Easton Castle in Herefordshire and Mr Acton of Wolverton Hall, Stoulton. Worcestershire.
By far the larger of the two estates, the Stoulton Estate, had been in the hands of the Somers Cocks family since the Civil War. It extended beyond the parish boundaries and included land and farms in Wadborough, Norton and at one time, Kempsey. in 1828 Earl Somers of Easton had purchased the advowson of the church. In 1914 Lady Henry Somerset, the eldest daughter of the third Earl,was Patron. She had been involved in the appointment of the new vicar the Reverend Arthur Augustus Cockle who on his arrival had been distressed by the state of the church and had approached her to help fund the restoration work he felt so necessary.
Lady Henry Somerset, born Isabella, Caroline Somers was an interesting and caring lady who was married to, but estranged from, Lord Henry Somerset, 2nd son of the Duke of Beaufort. As the eldest of the third Earl's two daughters (he had no son) she was technically his heir but as a woman she could not inherit the title or the vast estates of the Somers Cocks family - in addition to the Stoulton Estate they had other estates in Herefordshire, and Worcestershire, around Reigate in Surrey and they owned Somers Town in St Pancreas London. Earl Somers made generous financial provision for his daughter and she had a life interest in the estate but it went to a distant cousin who would also inherit the title of Baron Somers but not the earldom.
By 1914 the third Earl had died (1883) as had his heir. Baron Somers, Lord Arthur Somers (who was to succeed Lord Baden Powell as Chief Scout) was a minor when he inherited the title. By 1914 Lady Henry was in her sixties and Lord Arthur was beginning to get more involved in the running of the estates.
To be continued