Thomas Stokoe – Army Contractor – Hay-on-Wye

Serving rations at an encampment of the Royal Artillery and Royal Horse Artillery in the New Forest, Hay-on-Wye (The Graphic, Volume XVII, No. 435, March 30, 1878).

Contractor Type & Function:

Contract Services Supplier – Army camp caterer to the Breconshire Rifle Volunteers, who had their head quarters in Hay-on-Wye from 1884, and to the Royal Artillery and Royal Horse Artillery when they were on Summer Camp in the adjacent New Forest area.

Brief History:

Thomas Stokoe was the son of Joseph Stokoe (born. c1820 in Durham) and was possibly born c.1837 at Kelloe, County Durham although it is possible that his family later moved to Shildon in the same county. Given the strong coal mining associations of both of these locations it is possible Thomas’ father was associated with the local mining industry. It is not clear what Thomas did in his early life but by his late teens or early 20s he had made his way to Hay-on-Wye in Breconshire, Wales. In 1861 he is recorded as a “living in” assistant to Benjamin Hadley, a chemist and grocer in the town.  Within a few years of working in Hay, Thomas had saved up sufficient funds to put himself through a course in Veterinary Surgery at the Royal  College of Veterinary Surgeons, Edinburgh. He was obviously a talented student as in 1864 he was awarded medals by the Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland for the best examination results in anatomy, chemistry and general proficiency. In the same year he received his diploma of Honorary Fellowship of the Edinburgh Veterinary Medical Society in acknowledgement for his contributions to the promotion of advances in veterinary science. 

After completing his studies Thomas returned to Hay where he started his own veterinary practice. However being none too robust an individual he found that executing such a profession in such a rough environment was physically beyond him so he went into partnership as a chemist with Mr. Hadley, his former employer in the town. However, he continued to practice as a vet on a part time basis. He was known to have been particularly skilled and an authority in the treatment of horses.

In 1875, Thomas married Ruth Sheperd Thompson (originally from Whitehaven, Cumberland) at Breinton in Herefordshire and by 1878 Ruth had given birth to a son Joseph, the first of two sons and four daughters. 

Despite being described as not having  a strong or robust constitution, Thomas Stokoe was  obviously a self determined and very industrious individual. In addition to his chemist and grocery businesses in Hay, his skills in both veterinary science and chemistry also led him to develop and manufacture “Stokoe’s Sheep Dip Powder” which sold in large volumes in Australia and throughout Britain. The Product received multiple awards both at home and overseas.

An advertisement for Stokoe’s Sheep Dip Powder (The Pharmaceutical Journal. 15th June 1872).

In 1891, Thomas Stokoe extended his business interest by taking over The Crown Hotel plus The Wine Vaults and The Lamb public houses, all of which were in Hay. It was probably at this time that he started to brew his own beer plus manufacture carbonated soft drinks. He also became a local agent for W. & A. Gilby, the Wine and Spirit Merchants.

It appears that by the 1890s Thomas was also operating a catering business in Hay which included contracts  for the Breconshire Rifles Volunteer Battalion in camp as far afield as Aldershot and Salisbury Plain. He also provided similar services to both the Royal Artillery and Royal Horse Artillery when they were stationed at their summer camp in the near by New Forest. 

Royal Artillery gun crews passing The Blue Boar Hotel in Church Street, Hay. c.1900.

In 1892 Thomas also started farming and took up tenancies on farms on two local estates. He was also a successful livestock breeder.

In his private life he was a leading member of his local Freemason’s Lodge and the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. He employed several long standing employees and “live-in” domestic servants who he looked after well in terms of both their general welfare and in encouraging them in various aspects of self improvement. In his public life he was a member of both the local Town Board and District Council.

Thomas died at the age of 73 on 13th December 1910 at his home,  Prospect House (now Chancery House) in Broad Street, Hay. According to Thomas’ Will his estate and effects amounted to a worth of £10,980 16 s, nearly £1 million in today’s values. After Thomas’ death his eldest son, Joseph, appears to have taken over most of his local business interests. 

Prospect House (now Chancery House) – The former home of Thomas Stokoe in Broad Street, Hay-on-Wye.

Location Details:

Hay-on-Wye in  Breconshire, Wales

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type 1

Function: Army Canteen/Refreshment Token

Material: Brass

Design: Bi-facial

Shape & Size: Circular,  26.1 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper half reads * T. STOKOE ARMY CONTRACTOR * and around lower part HAY and within the centre field the denomination value 1 (i.e. penny) all within an outer dotted border.

Reverse: Raised legend in centre field reads CANTEEN all within an outer dotted border.

Date: c.1890 to c.1910

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Cox, N. & A. – The Tokens, Checks, Metallic Tickets, Passes and Tallies of Wales 1800-1993.  Private Publication. 1994. Military Checks – No.214.

Type 2

Function: Army Canteen/Refreshment Token

Material: Copper

Design: Bi-facial

Shape & Size: Circular,  25.8mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper half reads * T. STOKOE ARMY CONTRACTOR * and around lower part HAY and within the centre field the denomination value 1 1/2 (i.e. pennies) all within an outer dotted border.

Reverse: Raised legend in centre field reads CANTEEN all within an outer dotted border.

Date: c.1890 to c.1910

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Cox, N. & A. – The Tokens, Checks, Metallic Tickets, Passes and Tallies of Wales 1800-1993.  Private Publication. 1994. Military Checks – No.213.

Type 3

NO IMAGE AVAILABLE

Function: Army Canteen/Refreshment Token

Material: Pewter

Design: Bi-facial

Shape & Size: Circular,  26.1 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper half reads * T. STOKOE ARMY CONTRACTOR * and around lower part HAY and within the centre field the denomination value 2 (i.e. penny) all within an outer dotted border.

Reverse: Raised legend in centre field reads CANTEEN all within an outer dotted border.

Date: c.1890 to c.1910

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Cox, N. & A. – The Tokens, Checks, Metallic Tickets, Passes and Tallies of Wales 1800-1993.  Private Publication. 1994. Military Checks – No.212.

Type 4

Function: Army Canteen/Refreshment Token

Material: White metal alloy

Design: Bi-facial

Shape & Size: Circular,  25.9 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper half reads * T. STOKOE ARMY CONTRACTOR * and around lower part HAY and within the centre field the denomination value 3 (i.e. pennies) all within an outer dotted border.

Reverse: Raised legend in centre field reads CANTEEN all within an outer dotted border.

Date: c.1890 to c.1910

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Cox, N. & A. – The Tokens, Checks, Metallic Tickets, Passes and Tallies of Wales 1800-1993.  Private Publication. 1994. Military Checks – No.211.

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