Back to Norfolk

Is there some unwritten law that says that you are bound to make your most interesting discovery at any archival repository in the last few minutes before closing time?  Is that your experience too?

We do like Norfolk, and this year’s summer holiday there was a chilled mixture of family history and touristy things.  Staying just outside Norwich made accessing the city centre easy, but was also a great base from which to travel to the North Norfolk coast.  And on the one day when it was properly hot I did indeed swim in the sea.

Early in the holiday we spent a day at Kirby Hall, the research base of the Norfolk Family History Society.  This time I systematically looked at monumental inscriptions (MIs) and graveyard plans for some of the villages surrounding East Dereham:  Yaxham, Scarning, East Bilney, Gressenhall, Wendling, Swaffham, Ovington, Watton, Carbrooke and Shipdham.

For most of these there was no one with the surname George at all, but I was pleased to find an MI for Eliza George, the wife of Francis, at Gressenhall, who died in 1898, though it was strange that there was no mention of Francis himself, nor of his older sister Mary.  There were a few Georges at Wendling, who turn out to have hailed from Great Massingham, so they’re not mine.  I was surprised to find none at Ovington, but the name did crop up in Watton and Carbrooke.

Looking at a number of Parish Register transcripts enabled me to see that there were loads of George baptisms, marriages and burials at Watton.  I was particularly interested to find the marriage of David George and Ann Tennant (of West Bradenham) on 9 March 1717.  This is a David George I’ve not come across before and as the Christian name David does not seem that common, it’s an entry I will endeavour to follow up.

The Carbrooke parish register transcript is not indexed, but it contains masses of entries for George.  I ran out of time, so I just hope they are on NORS!

You never know who you will meet at these places, and a fellow researcher at Kirby Hall, on enquiring of my line of research,  told me that a Douggie George used to keep the Duke of Wellington pub in Dereham.  I’ll file that bit of information away for future reference!

Following our visit to Kirby Hall we were able to do a village tour to take photos and look for graves.  We were lucky at Carbrooke that cleaning was taking place, so we were able to see inside the lovely church.  Others were all shut up with no clue as to when they might be open or how to obtain a key (Ovington, Watton and  Wendling).  At Gressenhall there was a notice to say the key could be obtained from the shop in the village. Scarning Church is open on Fridays, so we timed that just right.  Eliza George’s grave at Gressenhall was interesting as the headstone quite clearly showed the name of Francis’ sister Mary as well, who died in 1897, so I’m not sure how that had been missed in the transcription.

Grave of Eliza George at Gressenhall Church

The staff at Norfolk Record Office were pleasant and helpful, as they had been two years previously.  I have been well and truly stuck at the top of my George tree for some years now, since I have failed to find a baptism for David George, who was probably born around 1786 in East Dereham.  That being the case, I wanted to broaden the type of documents I looked at, in an attempt to find other mention of the surname.  The Vestry Minutes 1778 – 1806 and 1837 – 1863 were not particularly name-rich.  The Alphabetical Account of Proprietors and tenements 1765 for East Dereham did not yield any Georges, and neither did the East Dereham Apprenticehsip papers 1705 – 1851; unfortunately the records of Scarning School were predominantly of a much later date.  The East Dereham Rate Books were more fruitful than the title had suggested:  In July 1856 James, David, Widow, Ann and Frederick George were all mentioned, with the owner of the property, its location and the rate payment collected.  This appears to be an Assessment for the Relief of the Poor.  In 1822 David, John senior and John George were all mentioned and two John Georges in 1819.  None of this was massively helpful, but at this stage of the research anything is worth a try!  My George research is fast becoming a bit of a mid Norfolk One Name Study.

So why is it, I wonder, that there appears to be some law that you make your most interesting discovery in the last few minutes before closing time?  In this instance I stumbled upon the Archdeacon’s copies of the East Dereham parish records.  Are these the same as Bishop’s Trancripts?  I’m not sure, to be honest.  But what was interesting was that there seems to be a gap in the recorded baptisms between 1777 and 1789.  Is this the same in the original set? If so, it could well explain the missing baptism of David George.  But, alas, I was out of time to check this out.

Which can only mean one thing.  We’ll just have to go back to Norfolk.  It’s a tough life.

Inside Scarning Church

 

 

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A visit to Brookwood

Another visit to Brookwood had  been on the cards for a while.  Back in the early Spring I had made enquiries of the staff at the Brookwood Cemetery office regarding the location of my great grandparents’ grave, that of William and Annie Wakefield.  Annie had died first, in 1929 and then William in 1941 and I have burial numbers for both.  However, it seems that any record of the location is harder to track down than one might imagine for relatively recent burials and all that they were able to tell me was that the grave was likely to be in Woking Ground 1.

And then, going through some papers at the family home I came across a cemetery map, with an ‘x marks the spot’!  Brilliant.

Armed with the new information we headed over to Brookwood and to the Woking Ground marked on the map.  As we drew to a halt, we could see the name ‘Wakefield’ on a headstone!  And there it was:  “In loving memory of Francis Wakefield, died 4 February 1927 aged 88”.  Francis???  Not exactly what I was expecting.  But no, there were no additional names on the headstone and no other Wakefield graves nearby either.  What a disappointment.  How we came to have a map with that grave location marked on it is a mystery – maybe on a previous occasion of someone enquiring about the grave that was the only Wakefield one they could find.  I don’t know, but Francis is definitely not on my family tree.

Francis Wakefield

Ah well.  The second objective of the day was to head to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Centenary Exhibition.  Never having been to the Military Cemetery before, it took us some time to find the entrance, which is actually off the A324.  However, once we entered the cemetery and parked by the Canadian building we could see that the scale of the cemetery was vast.  As with all the other CWGC sites we have visited abroad, this is immaculately kept, with beautiful landscaping and planting.

The Centenary Exhibition, though not huge, is well put together and informative.  It gives interesting background on how the CWGC was set up and the people involved, including of course Edwin Lutyens, who designed the Thiepval Memorial in France and Rudyard Kipling, who advised on inscriptions.

Visitors are invited to take a postcard on which is the name of a soldier buried at Brookwood, and to find the grave, photograph it and upload it to Twitter using the hashtag #CWGC100.  We did this for Signalman Harold William Rupert Parkyn of the Royal Corps of Signals, who died in March 1944, aged just 18.

Volunteers take guided tours of the cemetery twice a day.  Being a bit tight of time we opted to just wander around and take in the sheer scale of the cemetery, including as it does both WW1 and WW2 graves and with a large US section and French, Italian and Polish memorials, among others.

The Centenary Exhibition is on until 19 November and is open every day.  I would recommend a visit.   http://blog.cwgc.org/brookwood-exhibition

Brookwood Military Cemetery

Brookwood Military Cemetery

Brookwood Military Cemetery

 

Do you have a Jane Austen connection?

This was the title of an article in the July edition of Family Tree magazine www.family-tree.co.uk and I was pretty certain that the answer for me was a resounding “no!”.

I’ve been enjoying the Jane Austen 200 events:  We went to a very interesting exhibition at the Winchester Discovery Centre and made pilgrimage to the house in Winchester where she died in July 1817.  The exhibition included the five known portraits of the author as well as her silk pelisse coat and purse.  It made us realise how tiny she was!

Then a week ago we attended ‘An Afternoon of Music, Dance and Song for Jane Austen’,  given by The Madding Crowd at the Basingstoke Discovery Centre.  This was most enjoyable and included music from Jane Austen’s own music collection, so it was lovely to hear music she would have been familiar with.  (This concert is to be repeated in Southampton at the end of September http://janeausten200.co.uk/event/stinking-fish-southampton-madding-crowd-singing-and-music-workshop-1 ).

Madding Crowd
Madding Crowd

A walk around Steventon, Jane Austen’s birthplace, has also been devised and can be found at www.destinationbasingstoke.co.uk .  We enjoyed this six mile circular walk last Sunday.  Starting from Steventon Church itself, it passes the field where the Rectory once stood (the site of the well is about all that remains) and you could imagine Jane walking up the lane to church and seeing the yew tree which (currently estimated to be 600 years old) would have been old then.  Apparently her father kept the church key hidden in its hollow trunk!

Steventon Church
Steventon Church

The walk also takes in Deane, where Jane’s parents lived before Steventon, and Ashe where Jane’s friends the Lefroys lived.

But a family connection to Jane Austen?  I don’t think so!  Charlotte Soares, writing in Family Tree, found her connection was the hill near Godmersham Park in Kent, home of Jane Austen’s brother Edward, whom she frequently visited.  She mentions in her article some of the surnames connected with the Austen family and imagines the ordinary people Jane might have met and known, from the servants in her brother’s house, to the villagers of Steventon and Chawton.

However, it was the mention of the surname Knatchbull-Hugessen which brought me up sharp.  I’ve seen that surname before!  Charlotte says that Edward Hugessen Knatchbull-Hugessen was the son of Jane Austen’s niece Fanny Knight.

Well I have in my possession a Bible presented to my grandmother Emily Mitchell in 1904 by V Knatchbull-Hugessen.  So what’s the connection?

www.thepeerage.com gave me the answer:  Edward, First Baron Brabourne and Liberal politician, was the eldest son of Sir Edward Knatchbull and his second wife Fanny Knight.  The second son was Reginald Bridges who became Rector of the Parish of West Grinstead, where my grandmother lived.  Revd R B Knatchbull-Hugessen’s second daughter was Violet, born in 1869.   It was almost certainly she, the 35 year old unmarried Rector’s daughter, who presented the Bible to my Granny.

So there is my (somewhat tenuous) connection!  I have a Bible given to my Granny by the granddaughter of Fanny Knight – Jane Austen’s niece.  Voila!

Bookbench
Bookbench at Steventon
Granny’s Bible

Upton cum Chalvey

A weekend away in Buckinghamshire was an excellent opportunity to stop off in Slough, that must-see tourist destination just off the M4 motorway.

Well, to clarify, it wasn’t really Slough as such that was the attraction but a couple of places now within the Slough connurbation which pre-existed its development and where I have ancestral connections.

Upton and Chalvey (sometimes known as Upton cum Chalvey in the records) lie to the south of the present town and, from small farming hamlets, grew hugely in the nineteenth century particularly after the coming of the railway.  My connection with the area is principally through the Mayne family.

Edith Mayne (who I wrote about a little while ago – the one who trained as a teacher and moved to Staffordshire) was born in Chalvey, as was her father Thomas, her grandfather, James, and probably her great grandfather, Thomas, a blacksmith who was born around 1769.  Edith’s aunt Elizabeth (my great grandmother) was also born in Chalvey but married David George in Croydon, where they were both working at the time. Shortly afterwards they moved to Chalvey Grove and it was there that my own grandfather, Alfred James George, was born in 1878 along with his twin sister Alice.  It was therefore to Chalvey Grove that I headed first.

By all reports Grandad was born in a wooden house!  Well I don’t think there are any of those remaining in Chalvey Grove these days!  The area will have changed out of all recognition since 1878:  today it is very multicutural and I passed the Hindu temple on the way.  I spotted one house with the date 1900, but I don’t think any would have been in existence when Grandad lived there.

From Chalvey Grove I found my way round to St Peter’s Church, Chalvey, which was opened in 1860.  The exterior looked pretty unloved, unfortunately.  The church was locked, but inside I could hear that someone was practising the organ.

St Peters Chalvey
St Peters Chalvey

Later on, I drove over to Upton where I parked outside St Laurence’s Church.  This was the orginal church for the area and is where my Grandad was baptised and where many of the Mayne family were buried.  Prominent notices warned visitors not to stray off the paths in the churchyard, due to the danger of subsidence!  This was a shame as I couldn’t properly examine names on graves.  Again the church was all locked up.  Across the roundabout from the church is the Sixteenth century Red Cow Inn.

St Laurence Upton
St Laurence Upton

In between, I paid a visit to The Curve in the town centre.  This is basically the library building – a very nice, new, modern facility – where local history information is also kept.  If I had had more time I could have browsed the local history books, but I did enjoy looking at the ‘pods’ where different aspects of the area’s history was displayed.  The maps were particularly interesting as they helped me to understand the urban spread and visualise how things would have been in the days of my ancestors.

An 1879 publication by Mortimer Collins, ‘Pen Sketches by a Vanished Hand’, describes Chalvey very unflatteringly as “a very dusty and unhappy looking village” but where the brook had a reputation for producing “excellent eye-water”.  At that time there were apparently no more than 50 houses in Chalvey, but the area grew rapidly, assisted by railway communications and various local industries.  Being just across the Thames from Eton, the residents of Chalvey had regularly found employment there, and my Mayne family was no exception.  After their marriage Elizabeth worked as a laundress there and David as a gardener.

Perhaps the employment and housing prospects were better in the Croydon area as by 1881 David and Elizabeth George were settled back there with a second set of twins arriving in 1882.

I enjoyed my time looking around Upton cum Chalvey and trying to imagine how the area might have looked at the end of the nineteenth century.  How times have changed!

Borough of Slough 1880 – 1900, photographed at The Curve, Slough

 

The Staffordshire Regiment Museum

The third visit which I was keen to make during our time in Staffordshire was to the Staffordshire Regimental Museum.

Having two ancestors who served during WW1 with the North Staffordshires, I thought that visiting the museum might give me a little background information.  My Great Uncle William Neighbour Wakefield served with the 8th Battalion and Edmund Oldrieve Greenhill (who I wrote about the time before last in connection with our visit to Church Leigh), served with the 4th Battalion.

The museum website (http://www.staffordshireregimentmuseum.com/ ) was very helpful in terms of information for planning the visit.  With the Surrey History Centre having been keen to have digital copies of the WW1 correspondence in the family’s possession, I thought that the Regimental Museum might similarly be interested and so I emailed them some weeks before our visit.  However, unfortunately their eventual reply indicated that they were not able to receive items for a digital archive, which seems a pity.  I then asked whether there was a Battalion history for the 8th, thinking that I might be able to consult it when we visited.  This time one of their volunteer researchers replied, sending me a link to a subscription only website, but at least I could see that, yes, it appeared that there was indeed a Battalion history.

We took care to visit on a Thursday, which was the day that volunteer researchers might be available.  We found our way there with relative ease and found it a nice little museum.  Well-presented displays depicted different periods of history and there was a small shop and picnic benches outside.  Probably the best bit for me was the outside area:  there they had reconstructed a WW1 trench system (with due regard to British standards of health and safety and therefore somewhat more sanitised than some we have been to in France!), which then connected with a German counterpart and then a regimental timeline through a wooded area, with informative noticeboards.  All very well done and I do hope it is well used by school parties as it is a great resource. It did strike us that there were not many other visitors when we were there, especially considering that our visit was during half term.

Staffordshire Regiment Museum
Reconstructed WW1 trench
Inside the trench

 

 

 

 

 

Having looked at all the displays we then enquired at the reception desk about the Battalion history and whether they had a copy which could be consulted.  The volunteer who emerged was very certain that there was no Battalion history,  which was disappointing.  We had our lunch there and proceeded on our way.

Imagine then my frustration when we got back to where we were staying (and therefore wifi) to receive an email from another volunteer at the museum (a reply to one I had sent before we left home), but sent during the time that we were actually at the museum!  This to the effect that they would be happy to make copies from the Battalion history for a charge.  How frustrating!  I replied, expressing some frustration but stating the time frame I was interested in, and very quickly received copies of relevant pages from the Battalion history, for which I am truly grateful.  It gives a little more detail than the unit war diary and will be a useful resource, especially during our proposed visit to Belgium next Spring to mark the centenary of William’s death.

Anyway, that useful visit completed our trilogy of visits in Staffordshire – a county with attractive countryside and one I hope we will visit again.

Staffordshire Regiment Museum

 

National Memorial Arboretum

We have no known family connections with the National Memorial Arboretum, but it is somewhere that you catch glimpses of on the TV and so we thought that, being in Staffordshire for a few days, we would seek it out.

It is really well worth a visit!  The visitors’ leaflet describes it as “the UK’s year-round centre for Remembrance” and the 150+ acres contain more than 300 memorials for both military and civilian organisations.  Entry is free and the facilities are excellent, with good parking and a lovely visitors’ centre with shop and café.  For the less mobile there is a land train to take you round the key memorials.

I had read in advance that there is a daily act of remembrance at 11am, so on arrival we headed for the beautiful wood and glass chapel for this and for the Welcome Talk, which was a great introduction to how the Arboretum came about and its development.  Most of the staff are volunteers and were very helpful.

The Armed Forces Memorial, on the central mound,  honours those killed whilst serving since the end of WWII, with striking sculptures.  We were struck by how different all the memorials were – some large sculptures, some set in lovely gardens, some featuring buildings (such as that for the Far East Prisoners of War).  New memorials are being added all the time.  There are wildflower meadows and maturing woodland and a lovely riverside walk.

Armed Forces Memorial
Armed Forces Memorial
Armed Forces Memorial
Armed Forces Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

I thought I’d write of this in a family history blog for two reasons:  firstly because you may well know of a recent family member commemorated there by name and secondly because, even if you don’t know of anyone, there are computer touch-screens inside the visitor centre where you can search for names.  This is definitely a name-rich site and you may well learn of someone connected to you.

Women’s Land Army memorial
Christmas Truce memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may, in addition, have a personal connection with a particular regiment.  We found the memorial for the Staffordshire Regiment (of which Edmund Oldrieve Greenhill, who I wrote about last time, was part).  You can find a list of all the memorials here http://www.thenma.org.uk/whats-here/memorial-listing/

Staffordshire Regiment memorial

It really was a good day out – we walked miles, enjoyed the peace and beauty of the location, and were moved by the commemoration of so many on one site.

 

Two schools – two memorials

“So why are you going up to Staffordshire?”

Explaining that at least part of the reason for a half term expedition to that county was to visit a little village where a distant ancestor lived and taught, produced mixed reactions.  Fellow family history enthusiasts completely understood the desire to see the place for oneself.  Colleagues seemed less convinced.  Daughters – well – it was the expected tongue-in-cheek reaction of “the parents know how to have a good time!”

Undeterred, we set off for the tiny village of Church Leigh on the first day of our holiday.  We found the little village school easily and decided to park in the village hall car park.  Getting out of the car it was my husband who noticed that the building adjoining the village hall said “Old School House”.  Ah – that’s interesting.  Well the village hall could well have started life as a school too, having those annoyingly high windows.  But the old part of the school across the road looked as though it dated from a similar period.  So where did Edith Mayne live when she first moved up to Staffordshire from Berkshire somewhere between 1891 and 1901?

Church Leigh
Church Leigh School

Well, a Google search revealed that the village hall was built as the Boys’ School in 1857.  The website of the current school indicates that it was also built in 1857 and I suspect that it, too, provided living accommodation originally.  The 1901 census shows that Edith was a ‘Certificated Elementary School Mistress – Head’ and was working (and living) at the Girls’ School, Leigh, Staffordshire.  Her aunt, Louise Allen, also moved up with her, probably to ‘keep house’.  At the Boys’ School across the road, meanwhile, the schoolmaster was one George Greenhill and his 24 year old son Edmund was also working there as an Assistant Teacher.

Village hall, Church Leigh. Formerly Boys’ School

Although slightly older than Edmund, Edith obviously developed a close friendship with her colleague in the Boys’ school, and on 26 September 1908 they married in Leigh.

The Lichfield Mercury, on 29 April 1910, reported that the managers of Leigh School were urged to “reconsider the desirability of re-organising Leigh School in one department under a headmaster”.  This is what appears to have happened, since the 1911 census shows Edmund’s occupation as ‘Head Teacher, Elementary’ and Edith as ‘Assistant Teacher’.  Living with them by this time was Edith’s younger sister Annie, who had also apparently decided to pursue teaching as a career and moved to join them as an ‘Assistant Teacher’ in 1905 (source:  Teachers’ Registration Council registers on FindMyPast – registered 1 Aug 1920).

It would appear that Edith and Edmund did not have any children of their own – they appear to have dedicated their lives to the children they taught.  I had hoped that Edmund was too old to enlist in the First World War, but unfortunately not.   His service record unfortunately does not appear to have survived, but I do know that he was a Lance Serjeant in the 4th Battalion the North Staffordshire Regiment, service number 27779.  He died on 25 March 1918 in France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission site reveals that he is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial just north of Albert.  The entry states “Husband of Edith Emily Greenhill of Bleak House, Leigh, Stoke on Trent.  A schoolmaster at Leigh School”.

The 4th Battalion was an Extra Reserve Battalion, raised in Lichfield in 1914.  I can’t be sure whether Edmund joined up then or whether he waited until conscription for married men started in May 1916.  At that point he would have been 40 years old.   In the Spring of 1918 the Battalion took part in the First Battle of Bapaume 24-25 March, and this is quite likely when Edmund died.

I already knew that Edmund is commemorated on the Leigh war memorial outside the church, so having taken photos of the schools, we walked round to the church and duly found the war memorial. The Church itself was unfortunately all locked up, which was a shame.

War memorial Church Leigh

 

War Memorial Church Leigh. Edmund Oldrieve Greenhill
Names on War Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had previously wondered what happened to Edith after Edmund’s death.  It seems that she continued her teaching throughout the time that her husband was away. The Teachers’ Registration Council Registers available on FindMyPast indicate that Edith resumed her responsibilities as Head Mistress in 1916, a post that she was holding at the time of her official registration in 1920.   Only a few days before our holiday I had the idea of trying the 1939 Register on FindMyPast.  Although I did not pay to view the entry properly, I was able to see that she was still in the Uttoxeter Registration District at that date, living with Annie F Mayne and one other person.  Leigh was in the Uttoxeter District at that time.  Edith was by then 67 and Annie 53.  I then found a death registration for Annie, aged 59, in the March Quarter 1945 and one for Edith, aged 76, in the December Quarter 1948.  Since the National Probate Calendar revealed that Edith “of Bleak House, Leigh” died on 29 October 1948, I realised that it was highly likely that she was buried in the churchyard.  Accordingly we proceeded to scour the churchyard for graves of the right period and were about to give up the cause when we found the grave just inside the lych gate!  I was so thrilled.

The granite headstone reads:  “In loving memory of Annie Frances Mayne called to the Higher Life Feb 23rd 1945 aged 59 years.  The Communion of Saints.  Also of Edith Emily Greenhill widow of Edmund Oldrieve Greenhill who entered into her rest Oct 29th 1948 aged 76 years.  RIP.”  I wonder who erected the headstone?  Maybe surviving relatives of Edmund’s.

Edith Greenhill
Grave of Edith Greenhill and Annie Mayne
Annie Mayne
Grave of Edith Greenhill and Annie Mayne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether ‘Bleak House’ was synonymous with the living quarters at the Girls’ School or a separate house nearby I may never know.  The Greenhill seniors were living at the ‘Boys’ School House’ at the time of the censuses in 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911.  Edmund’s father died two years before him on 15 Dec 1916 “of the School House Leigh”.

My maternal grandfather was Edith and Annie’s cousin and Mum recalls the sisters visiting them in Guildford in the early 1940s – as it turns out not long before Annie’s death.   I still have no idea how it came about that Edith moved 150 miles north to teach, but it was a really special day for me to be able to see where these ancestors lived, loved, taught and died.    Leigh is a lovely little village, in very pretty countryside, and we enjoyed our Staffordshire expedition.