Isaac’s Tea Trail

During my weekly trips to the gym I like to listen to Radio 4 podcasts on my mp3.  Probably my favourite programme to listen to is Ramblings, with Clare Balding.  I love how she meets and chats to so many ordinary people, with amazingly different reasons for walking and I enjoy hearing about different parts of the country.  Last week I was particularly captivated as I listened to an episode broadcast back in March, entitled ‘Isaac’s Tea Trail’.

This is a long distance circular path of 36 miles in Northumberland, and it starts and finishes in Allendale.  During the walk Clare found out more about who the Isaac was who inspired the creation of the walk.

Isaac Holden was born around 1805 in Allendale.  In addition to his grocery business he used to sell tea door to door, visiting the households spread out across the moors.  On his travels, moreover, he also invited donations for worthy community causes, and sold his poems, becoming quite a local philanthropist.  He raised money for a fresh water well to help combat cholera; he set up a clothes store to help the local poor; he founded a savings bank and he also raised money for a horse drawn hearse so that the poor could be taken to their funerals in dignity.  His charitable work was inspired by his strong Methodist roots, and the programme describes how the oldest Methodist chapel in continuous use – Keeley – is near to Allendale.

I was inspired by the programme to see what else I could find out about Isaac.  The first record to come up on The Genealogist was the 1851 census, where Isaac is in Allendale aged 47 with wife Ann and daughter Maria – his occupation given as ‘Grocer and tea dealer’.  A little more delving revealed a marriage to Ann Teailford in December 1834, and then an 1841 census entry for the family with a second daughter, Mary.  By the time of the 1861 census wife Ann was a widow, still living in Allendale with daughter Maria.

I was also able to discover that Isaac had a younger brother Jonathan, who was a witness at his wedding, and who was a lead ore miner.  His brother unfortunately died in 1852.

Switching to Ancestry, I found a death date for Isaac through the link to the Find a Grave site .  He died on 12 November 1857, aged only 51.  There is a photo of the headstone in St Cuthbert’s graveyard, which also records the deaths of his wife Ann in 1872, his daughter Mary Ann in 1846 (aged just 7) and his daughter Maria Forster in 1871 and her two infant sons, named after their grandfather.

If I had a subscription to the British Newspaper Archive I could find yet more about Isaac.  There is a tantalizing snippet in the Newcastle Courant for 22 April 1853, where Isaac had put an advertisement:  “I intend publisling my begging speech and this little poem, and giving the profits to some good cause. If any is wishful to have a copy, at twopence each, I shall feel happy to supply them”.

On the Methodist Heritage site I found a very informative leaflet about the Tea Trail . This indicates that there is a memorial to Isaac in Allendale and that the well and savings bank are still in existence.

Finally The North Penines Virtual Museum at  was particularly useful with further detail on Isaac.  Apparently over 600 people contributed to his memorial after his death.   This site reveals that a Mr Pruddah took his photo in 1853, which Isaac then sold for 6d a copy to raise funds for the hearse project – quite a new way at this time of marketing his cause.  This was obviously a man with a strong community spirit and sense of purpose who was determined to make a difference in his local area.

This episode of Ramblings also mentioned that Isaac had written a tract on the principles of fundraising, but of that I could find no trace during my evening of searching the internet.  Pity – it might have come in useful!

Isaac Holden
Isaac Holden



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



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.

Brookwood Military Cemetery

Brookwood Military Cemetery

Brookwood Military Cemetery