Mother to daughter

Well I was going to write a nice little piece aptly timed for Mothering Sunday last weekend, but then events took an interesting turn and I was unable to schedule a blog post for the first time in six months; so my apologies for that!

I had looked forward to a Mothering Sunday spent with my mother and with one of my daughters.  In the event I did see both of them, but we were visiting my Mum in hospital following a fall, fracture, and emergency partial hip replacement.  Not quite how I had imagined the day.

I had mentioned to the Registrar that both Mum’s parents had lived well into their nineties.  Granny was nearly 96 when she died, having lived through two world wars.

A couple of years ago I had an attempt at compiling a matrilineal tree – ie tracing back through daughter to mother.  It’s an interesting exercise, not without its challenges, but fascinating to do.

The earliest female ancestor I could find in this line was Sarah Stridwick, whose daughter Mary Cooper was born around 1688 in Warnham, Sussex, meaning that Sarah may have been born around 1668.  Mary Cooper’s daughter was Mary Knight, also born in Warnham, as was her daughter Sarah Charman, born in 1762.  Sarah’s daughter Harriet Capon was not born until 1800, this time in Capel, Surrey, just across the border.  I recently discovered, in the Haywards Heath Asylum Admission records at The Keep, that Harriet spent the last four months of her life in the Asylum, being admitted due to “senile insanity”.

Sayers, Ifield
Eliza Sayers, born 1825 Ifield, Sussex

Harriet’s  daughter Eliza Sayers was born in 1825 in Ifield, Sussex, again just back across the Surrey/Sussex border, and her daughter Mary Philpott was born in 1853 a little further south in Shipley, West Sussex.  My grandmother, Emily Mitchell, was born 35 years later, also in Shipley, in 1888.

Philpott, Shipley
Mary Philpott, born 1853 Shipley, Sussex

Of these seven women, two were over 80 at death and two more over 90 years of age.

I am happy to say that Mum is making good progress.  I hope the new hip keeps her going for at least as long as her female ancestors!

More of Picturesque Sussex

One of the reasons for buying ‘Picturesque Sussex’ (see first installment on 19 Dec) was because it mentions West Grinstead in its grand tour of the county.

West Grinstead was where my Granny grew up and was married and where several generations of Mitchells before her had lived and died.  Certainly at least three generations had been employed at West Grinstead Park:  James Mitchell was some sort of  ‘caretaker’ during the first half of the nineteenth century, Thomas Mitchell was woodman on the estate around 1860 – 1880, and my great grandfather William Mitchell was a ‘houseman’ from the 1880s onwards, one of whose duties was apparently to “raise and lower the flag”.  In fact I have an old postcard of the house which says on the back “Dad standing on tower about to take flag down”.

West Grinstead
West Grinstead Park

West Grinstead Park House was unfortunately demolished in 1964, but the Park itself still exists, and Steyning Lodge, where my Granny lived, is still there.

West Grinstead
Steyning Lodge, West Grinstead

‘Picturesque Sussex’ describes West Grinstead as “a large village surrounded by copses and meadow-land”.  Apparently the Park was famous for ‘Pope’s Oak’ – a reference to Alexander Pope, a friend of one-time owner John Caryll.  It is believed that he wrote ‘Rape of the Lock’ while staying at West Grinstead Park in 1712.  However, the entry for West Grinstead in the Victoria County History claims that “there is no evidence that the incident which gave rise to the poem occurred at West Grinstead,  nor that the poem was composed under the oak tree in West Grinstead park which was made the subject of a tree preservation order in 1951”.

The book also refers to the ruins of Knepp Castle, within the parish of Shipley, which can still be seen from the public footpath on the west side of the A24.  It goes on to say that King John stayed there several times.  ‘Picturesque Sussex’ then mentions the ‘new mansion’ (built around 1809) which suffered a ‘disastrous fire’ in 1904.  What it does not mention,  is that the house was rebuilt the following year.  I know this from one of the old postcards in my possession that have been kept within the family.  My 3 x great grandfather Francis Philoptt lived at Knepp Mill around 1861 – 1871 and would have known the ‘new mansion’ in its prime.

Knepp Castle
Rebuilding Knepp Castle Jan 18th 1905
Knepp Castle
The Lake Knepp Castle

‘Picturesque Sussex’ is giving me new glimpses into notable features of the county just over a hundred years ago.