Surrey In The Great War

So I’m making progress with the New Year’s Resolutions!

Some weeks ago I uploaded the stories of brothers William and Jack Wakefield to the Surrey In the Great War website, and I am happy to say that they have now been moderated and are available to view online at www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk.  Click on ‘People’ and you can then search for both of them.  I didn’t find it the most intuitive of processes, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to upload any images for Jack at the time.

Surrey In The Great War

However, I had a lovely and very detailed email back from Dr Kirsty Bennett, Senior Project Officer.  She wanted, quite rightly, to check a number of sources with me and the ownership of the images I did send.  I have now sent her a photo of Jack Wakefield (my Grandad) and hope that this will appear as his profile photo in due course.

She also wondered whether I had digital images for the POW letters from my Grandad to his parents, written in 1918.  This led me to double-check what I already had images of and which I had merely transcribed.  Over the last couple of weeks I have photographed all the documents I could find:  the POW letters, the letters from the War Office and from the North Staffordshire Regiment subsequent to William’s death and many other family birth, marriage and death certificates that  I don’t think I’ve ever seen before (and at least a couple that I paid good money to get hold of from the GRO some years ago, not knowing that they were already in the family’s possession!  There’s a learning point there!).

Letter from William Wakefield while in training 1917

I am now in a position to send in a number of items for Surrey History Centre’s digital archive of WW1 material so that they are preserved for posterity.  Just a little more work to do there, and then I will perhaps pluck up courage to take another look at the IWM Lives of the First World War.  I uploaded information on Grandad’s WW1 service a couple of years ago https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/4574929, but I remember it being a tortuous process, with text boxes being not nearly big enough so that I had to break it all down into a number of sections.  I know I’ve been putting off tackling another submission – I wonder whether the process of uploading will have been streamlined at all?

The other ongoing question mark is over tracking down the grave of William and Jack’s parents in Brookwood Cemetery.  We found their burial numbers easily at Surrey History Centre back in February and went straight to the cemetery office, where a very helpful lady was able to identify broadly which plots they might be in but said that finding the precise location would take a little longer.  She took my email address to get back to me….and nothing has been forthcoming.  I have since emailed them twice, but no response whatsoever.  This is disappointing – so near and yet so far.  Never mind – onwards and upwards!

 

 

Well there’s a coincidence!

I mentioned in my New Year blog that my intention, having packed up the George files temporarily, was to return to my Wakefield research and in particular to my Grandad, Jack Wakefield, and his brother William, both of whom fought in WW1.  I have had in mind to upload their stories onto the Surrey In the Great War website www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk.

In revisiting this website for the first time in a while, I discovered through my ‘person search’ for William Wakefield that not only does his name appear on the Woking Town War Memorial, but it is also on a board at the Maybury Centre (formerly Maybury School), commemorating ‘old boys’ who fell in the First World War.  Now this was news to me.  I looked up the location of the school and realised that it was a short walk from the family’s home in Church Street, Woking (the house now replaced by a multi storey car park).  I found the website for the Maybury Centre, which seems to be a thriving community centre, and wondered how I could get in there one day to see the board for myself.

And then one of those strange coincidences happened.  I checked my diary for the location of a workshop I was due to attend on early dance, and which I had booked onto some weeks previously.  You can probably guess what I’m about to say next.  Yes!  The workshop was to be held at the Maybury Centre in Woking!!

I went armed with my camera and, once inside, pushed open a few former classroom doors until I found the room with the war memorial board on the wall.  I was just so thrilled both to see it and to be inside the school that my Great Uncle attended and (I was now surmising) my Grandad and his siblings had probably also attended.

Maybury School
Maybury School
War Memorial inside Maybury School
War Memorial inside Maybury School

Would any records still exist for Maybury School?  The online catalogue for Surrey History Centre indicated a reference for a log book, so Half Term was then a great opportunity to visit to check it out.  The staff were really helpful and I was soon looking at the Boys’ School Log Book for 1880 to 1975 (reference 8101/2/2) whilst my husband got stuck into the Punishment Book for 1908 to 1975 (8101/2/5).  I reckoned that the Wakefields moved to Woking some time after 1907 and before 1910 (when the youngest child was born in Woking).

The log book was fascinating but there were unfortunately few names of pupils and no Admission Records.  Outbreaks of measles, mumps, chicken pox and scarlet fever were common occurrences. The school was regularly closed for Empire Day, Sunday School treats and the circus coming to town.  The oldest boys (perhaps those about to leave) had medical inspections and the County Nurse was also a frequent visitor to check for body lice, with boys often being sent home because of this.  Once the First World War started there were staffing issues as various teachers were called up and collections were taken both for the Red Cross and for the Surrey Prisoners of War Fund.  On 10 December 1919 the entry read “school closed this afternoon for the opening of the memorial to the old boys of the school who fell in the Great War”.

Maybury School
Old Boys of Maybury School who fell in the Great War

The Punishment book, however, was more fruitful in terms of names.  On 1 October 1912 a boy by the name of Wakefield in Standard 2 received “2 stripes” from Mr Painter for “continual inattention” and then on 16 November 1914 J Wakefield in Standard 3 received 2 stripes again, this time from the Headmaster, for “constant trouble”.  Well, I think that both of these refer to Grandad, Jack Wakefield.  He would have been aged 13 and 15 at the time and quite possibly felt he had outgrown school by this time.  His older brother William was working by the time of the 1911 census and no doubt Jack felt he wanted to be out in the world too.

After our visit to the History Centre we drove to Walton Road, to the location of the butcher’s shop where both brothers worked before the war.  Although the property has been replaced by a block of modern flats, many of the terraced houses from that period survive and give an indication of how Woking would have looked in the early twentieth century.

Oh, and if you get the chance to take part in a workshop on early dance (16th and 17th century), be warned that it’s quite energetic!

 

Of Buttons and Buckles

Being a firm believer in keeping things in case they one day come in useful, it is probably no surprise for you to learn that I have a considerable button collection.  I have the spare buttons in their clear little plastic packages, carefully saved from garments going back donkeys’ years.  I did have a phase of attempting to label them, so that I knew which garment the button belonged to, but the trouble is as the years go by you do wonder which particular pair of beige trousers this specific button belonged to.  Was it a pair that went to a charity shop a couple of decades ago? Quite possibly. And then there are the buttons that were cut off clothes before being thrown out altogether.

However, some of my buttons did indeed come in useful for a project I completed just before Christmas.  It was also a great opportunity to use up some of my equally large collection of fabric off-cuts.  I decided to make a ‘twiddle rug’ for my Dad for Christmas.  Now, I already had a knitting pattern for a ‘twiddle muff’, but I somehow didn’t think that would work for him.  But a bit of hunting around on the internet revealed designs of ‘twiddle rugs’ (sometimes also called ‘fiddle rugs’) – basically a lap rug with lots of things attached to fiddle with.  People with dementia and associated conditions (my Dad has Parkinson’s, so some days are more lucid than others) can often be seen fiddling with their clothing or bedclothes, so a twiddle rug gives them something else to play with and can offer stimulation.

Basically I made a patchwork of variously textured fabrics and backed it with a lightweight fleecy material, attaching buttons to fasten, buckles to slide, a zip, a pocket, a large popper and dog motif.  I also sewed on his initials.  It’s no great work of art but it was made with love for a dear father.

Twiddle Rug
Twiddle Rug

I already had the button tins that had belonged to my aunt (my Dad’s twin sister) and my cousin.  As I was on the lookout for particularly large buttons, Mum now also gave me my Nanny Wakefield’s button tin (my Dad’s mother – Lily Wakefield, nee Bryant).  I think it’s fascinating to look at some of these buttons and wonder what kind of garment they came from:  the obviously sixties buttons, the little shell buttons, toggles, covered buttons and downright ugly buttons.  What stories they could tell of the past! But they were all kept by someone in case they came in useful.

And come in useful they have.  I don’t know for how long Dad will be able to make use of the twiddle rug, but I enjoyed making it and allowing some of these old buttons and buckles to see the light of day once more.

Buttons and buckles from Nanny Wakefield's button tin
Buttons and buckles from Nanny Wakefield’s button tin

 

New Year’s resolutions

 

This time last year I decided that my New Year’s resolution would be to complete my George family write-up.  Well, I’m pleased to report that, despite the difficulties of the year, I did achieve this goal, and a number of family members received a copy for Christmas.

It documents the George family of East Dereham from my earliest proven ancestor David George, born around 1786, through two more generations born in East Dereham to my great grandfather (another David George) and his move south to Croydon and his marriage and family there.  I’ve included my hypothesis that John George and Ann Gallant were the parents of David George senior, but, despite many years of research, I have been unable to prove this.  I’ve also included as an appendix what I know of the family of Astey George, buried inside East Dereham church, but with whom I believe my own family has no connection.

George family of East Dereham

Although a family history is never finished, I do think that it is good to bring everything known so far together and to disseminate what is known among wider family members.  It has already produced a new snippet of information from my aunt and a small family-related artefact from my Mum.  I will also send a copy to Norfolk Family History Society at Kirby Hall in Norwich.  All of this will hopefully mean that, even though there are loose ends, what I have been researching for getting on for 40 years (I did start in my teens!) will not be entirely lost if something suddenly happens to me.

george-family-write-up-2

I was interested to read in this month’s Family Tree magazine www.family-tree.co.uk  of various contributors’ family history-related resolutions for the coming year.  It is heartening to know that even a professional researcher like David Annal has decades-worth of papers waiting to be organised!

This year, once I have finally tidied up the George papers and filed them away neatly, I plan to re-visit my Wakefield research.  In particulary I want to update my research on my grandfather Jack and his brother William, both from Woking, who were in Flanders in 1918 at the same time, though in different regiments.  One was killed and the other was captured, and I want to be able to upload their stories onto the Surrey In the Great War website www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk and also the IWM Lives of the First World War.  It would also be great if I could locate the graves of their parents in Brookwood Cemetery, and I gather there might be a finding aid at Surrey History Centre to help with this.

So that’s the plan.  No doubt I will get sidetracked along the way, but that’s the fun of family history, isn’t it?

Happy New Year!

 

Advent

My Granny, Emily Eliza Mitchell, was baptised at Shipley, in Sussex, on Advent Sunday in 1888, 128 years ago.

I learnt that piece of information 24 years ago, when, following a fairly traumatic birth, we took our first baby daughter to Church on Advent Sunday for a Thanksgiving Service.  She is partly named after her great grandmother, and my Mum remarked on how appropriate the day was.

I do like Advent.  There’s something about all those great Advent hymns in minor keys (‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’, ‘Come thou long-expected Jesus’, ‘Lo, he comes with clouds descending’ etc), the purple of altar frontals and liturgical robes and advent candles to light.  And of course Advent Calendars.  I remember as a child being thrilled when our neighbours the Madgwicks gave us an Advent calendar (no chocolate ones in those days!) and I still like to have one.  It brings out the child in me to count the days till Christmas!  When our children were small we made a large Blue Peter-inspired one which involved toilet rolls and lots of tissue paper, glue and paint.    It got re-used for a number of years.

Last Sunday being Advent Sunday it got me thinking about what my ancestors might have been doing during that period in years gone by.  Not counting the days with chocolate-filled Advent Calendars, that’s for sure.

David George, my earliest proven ancestor on my Norfolk George tree, married Elizabeth Jefferies on Sunday 7 December 1806 at East Dereham – the second Sunday in Advent, but only a year later they buried their first baby, Mary Ann, on 13 December 1807, the third Sunday in Advent.

David’s son John George married Emily White on Sunday 6 December 1840 – also the second Sunday in Advent.

His son David, my great grandfather, married Elizabeth Mayne in Croydon on a Saturday – the 29 November 1873 – the day before Advent Sunday.

On my Wakefield tree, my great grandfather William Wakefield married Annie Neighbour on 10 December 1893 in Newington, again the second Sunday in Advent.

Caleb Osborne, the cordwainer from Shipley in Sussex, married Mary Botting on the Tuesday after Advent Sunday in 1802 – the 30 November.

My Mitchell and Phipott ancestors, on the other hand, seem to have had a distinct aversion to doing anything like getting married or baptised during the back end of the year – apart from my Granny, that is.

I discovered  when Advent Sunday was in years gone by on this website: www.timeanddate.com/holidays/uk/first-day-advent , where you can also calculate all kinds of dates.

So Happy Advent!  I hope this season is not too frenetic for you and that you can find some space to welcome the coming light:

“O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.” 

Advent

 

More fun at the fair

This time last year I had a very fruitful trip to the West Surrey Family History Society Open Day, held at Woking Leisure Centre, so on 5 November I went to it again, and this time my husband was able to come along too.

It’s such a big event:  many neighbouring family history societies have stalls as well as local history groups, plus there are organisations selling archival storage products, maps, postcards, books and charts.

West Surrey FHS www.wsfhs.co.uk/pages/index.php had their research resources available and I was most interested to look at a map from the A – Z of Victorian London, showing the area where my Bryant ancestors worked as saddlers and harness makers in Belgravia.

I have been enjoying finding out more about the life and works of Flora Thompson this year.  John Owen Smith, local historian and author of ‘On the trail of Flora Thompson’ (among his many published works) was there with his own stall www.johnowensmith.co.uk.  We had a lovely conversation with him about the local connections of Grayshott and Liphook and bought a book of ‘Walks from the railway’.

We also found out from the folk on the Brookwood Cemetery Society stall www.tbcs.org.uk how to go about tracking down the grave of my Wakefield great grandparents, who I know are buried there.  This is definitely something to follow up.

“Don’t turn round, but I’m sure that’s Eve McLaughlin on the stall behind you”.  And it was!  There she was staffing the Buckinghamshire Family History Society stall www.bucksfhs.org.uk. When we lived in Milton Keynes in the late eighties we were members of Bucks FHS and frequently used to go over to Aylesbury on a Saturday afternoon to attend the meetings.  Eve was so energetic and inspirational, and of course she is a prolific author of family history booklets:  ‘Annals of the Poor’, ‘Reading old handwriting’, ‘Quarter Sessions’ etc.  (This year I had the forethought to make a list of the family history-related books that I own in advance of going to the fair, to minimise the risk of buying a book I already have!).  We had a lovely chat with Eve and bought two of her books to add to the collection: ‘Nonconformist ancestors’ and ‘What does it mean – words in wills, inventories, deeds and documents’.

My husband bought a couple of useful-looking Cassini maps of Norfolk, but we looked in vain for ‘My ancestor was a Quaker’.  I think it may currently be out of print.

At the Surrey History Centre stall, the archivist and I agreed that we would both very much like to be able to afford to give up work and spend our time indexing and doing family history!  What a lovely job to have, though.  She had brought with her a beautiful Victorian/Edwardian photograph album of unknown provenance, which had come from a house clearance.  How sad that these are someone’s ancestors and are unnamed.

Imogen on the Surrey in the Great War stall was just as enthusiastic as she had been when I spoke to her last year, but sadly never received the information I sent her then on the Wakefield brothers.  I will resend it to her.

By midday we were glad of a chance to sit down for a bit, and were in for a treat attending the talk given by Myko Clelland on using Findmypast.  His enthusiasm was infectious and I was particularly interested to learn more about the 1939 Register, which I have to admit I have not investigated up till now.

Overall, it was a lovely morning spent with fellow enthusiasts, with the chance to buy products and network with useful organisations and people.  Thank you WSFHS!

West Surrey Family History Society
WSFHS Fair 2016

 

The Battle of the Somme

The recent commemorations of the start of the the WW1 Battle of the Somme, both in France and elsewhere, have deservedly had a lot of air-time on TV.  I found it very inspiring in particular to watch the ceremony held at Thiepval and to see that so many people cared enough to make that journey and to be there to mark the occasion.

We were fortunate enough to be able to visit Thiepval a few years ago.  It was very moving to see for the first time the name of my great-uncle, William Neighbour Wakefield, inscribed on the huge Lutyens memorial.  This was, of course, built to commemorate the missing of the Somme.  Ironically, my great-uncle was nowhere near the Somme when he was killed in action on 12 April 1918.  He was in Belgium at the time and it was an administrative error which led to his name being on the Thiepval Memorial rather than on the Menin Gate at Ypres (which we have also visited).  Nevertheless, on our return home I submitted information and a photograph to those who compile the information for the database available in the Thiepval Visitor Centre and felt pleased that I had been able to contribute in this way.

Of the many projects underway during these years of commemoration of the WW1, the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/   is a fantastic initiative.  Over seven and a half million life stories have now been uploaded to the site by members of the public.

Many projects are also underway at county level, and Surrey has recently launched Surrey in the Great War www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk . When I first met the enthusiastic team behind this project I was inspired to send them some information on the Woking Wakefield brothers.  Unfortunately the total lack of acknowledgment rather dampened my enthusiasm for sending in anything further, but I should probably now put that setback behind me and see what else I can share now that the website is up and running.  Perhaps I’ll make that a summer project!

It is many years since I last visited Surrey History Centre, but we did so on 2 July for the screening of the film ‘The Battle of the Somme’.  This film was hugely popular when it was shown in UK cinemas in 1916:  many watched it in the hope of spotting a loved one.  Now the film has been remastered by the Imperial War Museum, with a new music score by Laura Rossi which works incredibly well with the silent film.  The screening was preceeded by a talk by Dr Emma Hanna of the University of Kent and the Gateways to the WW1 project http://www.gatewaysfww.org.uk/ , in which she gave very useful background to why and how the film was created and how it was subsequently viewed.  Although some of the scenes were staged before or after the event, the scenes of wounded men and German prisoners cannot fail to have an impact.  Despite the fact that we know it is a sanitised version of conditions, the film nevertheless conveys something of the life of the troops both behind and on the front line and is therefore of great interest to those of us with personal connections to those who fought on the Western Front.

I would certainly recommend seeing the film if you can – you can find out more at  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060008206

Thiepval
Thiepval Memorial
Thiepval
Thiepval Memorial