Archive for March, 2013

Butley – an early bit of genealogy

March 31, 2013

Butley is a little village in Suffolk. My Great Granny was born there although for reasons unknown she left and moved to Isfield in Sussex. So, too, did two of her sisters. In fact pretty well the whole family – surname Crosby – left Butley during the second half of the nineteenth century.

My dad took his mum to Butley at some point in the 60s and I have, somewhere, a photo of Granny standing by the school that her mum had attended. I must find it.

My first visit was another thirty years on in 1996. My wife and I camped in Suffolk and on one occasion we took our daughter and niece to the village. I photographed the school too.


It was before my own journey into genealogy, but I always had interest and I recorded a name on the list of local men who had served in World War I.


Aha – photos from the colour print era. How times have changed.

The name that interested me at the time was John Crosby.


I didn’t know at the time that a 3 greats grandfather had been a Cullingford or that a distant Crosby relative had married a Collins. Mind, I do not know of any relationship I have with Bertie Collins or Jack Cullingford.


These three, I now know were cousins of my gran. Her Aunt Eliza (née) Crosby had married Charles Mann. And I suspect there was something of a closeness between the families in Sussex and Suffolk. One of my gran’s brothers was given the forenames Charles Mann which must link him to this family. Sadly, Charles Mann Stevens died in infancy.


The Reeves were more distant relatives. William did not return from France.

Oddly, the one name of interest I can’t trace on that memorial is John Crosby. He must surely be a relative but I have not found out how John connects with the parishes mentioned or how he relates to me.


Tin mines

March 30, 2013

Many of my wife’s ancestors were Cornish and many of them were miners. Cornwall has a long history of metal ore mining – copper and tin being the chief metals extracted. Like much of our UK industry, it has now gone.

But back in the early 1970s, Geevor tin mine was still working.


In 1972 we had no idea how much family involvement there was with the mines. Great Grandfather, for example, spent his young adult life down the Cornish mines. Then he tried his luck in the USA and must have succeeded, for he came back and set up a drapery business.

By the time we knew more, the mines of Cornwall had finished. Geevor became a mining museum which we visited in 2003.


There’s a chance to visit one seam and get some idea of the life underground.


Except, of course, that we had good lighting to see by.

My abiding memory is of the sharp political comment by the miners – left in a very pointed cartoon.


Now that’s what I Call cartoon brilliance.

But to no avail. Mrs Thatcher managed to end the UK mining industry almost entirely.

More early memories

March 29, 2013

We looked at some of my early memories once before. You can read about the time I fell into a ditch and of a yellow diesel shunter by clicking here. That was in 1952. Today we’ll look at 1953. Actually, we have already seen something that leads into this for there’s a picture of me with brother and sister just before our Queen’s Coronation (click here).

That was on Mount Caburn near Glynde in Sussex. I was four at the time and the impact that area was to have on me hadn’t then materialised. To be honest, I don’t really remember Mount Caburn at all from that trip. Although it is by no means a vast hill, it was too big for a 4 year old to take in. What I recall is that I found a hump – possibly a tumulus, and that was ‘my’ hill.


And there I am on my grassy knoll and don’t I look pleased.

Another memory didn’t please me. That was my dad taking delayed exposure shots of Christmas dinner – so that he could be in the shot.


Here we have a family group. My dad is at the head of the table and next to him is his dad and then his mum. My sister and brother come next. I have my back to camera and then it is my mum. Everyone was happy – except me. My problem was that dad had set fire to a length of cotton behind me. This was part of his self-invented delayed shutter mechanism but I felt sure the house would burn down.

It didn’t, of course.

The chairs my brother and I are sitting on were made by friendly German prisoners. My wife and I had them when we started married life and later we passed them on to friends.

It may look like a telly behind my grandfather, but it isn’t. That was a ‘wireless’. Granny has tropical fish above her head

Back on the canal

March 28, 2013

This dates back to 1975.

When canals were built, mostly towards the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th, they created problems. It’s obvious really. People and animals can’t walk over them from one side to the other. Bridges were needed. Very often, bridges in rural areas needed to be cheap and cheerful; structures that might allow a farmer to take animals from fields on one side of the water to pastures new on the other side. A hefty masonry structure was hardly economic – yet the bridge had to allow the boats through so a simple plank bridge wouldn’t do either.

Bridges had to be movable. On that Welsh canal, near Llangollen, the bridges lift.


Here is such a bridge. The canal could be narrowed down to just the width of a boat. A simple plank bridge was hinged at the far side and just rested on the near bank. The overhead structure provided the means to lift the bridge. A chain hangs down from the counterbalance weight on the far side. The additional weight of a person pulling on that lifted the bridge to a near vertical position to allow a boat through. Then the bridge could be lowered to allow land traffic of a light nature to pass over the canal.

So simple! So effective! So attractive!

On the Street where I lived

March 27, 2013

For virtually all of my childhood, I lived on a village street in Ifield which is in the top right hand corner of West Sussex. During my childhood the village became a part of Crawley New Town but remained, as it still is, right on the edge. The street was very ordinary although it had features not all villages had. There was a village shop almost opposite our house. A bit further along there was a pub which was always seen as a den of iniquity in my family. There was a bus stop by the pub. We could catch a bus into the town of Crawley from there. We even had a petrol station and car repair garage – not that we had a car to be repaired for many a year. There was a hall – I’ll call it a village hall – where community events took place. We were there quite often.

Ifield, like other villages, met the needs of the local inhabitants.

There were some odd things in my childhood. One was that we had friends who were Germans. It was soon after World War II and people, unthinkingly really, hated the Germans. But not in our household. In about 1961, one of the family German friends, Herman and his wife Geppa paid us a visit and my photo shows Herman setting up a group snapshot.


I still visit this street and I am reminded how much change there has been. The first house we see on the right was fairly new then. The two young lads standing outside it will be Michael and Peter. After I left home, my dad bought that house and members of the family still live there. The little bungalow has gone and has been replaced by a modern dwelling. The pub – The Royal Oak – is behind Herman. You can see the pub sign and the other small square sign on a post is the bus stop. By this time there was a bus shelter on the other side of the road.

The left hand side has gained a pavement. Back then cars were still a luxury and by no means everybody had one. It was perfectly safe for Herman to set his camera up, standing in the street and then to get himself into his photo.


The people, from left to right are my dad, Geppa, Herman, my mum, me, my sister and my brother.

You can’t actually see our house. The window on the right is the other half of the pair of semis. The house associated with the garage is immediately behind us all.

These days you probably wouldn’t see us for parked cars!

Steam Special

March 26, 2013

From time to time my most local railway line gets a visit from a steam hauled special train. The local line is actually the main line between London and Exeter and on to Plymouth – and finally Penzance.

It is quite hard for timetablers to find a path for these trains. Our all but heritage aged main line expresses travel at 100 plus miles per hour. The steamers are much slower. But slots are found which allows we linesiders to enjoy a wonderful spectacle.

Actually, we linesiders are often castigated – quite rightly – for taking our photos and contributing nothing to the running costs of the train so I will say that I do contribute in various ways, but my budget just doesn’t run to days out at some of the prices. As far as I know, travellers on the train I’m going to show paid £495 for their tickets. Had I wanted to travel on it (and I’d love to) I’d have needed to get to London and I’d have needed overnight accommodation there. I’d have taken my wife, of course, so the trip would have come in at something approaching £1500. This was an expensive train. They can be much cheaper. There’s one in May we’d have loved to have gone on called The Heart of Wales and starting more locally, in Bristol. That one costs £89 each – and I’d afford that on special occasions. I do hope that one gets repeated on a day when I am free to travel.

My photographed train passed through on 13th March 2013. I was tied up in the morning as it headed out. My wife heard it on the local line. We went to see it on its return with the sun setting behind it.


If we go back fifty years, this train would just have been entering Lavington station, but that was closed by Doctor Beeching who was doing the bidding of his political masters. You might tell that it was a difficult photograph, with the train in shade and a bright sky behind. I like the mood of the unaltered photo, above but we can make the train more visible.


However you adjust it – what a fantastic sight. The loco is number 350328, Clan Line. I used to see this engine in my train spotting days of the early 1960s when it was based at Nine Elms, just outside Waterloo and was used on main expresses to Southampton and Bournemouth as well as to the West of England via Salisbury.

But a train isn’t just the loco pulling it. The train here consisted of a wonderful set of Pullman cars, in traditional brown and cream livery.

I had hoped that I’d be able to watch the train pass and then grab a shot of train and distant loco as it rounded the curve, but the train was too long to quite allow this.

Never mind, I could enjoy a quick view of the people in the train, with their little table lamps.

Meet the Ancestor – Henry Pickup

March 25, 2013

My wife and I really didn’t know we had Pickup ancestors until fairly recently. The discovery of that family was a part of our journey into genealogy.

Pickups tend to come from Lancashire and we believe our family originated in that county. However, our Henry Pickup was born in 1841 in Hunslet, a part of Leeds in Yorkshire. Henry is a great great grandfather.

His parents were Lancashire born Reuben and Mary (née) Foxton. We can of course find census information about them. We know that Reuben was a tailor and he and his wife probably always lived in her home county of Yorkshire.

By 1861 Reuben was a widower and our Henry was a bolt maker. Hunslet was a centre, amongst other things, for making steam railway locos. It is possible that Henry worked in that industry.

In 1862, Henry married Sarah Jane Peel, a Hunslet born lass. They were to have a long marriage.

During their marriage they produced these children.



Born at


James Henry

ca 3 1863


ca 12 1951 at Barkston Ash

Emma Louisa

ca 12 1866

Hunslet Leeds

Clara Emily

ca 12 1868


1945 at Stockport

Mary Ellen



George Edward

ca 9 1873


ca 3 1947 at Leeds

Walter Peel

ca 6 1876


ca 3 1940 at Leeds

Frederick Herbert

ca 6 1879

Normanton, Wakefield

10 6 1916 WW1




A brief interlude in a long career as a nut and bolt maker is suggested on the 1881census when Henry was listed as a blacksmith. He may, of course, have been a blacksmith making nuts and bolts.

For the 1911 census we find that Henry and Sarah were retired and living with son, Walter, and family. This census is sometimes known as the fertility census. It reveals that Henry and Sarah had completed 48 years of marriage and had produced nine children, of which seven survived. There is one we don’t know about.

The following year, Henry and Sarah celebrated their Golden wedding.

And then ten years after that, in 1922, they celebrated a diamond wedding. This was unusual and they got their photo in a newspaper – the only photo we have of the couple.



The same picture but the yellow hue removed and a bit of blurring done to make it less dotty.

Henry died in 1925. I wonder how many nuts and bolts he made during his life. Sarah died in 1928.

A card to Granny (2)

March 24, 2013

Today I have a postcard which is a bit of a mystery. Here’s the picture.


Not surprisingly, I think this is a fantastic card. It has so much that I love. First of all there’s a large mill building and it says it has two methods of powering it. One is by water turbine and the other is by steam. Ooh! A shiver of enthusiasm goes through me.

Then, it is Isfield In terms of my family history, this village in Sussex is a real heartland. Generations of ancestors lived in and around Isfield (Don’t confuse it with Ifield where I spent much of my childhood – different places). It is history and I love history – particularly social history and the whole scene just oozes that. The mystery in the picture concerns the people. Who are they? I want to know because of the message.


The card is addressed to my grandmother. She’d have been 15 when the card was sent in 1907 and she was in service at Saxon Court – a small country house in Buxted. Significantly, Buxted is where my grandfather lived. We have seen, on this blog, a mirror writing message that Grandad had sent to Granny the following year. (Click here)

If you read the message you’ll see that the writer seemed to think my Gran would know about the gentleman in the picture. That’s what makes me really want to know who any of the three people in the picture might be. None of them look like boyfriend material for a 15 year old girl. They are not Gran’s father, nor, I would have thought, her brother. Gosh, I wonder who they are. But we are told that for one of them, at least, it is like him to a T, so just maybe there is somebody in the world who might recognise an Isfield area ancestor from around 1907.

The other thing I don’t know is who the sender was. She was called Mary and sent from Sevenoaks. She may well have been an Isfield area lass in service at the Kentish town. One possibility – and I have no idea if she was ever at Sevenoaks, is my Gran’s cousin, Mary Allen – a couple of years older than Gran and Isfield born.

Any other ideas would be very well received.


March 23, 2013

Haytor is on Dartmoor in Devon.

My first ever trip out of the south east of England was in 1961. It took me, with family, to Dartmoor, but I didn’t discover Haytor on that occasion.

Haytor was found by me in the early 1980s on a family holiday with my children. We were ambling on Dartmoor when I realised I was going along what looked like a pair of tracks laid deliberately and shaped so that wagons, with ordinary wheels, would stay on course.


It was a railway – the Haytor granite tramway.

We found a junction.


I was enthralled for I knew nothing of this line, or its history. If you want to know a lot about this line then try . I’ll just say it was built in 1820 to get the classy local granite down to a canal. So, high up on the moor there is the quarry where the granite was extracted.

I visited again in 1996. It really hadn’t changed – although I had abandoned the old Canon Demi camera and was using a basic Canon with colour print film


Those who note a line of shaped granite rails and say, ‘so what?’ surely would still be impressed by another natural sculpture – the outcrop of rock or tor on Haytor.


The Train Set

March 22, 2013

By 1957 there must have been enough money in my childhood household. That was the year an electric train set appeared as a present. It wasn’t for me. It was for my brother, but of course, I could use it as well.

What my dad chose proved, retrospectively to be a mistake.  Our house was small and he decided that the best way to make use of space was to get a set built to the TT or ‘table top’ gauge. This was smaller than the more usual OO gauge, made famous as Hornby Dublo. But TT never quite caught on and it gradually faded away. However, over a period of years both my brother and I added to the set.

Originally there was a small tank steam loco of the kind enthusiasts call a Jinty. This came with a couple of maroon suburban style coaches. My dad may have got as an extra the four trucks – a goods van, an open wagon, a covered wagon and an oil tank. Dad also made sure we had points and sidings.

He then set about challenging us to marshall those four trucks in different orders, making use of the automatic coupling and uncoupling tracks. I found it to be good fun.

Here is my brother, with the Jinty and trucks, back in 1957.


I might add that the progress of the train might be terminated at any time by the cat seeing if it was good to eat!

Guess what? I still have the train set and it still operates. Sadly, I don’t have the brother who died back in 1980.