Posts Tagged ‘family history’


September 4, 2016

Brenda was my mum’s cousin. She was the daughter of my Great Uncle Ron and was born in 1934. That made her roughly midway in age between my mum and me.

I can’t say I saw much of her until the last twenty years or so of her life. She lived in Tonbridge in Kent and trips there involved seeing grandparents, possibly an uncle or aunt and sometimes a great aunt or uncle. We tended to see Great Uncle Ron in his antique shop – or junk shop as we all called it and Brenda inherited his love of old items and also the shop.

Here is Brenda, a lovely caring, sharing lady sitting at the back of the shop.


This photo dates from 2001. My sister visited and wrote this.

….It was but a little way then to call on Mum’s cousin Brenda, sitting in the back of the most wonderful jumble of an antiques shop. I hadn’t seen her for a few years, but when I told the lady in the shop to tell Brenda that Paula was here she called out “Oh I was thinking about you because I have some toys!” She made a cup of tea and I browsed through all the higgledy-piggledy items. The shop was busy – lots of dealers in and she always knew who they were and what they wanted and could always put her hand on just the little item that they might be interested in.

Brenda was probably the last person I really knew who lived in Tonbridge. She died in 2014.

Thornbury Railway opens

August 13, 2016

Recently I was browsing at some older Railway Magazines I had and in the December 1957 edition I came across this item.


First of all then, let me give credit to Colin H Maggs for the photo and for the extract about the opening of the line, below.

The railway, 7½ miles long, was opened on Monday, September 2, 1872, after the works had been at a standstill for twelve months, as the Midland Railway had the costly London extension under construction and its directors were undecided whether to proceed or not. On the opening day shops were closed in Thornbury, the town decorated and in the evening the inhabitants were entertained with fireworks and illuminations.

The Mayor of Thornbury left Bristol by the first train, and, with a hundred other guests or passengers, was welcomed to his town by a brass band. Fifty people booked from Thornbury on the first train to Bristol. In the afternoon 600 children and teachers travelled by a special train of 18 coaches to Yate and back for 4d. each, and also were entertained to tea.

Now I never knew the railway at Thornbury but I know the place for my wife’s great grandmother was born there in 1857. She died, aged just over 100 years later a couple of months before this article was published. My wife knew her great granny who had long since moved to Cornwall.

But would she, I wondered, have been at the opening of this railway line? I decided probably not for she was already 15 when the Thornbury branch opened and in service in Bristol.

But her younger sister, Edith, born 1864 may well have been one of those 600 children enjoying the trip to Yate.

We know a little of Edith who was living with her mother, recently re-married, in 1871 in Thornbury. By 1881 Edith was in service at Westbury on Trym in Gloucestershire and by 1891 she was in service in Bristol. In 1892 she married Maurice O’Brien who was a bookbinder originally from Yeovil in Somerset. They seem to have set up home in Edmonton in Middlesex. We know the names of 6 children born between 1894 and 1906.

Maurice died in 1929 in Edmonton. Edith died in 1947, still in Edmonton.

Great Granny Ruth again

July 14, 2016

Great Granny died not long before I was born so I never knew her. I have my dad’s writing about her and quite a collection of photos in which she appears as the woman in black.


This would have been taken in about 1920 Ruth would have been 66 at the time and was looking quite a formidable lady.image004

This photo has a caption so we know Ruth was evacuated out of Brighton and stayed with her daughter who lived in Crawley. And a little bit of white has crept into the clothing.

Ruth died in 1946.

My brother at camp

July 13, 2016

My brother at camp

My brother was born in 1947 and in this photo he is aged 8. He is at ‘camp’, our regular holiday spot on the South Downs in the parish of Beddingham.


Robin, for that was his name, is engrossed in a comic and was snapped by my father who was inside one of the odd collection of tents we had as we can see in the whole photo.

image004Now straight away I can say this was an unusual day in that it must have been just about windless. Robin is surrounded by bits of comic or newspaper which do not seem to have blown away. Camp and breeze normally went together.

The comics almost certainly came from the home of Great Aunt Nellie, about a mile away at Firle. Nellie had become a widow in 1952 and she took over the role of ‘mother’ to her grandchildren, moving in with her widower son. So although in my eyes Nellie was ancient, she had a lively home with a sub teenage grandchild (Dougie) and a couple of older men grandchildren (one would actually have been 17 at this time and the other in his early 20s).

But back to Robin, absorbed in his choice of literature. Sadly, he died as a young man in 1980. By that time we had grown out of our childhood sibling rivalry and he was a good friend. I still miss him, of course, but I am lucky to have photographic and other memories.

Nellie and Reuben at camp

July 9, 2016

Nellie was my Gran’s cousin. She was the daughter of Susannah Allen whereas my gran descended from Susannah’s sister, Sarah Ann. I still don’t know why Sarah Ann, Susannah and their elder sister Ellen all left the Butley area in Suffolk to come and live in the Isfield area of Sussex.

By the time of my childhood that older generation were long gone, but my dad knew of people and when we were at camp we could cycle to Isfield and see Nellie and Reuben, her husband. But this picture shows the two of them visiting us at camp, on Furlongs Farm. I guess it was after 1959 when Dad got a car. He’d have driven up to Isfield to collect them.


Standing at the back is a boy I can’t 100% identify. It doesn’t quite look like my brother but I guess it is. And the smaller boy is me.

Sitting we have my mum, Nellie, Reuben and my dad. As you can see, we sat quite comfortably at camp. There was space for our family to sit around a table in the tent if that was what the weather demanded.

Ellen was born in 1894. She married John Newnham in 1917 but he died in 1930. She married Reuben in 1934. He died in 1964. Nellie followed him in 1978. Both are buried at Isfield.

Eric in July

July 7, 2016

It was going to be hard for my Ravilious calendar to top that June picture with hoopoes. That was a piece of magic. And do you know what? I don’t like the July picture as much but it is growing on me.


At an instant first look at this picture I knew it was another illustration for Gilbert White’s ‘Natural History of Selborne’. It speaks of the subject matter and the era in which the book was written. The calendar has this to say regarding this image.


The lads here appear to be feeding mostly doves. We have the opposite problem. Our garden can be overstocked with their relatives the collared dove and the wood pigeon

Feeding these birds seems to be normal behaviour.


Here’s my dad in about 1922 with his mum (my gran) feeding the pigeons/doves in their local park in Bexhill.

A card from one sister to another

June 28, 2016

My Great Granny came from Butley in Suffolk but for reasons still unknown moved to Isfield in Sussex sometime in the 1870s. Her older sister, Ellen, was already in that area and they were joined by Susannah, a third sister in the 1890s.

It might have been a bit of a surprise that Susan(nah) sent this card to my great gran well into the twentieth century.


This, as we can see, is the Post Office and Street at Butley, birth place and youthful dwelling place for great gran.

By the time the card was sent Great Gran lived in Ringmer.image004We think the postmark is for 1927 and that could explain why the card was sent just to Mrs G Stevens (née Sarah Ann Crosby). Her husband, George Stevens, died in 1926.

The postmark is definitely for December 23rd so it is no surprise there is a Christmas message.image005With the Christmas greeting is the simple ‘Do you recognise this picture?’ It is signed by sister Susan(nah) and her daughter Nellie.

Nellie, my gran’s cousin, was known to me as ‘Nellie at Isfield’.


June 24, 2016

Isfield – not to be confused with my childhood home of Ifield – is an important place to me. I can trace direct ancestors, baptised at the church, back into the 17th century. Isfield is in East Sussex. It’s about 5 and a bit miles north east of Lewes and is, in many ways, an ordinary enough place but to me it is special. Right through into the 1960s I visited relatives in Isfield but if I have any now, I don’t know them.

Unsurprisingly, when I was really into my own family history, ten or more years ago, I acquired postcards of relevant places including Isfield to supplement the family ones I had. This is one I acquired.


This attractively tinted photo shows the forge at Isfield. I have a detailed 1899 map of the area and we can see ‘smithy’ marked on it.


Now I guess my great grandfather’s brother, Harry, learned his trade here. The 1871 census lists him as a blacksmith, living with his parents in Isfield. Later he worked in neighbouring Ringmer but he returned to Isfield after his wife died.

Isfield was the place three sisters from Butley in Suffolk happened to come to. I really don’t know why, but Sarah Ann Crosby – mentioned in yesterday’s blog post – came, met and married my great grandfather and they lived the rest of their lives in or quite near to Isfield.



Great Grandfather’s Grave

June 18, 2016

I have visited my great grandfather’s grave at Hadlow Down in Sussex on several occasions. I never knew him for he died before my dad was born but he is part of my family history and, obviously, I knew people, like my Grandad, who knew him well.

I never knew his grave with any kind of memorial but it had one when he died – a simple wooden affair that obviously would not last for ever and here it is.


When I looked at this picture just recently, I noted the dome to the left of the grave.

‘Good grief’, I thought. ‘Great Grandad had an immortelle on his grave. I had certainly never heard this mentioned. I know a bit about immortelles for we have one in the museum I volunteer at.

This is what it looks like.image003Under the dome, protected here by a wire frame, there is a floral display made of delicate china.

We have seen these items in grave yards in Wales and here are some at Eglwys LLanfinhangel


Now I realise Great Grandfather had one I shall be even more interested in these delicate grave ornaments.

Great Aunt Sue – clowning around

May 16, 2016

Great Aunt Sue – clowning around

My dad was very fond of his Aunt Sue. He believed she had lost a boyfriend in World War One and as a result of not being married had landed the job of caring for her parents. It sounds as though she doted on dad – something he would have lapped up. She did marry, but not until she was 50 so for Dad as a young lad, Sue was the archetypal maiden aunt.

And she was willing to join in with family fun. Much of the fun seemed to take place at her sister’s house in Firle. There was clearly a clown costume.


Sue, dressed up and with huge gauntlets on, attempts to play a little squeeze box. I can almost hear the awful noise it must have made through some 90 years of time, for this was in the mid 1920s.

image004On the same day Sue attempts to ride a rather severe bicycle. It hasn’t got much of what you might need, like tyres, pedals and minor luxuries like brakes. People knew how to have fun 90 years ago!

I never knew this great aunt. She died four years before I was born. What a shame.