Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2011 04-06 Volume 19 Number 3
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal

April - Jun 2011

Vol. 19 No. 3
Contents of this issue.
From the Chair....
Archaeological News from Down Under
News from the Secretary
Requests for Help
A Remarkable Church
Reviews of Guest Speakers
Midlands Family History Fair 2011
A King’s Soldier
From Brownhills to Pontesbury
Strange Coincidences
This Issue’s Cover Photograph
From the Chair...
Hi everybody. At last spring has arrived. It’s good to see the sun after such a long winter. I’ve had a lovely show of daffs this year and my Acers are sprouting nicely. Don’t forget, if you are going to Kew with our trip on 11th May, that a reader’s ticket is a good idea but you will need two forms of identification to obtain one. Pencils only may be used in the research areas, and change for photocopying would be useful. There are members of staff available to answer questions and you should not be afraid to approach them. There is a cafeteria where you can eat your own packed lunch but hot and cold food is on sale all day. The bookshop is also worth a browse. A look at the TNA website and a ‘plan of action’ before the visit could save a lot of time. To fit in with the number of hours that the driver is allowed to drive without a break, the coach can only pick up at four places – to be advised. At our March meeting, we had a really interesting and informative talk from Ian Hartas about using BMD on the Internet, and I am sure we will all find it extremely useful. For those who were unable to attend Sheila Clark will provide a outline of the talk and the material from the leaflets that Ian gave out can be found elsewhere in this issue of the Journal. Our Lichfield Surgeries are still ongoing at Lichfield Library, 1.30–3.30, on the last Wednesday of every month, except August and December. Volunteers to assist in these surgeries are always welcome. At our Thursday meetings, a one-to-one discussion with any of the committee members or more experienced researchers can be accommodated. We are here to help, so just ask. Please make use of our new Questions and Answers slot. Another member may just have an answer to that brick wall. And remember to think laterally. Spellings can be very hit-and-miss on registers and censuses, as can ages and places of birth. My own great-great-grandfather never put the same birth place twice in any of the six census in which he appeared. Good hunting. Carole Jones
Archaeology News from Down Under - As sent to Alan Betts from Brett Hobart
After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, British archaeologists found traces of copper wire dating back 200 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 150 years ago. Not to be outdone by the British, in the weeks that followed, an American archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet and, shortly afterwards, a story was published in the  New York Times reporting that: ‘American archaeologists, finding traces of 250-year-old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had developed an advanced hightech communications network 50 years earlier than the British.’ One week later, an Australian newspaper reported the following: ‘After digging as deep as 30 feet in his backyard in Brisbane, a self-taught local archaeologist, Dr. Bruce Billabong, reported that he found nothing at all. 'Dr. Billabong therefore concluded that 250 years ago, Australia had already gone wireless!’
News from the Secretary
I have reminded you previously about our forthcoming 25th anniversary, and can now tell you that we are hoping to produce a Special Edition of the Journal next time as a mark of the event. We produce four editions each group year and the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that these have previously been cover-dated October, January, April and July, but they are now ‘quarterly’, i.e. October/November/December, January/February/March, April/May/June and July/August/September, to correspond to the BMD quarters and also to allow for editions occasionally going out late. Please remember that the new Subscription Year commences on 1st August. In spite of the fact that the cost of everything else is going up all the time, the Group is financially sound and there should not be any need for an increase in the subscription rate for the next year. Please try to pay your renewal subscription at or before the first Monday meeting (in August 2011). You can send your cheques to me (my address is on the inside front cover of the Journal), to the Honorary Treasurer (Jeff Wilson) at Padbury Farm, Padbury Lane, Burntwood, WS7 9HG, or you can pay at the August Monday meeting direct to the Treasurer. Payment by cheque (or Postal Order) is the preferred method. We have recently received a grant from Staffordshire County Council towards the cost of an Open Day to promote the Group’s activities. We are grateful to the County Council for this and it should enable us to organise an event at the Burntwood Library on a Saturday – probably in June. I cannot be more definite at this stage as this is being written before the Committee meeting which will be finalising the details, but more will be known soon.
Membership has declined slightly this year for the first time for many years. No new members have joined the Group since the last issue, so there are no additions to the Members’ Interests List.
Donations to the Group
We have recently been given a number of items of research material which relate to places outside the Burntwood, Cannock and Lichfield area that we normally cover. We do have quite a few members for whom these items may have considerable interest and the materials can be borrowed from the Group for members’ own research at home at a nominal charge for postage and packaging. These items are listed on the following page. We are indebted to Mrs. June Horrell and Mrs. Pauline Stanley for the gift of this material.
Group Website
If you have not had a look at our website, please do so. If you do not have your own computer, you can access the site from any computer which has an internet connection. Most libraries will help you to get started if you don’t have a friend or relation to call on for assistance. Just go to bfhg.org.uk (or ask someone to access it for you) and work your way through the various pages. It is quite simple and you will find it very interesting. If you have any comments or queries, you can send them to our webmaster, Alan Betts, by emailing enquiries@bfhg.org.uk. Geoff Sorrell
Requests for Help
Derek Slater (derek.slater@ntlworld.com) writes: ‘Hello. I have been trying to find an old photograph of the houses that stood in Queen Street, Chasetown, opposite the Old Mining College. My gran was born in one of those houses in 1895. They still stood while I was growing up and I believe they were knocked own in the early 1970s. ‘If anyone has a photograph of the old houses, I would be very grateful for a copy. I can be emailed as above or contacted by telephone on 01543 671630.’
David Athersmith (2athersmith@tiscali.co.uk) writes: ‘I have learned that an aunt spent most of her life at the asylum. She was named Lucy Athersmith and she was born in Bloxwich in 1905. ‘I understand from your website that the society has transcribed some death records. It would be helpful to know if there are other records that could be available for access for research purposes. The only knowledge of Lucy that I have is her approximate birth information, and the knowledge that she was at the family home of 251 Broad Lane Bloxwich in the 1911 census. Unfortunately, I have no other factual information about her, nor any oral history. ‘I would be very grateful If you could help me by allowing access to any relevant sources of information that you hold that could help me to learn more about the aunt that I never met.’
A Remarkable Church From the diary of an intrepid traveller
Have you visited St. Peter’s Church, Barton-Upon-Humber, North Lincolnshire? It’s well worth doing so if you’re in that part of the country because, with a history spanning over a millennium, St Peter’s is one of the most studied parish churches in England. Just before the end of the 11th century at Barton-Upon-Humber, it was proposed to build a new stone church on the site of an existing Saxon cemetery. It was decided to exhume those burials which fell within the new church’s footprint, before the foundations were dug, and re-bury them in a new graves outside the intended walls. The remarkable tower of the original church still stands today, joined to its later edition – a classic example of Anglo-Saxon church architecture. The fame of the church has spread because of a programme of archaeological excavation carried out between 1978 and 1884. During the excavation, 3,000 burials were discovered in and around the church. These dated from the 10th to the mid 19th centuries, and it was, at the time, the largest sample of skeletons on which archaeological medical research had ever been undertaken. The study that was carried out gives us a portrait of a community spanning a thousand years. Researchers were amazed how many bodies were buried under the floor of the church itself. Some, found under the Saxon tower, pre-dated the construction of the ‘new’ church and were obviously missed when the ritual cleansing of the site took place a millennium ago. A service took place in 2007, when the bones were re-interred in an ossuary at the church. Today, St Peter’s is the responsibility of English Heritage, and is open to the public from 11:00 to 15:00 on Saturday and Sunday. The exhibition housed within the church is well worth a visit, giving as it does a thorough history of the excavation and the subsequent research. It offers unprecedented insights into medieval diseases and diet, as well as medical and burial practices, and it marks the project as a milestone in church archaeology.
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks - Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
February 2011: Phil Lamb on ‘Finding ancestors on the Somme’
Phil Lamb’s informative talk traced the life of one soldier, George Marquand Truss, from his enlistment in the army until his death at Les Boeuf in the Somme on 26th September 1916. Phil Lamb has Truss ancestors, but George Truss was not one. However, because this soldier had a well-documented army career, Phil was able to show us the variety of sources to be tapped when researching a soldier who died on the Somme. First was the database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org). This showed that eight soldiers with the surname Truss died during the Great War, or afterwards from injuries sustained. Two were gassed, with one of these dying later in 1922, while the other six died on the Somme. Casualty details from this database give information which can be used to confirm details already known, or can lead to other areas of the man’s life. Details given include the soldier’s name, age, rank, regiment and unit. The date of death is also recorded, together with the service number – invaluable when looking for further information about an army career. Additional information contains the name and address of the next of kin. The memorial and cemetery location are given, together with the reference number, giving the position of the grave or the inscription on the memorial. Be prepared for some errors, though: for example, George Marquand Truss was listed as being in the Scots Guards Machine Gun Company, but he was really in the Machine Gun Corps. He is buried at Carnoy Cemetery, which is probably near where he died. We were shown a photograph of the cemetery, located in a valley away from prying eyes. Although this photo was taken by Phil Lamb, photographs of all the Great War memorials and cemeteries can be found on the CWGC database and at www.ww1battlefields.co.uk, together with a narrative of the battles which took place nearby. We also saw a photo of the Thiepval Memorial, a massive, imposing monument designed by Lutyens as a memorial to the missing which commemorates the 72,000 who died in the Somme sector before 20th March 1918 and have no known grave. If your ancestor’s memorial reference has a ‘pier’ or ‘pillar’ location, they are among those war dead who were buried where they fell. Because the area was fought over many times during the conflict, the location of burials were often lost. In the 1920s, battlefield clearance bodies were recovered and reinterred in nearby war cemeteries. By that time identification was usually impossible, so the headstones on these graves bear phrases such as ‘Known only to God’, or ‘Soldier of The Great War’. A photograph of Lt. Truss showed him in his uniform. He had been educated at Dulwich College. His service papers are available from The Public Record Office (The National Archives, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk, ref. WO 363, 364). and record him as being 6ft tall and 11 stone, with a 36 inch chest having an expansion of two inches. His next of kin were his parents George Marquand and Annie Blanche Truss, who lived at Battlebridge House, Fox Hill, Upper Norwood. We were shown a picture of Fox Hill as it was then. The family tree shows that Lt. George Truss was the second child and eldest son. Young George Truss had joined the Westminster Dragoons, part of the London Yeomanry, a purely defensive force which had been formed many years before to repel any invasion during the Napoleonic War. When war was declared in 1914, any soldier of these regiments who wished to serve abroad had to sign a form waiving their right to stay in Britain. This George did, and he was sent to serve in Gallipoli. While there, he applied for a commission in the Scots Guards. In the London Gazette of 2nd February 1916, he is reported as having become a commissioned officer in the Scots Guards. His younger brother also gained his commission in the same regiment, served in the Somme and survived the war. Local and national newspapers of the time carried lists of men gaining commissions. Newspapers reported the names of any missing service personnel who had lived locally, together with those who had been killed and those who had been wounded. Any officer undertaking foreign service but subsequently discharged through ill health was issued with the Silver War Badge. Those allocations can be seen at The National Archives (TNA) and ref. RA/2083. While officers’ records are at present only available from TNA, those of other ranks can be accessed at ancestry.co.uk. However, caution is needed when accessing the attestation papers on Ancestry. When they were copied from the TNA records, the cover pages separating each record were not copied, so that some records may have inadvertently been merged with those of another individual. Phil Lamb thinks that the National Archives wish to transfer all such records to Ancestry and other outside websites, which may be a retrograde step for researchers, especially if original documents can no longer be viewed. The more times copies are made, the more chance there is of errors and omissions occurring. In any case, only 30% of service records from the 1914–1918 war can be viewed because the rest were destroyed or badly damaged during World War II. George Truss arrived in France in August 1916. War diaries can be seen at TNA, and also downloaded online. Any reference beginning ‘WO’ will access War Office records. Although the relevant war diaries for August and September 1916 record the events and military action around Les Boeuf on 26th September, including the number of casualties, George’s death was not mentioned individually, though the return of his younger brother to the front line was. We were shown a copy of the telegram sent to his parents, with its stark message and brief condolence. His death was reported in The Times, and a memorial service was held by the Scots Guards for those who fell on the Somme. His name is also inscribed on the Dulwich College Memorial. A letter was later written by George’s brother to the War Office, asking for the return of a silver identity disc belonging to George. This, however, is probably still under the soil of France. Later in his research, a personal War Diary came to Phil’s notice. It was written by one of Lt. Truss’s fellow officers, who described the area and the route they marched to take up their positions on that fateful day. There was also mention of the burial of his comrades in a disused German trench at the side of a sunken road. There are many such roads in the Somme area, but by using a trench map, overlaying this on a modern map and using information from the diaries, it is possible to follow the routes soldiers took. Photographs of the area then and now show that the farmland has recovered. The outlines of trenches remain and shells are still being uncovered, so beware and do not touch! Trench maps are available from www.ghsmith.com. Magazines of the time were used as propaganda, and many of the illustrations portrayed the war as an almost jolly affair – very different from the actual experiences being endured by the troops on the front line. Phil Lamb gave the names of other useful resources such as de Revigny’s Roll of Honour 1914–1918, available on Ancestry and www.findmypast.co.uk, and the National Roll of the Great War also available on those websites. We are very grateful that Phil was able to come along and give us this interesting, informative talk.
March 2011: Ian Hartas on ‘BMD – How to get the best out of them’
Ian Hartas and his wife Sharon have developed UKBMD (www.ukbmd.org.uk), an ongoing project with new data being added daily. This and the two other sites they offer (www.ukgdl.org.uk and www.ukmfh.org.uk) are free site with links to other websites containing useful information for the family historian. These include both other free sites and those which charge for information. Ian showed us how to access the information available, illustrating his talk by downloading examples of information on offer from each website. He gave one golden rule – that is, if possible, obtain birth, marriage, or death certificates from the local records office where the event was registered; using the GRO means that the certificate is a already a copy of the original, allowing for errors to creep in the transcriptions. Occasionally the information has been omitted completely from the indexes at the GRO, but the certificate from a local records office is more likely to be a photocopy of the original entry, so cutting down on the chances of error. Many of the local records offices can now be accessed via UKBMD, and information from the original Civil Registration Records is gradually being put online. It is possible to see which years have been completed for the area in question. Ian Hartas gave us permission to publish the following from the flyer he circulated to us, which provides all the useful information. It looks as though these websites will be a very powerful tool in our quest for family history.
www.UKBMD.org.uk - For UK births, marriages and deaths; links to websites with births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials, censuses, wills, monumental inscriptions, one-name studies, online parish clerks and more: Local BMD: Local Birth, Marriage & Death Information. From the original Civil Registration Records, 1837 onwards. (Note: these transcriptions are not complete – check the coverage pages for more detailed information). Includes a multi-region search for searching multiple local BMDs at the same time. GRO BMD: Links to websites which have GRO Birth, Marriage & Death Indexes. These are from the Government’s secondary BMD indexes, 1837 onwards. County: Select the County from the drop down list and press the County button for websites relevant to the county/region in the UK and Ireland. Included are websites which have transcribed records online, such as censuses, parish records, bishops transcripts, war memorials, banns, one name studies, online parish clerks, monumental inscriptions and much more. British Abroad: Websites with data on British citizens who were born, married or died abroad. ONS (One Name Studies): Websites dedicated to a single name or group of names. OPC: Online Parish Clerks. A useful source of information for baptisms, marriages and burial records as well as other parish/area information.
www.UKGDL.org.uk - UK genealogical directories; links to websites with trade directories, maps, taxes and tithes, voter lists, ships’ passenger and crew lists, photographs, canal folk, hospitals, trades and apprentices, school lists and more: Miscellany: Lists websites which provide information e.g. death causes, diseases, photographs/postcards of ships, military badges, old occupations and more. Category: Select Category Required from the drop-down list and press the Category button to list the websites in each category, rather than by county. The many categories include trade directories, maps, school records, criminals, newspapers, tax records, and ships’ passenger and crew lists. County: Select the county required from the drop-down list and press the County button to list websites for counties/regions in the UK and Ireland. This lists websites with information for the area, e.g. trade directories, taxes, school records, newspapers, religious records, servants, ships’ passenger and crew lists, institutions and much more.
www.UKMFH.org.uk - UK military family history; links to over a thousand sites which have online data on military family history, including information on topics such as the RAF, Navy, Army, regiments, squadrons, ships, aircraft, service records, WWI, WWII, Boer Wars, Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War, war memorials, prisoners of war, photographs, diaries, hospitals, muster rolls, uniforms, medals and more: Miscellany: Lists websites which provide information e.g. military badges, glossaries, reference texts and more. Category: Select Category Required from the drop-down list and press the Category button to list the sites in each category, rather than by county. The many categories include WWI, WWII, ships, Army, Navy, RAF, newspapers and more. County: Select your county from the drop-down list and press the County button to list sites for counties/regions in the UK and Ireland. Included are websites which contain information such as service records, war memorials, regiment details, war diaries and much more. Keywords: As military history is a vast subject, we have added keywords for each site. This should make finding websites relevant to your area of research easier. Examples include Battle of the Somme, Gallipoli, HMS Victory, Cheshire Regiment, Pals Battalions, Indian Mutiny, Malta Convoy, Muster Lists, RAF Biggin Hill and Prison Camps.
For all three sites: Register: Subscribe to the announcement lists for the latest updates. Events: Lists the shows we will be attending. Visit us and tell us your success stories. Contact Us: If we have not listed your favourite site, let us know so others may benefit. The links on the sites are updated frequently, so check back regularly. NOTE: some of the websites that we link to charge for providing information.
Midlands Family History Fair 2011
This event will be held at Worcester Warriors Rugby Club, Worcester on August 6. Over 100 organisations have booked space at the fair varying from local history societies, Record Offices, family history societies from in and outside the Midlands Area and various commercial organisations. There will also be talks throughout the day given by S&N Genealogy Supplies. There is plenty of free car parking at the ground, which is just off Junction 6 of the M5, or a free coach service is available during the day from the Croft Road car park, Worcester. Refreshments will also be available. Stalls include: Family History Societies, Local History Societies, Books, Postcards, Computer Software, Directories, Maps, Charts, etc., etc. Entrance £3, Children free. More information can be obtained from the organisers, West Midlands Group of Family History Societies. Contact: Jackie Cotterill (gensec@bmsgh.org) or go to www.herefordshirefhs.org.ukevents
James Crosbie – A King’s Soldier - by Pam Turner
My four-times great-grandfather James Crosbie was born in Castletown, Westmeath, Ireland, around 1778, and he enlisted as a soldier with the British Army at the age of 17 on 9th May 1795. James signed up with the 8th Regiment of Foot at Mullingar, Westmeath and proceeded to serve almost 25 years with the regiment before finally being discharged on 2nd May 1819 at Horse Guards in London. After his first year, when he was classed as ‘under age’, James served 4 years, 1 month as a private, 1 year, 9 months as a corporal and 18 years, 2 months as a sergeant. On his discharge papers, it was noted that his conduct during service was ‘Very good, having always conducted himself as an honest, sober and useful non-commissioned officer as well in the field and every other aspect Also noted was his physical description of 'about 41 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches in height, Brown hair, Grey eyes, Fair complexion and a Labourer by trade’. When I first obtained this info on James a couple of years ago, I was ecstatic. However, I soon wanted to know more, especially about where he had been stationed during his 25 years’ service and also whether he had fought in any battles. As history shows us, the period of James’s army time was during the Napoleonic era, where many battles were fought in Europe and also in Canada, where Britain was for a while at war with the USA. So, during the last couple of years, using numerous sources, I have tried to trace James’s whereabouts over his 25-year service span. Although not entirely successful, I have established where he was during some of that time. The 8th Regiment of Foot was formed in 1685 as the Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment, until 1716 when the ‘King’s’ title was adopted in honour of King George I. In 1751, it also became known as the 8th Foot. On its formation, the uniform of the Regiment reflected the Stuart colours, with a scarlet coat, yellow waistcoats and breeches, white stockings and cravat and broad-brimmed hats with the brim turned up on one side and ornamented with yellow ribbons.
In 1716, when King George I changed the regiment’s title to ‘The King’s Regiment’, the facings were changed from yellow to blue and the Hanover horse within the Garter was directed to be borne as the regimental badge. When James enlisted in 1795, he became part of the 1st battalion, who had just returned to England after seeing fighting in Holland. His first four years with them appeared to have been spent in England, where they were mainly based. In 1799, the battalion was then deployed to Minorca, which had been captured by British Forces the previous year. In 1801, the King’s took part in the British expedition to Egypt under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby and were involved in the successful capture of Rosetta. I know for certain that James was part of this campaign, because in 1850 he received the Military General Medal with an Egypt clasp. It was also during 1801 that James was promoted to corporal. After Egypt, the regiment went to Gibraltar for garrison duties, and in 1803 James was promoted to sergeant. By the end of this year, the King’s were back in England, where they remained until the end of 1805. In September 1805, James got married in Doncaster to a local girl called Amelia Egley and his marriage details state that he was stationed in Bridlington, Yorkshire.
From December 1805 to February 1806, the regiment had a short spell in Germany, after which they came back to England. In July 1806, James was stationed in Berwick on Tweed – information I obtained from the christening record of his eldest son Richard, who had been born on 18th June in Doncaster. In the following year (1807), the regiment was despatched to Copenhagen and took part in the siege there under the command of General Wellesley. Unfortunately, I do not have any concrete evidence to suggest that James was part of this siege, but I can only assume that it was likely. Following Denmark, the regiment briefly went to Canada and then on to the West Indies, where they took part in the capture of Martinique, sustaining causalities in the process. I am sure James did not go to Martinique, because his discharge papers showed a blank in the box for services in the West Indies. After Martinique, the King’s returned to Canada when war broke out between the USA and Britain. In 1812 they were stationed in Quebec, where they fought ferociously and sustained many casualties, and in the following year they were involved in an attempt to repulse an American attack on York (now Toronto) with help from the native Indians. The regiment remained in Canada until 1814, taking part in many famous battles, including ‘Lundy Lane’, for which they won a battle honour. I do not know whether James served in Canada, but I assume so because his wife did not appear to give birth to any children during those years. While in Canada, the regiment was issued with a new uniform which consisted of 1812 regulation grey trousers and gaiters, and the 1812 ‘Belgic’ or ‘Waterloo’ shako.
After the war with the US, the regiment was deployed on a variety of duties including spells in Malta and Corfu. This time I know for certain that James was in both of these places. After much searching, I found a website which gave many detailed reports of the British military in Malta, including an article about the King’s regiment in 1818. The article states that ten companies of the regiment arrived in Malta on 2nd March 1818, comprising of 32 officers, 39 sergeants, 10 drummers and 660 privates. One of the events recorded during the regiments stay included a specific reference to James. Apparently just after their arrival the commander of the garrison, Lt. Colonel Roberton, summoned James with other pay sergeants to the orderly room. This meeting was prior to first inspection, during which the commander made an unwise remark suggesting the men should complain about their trowers (sic). Less than a year later, the regiment was posted to the Ionian Islands, arriving at Corfu on the 19th January 1819. It was here that Lt. Colonel Roberton faced a general court-martial on eight charges. The third of these charges was listed as the subversion of military rules and subordination in assembling the pay sergeants and suggesting the men ought to complain about the quality of the trowsers (sic) provided by the captains – words tending to make the men dissatisfied with the conduct of their officers. Lt. Colonel Roberton’s trial ended on 28th May 1819, when he was found guilty of all eight charges and was sentenced to be cashiered. So, it appears that James was inadvertently involved in a high-ranking officer being dishonourably discharged.
Later in the same year, while still in Corfu, James’s discharge papers were initially drawn up on September 19th in consequence of ‘Long Service Sworn Out’. Confirmation of his discharge was duly signed at Horse Guards in May the following year. So, after 25 years’ service in which Britain was mostly at war, James was no longer a soldier. It really amazes me that he managed to survive it without sustaining no apparent injuries. After his soldier’s life, James ran a public house and did some labouring work, he married twice, had a total of 13 children and lived in Doncaster, Dublin and Hulme, Manchester. In 1851, the census in Hulme stated that James was a Chelsea Pensioner earning 1p a day. It was also around this time that he was awarded the Military General Medal for his services during the Napoleonic wars. James died in 1855 in Hulme, his death certificate stating inflammation of the bladder as the cause. Although James did not appear to take part in Waterloo or any of the Peninsular Wars, I am still rather proud of the fact that he was a soldier during the Napoleonic era, and I would like to think that he at least made a small contribution to liberty during those very troubling times.
From Brownhills to Pontesbury - by Sue Reeves
My great-grandparents moved from Shropshire to Brownhills in the 1860s to work in the local coal mines. Edward Chapman and Martha Wigley were married at Shrewsbury in 1865 and moved some time between 1866 and 1868 when their second child was born. My grandmother, Jessie Ellen Chapman, was born in 1886 and had many fond memories of childhood visits to Pontesford Hill, where her grandmother lived in a small cottage belonging to her aunt and uncle. As a child, my father was entertained with stories about her time there and, when I was very small, I remember visiting the remains of the cottage at the foot of Pontesford Hill. When I began my family history research, I determined to find out as much as I could about the cottage and the families that lived there and, after a visit to Shropshire Record Office to look at the Tithe Apportionment Maps, I decided to try and find the site of the cottage today. I am still working on the research, but this is an account of my first visit to Granny’s Cottage in fifty years. As we left Brownhills, I began looking at buildings along the road in a new way. I was trying to imagine what sort of a journey this would have been in the latter half of the 19th century on the occasions when Edward Chapman and his family travelled back to Pontesbury. As we drove on, I began to look closely at the houses where the A5 still follows the old road. Many of them would have been there 150 years ago – farms, a mill, several inns, buildings around the canal and cottages which would have housed the farm workers in the small communities we passed.
We finally turned off for Pontesbury. At this stage, I recognised nothing at all, but I was trying to imagine what the journey would have been like for my grandma travelling with a horse and trap. How long did it take? Where did they stop on the way? We passed Lea Cross and the turnings to Asterley, Edge and Longden, places where other Shropshire ancestors had lived. The sign to Pontesford Hill Nature Reserve warned of a narrow road and we carefully drove our motor caravan to the little car park where there was just enough room to park. After a quick lunch and cuppa, we looked for the path coming across the fields from Pontesbury. It was there all right – even the steep bit up to the road. Through the barrier and along the track to the fork, one branch led uphill steeply, and to be honest this seemed the better route, but ours was the one leading down and round the base of the hill. It was muddy after the rain and led down through trees, with the more obvious forestry plantation higher up on the right and old mixed woodland on the lower slopes of the hill. It was obvious that the path we were on was an ancient trackway. It was engineered and the boundary on the left hand side, away from the hill, was an old hedgerow of hawthorn, blackthorn, elder, etc. – now overgrown, but once pollarded and well looked after. There was wild garlic growing at the base of the trees and the scent, though familiar now, took me back to my childhood as it always does. This was probably the first place that I ever smelled bear’s garlic. There were lovely views to the east into what Grandma called Happy Valley. The wooded slopes of the hill were alive with bird song and there were primroses, jack-by-the-hedge and wild garlic on the banks. I was now beginning to feel as though I knew where I was going and that I had been along this track before. There are springs marked on the Ordnance Survey map and it was obvious that some work had been done in the field on the left to use the water. We walked on. It was getting exciting now and we were both looking for nettles, bricks maybe and gooseberry bushes.
There were several small patches of nettles on both sides of the path, but nothing else. Then the little meadow came into view through the trees ahead. Now, to the right, along the edge of the path, a large area of nettles came into sight and amongst them were gooseberry bushes. I knew instantly that this was the place. The cottage stood back towards the slope on a flatter area of ground and the garden stretched in front of it down to the track. We could make out where the walls had been and there were bricks still there under the moss. There seemed to be more than one building – probably outhouses, maybe a pigsty. My husband dug about in the disturbed soil at the entrances to some rabbit burrows and found a small piece of pottery with green leaves on it, probably a from an old plate. There was no one else around and the atmosphere was strange – full of people who had been there in the past. I knew this place. Through the gate in the meadow, the hedgerow was still there to the left in the form of several of the tallest hawthorn trees I had ever seen. The path seemed familiar and the meadow was just as I remembered, with the banks to the right covered with primroses. No cowslips yet, but maybe we were a little early. Just below the bank on which the hawthorns stood was a depression in the grass running down to a little pool. The water was clear and appeared to come straight out of the ground. This must be the spring where they fetched the water from.
Suddenly there was a ‘meowing’ sound overhead. Three buzzards were circling high above the cliffs of the old quarry further round the hill. Grandma used to tell Dad that there were eagles here when she was young. The view was wonderful across the valley, with woods and fields laid out like patchwork. I tried to imagine my grandma as a girl. It must have been very peaceful with her aunt and uncle, Ann and William Parry, and her grandmother Elizabeth Chapman. What a contrast to life in the house full of people at home in Brownhills. No wonder she enjoyed her holidays here, fetching water from the spring and travelling into Pontesbury to carry supplies back up the hill in the panniers on the donkey. At night she remembered going up to bed via a staircase on the outside of the cottage wall. We took photos, uncovered a couple of bricks and dug up a gooseberry bush, but any disturbance seemed a violation of the extreme peace of the place. This cottage had once been a loved home and garden, and I felt as though I knew the former occupants, personally after reading about them on the censuses and following their births, marriages and deaths.
Reluctantly, I could have stayed there much longer and I will go back again, we set off across the meadow and on around the hill. There were wood anemones, wood sorrel, more primroses and bluebells almost in flower, the first bees were buzzing about, the birds were singing and the buzzards were still calling overhead. It was a lovely walk. We climbed the steep path at the southern end of the hill up to the fort at the top. The views were good, but in better visibility it must be possible to see for miles. Eventually we reached the area below the Hill Fort where the trees begin again. You can still see the old larches and pines amongst the newer plantation and we followed the old raised boundary back along the spine of the hill and down steeply to the car park. I remembered this part of the walk from the past, the tall Larches and the views, the raised trackway, the feeling of being high up above the world below. I remember the wind here and the trees as I was carried on my fathers shoulders. Back at the motor caravan, we had to hurry away to meet friends and there wasn’t time to go and look at Pontesbury, but I shall be back soon. It was a wonderful day and while I stood looking at Granny’s cottage, I had a quiet word with Grandma and amongst other things thanked her for her contribution to the family history. Since then, we have been back many times, including a visit with Chapman relatives visiting from Australia.
Strange Coincidences - by Nancy Oram (USA): found on the ‘Squidoo’ website
My great-aunt Maude was an avid genealogist and devoted one day a week for research at the genealogy library. One Tuesday, a lady approached her for help. She had asked several librarians for a specific book and none could help her. Somehow she felt impressed to approach my aunt out of the hundreds of other visitors in the library that day. She was looking for a book that had been referred to her from a letter she had in her hand. It was called Charles Smith’s Diary. My aunt told her it was not in the library, but by coincidence she had it at home, as Charles Smith was her grandfather. This lady wanted information on her great-grandfather, who was Captain Jacob Secrist, another captain of a wagon train in 1855. He had died on the trail and she wanted to go back along the trail to locate his grave. My aunt invited her to her home, and they found in the diary that Charles Smith was the clerk of the very same wagon train and he had kept a day-to-day account, including the date of Captain Secrist’s death and where he was buried. The lady went back and found the place of burial, located an historian and placed a marker at that spot. The historian then wrote about the event in the newspaper, and many more people made inquiries, were able to find more genealogical information, and add more markers along the trail. To make this story even more amazing, Aunt Maude always went to the library on Mondays, never Tuesday, because she baby-sat on Tuesdays. The lady never went on Tuesday because that was the day she worked at the Children’s Hospital. But on that particular week, each had changed their plans and the only day they could go was on Tuesday.
My parents were researching my dad’s Carman family line when my mother found the name of a woman who was the secretary of the Carman Family Organization. Coincidentally she lived in the same town as Aunt Maude, and my parents decided to look the woman up next time they visited. Telling Aunt Maude of their current genealogy quest to find my dad’s Carman family, she told them about a dear friend of hers who had written all over the United States trying to find related Carmans. Of course, this turned out to be the same woman. My mom and dad went to the woman’s home where she showed them literally reams and reams of genealogy charts and family history. She let them look through it all. But Carman is a relatively common name in the United States and they could find no connections or even familiar names. They even took a second look in case they had missed something. This time my mom looked at each sheet carefully, one at a time, passed it to my dad, who did the same and then set each page carefully aside. No luck. As they were preparing to leave, my mom was chatting about the coincidence of the woman’s friendship with her aunt, and my dad was picking up the last pile of papers to return them to the larger pile. In doing so, some shorter sheets fell away that had been stapled to the back of the larger sheets, effectively becoming hidden from view. He caught the name of a familiar Carman. As he looked further, he found the name of his great-grandfather listed as a child, along with parents, brothers and sisters, all information my dad didn’t have. What a find! But that wasn’t all. The woman said, “Well, if that is your family, then this is yours, too.” She then handed him over a hundred family sheets taking the family back to 700 AD!
This Issue’s Cover Photograph - St John the Baptist Church, Shenstone (photograph by Alan Betts)
The old church of St John the Baptist was built in the reign of Henry VI. The first vicar of Shenstone to be mentioned in the Bishops’ Register was Adam de Lynde in 1274. The church consisted of a nave and two transepts with a chancel and a north aisle. The centre tower was rebuilt in the 16th Century. Two windows bore the date 1647. In 1740, the church was extended with a chancel of brick built by a Mr Hill, who had resided for some time in Italy and built the house at Shenstone Park. The south transept was also built to accommodate the people of Stonnall when their chapel was pulled down. The original church was pulled down in the early 1850s. The present church was designed by the architect John Gibson and built in 1852–53. It contains the remains of the former church building to the north-west of the present site. It is an ancient cruciform structure, presenting various styles of architecture. The tower is in the transition style, and the nave was probably of the same date, but it has been remodelled in the debased style of the present century.  The church has a peal of six bells.
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