The Littleport Society Open Day takes place at The Barn, Littleport, Cambridgeshire, on Saturday 19th September 2015, 10am – 4pm, with FREE ENTRY.
The Littleport Society are opening their doors on Saturday 19th September 2015 – with free entry to a range of specially built displays.
I’ve known the Society for many years, having helped them with their first web presence back in 1998.
Earlier this year I was co-opted onto their Committee, and this is allowing me to help them with digitally cataloguing their huge archive of items which ranges from dinosaur fossils, right through to Manorial Records, wartime documents, and the latest community leaflets and photos from 2015!
The Open Day will give you the chance to learn more about your Littleport ancestors, find out what your ancestors may have done, and how The Great War affected the lives of those in Littleport.
Entry and parking is FREE, and the doors open at The Barn(off Main Street) from 10am until 4pm.
When their youngest child was no more than 2 years old, my Gtx4 Grandmother Avis Martin (née Tall) lost her husband Robert Martin at the age of 41 in the March of 1826. With his death prior to certification, any efforts to find the cause would likely be zero. The burial register of the fenland village of Little Downham, Cambridgeshire, England, gives no clue.
The couple had become parents six times since their marriage in 1812, but life had dealt them a cruel hand in these bleak fens – their first (William), fourth (Elizabeth) and fifth child (Robert), all failing to thrive. Elizabeth made it to 2, Robert less, and William died just 4 months after their father in July 1826. He was 13.
Avis was now a widow at 38 years in a remote fenland village with three remaining children (James, Sarah, and a second Robert). By August 1827, she re-married, this time to James Wisbey, and by 1830 the couple had their first son. For once, life was a bit ‘on the up’.
By 1834, her daughter Sarah Martin had married James Johnson at Little Downham, and their daughter Matilda Johnson entered the church for her baptism on 3rd January 1836.
Matilda and Avis
In my beloved 1851 census, I found Avis Wisbey as an ‘out door labourer‘ in what was to be her final census. I’d already killed her off in August 1858, but I noticed that she wasn’t alone. I didn’t know Matilda at this point, so was curious as to who this 17 year old Matilda Johnson was. My only clue was that she was noted as ‘granddaughter’.
I back tracked to the less reliable 1841 census – and there she was again – this time aged ‘5’ years, and again living with her grandmother.
Heading backwards through the records, I found her baptism in January 1836, and then found the Johnson/Martin marriage that belonged to her parents in 1834 – and proving her connection to Sarah Martin and Avis.
But where had her parents gone?
It didn’t take me long to find a burial register entry that hinted at a bigger story. On 5th February 1837, James (23yrs) and Sarah (20yrs) Johnson are buried with the register giving a clue of ‘husband and wife by suffocation‘.
Matilda in the headlines
That’s the first time that I’ve seen ‘suffocation’ given as a cause of death, and with both husband and wife dying together by the same cause, I sensed that there must be more information. Was it foul play? Or was there some terrible accident?
A search of newspapers provided me with the answer, and they made several different ones:
The Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette of the 18th February states:
“DEATH FROM SUFFOCATION – Inquests were held on Friday se’nnight in the parish of Downham, on the bodies of James Johnson and Sarah, his wife, who died from the effects of charcoal burning in the bed-room. Verdict accordingly”
The story unfolds a little further courtesy of a number of newspapers that including The Cambridge Chronicle, and The Morning Post, and this cutting from Jackson’s Oxford Journal also of 18th February 1837, which carries a long and detailed report on the whole incident.
Here it states that due to a pan of ashes being in the bedroom, the wife suffocated. The husband died of apoplexy having seemingly woken but dying shortly afterwards, and that the daughter (Matilda) survived only because she was tucked further down in the the bed and saved by the sheets. It notes that Matilda entered the care of her grandmother.
It seems that an innocent accident brought tragedy for the family. And that only by luck, through the action of neighbours, and the positioning of some bed sheets, that Matilda survived in bed – not even 2yrs old, laying amongst the bodies of her dead parents.
What became of Matilda?
In Avis’ care, orphaned Matilda Johnson grew up. Eight months after the 1851 UK census, Matilda married John Artingstall of Lancashire, in the Little Downham church where her parents had just 17 years earlier.
After a sad start to their own parenthood (their first child, Elizabeth Artingstall died as an infant), they went on to become parents a further nine times in Gorton, Lancashire. The family appear at Far Lane (briefly at No. 10) and 56 Far Lane, Gorton.
John died in 1897 aged 69, and Matilda reached the ripe old age of 81, dying in 1917.
She survived tragedy by a stroke of luck, and lived a full life, becoming a grandmother herself, via her own daughter, who took here late mother’s name – Sarah.
A reproduced 1961 article on fruit picking at Dan Ward’s farm in Witchford, Cambridgeshire.
Highlighting my love of using newspapers in research, I found this article on fruit picking in the orchards of Dan Ward in Witchford, Cambridgeshire, England.
Whilst it contains a nice insight into village life and agriculture, it includes photos of, and quotes from, my Great Grandmother Louisa Pope, and her youngest daughter Audrey Giddens. So, here it is 54 years on, re-created for the web, with original headline. It was published in the Saturday Pictoral on July 29, 1961.
It’s a ‘plum’ job but you need a head for heights
In the last fortnight the fruit picking scene in the Fens has changed. Changed from the back aching grind of strawberry picking to the arm stretching task of plum picking.
So drastic has been the change, that in parts of the Fens growers were gathering in the first part of the plum harvest at the same time as Wisbech growers were finishing off ‘the straws’.
In the most southerly parts of the Isle, fruit growers have been picking plums earlier than ever before. Not only have they completed the programme of early varieties but they are well ahead of schedule with the Czars as well.
“This year is even early by our standards”, explained Mr Dan Ward of Witchford – certainly the ‘Little Kent’ of the Fens. “We have got all the Rivers Early and some of the Pershores off and now we are well on the way with the Czars – a later variety – and by Monday we should have a full gang of about 30 on the gardens”.
But although the plums have come early in the Witchford gardens – the locals use this term instead of orchard – the crops are not as heavy as they might be. Whereas, Mr. Ward has had 40 or more pickers in other years, he will be able to make do with far less this season.
But that does not take the shine off the crops for the pickers for plum picking is obviously a time of year that they look forward to very much. When we called in at the Ward farm this week we saw them busy at it and obviously enjoying every minute of it.
But it is only at Dan Ward’s that the Witchford people get the chance to do any amount of plum pulling. There is hardly another big orchard in the district – the next nearest centre being at Wilburton. I asked Mr. Ward how he came to be a fruit grower in such an area.
“As long as people can remember the Ward family have been growing fruit in Witchford”, he explained. “My grandfather and father before owned the gardens that I have now. I think that the industry must go back more than one hundred years in fact”. Despite the fact that the land has been in the Ward family all this time, most of the trees in the orchard are young. Mr. Ward went on to explain that he has replanted several acres – getting the trees from the Wisbech area.
Not only the trees but the end product as well have connections with Wisbech. Much of the fruit comes to Wisbech before being shipped off to various markets.
Having so many plum trees in an area where fruit growing is not regarded as a major industry could present problems to some people – but not to Mr. Ward. The organisation during the peak season at Witchford is equally as good as that at Wisbech and he has his own regular pickers who come each year to tackle the crop for him.
One of them is Mrs. L Pope – who has been working in the plum gardens for over 50 years. Mrs. Pope picked from the ladders at the tops of the swaying trees last year and quite expects to repeat the performance during the next few weeks. She claims that it is the outdoor life and plenty of work which keeps her looking fit and young – she is actually over 80.
One of her daughters, Mrs. A Giddens, is following in her footsteps. As Mrs. Pope was picking from the ground when we were there, Mrs Giddens was towering above her on one of the ladders.
Monday will see the season rise to its heights. Pickers, baskets and plums will pour in and out of Dan Ward’s gardens and Witchford produce will take its place beside fruit from all other parts of the country in the nation’s major markets. So keeping up a centry-long tradition in the Ward family.
Saturday Pictoral, July 29, 1961 – Denis Chamberlain
Pictures taken by staffman Harry Naylor.
Today’s SURNAME SATURDAY themed post takes a look at the CRISP family of Cambridgeshire, and unravels an old family story.
Today’s Surname Saturday theme follows the CRISP family, and it’s also home to one of the earliest verbal family stories that I ever heard in my research, some 19 years back.
The story went something like this:
“Your great great great grandmother was married to a Mr Crisp. They had a son, and then Mr Crisp died. She remarried to your great great great Martin grandfather, and that’s where we descend from.
Their son, married a woman called Selina. They had a number of children, moved up north, and most caught measles. Mr Crisp Jnr and most of the children died. His widow Selina, returned and lived near Soham, Cambridgeshire.”
Fairly vague, and probably not an uncommon style of storytelling of family rumours. But, there’s some interesting story details in there, and considering that this would have happened so long ago, it’s interesting to see that it survived into living memory.. so there must be something in it, and someone who has reason to believe it, right?
Putting it on the back-burner, as it’s a ‘sideline’ family, from whom I don’t descend, I parked it for about 19yrs whilst I focussed on the addiction that is tracing ancestors.
I was tidying up some old files again, and a slip of paper summarising the story above fell out. In all those years, the amount of, and types of, records available online has absolutely snowballed, and so i thought that I would casually go rummaging.
Finding Crisps in the records
(Face it, you knew I was going to put that pun down here somewhere).
I already had Mr Crisp Jnr’s (William Crisp) birth certificate from 1846, and the marriage and death certificate of his father John Crisp (m: 1846, d: 1847). By July 1850, widow Mary Crisp (née Tingey)had married her second of three husbands – my great great great grandfather – James Martin.
William Crisp remains with his mother for the 1851 and 1861 censuses in Little Downham, at the household of his step-father. In fact, the 1861 census lists him as William Martin, rather than William Crisp.
Things get rectified by 1871, when his Crisp name is reinstated. Here, he’s living in the fenland parish of Isleham. This village isn’t far from Soham, and is not a parish that any of my other relatives appear to have passed through (hence having not stumbled across him before).
With the census found, it told me that he was now 24yrs old, living at Lark Farm Cottage, with his wife Tabitha, and their 2mth old son John (in memory of both of their fathers). A quick dig on Ancestry, and FreeBMD showed that Tabitha was most likely Tabitha Large.
Where was the Selina that the story had spoken of?
Another census shows the family at the West Bank of River Lark in the parish of Isleham, Cambridgeshire for 1881. William was ’30’, and heading up a family of 6 children (John, James, Rosetta, Eliza Ann, Susan, and Mary) with Tabitha.
However, by the 1891 he’s missing, and so is Tabitha. Was this the tragedy with measles?
A little further digging, and some of the Crisp children turned up – still living at West Bank, but this time, George Butcher is head of the household, with Tabitha (now Butcher). A young Alfred Butcher is also included in the household, born about 1890.
Next stop was the Isleham parish registers to find out what’s been going on.
Here, I find that Tabitha Large (confirmed!), and William Crisp, having married on 20th May 1869 at Isleham parish church, went on to have eight children between 1871 and 1886.
FreeBMD notes that William died in in 1886, but Isleham and Soham don’t contain his burial. I shall have to explore this further. His burial did not take place in his native Little Downham, Ely Cemetery, Wicken, Fordham, or a number of other nearby churchyards.
Having lost William for now, I continue after Tabitha, but I soon find that she’s missing too… only to find her in 1901, aged 47 years, up at 29 Charles Lane, Milnrow, Lancashire, England.
There’s that ‘move up North‘ then.
Into the mills
At this time, George is noted a labourer at a Brickyard. Tabitha’s son Isaac Crisp is noted as a ‘Cotton Presser’, Rosetta Crisp as a ‘Woolen Weaver’, Eliza Ann Crisp as a ‘Pattern Card Room Hand’, and Mary Crisp is noted as a ‘Bread Maker’. It’s possible that the children were employed at the nearby Ellenroad Mill. Clearly the mills were putting a roof over the family’s head.
By the time of the 1911 census, it’s revealed that Tabitha has had 4 children and that 3 of them died. This must surely refer to her children with George Butcher, but i’ve not yet checked for their names.
The Traveller’s Rest
Whilst I lose George after 1911 (was this the measles?), Tabitha ends her days back at the aptly named ‘The Traveller’s Rest‘ in Towns End, Soham, Cambridgeshire on 29th June 1921. She was 69 years old. Why was she back there?
Well, her second child, James Crisp (known as ‘Jim’) is noted as Publican – presumably of The Traveller’s Rest. He is noted as an executor of her estate.
But what about Selina?
Twenty-five years before Tabitha’s death at James’ pub in Soham, he had walked the aisle on 17th October 1896…. when he married Selina Collen. Selina outlived James (who died in 1944), having raised a family of at least five children with him.
Unravel those stories and memories
So, what turned out to be a snippet of oral history, handed around and down my branch of Martin family, which is vaguely related to the Crisp family (William Crisp is apparently my Half Great Great Great Uncle!), it turns out to be loaded with facts… albeit somewhat jumbled.
There’s still a few loose ends – death certificates will, or newspaper articles might, reveal details of whether the measles story is true. The identity of Selina was also generation out, and the wrong bit of family went ‘up North’ – it was all in the story.
For me, it proves that those little oral snippets, or those scribbled notes, are just as important as those official records. In fact, they are often more interesting. Using official records to help untangle these family stories is the trick…. regardless of how long you take to start work on them!
It’s not every day that you find a possible relative who was reportedly haunting a street. I turn ghost-hunter, meets ghost-buster, to see whether there’s any truth in the story.
I love a good ghost story, and more so the ones that are written about the area that I know well.
There’s lots of ghostly stories about Cambridgeshire – ranging from ghosts of Oliver Cromwell, to the beastly Black Shuck. I’ve even been shut in the pitch black of Peterborough Museum basement overnight with night vision cameras. I’m a complete sceptic, and one that doesn’t get scared.
On one of my many ventures into bookstores, I picked up ‘Ghosts & Legends of Cambridgeshire‘ by Polly Howat (1998, Countryside Books), and when I got to page 41, I found myself reaching for a pad, pencil, census returns and parish register transcripts.
Howat’s story is about a Jeremiah Newell of Ely, Cambridgeshire. This uncommon surname and the location fits perfectly with my Newell family tree.
According to her write-up, Jeremiah, or Jerry to the locals, liked a drink. And on one night he had been drinking in his local pub – The Royal Oak on the corner of Potter’s Lane and Back Hill.
He would have waved goodbye to (or been ejected by) landlord William Fenn, and made his way down the side of the pub towards his bed in Potter’s Lane. It appears to have been his last.
It’s safe to assume that Jeremiah was likely to be somewhat drunk as he staggered that short familiar few meters home.
The next morning, the residents discovered Jeremiah curled up, on top of a dung heap. Presumably, this would have seemed warm and comfy to a drunken Jeremiah, and perhaps he mistook it for his bed… but he had died during the night.
The Cambridge Chronicle of 17th November 1866 backs up the story – with a guess at what Jeremiah had slept in or on, and complete with quotes from two residents who witnessed Jeremiah’s return (one of whom appears to be quite the wordsmith).
The newspaper article suggests an exorcism was requested by residents, but it is not clear whether it ever took place (not sure where i’d find that information), or whether the drama of the story led the reporter or their contacts, to stray a little from reality.
The Stamford Mercury
The Stamford Mercury, which is not the local newspaper, and perhaps therefore has a different set of reporters, carries a very different story. I found a copy of this on FindMyPast. It’s dated from the day of Jeremiah’s funeral (2nd November 1866), and so doesn’t make reference to his ghostly return.
Jeremiah Newell was found alive in a puddle by a gas man (the gas works were right nearby)
Jeremiah Newell was escorted to The Black Swan pub – next to The Royal Oak (and just off to the left of the photo above).
Jeremiah Newell was given beer, demanded gin, and then hit his head after dozing and falling over.
Jeremiah Newell was laid outside in the sunshine but was found dead shortly after.
These events are completely different from the other two, and I’m tempted to believe that the report from the non-local Stamford Mercury may well be more accurate.
Finding the facts on Jeremiah Newell’s death
Believer or non-believer bit aside, how can I get closer to telling the proper version of this fun story on Halloween?
To try to help me resolve this, I ordered his death certificate (to find cause and location), and I contacted the team at Cambridgeshire Archives to attempt to locate a copy of the Inquest.
Sadly, floods in the 1960s decimated a lot of Ely records (including the 1861 census), and according to the Cambridgeshire Archives team, it seems that the inquest book covering this period was lost. This is a big shame for unpicking this story.
As for the death certificate, it revealed that he died on Halloween – precisely 148 years ago today.
In what is probably one of the fullest descriptions given in a ‘Cause of death’ column that I’ve yet seen:
“Congestion of the Brain occasioned by drunkenness, exposure to cold, and a fall whilst in a state of intoxication”
The informant box is equally crammed with writing:
“Information received from William Marshall Coroner for Isle of Ely, Ely. Inquest held 2nd November 1866 (P.[?].)”
So, it seems that Jeremiah died following The Stamford Mercury’s account of events.
Perhaps with his death taking place on 31st October 1866 – Halloween – the residents had taken the opportunity to dramatise his departure, when really he was just victim to his alcohol abuse.
I imagine that the Inquest may have specified any evidence of the gas man, and also which pub he died in, but that now remains a mystery.
Is Jeremiah Newell related?
He’s in the right place, at the right time, but linking him up has proved a little tricky.
Jeremiah was the second of three known children – John (b.c.1809), Jeremiah (b.c. 1814) and Mary (b.c. 1816). All were baptised at Holy Trinity, Ely, Cambridgeshire, as the children of John Newell and his wife Alice (née Block/Black).
Whilst it’s possible to see them together in 1841 and 1851, it’s the earlier records beyond Jeremiah’s Newell grandparents that are ambiguous with common names.
My Newell’s remain in Ely either side of the dates that I’ve found for Jeremiah, his parents, and his nieces and nephews. The connection remains elusive, but tantalisingly close. I guess this bit will haunt me a bit longer.
Jeremiah Newell’s timeline:
Jeremiah Newell was baptised on 25th June 1814, at Holy Trinity church, Ely, Cambridgeshire.
He was the second of three known children of John Newell (soldier) and his wife Alice (née Block).
Jeremiah appears to have married widow Susannah Bidwell (née Pigeon) on 4th September 1858 at Ely.
Jeremiah died on 31st October 1866, of injuries sustained whilst drunk, and in cold weather.
Jeremiah was buried, aged 52yrs, on 2nd November 1866 at Ely cemetery.
The burial register notes him as having lived on ‘Back Hill’ (which is the adjoining road).
The Cambridge Chronicle reported the haunting on 17th November 1866.
Polly Howat’s book, re-tells the story, 132 years after his death.
Does the ghost of Jeremiah Newell continue to wander Potter’s Lane?
This week’s SURNAME SATURDAY themed post looks at the HAYLOCK family of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England.
This week’s Surname Saturday themed post, takes a look at my Haylock family connection, living in Ely, Cambridgeshire, during the 18th and early 19th Centuries.
I’ve seen the Haylock family turn up amongst the branches of my relatives, but only recently have I stumbled across them in my ancestry.
The most recent ancestor to carry this name was my 6x Great Grandmother, Mary Haylock, wife of my 6x Great Grandfather, Francis Newell.
Mary was one of at least three (perhaps five) children of John Haylock and his wife Elizabeth (my 7x Great Grandparents). It seems that Elizabeth’s maiden name was Elizabeth Parson, but there is a bit of questioning here, as whilst a John and Elizabeth Haylock had two sons (both named John) in 1769 and 1770, the only marriage for a John Haylock and Elizabeth at any time around those dates, is actually in 1772 in a marriage at St Mary’s Church, Ely (right place) – after their baptisms (wrong time), and just before Mary’s (maybe not so wrong after all).
I’m therefore documenting it, but treading carefully with this option.
Therefore, the confirmed legitimate children were:
Mary Haylock b.c.1773 d.Jul/Aug 1826 (my ancestor)
Sarah Haylock b.c.1776 (and witness at Mary’s marriage to Francis Newell)
Flanders Haylock b.c.1779 (son)
I’m related to ‘Little John’
Whilst the legend of Robin Hood may well have been a fabricated story, ‘Little John’ does indeed sit in my ancestry.
My 7x Great Grandfather John (mentioned above) is noted at the 1773 baptism of daughter (and my 6x Great Grandmother) Mary as ‘little John’.
I’m pretty sure we’re not talking height here, it’s far more likely to have related to his position in family hierarchy – and is probably the son or grandson of another still living John Haylock.
This is where my trail goes cold for now.
However, the Ely Haylock family turn up a few times in other branches of my ancestry including as spouses in my Newman and Yarrow trees. I also once had an English teacher called Mrs Haylock.
Variants of Haylock
In my research in just the St Mary’s parish register of Ely, Cambridgeshire, I have found six variants of Haylock. Those being:
Some of these variants interchange during the same year, an indication at just how volatile the spelling was, how low literacy was, or how thick the fenland accent was carried across. As this just represents one parish, I’m sure there will be other variants.
There’s even a memorial tablet from 1863, to a Charles Theodore Harlock who drowned aged 29. I’ve no idea if he might be related, but could no doubt determine his immediate ancestry through the records and available censuses.
Origins of Haylock
Ancestry.com suggests that the origin of the name Haylock comes from an old Anglo-Saxon personal name.
I was fortunate to know my grandfather for about 13 years (both grandfathers as it happens), and whilst it saddens me that I never really got to know him, and not at all as an adult, I’m pleased that we were able to spend a little time together.
Today’s TOMBSTONE TUESDAY post returns to Little Downham and finds a delightful example of 19th century headstone for the Harrison family.
It was wonderfully sunny on Sunday, so I went for a short drive to Little Downham – a village synonymous with my paternal ancestry – to re-tread my steps from years ago, and photograph the gravestones that match my ancestral surnames.
I always find it interesting to see how the headstones have changed in the preceding years too, some look much the same, other’s have become more lichen and mossed over.
This stone, which I don’t remember seeing before (perhaps I was yet to uncover my Harrison roots), stands on the West side of St Leonard’s church, against the perimeter wall. Whether this is it’s original place of standing, or whether it’s been moved, is a mystery, but having noticed that a lot of stones are around the edges, then I’d suspect this to be the case.
It’s a delight in colour, typography, and of course design. I just wish that the long piece of prose at the bottom of the stone had survived. The legible part reads:
IN MEMORY OF William Harrison who died Nov 8th 1819 Aged 73 years.
Also of Mary his wife who died Nov 3rd 1836 Aged 69 years.
Also of Sarah their daughter who died April 22nd 1828 Aged 24 years.
And, actually, as I write this blog article, a strange shape has caught my eye on the top left of the photo – is that a horseshoe resting on the top of the left corner of the stone, or a metal brace to keep this stone standing up? It was a fair few inches away from the wall… I’ll have to return and check!
As for the occupants of this gravestone, William Harrison was born circa 1746 to William Harrison and his wife Anne Leaford. He was baptised on 27th July 1746 at Little Downham. He married Mary (surname not discovered), and the couple had at least five children, with Sarah seemingly being the youngest born around 1802. She was baptised on 25th September 1803. She died aged 24 years, on 22nd April 1828, and was buried with her father (who had died in November 1819) 3 days later. Her mother joined them in November 1836.
At the moment, these Harrison family members seem to be eluding my own William Harrison branch, who seem to alternate between this family group in the Little Downham registers. It is pretty certain that these were ultimately the same family.
Research continues…. and i think i need to get my timeline/whiteboard out again to solve this puzzle.
The Cambridgeshire Family History Society has confirmed the guest speakers for this year’s Cambridgeshire Family History Fair.
A series of announcements via their Facebook Page, have revealed the following experts will be talking at the Fair on 25th October 2014.
Author, and former BBC researcher, Kathy Chater will be talking about how to turn your family history research into a story.
Author, well-known local historian, and President of the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History, Mike PettyMBE will be talking about the resources available to you when researching your Cambridgeshire ancestors.
Social historian Tom Doig returns, this time to talk about identifying dates of Edwardian photographs and postcards.
Carl Warner, Research and Information Manager at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, will be explaining how you can use the Museum’s vast image library to research and share your story.
The Fair returns to Girton Glebe Primary School, in Girton, on the North-west side of Cambridge. Parking and entry is free, and doors are open 10am-4pm.