‘I am disappointed by that stroke of death which has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure.’
On the 20th January 1799, the death of Shakespearean actor David Garrick. He died at his home, the Adelphi Theatre, on this day in 1779 and was buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey. It is said that his funeral was a splendid affair and that his funeral procession, one of the greatest ever seen in London, stretched from the Strand to Westminster Abbey.
Did you know that The Queen's has two birthdays?
The Queen celebrates her birthday twice each year - once on the anniversary of the day she was born (21 April) and on an "official" birthday on a Saturday in June and that is today.
It is a tradition that was started by George II in 1748 and it owes its origins to the ageless problem of the British weather. George was born in November and felt the weather would be too cold for his annual birthday parade. Instead, he combined his birthday celebration with an annual spring military parade known as Trooping the Colour. It is a tradition that has continued to this day.
Why is her official birthday always on Saturday?
During the early part of her reign, the Queen's official birthday was on a Thursday, but it later changed to a Saturday in June so that more members of the public could enjoy it."
Feminist writer and intellectual Mary Wollstonecraft was born in London on this day in 1759.
Brought up by an abusive father, she left home and dedicated herself to a life of writing. While working as a translator to Joseph Johnson, a publisher of radical texts, she published her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
Interestingly, despite being an advocate of women's rights, Wollstonecraft places the blame for the French Revolution squarely on queen's shoulders of Marie Antoinette.
She died ten days after her second daughter, Mary, was born.
Towards the end of 1790 Methodist preacher, John Wesley's health began to fail, it was on this day in 1791 that he died at the age of 88.
In Bristol, in 1739 Wesley spoke at his first open-air sermon, his new religion was unconventional, but it reached out to the likes of my ancestors, the coal miners, the factory labourers in the Midlands and those in the tin mining and fishing communities of Cornwall. This new Methodist movement was preaching a new message of self-discipline and faithfulness it was just what the poor and working class of England wanted to hear.
Methodism swept through the country and as it did so it left in its wake the old religion and it took with it the last of the Catholic monarchy.
You can read more about John Wesley preaching in Cornwall in my blog on my website
Just the other day my husband and I were reminiscing about television programmes we used to watch that are now no longer on our screens but we think should be. One programme that came up in the conversation was Balderdash and Piffle - does anyone remember it?
The second series, shown in 2007, was the one I remembered. In this series, the panel attempted to find out when and where a particular word was first used and the origins behind it. Some interesting and fascinating discoveries were made in answer to questions such as -
Did anyone go to the loo before 1940? What's so daft about a brush? Plus stuff that was a bit saucy such as is Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset really the birthplace of the marital aid?
Obviously one of the main books used in finding these words was the dictionary, and it was this very day in 1784 that the man who brought us the Dictionary of the English Language died.
Samuel Johnson was an English writer and critic, and one of the most famous literary figures of the 18th century his dictionary was published in 1755 and took just over eight years to compile, there are 40,000 words listed and over 114,000 quotations - quite a mammoth undertaking!
Johnson, it has been said, was
"gruff but good-hearted, independent, honest, deeply traditional, conservative in his values
but bold in defending them full of practical wisdom and common sense."
Samuel Johnson was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey.
The parish church of St Columba sits at the heart of the ancient town of St Columb Major in Cornwall. In this churchyard lie many of my ancestors who lived in and around the town from the early 15th century and where my family still live today.
In the image above you can see a passageway under the churches clock tower. This path was a right of way to a college founded by my ancestor Sir John Arundell in 1427. The Arundell's, for many years, were influential within the town, a number of them prayed in their private chapel and are buried inside the church, you can see one of them in the image below, their ancestral home was in a neighbouring village.
However, it is another St Columb Major family I am researching at present, that is the family of Scoboryo, a family whose ancient origins lie further south and most of whose mortal remains lie peacefully in the churchyard.
The Scoboryo family story, in regard to the survival of a family and in particular it's surname, is a sad one - the fine detail I have yet to discover. It begins however with a marriage in 1641.
You can imagine a small wedding party walking to St Columba's church on a cold morning in February. The wedding and the feast that followed would likely have been a grander affair than what other members of the town could expect, the Scoboryo's being either gentry or yeoman farmer's. Three years later two children were born and baptised, only the son Thomas making it into adulthood. Eventually, Thomas would be the father of fifteen children, a good basis, you would think, to start a small but successful Cornish dynasty. However, this was not to be, Thomas's children were born in the years between 1669 and 1694, but by 1695 only three, two daughters and a son had survived - the other twelve had joined their grandparents in the parish churchyard.
If all of these children had survived then eight of them, being boys, would have seen to it that this unusual surname would have been around for a few more generations, but sadly this did not happen, for it was left to my ancestor, the one surviving son, to carry the name of Scoboryo into the future - and this he did successfully, but two generation later, the surname, in St Columb Major at least, was extinct.
My research continues.
This week has been spent sniffing around the village of Barkby in Leicestershire in search of my Smith ancestors, I should say ancestor because I have been unable to find anyone who is connected with my 6th great grandmother Susanna Smith.
Susanna does not seem, at present, to be a member of any of the Smith families living in the village - not that there were many - in fact in the years from 1588 until 1771 they numbered less than fifteen. Five of those can be found in the late 16th to early 17th centuries listed under the spelling of Smyth, the rest are listed under the modern spelling and lived in Barkby between 1710 and 1771. Of the later Smiths there are just two families - one headed by John Smith whose wife was Elizabeth Plant and a John Smith whose wife was Mary and as just mentioned Susanna cannot be linked to either of them.
So who was Susanna? Why was she alone in the village and why was she there? I think that the answer to these questions lie in domestic service.
Barkby is a village whose landscape is dominated and surrounded by large fields and woodland, it is cut in half by a large estate that has at its centre a Georgian house. It is in this house that I believe Susanna may have been employed in the years before her marriage.
A 17th/18th century servant girl was usually young and unmarried and would work in this environment until she married and started a family of her own. Girls born and bred in the country could be found working in the homes of the aristocracy and in the houses of local gentry, like the Pochins who owned Barkby Hall.
I haven't proved that Susanna was employed here and when researching your family history you must never jump to conclusions, however Susanna is typical of the female 18th century domestic servant - young and unmarried. Maybe the next clue to Susanna's ancestry is that she was not a hired stranger, but was distantly related to someone who already worked at the house or new of a position there.
This afternoon has been spent wandering among the fields and houses of the villages of Leicestershire, the home of one half of my paternal ancestors, looking into how they made a living. Digging coal was one, working at home on a stocking frame was another.
Nottingham born Clergyman William Lee is credited with the invention of the stocking frame in 1589, his invention, a mechanical knitting frame, was the first step in mechanising the production of textiles that was especially important in Leicestershire in the 18th century.
Tradition tells of two tales regarding the invention of this frame, one states that Lee came up with the idea as he watched his wife knit into the small hours of the morning in an effort to supplement the family's income. The second, and more dramatic, is a tale of revenge - Lee is said to have invented the stocking frame with the intention to deprive a woman, who spurned his affections, of her livelihood, evidently she preferred knitting to the affairs of the heart - not very best attitude to have if your employer was the almighty is it?
A description of William Lee's frame can be found in an indenture dated 6th June 1600.
"William Lee hath by his long study and practice devised and invented a certain invention or artificiality
being a very speedy manner of working and making in a loom or frame all manner of works usually wrought
by knitting needles as stockings, waistcoats and such like."
One of the first stocking frames appeared in the Leicestershire village of Hinckley in 1640, working said frame was the main employment of my ancestors for over a hundred years. However, the arrival of the canal and later the railway, plus methods that created the speeder production of goods during the Industrial Revolution would soon end the traditional dependency on the land and mills would see the end of the framework knitter’s cottage industry, forcing my ancestors to look for work elsewhere.
On Friday I placed my updated research file at the very back of my family history draw, I said a quick good bye and pushed the draw until it was almost closed and picked out the file that was at the very front.
This little routine is always a bit exciting, for I do not know which family I will be working on next, I knew it would be a family from my paternal line as the last family, the Meavy's, are part of my maternal line, but the name of the latest family I did not know.
Putting the file on my desk I eagerly opened it only to find that the papers inside numbered four - yes four, and the name of the family was Smith. My mood dropped slightly as you might imagine, because you will know as well as I that Smith is the commonest name in England and today, John is the fourth most popular christen name the Smiths like to call their newly born sons. Things haven changed much - John Smith was my 8th great grandfather!
John's daughter was Susannah, the last of my Smiths, on her marriage my family line follows the family of Needham. Susannah and Thomas Needham were married on the 30th May 1739 in the Parish Church of Barkby in Leicestershire
The origins of this surname comes under the category of occupational names, so will not surprise to you when I write that the surname of Smith has its roots in metal work. Interesting, the gypsy community often used the surname Smith in order to hide their identity....how exciting!
Anyway, over the next few days I will be researching the village where Susannah was married as it is usual for a woman to marry in the parish where she lived. I am awaiting the arrival of a copy of the marriage entry in Barkby's marriage register, in the hope that it will enable me to take another step back in time, however I have my doubts this will reveal anything.
With that in mind, do you think if I get in touch with the new Dr Who she will give a fellow female time traveler a lift?
At the start of the War of American Independence and on this day in 1775 Paul Revere began his famous ride to warn people that British troops were advancing.
Revere was arrested but the message was carried to the town of Concord by Samuel Prescott.
Revere's Ride is remembered in Longellow's poem of the same name.
"Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
History is so interesting isn't it? Do you love the story of King Alfred's unsuccessful afternoon in the kitchen or King Cnut unsuccessful attempt not to get his feet wet? Maybe you're interested in when the Normans landing on our shores or the stories of an era closer to our time?
- The Ancestors
- Bustaine of Braunton: Introduction
- Hendley of Cranbrook >
- Hunt of Barnstaple Introduction >
- Lakeman of Mevagissey >
- Meavy Introduction >
- Mitchell of Crantock: An Introduction >
- Mohun of Dunster: Introduction >
- Scoboryo of St Columb Major >
Thomas Vaughan: An Introduction
- Smith of Barkby Introduction >
- Taylor Introduction >
- Tosny of Normandy >
- Toon of Leicestershire: Introduction >
- Underwood of Coleorton Introduction
- History Blog
- Wars of the Roses Blog
- History Bites
- Just Jottings
- Alice Povey Illustration
- A to E
- F to J
- K to O
- P to T
- U to Z
- New Page