The Battlefield Walk in Tewkesbury covers the large area of land where one of the last battles of the Wars of the Roses took place. Walking around it, it is easy (if, like me, you're mind is mostly in the 15th century) to miss everything else that's not medieval related.
Our trip out saw us heading south east, with the town's abbey behind us. Passing the site where an ancient castle once stood we came upon a cemetery. This burial ground is just over 160 years old and contains a lovely Gothic lodge at its centre. The building in my photograph is a small mausoleum that stands alone, as you can see on the map, at the cemetery's eastern border.
It was built by one Reverend Charles Grove in 1881. Grove was a great benefactor at Tewkesbury Abbey, he not only gave the abbey its organ that stands in the north transept and the stained glass west window, he also donated the magnificent brass eagle lectern that can be seen in as you walk along the nave of the abbey. a great benefactor to the Abbey
I imagine that the Reverend and his wife, who predeceased him, are spending eternity together in this beautiful quiet corner of Tewkesbury.
Last week, whilst continuing in my research of all things weaving, I found out that one Erastus Brigham Bigelow, the son of an American cotton weaver was born on this day in 1814. Bigelow was the inventor of the weaving machine.
Bigelow's most famous invention was a power loom, a device that could weave tapestries and carpets. As Bigelow improved his new machines he was able to increase the amount of fabric produced on a daily basis. His improved machines went on to make up to twenty-five yards of fabric a day. It was said of his new invention
“the goods produced in this loom are of a quality very superior to such as are produced in the hand loom; at all events, we have not met with anything of the kind in the shops that will compare with them for texture, and for beauty and regularity of pattern..."
Although my family never worked in tapestry or carpet production the mechanising of the power loom changed the life of one branch of my family.
In the 15th, 18th and 19th centuries in Kent, Devon and Leicestershire respectively working the handloom was these families only form of employment and as I have found out it made the 15th-century Hendleys very rich and it sustained the livelihood of the Lakemans in Devon. However, what the Industrial Revolution gave with one hand it took away with another, the invention of a powered loom in England saw the end of the Goodacre family of Leicester.
I began looking into the lives of a new family, the Hendley's a couple of weeks ago and my research is coming along nicely. I've not put pen to paper yet, but the information I am gathering is proving very interesting.
I wrote about the Hendley families connection to the infamous Culpepper family last week and this week I have been looking into their connection with the family of Ashburnham, the last of which, Ellen Ashburnham, was my 14th great-grandmother.
Ashburnham Place, near Battle in Sussex, was the families ancestral home and where the main branch of the family settled from about the end of the 12th century until 1953. My ancestry does not run along this line but along that of a second son who held a number of important roles in Sussex and Surry at the beginning of the 16th century.
The aforementioned Ashburnham main branch descended via my ancestor's uncle, probably William Ashburnham, to a John (there were two of them) one of whom, was a faithful supporter of King Charles I. The letters below is thought to date from about 1642 and deals with Charles's planned escape from the clutches of the Parliamentarians.
"Now for myself be confident of my Constancy to the Church, for which upon debate I am dayly more & more confirmed for now I see clearly that the Presbiterians dis… & contradicts bouldly the consent of Fathers & the customes of the Catholike Church: & they hould that the Supreme Power is originally in the People to whom all Magistrats ought to account: As for my escaping from hence, I shall not attempt it but by the Queen’s advice alone or such as she shall trust to manage that business, concerning which now that I have declared my Opinion and showen my reasons (as I have fully done in former letters) I have now no impatience, for I shall not loose by my own silence which was the cheefe care I had in this.
Upon Saturday next I expect the London Propositions; for one of which I particularly desire advice they Demand not only the confirmation of their Counterfeit Great Seale, but also the making good of all the Acts which hath beene done by it: I know this is not to be granted (for you remember the great consequences that I tould you, in Oxford depended upon it) but how hansomly to evade it, there is the question: for this I desire the opinions of 351:385:386:387:389, if these thinke it expedient, of 357: with as much expedition as may be to. Give this enclosed to my Wyfe, & me a particular account of her healthe
Your most assured constant friend
If you look closely you will see that part of the letter is written in cipher, Charles’ didn't want his escape plans to fall into the wrong hands.
Exciting stuff, isn't it?
The Cornish village of Mevagissey is a lovely place to spend your summer holiday, but in days gone by it was a village designed to confuse. It had (and still has) a labyrinth of paths and alleys that snake their way up and down the surrounding hills that were perfect for the movement of contraband.
Over two hundred years ago the inhabitants of Mevagissey had very little they depended on smuggling to avoid customs and excise tax. My ancestors were innkeepers and I have no doubt that they were involved in smuggling.
Increased duties, especially those on wines and spirits during the late 18th and early 19th centuries resulted in widespread smuggling and it was found to be successful because the customs officers found it impossible to police, and also because of social approval.
Rudyard Kipling's 1906 A Smuggler’s Song shows us exactly what was going on in nearly all Cornish ports at this time.
If you wake at midnight and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!
Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again - and they'll be gone next day !
If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more !
If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you " pretty maid," and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been !
Knocks and footsteps round the house - whistles after dark
You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie
They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by !
'If You do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance,
You'll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood -
A present from the Gentlemen, along 'o being good!
In all the churches I've been in over the years and all the fonts I've seen its the Norman style that is my favourite.
My choice is purely because of their simplicity - I'm not a fan of anything overly ornate, although some fonts from this period can be quite sophisticated, like the one in St Petroc's in Bodmin in Cornwall for instance.
Others, like the one at Stragglethorpe, a village just down the road from me, is as basic as you can get - I like it.
Another, slightly more ornate, is the font from St Peter's Church in Mevagissey in Cornwall which is a particular favourite of mine, again because of plainness. It's cumbersome and heavy and has what is called chip-carved design of flowers and a herringbone pattern embossed into its sides - its lovely. Another reason it is a favourite is that ten of my 7th great-grandparents children, including my 6th great grandmother Ann, were baptised using this font.
It's about time I changed the coordinates in my virtual time travelling machine from the 17th century to the 18th century as I am a little tired of all things wool, that is sheep, fabric, military uniforms etc etc etc.
My present research is into the first eighteen years of my ancestor's life, he was a master tailor who would have served his apprenticeship working on such fabrics as kersey or serge, but who never, well at least I think he didn't, work on such beautiful silky garments as worn by Charles II following his restoration in 1660 - the short doublets, petticoat breeches, the coat and the waistcoat that was made up of expensive fabrics such as silks, velvets, and brocades.
The jacket in the second image was made at the time my ancestor first opened his 'shop', I like to imagine that he would have made such a pretty jacket for the local squire, Colonel Lewis Tremayne of Heligan, (whose families Cornish gardens were lost until after WWI) or even coats like the one Ross Poldark is often seen wearing.
In reality, my 6x great grandfather probably worked out of his home, sitting on his workbench in front of his window replacing buttons, repairing the clothing of his neighbours or the tunics and coats worn by the local fisherman.
Not at all romantic is it?
Anyway, there's no pressing of a tardis like buttons yet, I've got another few years in the tailoring trade where a little money was made, but after that, it was a downward spiral into debt, prison and two suspicious death.
Last weekend we finally ventured out in our motorhome, we didn't go very far just a few miles away to Louth (pronounced Loweth)
Louth, I hear you cry, well yes.
I've been living in Lincolnshire for nearly fifty years and can you believe I've never been there, and it seems I've missed out, it is a super town, its steeped in history (a 16th century rebellion) has loads of fine buildings and the meridian line runs right through it.
Our theme for the weekend was the Lincolnshire Rising, a revolt that started in Louth in 1536 as a protest against Henry VIII's policy of removing church valuables and pocketing the profits. The rebellion was a precursor to the Pilgrimage of Grace - all fascinating stuff. In one of my photo's, you can see the pulpit from which Thomas Kendall spoke informing the congregation of St James's Church about the imminent arrival of the kings representative. (Kendall was later hanged, drawn and quartered for speaking out against the king)
We also visited Donna Nook, one of the many nature reserves on the east coast, in search of seals, despite over two thousand pups being born last year we never saw one who made the return journey, but the beach was lovely and it was the hottest place in the country although you wouldn't have known it as minor gale blew round our ankles.
After avoiding low flying bombers and skirting around sandy puddles we headed for our campsite at Austen Fen on the banks of the Louth canal, which was lovely......... hundreds of conkers, four white doves, and a nice couple from Roth-er-ham - (No partridges in a pear tree though)
Day two started with a bit of windsurfing 😉 and ended with a trip on a train - I was dead excited I can tell you - I love trains, they bring back many happy memories for me. We had a carriage to ourselves for the whole of the journey, all one and a half miles of it, we booked the family in for the Santa Express in December, seven of us in Santa hats and tinsel scarves - a veritable Polar Express it will be.
Despite the television conking out on the last day, having no biscuits to dip in my tea and standing in the biggest lump of dog you know what, it was a fine weekend.
Let me introduce you to the chap whose image represents my fishermen ancestors.
He can be seen wearing his fisherman jumper and carrying a basket of freshly caught pilchards.
You can read his story here
The painting is the work of my very talented daughter, who is a Cornish based illustrator, she can be found here.
I have a family connection to King Richard III I wonder if you do too?
In 2015 Professor Kevin Schurer of the University of Leicester revealed a link between Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard III which makes them third cousins 16 times removed.
I too am related to the king being his sixth cousin 16 times removed.
My connection with the Plantagenet monarch is through King Henry III and this makes me even more distant than Mr Cumberbatch. It has been estimated that between one million and seventeen million people are related in some way to Richard III but as Dr Turi King from the University of Leicester points out we are all related to Richard, "it’s simply a matter of degree. What makes Cumberbatch different in this case" says Dr King, "is that how he is related to Richard is known." Cumberbatch is related to Richard III through Edward III, Henry III's great-grandson.
However distant, it is nonetheless, a connection, and that is why researching your family tree is such a rewarding hobby. Even if you don't find your royal ancestor you will certainly learn an awful lot of about history along the way.
Here is what I have learnt.
Also, here is a word of advice, don't be put off
In the book 1066 and All That, a humorous and satirical look at history, it states that the English Civil Wars were fought between the Cavaliers ( Wrong but Wromantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive) and that Charles I thought that
"He was king and that was right, kings were divine and that was right, kings were right, and that was right, and therefore everything was alright"
We may find the ideas of Divine Right ludicrous and amusing today, but what must be remembered is the cost of it to our ancestors.
The English Civil Wars put family against family and father against son and no better example of this is William Frederick Yeames's painting. In this art work a little boy in a royalist household is being spoken to by parliamentarians who ask the question "And When Did You Last See Your Father" which quite naturally puts the child in a difficult position and his family in a dangerous one.
While researching my 17th century Cornish ancestors I wondered if any of them found themselves in this position, for many were loyal to their king - however a few were not, I have discovered it certainly placed friend against friend. Sir Bevill Grenville of Stowe in Cornwall was a Royalist whose allegiances were torn when his friend St John Eliot of St Germans was incarcerated, on more than one occasion, in the Tower of London for his views on parliamentary rights. Eliot eventually died in the Tower and King Charles refused his son permission to bury his father in his homeland cruelly stating
"Let Sir John Eliot be buried in the church of that parish where he died."
These men were dealing directly with the fall out of King Charles I's ideas of the Divine Right of Kings and his attempt to enforce it in the wars that raged between 1642 and 1651. These wars resulted in the loss of over eighty thousand lives plus the hundreds of thousands who died from war related diseases, ultimately though King Charles I would be held responsible and he would pay with his life.
Presently, my research into this period is focusing on my family in the years between 1636 to 1646.
In 1641 the marriage of my ancestor took place just five days before parliament passed the Triennial Act, an Act that was drawn up to prevent kings from ruling without Parliament, and in 1645 Royalist troops, under Sir Thomas Fairfax, camped outside the village where my ancestors lived.
Sometimes when I am researching I have so much going on in my head that I just have to write it down. Often, as I muddle along making connection my notes turn into a blog
- 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