Long overdue.

Thomas Foord Waldron

 

 

 

 

 

Long before the fortnightly collection, humans used to dispose of their own rubbish mostly by burying it. It wasn’t much more than the burnt remains of the fire until far more recently.

In the 19th century and before there was no plastic to dispose of and no old microwaves or tumble driers to get rid of. Things were used and re-used until they couldn’t be used anymore. Then they were burnt and buried or maybe collected by people who would sort through the ash for usable items to sell on themselves. Bits of bone, buttons etc.

As time went on and the household rubbish began to contain things that wouldn’t burn well, tin  and glass for example, local authorities had to do something constructive about it and a more local organised collection began to emerge.

However sometimes people continued to use the old rubbish pit that they had dug in their garden many years before and then decades later people like my mum would be digging a hole in a border in the garden and then randomly find half a broken plate or a glass bottle stopper just where they were about to plant a tulip bulb.

I have to assume that litter bins were few and far between in the more rural areas at that time, because I am always finding bits of old Victorian crockery and such, sticking up out of the ground in woods and old trackways. It seems our ancestors were litterbugs too.

And as a result we have a nice little collection of cod bottles at home, pretty little blue poison bottles and stoneware bottles that we have discovered whilst out walking. We’ve got some lovely beer bottles, gin bottles and lemonade bottles. A Marmite jar, a few decorative milk bottles and a couple of Sainsbury’s pate pots. Even an old Bovril jar or 10.

And just for a little while, this very tactile mineral water bottle ‘lent’ to us by Mr T Foord. But he actually wanted this rubbish back. Yesterday.

I found Mr Foords bottle laying face down after a walk in the countryside with my children. After carefully retrieving it from its muddy tomb and cleaning it up (evicting the bugs!)  we could clearly read….

‘This bottle is lent by T Foord of Waldron and must be returned’

Oops.

Thomas Foord was born in Heathfield, East Sussex sometime around January 1841. He was the only child of George Foord, an agriculturial labourer and Eliza (possibly nee Knight). By 1851 the family had moved just along the road to the edge of the small village of Waldron, taking Georges widowed father, Jesse, with them.

Thomas grew up following his fathers occupation and then married local girl Philadelphia Stevens in May 1865, the bride had just turned 19 and the groom was 24. Their first child, Jesse – named after Thomas’ grandad, was born soon after. The couple would have 13 children in total.

Now something quite exciting happened around this time. I’m not quite sure how it happened but George Foord suddenly became his own boss, a farmer of 5 acres.

And his son Thomas started a business.

Family history says that Philadelphia Foord was a dab hand at brewing ginger beer, and Thomas saw the potential in this. Before long Thomas was selling his own bottled mineral water, ginger beer, potash and lemonade. Thomas became quite famous in the locality for his delicious drinks.  As his children grew some of them entered the family business too and eventually son Walter took over from his father, continuing to trade until the second world war when Foords was bought by a much larger mineral company, Hooper Struave from Brighton.

Thomas pops up frequently in the Sussex newspapers, he obviously took a keen interest in his local community. He had various hobbies and interests, he was at one time a bellringer, a member of a slate club and involved in the local bonfire society. What I particularly liked about him though is he seems to have ended pretty much every meeting he attended by performing a jolly or comical song!

I dragged persuaded the family to go for a drive over to Waldron churchyard to see if we could find any family graves. We found a couple but sadly not George and Eliza or Thomas and Philadelphia’s, we did however find Thomas’ and Philadelphia’s house still standing. I wonder how many bottles are waiting to be found there. Or if they pop up frequently  whilst the owners are gardening….

But what about Philadelphia who seems to have started the cottage industry? She was a farmers daughter and one of five surviving children. Her mother Ann is likely to have been the only daughter of Philadelphia Ashby of nearby Rotherfield.   This Philadelphia spent a large part of her life working as a live-in housekeeper on a farm. It would be interesting to delve further back into this maternal line to see if the brewing skill was passed down to Ann.

I contacted Sheila, who is a descendant of Thomas and Philadelphia, and she was kind enough to supply some of this information and this photo of Thomas.

Thomas Foord

He does look like a jolly chap doesn’t he?

I was really pleased to be able to return Mr Foords bottle to his family. And even more pleased it reached Sheila in one piece!

Now, anyone want a Bovril jar?

 

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Chapel on the hill.

Ebony Chapel Hill St Marys

One of our hobbies as a family is to occasionally go Geocaching. A couple of years ago we visited a cache with the intriguing name ‘The church that moved’ in Reading Street near Tenterden in Kent, it is so named because the church was moved to its present location in 1858 from about a mile away. We decided this week to return to the area and find the cache placed on the outer edge of where the church had previously stood on Chapel Bank and, of course, visit the churchyard and its inhabitants that were left behind.

By the beginning of 1858 it had become apparent to the villagers that something must be done about their chapel. Sited at the top of a hill, a good walk away from the village and with no road or pathway upon which to reach it, the aging damp building was fast becoming ‘useless’ to them. Bad weather prevented children and the older generation attending at all during winter time and it had been damaged some years before by fire and was by now in a bad state of repair.

A well attended meeting was called by the Churchwarden, Overseer and Vicar and it was decided to remove the chapel from the hill and re-erect it closer to the centre of the small community, on land donated by a local gentleman. A list of subscribers was printed in newspapers all over Kent and beyond and a plan of action was drawn up. It certainly would have been a major undertaking especially in the days before lorries and heavy machinery.

The Kentish Advertiser reports in the 31st of August 1858 edition that the first stones of the new church in Ebony had been laid. A small time capsule with some coins of the time and a note of explanation had been buried at the same time and apparently the excited parishioners were given plenty of cake and wine to celebrate. Well it was a very special day, even the Archbishop of Canterbury was there!

And no doubt everyone was rightly pleased with their wonderfully restored church and its new Sunday School (excepting maybe some of the children..!) on its completion late that year. So much more conveniently situated for young and old to attend and join the congregation once more.

I wonder how they felt though about leaving their loved ones behind up on that hill. I can’t imagine they visited any less than before to tend their graves.

As we walked from the road towards the top of the hill I could see the 1858 villagers point of view. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the churchyard on foot. It was a cold windy day and we were quite chilly despite the exercise. We were lucky we had a concrete path to follow for some of the journey and a well worn path along the edge of the field after.

It was well worth the walk though. There were headstones everywhere! Peeping out from overgrown grass, hiding behind tree trunks, some clustered together and some standing alone. Sadly many of the inscriptions are beyond reading now*, exposure to the weather has worn them away. I was able to find some legible stones though.

I found Robert Walker who died in 1842 leaving his wife Sarah to eke out an existence as a laundress to support her children and sometimes receive some help from the church when work dried up 😉  Sarah joined Robert in 1881 closely followed by their son William. Their grave is pictured above.

Parish clerk and Postmaster William Catt has a grave, which he shares with his wife Philadelphia, enclosed by an old wrought iron fence. Close by is Stephen Weller, a shepherd, who along with his wife Susannah can gaze out over the Kentish countryside he once worked on. Just a few steps away is their daughter Rhoda who died in 1930 leaving a husband and a large family behind.

Innkeeper George Thomas Paine who died in 1877 aged 66 lies alongside his wife Ann who survived him by 2 years. George and Ann were married in 1840 and raised several children. After the death of Ann, the ‘White Hart and Lamb Inn’ was put up for auction. The listing for it tells us it had a bar, bar-palour, parlour, kitchen, washhouse, scullery, dairy, cellar, 2 attics, 7 bedrooms, a wool room, stables, cow lodge, sorry 2 cow lodges, a cart lodge, orchard, paddocks and a large garden. It must have been a coaching inn used as a stopover for long journeys.

The churchyard is far from forgotten, it is on a public footpath and so apart from occasional geocachers,  walkers, wildlife enthusiasts and tombstone tourists, an annual church pilgrimage is organised, a service is read and with a picnic to follow it sounds like an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours on a warm, lazy Sunday afternoon.

Chapel Bank is a peaceful, albeit lonely place with a spectacular 360°  view.  If you are ever in the area do have a wander up there. We enjoyed our visit, its just a shame we didn’t find that cache!

*The website http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk is an invaluable source of information including memorial inscriptions for many Kent villages -including Ebony- recorded many years ago when they were far more legible.

Going…..going…..gone.

isaac  churchgate 003

These two photos are of the same grave, taken a few years apart. It is sad to see how the elements have weathered the sandstone, leaving the inscription almost illegible. Fortunately my mum and I recorded it many years ago, but if we had tried to do that now I think it would be almost impossible. This particular headstone is a good example of how much information can be lost if we don’t get to it before the weather does.

This is the last resting place of Isaac and his sister Rebecca. Although you can no longer read most of the inscription on the stone it used to tell us that Isaac was 21 when he died in 1829. It also informed us that Rebecca was married to William Hilder, she left one surviving son and she also died in 1829. The parents of the 2 siblings had arranged for the stone to be put up and they had also put their own names on it.

From this information we were able to find a baptism for Isaac in a nearby village, and those of all his siblings……except Rebecca. So if she hadn’t of been mentioned on the headstone we wouldn’t have know she existed. But she did exist, so we tracked down her marriage – 1828 in Brighton, Sussex. This is many miles away from where she had lived with her family. Had some kind soul not transcribed the record and put it on a cd we wouldn’t have found it.

The last sighting of Rebecca at this time is of her entry in the burial register, under her married surname.

The problem here is that the siblings were born and died before 1837, this is the year that the recording of births, deaths and marriages became compulsory in England and Wales. Details were (supposed to be!) collected locally and transferred to a central register -at the General Register Office. Because of this act we are able to search for our ancestors easily as the details appear on various websites and usually we find what are looking for – although sometimes it takes a while, but don’t we all get that glowing feeling of satisfaction when we find that elusive marriage?

And because Isaac and Rebecca lived and died before 1841 they don’t appear on a census return.

So what can we do about ancestors who died before this? how can we find out more about them? Well we can look locally at Parish records from before 1837, we can search old newspapers for family notices or in Rebecca’s case we can try and find her husband and child in the 1841 census to see what became of them.

But……..

we can only do this if we know about them.

Having finally tracked down Mr William Hilder in 1841 we found he had married again and had several more children with his new wife. Rebecca’s 12 year old son was living with his father and stepmother, of course no mention was made of his deceased mother.

So without the information this headstone had provided us with at one time we wouldn’t have known about Rebecca or her marriage and child.  Quite possibly anyone researching backwards from themselves to Rebecca’s son wouldn’t know his real mother or her family, not without the help of that little bit of knowledge from her headstone.

Headstones can sometimes be an important resource that may be able to provide us with information we wouldn’t find anywhere else.

Not gone from memory…….

consul mine st ives

This is the remains of Giew, a former tin mine just outside St Ives in Cornwall, England.  I visited it recently with my family while on holiday.  My story today is about a similar mine close by, Consols Mine in St Ives. I was unable to locate any remains during my short stay so I have taken this photo to give you an idea of what it may have looked like.

Edwin Trevollow, husband to Johanna and father of 10 children, was born in 1845 to William and Elizabeth.  He was one of 9 surviving children and, like his father before him, grew up to be a Tin Miner. It was a hard job, working underground for many hours at a time in dark, damp and claustrophobic conditions. It was also a very dangerous job. Many hundreds of men died when mine walls or ceilings collapsed, men could be trapped underground for days awaiting rescue, perhaps a rescue that could never come. But despite the risks it was a profession that was undertaken by many men  (and children) at the time. Even women were part of the industry, although more often they worked on the surface as ‘Bal Maidens’.

On the afternoon of Tuesday 15th of March 1887 Edwin and his son were finishing their shift and making their way back along the mine. A few days earlier they had been in another part of the mine when it had collapsed and blocked the normal way out, so it had been decided by some of the men that they could continue working by way of using a large bucket to get into and out of the mine despite this being against the rules.

Of course the men wouldn’t have been paid if they didn’t work and large families need feeding, rules or no rules.

Edwin waited foEdwin and Johannar his turn to be pulled up to the surface, he stepped into the bucket, and was hauled upwards towards the fresh Cornish air. He was almost level with the outside world when the rope snapped. Edwin tumbled down 30 fathoms  (180 feet to you and me!)  to the bottom of the mine. A fellow worker heard him shriek as he fell. Edwin died instantly. The inquest into his death gave a verdict of accidental death and a stern reminder to the Mine Owner of the rules and regulations of tin mining. And that was that.

Johanna his widow was left with several young children still living at home to support. The 1891 census tells us she was being maintained by her 21 year old son William. He was a Tin Miner. Johanna’s life must have been one of worry, just like many of her neighbours.

Johanna died in 1900 aged just 53.

The couple share a grave on a hillside looking out to sea.

So where were we….

Like many people I like a quiet walk through a churchyard, I like to explore the old stones and sometimes take note of a name or two and see what I can find out about them. About 15 years ago I was walking around a Sussex churchyard with my mum and the thought occurred to us …why not record some of these stones? many of the memorials were from the early 1800s and were rapidly falling victim to weather – the soft sandstone losing the lettering once carved into it. So we began to spend our spare time there, on hands and knees with paper and pens (yes it was in the days before Tablets!) and in all weathers, desperately trying to read inscriptions that were terribly faint and almost illegible.

In the end we recorded well over a thousand headstones. It was a very difficult project, we didn’t get it right in some cases but we tried our best, visiting local archives to try and get as many names and dates right as possible.  We purchased death certificates, read obituaries in local papers dating back to Victorian times. But it was great, and we had fun doing it. When complete we felt we had achieved something, and many people who had long since gone were remembered and now have become like old friends to us, albeit some of them probably have the odd chuckle at my expense about that ant incident.

One nice part of our project was the people we met, both in person and online. We received photos of Edwardians now residing in our churchyard whose families had since emigrated, we were able to help people find long lost ancestors buried in a church miles away from where they should have been and we learnt a lot about the history of the area and its people.

So back to the name of the blog…. One of the oldest headstones we recorded had the rather sad inscription ‘Seized by death and prisoners made, three infant children’ and I was intrigued……..

Ant you glad you stopped by?…….

I have given this blog its rather curious name in honour of all the headstones I have recorded over the years. I have started this blog to remember some of the people I have researched over the years. Some of them are recorded on headstones and some of them I have discovered in dedications in books -Sunday School Bibles, hard won books given as school prizes, maybe in books given as gifts between parents and children.

People leave behind a story, and I’d like to record and share some of these stories with you here.  I would also like to hear your stories, a little bit about people you have found in your family history or perhaps people you have stumbled across. Maybe there is a plaque on a shop wall you walk passed every day remembering the staff who died in the great war? or perhaps you bought a pretty Edwardian Memorial Card or a Victorian Christmas card at a boot sale… but who is it for? who are these people? By remembering the people who went before we can feel closer to our surroundings and the past becomes more, well real. And more interesting. And sometimes a little painful too…..I remember one occasion recording an inscription in a churchyard while accidentally standing on an ants nest and then being bitten on my bottom by a whole army of red ants who climbed up there on the inside of my jeans. I had to them take off, right there in the middle of the churchyard and it was on a Sunday too.  I’m not selling this to you now am I?!