llywela: (greatwards-arthurclara)
[personal profile] llywela
One of the things that we did on our holidays in Norfolk the other week was spend a day on the ancestry trail, because my mum's grandfather came from Norfolk and retained strong links with the family back there for the rest of his life.

My great-grampy's name was Arthur and he was the only child of George and Georgina – they wanted more children, each coming from a fairly large family, but were unable to have them, so Arthur was their beloved one and only. (Georgina was tiny, says Mum, tiny and fey, the 7th child of a 7th child and rumoured to have second sight, or so the story goes – look, I'm not making this stuff up, that's the story, that's what all the grandchildren were told!)

This is me with Arthur in 1980 when I was three years old – he was my lovely, lovely grampy, and it was so touching to visit the place where he grew up, tracing the roots of his life and ancestry.
GGWard and Me

The first villages we hit on our ancestral trail were Melton Constable and its neighbour Briston – the two are pretty much merged these days, in fact, with only a sign to show that you've moved from one to the other, as there's no break in the street.
Arthur was born in Billingford in 1899, but his father's residence is listed on the birth certificate as Briston – perhaps Georgina went to stay with relatives in Billingford leading up to the birth, as she seems to have had a tough time of it, which was why she never had any more.
1899-09 - Arthur Ward birth certificate
On the 1901 census, the family were still living in Briston, but Arthur spent most of his childhood in Melton Constable, just down the road. He attended the Melton Constable primary school, which had only been built in 1896 – among my mother's postcard collection is this card that was awarded to the 5-year-old Arthur in 1905 for 'punctual and regular attendance'.
P001a P001b
This is the young Arthur, at about the time that this card was awarded
1904 - Arthur Ward
And this is the Melton Constable primary school today, more than a century later
It would have been while they were living in Briston that the wee Arthur found himself falling into a snowdrift one winter while walking to school – without knowing it, because the snow was so deep, he was walking along the top of a hedge; when the hedge turned around a corner, Arthur carried on walking straight – and stepped off into a four-foot snowdrift!

Just down the road from the primary school is Burgh Beck Road, which lies just at the village border with Briston. In March 1906 Arthur's father George received this postcard, commemorating 'The Great Fire at Stokes Croft', and it is addressed to him at Burgh Beck Road, Melton Constable – no house number. I suppose the postman would have known them.
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This is Burgh Beck Road today – I wonder which house George, Georgina and Arthur lived in?
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This is George in uniform during the war – he wouldn't have looked so very different when he lived in Melton Constable, just a few years earlier. George was a lifelong railway worker – an engineer, to be precise, building boilers and steam engines. Arthur followed in his footsteps, as did Arthur's two sons after him – the railway is in the family's blood, you could say. Even to this day, Arthur's grandson, my uncle Nigel, builds aircraft engines for a living and works on a steam railway as his hobby…

Like George before him, Arthur never learned to drive (although my granddad made a valiant effort to teach him for a while) and instead always travelled by train because he had free rail travel, as an employee – to this day, his surviving daughter, my Nanna, still has free or reduced rail transport on many routes, because of him! I've no idea how she's swung that!

This is George in 1926, pictured visiting relatives back in Norfolk – I just wish I knew who they were and where exactly these pictures were taken. There are loads more pictures of random Norfolk relatives, impossible to place, not least because there were so damn many of them to choose from!
1926 - Norfolk - George Ward, relative1 1926 - Norfolk - George Ward, relatives2
At least one of the men in these pictures attended Arthur's wedding in Cardiff in 1922, which tells us something of how close they were – it was a long way to travel for the occasion. The man standing behind the bride and groom in this picture is definitely one of the Norfolk relatives pictured above - maybe he was one of George's half-brothers or uncles? It might even be George's grandfather William, looking at the other pictures of him below; at the very least there is a strong family resemblance.
1922 - wedding of Arthur and Clara Ward1

In 1861, the population of Melton Constable – then called Burgh Parva – was just 118, mostly agricultural workers and employees of Melton Constable Hall. But then came the railroad. In 1881, Lord Hastings sold land on his estate so that the railroad could be built; this area became known as Melton Constable, and the village was transformed, with Burgh Parva swallowed whole – by 1891 the population had more than trebled, reaching 393. Ten years later again, in 1901, the population was 934 and by 1911 it had reached 1157. That's quite the population boom! To accommodate this growing population, the rail company built several rows of houses, shaping the village as it stands today. One of those streets built especially for railway workers was Astley Terrace, where George, Georgina and Arthur lived for several years. Among my mother's postcard collection are two cards sent to Georgina at 9 Astley Terrace, in October 1909 and August 1913.
P005b P005a
P003b P003a

This is Astley Terrace today – with front and back views of number 9, where George, Georgina and Arthur lived.
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It looks a lot smaller than the houses in Burgh Beck Road where they'd previously lived, but with the population of the village growing exponentially, perhaps the larger houses were needed by larger families – George and Georgina had only one child, so the smaller house would have been sufficient for their needs.

This little lane runs behind Astley Terrace. We met a woman in the local butcher's shop who immediately knew we were talking about George as soon as we mentioned the name Ward; her own grandfather lived in the house immediately behind his, she told us, just across this lane, and they were great friends! Small world – or small village, more like!

George and Georgina had been married in an Anglican church, but by the time they moved to Wales in October 1913, they were staunch non-conformist – and the family have remained chapel to this day; Arthur and his son George were both devout lay ministers, preaching all over the South Wales valleys, and George Jr's son David still does the same to this day. Was this little mission hall in Briston where they converted? It's barely 100 yards from Burgh Beck Road, definitely their most local church.

All right, so that was Melton Constable. The next village on the ancestral trail is Billingford.

Arthur was born in Billingford in September 1899, and his parents George and Georgina had married there two years earlier – on Christmas Day 1897.
1897-12 - George, Georgina Ward wedding certificate
They were married in the local parish church, St Peter – this is that church today
According to the marriage certificate, George was already living in Briston at the time of the marriage, presumably having moved there when he found work on the railroad, while Georgina was living in Billingford. Her family came from Peterborough, but she may have been in service in Billingford, or perhaps staying with relatives at the time of the marriage – certainly George had family living there, it was where his grandparents had moved their family in the 1880s. Interestingly, the marriage certificate names George's father as another George Ward – which isn't actually true; he was illegitimate and the father's name is blank on his birth certificate. It's quite touching to see that the marriage was witnessed by his grandfather, William, who signs the certificate with a cross – he was a farm labourer, illiterate. The other witness, Norah, was one of George's aunts. She was close to his age, and they would have grown up together, like siblings – my Nanna, Arthur's daughter Grace, remembers Norah and her husband Ernie visiting the family in Caerphilly on more than one occasion when she was a little girl in the 1930s.

Here's a picture of George and Georgina with their first great-grandchild, David, in 1949, the year before they both died; they'd been married for 52 years.
1949-05 - George, Georgina, David Ward

Another of George's aunts that he was very close to all his life, more like a sister, was Edith. This is Edith in later life, pictured with one of her sisters, Mary Ann, who was known as Polly because their mother was also Mary Ann.
Aunts Polly and Edith
Born in Dereham in 1874, Edith spent her early childhood in Hoe before moving to Billingford, where she set up home with her husband, another Arthur – and as late as the 1960s, my great-grampy Arthur was still taking his grandchildren to visit her there. My mother remembers those visits to her 3xgreat-aunt vividly. Edith's house was outside the village proper – she lived in a teeny-tiny one-up one-down at the end of a row of four, out in the middle of nowhere. And she had no mod cons, even as late as the 1960s, when she was in her late 80s and becoming frail. No electricity, no central heating, no running water. The house was heated by a coal fire and lit with oil lamps, the toilet was a box over a hole in the garden that was moved every 6 months and water was collected daily from a spring at the end of the road – when the family came to visit, Mum recalls, it was the children's job to fetch water for her. Edith also insisted on opening all the doors and windows whenever there was a thunder storm, because when she was a child the family home had been hit by a thunderbolt, as she put it, that had run right through the house in through one door and out another, and she'd never quite got over it! Look, that's the story, make of it what you will!

The entire row where Edith lived had been bought by a young couple who invested a lot of money in modernising the other three houses, knocking them through into one; Edith had a life tenancy for her house, but they offered to have it modernised for her at the same time, installing electricity and running water, since they were going to do it eventually anyway…but she refused. This was how she'd always lived and she wasn't about to change her habits now, not at her time of life! She also refused to move to a more comfortable home, even toward the very end. This was the house where she'd been happy with her Arthur and their children and this was the home where her son Robert had died. It was within walking distance of the churchyard where Robert and Arthur were buried. She wasn't going to leave it. My mum still has a little sewing box that Edith gave her for Christmas in 1964 – that was the last Christmas present, as Edith died in November 1965 aged 90 and was buried in the graveyard at St Peter, Billingford, with her beloved Arthur. We found their grave in a peaceful, shady spot under the trees. 'Reunited', it says. I picked wild flowers to lay on the grave, a token of our visit.
Just a few feet away is the grave of their son Robert, who drowned when he was just 12 years old in March 1917.

That was Billingford. The next village on the ancestral trail was Hoe. Now, Billingford is a tiny place even today – the 2001 census lists a population of just 223 in 91 households. Hoe is just as tiny (population 219 in 2001) but much harder to find – seriously, we often joke about places being in the middle of nowhere, but Hoe really is! There's one tiny road leading into the village – a narrow, winding lane with high hedges on either side. It doesn't look like a main road to anywhere. There is absolutely no passing traffic in the village whatsoever, because you can't just pass through. You'd never find it by accident. The only people who visit Hoe do so deliberately, because they want to go there – and even then, finding it is more a matter of luck than anything!

We got there in the end and found St Andrews, the parish church of Hoe.
This is the church where my great-great-grandfather George, Arthur's father, was baptised in May 1876. He was illegitimate, born to 17 year old Clara – who signs the birth certificate with a cross, implying that she was illiterate; education for farm labourers' daughters in the mid-19th century was slim to non-existent.
1876-01 - George Ward birth certificate
The father's name is left blank, but family legend states that Clara had been thrown out of service for becoming pregnant to the son of the house (the legend also says that she'd been in service to a Jewish bootmaker, but we don't know where – it could have been in any one of the local towns). Her parents, William and Mary Ann, took her back in, baby and all, despite having 6 younger children to feed and clothe – Norah, Edith and Polly, mentioned above, as well as Lydia, Charlotte and Thomas, while Robert, who died young, came along a little later. George's early years were spent in Hoe, living among those young uncles and aunts, who would have been more like siblings – he certainly seems to have been closer to them than to his actual siblings, who were much younger.

Just behind the church is Hoe Hall, which is now used as the offices of an organic pig farming company, but in the 19th century was the residence of the local squire – more than one of William and Mary Ann's daughters went into service here, in particular their second daughter Lydia, who was a cook.

This is George's mother Clara in 1902, when she was 43 years old. She'd gone on to marry a farm labourer named Thomas Mash and they had 13 children together (at least 13 children are recorded on various censuses, and we don't know how many survived) – their youngest child was nine years younger than Clara's first grandson, born when Clara was approaching 50! Talk about prolific. Let's see, after George there was Bertie, Lily, Alfred, Ernest, Arthur, Robert, Edward, Walter, Gertie, Reginald, Norah, Daisy and finally another Edward, so presumably the first one died.
1902 - Clara Mash

Clara and Tom lived in North Elmham, which was the next village on our ancestral trail. This is the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, where they were married.
The actor John Mills was born in North Elmham in 1908 – Clara would have known him! She lived in North Elmham for the rest of her life, as far as we can tell – this photo of her was taken in 1934 when she was 75 years old; she is pictured with her great-granddaughter Betty, my grandmother.
1934 - Elmham, Norfolk - Clara Mash, Betty Ward
This is Clara again in the 1930s, with her husband Tom – I wish we could have found this house on our visit.
1926 - Norfolk - Tom, Clara Mash 1934 - Norfolk - Tom, Clara Mash

We didn't manage to find Clara's grave, although we found numerous others with her married name, Mash – Tom's family were definitely local to North Elmham! Among the family archive, however, is this photo with 'grandmother and Bobby Ward's graves' written on it, taken by Arthur on one of his many return trips to Norfolk.
Which graveyard is it? We don't know. Does 'grandmother' refer to Clara, who was Arthur's grandmother – or to Clara's mother, Mary Ann? It could be either. The Bobby remembered here was Clara's youngest brother, two years younger than her son George – another Robert who drowned as a child, just like his namesake, Edith's Robert, who would have been named after him. (This is the reason my great-grampy Arthur was alarmed when his daughter Grace named her son Robert – as a family, they felt that the name was cursed! Luckily, Grace's Bob is still going strong at 60.) It's possible that this photo was taken in Hoe or Billingford, where the family lived, but we didn't find these graves in our search of the graveyards there – or it could be Swaffham, perhaps. Wherever it is, we didn't find it. It's a real shame the writing on those headstones isn't legible in the photo, as that might give us a bit more information about them.

Next along the ancestral trail was Swaffham, the largest town we visited that day. Clara was born in Hoe in April 1859, but she was baptised at St Peter & St Paul's in Swaffham, where her parents William and Mary Ann had been married – and a long line of William's family before him. It's a beautiful church.
P1070738 P1070720 P1070723
There is a huge graveyard attached to the church – we found loads of graves with our family names on them, but none that were definitely 'ours'; many were simply illegible, of course, a century or two down the line. The same family names cropped up again and again in all the cemeteries we visited, the names of numerous very old local families who populated the scattered villages, intermingling and inter-marrying, over the generations.

William was born in Swaffham in December 1837 and was raised there, going on to work as a farm labourer and bailiff – illiterate, his mark on his grandson George's marriage certificate suggests. As an adult, he lived for a while in Hoe, then in Dereham (where we stopped for lunch), then back to Hoe, before moving to Billingford at some point in the 1880s. Here he is in 1902 when he'd have been 65 years old and living in Billingford. He was the first in his line to leave Swaffham – his paternal family line can be traced back for several generations before him, always in Swaffham, always baptised and married at St Peter & St Paul's.
1902 - William Ward
Here's William again in 1924 when he was 87 years old, pictured with his daughter Clara, grandson George, great-grandson Arthur and great-great-grandson George – five generations captured for posterity. William was my 4xgreat-grandfather and is the most distant ancestor I have a photograph of.
1924 - William Ward 1924 - Clara Mash, William, Arthur and two George Wards

The last stops along the ancestral trail were a little more tangential. The first of these was Shipdham. William's wife Mary Ann was the daughter of Thomas Goward and Charlotte Robertson, who were married at All Saints Church in Shipdham in September 1826. This is All Saints Church today.
Charlotte's father was a publican in Shipdham and more than one of his daughters had children out of wedlock (as, indeed, did Mary Ann before her marriage to William), which makes us wonder just what was going on in that public house of theirs…

The final village on our itinerary was Ashill. The link to Ashill goes back a long, long way, through William's mother Dinah, whose parents John Ward and Mary Oldfield were married in St Nicholas, Ashill in January 1775 – my 6xgreat-grandparents. This is St Nicholas today.
P1070681 P1070700
The graveyard there is positively crammed full of Wards and Oldfields (along with the names of various other prominent local families, all inter-related) – usefully enough, the mid-Norfolk history society has a booklet, available from the church, containing transcriptions of every grave in that cemetery! For hunters on the ancestral trail, it is a valuable resource – we've barely scratched the surface of it, so far. If only all those other churches we visited had the same. The Oldfields look to have been a fairly wealthy family…it's a shame that wealth didn't come down my particular branch of the family tree…

And that was the day! Ancestry galore!

Date: 2013-05-13 07:37 pm (UTC)
lost_spook: (Northanger reading)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
That looks like a very satisfactory Ancestor hunt! :-)

The postcards are beautiful, though, really lovely. Again, I am jealous... :lol:

Date: 2013-05-13 08:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] llywela13.livejournal.com
I think certain members of the family who shall remain nameless got a bit fed up of hunting dead people, as they put it, but I found it fascinating - I only wish we'd had more information to go on! Writing it up as a story likes this helps to shape the research in my mind - and it really helps that there are so many photographs to attach to the information, turning them from names on a page into actual people.

The postcards are fab - well done to my grampy Arthur for collecting them all from such a young age! I reckon it was that school attendance card he was awarded that kicked off the collection, and then he passed it on to my mum, who continued to collect cards throughout her childhood. There are so many! The earliest ones are the real treasures - we wouldn't have those Melton Constable addresses without them.

Date: 2013-05-15 08:10 am (UTC)
lost_spook: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
Yes, it's not interesting to everyone! I was worse, once I went to see my friend in Morriston, and she happened to live a stone's throw from all the places my Granddad's side came from, so I asked her if it'd be okay if we spent a day going round some of them and she was fine. The thing was, her Mum is a terribly organised person, and, unbeknown to me, then insisted on the three of them driving round them the weekend before so that my friend would know exactly where they were. And then it all ended up in an unlikely scenario of me meeting not just dead relatives but some long lost living ones! (I think my friend thought we had suddenly wound up on a reality TV show or something.)

(I did pay for her meal later, and then we went to the cinema and shopping the next day. But, yes. And she put up with me having to go to the (then) new Swansea Library. She has a good sense of humour, and of the absurd, but clearly is also a saint.)

My family tend to be the kind who throw things out all the time, so I do envy you some of those lovely bits and pieces you still have.

Date: 2013-05-13 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I find it all fascinating. One of these days I must get organised and go back to where I grew up and check out all the addresses where my family used to live; I only started looking into the family history after I moved away and while I know the roads and area it would be good to get a better feel for the locations - if they still exist of course :)


Date: 2013-05-14 01:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] llywela13.livejournal.com
Oh, you should - it's so interesting to trace back through the places as well as the names. Makes for a tremendously fun day out...for those of us who are genealogically inclined...

Date: 2013-05-14 09:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bagpuss1966.livejournal.com
I posted a proper reply but LJ went funny!

I'd be happy to traipse round with you on your quest - I love family history! :D

On our recent trip away Peter took me to visit the grave of author E M Delafield (whose book I was reading at the time - I didn't realise she was buried in Devon when I started it!). He's also taken me to visit the graves of George Orwell, Agatha Christie, Jerome K Jerome, C S Lewis, Siegfried Sassoon and T S Eliot - got job he doesn't mind my 'oddness'!

Have you considered taking the photo to a photographer to see if they could enhance it? I had a play around on Photoplus but couldn't, but maybe someone who knows what they're doing might be able to? :)

Date: 2013-05-14 05:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] llywela13.livejournal.com
LJ does have these funny turns.

I hadn't considered going to a photographer with that grave photo - I'm not sure there's much they'd be able to do, it's such a tiny snapshot and so blurry, and they'd probably charge the earth. But it would be interesting to know...

We're thinking we'll hit the north Somerset coast next, where mum's other grandfather's family came from. *G*

Date: 2013-05-14 06:25 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Sometimes if you increase the contrast and/or reduce the brightness you can enhance some of the detail. I had a couple of photos my Grandpa had taken of their house when they were bombed out and although I knew they had to move out while it was repaired, from the photo you couldn't really see any damage. Once I scanned and enhanced the image you could see the extent of the crack in the brickwork right up the back of the house.


Date: 2013-05-14 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] llywela13.livejournal.com
I've tried adjusting it every which way - nothing seems to bring those words into focus, I'm afraid. Ah well. It would be nice to read them, but we're no worse off for not being able to.

Date: 2013-05-14 12:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] justwolf.livejournal.com
What a lovely post! I really enjoyed the stories about the hedge and the snowdrift, and the one about the thunderbolt too. It's great the way these stories stay within families--sort of a living memorial.

I did some poking around in graveyard to find family members when I was in Devon last year--it can be fascinating, especially when you do stumble accross a relation!

Date: 2013-05-14 05:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] llywela13.livejournal.com
I try to write down as many anecdotes Mum tells me as I can - they get lost so easily, over the years.

We found loads of graves with our family names on them, but the only ones we know for sure are our own family and not some other branch were Edith and her son. It was touching to stand at her grave and lay flowers, though. Mum has talked about those visits to her so often.


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