Monday, 22 September 2014

The Live Bait Squadron : Centenary

Today marks 100 years since the sinking of three Cressy-class armoured cruiser ships, HMS Hogue and her sisters HMS Aboukir and HMS Cressy. All three ships were hit by German U-Boat torpedoes in the morning of 22 September 1914.

The three ships which were to become known as the "Live Bait Squadron" were patrolling in the North Sea when they were torpedoed without warning. The combined total from all three ships was approximately 837 men rescued and 62 officers, and 1,397 men lost.
HMS Hogue

One of these men was my great-grandfather, Albert Humphries. Born in 1884, he lied about his age to join the Royal Navy in 1899. He served a total of 12 years, and joined the London Police Force in 1907. Ill-health prevented him from staying with the Force, taking retirement in 1911. When World War One broke out, Albert joined the Royal Naval Reserve and was posted to HMS Hogue. His commander was Reginald A Norton. Both men survived.

In November 1914, my great-uncle was born. His given name was Reginald Norton Humphries. The Norton name was passed from Reginald to his son and daughter and to his grandsons.

The Times newspaper, September 1914
My great-grandfather's name (top, right)

We will remember them. Lest we forget. God Bless them all.

For more information please see this wonderful website: and Albert Humphries' details have been kindly added by Henk van der Linden:

Friday, 29 August 2014

One Lovely Blog

I've been nominated for the ONE LOVELY BLOG Award by the very lovely Elizabeth Lloyd (thank you for thinking of me). You can find her Lovely Blog Award post here

If I've nominated your blog, please don't feel under any obligation to join in with this; I was just pleased to be nominated so that I could share the blogs that I like.

Here are the rules for the One Lovely Blog Award:

• Thank the person that nominated you and link back to that blog. 
• Share seven things about yourself – see below.
• Nominate 15 bloggers you admire – also listed below (or as many as you can think of!).
• Contact your bloggers to let them know you've tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award.

Seven Things About Me

1. I love Family History

Ever since I was a child, listening to all the stories my grandmother Freda told me about the family and about the town I grew up in, I have loved it. When I had my daughter there was a strong voice within me that told me to get back into it and pursue it seriously. I took the baton from my mother who had made some inroads into her side of the family. Armed with a notebook I had kept years before, I made a start and have never looked back. My daughter turns 13 next week and I haven't finished yet.

2. Which leads me to my second best love...Beccles

I grew up in the Suffolk market town and even though I left to live in Australia with my Mum at the age of 12, I have never forgotten my roots. Beccles is deep within my heart, and firmly under my skin. I am currently writing a house & street history on Peddars Lane, where I grew up in the 1970s. My e-published novella, Symphony of War, is based in Beccles and I also write a blog about the history of the town called Relics of Beccles. I did have a Twitter account of the same name but I gave it away when it became harder to only tweet 140 characters at a time! My second novel is also based in Beccles and loosely utilizes some of the factual history of the period in which it's written (1912).

Beccles from the Church Tower, 2014
Taken by Brett Ford @ Guru Photo Genix

3. I love Writing

From a very early age I loved to write stories and English was always my favourite subject at school. When I was a little older I became a lover of writing letters and when I moved to Australia that passion flourished as I wrote regularly to my father and grandmother. In my teenage years writing left me (well, I left it) and for a long time stories stayed dormant inside me until I was in my mid-twenties. Even then, I only got so far as the fifth chapter before I threw it away. Then I met my husband. He has spent the last twelve years encouraging me to let loose the inner demons and to start writing again. If it wasn't for his support, I wouldn't have started blogging and writing again. Symphony of War would exist only in my head.

4. I love Cats

I had several cats growing up but it wasn't until 1996 that I really learned what loving a cat meant. I had some nightmare times with Oliver "Ollie" Twist but he came into my life at the right time and he left it only two years ago. In February this year, my husband and I rescued an 18-month-old female cat from the Cat Haven. She has a forever home with us now and we love her to bits. Her given name was Spearmint but we call her Minty Moo.

5. I love London

Don't ask me why, I just do. Whenever I go there, I feel my heart swelling with a deep pride to be British and I can't stop smiling. I love the Underground smells, I love the Embankment, I love the alleyways, the pubs, the lamps, the Thames, the architecture, the whole atmosphere. I walk taller when I'm in London. I watch anything if it is set in London. I read books that are set in London, especially in Victorian London.

Victoria Embankment, London

6. I love Historical Novels/Historical Crime

I cannot get enough of them, especially ones that are set in England. I devour all books by these authors: Kate Morton, Sarah Waters, Essie Fox, D.E. Meredith, Charles Dickens (<3), Lynn Shepherd, Tracy Chevalier, Lena Kennedy and Ruth Park. I love reading all things Victorian Crime such as Squizzy Taylor, Eugenia Falleni, William Palmer and Constance Kent.

7. I love Supernatural

Since its inception in 2005, I have been avidly following the trials and tribulations of those gorgeous hunks, the Winchester brothers, Dean and Sam. I can't get enough of the show and now that my daughter has become a fan, I get to watch the whole series from scratch.


My blog nominations:

A Visitor's Guide to Victorian England
The Virtual Victorian 
Family History Across The Seas
Dance Skeletons
Jottings Journeys and Genealogy
Lone Tester HQ
Desperately Seeking Surnames

Monday, 4 August 2014

My Ancestors : Centenary of the Great War

August 4 marks the 100th year since Great Britain declared war on Germany. The 1914-1918 campaign would become known as The Great War. This blog post commemorates all of my ancestors who fought for "King and Country".

My great-grandfathers Arthur, Percy and Albert all fought in the Great War. Arthur was married with two young sons, the eldest of whom was my grandfather Herbert who was four years old when war broke out. Percy was married with one son, my grandfather Percy junior who was barely a year old. Albert was also married and had three children, a daughter and two sons.

If Albert had not have survived the war, he would not have gone on to have seven more children with my great-grandmother, Elizabeth. My grandmother Lilian, born in 1920, would not have existed which meant she would not have married Percy junior and had my mother, Denise. In the words of my friend Brett, that is a sobering thought.

This blog post is to say "Thank You" to my great-grandfathers who fought in the war, who left their wives and their homes, their children, their jobs, their regular life. They went to the mud, the filth, the front lines, the rats and the lice, the uncertainty of their future.

"Thank You" also to my two cousins and my great grand-uncle; James, William and Sidney, who never came home. William and Sidney left behind their families and their widows. William had three children when he died of wounds in 1917. Sidney had been married just shy of two years.
Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:  
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life, effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen
So marvellous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,
"Come, what was your record when you drew breath?"
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.

Charles Hamilton Sorley  (1895-1915)

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Hilda Bowes : An unexpected surprise

I must have dreamt that I wrote up and published this blog post because I certainly planned it awhile back, but it doesn't appear to be here. A chance search on ebay, in December last year, led me to a quaint Edwardian picture postcard which had been written to my cousin four times removed, Hilda Bowes. It was from a person by the name of Fred and it was stamped 13 August 1912.

The postcard was addressed to:
Miss H Bowes
Broad Street
Bungay Suffolk

I knew that my three times great-grand uncle, George Bowes, lived in Broad Street so I put in a bid for the postcard. When I won it, I never expected it would lead to a second surprise.

Broad Street, Bungay c. 1923

Hilda Matilda Bowes was born in 1892 in Bungay. She was the daughter of George Bowes and his second wife, Mary Ann Margaret (nee Whurr). Mary Ann was the daughter of John Whurr and Eliza, nee Phillips. The Whurr family lived in Broad Street, Bungay all their lives, and when Mary Ann married widowed George Bowes in 1891, she continued to live in the same street. The census returns show that before she married George, who was a baker by trade, she was a Dressmaker. Mary Ann's life would have taken quite a different direction from dressmaking with her mother to baking with her husband. When she married George Bowes she was 40 years old.

When George Bowes died in March 1911, Hilda ran the family baker business in Broad Street with her mother. However, in 1920, Hilda married Allen Green. Allen was the son of Henry Green and Kate, nee Burgess. The Green family lived in Wingfield Street, Bungay. Allen was a printer compositor by trade, possibly at Clay & Sons Ltd of Bungay. The 1925 Kelly's Directory shows Hilda's mother, Mary Ann, was still trading as a baker at 48 Broad Street.

It is not yet known if Hilda and Allen ever had any children. What is known is that Allen died only a few months after Hilda, in 1972. When Mary Ann died in April 1941, she left a sum of money to her only daughter Hilda in a will.

Recently I went to the Ancestry website to search for information regarding Hilda Bowes's ancestry, and to my surprise I found a photograph of her. I was so excited to finally see what she looked like. I was also quite surprised to find that she bore a striking resemblance to my great-grandmother Eva Waters, nee Bowes and Eva's sister Winnie Bowes. Eva and Winnie were Hilda's first cousins, once removed. Judge for yourselves. Personally, I think it's the nose. And the curve of the lips...and the eyes.

Hilda Bowes (1892-1972)

Eva Bowes (1887-1966)

Winnie Bowes (1892-1948)

For more information about my Bowes ancestry, see here
A blog post about Fred Bowes (brother of Eva and Winnie) here
Photograph of Hilda Bowes: courtesy of Robert Alexander (Wangford, England). There is also a photograph of her husband Allen Green on the site also belonging to Robert Alexander
Photograph of Eva and Winnie Bowes: My personal photo collection

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Five Minutes With An Ancestor

If I had five minutes with an ancestor, who would it be and what would we talk about?

This is kind of unfair because there are so many. The list truly is endless.

Just five minutes with my grandmother's Freda and Lilian - just because I want to hug them, tell them how much I love them and miss them every single day, and to say I am sorry.

From a purely family history perspective:

  • My great-grandmother Elizabeth Dare - to dispel some awkward family rumours and to confirm how many children she actually gave birth to.
  • My g/g-grandfather William Preston - to ask him the truth about why he was estranged from his father and his two brothers.
  • My great-grandmother Barbara Hargreaves - to ask her about her life as a Domestic Servant to a London physician and to ask her who Arthur Ward was.
  • My 4 x great-grandmother Mary Ward - to ask her why she never married and yet she gave birth to six illegitimate children, three of whom died in infancy.
  • My 4 x great-grandfather Joseph Powell - to ask him all about his life as a Thames Waterman.
  • My 4 x great-grandparents John Humphries and Ann Rogers - to ask them why they never married and to confirm where they were both born before they lived together in Hammersmith and raised a family.
But, most of all, I would definitely ask my 3 x great-grandfather Richard Humphries:

Where the heck did you disappear to after 1871? What really happened to your first wife Mary Ann and why did she die alone in a workhouse? Why did you "shack up" with Sarah Spencer, not marry her and yet have a family with her? She gave birth to a daughter in 1872, and then just four years later, she marries another man. Meanwhile, you've completely disappeared from the face of the earth. What happened to you Richard?

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Sampson Family of Suffolk

Following the interest and enthusiasm which my last two blog posts (Alden and Gilding families) brought to my step-family, I've since been asked to write up a family history. I am more than happy to do this for them as they have been a crucial part of my life for more than forty years.

While I am very tempted to write up the recently promised blog post on the Sampson family, I have now decided to postpone it for the time being. I don't want to give everything away, there will be nothing left to surprise my relatives with. Sorry :-)

If there is anybody out there, reading this, who is related to the Sampson, Alden or Gilding families of Suffolk, please know that I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below with an email address and I will get back to you. If anybody knows anything and feels willing to share stories or photographs of the aforementioned families, I would be really pleased to hear from you.

My step-grandfather was Alfred James Sampson, who was born in Mettingham in Suffolk. You can read more about my memories of him in my 2011 blog post here. Alfred was known to everyone as 'Buster' so if you don't recognise the name Alf or Alfred, you would have possibly have known him better by this nickname.

The Sampson family lived in Mettingham, and previously the Sampson lineage came from Redisham, Stoven, St James, St Elmham all in Suffolk.

Alice and James Sampson c.1970

Alf 'Buster' Sampson with his son and daughter-in-law

Grave site in Mettingham, Suffolk
of James & Alice Sampson

Thank you in advance. I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Gilding Family

Last time I wrote about my step-grandfather's first wife, Jean Alden and her family. Jean's mother was Mollie Joan Alden, daughter of Robert Alden and Emily Gilding. This blog post is dedicated to the Gilding family.

Emily Gilding was born in Bungay in 1871. She was one of eight* children. The census returns for that year were taken on the night of 2 April and Emily is listed as being two months old. Her parents, Jacob Gilding and Sarah Ann (nee Rogers) were then residing in Beccles Road, in Bungay.

Emily's father Jacob Gilding was a Wherryman/Waterman by trade, in the counties of Norfolk and North Suffolk - this being stated in the 1851, 1861 & 1871 census returns. By 1881, however, Jacob was a Railway Labourer, as part of the General Eastern Railway (G.E.R). Jacob and his wife and children were by that time residing in Beccles.

Jacob Gilding was born on 6 June 1838 in Smallburgh, county Norfolk. He was the son of Benjamin Langley Gilding and Mary, nee Cork. On 2 July 1838 Jacob was baptised at St Peter's Church, Smallburgh. In 1851 the Gilding family lived at Broad Fen in Dilham. Benjamin, Jacob's father was a Waterman by trade. I like to imagine him rowing his way through the Norfolk Broads on an early Spring day, chewing on a piece of reed.

Picking Water Lillies

Jacob left the county of Norfolk some time before 1860 and took up residence in Bungay, county Suffolk. Jacob married Sarah Ann Rogers, daughter of William Rogers, at Bungay Holy Trinity Church on 3 April 1860. Both signed the marriage register with an "X". The Rogers family were from Loddon, county Norfolk. William Rogers' first wife Mary Ann (nee Harris), Sarah Ann's biological mother, died in 1845 and William later married Amy Harris in 1849. Any relation?

Jacob and Sarah Ann's first child, George, was born in August 1860 but he did not thrive, and died on 3 September 1860. His burial service was held at Bungay Holy Trinity Church. Jacob and Sarah had only been married for five months. They went on to have eight more children:

Frederick George Gilding
George Rogers Gilding
Benjamin Gilding
Harry Gilding
Emily Gilding
Ernest William Gilding
Ellen Mary Gilding
Anne Gilding

They remained in Bungay until some time before 1881 when they moved with their children to Beccles: Emily, aged 10. Ernest William, aged 8. Ellen Mary, aged 6 and Anne, aged 5. What I find especially intriguing about the 1881 census return for the Gilding family is two-fold: 1) Jacob and Sarah Ann's sons George, then aged 16 and Benjamin, then aged 14, were "Inmates" (Students) at a Boys Reformatory School in Thorndon All Saints (near Eye); and 2) Jacob and Sarah Ann have an extra adopted child: Jeremiah Sturman, aged 1.

Upon further investigation, Jeremiah Sturman was born in Skelton in North Riding, county Yorkshire. He was the illegitimate son of Rebekah Sturman, a Domestic Servant. What I found to be even more intriguing was that the 1891 census return puts Jeremiah back with his mother Rebekah (along with a half-brother Harry and another Jeremiah Sturman aged 87) but this time they are all Inmates of the Loddon and Clavering Union Workhouse, in county Norfolk. This begs the question: What happened to the Sturman family and why did the Gilding family have temporary care of Jeremiah?

The 1901 census return has Jacob and Sarah Ann Gilding living at Knights Yard, Ravensmere with a grandson, Walter Belward Gilding. Walter was then aged 12, born to one of Jacob and Sarah Ann's children but which one? (Walter was living with the family in 1891 as well, when they resided at Northgate Street). He remained with his grandparents even in 1911, when he was aged 22. I don't believe he ever married. Another grandson appears on the 1911 census with Jacob and Sarah Ann: Ernest Alden, aged 18 (He was Mollie Joan Alden's eldest brother). What is interesting to note is that the 1911 census states Jacob and Sarah Ann had eight children, seven living and one who had died. But I know that they had at least nine children because I found George Gilding who was baptised and died in 1860, in Bungay. Why did they claim they had eight children instead of nine?

Jacob Alden, 1911 census return
(click on image to enlarge)

Jacob Gilding died in 1914, aged 75. Sarah Ann Gilding died in 1930, aged 94.

My next blog post will concentrate on my step-grandfather's SAMPSON family heritage.

The British Newspaper Archive brings up several previously unknown articles in regards to Jacob Gilding who was frequently brought up before the Beccles Petty Sessions in the 1880s because he repeatedly refused to pay the ordered one shilling per week in payment of his son at Thorndon Reformatory School. For example: The Ipswich Journal of Tuesday 25 January 1881 reported that Jacob Richard Gilding was "causing much trouble" from neglecting to make payments for his sons and was "22 weeks in arrears". Jacob's wages as a Railway Labourer at that time was stated in the paper as being 18 shillings 6 pence per week and that he had "five other children to provide for".
(In July 1879 The Ipswich Journal reported that brothers George Gilding and Benjamin were caught stealing fruit from a garden in Ravensmere, the property of Edward Masters. This was the reason they were sent to Reformatory School. They had previous convictions of stealing at Gillingham.)
In January 1885 Jacob Gilding was fined five shillings for neglecting to send his daughter Ellen Gilding, regularly to school