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The Wandering Genealogist returns to Beachy Head

14 Aug

I cannot help myself, it must be an addiction, it seems I take every available opportunity to visit Beachy Head. Today’s excuse was paying a visit the airshow at Eastbourne, East Sussex.

It was a rare opportunity when both my wife and I had a day off together and nothing else more pressing to do. For me it was pure indulgence, no work, no genealogy, no (serious) walking, just enjoying the scenery and the flying.

Grey skies over Eastbourne

Beachy Head was not perfect as a viewpoint for the airshow, with the aircraft displaying along the seafront at Eastbourne it is a little bit too far away, although several of them did arrive or depart over Beachy Head. What it does have is lots of open space and terrific views all round.

As you can see the conditions were not perfect at the start, the day began with grey skies (and a light rain shower whilst on the bus) but it did clear later on. Even whilst the skies elsewhere were blanketed in cloud, Beachy Head seemed to be basking in sunshine. It really felt like a privileged position.

Having taken the bus up to the top of Beachy Head we felt that we at least ought to walk back down to Eastbourne to get the bus back to Brighton. We made our way down the side of the hill and walked along the foot of the hills and into the town. This gave me a chance to get a photo of Beachy Head lighthouse and the cliffs.

Chalk cliff and lighthouse

The flying display was excellent, especially as we got closer to centre of the action on Eastbourne seafront, I prefer the older historic aircraft, but my wife preferred the faster and noisier modern jets, like the F-16, which I must admit was absolutely awesome. Unfortunately the seafront also meant crowds of people and traffic, which was a real contrast to the slopes of Beachy Head. We didn’t hang around long, we had a bus to catch, and the crowds were a bit too much for us.Blue skies and The Blades at Eastbourne

The font of St James’s Church, Piccadilly

22 Jul

One of the most outstanding features inside St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London was the beautifully carved white marble font.

St James's Church font

The font is said to have been installed in 1686 and to be the work of Grinling Gibbons, and is described on the church website as:

an ovoid bowl raised on a stem realistically carved to represent the Tree of Knowledge, with the serpent entwined about it, Adam standing on one side and Eve on the other. The bowl is decorated with three kidney-shaped panels carved in low relief to represent (a) the Baptism of Christ, (b) St. Philip baptising the Eunuch of Candace, (c) Noah’s Ark afloat

I mentioned yesterday that four of the children of my 3x great grandfather Thomas KINGHORN were baptised in this church, they were:

  • 29 Apr 1851 – Eliza KINGHORN daughter of Thomas and his second wife Eliza WARREN
  • 30 Jul 1854 – Dorothy Isabella KINGHORN daughter of Thomas and his third wife Isabella GRAHAM (my 2x great grandmother)
  • 22 Jun 1856 – Abraham Graham KINGHORN son of Thomas and his third wife Isabella GRAHAM
  • 26 Dec 1858 – Isabella KINGHORN daughter of Thomas and his third wife Isabella GRAHAM

Most of the fonts that I have come across previously have been in country churches, and whilst many of them are a lot older than this one, none of them have been quite so beautifully carved. It is wonderful for me to think that such a beautiful piece of sculpture was probably used during the baptism of my 2x great grandmother and of her siblings.

St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London

21 Jul

This weekend was the first time I have set foot inside St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London. I have passed it many times before without realising that there was an ancestral connection to the church.

The connection is through the KINGHORN family, more precisely my 3x great-grandfather Thomas KINGHORN. Four of his children were baptised here between 1851 and 1858, and he married his third wife (Isabella GRAHAM) here in 1853.

St James's Church, Piccadilly

It is slightly annoying that it seems impossible to actually get a photo of the entire building. It is sandwiched between two roads and encircled by buildings, with a small market on the northern side of the churchyard, and some trees on the western side. Bing Maps provides a wonderful view of the church and it’s surroundings.

From the outside it seemed quite a small building, tall but not particularly long or wide. Inside the main body of the church it becomes obvious that this is not the case. I had expected it to be quite cramped and dark, but instead it was light and spacious.

St James's Church interior

It certainly changed my views of what an urban church was like, although I need to remember that this church has seen much restoration, after all it was nearly destroyed during the Second World War. Not only is it a beautiful church but it has a remarkable history, as architects go you can’t get much better than Sir Christopher Wren.

Hopefully one day I will have time to visit the church again and spend a little longer enjoying the peaceful atmosphere inside whilst the world rushes past outside.

Day tripping genealogist

17 Jul

I was back up in London today, not walking (well not proper walking) or visiting an archive, but being a tourist, along with thousands of other people. My wife and I spent the day looking around London, but I just couldn’t help taking her on a tour of some of the sights of KINGHORN interest in the City of Westminster.

London Eye

So as well as seeing the sights like the London Eye (pictured above) and taking a cruise down the Thames to Greenwich, we also popped into St James’s Church, Piccadilly, which is the first time I have actually been inside (but more about that another day).

St James's Church, Piccadilly from Swallow Street

We passed through several of the other streets nearby where the KINGHORN family lived, including Meard Street pictured below. When the KINGHORNs were living here this part of the street was known as Meards Court, but it is now all one street.

Meards Court, Soho

Before I leave Beachy Head

1 Jun

I may have run out of postcards of Beachy Head for the time being, but before I leave the subject of Beachy Head I would like to share the description from the 1898 edition of Black’s Guide to Sussex and its Watering Places.

Beachy Head is described in the chapter on Eastbourne, which it describes as:

This young town, though its population numbers only as yet some 40,000, is the most distinguished watering-place on the Sussex coast, still growing as an example of what can be done by enterprise and judicious patronage along with natural advantages

The description itself is under the heading of Excursions from Eastbourne:

Beachy Head is of course the chief lion here, rising grandly to a height of over 500 feet, about 2 miles west of the town. (Cab fare, with fifteen minutes’ stop, 6s.) There are, at least, three routes-the new carriage drive, bending back over the Downs by the Racecourse ; a middle way that starts from Meads by the back of the Convalescent Hospital, the easiest for walking ; and the rough path by the cliff edge ; or one might take the beach, if the tide be not coming in, whence a path mounts the chalky cliffs to the Coastguard Signal House.

It is clear from the guide that Beachy Head was already attracting plenty of visitors:

On this part of the Downs, there is little likelihood of going astray for want of fellow travellers. Once the climb is over, we have an easy walk over elastic turf that makes walking a delight, unless in very dry weather, when the footing may be slippery. The highest point is marked by the Signal Station, behind which an hotel and restaurant has been established as a branch of the Queen’s/ The view is an extensive one in clear weather, taking in the Isle of Wight, and sometimes even the French coast. Unless by the path below the Signal Station, already mentioned, visitors would do well to be cautious in scrambling upon the crumbling chalk edges, where several accidents have taken place.

This edition of Black’s Guide to Sussex and its Watering Places was the eleventh edition, published in 1898 by Adam and Charles Black of London, England.

Sweet memories at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

4 Jan

On New Years Eve I visited the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill, London. I would heartily recommend a visit if you are ever in London.

My friend and I spent nearly two hours wandering around this relatively small building that was crammed full of all manner of advertising material and packaging, from bottles and jars to boxes and tins, from the Victorian era up to the present day.

There was so much to see, and not just food packaging. It was a timeline of British (mostly English) social history, which featured along with the general packaging and advertising of each age, examples of commemorative items produced for events such as coronations and the Great Exhibition of 1851.

I found it fascinating the way some products we know and love were almost instantly recognisable in their earlier incarnations, where key elements of the branding had been retained or changed only slightly.

Particularly interesting were the displays towards the end of the museum, which featured examples of the same products from across the decades, lined up next to each other on the shelves. The size, shape and material of the packaging may have changed only slightly, but there was a clear evolution across the years.

The most surprising thing for me was the realisation that many of the products that I remember as a child (mostly sweets and chocolates) which I thought were new, had in reality been around for decades before, like Smarties (first called Smarties in 1937). I wonder if this is just me or my generation, or does every generation think they are the first to try these “new fangled” products?

I resisted the temptation to spend any money in their shop, but they do have an online shop with some great postcards amongst other things, so I may well be tempted again.

Holiday at the Victorian Farm

17 Dec

Karen over at Twigs to Roots posted about the Christmas specials of the BBC programme Victorian Farm (entitled unsurprisingly Victorian Farm Christmas).

I commented that I would like to go and have a look at the farm where it was filmed because it is a historic working farm, so I thought I would have a look on the internet and see if I could find out more.

As well as an interesting website about the Acton Scott Estate and the historic working farm, I also discovered that the cottage (Henley Cottage) where much of the series was filmed can now be rented as a holiday cottage.

The unusual twist is that Henley Cottage has been restored as a 19th century farm labourers cottage. Water must be pumped from the well by hand, the place is lit by candles and oil lamps and cooking is done on an old fashioned kitchen range.

The only concession to modern comfort appears to be the converted outside toilet which hides a modern bathroom with a hot shower and toilet.

To me this sounds like a fascinating chance to experience a small taste of how the majority of my ancestors lived, although without the hard work that being an agricultural labourer entailed, I am not sure it would be completely realistic.

I would feel a bit of a fraud, turning up in modern clothes, probably by modern transport, but I still think it would  be a great experience. My wife on the other hand was not convinced that this would be such an ideal way of spending the week!

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