Tag Archives: bolney

Wandering: High Weald Landscape Trail – Horsham to Bolney

30 Apr

The High Weald Landscape Trail is a 90 mile route that runs from Horsham in West Sussex to Rye in East Sussex. The High Weald is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and according to the High Weald AONB website its key features are “its rolling hills, scattered farmsteads, small woodlands, irregular-shaped fields, open heaths and ancient routeways”.

The walk begins in the town of Horsham, West Sussex at the railway station in the north of the town. The first half a mile or so of the route is not very inspiring but it soon breaks free of the residential streets of Horsham and heads into woodland. Soon the tarmac gives way to dirt tracks and before long the dog walkers begin to thin out and the town becomes a distant memory.

The dominating feature of the first part of today’s walk was the woodland, ranging from the “small woodland” mentioned above, with narrow paths winding through the bluebells to a larger forest with stacks of recently felled timber alongside the wide tracks.

The dominant industry in this area was iron working, hence the need for timber and also water. There are several ponds/lakes which provided the water, the one below is Carterslodge Pond near Slaugham, West Sussex.

The route had been mainly heading in an easterly direction for about five miles, but it started heading in a more southerly direction as it emerged from the woodland and into a more open landscape and headed towards the village of Slaugham, West Sussex. I have never been to Slaugham before, expect in family history records, and this was one of the highlights of today’s walk.

Despite having several family connections in the village I didn’t really have any specific destination other than the parish church, even then it was just to have a general look around, rather than searching for any specific gravestones.

Both the church and village were beautiful in the sunshine. With the exception of the modern cars and a few other modern trappings it did look like the village could be stuck in a time warp, and I began to wonder whether I had walked onto the set of a period drama.

The route continued southwards another three or four miles through similar landscape, another lake and a few smaller patches of woodland before hitting a quiet country road between Warninglid and Bolney. Not long after a glimpse of a trig point, a separate road branches off to the east and then another footpath heading off south again winds its way onward to the village of Bolney.

The Eight Bells pub (pictured above) provided some welcome refreshment and a chance to take the weight off our feet, whilst we waited for the rather infrequent bus back to Horsham.

Just across the road was Bolney church, which looked glorious in the sunshine and to my surprise and delight it was unlocked. So for the first time I was able to set foot in the church that has been such a prominent feature in the lives of my ancestors and in my own research.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

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Postcard Album: Interior, Bolney Church, Sussex

29 Apr

It may not be Westminster Abbey, but this is more typical of the sort of place where my ancestors were married (sorry I just had to get in a reference to the Royal Wedding).

As the caption says this is the interior of Bolney Church. The church of St. Mary Magdalene in the village of Bolney, West Sussex has more family associations than just the usual baptisms, marriages and burials. Many of the individuals in my family tree passed through the doors to this church, including GASSON, WALDER, HARMES and LEWRY families.

Both of the other family associations relate to the church bells. Several generations of the WALDER family and at least one GASSON have served as bellringers in the church and are remembered on boards in the church tower.

Secondly it seems that one of my probable ancestors, Michael HARMES, paid for four of the eight bells in the church tower. That is one branch of my family tree I would really like to investigate and prove that I am related.

The reason for choosing this postcard today is because hopefully tomorrow I will be walking to Bolney, not strictly speaking for genealogy purposes, but I might “accidentally” end up wandering into the churchyard.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Ann HARMES – my next challenge

20 Mar

This should have been an Ancestral Profile post, but it would be the shortest one yet, because I know very little about Ann HARMES. Ann was one of my 4x great-grandparents. She married Samuel WALDER in Bolney, Sussex on the 14th November 1815.

To my knowledge they had six children, all baptised in Bolney between 1817 and 1831, including my 3x great-grandfather Edward WALDER. Then some time between that last baptism in 1831 (or possibly just before) and the 1841 census Ann died.

At least I assume that she died, she is not with her husband Samuel in 1841 and he re-married in February 1842 (in Bolney) claiming he was a widow. The problem is that I can’t find a burial record for Ann WALDER or anything like it (or HARMES) in Bolney.

I have been using indexes and transcriptions for my research, so I need to check the original records to make sure that the record hasn’t been missed. I also need to make sure that I have covered all surrounding parishes just in case.

The problem is that without knowing when she died and how old she was when she died I don’t know when she was born. She may have been about the same age as Samuel and died young, or she could have been considerably older and died at a ripe old age.

She may even have been a widow (that should be easy to check on the original parish register entry) when she married Samuel and in that case HARMES might not be her maiden name.

The good news is that there is an eligible Ann HARMES in Bolney. Michael and Hannah HARMES had at least nine children one of whom was Ann, who was baptised on the 4th March 1798 in Bolney. This would make her about a similar age as Samuel WALDER, but of course I don’t know how old Samuel’s wife was, so I am reluctant to accept this at face value without further evidence.

Further Research…

I need to double-check the Bolney parish registers, for details of Ann’s marriage and to find her burial, I really need to find an age from somewhere. I also need to pay attention to Michael and Hannah HARMES, my best bet would be to find a will that mentions the WALDER family.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 51

19 Dec

Virtually no family history took place last week, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about family history but did really get down to doing much work.

Really the only bit of work I did was on the LEWRY family of Bolney, Sussex investigating the relationship to a probable new distant cousin, who contacted me. The good news is that we are all most certainly related (probably 5th cousins) but I don’t have enough evidence to hand to prove it conclusively. This week I will try to get together the evidence I do have and put together a reasonable argument for the relationship.

I did spend a little time on the housekeeping of my database, looking to fill in some gaps on the first two wives of Thomas KINGHORN, but didn’t really spend much time on them. I found a couple of records on the Ancestry.co.uk London Parish Register Collections, but haven’t saved them yet or entered the details in my database. It must try to do that this week.

As everyone was talking about it I thought I ought to take a look at the new familysearch website, but having previously checked out the pilot/beta versions of the site I didn’t really spend much time there. I will probably write-up my thoughts in a blog post this week. It will probably prove useful in the future, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to have the content I need, nor do I have the time to investigate the site fully at the moment.

I am going to have to blame Christmas and the cold weather for my lack of family history research this week. With most of my Christmas preparations sorted out now I hope that I can get back down to some family history this week. I also want to try put together a couple of new pages on my blog both of which will act as an index, one for my ancestral profile posts and the other for the sections of the two long distance paths I have walked (the South Downs Way and Capital Ring).

Ancestral Profile: Mary SMITH (c1807-1891?)

6 Dec

In recent weeks I have been jumping from branch to branch of my family tree when it came to choosing a subject for my weekly Ancestral Profile post, but this week I thought I would follow up last week’s post (featuring George MITCHELL) by writing about his wife Mary SMITH, my 4x great-grandmother.

Although Mary outlived her husband by nearly 50 years I know very little about her, this is not helped by the fact that her maiden name was SMITH and her married name was MITCHELL, neither of which are particularly uncommon. It also doesn’t help that each census return seems to give different information from which to calculate her date and place of birth.

The marriage to George MITCHELL took place on the 29th September 1828 in the parish of Cuckfield, Sussex. As I mentioned last week I haven’t checked the original marriage record for extra information. I also wrote last week that George and Mary had six children:

  1. Eliza MITCHELL (baptised 7th December 1828 in Cuckfield, Sussex)
  2. Mary Ann MITCHELL (baptised 30th January 1831 in Cuckfield, Sussex)
  3. Harriett MITCHELL (born c1834 in Slaugham, Sussex) [my 3x great-grandmother]
  4. Caroline MITCHELL (born Q3 1838 in Slaugham, Sussex)
  5. Alfred George MITCHELL (born 23rd February 1841 in Bolney, Sussex)
  6. William MITCHELL (baptised 14th April 1844 in Balcombe, Sussex)

It seems that her husband George died in October 1844 as the result of being hit by a steam engine, leaving Mary as a widow with six children. The 1851 census shows her as a pauper living in Slaugham, Sussex with her four youngest children.

I haven’t found Mary in the 1861 census, although there are several possibilities. In the 1871, 1881 and 1891 census she is living with (or next door to) her youngest son William and his family, initially in Bolney, Sussex and then Slaugham, Sussex. All of these show her as a widow and only the 1871 lists an occupation, which is “washerwoman”.

Below are the ages and places of birth from the various census years. In 1841 the age was rounded down, but taking the other years it looks like we are looking at a year of birth about 1807 +/- 2 years. All the places are quite consistent, in the same general area in mid sussex within a few miles of each other.

1841 – aged 30, born in Sussex
1851 – aged 42, born Cuckfield, Sussex
1861 – not found yet
1871 – aged 64, born Staplefield, Sussex
1881 – aged 76, born Cuckfield, Sussex
1891 – aged 84, born Slaugham, Sussex

There is a baptism in Cuckfield which seems to fit, Mary SMITH daughter of Samuel and Mary SMITH, baptised on 1 Nov 1807. Unfortunately there is also a Mary SMITH baptised in Cuckfield in 1805 who could just as easily be the one. Clearly more evidence is needed.

It seems likely that Mary died later in 1891. There is an entry in the GRO indexes for the death of an 85 year old in Q3 1891 in the Cuckfield Registration District. All of the parishes listed were in Cuckfield Registration District. I really need to buy the certificate to see if this is my Mary MITCHELL.

There is a corresponding burial in Balcombe, Sussex of an 85 year old Mary MITCHELL on the 19th September 1891. This would make sense if her husband was buried in Balcombe, but it looks like he was buried in Cuckfield. Why would she be buried in Balcombe when the 1891 census has her living in Slaugham? Did she spend her last few months living with someone else in Balcombe? Am I barking up the wrong tree?

Ancestral Profile: George MITCHELL (1806?-1844?)

29 Nov

I have already written about one George MITCHELL in my family tree, but he was on my mother’s side of the family, this one is on my father’s side and was probably unrelated. This George MITCHELL was my 4x great-grandfather and in contrast with the other George MITCHELL I know almost nothing about his life.

The first record I have is his marriage to my 4x great-grandmother Mary SMITH. The marriage took place on the 29th September 1828 in the parish of Cuckfield, Sussex. As the marriage was before 1837 there is no mention of his father’s name, all I have is that they were both from Cuckfield and neither had been married before. I haven’t checked the original record, so there may be additional clues in the names of the witnesses, it is worth a look anyway.

In the 1841 census George and Mary are living in Bolney, Sussex but I can’t make out the name of the farm on which they are living. They have four children: Mary Ann, Harriett, Caroline and Alfred. The 1841 census provides the only piece of evidence for George’s birth, his age is given as 35 years and he was born in Sussex. In theory this should mean that George was aged between 35 and 39 years old, but this is by no means guaranteed.

By the 1851 census George has died and Mary is living as a widow, with four children: Harriett, Caroline, Alfred and William. This provides the only real evidence for George’s death, seemingly some time between the birth of William in 1844 and the 1851 census. Mary is shown as a pauper, so there may be some further clues among the records of the Poor Law Guardians.

It seems that George and Mary had six children, but apart from Harriett (my 3x great-grandmother) I know very little about what became of them. They were:

  1. Eliza MITCHELL (baptised 7th December 1828 in Cuckfield, Sussex)
  2. Mary Ann MITCHELL (baptised 30th January 1831 in Cuckfield, Sussex)
  3. Harriett MITCHELL (born c1834 in Slaugham, Sussex)
  4. Caroline MITCHELL (born Q3 1838 in Slaugham, Sussex)
  5. Alfred George MITCHELL (born 23rd February 1841 in Bolney, Sussex)
  6. William MITCHELL (baptised 14th April 1844 in Balcombe, Sussex)

The fact that William was baptised in Balcombe possibly provides a clue to the death of George. There is a burial recorded in Cuckfield on the 30th October 1844 of a 38 year old George MITCHELL from Balcombe. It seems quite likely that this was my 4x great-grandfather, and there is a chance that he was the victim of an accident on the London to Brighton railway. The Times newspaper refers to the victim as Thomas MITCHELL, but I can’t find a death registration for either Thomas or George MITCHELL in the right place at the right time. Local newspapers my clarify this situation as The Times might have got his name wrong.

More maps for my collection

30 Oct

These are my latest finds from my local Oxfam shop. Three Ordnance Survey maps of Sussex dating from around 1948-9. Not particularly old or in top condition, but they were real bargains, or at least I think so, at £1.99 each

Three maps

The scale of all three is the same,  1:25,000 (about 2½ inches to one mile), which is detailed enough to show the locations and outlines of larger buildings and farms. Most of the farms are named as are many of the country roads.

The one on the left is of the Haywards Heath area. Not so many places of ancestral interest here, apart from the asylum and the village of Cuckfield.

The middle one covers an area from Washington and Thakeham in the west to Bramber and Partridge Green. This includes part of Henfield, where the TROWER family were, Ashurst (home to the HAYBITTLES) and part of West Grinstead, showing some of the places where the FAIRS family lived.

The one on the right covers many ancestral villages: Cowfold, Twineham (showing the location of Ridden’s Farm, believed to be home to my WELLER ancestors), Bolney, Slaugham and Warninglid.

Whilst I don’t expect to actually discover much new information from these maps, there is always a chance of finding the location of a previously unidentified family home, that has since been demolished or changed its name.

The real interest comes from studying the maps and comparing with the present-day maps, seeing how things have changed. For example, one thing that immediately stood out was the number of trig points on these old maps, and how few of them survive today.

They had a few others in the shop, from the same series, if they are still there on Monday I may well get another couple, although these were the only ones of real family interest for me. Although I think I need to make a list of the ones I already have because I am starting to build up quite a collection.

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