Tag Archives: chichester

Something Sussex: West Dean Church destroyed by fire

28 Oct

The interior of St. Andrew’s Church, West Dean (near Chichester), Sussex seems modern and light, which is not what you would expect from the outside. A memorial stone set into the wall not far from the door explains why.

On the 26th November 1934 the church was almost completely destroyed by fire. According to a report in The Times newspaper the following day the Fire Brigade “were practically helpless owing to lack of water, West Dean being in an area which has suffered severely from a deficiency of water owing to the droughts of the last two summers.”

The same report records that a “very fine Elizabethan full-sized recumbant figure is badly damaged, and a life-size recumbent figure of the late Mr. Willie James [a former owner of West Dean Park]by Sir Goscombe John has been destroyed.”

In the article the Vicar (Rev. H.E. Lyne) described how the fire was first spotted, “Miss V. Smith, of West Drayton, saw smoke and flames when she was practising at the organ in the church. She immediately dashed for help, but the roof and everything was ablaze in about 20 minutes. I was out at the time, and did not get back till the roof had fallen in.”

As should be obvious from the memorial stone the church was restored, according to the Chichester Observer (Wedenesday, 15th April 1936), “The restoration of St. Andrew’s Parish Church, West Dean, which was destroyed by fire in November, 1934, was completed last week and the dedication of the new building took place on Saturday morning in time for the Easter services.”

The Bishop appears to have used the dedication to encourage the continued attendance of the parishioners every week:

It was a house of God worthy of the God they came to worship, and he urged them to come there Sunday by Sunday to worship Him. There was no reason why the Church should not be as full every Sunday as it was on this occasion. “If it is not to be a witness of our work,” he said, “it might almost as well never have been rebuilt”

For the family historian one concern would be the survival of parish registers in such a devastating fire. Fortunately in this case it appears that the registers were safely stored in a fireproof safe and they are now held at the West Sussex Record Office.

Inside West Dean Church (16 June 2010)

Ancestral Profile: George MITCHELL (1873-1951)

25 Oct

George MITCHELL is my great-grandfather, unfortunately I have no known photograph of him, although there are so many descendants that I feel sure there is one out there somewhere.

George was the son of William Henry and Harriet MITCHELL, he was born on the 13th April 1873 in East Meon, Hampshire and was one of thirteen children. His birth was registered by his mother on the 23rd April 1873 and he was baptised in Clanfield, Hampshire on the 25th May 1873.

Throughout his childhood the family appear to have moved frequently, eventually crossing from Hampshire into Sussex and settling in West Dean, Sussex. It was at St. Andrew’s Church in West Dean that he married Lilian May BOXALL on the 6th October 1894, George was aged 21 and Lilian was 17 years old and also from West Dean.

George and Lilian appear to have spent the rest of their lives living at Warren Farm (sometimes known as Warren Barn) in West Dean. Together they had a total of sixteen children, divided equally between eight boys and eight girls. It appears that all but one of them survived to adulthood.

Precise details of George’s working life are thin on the ground, census returns show him carrying out various roles associated with farming, leading him to be best described as an agricultural labourer, but the focus appears to have been on working with horses. His obituary records that he had worked “29½ years for Mr. Knight, 4 for Mr. Ruff and 18 for Mr. Heyler”, all presumably the tenant farmers at Warren Farm, although the farm itself was probably owned by the West Dean Estate.

I have written about George’s death before, he died on the 4th January 1951 at St. Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, Sussex having been kicked on the head by a horse on the 31st December 1950. His funeral took place at St. Andrew’s Church, West Dean the 10th January 1951. He is buried in the burial ground at West Dean, with his wife Lilian who died several years previously in 1939.

Grave of George and Lilian May MITCHELL

Grave of George and Lilian May MITCHELL (West Dean, Sussex)

 

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 43

24 Oct

I didn’t really get a great deal achieved last week. Of course there was the trip down to Chichester yesterday, but I spent most of my free time thinking about this blog and the way forward, essentially trying to streamline things and make more time for actual family history research.

I have scanned my latest batch of postcards, like I was planning to, but I never got around to scanning the four wills, let alone start transcribing them. I must at least get them scanned this week and try to make a start on transcribing them. I also need to scan the two newspaper articles that I copied down at Chichester, and transcribe them as well.

I have done more work on the BOXALLs of West Dean, Sussex and I think I have achieved my original goal of identifying the six BOXALLs on the war memorial at West Dean. I am still a little unsure about one of the men, and there may also be one other who is not recorded on the memorial. This week I need to start pulling everything together, but also there is so much more work that I could be doing on the BOXALLs, there are so many of them that I could keep going for ages.

So this week is going to be mostly organising and sorting out, a bit of scanning and possibly some transcribing. I will be really interested to see if my blogging plans actually help free up my time for family history. Also I need to try and decide what I am going to do with the bundle of maps that I bought yesterday.

Back to the archives

23 Oct

After a break of several months I finally found myself back in an archive again doing some proper research. After a bit of a later start than usual (an extra hour and a half in bed) I made way down to Chichester, West Sussex.

Chichester LibraryFirst stop was Chichester Public Library to have a look at some local newspapers on microfilm. I didn’t have a great deal of success, I was looking for a mention of the six BOXALLs on West Dean war memorial, it was a bit of a long shot from the start, but I wasn’t finding the results I was expecting and the microfilm reader was not very good. So rather than waste any further time and run the risk of headache from trying to read the screen I decided to cut my losses and head down the road to the West Sussex Record Office.

West Sussex Record Office Things improved at West Sussex Record Office, but only marginally. I more or less gave up on finding mention of the war memorial BOXALLs and the Roll of Honour for West Dean (WSRO PAR 65/7/9) was very disappointing, without any BOXALLs whatsoever. So instead I switched to searching newspapers for information on James and Caroline BOXALL and their 27 children. I had moderate success with this, finding two references, one was an obituary for James and the other was their sixtieth wedding anniversary.

Both articles were illustrated with the same photo of James and Caroline, which sadly is too poor quality to worry about reproducing here. I would have to scan the photocopy of the print from a microfilm image of the original newspaper article, after all that I would be surprised if there was anything recognisable left. It might be worth contacting the newspaper itself to see what has happened to their photo archive, but I doubt it will have survived.

I did learn one interesting fact however, which I need to follow up and confirm. It looks like one of the grandchildren of James and Caroline BOXALL became Mayor of Chichester. You never know quite what you are going to find once you start digging.

The real highlight of the record office was not in the records, but out in the reception area. The record office were selling off some of their duplicate Ordnance Survey maps. There were loads of them, and I am not talking about the small folding kind of maps that would fit in your jacket pocket, these were mostly large scale (25″ to 1 mile) and across a wide time range. Needless to say I came away with a bundle (actually a roll) of maps, for places where my ancestors lived. Now I am not quite sure what I am going to do with them, but it was an opportunity too good to miss.

Personal Genealogy Update: Week 42

17 Oct

Last week was a good week. I managed to get quite a bit of work done, discovered a couple of other stories to follow up and best of all, the four will copies arrived in the post on Thursday.

Having written about the delays with the issuing of copies of wills, the four wills I had ordered towards the end of August have arrived. I haven’t studied them in great detail yet, but like I suspected there doesn’t appear to be any major revelations contained within them. This week I have to get them scanned and transcribed and see what information I can extract from them.

Most of my work has has been focused on the BOXALL family of West Dean, and I have made good progress on tracing the six BOXALLs on the West Dean war memorial, although two of them are proving rather tricky to track down. The other four are definitely related to me, but this week I need to try and pin down the final two.

I now also want to investigate the story that James and Caroline BOXALL, my 2x great-grandparents, had 27 children. I only have details of 12 children and the 1911 census records that they had 13 "Children Born Alive", but four had died. I am going to have to do some careful analysis of some baptism and burial records and birth and death registration indexes, to see if I can identify any of the missing children.

I need to spend some time looking in local newspapers, possibly for birth announcements, but more likely for obituaries of James and Caroline and also for their wedding anniversaries. I also need to check the local newspapers for a mention of the six BOXALLs on the war memorial, and of course any mention of the dedication of the war memorial itself.

My hope is to visit Chichester next weekend and spend several hours on a microfilm reader and in the archives. So this week I need to create a list of dates and subjects to look up in preparation for my visit. I also want get the four wills scanned, although I don’t think I will have time to get them all transcribed during the week, whilst I am scanning them I need to scan the latest batch of postcards as well.

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