Tag Archives: gasson

Why did grandmother move to West Grinstead?

7 Feb

When I looked back on what I achieved last week it seemed like I hadn’t really done much family history, but this is because I still need to get away from the idea that I need to be adding names and dates to my family tree to be doing family history.

Last week I spent a lot of time, perhaps a bit too much, looking at Hatterells, West Grinstead, Sussex and it’s connection to my family history. This hasn’t added anything new to my family tree yet, ultimately the only thing that I am going to be adding to my family tree in relation to Hatterells are some address details for my grandmother and some of her children.

Whilst there are few hard facts to add to my family tree there is more background material that needs to be recorded, like the details from the rent book and there are a few more records that need checking, which might give me more information, but nothing that is going to fit neatly into my family tree.

So along with very little to add to my family tree I have also brought to the surface again a question which had been pushed to the back of my mind, every so often it comes to the front only to get pushed back again. I wonder if now is the time to tackle that question?

The question is why did my grandmother with her three children move from Hurstpierpoint, Sussex to West Grinstead, Sussex in 1943? There seems no clear reason why a mother with three young children and a husband serving overseas should move to an unfamiliar place, albeit not that far away, but still it would seem unnecessary upheaval unless there was a good reason.

Of course the reason it keeps getting pushed to the back of my mind is because it is probably an unanswerable question. Neither of my grandparents are alive to ask, and the three children were probably too young to remember the reason behind their move, if they were ever told in the first place.

For now I will just push that question back a little way in my mind, not right to the back, but just far enough not to fully occupy my thoughts, but not far enough to stop it being forgotten/ignored again.

Hatterells: Paying the rent

2 Feb

Yesterday I mentioned that I didn’t know exactly when my grandmother Dorothy Annie GASSON and her children were at Hatterells, West Grinstead, Sussex,  but I do have some hard evidence which might help fill in some of the gaps.

This is the rent book for Hatteralls [sic] used by my grandmother, and as you can see she was not the first person to use it. The previous tenant appears to have been V. Patching.

The name of the landlord is not clear, but I believe it is D Berry. The address is certainly clear, Clothalls Farm, which is the closest building to Hatterells, about a quarter of a mile as the crow flies to the north-west of Hatterells, and which is still standing.

[I think the landlord is probably Dudley Berry, who was listed as a farmer in West Grinstead in the 1938 Kelly’s Directory of Sussex, and is definitely at Clothalls Farm in 1951-52 according to The Silver Eagle Horsham Urban and Rural Directory]

The book consists of a cardboard cover and now holds three sheets of paper (although presumably it once had more), two of which are blotting paper. To my surprise they are actually stapled into the book, I would have expected the blotting paper to be removable so that it could be used facing which ever page was being written on.

The other sheet is shown below and has entries on both sides detailing the amount of rent due and the date it was due along with a record of how much was actually paid.

As you can see someone (I don’t know if it was definitely my grandmother, it may have been the previous tenant still), was paying 10 shillings a week in rent, and on occasion they missed a week and paid double the following week.

Whether this was due to a lack of money, not being home when the landlord called or just that the landlord didn’t come to collect the money I will probably never know.

More importantly this show that someone was paying rent from at least the 18th September 1943 and the reverse of the page shows that the entries continue until the 9th September 1944.

Interestingly for the last two entries it seems that the weekly rent had gone up to 10s 8d, which may be why the entries finish (although it was the end of the page), did my grandmother seek cheaper accommodation when the rent was increased?

This is not the only rent book in my collection and I should be looking more closely at the others to see what other clues and insights that they hold.

Hatterells: Another “lost” ancestral home

1 Feb

The photo below shows the site of another ancestral home, like Goreland Farm a few weeks ago there is virtually nothing left to see. This is where my grandmother Dorothy Annie GASSON lived in West Grinstead, Sussex with her young family for part of the Second World War.

Between the pond and the nearest oak tree and to the right-hand side of the photo, once stood Hatterells (sometimes known as Hatterells Cottages or Hatterells Farm) which consisted of a pair of cottages and a couple of farm buildings. I remember the last of the buildings, one of the farm buildings, which was still standing until the hurricane in 1987, but the other buildings have long since gone.

The most notable thing about Hatterells is its remoteness, the nearest building was another farm over the horizon in the photo, and the nearest main road was about three-quarters of a mile in the opposite direction, and even then it was probably the same distance again to the nearest village shops. Not the most convenient place for a mother to raise a family, whilst her husband was away on active service during the war. If you don’t believe me just have a look at the location on Google Maps, nothing much has changed in the intervening 60 or 70 years apart from the disappearance of the buildings and a few less hedgerows.

I don’t know for certain the exact dates when my grandmother was at Hatterells but I do have on interesting piece of evidence which I will tell you about tomorrow.

Making the News: “An extraordinary double tragedy”

26 Nov

A couple of weeks ago I decided to follow up one of the mysteries that I uncovered in the National Probate Calendar, and it turned out to be one of the most heart-breaking stories that I have uncovered whilst researching my family history.

Whilst searching the probate calendar I came across the entries for a pair of GASSONs from Haywards Heath, Sussex. I wrote about my discovery and a few thoughts about what might have happened here. I suggested that their deaths might have been as a result of enemy bombing during the Second World War, but the truth is that although it could be attributed to the war, the story was far more tragic.

I will let the newspaper report from the Sussex Daily News dated Thursday 17th October 1940 tell the story:

COUPLE DIE IN DUG-OUT

HAYWARDS HEATH TRAGEDY

An extraordinary double tragedy which occurred at Haywards Heath was discovered on Tuesday afternoon at about 1.15, and the inquiry into it was held the same afternoon by East Sussex Coroner, Dr. E. F. Hoare.

Deceased were William Edward Gasson and his wife, Dorothy Gasson, of 3 North-road. They had been found dead in the dug-out in their garden.

In the dug-out was a brazier with coal ashes in it and an oil stove. The latter had not been used. There was also a candle.

Deceased were found in a sitting posture. Everything went to show that the previous night they had gone to their dug-out and had lighted the fire in the brazier, and that while they were sitting there the fumes had overcome them.

A neighbour made investigations on Tuesday on finding that the morning milk had not been taken in.

Evidence was given at the inquiry by the neighbour, Jesse Laker, and by the son, William Ernest Gasson, who did not live at the house.

The Coroner found death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning and recorded a verdict of “Death by misadventure.”

I have read some pretty sad stories in the course of my research, but this really touched a nerve and I was almost in tears as I read the article. I don’t know quite why it touched me so, they are not particularly close relations, but regardless of that it is still a really sad story.

The couple had only recently married (the son was from William’s first marriage) and to die in such an unnecessary and avoidable way when people were dying as a result enemy bombing (from which the GASSONs were trying to escape) seems desperately unlucky.

Treasures from the attic: My grandparent’s birthday book

21 Oct

To be honest I had forgotten I had this little treasure stored away in my parent’s attic until a few weeks ago. I guess when I was initially given it I wasn’t so passionate about family history, now I realise what a wonderful resource it is.

Birthday book

The book is tiny, about 1¾" x 2¼" and about ½" thick. It was published, if that is the right word, by Eyre and Spottiswoode (Bible Warehouse) Ltd., London, and is rather grandly entitled The Royal Bijou Birthday Book.

Each page is divided into two and each half is headed with a month and day (e.g. October 21), a bit like a diary but without the year. The left-hand page has quote for each day, "A Selection from the Poetical Works of SHAKSPEARE, WORDSWORTH, HOOD, TENNYSON, MOORE, BURNS, COWPER, SCOTT, GOLDSMITH, HEMANS, BYRON, MILTON".

The right-hand page is more like a diary, with a space for writing down the relevant birthdays for that day.

The entries are in two different hands, that of my grandmother (Dorothy Annie GASSON née TROWER), who presumably started the book, and after her death in 1964 it was continued by my grandfather (Charles Percy GASSON). I don’t know for certain whether the book was started before their marriage in 1936 or not, I suspect it was probably after their marriage and analysis of some of the entries might confirm this.

I need to go through this book, transcribe all the entries and identify all the names and their relationship to my grandparents. A lot of the names are known to me and the majority are still living (because they are my cousins, aunts and uncles) so I won’t be publishing the details. Some of the people were probably neighbours and friends.

There is one other interesting addition to the book which is a bit of a mystery. Slipped in towards the back of the book was the passport photo shown below. I have no idea whether it belongs in there or who he is, he doesn’t look like any of my relations, but I could be wrong, perhaps one of my relations will be able to put a name to the face.

Unidentified photo

Interesting puzzle in the National Probate Calendar

18 Aug

During my rather haphazard searches of the National Probate Calendar last week I came across an interesting pair of entries that I felt warranted further investigation. Unfortunately the people concerned are pretty distant relations, but at least they are related.

The first entry I discovered was for Dorothy GASSON:

GASSON Dorothy of 3 North-road Haywards Heath Sussex widow who was last seen alive on 13 October 1940 and whose dead body was found on 15 October 1940 Administration (limited) Lewes 31 December to Robert George Richards public assistance officer. Effects £143 1s. 11d.

This seemed rather unusual, but presumably no-one knew the exact date that she had died, and I assumed that the “public assistance officer” was acting as executor in the absence of any other appointed executor or next of kin.

Further down the page was an entry for another GASSON also living at the same address:

GASSON William Edward of 3 North-road Haywards Heath Sussex died 15 October 1940 Probate Lewes 6 January to Percy William Woodland postman and Jessie Mary Woodland (wife of the said Percy William Woodland). Effects £280 16s. 8d.

The mystery deepens, my first thought was “why was the postman acting as executor?” but I guess there is probably some family connection. William died on the same day as Dorothy’s body was discovered, had someone seen William the day before so they knew he had died on the 15th October, but couldn’t be certain about Dorothy.

Several other questions came to mind, what was the relationship between Dorothy and William? How did they both die? Why was the postman not acting as executor for Dorothy as well as William?

The first question is probably the easiest to answer, according to the GRO Marriage Index William Edward GASSON married Dorothy BACKSHALL in Q2 1939 in the Cuckfield Registration District. This has got to be them, so they must be husband and wife, but had only been married for about a year when they died. Given the date, the most likely cause of death is probably as a result of their house being bombed during the Second World War

I checked the GRO Death Indexes for both Dorothy and William, and that just made matters worse, perhaps they weren’t husband and wife after all. Dorothy’s age was given as 41 years and William’s as 71 years. Perhaps Dorothy was a daughter from an earlier marriage or a niece, but for a 40 year old woman to marry a 70 year old man in 1939 seems unusual.

Now I have the question of whether to follow up the story further. Like I said earlier they are pretty distant relations, but I just can’t resist a mystery like this. I need to know what was going on. The problem is that I can’t afford two death certificates, probably a marriage certificate, a copy of a will and a grant of administration. Although it is an interesting puzzle I have more important things to spend my genealogy budget on. Instead I will add another item to my to-do list, to check the local newspapers for the time to see if any mention is made of their deaths.

The National Probate Calendar is certainly proving to be a very rich source of information, every time I find one of my relations it always seems to lead to new information and more research, without even going as far as ordering a copy of the will.

Picture Postcard Parade: Horley Church

24 Jul

I bought this postcard today in the lovely town of Rye, East Sussex. It is of St Bartholomew’s Church in Horley, Surrey. The card was posted on the 26th June 1905, the name in the bottom right-hand corner is W. Wilkins, who was probably Walter Wilkins, who is recorded in the Kelly’s 1911 Directory of Surrey as a stationer in Station Road, Horley.

Horley Church

My 4x great-grandparents Henry and Catherine GASSON had nine of their children baptised here between 1814 and 1830. One of those children, James was also buried here in May 1830. After this the family moved to Nuthurst, Sussex where another five children, including my 3x great-grandfather, were baptised.

There is another reason for showing you this card. Horley is the town in which I now spend my working day. You can expect to hear lots more about Horley in the future, as I make the most of my lunch breaks (and my season ticket for the train).

I have previously written about their wonderful library, so I can explore their holdings further (not just Horley but surrounding parishes) and also visit the church and get some photographs. Eventually I hope to be able to find out where my 4x great-grandparents lived and pay that a visit too, if it has survived. I am sure there must also be other GASSONs that remained in Horley after my direct ancestors moved on.

All in all lots of things I can be doing to take advantage of the fact that I am am going to be working in a place with an ancestral connection. The truth is that there are very few places where I would have been able to work that didn’t have a family connection of some sort.

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