Tag Archives: hampshire

Longing to return to the hills again

25 May

I know the time has come once again. Sub-consciously I have begun taking guide books to the South Downs Way off my bookshelf and reading the odd snippet here and there.

Every morning on my bus journey to work I gaze increasingly longingly at the ridge of the South Downs. This morning it wasn’t there, hidden in mist that will no doubt burn off in an hour or two, but by then I will be miles away, with only the clock to gaze longingly at.

It looks increasingly like that my plans to take a week off work this year and walk the SDW are going to have to wait another year. Barring a huge win on the lottery or an unexpected redundancy it doesn’t look like I am going to have the time to do it this year.

This was going to be my challenge this year, but this has been pushed out by London 2012 Olympics and the challenge to remain interested in whatever sporting activity I am watching, despite the crowds and exorbitant prices.

Somehow I am going to have to find some time to walk the SDW this year, having walked it the last two years I want to try to keep the momentum going but it is looking increasingly difficult this year.

I have even contemplated walking it at night, I mean just how much sleep do I really need? Couldn’t I catch up on sleep during the week and spend Friday and Saturday nights on the hills. Probably not, but that is a sign of how desperate I am becoming.

I need to keep reminding myself that it isn’t even June yet and there are probably another five or six months of decent walking weather ahead of me and I only need eight or nine days out of those five or six months.

Looked at like that it doesn’t sound quite such a tall order, but I need to get out and start getting a few more longer walks under my belt, I have really done very little this year so far. I would have started this week, but it has been insanely hot this week, maybe next week will be better.

Keymer Post, South Downs Way (25th May 2010)

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Making the News: Henry Wright of Alton, Hampshire – Postscript

8 May

Yesterday I shared a newspaper article about the fortunate discovery made by my 3x great-grandfather Henry Wright of Alton, Hampshire. The article suggested that his wife had hidden away some money (totalling £260) which was only discovered after her death in 1889.

I suspect there is probably more to the story than meets the eye. There is a possibility that Henry in his younger days (back in 1838) served twelve months in prison for larceny, so I can’t help wonder if this money could be the result of some nefarious deed. However any secrets probably went to the grave with Henry.

That thought got me thinking. Henry died six years after his wife and I have a copy of his will and the grant of probate and I wondered just how much of this “windfall” had survived until Henry’s death.

The entry for Henry in the National Probate Calendar (on Ancestry.co.uk) reads:

WRIGHT Henry of Model villa West-street Alton Hants died 1 August 1895 Probate Winchester 4 November to William Wright builder and contractor Effects £127 9s.

So it looks like in those six years Henry had managed to get rid of half of the money that he had “discovered”, assuming that he didn’t have much to start with, because he was having to sell some furniture in the first place.

I wonder what he did with that money in those six years? The 1891 census shows him (aged 80) living with his son William (the executor named above) and his family and quite appropriately he is described as “Living on his own means”.

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Making the News: Henry Wright of Alton, Hampshire

7 May

You never know what you are going to find when you start delving into newspapers. The article below, from the Hampshire Advertiser of Saturday 23rd March 1889, has to one of the most bizarre that I have come across in my searches.

ALTON, MARCH 23.

A PROVIDENT WIFE.-A man named Henry Wright, formerly a chimney sweeper at Alton, has made a fortunate discovery. His wife died a few days ago, and preparatory to selling his furniture to a local dealer he inspected an old chest of drawers, when, to his surprise, he discovered, concealed behind a piece of board let into one of the drawers, two purses, one of which contained £200, and the other £60 in gold. At one time Wright kept a lodging-house, and it is supposed that his wife accumulated the money then.

Henry Wright and his “provident” wife were my 3x great-grandparents, all the facts fit with what I know. He was at one time a lodging-house keeper and later on a chimney sweep and his wife Sarah died in Alton in 1889.

Quite why Sarah should have felt the need to hide £260 from Henry is a mystery, unless she was frightened he would drink or gamble it all away. Perhaps the rainy day that she was waiting for never arrived?

I can see that it might have been hidden for safe-keeping (perhaps a distrust of banks), but could you really forget that you had put away that sort of money? Based the retail price index £260 in 1889 would be worth £22,400 today, not the sort of money that would be easy to forget.

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A taste of the South Downs on the BBC

4 Mar

I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but occasionally a programme comes along that justifies taking time out to watch on BBC iPlayer. Such was the case with The Great British Countryside which saw Julia Bradbury and Hugh Dennis exploring the South Downs.

The hour long programme gives a wonderful taste of the South Downs, never lingering long in one place and covering the length of hills from the Seven Sisters on the East Sussex coast, through to the watercress beds of Hampshire.

There is some wonderful scenery, as one would expect, but also some explanation of how the Downs were formed and some of the properties of chalk and flint. Hugh Dennis climbs the chalk cliffs (presumably one of the Seven Sisters) and sees just how soft and crumbly the chalk is. We also learn how the chalk impacts on things like horse racing and growing grapes.

Subjects are varied, taking in the history, agriculture, industry and leisure aspects of the South Downs, in short a real cross-section of how man has interacted with the Downs over the centuries.

This programme is a great introduction to the South Downs and even those like me who have grown up in it’s shadow may learn a thing or two about this wonderful landscape.

This episode of The Great British Countryside is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until Thursday 15th March 2012.

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“I didn’t want to be in Essex”

17 Jan

Having learnt the surname and initials of Minnie’s husband it was pretty easy work to find their marriage in the GRO Marriage Index. Minnie G Allison married Arthur E Collins in Alresford Registration District in Q4 1929.

The middle initial for Minnie enabled me to find her in the GRO Death Index as well (her death was registered in July 1995) which gave me her date of birth (30th December 1907) and told me that her middle name was Gladys.

Next stop the GRO Birth Index, and a birth registration for Minnie Gladys Allison in Q1 1908 in Tendring Registration District. Tendring wasn’t a place I was familiar with, but it turned out that this was in Essex. This was the Minnie that I had looked at before, but felt would be an unlikely match.

Until now everything else had been in Hampshire and now I  found myself in Essex. I didn’t want to be in Essex, not that I have anything against Essex, it was just that it was a county of which I knew next to nothing and didn’t seem to fit into the mental picture of Minnie that I had been building.  I had been expecting a connection with East Sussex and the Hemsley or Driver family, but that hadn’t happened.

All the data I had pointed to Essex, so I had no option to follow the trail, first stop the 1911 census. Given that Minnie was born in 1907 I hoped that she would be listed in the census with her parents. I wasn’t disappointed, there she was with her parents Robert and Kate Allison and two older siblings, living in Beaumont in Essex.

Her father was employed as a horseman on a farm, her parents had been married for seven years and both her siblings were going to school. In short nothing that would suggest that Minnie was going to need adopting at some stage in the future. I was expecting some sign of illegitimacy, perhaps with a mother struggling to cope, but this seemed like a perfectly normal family.

There was one fact in this whole situation which told me that I had to be on the right trail. Kate’s place of birth was given as Framfield, Sussex, this was the indication of a connection that I had hoped for. It seemed inconceivable that there wasn’t a connection with my grandmother’s family also from Framfield and surrounding areas, but what was that connection and how had she ended up in raising a family in Essex?

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At last Minnie has a surname

16 Jan

Towards the end of 2011 my interest in family history began to return and although I made no real attempts to find the identity of Minnie, it was a challenge that was still at the back of my mind.

I had mentioned to my mother several times that I still wanted to find out who she was, but I hadn’t made any effort to get over to Hampshire and find some directories that might give me some clues.

Then in the week before Christmas my mother gave me a surname, it was one of my uncles who had uncovered or remembered (I’m not sure which) Minnie’s married name. She was Minnie Collins.

I had hoped for something a little more unusual, to make my life easier, but at least now I had enough information to search the GRO Marriage Index. This turned up three marriages in Hampshire and a couple in Sussex. Of course she could have married elsewhere but I had to start somewhere.

Unfortunately the week before Christmas was not a good time to get down to any serious research and I never got the opportunity to explore much further. I did  discover that one of the Minnies had been born in Essex, which seemed an unlikely match, but at last I realised that I was getting nearer to my goal, it just seemed a matter of time now.

Then on Christmas Eve I visited my uncles and we talked about Minnie Collins and how I should now be able to find out who she was given a bit more time. It was then that he took out my grandmother’s address book and we found four addresses for Minnie.

I wasn’t the addresses that were the key thing here, but the name under which they had been recorded. The first three addresses (all in Warnford, Hampshire) had been recorded under the name Mrs A E Collins. My grandmother using the traditional practice of recording married women under their husband’s initial(s).

The fourth address was recorded under the name Min Collins, which suggested to me that she outlived her husband and I knew that I was getting that much closer to being able to prove that.

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Some more facts about Minnie

14 Jan

My search for the identity of my grandmother’s adopted sister Minnie took a step forward after Christmas 2010 when I was given a photo of a couple and it was identified by my mother as possibly being Minnie and her husband. I wrote about this photo last March in the hope that someone might recognise the mystery couple.

I also mentioned that there were several other “facts” that came to light after the discovery, the most obvious being that she got married. Although I didn’t know if this was her wedding photo it was thought that she did get married.

Furthermore it was thought that her husband’s name was either Fred or Stan (presumably short for Frederick and Stanley), unfortunately I could find no likely marriages in the GRO Indexes for a Minnie and Frederick or Stanley (or variants). It was also thought that the couple had at least one son.

Perhaps the best clue is the fact that they lived in “one of the Meon villages” in Hampshire, possibly either East or West Meon, but somewhere in the Meon Valley. Not only that but they had a connection with a local garage (possibly a Jaguar dealership) although whether it was owned by them or they simply worked there wasn’t clear.

This didn’t really progress the search that much further forward. At least I now had a geographical area to home in on and the connection with a garage raised my hopes. I felt sure that if I was able to get access to some directories for the county around the 1950s and 1960s I might be able to locate that garage and perhaps find the name of the proprietor.

Unfortunately the chance to check any directories never emerged during 2011, but fortunately I was to receive a much better clue just before Christmas 2011.

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