Tag Archives: twineham

Ancestral Profile: Thomas WELLER (1796-1869)

19 Apr

Thomas WELLER was one of my 4x great-grandparents and I have precious little information on him or his family. The WELLER branch of my family tree seems rather uninteresting, but in truth it is probably more unexplored than uninteresting.

From the information provided in the 1861 census it appears that Thomas was born in North Bersted, Sussex and all evidence points to the year 1796. It is my understanding that North Bersted was originally part of the parish of South Bersted, but now the whole area seems to have been tangled up amongst the town of Bognor Regis (this will need some investigation at a later date).

It is in South Bersted, Sussex that we find a baptism for a Thomas WELLER on the 18th September 1796, the son of John and Elizabeth WELLER. So far I have found nothing else to prove the connection, but it seems quite likely.

Thomas turns up in Twineham, Sussex in 1841 (about 30 miles north-east from North Bersted) and by this time he is married and he and his wife Mary have had ten children (with another two more to follow).

I believe Thomas’ wife was Mary NEWNHAM of West Grinstead, Sussex and that the couple were married in Bolney, Sussex on the 31st December 1816. This seems the most likely marriage, because their first child was baptised in August 1817, but I still need to find further evidence.

The twelve children were all baptised in Twineham, Sussex:

  • John WELLER (baptised 31st August 1817)
  • Elizabeth WELLER (baptised 26th September 1819)
  • Harriet WELLER (baptised 13th January 1822)
  • George WELLER (baptised 16th May 1824)
  • Rebecca WELLER (baptised 3rd September 1826)
  • Thomas WELLER (baptised 9th November 1828)
  • William WELLER (baptised 27th March 1831)
  • James WELLER (baptised 2nd June 1833)
  • Peter WELLER (baptised 13th December 1835)
  • Andrew WELLER (baptised 16th September 1838)
  • Mary Ann WELLER (baptised 9th May 1841) [my 3x great-grandmother]
  • George Henry WELLER (baptised 28th January 1844)

The census and baptism register entries provide very little detail on Thomas’ occupation. In all sources he recorded as either a labourer or agricultural labourer. The families residence remains constant across the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census, they are to be found living at Riddens, which is probably Riddens Farm near the village of Ansty (although I need check that this was within the parish of Twineham at the time).

Thomas died in 1869 aged 73 years, his death was registered in Q4 1869 in the Cuckfield Registration District, and he was buried at St. Peter’s Church, Twineham on the 19th December 1869. His wife Mary died four years later in 1873.

Further Research…

There are several geographical questions to be answered, surrounding the exact location of Riddens and the details on North and South Bersted, but the main challenge is to prove the marriage of Thomas WELLER and Mary NEWNHAM. This shouldn’t prove too difficult as there are three children who were born after the start of civil registration in 1837 and their birth certificates should include their mother’s maiden name.

A Bank Holiday walk to Bolney

31 Aug

What a way to spend Bank Holiday Monday, contrary to expectations the sun was out (in fact it was a lovely afternoon) and I was out walking making the most of it.

The destination for today’s walk was Bolney, Sussex, home to many GASSON and WALDER ancestors and relations. In particular I wanted to visit the church at Bolney and try and find some gravestones.

The South Downs, from near Twineham

The South Downs, from near Twineham

The walk started in a small place called Wineham (thanks to my wife for dropping me off). From here I followed the wonderfully named Bob Lane to Twineham, which is slightly bigger than Wineham and has it’s own delightful little church.

St Peters Church Twineham, Sussex

St Peters Church Twineham, Sussex

There should be a couple of my WELLER ancestors buried here, although I haven’t confirmed that in the burial register. If they are they either never had a headstone or it has long since vanished, because I couldn’t find one.

From Twineham I followed Bolney Chapel Road up to the main A272 and then a short way along the A272 into Bolney itself. I like following these small country roads because I don’t have to worry too much with a map, I can just get on with enjoying the scenery and not have to worry about which footpath I have to take.

St Mary Magdalene is a beautiful church, set on the top of a small hill. About a dozen stone steps lead up to a fabulous lych gate, quite possibly the largest I have ever seen. From the lych gate a path leads up the hill to the church.

Bolney Church from the lych gate

Bolney Church from the lych gate

The church itself was closed, but there was plenty to see outside, but one day I ought to actually try and get inside. There is a huge variety of gravestones in the churchyard, so many different ages and types. Of course the older ones are not so easy to read, in fact many are now just slabs of stone with no sign of an inscription.

A pair of gravestones in Bolney Churchyard

A pair of gravestones in Bolney Churchyard

Unfortunately I didn’t have the churchyard to myself, there appeared to be some sort of treasure hunt going on as small groups of people with clipboards made their way through the churchyard searching for a particular gravestone before moving on.

My own hunt was quite successful, several modern GASSON gravestones and some older WALDER and LEWRY ones, although how much of the older ones I am going to be able to make out is another question. I need to have a look and see if there are any monumental inscriptions available that I can use to fill in some gaps. Hopefully someone went around a hundred years ago and recorded all the older ones for me before the inscriptions disappeared.

From the church I head further into the village, past the war memorial and then headed west. This long and winding road (and quite hilly) took me through some nice woodland, with a beautiful scent of pine in the air and past an ancestral home Chatesgrove. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the present owners of Chatesgrove are that keen on letting anyone see their house. Lots of thick hedges and tall fences, meant all I could see were a few glimpses of a timber framed building.

The road eventually took me back to Wineham, where I was due to get picked up again. All in all a nice afternoon spent walking (about 11 miles), lots of photos on my camera, although I don’t think any of the gravestones are direct ancestors. It is surprising how quick the temperature dropped and the light began to disappear, there is no escaping it, autumn is on the way.

Following the female line for a challenge

29 Jun

I got a bit distracted yesterday while I was supposed to have been doing some work on John FAIRS. I strayed over to his wife’s family and attempted to head back on that line.

I guess I am not the only one that seems to spend a disproportionate amount of time on my male lines and neglecting my female lines. Every so often I have to have a purge to keep the right balance in my tree.

John FAIRS married Mary Ann WELLER at St. Peter’s Church, Henfield, Sussex on the 2nd March 1862. Mary Ann’s father was Thomas WELLER, a labourer.

Armed with her marriage entry and later census returns it was pretty easy to find Mary Ann in earlier census returns with her parents Thomas and Mary WELLER.

The family were living in Twineham, Sussex and it is here that Mary Ann was born, probably in the first couple of months of 1841. Her father gave his place of birth as Bersted (or North Bersted), Sussex and her mother was from West Grinstead, Sussex.

The problem is that I have been unable to find a marriage entry for Thomas and Mary. Their eldest child appears to have been John, born in 1817, so I would have expected to find a marriage entry some time just before that.

The Sussex Marriage Index from the Sussex Family History Group has one likely entry, Thomas WELLER and Mary NEWNHAM married in Bolney, Sussex on the 31st December 1816. Whilst this looks quite a reasonable match, Bolney is pretty close to Twineham, I am still not satisfied that this is the right marriage.

So I have inadvertently picked up another challenge, which is going to take a little bit more work for me to be 100% happy with the marriage. I think a birth certificate will probably prove matters once and for all, but finding Mary Ann’s certificate may not be quite so easy.

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