Tag Archives: west sussex record office

Another day at the West Sussex Record Office

10 Feb

I had a day off work today and the weather was pretty miserable, but I had already decided that I was unlikely to be going walking anyway so I wasn’t that disappointed. Instead I headed down to Chichester, West Sussex to spend a few hours down at the West Sussex Record Office.

I had deliberated for a while about where I would go, there is a lot on my to-do list at the moment and there are probably six or seven archives that I could have easily spent the day at, but in the end I decided on the WSRO.

I went through my to-do list whilst sitting on the train on the way down to Chichester, I still didn’t have a clear plan, but there were plenty of things I could do so I wasn’t too worried about not knowing what I was going to look at when I got there.

The record office was probably busier than I had ever seen it, at least until lunchtime after which it became a bit quieter. It was good to see so many people taking advantage of the services available at record office, although I was probably the youngest user there, but that might be because anyone else my age should have been at work today.

The day was spent mostly in front of microfilm/fiche readers looking at parish registers, although there were a couple of original registers involved as well. It is always a pleasure to have to consult an original register, to turn the pages and unlock its secrets.

I was pretty much trying to knock off items from my to-do list, but got distracted along the way, checking for records that I didn’t have on my to-do list but needed to check anyway. If there was any thread running through my research today then it was George and Mary MITCHELL of Cuckfield, Sussex and surrounding parishes. I still haven’t given up hope of proving that the George MITCHELL that was killed by a train was my 4x great-grandfather.

I don’t think anything I found today has changed anything in that respect, I have a few more hard facts, but still not enough evidence to satisfy me. I need to enter all this data and see what other research avenues are open to me and what else I need to find out.

 

TWG Unplugged: A Tale of Two Cities

30 Oct

The two cities in question were Brighton and Chichester, both of which I visited today name of family history. I began the day with a leisurely start and took the bus down to Brighton and then took the train along the south coast to Chichester.

First stop was the Brighton History Centre so that I could spend a couple of hours looking through local newspapers. Brighton History Centre has a great selection of local newspapers on microfilm (and a few originals) and among them is my personal favourite the Sussex Daily News. It was published between 1870 and 1956 and I could quite happily have spent all day scrolling through the pages.

I had several dates in mind, events that I wanted to check and see if they were reported, and I am pleased to say that the Sussex Daily News didn’t let me down. There was another mention of the BOXALL’s diamond wedding anniversary, with a few more bits of information that weren’t included in the one that I found last weekend. Then there were another couple of articles that relate to other family lines (GASSON and DUNFORD), one of which was particularly saddening.

Another report that I was looking for described an event that was captured on one of my latest postcard purchases, this was a bit of background research for a future blog post but quite an interesting story. A surprise find was an article about the bells at Bolney Church which I think have a connection with one of my ancestors as well. All in all a very rewarding visit.

The reason for my visit to Chichester was to visit the West Sussex Record Office. This time though it wasn’t for research, it was so I could buy some more of their bargain Ordnance Survey maps. It felt a bit odd not actually going into the search room but just spending an hour or so browsing through the piles of maps. I added another 10 maps to my collection, this time though they weren’t really ancestral places but other places of interest, many of them on the South Downs.

Another successful day, quite relaxing in many ways as I wasn’t trying to cram in too much, just taking it easy and enjoying myself in the sunshine. Next week, weather permitting, I will get back to some walking.

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)

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 41

10 Oct

Last week got off to a slow start, or rather it got off to a very quick start and before I knew it I was half-way through the week and hadn’t really achieved much. This spurred me into action and although I didn’t really achieve a great deal I did come to a decision about yet another new project that I want to start.

My recent visit to West Dean, Sussex has brought the project into focus, but it was something that I had been meaning to start for a long time. I had been intending to write a series of blog posts about the BOXALLs of West Dean remembered on the parish war memorial, the plan was for this to be in time for Remembrance Day this year.

There are six BOXALLs mentioned on the war memorial and at least four of them are related to me. My plan is to fill in some details on my family tree and hopefully identify my relationship to all six of the men, and provide some details on them and their service. So I am going to kill two birds with one stone, fill in some details on my family tree and generate some material for a few blog posts.

I have no doubt that I will still find other things to distract me whilst carrying out the research on this particular project, hopefully this focus will encourage me to get on with some research and I am already planning to visit the West Sussex Records Office and Chichester Library in the next couple of weeks. There is much I can do online as well, and there is a lot that I need to do before I go the WSRO.

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