Tag Archives: chichester

Success at West Sussex Record Office

7 Mar

Yesterday I went down to the West Sussex Record Office, with a handful of records to look-up. It was a successful visit and things went better than I could have hoped, even with the disruption on the trains (more engineering work).

I made some useful progress on proving that my 6x great-grandmother was “the old druggist” (more about that in a later post).

I found the exact burial place of my great-grandmother Dorothy May TROWER, something which has eluded me for years (more about that in a later post).

I have located the school admission record of Walter Henry BOXALL, part of what seems to be evolving into a project to document his life and death.

I also picked up several baptism records that I needed, not really critical for my research, just distant relations not ancestors.

It is a little worrying that a lot of the records on my to-do list are parish registers, which have still not been deposited by the parish church at the record office. I am starting to build up quite a list of registers that I check every visit to see if they have arrived yet. Soon I will have to start bothering local vicars for access to the registers.

Whilst out in Chichester at lunchtime I picked up a second hand copy of a book called Goodwood Country in Old Photographs, which includes a photo of one of my 3x great-grandmothers as well as at least two other relations, but probably more. I must say thank you to my (distant) cousin Lisa who told me about this book.

Searching for Mercy TROWER in Chichester

23 Jan

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning (which is unusual for me), but I had promised myself a visit to the West Sussex Record Office so I made the effort and dragged myself out of bed and took the bus and train down to Chichester, West Sussex.

There weren’t really any specific goals for this visit, it was more about double-checking the information regarding Mercy TROWER (making sure I hadn’t missed anything in my previous searches) and extracting some burials from the Framfield bishops’ transcripts.

I just can’t get Mercy TROWER off of my mind, so I double-checked the banns of marriage for Henfield, Sussex along with the burials for Henfield, in case there was a record of a STEADMAN being buried.

I also checked the National Probate Calendar for STEADMANs, STEDMANs and STEEDMANs between 1882 and 1892 for any sign of a possible husband, but with no success.

I extended my search to her son Ernest John TROWER trying to find banns for his marriage in 1913. I am hoping his marriage entry will give me the name of his father, but so far I have not been identify where the marriage took place. I will probably have to order a copy of his marriage certificate if I am ever going to find out.

Clueless in Chichester, no just disorganised!

19 Sep

I was in two minds about going, I hadn’t done any preparation for a trip to the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO) and really wanted to stay in bed this morning. It wouldn’t have seemed so bad if it was a little bit later, but I was leaving the house at the same time as I would if I went to work.

Things started going wrong when the guy in the ticket office sold me the wrong ticket and I had to go back and get them changed. When my normally quiet and peaceful train pulled up it was all most completely full. This is unheard of at this time on a Saturday morning, I am almost guaranteed a carriage to myself as we speed through the sleeping Sussex countryside. Today I was sharing my carriage with people on the way to Goodwood Revival.

I knew there was plenty I could do when I got to the record office, but I had no plan. It started very hit and miss, with me wondering what to look at next, but then I remembered one of the thing I had wanted to do, find out some more about Thomas and Mary WELLER my 4x great grandparents from Twineham, Sussex. I think I have discovered who they are and where they came from and have the baptisms for all their children including Mary Ann my 3x great grandmother.

The WSRO closes at lunchtime on a Saturday and I got kicked out along with all the other researchers, but my research doesn’t stop just because the record office closes. First stop was Chichester Cathedral and memorial chapel of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Here I found the name of my 2x great uncle Ambrose DRIVER on the Roll of Honour for those killed from the First World War. The chapel is just off to the right of the entrance and the sun was shining through the stained glass window above and creating such a lovely pattern across the chapel. I really must spend some more time there and have a good look around the cathedral.

Royal Sussex Regiment memorial chapel, Chichester Cathedral

Royal Sussex Regiment memorial chapel, Chichester Cathedral

Next stop was Chichester library, for a quick look at some local papers on microfilm. Sadly I could find no mention of the death or funeral of my great grandmother Lilian Mary MITCHELL in the pages of the West Sussex Gazette for December 1939. Still it was worth having a look.

Then I just had time to grab a bite to eat, sitting in the sunshine in front of the Cathedral, before heading back into the record office for a couple more hours research. The afternoon was a bit more organised, some original documents and more microfilm, covering a wide range of people and places.

In the end it was quite a productive day, many of my searches were negative, but even those are helpfully in a way. I know I should have had a plan when I set out and it would probably have been even productive. It was the first time I used my netbook in the record office, and I was glad I had it with me, but I am wondering know what is the best way to create a research plan on it. My next record office trip will probably be to the East Sussex Record Office and I promise to be better prepared for that!

I may not have had a plan, but I did come away from Chichester with a map. I stopped at the second-hand bookshop on my way back to the railway station and picked up a 1953 one-inch map of the Cheltenham and Evesham area, this is where my BATEMAN ancestors originated from. I would have preferred something a bit older, but it was cheap and will be useful in getting used to the area I am researching.

What is Sussex Day?

7 Jun

I have been thinking quite a bit about Sussex Day on the 16th June, and about what I am going to do to mark the day. I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to explain what Sussex Day is, just in case you wonder what it is I am going on about.

Perhaps the best way to describe Sussex Day is as a more localised version of St George’s Day, a chance to celebrate what makes Sussex special. Just like St George’s Day don’t expect to hear about any major celebrations or public holidays (that is why I have had to book a day off work).

The West Sussex County Council website describes Sussex Day as

an excellent opportunity for everyone who lives in the county to celebrate its rich heritage and to share a sense of immense pride in where they live.

The West Sussex County County have included a short film on their website entitled Spirit of Sussex Day which shows some of the varying scenery you will find in Sussex, as well as some of the residents of Sussex.

The 16th June is St Richard’s Day, St Richard was Bishop of Chichester, and you can find out more about him on the Diocese of Chichester website.

Sadly there is not much happening on the 16th June this year, although there is a presentation at the Marlipins Museum, Shoreham entitled The Story of Shoreham Film Studio which sounds quite interesting and a couple of other talks at libraries in the county.

The idea of Sussex Day is relatively new, only three years old, and it doesn’t appear to have found much support in East Sussex. Being on a weekday this year probably hasn’t helped, but I will be doing my bit to celebrate my Sussex ancestry.

What I shall be doing is largely down to the weather, if the weather is good then I shall spend the day walking and enjoying the Sussex landscape. If it is wet then I shall take shelter in one of the county archives!

Identifying my latest picture postcard

26 Apr

I received my latest eBay purchase yesterday, it was yet another old picture postcard, and a bit of an impulse buy. As you can see below, it is captioned Chilgrove from the Downs and of course I have ancestors from Chilgrove (near Chichester, Sussex) but what really appealed to me was that it was such a nice view, the flat countryside stretching for miles, with what looked like more of the (South) Downs on the horizon to the right.

Chilgrove from the Downs

Chilgrove from the Downs

I was pretty certain that it wasn’t my ancestor’s home on the postcard, they were actually on the Downs, but I wasn’t sure exactly where this view was.

I started with my Ordnance Survey Explorer map of the area and tried to pinpoint the buildings in the photo, Chilgrove doesn’t have many buildings so I didn’t think it would be too hard.

With the help of Google Maps aerial view I was able to identify the buildings, and then search for more details on the building and even a photo. It turns out that the building in the centre of the card is the White Horse Inn.

Great I thought, when I am walking the Downs and visiting West Dean I can pop over the hill and stop off at the pub (just to check I have the correct place you understand!) where perhaps my ancestor’s once drank.

However, all links now seem to point to The Fish House, a rather posh looking new restaurant, that neither my ancestors nor me would be at home in, especially after a hard days working (or walking) the fields.

I will still try and visit the same hill as the photographer (a W. Smith of Gosport) did and check if I am correct, before wandering off elsewhere in search of a ploughman’s lunch.

The tragic death of George MITCHELL

21 Apr

When I heard from a family member that my great grandfather George MITCHELL had died as a result of a kick from a horse, I knew that I just had to find out more details.

I already knew when he was buried (10th January 1951) and where (West Dean, Sussex), in fact I had already been and located his grave and from the inscription on the kerb stones knew the exact date of death.

I had the GRO reference, so I could have ordered a death certificate, but that would give me very little detail that I didn’t already have. Instead I guessed such a story would have made the local newspaper, even though he was “only” a carter, not a public figure.

I was correct. Not only was there a report of the Coroner’s inquest (in two separate local papers) but also a report of his funeral as well.

The inquest heard evidence from George’s son Lawrence, who had witnessed the accident. He told how on New Year’s Eve his father had let the 11 year old horse out of the stable (where it had been kept for several days due to bad weather), so that he could clean it out.

Once George had cleaned the stable he took the horse by the mane to lead it back, then the horse reared and kicked him in the side of the face and he fell to the ground. A doctor was called and George was taken to St. Richard’s Hospital in Chichester where he remained, unconscious, until his death on the 4th January 1951, aged 77 years old.

The coroner returned a verdict of “Death by misadventure” but was unable to say whether the injury, “a fracture to the base of the skull and accompanying brain injury”, was caused by the kick from the horse or when George fell to the ground.

The report of the funeral was unexpected, and also contained more detail than I would have expected. I am including the full report as an example of what can be found by searching local newspapers:

The funeral of Mr. George Mitchell (77), who was fatally injured on New Year’s Eve and died in St. Richard’s Hospital on January 4, took place at West Dean Church last Wednesday. The Rev. J. B. Hunt conducted the service. Mr. Mitchell lived at Warren Farm, Chilgrove, for 52 years and worked 29½ years for Mr. Knight, 4 for Mr. Ruff and 18 for Mr. Heyler, the present tenant. His wife died in 1939. They had 14 children, 58 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and four generations were born in the same house. Chief mourners were Messrs. Henry, Robert, John, Laurance, Walter, Alfred and Edward Mitchell (sons), Mrs. N. Cutler, Mrs. D. Clark, Mrs. D. Daughtry, Mrs. E. Elliott and Mrs. R. Treagust (daughters). The inquest on Mr. Mitchell is reported in our Chichester news on page 2.

West Sussex Gazette, 18 January 1951.

There is so much information contained in that single report that I can follow up on and verify with other sources (proof that it shouldn’t be trusted 100% is evident by the fact that some of the names are spelt wrong). It is hard to think of another source where you will find the names of someone’s previous employers and the length of service for each of them.

I think I did have all the daughter’s married names, but it is a good check for my research. Then there are those 58 grandchildren, I think I have details for about seven or eight of them so far!

A day out in Chichester (or what I did on my lunch break)

19 Apr

On Saturday lunchtimes the West Sussex Record Office closes for lunch (I always refer to it as getting kicked out at lunchtime), and to be honest it is quite a good thing as it forces me to take a break. Usually I would just wander around Chichester city centre, but that is not the most enjoyable way of spending an hour (even if there is a very nice bookshop in South Street).

Today I decided to jump aboard a No. 60 bus and head out of the city to the village of West Dean. Not only was it a great way to see a bit of the countryside (from the top of a double decker) but it also gave me the chance to visit the burial ground at West Dean where my great grandparents are buried (and several other relations).

It wasn’t the first time I had done it, and I was there and back almost within the hour lunch break, so it wasn’t a particularly long visit. The weather wasn’t perfect, the sun was still struggling to break through the clouds, but it was still nice to get outside and away from the crowds of the city.

I was pleased to see that some clearing up had been done at the burial ground since my last visit, and most of the undergrowth had been cleared. I had located my great grandparents grave before, so knew exactly where to go. I am embarrassed to say that the grave is looking very much uncared for (you will probably see a photo of it on Tombstone Tuesday).

Herein lies a problem, I want to do something about it, it needs a bit of work on the grass and soil around and inside the kerb stones, but it is not going to be easy for me to get the tools down there, but one way or another I will find a way.

I have a similar issue with flowers on graves, I never leave flowers on my distant ancestor’s graves because there is nothing worse than a bunch of dead flowers on a grave, so unless I know that I or someone else is going to be there to clear them away when they have died I don’t bother. Artificial flowers may last a bit longer, but they eventually die (fade and fall apart in the sun) as well.

I wish there was a way of marking the fact that I had been to visit, that I knew who these people were and what they meant to me, and most importantly that they are remembered.

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