Tag Archives: cowfold

Who was this Sussex pedestrian?

3 May

I have been reading about pedestrianism recently, I suppose pedestrianism is probably what would be known as race walking these days. My interest stems from the “celebrated Captain Barclay” who once lodged with my GEERING ancestors in Hailsham, Sussex.

It helps that I like walking, however my style of walking is not the same as these pedestrians, less about speed and more about having the time to take everything in and enjoy myself.

I was browsing a copy of the 1813 book Pedestrianism by Walter Thom (available on Google Books) when I discovered the following passage:

Thomas Miller, of Cowford in Sussex, on the 7th of July 1795, walked from the market-house at Horsham to Westminster Bridge-a distance of thirty-six miles-in five hours and fifty minutes, with apparent ease.

I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or not. I was pleased to discover a Sussex pedestrian, especially one so close to home. Cowford is almost certainly meant to be Cowfold (which is just up the road from me) and Horsham is my closest town, which I pass through every day on my way to work.

I was a little disappointed that Thomas Miller had walked one of the routes I was intending to walk this year, and what is more he had done it in a time that would put my feeble efforts to shame.

The idea came to me last year as I was sitting on the train on my way home from work, watching the milestones at the side of the track. I noticed that we were only about thirty miles from London (or a couple of days comfortable walking). It was then I remembered a milestone in Horsham alongside the park (pictured left) indicating the 36 miles to Westminster Bridge.

At first I thought that with a bit of judicious planning I could probably find a more direct route, following footpaths rather than roads, but then I thought it might be more interesting to try to follow the route of the original road to London.

I have done some preliminary work on the route, but I haven’t finalised my plans yet. In a way the discovery that someone else had already walked the route over two hundred years ago adds more to the story, especially if I could find out more.

Unfortunately my initial efforts at finding out more about Thomas Miller have proved fruitless (no sign of him in the Cowfold parish register transcriptions), but I don’t really have a lot of information to go on. Hopefully I can find another account of the walk which might provide more details.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.

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More maps for my collection

30 Oct

These are my latest finds from my local Oxfam shop. Three Ordnance Survey maps of Sussex dating from around 1948-9. Not particularly old or in top condition, but they were real bargains, or at least I think so, at £1.99 each

Three maps

The scale of all three is the same,  1:25,000 (about 2½ inches to one mile), which is detailed enough to show the locations and outlines of larger buildings and farms. Most of the farms are named as are many of the country roads.

The one on the left is of the Haywards Heath area. Not so many places of ancestral interest here, apart from the asylum and the village of Cuckfield.

The middle one covers an area from Washington and Thakeham in the west to Bramber and Partridge Green. This includes part of Henfield, where the TROWER family were, Ashurst (home to the HAYBITTLES) and part of West Grinstead, showing some of the places where the FAIRS family lived.

The one on the right covers many ancestral villages: Cowfold, Twineham (showing the location of Ridden’s Farm, believed to be home to my WELLER ancestors), Bolney, Slaugham and Warninglid.

Whilst I don’t expect to actually discover much new information from these maps, there is always a chance of finding the location of a previously unidentified family home, that has since been demolished or changed its name.

The real interest comes from studying the maps and comparing with the present-day maps, seeing how things have changed. For example, one thing that immediately stood out was the number of trig points on these old maps, and how few of them survive today.

They had a few others in the shop, from the same series, if they are still there on Monday I may well get another couple, although these were the only ones of real family interest for me. Although I think I need to make a list of the ones I already have because I am starting to build up quite a collection.

Gathering FAIRS information

26 Jun

I have spent a couple of my lunch breaks this week in Horsham Library, extracting FAIRS entries from the Cowfold parish registers. Although I could have accessed the originals on microfiche (and I probably will later on) I chose to use the transcription published by the Sussex Record Society, which has the benefit of an index.

I also discovered, or rather remembered, that I not only have the monumental inscriptions from the book deposited at the West Sussex Record Office, but I also have some MIs for West Grinstead from one of the Sussex Family History Group CDs.

It then occurred to me that I had already been to West Grinstead churchyard before and photographed several FAIRS gravestones. I loaded up Picasa and searched through until I discovered a set of photos from March 2008. They weren’t labelled or tagged, so obviously I was being “organisationally challenged” at the time. I am not actually sure which ones I have or if have them all, so I will probably need to go back and check for more at some stage.

So now I have a lot of information gathered ready, this weekend I will try and piece together a family tree, and see how far I can confidently go back before I need to go in search of more evidence.

Reacquainting myself with the FAIRS family

23 Jun

I spent a while last night going over my previous FAIRS research and having a quick look at a couple of other sources.

I finally found the transcriptions I had made from the book at the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO PAR 95/7/9). It looks like there are details of eleven headstones (some of which are double), but there seems to be at least 20 different individuals mentioned. Plenty of work to be done there then!

I also started exploring the Parish Register Transcription Society baptism records for West Grinstead, and I think I have found John FAIRS grandparents (my 5x great grandparents), and it looks like they were married in Cowfold, Sussex. There are earlier FAIRS/FAIRES in West Grinstead so the chances of going back further still look quite promising.

So there is still lots of work to do. It feels a bit like I am starting on a jigsaw puzzle at the moment, I have all the pieces out in front of me, I now need to get them all turned the right way round and pick out the edge pieces and corners, only then can I start piecing the whole thing together.

I am however still missing one key element at the moment, that is something that is going to keep me interested, something about this family that is going to make them stand out from the rest of my ancestors in their own unique way. I am sure that this will come in time.

A postcard of Cowfold Church and Cemetery

17 Apr

I couldn’t resist this postcard on eBay, especially as it sold for a bargain price. The original has some damage to the corners (most of which I have airbrushed out) but it is still a very nice card, although not that rare because I have seen other examples of the same card for sale.

Cowfold Church and Cemetery, Sussex

Cowfold Church and Cemetery, Sussex

The whole postcard appears to be at a slight angle, or perhaps it is an optical illusion. I just love the contrast between the crisp white gravestones and weathered grey stone of the church building. The postcard was not used, but I would estimate the date around 1910, possibly slightly earlier.

The view is not quite the same today, in fact it would be quite hard to see much of the church at all from the same position, such is the amount of growth along the hedge in front of the church. I will try and get an up to date photo from the same position so you can see what it is like now.

My connection with this postcard is not in the cemetery itself (at least I haven’t found anyone yet), but rather with the church. My 8x great grandparents John TROWER and Mary MERCER were married there on the 20th May 1656, at least I think they are my ancestors, things get a little unclear going that far back!

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