I am delighted to have Rosie Amber’s here for a guest post on her favorite things!
These are a few of my favourite things – family trees and history
Ever since we had a lesson in school about family trees, I’ve been hooked on genealogy. I remember going home and working for weeks on the homework project, interviewing family members, writing to others for details and asking the teacher for a really long piece of paper to share my family tree with the class.
I love the stories, the unanswered questions and the search for new links. I would love to share a cup of tea with so many of these relatives and hear their stories first-hand.
My grandmother’s father, born in 1878, was said to have walked from Oxford to Reading in search of work when he was a young man. He found a job on the railway, and worked his way up to be Station Master, becoming a strong union man.
When I married I was delighted to inherit a whole new family, and this one deserved its own long piece of paper. We’ve managed to reach back as far as the early 1700s, but are currently stuck. A branch of the family moved from Hail Weston, which was then in the county of Huntingdonshire, but is now part of Cambridgeshire, and came to London.
To be able to trade in the city a man had to become a “free man of the city” and a member of one of the city’s Guilds. Our relative became a member of the Guild of Joiners. His certificate of “Freedom” was obtained in 1774.
Later generations lived in Bermondsey, London and owned many properties, they were wharfingers, lighter men (flat bottomed boat workers used to transfer goods from large ships to docksides) and granary men along the Thames. One member leased some land to Bermondsey Abbey so they could extend their graveyard on a 999 year lease. We believe the family business was forced to be sold by a family split and we have the original sales catalogues from 1886.
Some of the family moved to Hampshire and began farming, and although the generations have moved farms, we are still farming in the area today. My husband’s great grandfather had polio, yet he fathered five children. A descendent from the wife of the aforementioned great grandfather in time married a very distant relative of the youngest child of the great grandfather’s fifth child. Confusing?! Not knowing any family connections, the couple bought the very old farmhouse which we moved my husband’s mother out of just two years ago. As my brother-in-law still farms the surrounding land it seems fitting that the farmhouse will remain in the “family”!
Other interesting characters who have popped up in the tree: a brother who went to be a sheep farmer in Australia in the early 1800s, but the heat was too much; he later moved to and died in Tasmania. Another family member served in India as a soldier. He wrote home about an interesting man named Ghandi who was making a lot of noise…. We had a gentleman who part owned Mabi & Todd, makers of Swan Pens. Another worked for the Bank of England in the late 1800s. We have certification for another who was made a “Special Constable in the City of London” for a two month period covering the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria. Apparently this was common practice during times when large crowds were expected in the capital.
In amongst the family papers was a memoir from a family friend about “Old London Town”. On his 70th birthday in 1884, Mr F Fitch looked back on his life. Here is a segment from his memoir:
“In 1814 London had scarcely emerged from its medieval character. The inhabitants lived in their places of business. The houses, many of them were of ancient date, overhanging the pathway: in some instances projecting floor by floor until the upper stories overhung the roadway itself. The “cries” of London (tradesmen crying their wares) were then a reality…
Old London Bridge was still in existence, with its quaint recesses, small arches and long timber abutments (This was the bridge built after the great fire of London. The “Rennie” bridge would be built in 1824) As also were the waterwheels under the bridge, by which a part of the city was still supplied with Thames water. These obstructions prevented the flow of the river, so that as the tide ebbed rapids were formed, and navigation stopped for hours.
The first novelty in vehicular accommodation for passengers was started by Mr Shillibeer, and called after him “Shillibeers Omnibus”. It had three horses drawing abreast.”
By 1884 Mr Fitch believed life had generally been transformed.
“Indoors we have gas and the duplex oil lamp for light: in our streets gas and electricity. Cabs, omnibuses and trams take place of the lumbering hackney coach for town travelling, and steamers take the place of rowing boats for the Thames. Railways take us in a few hours where the journey took us many days. We send a message by the telegraphic wire, even beyond our own country and we talk with our neighbours by the telephone. Progress is not stopped. It may go on, and probably will go on with accelerated speed.”
Thank you for joining me today as I sit here surrounded by paper, photos and pieces of precious history.