My Grandad, Wilfred Gardiner, did me a big favour by doing some family research back in the 1940’s. Of course back then he did this by travelling to the villages where we came from and looking at the parish registers themselves.
When I started to look into my family history my first task was to check his research against the digitised information on Find My Past, and as far as it’s possible to be certain, it’s all correct.
The Clarke and Gardiner families he traced came from villages east of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, Walsham le Willows and Badwell Ash. I was brought up in Norfolk, not far away, and went to school in Thetford, but apart from a few trips to Bury in my teens, didn’t know this area.
Last week we checked into the new Premier Inn in Bury in order to explore the area and see where my ancestors lived.
Walsham le Willows turned out to be a very pretty, friendly village. With the help of information from the local history society I identified a house that at one time was owned by Richard Clarke, my ancestor from the late 1600’s. The current owner was happy for us to take photos and I explained my interest. (Clarke is a common name here; there’s an agricultural merchant on the high street.) In the Suffolk record office I examined and tried to read Richard’s will. I also read his wife Alice’s will and an inventory of their property, which included a warming pan, trundle bed, feather bolster and a joint of bacon!
In Badwell Ash we went into the church to find a memorial that includes two of my Grandad’s great uncles, Herbert and Arthur Gardiner, both of whom lost their lives as a result of the First World War.
The church is in a very poor state of repair and is currently fund raising. The wooden angels in the roof are beautiful; we found more later in the roof of St Mary’s in Bury.
Three other branches of the family have Bury connections.
Walter and Amelia Brett, my great great grandparents, lived in Raingate Street in the 1851 census. Their house is no longer standing, but was where Alan is in the photo. Their house may have been like these two which were built in the 1880s. Walter was a bricklayer and I wonder if he helped to build the nearby Greene King workers’ houses, an area like Bournville in Birmingham.
Another Walter, Conlan this time, my great uncle, with his wife and three children lived in West Road. He was a local councillor and chairman of the Bury Constitutional Club in the 1920s. On my next visit to Bury I’ll look for his house and for his grave in the adjacent cemetery.
His brother Ernest, a railwayman, lived in Risbygate Street before he moved to Norwich. His house has gone too, but stood where this Yamaha dealership is.
Several Smiths were born in Bury, this is the family of another great great grandmother. For obvious reasons I’m wary of researching the Smiths!
I’m grateful for the help of three ladies in Walsham church who were busy dismantling a recent flower festival and Jenny in Badwell Ash who turned out to have been a Princes Risborough library user, but before my time.
Also the very busy but patient member of staff in the Suffolk Record Offfice in Bury. I need to return there too, once I’ve gathered more information.
One of the flower displays in Walsham church. They had a TV theme ; this display is This is Your Life. You can spot the name of someone I like who featured on the programme!