Family history

James Tydeman: Transported to Tasmania for stealing beans.


James Tydeman was born in Suffolk in 1829.

He was baptised in Walsham-Le-Willows, where so many of my ancestors lived, on 27th December 1829. His parents are listed as James and Mary.

There is a death record for a James Tydeman in the Stow district of Suffolk in 1838.

The 1841 census records Mary, (36, born 1805) James, (12, born 1829) and William (3,  born 1838) living in Church Street, Walsham-Le-Willows. Mary is working as a “Wash Woman” to support her family.

In 1845 Mary married Robert Frost and according to the 1851 census is living with him and William in Palmer Street, Walsham.

There are several interesting things on this census. Firstly, William is described as ‘son-in-law’ instead of step son , which caused me some confusion. His age and date of birth comply with the previous  census. Robert is ten years younger than Mary, and is an agricultural labourer, very common in this area. But they now have a daughter, Sarah Ann Frost, born in 1847, who went on to be my great great grandmother.

This is our link to James Tydeman; where was he though, in 1851?

It’s a sad story, and it’s thanks to my grandfather Wilfred Gardiner, and his grandmother Sarah Frost/Clarke, that we know what happened.


A bundle of letters from James to his parents, Mary and Robert, have been passed down to me.

From 1848 James wrote to them from Bury St Edmunds Gaol where he had been imprisoned in 1846 for stealing beans. His sentence was 7 years. He had previously been imprisoned for house breaking in 1846 for 18 months.

The writing is beautiful and flowing, (probably dictated to a scribe), and the content is heartbreaking.

In his first letter dated October 1848 he tells his mother that he wishes he had taken her advice, and if he had he wouldn’t be in his current position. He says, addressing William,

“Brother, I hope you will be a good boy to your Father and never gamble for that have been the ruin of me. gambling is the first step of ruin. I hope this will be a warning to all my companions.”

He signs this letter, “your unhappy son”.

His second letter is dated April 1849, also from Bury St Edmunds Gaol. It seems James is unwell as he says,

“I am very sorry to think that I cannot send you a good report of my health for I get no better.” He asks Mary to send him a pocket handkerchief and is anticipating a visit from her in a month’s time.

A change is afoot though, and the next letter, dated October 24th, comes from the Defence Hulk Convict Settlement in Gosport.This was one of the decommissioned ships which were used as floating prisons.

James says ,”this place agrees with me very well” and that he is feeling better, but he also says,

” But we cannot tell What a Day may Bring forth for Death May Come when we Are Not aware of it.”

He also pleads,

“Send my love to my Master and Mrs and in hope you will send me all the Good News you can”, which makes me wonder if he is hoping for a pardon.

The next letter is from November 1850, still at Gosport.Optimistically he hopes that he will,

“In a few months to again be restored to you.” He is desperate to be home and is anxious about his family’s wellbeing. He says he has been ,”acting as cook”. He sends regards to Mary Ann Death; I wonder if she was his girlfriend at home.

The next letter, from March 1851, is in response to a letter from Mary and Robert sent two months earlier. He explains the delay is due to the fact that he had sent a reply in error to ‘Walter’ Frost rather than Robert and his letter was returned to him from the ‘dead Letter office London’. He explains that the Governor has given him permission to write, but in a post script he says further that although he isn’t allowed to write more frequently than once in three months, they can reply immediately .

This letter and the two following are interesting as the notepaper used includes the Convict Establishment rules for writing letters. Included are such instructions as,

“All letters of an improper or idle tendency either to or from Convicts, or containing slang or other objectional  expressions will be suppressed.” Letters are “for the purpose of enabling [convicts] to keep up a connection with their respectable Friends , and not that they may hear the news of the day”.

James’ next letter is dated 7th June 1851.He says that ,

“In all probability I may be moved to another place, where I cannot inform you, at present should such be the case, I shall no doubt be allowed to write to my friends immediately on my arrival…”

He signs off, “Believe me to remain My Dear Father & Mother Your Unfortunate Son James Tydeman.

The last letter is dated 10th January 1852 and is from Dartmoor Prison. The official notes on the letter’s second page say,

“The Convict has been received here, under a Sentence of Transportation, and will remain until removed according to Law…No visits are allowed”

Poor James says he is uneasy at not hearing from his parents for over 6 months. He says,

“I was told when I was at Portsmouth that when I had completed the half of my time I should be restored to my liberty in this Country. But now I can see no signs of it.”

He is still hoping that “ a petition or a private letter to Sir George Gray”will help his case. He asks his parents to,

“take this letter to Mr George Finch and tell him I am very sorry for what I have Done And I hope he will Do something for Me Towards Getting me my liberty”. In that case, he says that,

“you shall see by my future life and conduct that I am become a useful member of society.”

My Grandad reports that in with these letters was a small piece of paper with this address:

Pestonjee Bomanjee. Van Dieman’s Land. Ober Town, (I wonder if this is a mishearing of Hobart town)

The ship Pestonjee Bomanjee  left England on 18th April 1852 and arrived at the Van Diemens Land colony on 31st July 1852. There were 292 convicts on board. is a magnificent resource through which I have found further information on James. The digitised documents tell me that he was 5’ 4 1/2” with black hair and dark eyes. He had a tattoo on each arm, one a heart with a cross and the other an anchor. He had an oval face, fresh complexion and (like me) he had a low forehead. Like his step father he was a farm labourer.

He was given 2 conditional pardons, I expect one for each offence, gaining a certificate of freedom on 7th July 1855 when he was 27.

Wikipedia entry on Tasmanian convicts.

I next found him getting married on 26th November 1866 to Louisa Denner. She was 17 and he was 35. They married at the Chapel in Fingal, Tasmania. He is described as a labourer and she can’t write, so signs the register with a cross. Sadly they didn’t have much time together as Louisa died inAugust 1877 of lung disease. I found all this information on Find My Past.

With the help of family trees on FamilySearch and Ancestry I found that they had a daughter, Roseanne, in March 1868

After Roseanne they had a daughter in February 1872, unnamed on her birth registration. Sadly, a son, James, only lived for a month before dying in March 1876 of an insect bite. More tragedy in 1877 as another daughter, Louisa, was born on 12th August 1877, but died on 30th August of convulsions. As her mother, Louisa had died on 28th August their death entries are adjacent in the Fingal registration book.

Roseanne, under the name Rose Ann Tidiman married James Curtis in November 1885.They had a son, Thomas Henry in January 1888. Sadly, I found her death under the name Rose Curtis in April 1889. The cause of death is given as burning so, like her mother, an early marriage and an early death.

This is where I lose track of James.

Going back to his brother William, though, I find he became a policeman. He married, moved to Wiltshire and had 2 daughters and 6 sons, one of which also became a policeman. None of William’s descendants are called James.

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Dad’s poem.

This is one of many poems that I found among Dad’s writings.

It’s surprising to realise he was only 15 when he wrote it, given its geographical and historical knowledge and mature musings about a future peaceful time.

He loved the county of Norfolk to the end.

The Norfolk Coast

The Norfolk Coast divides itself in three.

At Hunstanton and Wells there are the flats
Where cockles, crabs and other shells are found,
And tides go out as far as you can see
And come again with great rapidity.

At Sheringham and Cromer are the cliffs
And boulders where the periwinkles hide
And where the seas break high on the sea wall.

Sea Palling’s where the cliffs turn into dunes
On which the blue-green, sharp-edged grasses grow
That cut your legs (and don’t I know!)
The dunes at Horsea once broke through one spring
And flooded all the land for miles around
With sea water which made the crops turn brown
And killed the fish in rivers far inland
And wrecked the peaceful homes of many men.

The dunes continue right along the coast
Through Hemsby with its famous seaside camp,
And Caister where the dunes begin to die
To Yarmouth where they disappear because
The Corporation built a promenade.
Now Yarmouth is a holiday resort
Where people used to flock in summertime
And spend their money on the pleasure grounds.
But now the Government will not allow
The people to go to our Eastern shores
Which have barbed wire spread all along the beach.
Therefore the landladies will have no trade
And must evacuate unless they find
Some army officers to cater for.

And so we must await the happier times
When England will be all at peace again
Before we see the Norfolk Coast once more
And watch the children playing on the shore

Ian Rowarth
July 1940

Not to be reproduced without permission.


Photo credit Alan Marshall.

Taken 39 years after he wrote the poem, this photo is of Dad at Mundesley, Norfolk, in September 1979.

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Dad’s short story.

Through my interest in researching my family’s history and due to Mum moving house on her recent marriage, I’ve become the custodian of boxes of memorabilia.

It’s mainly photographs, letters and other documents, all fascinating to me. The selection most recently passed on, and which I’ve only just started sorting through, includes poems , limericks and stories written by my Dad, Ian Rowarth. Dad loved literature, had a Goon-like sense of humour and a strong Christian faith. As a young man he served in the RAF in World War 2 and never lost his interest in aeroplanes, often running outside to identify what was overhead. Later on he went some way towards achieving his pilot’s licence.


With Mum’s permission I’m publishing this untitled story here for your enjoyment.


Well, I enjoyed that trip. It’s lovely morning except for the haze, damn it. A good thing I recognised that village, or else I should have been lost. Of course there’s always the radio to fall back on and a good job too, or I should have gone for a burton before now. How did in the last war fighters get on I wonder – but they were fair weather flyers. They probably went down to read the signposts anyway.

Look at that cloud What a beautiful golden billowy edge , what wonderful pastel shades of grey and yellow. I’d like to go and fly round it and admire it and play with it , dive in and out of it, cut little bits off it with my prop, but I want a silver kite to do that with, not a drab thing like this. I would dirty it with this kite, and besides, my guns might frighten it.

Wake yourself up man, you’ve got to land. Pity, I don’t want to land just yet today, it’s such a lovely morning. Oh, yes, permission to land. Radio again, you see. Can’t do without it. Must I go down? It’s good to be alive up here, but when I get on the deck things will be dull and ordinary. Now for landing. Where’s the runway? Curse this haze. Altitude, air speed. Right. Throttle back. Goodbye sky, I’ll be seeing you, and I hope you’ll still be feeling happy next time. Wheels and flaps down. So long, sky. Runway here I come. Altitude, air speed. Put the hood back, God, I nearly forgot. Just in case I prang, and why should I prang on a day like this? No crosswind and I know my kite.

Hey, what’s the red Very * for? There’s no obstruction on the runway. Well, I’d better open up. What’s it for though? Wheels and flaps up. Good God, I’ve only got one wheel down. I didn’t notice that , which comes of thinking about clouds. Now what am I going to do? I’ll try to put the wheels down again, and I hope they both go. Go down, wheel, go down, go down, Won’t you go down? No.

Now I’m properly in the mire. What shall I do? What can I do? I’d better put the wheel up and fly round and think about it. Oh hell, I haven’t put the props up yet. There, go up, blast you. Bloody good job something works anyway. Come on, wakey wakey or else you won’t get down all in one piece. What am I going to do? Shall I bale out? It’s the easiest way out, isn’t it? Or shall I land , and if so, how, with no wheels or one wheel? If I bale out I shall save myself but the kite will go down and I don’t know where it will land. Might hit a house and kill a lot of people, but if I land it at worst it will only kill one. But that one isn’t just ‘one’ to me, and I don’t want to die. Must I die anyway? If I land on the one wheel I can balance till I’m quite low and then I’ll tip over onto the wing , and if I do it on the grass it shouldn’t be so bad. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll land, right on the edge of the runway so that the wing will drop on the grass, or mud, which would be even better. What if I boob though? Suppose I bounce and get unsteady? I’ve had it then. I would be bashed into pieces, maybe burnt and killed. While I keep flying I am alright. My body is perfect, every muscle works properly. I am fit; able to run, jump, swim and do anything, but what shall I be like in a few minutes time? A nasty mess of blood, torn muscles and broken bones? Why should this happen to me on a lovely day like this. Eileen will be out with the kid, shopping. She doesn’t know anything about it. She mustn’t know; I must get down safely. I must, I must for her. I will do it.

Now for a careful straight approach. Right, I put the wheel down. O.K. Now straighten out and throttle back. Flaps. Watch airspeed and height. Keep yourself calm now. Here comes the runway. Give her a little rudder to get over to the edge. Careful, now. I’m down. Now hold her down. Gently, gently. Now hold tight. Here we go.

God, when will it stop scraping? Ah, the engine is still going even. I’m not hurt at all. Hell, what a relief. But I must get out in case the kite takes fire. Switch off everything. Oh, lovely earth, it’s good to feel you.

I didn’t make such a bad job of it after all, did I?

Ian Rowarth

Not to be reproduced without permission.


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My Irish connection.


Dublin skyline.

I knew that my Mum’s family contained an Irish ancestor, but until I started doing family history research I didn’t know who it was.
It turned out to be Arthur Henry Conlan, who married my great great grandmother Annie Smith in 1875.
From censuses I found out that in 1881 Arthur, known as Harry, and Annie Conlan were living in Sudbury, Suffolk, not far from Annie’s parents Walter and Ann Smith. On the census it’s recorded that Harry was born in Ireland, but not where in Ireland.
All three of their children had already been born by 1881.They were Annie Emma Maud, my great grandmother, known as Maud, born in 1875, Walter Harold born 1876 and Ernest Arthur born 1880.
Harry was working for the Great Eastern Railway, and he had a set back in May 1882 according to the Bury and Norwich Post. The report says,
“Harry Conlan, a goods porter at Chappel station and formerly employed at Sudbury station, was shunting some trucks when we was knocked down and a wheel of a truck passed over his leg which was very much injured. He was removed to the Sudbury Hospital and the issue of this was his uncertain.”


Harry Conlan at Twyford.

Thankfully though injured he survived, and in 1891 he and Annie were living in Twyford, Norfolk. Harry is on the census as a ‘Railway Gate Man’. On this census his birthplace is stated as Ipswich, and 30 years have been added to their ages! His injury is noted in the last column, “( illegible in Railway Accident).”
Only Walter and Ernest were living at home; Maud was back in Sudbury living with her grandparents Walter and Ann, working as a drapers’ assistant.
In 1901 Harry and Annie were still in Twyford and Harry was still a Railway Gateman. On this census we have more information about his place of birth; County Dublin is specified.
No children were at home. Walter was boarding in a house in Sudbury, working as a commercial traveller.He worked for Slee & Co, vinegar brewers. Ernest was boarding in East Dereham, Norfolk, working as a railway porter.( He later became the chief inspector at Thorpe Railway station in Norwich.) Maud was also lodging, in Petersfield in Hampshire, still working as a draper’s assistant . She married Frederick Brett the following year.

Harry died in 1910, and is buried in Bury St Edmunds, (see previous blog post.) In 1911 Annie is living with Walter and his family in West Road, Bury, very close to the cemetery, in a house called Roscommon; a tantalising clue. Harry’s death certificate is in the name Henry Arthur Conlan.

So I found him through censuses and by his death certificate . I’ve been unable to find his birth certificate, and I doubt I will. In Ireland compulsory birth registration didn’t come in till after his birth. Even if he had had a certificate it could have burnt in the Public Record Office fire in 1922, which was housed in the Four Courts building by the Liffey,( more of that later.) I’ve been unable to find a baptismal record either.


Now, I had trouble finding Harry and Annie’s wedding record as well. I drew a blank until my cousin Evelyn came up with some helpful information.
A little more background so you know my relationship to Evelyn.

Frederick and Maud Brett had 5 children; Norah, my grandmother, Patricia, Bridget, Eileen, Evelyn’s mother, and Frederick Arthur, known as Arthur. So my mother Geraldine and Evelyn are cousins. Evelyn has family records and photographs passed on to her from her mother Eileen, which includes information about a judge from Dublin called Charles Harold Walker.
There is a photo of him – a serious elderly man, grey haired and wearing spectacles, a gown and an ornamental chain. On the back is written, presumably by Eileen, ,”Charles Harold Walker Q.C. of …Bray, Ireland…Great Grandfather.”



And tantalisingly, there is a letter to Maud (calling herself Mrs E. Walker Brett) from the secretary of the President of Ireland , written in December 1938. It reads, “I refer to your…proposed biography of your grandfather, the late Charles Harold Walker, Q.C., LL.D., and to express his Excellency’s opinion that you would get useful information from The National Library, Dublin…and the British Museum.” (No such biography has been found!)

So I looked for Harry and Annie’s marriage under the name Walker, and there they were. They married in London, at Christchurch, Greyfriars, Newgate. Arthur Henry Walker married Annie Smith on 9th January 1875; his father is named Charles Walker, profession not noted.

This is now my dilemma. Harry didn’t use the name Walker after his marriage as far as I can see. The family was known as Conlan, apart from in Maud’s letter quoted above.
Was Charles Walker Harry’s biological father, or was he unofficially adopted, or a ward?

Charles Harold Walker was born in Dublin between 1797 and 1807 according to censuses and Trinity college Dublin records. He achieved a BA then an MA then became LLB and LLD. He was a barrister at the Four Courts and I’ve found many references to him in local papers and in Griffith’s Valuation records.
In 1861 he was living in London with his wife Louisa (nee Moritz or Morris) and daughters Mary Ann, Emma and Frances Sophia. In 1871 Charles and Louisa were in Guernsey, but he died in Bray, near Dublin. While in Dublin I obtained a copy of his death certificate , which says he was born in 1804, and died in 1884 of ‘general decay’. Under this in the cause of death column it says ‘some years certified’ which I don’t understand. The death was registered by his daughter Emma, who still has the surname Walker.
I can find no official link between Arthur ‘Harry’ Conlan and Charles Harold Walker.
I will continue to search.

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Chasing the Toons.

When my Grandad (the family genealogist at the time) first met my husband, who came from Hinckley in Leicestershire, he asked him if he knew the Toons.

He did know some Toons, but it turned out they were the ‘wrong ones’ and we weren’t related to them.
The Toons were a well known family in Earl Shilton, close to Hinckley.
J. Toon and Sons Ltd, a large hosiery factory, was started by Job Toon in 1850.
Job had three sons Alfred, James and Carey Job and one daughter, Matilda. Alfred and James followed Job into the firm and took over control when he died in 1889.


Alfred married Alice Harriett Smith, a sister of my great great grandmother Annie, daughters of Walter and Ann Smith of Ballingdon cum Brundon on the Essex Suffolk border, as described in a previous blog post .
It intrigues me how these two met. As nearby Sudbury had, and still has, a silk weaving industry, I wonder if this silk supplied the Toon factory and somehow a connection was made.
But I found Alice on the 1881 census boarding in Leicester along with Selina Parmenter from Great Cornard , both putting their occupation as school mistress. They were lodging with a Mr and Mrs Nichols, and Mr Nichols was a hosier, so maybe that was how they came to know each other.
(My father’s mother was born in Leicester 17 years after this census and became a school mistress, but that’s another story and some potential Leicester research for me!)

Alfred and Alice had four boys and two girls. All four boys, Carey Job (another one!), Ronald, Stanley and Gordon, joined the family firm. All four fought in the Great War, and all four came home. Gordon married and had two daughters, but died in his 30’s as did his wife.
Ronald became a local councillor, having a road named after him, but died in 1939. According to his obituary in the Leicester Mercury, 13th March 1939, he ‘had been a leading figure in the life of the Hinckley district. He was chairman of the Hinckley council and a great friend to the poor.’


My aunt and cousin can remember attending the wedding of Carey’s daughter Jean, so at that time the different branches of the family were still in touch.

Alice, Alfred’s wife, died in 1917. I was surprised to find out that in 1918 Alfred married Alice’s younger sister Jessie. I did some research after a friend I told this to exclaimed that this was illegal, and discovered that it had been until the law was changed in 1907.

You’ll remember that old Job Toon had three sons? Well, back to James, who to my further surprise, married Alice and Jessie’s sister Frances in Sudbury in 1891. There must have been something about those Smith girls!

I wondered where they were all buried. Having had success in Bury St Edmunds, and having been moved by visiting my Conlan relative’s resting places (one being Annie nee Smith) I tried to find this out. Maybe they were in Hinckley’s huge Ashby Road cemetery, where Alan’s parents and grandparents are?
Hinckley council had no record of them. Nor did the Earl Shilton parish council, but they did say that here was a small burial ground behind the United Reformed Church, previously the Methodist chapel.
I knew the Toons were Methodists and that James Toon founded the local church. So I emailed the local Methodist circuit contact, who replied that he had forwarded my enquiry on to a member who is a Toon descendant.
It turns out that this lost cousin of mine, a granddaughter of Gordon, regularly visits these graves, and she sent me photos of the gravestones, confirming that all three Smith sisters are there.

We met on a very chilly morning, exchanging much family information. What an unexpected bonus to actually meet a previously unknown relative and fill in gaps in each other’s family history knowledge . She passed on to me a photocopy of a document produced in 1950 to celebrate ‘A Century of Hosiery Manufacture ‘ from which 3 of these illustrations are taken.

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Surprised by bricks!

While in Bury I spent a happy morning mooching in the Record Office.
I hadn’t ordered any documents and didn’t have any burning questions to answer.
So I just browsed the shelves and came across “Sudbury Survey – A history of the industries of Sudbury, Suffolk”, published in 1948. It comprised typewritten sheets clipped together, each section written by a different local person.

Having found my g x 3 grandparents on the censuses from 1851 to 1901 I knew that Walter was a brickworks foreman, then manager, in Sudbury.
So I was interested in the section in “Sudbury Survey” that covered the subject of bricks.
I learnt that in the mid 1800s there were 7 brickyards in that area, 2 where Walter lived in Ballingdon, the Victoria brickworks and Allen’s
Allen’s, the book told me, “…supplied the bricks for the Albert Hall and Kensington Museum, the bricks being transported by barge to Manningtree and transferred to London boats.”
Allen’s was in production from 1812 to 1939, employing 100 men. The local sand and brick earth produced 2 coloured bricks, the Red and the Brimstone or Suffolk White.


Several different coloured bricks on this house!

I really hoped that this was where Walter worked. This would have made an interesting section in my fictional Who Do You Think You Are programme!
So on to Sudbury from Bury St Edmunds, stopping off in the beautifully preserved village of Lavenham.

A bit of background:
Walter Smith was born in 1825, at midnight according to the wonderfully detailed information my cousin has passed on to me, the eldest son of Robert Valentine and Eleanor Smith of Clare, Suffolk. He had 6 sisters, though one died at 2 1/2 before he was born. His grandparents William and Mary lived I Dickleburgh, Norfolk.
Walter and Ann Smith married at All Saints church Sudbury on Christmas day 1849. Ann, nee Goody, had lived near the church. According to the 1841 census she lived in Church Street, All Saints parish with her parents Joseph and Harriatt Goody.
Walter and Ann had 12 children, two died as infants and one at 13. Annie, my 2 x g grandmother was the eldest of their children. Three other daughters married into the Toon family of Earl Shilton.



We stayed at the Mill Hotel in Sudbury, on the edge of town by the water meadows . We could see the tower of All Saints church from our room, and if the weather had been kinder we would have followed the riverside walk and over the bridge into Ballingdon.
As it was we explored the town, visiting the library, Heritage Centre, Gainsborough’s House and the Vanners silk factory shop before the heavens opened and we retreated to the comfort of the hotel.


I took the opportunity to search the newspaper archives on Find My Past to see what else I could find out about the brickworks and narrow down which one Walter worked at.
I was pleased to discover from the Bury and Norwich Post and Suffolk Standard June 5th 1888 that Walter was indeed the foreman at Allen’s brickworks, having worked there between 40 and 50 years at the time.
This information was in a report of the drowning of a young man who ferried workers across the river and Walter was a witness.

So we had an interesting time in Suffolk, finding out more about the family and exploring the countryside, and finding bricks much more interesting than I’d expected.

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Paying my respects to the Conlans.


Following a family wedding in Norfolk we extended our visit by returning to Suffolk.
We stayed at the Premier Inn in Bury again, conveniently located opposite the Record Office.
On the Sunday morning I attended the morning service at St Mary’s, a five minute walk from the hotel, a church where some of my Brett and Wade ancestors were married  and probably attended.

I had a very warm welcome. The vicar’s wife sat with me and chatted away, and the couple in the pew in front turned and spoke to me several times.
I enjoyed the service though I didn’t know any of the hymns.
Sunday afternoon I walked to the cemetery in order to find the graves of Arthur, Annie and Walter Conlan.
I had been unsure about how to find the grave locations, but an online enquiry to the Bury St Edmunds council started a friendly correspondence with Sue who gave me the information I needed.
Helpfully, she listed the names on the adjacent plots in addition to the grave and compartment numbers.

The map at the Kings Road entrance to the cemetery is ‘upside down’ as you look at it, i.e. You are standing at the top of the map. It took a passing visitor and a helpful ex cemetery employee who looked over his fence to orientate me . With this help I stated my search for the graves.
Arthur, listed as Henry (his middle name) and Annie share a common , or unpurchased plot, along the boundary wall of West Road.

As no family live in Bury now, it’s unsurprising that the plot is in poor repair. It’s surrounded by stone, which is inscribed with their names and dates they ‘fell asleep’, Arthur in 1910 and Annie in 1924. Arthur’s name here is Harry, the name the family called him. ( A man of many names; a different story!)
Walter, their son, lies very close to them, just the other side of a path. He died in 1936 and is in a double plot by himself, as his son Harold bought the plot for both parents but his mother Elizabeth moved away, to where I haven’t discovered.
Sue at the council suggested the council could purchase the vacant plot from us, but as Harold didn’t marry or have children as far as we know, and as I’m not directly descended from him, it’s an offer we can’t take up.
Walter’s plot is also surrounded by stone, and there is a vase within it.
I had taken a table decoration from the wedding reception which I divided into three and placed them on the graves.


It felt good to visit.
Having done this I walked up West Road and found number 40 where Walter and Elizabeth had lived with Harold and their two daughters. Annie and Harry/ Arthur also lived there towards the end of their lives.
They called their house Roscommon. I take this as a clue to our Conlan ancestry, though as yet I have no proof!

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100; birthday!

Wow! My number project’s made it to 100, and what a celebratory 100 it is.

Alan’s Granny, Lizzie Spinks, reached her 100th birthday in 1988 and received her telegram from the Queen. The photos show Lizzie surrounded by her cards and gifts, the telegram, and the family gravestone, all marking this wonderful achievement.


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Suffolk family history.


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!

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