Travel

My Irish connection.

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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.”

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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.”

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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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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.

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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.

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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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96 tears.

It’s taken me a little while to find my 96, but at last I’ve found it.

Last weekend we visited the V&A museum to see the

You Say You Want a Revolution  Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970 exhibition.

Headphones don’t guide you through verbally, but play relevant music for the section you are in. I was delighted to see a young boy really grooving to the Beatles’ track Revolution while immersed in the display. There were handwritten Beatles lyrics, stage costumes worn by Sandie Shaw, Mick Jagger, several of Mitch Mitchell’s costumes and many more. The brocade jacket worn by John Lennon while recording the All You Need is Love telecast is remarkably beautiful.

There were sections on politics, space travel, mind expanding drugs, literature and space travel including a piece of moon rock. Also a section on the Whole Earth catalogue , which Alan tells me he once owned a copy of.

The Woodstock festival room was a highlight, interrupted during our visit for the two minute silence of remembrance. Poignant.

We exited to the inevitable shop where we bought the book of the exhibition and a CD set called Records and Rebels which includes the track 96 Tears by ? and the Mysterians, a noodly repetitive track that I love.

96 Tears

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94; Memorial garden.

I found 94 in this touching memorial garden in Bury St Edmunds Abbey gardens

Many US airmen were based in Suffolk in WW2, and in Norfolk too; my grandparents were active in welcoming them.

And they are still here; at Lakenheath for example.

The Abbey gardens themselves are spectacular, worth a look if you’re over that way.

 

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93; After the great fire of London.

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Last week I visited the Fire, Fire exhibition at the Museum of London, which is where I found my 93.

It’s on the key to an illustration of the post fire waterfront showing buildings, mainly churches, that had been rebuilt.

The exhibition is well done and contains fascinating artefacts such as a Bible burnt in the fire and contemporary letters. It examines the possible causes, what happened to the people who fled the flames and what happened afterwards. It’s made fun for children too. I enjoyed watching a small boy wearing a reproduction fireman’s helmet wrestling with a hose shouting’Fire!’

 

 

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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.

 

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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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86; plot number.

Visiting Bedford this week with a couple of friends, we investigated the Panacea museum. It’s a curious set of houses with a very unusual history. A religious community lived here; they were aligned to the Church of England but their beliefs were unconventional to say the least.

Believing in the imminent second coming of Christ they revered their eighth prophet, Octavia who they ,and thousands worldwide, believed could heal all sorts of ailments, hence the panacea name. They mailed small squares of linen on which Octavia had breathed that the recipient added to a jug of water and then drunk or washed with.

There were various other beliefs; do have a look at the website if interested. The museum has many fascinating displays and a very helpful gentleman answered our many questions, both practical and spiritual.

My 86 is among the plot numbers displayed in the museum in an area of Bedford where, I think, the community members bought properties .

The museum itself is beautifully maintained and re-created. There is a tiny chapel, plus various bedrooms, including a representative bedroom and dining room that the society had in readiness to accommodate the 24 bishops they had invited to open an infamous box of prophecies. Another strange tale.

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67: A quote and a tree

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A couple of great 67’s here; I couldn’t choose which to leave out so here they both are.

My first is to be found etched onto the window of the garden lounge at Woodbrooke. A quote from Isaac Penington is inscribed on the windows that surround the room, followed by his name and dates. The full quote is, “Our life is love and peace and tenderness; and bearing with one another, and forgiving one another and not laying accusations one against the other, but praying for another and helping one another up with a tender hand”.

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And I spotted this tree in a sheltered doorway on the Esplanade in Fowey. A very attractive way to display a house number.

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61: The photo that never was.

As you will know from my last blog entry, I have been struggling to find a number 61 for my photography project. So I was pleased to find in the travel instructions for a course at Woodbrooke Quaker Study centre in Birmingham that I would need either a 61 or 63 bus to get there from New Street train station.

DSC00827Talking of which, New Street is now brand spanking new. Now incorporated into the Bullring, it’s a destination in itself.

Leaving the station I found the bus stop I needed easily. There was a ‘Not in Service’ bus parked there and 4 bus employees in the bus stop.I asked if I was in the right place and one said, “Oh, I wouldn’t bother if I were you, we hardly have any drivers, they’re off, I think it’s Eid”. ‘Well,” I said, ” I have to get somewhere”. So I waited. Then a driver got in the seat. “Do you know yet what number this bus is?” I asked. “Number 61” was the reply. So I got on, thinking I could get a photo as I got off.

I expected a 30 minute journey at the outside, but there had been an accident on an adjacent road. 4 blue light flashing ambulances passed going the other way. So the road we were travelling on was jammed. The bus was crowded too as few buses were running; at least I had a seat. But then it got dark and I had no idea where I was. Though the instructions given me were good, I couldn’t see the landmarks. And I was late. It took an hour and a half to reach my stop, as long as it had taken me to travel from Milton Keynes to Birmingham. Thankfully I was helped by 2 ladies I was sitting near and they told me when my stop was reached.

I struggled to get off the bus with my case past those standing in the aisle. As I stood in the dark orientating myself I thought to take a photo but wasn’t quick enough. I took a mental photo of the back of the bus displaying the number 61, but until Apple can retrieve memories pensieve-like, that’s how it will stay.

So this is my alternative 61 photograph, the instructions I was given. and a picture of the beautiful gardens at Woodbrooke. The course was a good one, and I caught a taxi back to the station!

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