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.
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.