Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ancestral Trail

I've been tracing my family history for many years and have known for a long time that my great grandmother was born in Evesham Workhouse  in 1851 and that her mother's family lived in Aldington which is a hamlet a couple of miles from Evesham. Since we were visiting the Cotswolds I wanted to visit the places that Amelia and her mother and grandparents would have been familiar with. Amelia was born in the Workhouse as her mother was unmarried and this is where single women often went to have their babies at this period in time. Amelia's mother was Robina Pugh who was born in 1828, she was baptized in Badsey Church which is in the photo above. Aldington was too small to have a church of its own so the people who lived there walked to Badsey, which was only a mile away, to be hatched, matched and despatched. Both Badsey and Aldington were poor rural communities until the late 19th century when market gardening brought prosperity to the area - too late for my ancestors who had all left by 1871.

The church was built in 1120 with additions in 1325 and 1450 and it then seems to have suffered 400 years of neglect until major restoration took place in 1885.This is the outside of the north wall with its blocked up Norman doorway which is the only remaining part of the original Norman church

 The churchyard seems to have suffered a similar fate, oddly until 1866 the churchyard belonged to the Lord of the Manor who obviously took very little interest in it. The Rev.Thomas Hunt, who was vicar from 1852 - 1887, wrote

 'Nettles are growing up everywhere. The sheep turned in and left all night plough up the turf from the newly made graves'.

This doesn't conjure up a particularly attractive vision of the place where Robina's 23 year old brother was buried in 1863! Things improved once the church bought the churchyard in 1866 however and it's now well kept. I don't know how old the yew tree is but I would guess that it might go back to medieval times. It's certainly on the list of ancient and veteran yew trees.

The 16th century Badsey Manor House. Originally there was a house for the ill and infirm monks of Evesham Abbey on this site but after the dissolution of the monasteries it was acquired by Sir Philip Hoby. In 1587 Richard Hoby rebuilt it in the Elizabethan style and it's thought that he incorporated some of the walls of the former sick house into the new manor house.

From Badsey we went on to Aldington. I have no way of knowing which of the cottages my 3xgt-grandparents lived in of course but it's very likely that it was one of these. There were only 19 houses in Aldington in 1841 and since the Manor House, the Mill, 2 farms and a house occupied by a solicitor are out of the equation it doesn't leave many to choose from.

The final place on the family history hunt was the little village of Childswickham now in Worcestershire but formerly in Gloucestershire. This was the birthplace of my 3xgt-grandmother Sarah. I can't give her a surname because I now need to visit Worcester Record Office to search the parish registers for her marriage to John Pugh and for various baptisms and burials. Neither John nor Sarah were buried in Badsey and my guess is that both ended up in the Workhouse and are buried somewhere in Evesham. They weren't married in Badsey either so Childswickham is a good bet there or failing that Evesham. St Mary's is another old church with Norman origins that had to be pretty much rebuilt in the 1870s. The list of vicars goes back to 1283 though.

Sarah was born around 1797 well before the church was restored but this is the 17th century font where she would have been baptized.

Sarah would have known the 15th century village cross which stands at the old village centre 300 yards from the church.It has its original medieval base but the cross was destroyed by the Puritans (they have a lot to answer for!)and was replaced in the 18th century by a classical urn.

As with many workhouses the one at Evesham eventually became the local hospital but the buildings that existed in 1851 are now demolished and lie under the car park. Robina and her father John, who was also born in Evesham,would have known this lovely old 14th century building though. It is the Almonry which once housed the Almoner of the Benedictine Abbey which was founded in the 8th century. The Almoner was responsible for distributing alms to the poor.

The stocks were originally in the town hall jailhouse but were moved here in the 1920s. The stocks were a form of punishment involving public humiliation, they would be used to punish people who were drunk or tradesmen who had tried to cheat customers and other minor offences. The criminal had to sit on a low bench with their feet locked between the two wooden boards for several hours and sometimes longer. People passing by would jeer at them and often throw rotten fruit or eggs at them.  In severe weather the exposure sometimes resulted in death even though this wasn't intended.

This ruined archway once led to the cloisters of Evesham Abbey. Although it was demolished when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries there is still quite a lot of stone work visible on the ground this is the only remaining section of walling though. It's possible that Lady Godiva was buried here in the Church of the Blessed Trinity which  is no longer there having presumably been demolished along with the rest of the Abbey. This church was founded by Lady Godiva and her husband Earl Leofric.

Closer inspection of the archway revealed these weatherworn carved stone figures. They must have been rather splendid in their heyday.

I would really like to visit Evesham again and spend more time there,it's a very historic place and has a lot to see including this wonderful 15th century timber framed house which is now the local Nat West Bank. Originally it was a Tudor merchant's house.

All the Evesham photos were taken on the first evening as we had a quick look round on our way to dinner at the Royal Oak. The frontage is a modern sham but the building itself is 16th century and so is genuinely old and is Grade 2 listed. Apparently it's haunted too! The key thing though is that the food is really excellent, we only intended to eat there on the first night but we enjoyed it so much that we returned on the other two nights as well.


The History Anorak said...

Lovely photos. I've never been to Evesham and didn't really have an idea of what it would look like. I assumed Cotswold stone rather than half-timbered. Interesting.

Gracie said...

I just love stories like this, I like history and the personal ones are the best! Thanks for sharing.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Interesting stuff. When I looked at the records for my village I was surprised to see how many were born and then died in the workhouse; it seemed to be an endless circle from which few were able to escape. Churchyards were seldom the neat and tidy places we see today; many had boneyards where bones which were unearthed by animals and later burials were stored. We live in charmed times whatever most folk think.

Roy Norris said...

Very interesting to research family history D.
I intend doing the same when I get around to it using which I here is pretty good.
In those days people especially the poor, didn't move very far normally.
It would have been unusual for your ancestors to have moved off in 1871 like that.
From what I know of the area around Evesham, they are not exactly poor now.{:))

Diane said...

It looks a lot more "gentrified" than it would have looked in your ancestors day. I'm saving researching my family tree for when I retire. You look as if you've found some fascinating history ,

WOL said...

My 91-year-old mom and I are taking a trip in October which will include visiting a town which figures large in her mother's family's history -- German settlers in south central Texas. Family history research is intriguing and can be a revelation.

Rosie said...

Fascinating, I loved Evesham and Pershore when we visited a few years ago, such lovely places to seek out your ancestors in. There are quite a few horror stories about the state of churchyards especially in the 18th and 19th centuries with overcrowding and etc. I think churchyards today are far more cared for than when our ancestors were using them. Hope you manage to find the information you are still looking for - family history is always absorbing isn't it?:)

Bovey Belle said...

A fascinating post. It's a long time since I was last in Evesham but it still looks a lovely place, and I am glad you got on the trail of your 3 x greats. It's lovely to get back that far and even better when you can tie things up, but with the poor-as-church-mice folk, they sometimes leave little behind them but for their names. I've had that with my Ag. Lab. ancestors (and there are lots of those).

Acornmoon said...

It all looks so pretty and picturesque it is hard to imagine the realities of life in those days. I wonder how people escaped the workhouse?

Sheila da Silva said...

This is very interesting Rowan. My family origins are in Worcestershire and it is where I was born. I visited Evesham over fifty years ago,so I don't remember too much. The thing that does nudge my memory is strange, an archway made from the jaw bone of a whale? I seem to think it was incorporated into a garden. On my father's side my ancestors were from a part of Gloucestershire that is also now in Worcestershire. Who knows we may share a common ancestor! I can research my family history from Canada, but how much nicer to walk the same lanes and byways that your family did. Great photo here too, I love the Almoner's house!

Katharine A said...

What a fabulous trip. Not only to visit these places, but to visit knowing family connections to them must be so exciting. It's an area of the country I know very little about, so it's great to see it on your blog.

Sarah Head said...

Amazing that we both have relatives associated with Childswickham churchyard! My great-great grandmother has her own memorial and several ancestors of my grandmother are also buried there. I gave a herb talk to Childswickham U3A just after my mother died in February and I was pleased to be able to tell them my own connection to the village.