Sentimental Sunday: My visit to the charming village of Curry Rivel in Somerset

Category: Making Memories

Whilst away recently on a short break, hubby and I took the opportunity to stop off at the quaint village of Curry Rivel on our return journey. Tucked away in the Somerset countryside, the village features a church, parts of which date back to the Norman period, a village green and some lovely character properties.

St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel
St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel

Curry Rivel was the home of my Weaver family for centuries; my 6 x great-grandparents married in St Andrew's Church on 5th August 1745 and there is evidence of numerous generations of Weavers living there before them. I've been reluctant to include these generations in my tree without further documentation but I may revisit this again some time in the future and take a view.

Whilst I explored the churchyard I happened upon three Weaver headstones, one of which belonged to my 4 x great-grandparents, Robert Weaver and his wife, Sarah nee Street. Robert and Sarah were 80 and 82 years old respectively when they passed away.

The headstone of Robert Weaver and his wife, Sarah nee Street
The headstone of Robert Weaver and his wife, Sarah nee Street

Inside the church, on the War Memorial board I saw the name of my great-grandfather, Henry James Weaver. Someone had taken the trouble to compile a folder entitled, "Men of Curry Rivel Who Died in the Great War 1914-1918". Killed in September 1916, Henry had stood or knelt at the altar of this same church only nine months earlier when he'd married his bride, Florence Smale.

The altar inside St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel
The altar inside St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel

I wrote in the visitor's book and, at the last minute, I went back and added my email address. By a strange co-incidence, three days later, I received an email from the great-grand-daughter of one of Henry's sisters who had just visited the church and had seen my message.

A committee, formed in 1919, decided the main village War Memorial should be situated "on the roadside, on the King's highway, so that not only the inhabitants of this district could see it, but also all those who passed by on that road ..." Henry is remembered on this memorial which was dedicated at a moving service attended by the whole village on 7th November 1920. I have no idea if there were any representatives from the Smale side of the family (his widow and child lived in Tavistock in West Devon) but I would imagine Henry's parents, and perhaps some of his siblings, would have been present.

The War Memorial at Curry Rivel
The War Memorial at Curry Rivel

My gran (Henry and Florence's daughter), lost touch with her father's side of the family after she was orphaned when she was quite small. Later, in 1939, she travelled to Curry Rivel from her home in Tavistock with my mum who was then a baby, to see if she could find family. She asked someone whether there were any Weavers still in the village and was directed to the home of her Uncle Dick (Richard Arthur Weaver) and his wife, Alice. I believe Dick wasn't there at the time but to my gran's amazement, the person who came to the door was her 91 year old grandfather, William Henry Weaver (1848-1944). They were both thrilled - my gran hadn't known the old man was still alive.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you may like to take a moment to view the short video I took during my brief visit.

[Why Sentimental Sunday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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Visiting Westminster College, Cambridge

Category: Making Memories

Last week, Harvey and I took a short break, spending time in the Cambridgeshire/Essex/Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire area. Whilst we were there, we visited Westminster College in Cambridge, a centre for learning within the United Reformed Church, which also houses several sets of archives:
  • The records of Cheshunt College (including correspondence with the Countess of Huntingdon).
  • The Presbyterian Church of England archive.
  • The United Reformed Church History Society collection.
  • The records of Westminster College.
  • The Churches of Christ archive.

Westminster College
Westminster College, Cambridge

I've mentioned before how my 6 x great-grandfather, John Dando the elder, wrote to the Countess of Huntingdon in 1771, having first been introduced by letter by Rev'd Rowland Hill, an itinerant preacher with whom John was acquainted.

Rev'd Hill wrote…

"According to your Ladysps orders I have spoken to a Hatter who has sent his terms in Letter By Mr. Hawksworth. I shall also this evening speak to a clothier who shall also write you his terms. as I believe them both to be real Xtians I hope there is no reason to doubt but you will have Xtian treatment from ym both."

Letter written by Rowland Hill

Letter written by Rowland Hill
Letter written by Rev'd Rowland Hill to the Countess of Huntingdon
(Click the images above to see larger versions.)

In his letter, John informed the Countess of the price of his hats and went on to discuss the evangelical revival taking place in his area. This would, no doubt, have been of interest to the Countess who had founded the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, a Calvinistic movement within the Methodist Church.

Letter written by John Dando

Letter written by John Dando
Letter written by John Dando to the Countess of Huntingdon
(Click the images above to see larger versions.)

It was great to see the original letter in person and I would like to mention the wonderful enthusiasm of Helen, the archivist at the College.

The Lodge at Westminster College
The Lodge at Westminster College, Cambridge

Westminster College is a lovely Grade II listed building with some beautiful architecture and I especially liked the library and the Chapel. Had I known in advance that they offer accommodation, I think I'd have been tempted to stay for a couple of days!

Letters reproduced here with the permission of the Trustees of the Cheshunt Foundation, Westminster College, Cambridge.
Rev'd Rowland Hill Letter Reference: (F1/1200)
John Dando Letter Reference: (F1/141)

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Site Updates - Surnames: Smith, Byden, Ellen, plus Photos of The Lower Struma taken during WW1

Category: What's New at

Barnes Family Tree section

For some reason, the family took the surname, Ellen, the surname of Blanche's first husband, even after she married William Smith. The reason for this is a complete mystery but the Smith name was passed down to later generations as middle names.

Place names: Selkirk in Scotland; Seaham Harbour in Durham; Sunderland; Brighton; London; Guildford.

Barnes Family Picture Gallery > Places > The Lower Struma, Greece, during WW1 section

  • A series of photographs of the Lower Struma in Greece, believed to have been taken by Observer Sub-Lieutenant Cyril Norman Ellen whilst he was based at Stavros. The River Struma formed the Front Line between the Allied and Central Powers.

The Lower Struma
A small section from the series of photos of the The Lower Struma

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Wanted - Flying log books for C N ELLEN

Category: General

If anyone reading this knows the whereabouts of the flying log books, or any other items, for Cyril Norman ELLEN, we'd be enormously grateful if you would get in touch via my contact form.

Cyril Ellen joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915, initially as a Chief Petty Officer, and gained a Commission at the end of 1916. He was an observer during WW1, entering the Royal Air Force on the first list in April 1918. He gained his Wings in 1921 and remained in the RAF until retirement in 1946.

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The Partial Solar Eclipse

Category: Making Memories

Partial Solar Eclipse  Partial Solar Eclipse

Click the images above to see a larger version.

For the 'Making Memories' category, here are a couple of images of the partial solar eclipse which I took last week (Friday 20th March 2015) from the back garden. Quite a spectacle!

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]

Site Updates: Features and photographs of the 1935 Quetta Earthquake

Category: What's New at

Resources section

I've added an index page under the Resources section of the website dedicated to Harvey's grandparents, Air Commodore Cyril Norman Ellen D.F.C and Gladys Lily Ellen (nee Gardner). I'll be adding further articles and photographs to this section as time permits but, to get started, I've published a page about the Quetta Earthquake in 1935.

Cyril was the Squadron Leader of No. 5 (AC) Squadron which was based at Quetta when the disaster struck and Gladys was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Silver Medal for her part in the rescue effort. The page includes an excerpt from the RAF Operations Books giving an account of the earthquake. It shows what the people went through and speaks of the incredible devastation caused by the catastrophe.

Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935
Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935

Barnes Family Picture Gallery > Places > Quetta in the Aftermath of the Earthquake in 1935 section

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The R.A.F.'s Account of the Earthquake in Quetta in 1935

Category: Famous Connections

Harvey's grandparents were in Quetta, which was then in British India, during the devastating earthquake in 1935. I've published a page about the event which includes an excerpt from the RAF Operations Books giving an account of the earthquake - Harvey's grandfather was in command of No 5 (AC) Squadron at the time. As the account is quite long I've selected some extracts which are featured below...

The time at which the first shock of the earthquake occurred is given officially as 0306 hours on 31st May, 1935. The night was fine but dark as there was no moon.

The Royal Air Force lines comprising No. 3 (Indian) Wing, No. 5 (AC) Squadron and No. 31 (AC) Squadron were in the direct line of the Earthquake.

The greatest shock awaited the rescue party when it reached the airmen's lines. What had once been the Airmen's Barracks was now nothing but a series of detached heaps of brick rubble with the tin roofs resting, torn and twisted on the top. A few survivors were wandering among the ruins in a stunned condition, calling to trapped inmates. A few were desperately digging down with their bare hands trying to release their buried friends.

... there was no light, great clouds of dust, cut off what little help they could have hoped for from the stars, all electric light cables were down, dawn did not come until about 6.30 a.m.... they had nothing to dig with except their hands... their work was continually being undone, by fresh tremors, which occurred at frequent intervals during the first few hours, often reburying a victim who had just been on the point of release...

Immediately before dawn a battalion of the Punjabis, who had been on a night march, came to our assistance and, as they brought with them their trenching tools, were of immense value and greatly speeded up the rescue work. At about 8 a.m. a section of light tanks arrived and were at once set to work pulling the heavy roofs off the ruins.

The last survivor was extracted at noon. The last body was removed at about 4.p.m. A bull terrier was found alive and uninjured 36 hours after the disaster...

It was found that many of the victims died from suffocation.

Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935
Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935

If possible the buildings occupied by the Indian Air Force personnel and followers were in an even worse condition than those of the British Airmen and not a single man escaped uninjured. Owing to the fact that many of the followers had entire families sleeping in their quarters the death roll was enormous and it is impossible to give an accurate estimate of the casualties in this part of the camp.

The aircraft hangars which were of steel construction stood up to the earthquake, though most of the brick walled flight offices fell in or were damaged. Such was the violence of the shaking, however, that all the aircraft had been thrown about inside and dashed against each other or into the walls. Inspection showed that only three out of the twenty seven held by the wing were fit to fly.

After some hours work these three aircraft were extracted from the hangars... By 10 a.m. the machines were in the air.

The main effected area was found to extend about 70 miles South from QUETTA many small towns and villages being completely wrecked. The death roll was later estimated as 56,000 of whom 25,000 died in QUETTA.

...during June, the entire R.A.F. personnel less a small salvage party were moved to R.A.F. Depot, Karachi.

Digging for kit and the bodies of Indian Followers continued during the first week of June. For the first two nights the airmen lit fires between the ruins of their bungalows and slept in tents under whatever blankets and kit they had been able to salve... By the 2nd the camp had become very insanitary. Decaying bodies in the gaol and nearby villages began to smell very strongly, drains were blocked... All work was carried out by men working with first field dressing pads tied over their mouths and noses.

It was decided to evacuate the camp and airmen moved into tents in the Queen's Lines... The Officers lived in tents on their Mess Lawn and had their meals in the open.

On 1st July, 1935, only a small salvage party remained in Quetta collecting documents equipment and furniture. The remainder of the Squadron in Karachi continued to repair the damaged aircraft.

Site Updates - Surnames: Stenlake, Northcott, Martin, plus US Troops in Tavistock Photos.

Category: What's New at

Hibbitt Family Tree section

Place names: Holsworthy, Tavistock and East Budleigh in Devon. Curry Rivel in Somerset.

Hibbitt Family Picture Gallery > Places > Tavistock, Devon section

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Follow Friday: Family Tree Wall Art gift ideas for Christmas and other occasions

Category: Handy Family History Links

Having been contacted by Kimberley at Urban Twist, I promised I'd feature their novel gift ideas for the family historian. Kimberley writes....

When it comes to finding a gift for the genealogist on your list, it can sometimes prove to be a long and tricky task. Whether you're a spouse, sibling, parent or child and you're on the hunt for a special gift for that historian in your life, you've come to the right place!

A personalised family tree is a truly unique gift. These distinctive wall art pieces give the family historian a special opportunity to preserve and celebrate their family history – giving that extra special touch that a subscription or gift certificate cannot. The range of products allows you to incorporate from 6 up to 17 names, a family name, plus up to two beloved pets.

These personalised family trees are ideal for Weddings, Anniversaries, Christmas, Christenings, significant Birthdays, and any other family milestone.

The pieces themselves are visually stunning, coming in a range of colours and finishes: Pine Effect (Light Wood), Limited Edition Aged Pine Effect (Dark Wood), Shimmering Gold, Shimmering Silver, Matt Black and Matt Royal Blue – again adding a personal touch. The detailed tree designs and names are laser cut and framed giving a floating effect which really brings them to life!

View Urban Twist Family Tree Wall Art and
Personalised Mini Artwork gift ideas here

Family Tree Wall Art
Family Tree Wall Art by Urban Twist

Disclaimer: I have no connection with Urban Twist or their products.

[Why Follow Friday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]

Battle of Trafalgar veteran or a tall story?

Category: Famous Connections

When Israel Edwards died in Australia in 1877, there were a number of obituaries printed in the press in both Australia and England. There are, however, some inconsistencies in Israel and his wife, Susanna's, story.

Just how old was Israel?

Israel's obituary mentions he was aged anything bewteen 102 and 106 years old when he died. Nevertheless, assuming he was baptized as a baby in 1786, he was more than likely about 91 years old.

One article says that Israel was widowed at the age of 60 and implies that Susanna died before the family emigrated in 1847. Israel would indeed have been about 60 in 1847 but Susanna didn't pass away until 1860 after the family had been living in Australia for 13 years so Israel was nearer to 74 years old at this stage.

Susanna was supposedly 21 when she married Israel in 1818 and he 45. There were apparently objections raised by her friends because she was so young. Her death record states she was 23 years old when she married and he would actually have been about 32, approximately 9 years age difference rather than the exaggerated 24 years.

Did Israel really assist Vice Admiral Lord Nelson when he died?

The age discrepancies are not the only problem. Israel was supposed to have served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and to have been present at the Battle of Trafalgar on the Victory when Nelson was killed. One artcicle goes so far as to say that Israel ran to pick up Nelson as he fell.

Death of Nelson
Detail from The Death of Nelson by Daniel Maclise (Houses of Parliament, London)

This sounds a little far-fetched to me and further investigation shows no surviving evidence to support the fact that Israel was in the Navy and he does not appear in a search on the Trafalgar Ancestors website. The story goes he left the navy before he was entitled to a pension which may give him a little benefit of the doubt.

Israel's brother, Angel, did enlist in the Army Reserve in 1803 but Israel's contribution may have been a tall story which he told his children, either for fun and they believed it, or for any number of other reasons. We shall probably never know the truth.


One thing to say is that the journey to Australia in 1847 would have been a brave thing to do at the time, not least because the ship they sailed in lost her main top mast near Madeira in a heavy gale and so they had to return to Plymouth and set sail again almost a month after setting off the first time.

The family moved from Adelaide to Victoria in about 1852 and, if the obituaries are to be believed, Israel worked on the diggings for a couple of years. Victoria's first Gold Rush started in 1851 so the reason for the move to Victoria appears obvious. What is not so clear is why they emigrated in the first instance but this may have had more to do with conditions at home.

The Irish Famine was ongoing in 1847 and this would have affected mainland Britain too. Indeed, Israel's nephew and niece-in-law, Israel Edward Ball & his wife, Ann (nee Dearing), both died in that year along with their infant son. The effects of the Corn Laws and their Repeal may also have contributed to the decision to emigrate. This link gives an example of the hardships these laws brought about and which were suffered by a North Devon farm labourer and his family. There's just no knowing what life in North Devon was like for Israel and Susanna but it must have been hard and they probably looked to Australia for a better way of life.

The obituaries can be found on Israel and Susanna's family page.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]
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