Category: Ancestors Corner

17th century newsflash: Okehampton's thatched school house catches fire

Category: Ancestors Corner


Regular readers will know that I've been tracing backwards on my maternal grandfather's line, through my Edwards, Recket, Pudicome and Randall ancestors. Last time, I reached back to 1672 when my 7 x great-grandfather, Nathaniel Randall, was born in Okehampton in Devon. His father was John Randall and his mother was Jane (nee Wood).

John and Jane married on 27th October 1665 in Colan in Cornwall. They had five sons between 1666 (the year of the Great Fire of London) and 1676. The fire raged from the 2nd to the 5th September and their eldest son, William, was baptized just days later on the 11th September but thankfully, they were living a long way from London in Jacobstowe in Devon.

John Randall was appointed the Vicar of Colan in 1663 and in the following year he became the Rector of Jacobstowe. By 1670 his responsibilities had broadened when he became the schoolmaster at Okehampton Grammar School and the Chaplain at St James' Chapel, Okehampton.

Here is a transcript of the form of agreement which John signed...

"It is agreed on and fully consented to, that Mr. John Randall shall have liberty to teach scholars at the School House of the town and borough during the pleasure of the Mayor, Principal Burgesses and Assistants for the time being, and it is agreed on that the said Mr. Randall shall read Common Prayer at the Chapel mornings and evenings, and that he shall preach four Sessions Sermon every year, and that the said Mr. Randall shall instruct 6 or 8 poor children freely, such as the Mayor for the time being shall think fit, and that the said Mr. Randall for, and in consideration of his pains in the discharge of the duty incumbent upon him, shall have liberty to dwell in the school house, and that he shall have £15 yearly in the gift of the Mayor and Burgesses in recompense of his pains, and it is moreover agreed that the said Mr. Randall shall preach a sermon once every year at the election of the Mayor, provided it shall be free for the Mayor for the time being to have whom he pleaseth to preach at any session or election held for the town and borough. Witness our hands and seals this day," etc.

John had his own encounter with fire when, on 29th October 1670, the chimney in the school house caught ablaze. The thatch was destroyed but most of the timber was preserved and so the school house was rebuilt in the following year with "a chamber over it, and new heated".

On 13th May 1672, John Randall with the Mayor of Okehampton, the Vicar (Mr. Hussey) and many town inhabitants viewed some of the parish boundaries on Dartmoor Common. It was usual for the beating of the bounds, as it was called, to take place on Ascension Day or during Rogation week.

John died in 1680 and was buried at Jacobstowe on 8th December, described as the Rector of the Parish. He was buried in wool according to an Act of Parliament which was designed to protect the English woollen industry. He left no will but his estate was administered in 1681. The fate of his wife, Jane, is currently unknown.

Image courtesy of Sailom at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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100 Years But Not Forgotten

Category: Ancestors Corner

Henry James Weaver
Henry James Weaver. R.I.P.

I can't let today pass without marking the centenary of the death of my great-grandfather, Henry (Harry) James Weaver. I've blogged a number of times before about how he was accidentally killed when a bomb (hand grenade) prematurely detonated during training back at the base after serving in the trenches in WW1. Therefore, today I thought it would be fitting to simply post a photograph of my Granny Geake's father, whose presence in her life she dearly missed.

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Workday Wednesday: Cappen Sam, the right man in the right place

Category: Ancestors Corner

In 1893, Harvey's great-great-grandfather, Samuel Wright, was at the forefront of new technology. After three decades working with machines, he was put in charge of a new steam joinery works in Penzance, Cornwall, owned by Messrs Caldwell.

A newspaper article of the time goes into great detail about the new equipment. There was initially some concern that the labour-saving machinery would lead to unemployment in the trade but the reverse turned out to be the case.

It seems Samuel was head-hunted for the job as the newspaper states… The machinist and joiner, who was had down from Exeter to take charge of this branch, was Mr. Samuel Wright, and Messrs. Caldwell consider "Cappen Sam" is "the right man in the right place."

From The Cornishman newspaper article dated 1893
From The Cornishman newspaper article dated 1893

Site Updates - Barnes Family
[Why Workday Wednesday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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The Dark Room Mystery Remains

Category: Ancestors Corner

I was in London on Wednesday and, whilst I was there, I spent a few hours at the National Archives. My main purpose was to see if I could satisfy the family lore which suggests that Harvey's grandad, Cyril Ellen, had set up a dark room on a ship.

Cyril joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a Chief Petty Officer in April 1915 attached to the photographic department and he also undertook observer duties. I know he was on HMS Riviera from July 1915 to November 1916 so I looked up some of the ship's logs but unfortunately I couldn't find anything helpful. I didn't have time to order the logs for every month that he served on the ship so I picked out various individual months but nothing popped up.

The only mention of Cyril which I could find was on the 30th June 1915 at about 5pm and this wasn't a mention by name. This was the day before his service record states he joined HMS Riviera and simply reads...

"One C.P.O. (Air Service) rating joined ship".

Ship's Log for HMS Riviera - 30th June 1915
Ship's Log for HMS Riviera - 30th June 1915
(Click the image to see a larger version.)

Riviera was a seaplane tender which had been converted in 1914 from a cross-channel packet ship. She underwent a second conversion in early 1915 and saw service with the Dover Patrol whilst Cyril was on the ship. I'm aware there was a dark room onboard by 1918 but the exact date it was put there remains elusive. I also know Cyril got into a couple of scrapes in May and June 1916 but the log didn't reveal anything about these incidents.

After he left Riviera, Cyril gained a Commission and was drafted to Stavros in Greece (which was an airfield adjacent to the sea by the time he arrived) where he was engaged in photographic flights at low altitudes for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross gallantry medal.

So the question as to whether Cyril set up a dark room on a ship is still outstanding. I wonder if we'll ever find documentary evidence in support of this family tale.

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Tombstone Tuesday: 99 years since Henry James Weaver died in the Great War

Category: Ancestors Corner

Memorial Board in St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel
Memorial Board in St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel

Today is the 99th anniversary of the death of my great-grandfather, Henry James Weaver, accidentally killed by a bomb prematurely exploding during training at a base in France during WW1.

The photograph shows Henry's name on the War Memorial board near the back of the church in Curry Rivel, Somerset - Henry's home town.

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

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Early Triumph motorcycle reminiscent of Grandpa's WW1 service

Category: Ancestors Corner

Harvey and I visited the Shuttleworth Collection in June at the Old Warden Aerodrome near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire where they keep a wonderful collection of historic aircraft and vehicles dating from the first half of the 20th century. It's a fascinating place and well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area and have an interest in early aviation.

Amongst the collection of motorcycles there, I spotted an early Triumph which looked familiar to me. Pictured below you'll see it was a 1924 5.5hp Triumph S.D. (spring drive) which used the same basic engine that gave excellent service for despatch riders during the Great War.

1924 5.5hp Triumph S.D
1924 5.5hp Triumph S.D

My Grandpa Hibbitt was a despatch rider during the First World War and this reminded me of the motorcycle he was sitting on in a photograph dating from this period.

Charles George Hibbitt as a Motorcycle Despatch Rider in WW1
Charles George Hibbitt as a Motorcycle Despatch Rider in WW1

In the photo, he is seated on a Triumph Model H which was the first Triumph not to be fitted with pedals, so was a true motorcycle. The Triumph Engineering Co Ltd had been using the advertising slogan Trusty Triumph since 1910 and the Model H became known as 'The Trusty' as it proved reliable in wartime conditions, despite a weakness in the front fork spring. This was prone to break on rough ground, so despatch riders would strap a leather belt around it as a precaution. The picture shows that my Grandpa did this very thing.

More than 30,000 Triumph Model H motorcycles had been produced by the end of the war in 1918 and by the time it was discontinued in 1923 a total of 57,000 had been produced.

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Those Places Thursday: My 17th century ancestor, Richard Fryer's, story is published

Category: Ancestors Corner

Discover Your History MagazineMy final article being published in the Discover Your History magazine is out today, available in good newsagents, including WH Smith, or online.

This time, I investigate the life of my 8 x great-grandfather, Richard Fryer (abt. 1663-1710), by examining his will and evaluating the inventory for clues. Richard was a yeoman from Overton in Arlingham, Gloucestershire.

I have visited Arlingham on a number of occasions and one gets the feeling that, in some ways, not much has changed from Richard's day. The village is still rural, although I can imagine it was more of a hive of activity in the 17th century than it is now. It's still made up of farms and smallholdings but the landscape wouldn't be quite so recognisable to Richard as Arlingham used to consist of many orchards before the outbreak of Dutch Elm disease wiped most of them out in the 1970's.

Richard Fryer article in Discover Your History

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

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Follow Friday: John Dando's story is published in Discover Your History magazine

Category: Ancestors Corner

Discover Your History MagazineThe third in my series of articles has been published in the November issue of the Discover Your History magazine and is now available to buy in all good newsagents or online.

This month, I tell the story of John Dando, my 6 x great-great-grandfather, exploring his Non-Conformist connections including his letter to a Countess and his association with George Whitefield, one of the founders of Methodism.


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

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Friday Funny: Church font doubles as a dust-pan

Category: Ancestors Corner

Today's amusing anecdote is attributed to Aaron Taysum (abt. 1780-1851) who was the parish clerk in Arlingham, Gloucestershire, taking over the role from his father after he died in 1807.

In 1886, John Sayer, the son of a former vicar of Arlingham, published his writings which were again republished in 2008 in a book called 'Antiquities of Arlingham'. Apparently Aaron Taysum utilized a metal basin as a dust-pan. The following excerpt reveals how this basin had previously been used as a font …

"The font, as all parishioners know, is of modern work; the elder ones will remember that before this font was placed in the church the wooden structure now adapted as an alms box, and which was provided with a silver basin, was given for this purpose by Lady Mill, then living at the Court, and the representative of the Yate family, and superseded an ancient pewter or metal basin, which had been doing duty for a font, and which subsequently the writer recollects, was used by the clerk, Aaron Taysum, for a dust-pan, until rescued and carried to Slowwe, where it now is. It is very remarkable that there is no trace or tradition of any ancient stone font, such as must have been in the church."

The font in the Church at Arlingham
The font which currently stands in the Church at Arlingham


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

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Follow Friday: G-G-Grandmother's story is published in Discover Your History magazine

Category: Ancestors Corner

Discover Your History MagazineMy second article has been published in the October issue of the Discover Your History magazine and is now available in the shops. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the magazine or buy a single copy online.

This month's story, appearing on pages 36 and 37, is about my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Louisa Oliver. It tells the tale of Sarah's turbulent relationships, how she ran away to Australia and had a child by John George Waldegrave Barnes, a man she never married. She returned to England with just her child and took up with William Elbert Dando, my great-great-grandfather. After marrying William and having a son, the relationship quickly disintegrated, leading to some unpleasant goings-on including Sarah's arrest. William tried to divorce Sarah without success and eventually bigamously 'married' another woman.


[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.]
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