Monday, 30 June 2008

England Part IV - Thompson, Norfolk

Are you ready for a story? It's a really long one.

OK, make yourself a cuppa tea and listen closely.

It is February 1829. Probably cold and rainy, perhaps a touch of frost in the air.
25 year old Keziah Leveridge has brought her new baby son William to church to be baptised by the minister at Carbrooke, Norfolk, in England. But Keziah has no husband, (gasp! how shocking!) so William is given the middle name Tolman, after his father, Samuel Tolman, Keziah's sweetheart.

Now it's November 1836. Keziah and Samuel are married in the same church at Carbrooke. Their son William Tolman Leveridge is 7 years old.

Young William grows up to learn the blacksmith's trade in Carbrooke, and joins the Army to become a farrier shoeing the horses of the Kings 1st Dragoon Guards Regiment. In October 1856, the Regiment is stationed at Topsham Barracks in Exeter in Devon, where 27 year old William meets Ellen Dolling, a pretty servant girl. William and Ellen are married in Exeter in April 1857, but two months later William and the 1st Dragoon Guards are sent first to the barracks at Aldershot, then to India, and finally to China.

William and Ellen's daughter Jane Keziah Tolman Loveridge is born a month later in July 1857. (Apparently it was a shotgun wedding.} Baby Jane and her mother travel to Norfolk where Jane is baptised at St Peter and Paul Church in Carbrooke in September that year.

In 1860, William is wounded, and leaves the Regiment. He returns to Carbrooke, Norfolk to live with his parents, Samuel and Keziah, where he continues work as a blacksmith. His father Samuel at this time is one of the many gamekeepers working for Lord Walsingham at nearby Merton Hall.

William and Ellen decide to pursue new opportunities in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, in 1862, taking their new son, also named William, but daughter Jane stays with her grandparents, Samuel and Keziah Tolman. There is no evidence that Jane ever saw her parents again. More Leveridge children are born in Leeds where William works as a farrier and Ellen is a busy midwife.

Now it's December 1872. Jane marries her blacksmith sweetheart Charles Barham at Rockland St. Peter, not far from her home in Carbrooke. Was she really only 15?

Soon the babies arrive in the Barham family. Bertha is born in 1874, William John in 1876, and Julia Anne in 1878. But disaster strikes the family when Charles dies of "acute bronchitis 11 days" when baby Julia is only 2 months old. Jane has no income and can't support three small children, so she and the two little girls go to live with her Tolman grandparents Samuel and Keziah, and little William John goes to live with his Barham grandparents.

By 1881, Samuel Tolman is the proprietor of the village shop in Thompson, Norfolk, with his widowed granddaughter Jane helping him. But 2 years later in early 1883, the family celebrates a wedding. Jane marries William Alfred Betts and by the end of the year, Bertha and Julia have a little half-brother, James.

But Samuel is getting older and weaker. His death in1884 is due to "Decay of nature" and is followed by Keziah's death in 1885. They are buried in the graveyard at Thompson.

Jane and William Betts continue to run the village shop for many years. More children are born, Ethel Kezia in 1889, Herbert Victor in1892, and Ivy Ellen in 1896.

But all is not well in the family. Julia does not get along with her step-father, and leaves home to live with her Barham uncle.... (missing a whole lot out here) .... and became my grandmother!
I went to Thompson with my cousin. We wanted to see the church where Jane and William Betts were married, and perhaps find some family gravestones.
St Martin's Church dates from the 1300s. When we opened the heavy oak door, it swung inwards with a ghostly creak, and a rush of cold air greeted us from inside the church. Perfect!
Can you imagine Jane and William, kneeling at the altar, with Samuel and Keziah sitting there on the left, telling 9 year old Bertha and 5 year old Julia to be quiet and sit still during the wedding service.
Much of the interior of the church has not been changed since the 1600s, mostly due to neglect. The nearby church at Merton was used by the various Lord Walsinghams, who lived at Merton Hall, and that was the church that got all the TLC.

Perhaps Jane baptised her children at this ancient stone font.

The ancient woodwork is silvery and smooth, hand carved with wheat and poppies, often with a date... this one reads 1632. There is moss growing on the floor in some corners, and there is a feeling of calm and serenity throughout the church.

But the graveyard didn't hold out much hope for finding family markers.

Time to cut the grass, perhaps?
For previous posts about my vacation in England, please scroll down.


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

How fantastic to have traced your family all that far back...! Very very exciting....! Too bad the "markers" are so covered over or, non-existant....But, to have been able to go there...My My My, what an amazing trip you have had! And what a Family History!

madretz said...

This is one of my favorite posts of yours! I truly love it. I think it's so amazing that you know all that family history and that you can go back to the church where your...great great (?) grandparents were wed. I got goosebumps reading. You must have gotten goosebumps being in that church and wandering around the graveyard. I must admit I'm a tad jealous too...i can't trace my lineage beyond my own parents. Wonderful wonderful post my friend! Just fantastic.

Beverly said...

I'm always in awe of these very old churches. How wonderful that you know all this about your ancestors.

rosemary said...

What a great story and to have found all of this about your family. You have a way with that camera my friend. You take some of the most wonderful pictures!

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Discovering your family history is incredibly wonderful. And to spend time in a church your family atttended way back when is amazing. Congratulations.

Luke said...

Interesting post. A lovely church!

Libbys Blog said...

Fantastic, true family history. If you had contacted the vicar he would have had a list of all the buriels at the church and may have been able to point you in the right direction. I did this once at a church I visited, sure enough my descendants where buried there but with no gravestone!!!

Vintage to Victorian said...

Brilliant - it's made me think I should post some of mine. Isn't it a treat to go to the places where you know your ancestors have been before you. Shame about the graveyard though. Perhaps you should bring your shears next time you come over!!!

Sue x

edward said...

very nice post! truly amazing

happy Canada Day

lorenzothellama said...

What a brilliant story! One of the best postings I have ever read anywhere! How wonderful to have traced your family tree so far back. Well done!

TorAa said...

This is just a story that tells us, we who are now living in the 21th Century, how important it is to have common rules and knowledge to take care of each other.
Your story is so typical. When the land had to be dived during generations, it were nothing more to stay alive from, but to emigrate.
Like 80% of my family did in the 1890's (Norwegians were late to realize - in contrats to the Vikings).

Excellent story.
I also found my roots.

Merisi said...

Great story! It must feel wonderful to have succeeded that far back in your genealogical quest!
I must confess I quite like the long grass, gives the graveyard a peaceful air.

Xtreme English said...

love your story, love this post, and love the long grass growing around the grave stones!

the past is really not so far away after all. both my mother and father were born in the late 1890s, same as the last children mentioned in your post.

how did julia become your grandmother?

Jeanette said...

Gday, thanks for stopping by my place,,, How wonderful to be able to trace your family back that far,my brother and Son are doing our family history and was told to go to the cemetery and ask the keepers they will be able to tell were they are buried by kept records .and what a great trip to do also get to do all that sightseeing.I Loved sightseeing when we went there many years ago and went to many of the places in your pics below. Did you get to the waxworks museum it was fantastic... ill be back to read more.

Ash said...

Fantastic images. Enjoying this series...