Tag Archives: Shropshire

What is Champing? It’s History and Fun Rolled into One

Where to go for our silver wedding anniversary?  A beach holiday perhaps? Possibly a city break or even a cruise? They were all considered and discounted. 

How about spending the night in an ancient church? That sounded more like it. The perfect, quirky way to celebrate our special day. No heating, no lighting, no running water, no conventional toilet. Instead old oak pews, stained glass windows, war memorials, effigies, tranquility, peace, spirituality and a sense of closeness to history (and, for those of faith, God).

The Churches Conservation Trust offer this unique opportunity. It’s called Champing. The 2017 season runs from 31 March to 30 September. They have 12 participating churches, dotted in beautiful locations countrywide.

We’ve never been to Shropshire. Chris’ ancestors were from that county. So we plumped for St Andrew’s, Wroxeter. No ancestral connections there so far, but near enough to places associated with Chris’ history. We even met up with some of Chris’relatives for the first time ever on our visit, and it was wonderful to delve into the Haynes family history and shared family characteristics. Note to self – I must progress my Shropshire research! Back to our Champing experience though.

On 9 May, the morning of our anniversary, Chris, Snowflake (yes, well-behaved dogs are allowed) and I loaded up the car and set off on our adventure. What greeted us was a stunningly characterful church, and everything waiting ready for our arrival. Well almost everything, but more of that later.

St Andrew’s: Let the Champing Begin – Photos by Jane & Chris Roberts

Parts of St Andrew’s pre-date the Domesday Book of 1086. It also stands on the site of Britain’s fourth largest Roman town. In its heydey Viroconium, as it was known, was almost as big as Pompeii, a place we visited on our honeymoon. It provided a link with our wedding all those years ago. In fact parts of the church include Roman masonry, including the base of the baptismal font. So a very early form of recycling.

Baptismal Font, made from the Base of a Roman Column. The 14th century parish chest is behind to the right of the font and also the Stained Glass Window and War Memorial – Photo by Jane Roberts

What’s left of Viroconium is a five minute walk away from the church, and cared for by English Heritage. The remains are not extensive, certainly not on the scale of Pompeii. But Wroxeter Roman City, as it is known, is worth a visit. The weather was positively Italian when we went, with cloudless blue skies and warm sun. Other nearby locations included Attingham Park (National Trust) with a deer park and lots of wonderful walks for Snowflake; and to the Roman theme once more, we even had a vineyard on our doorstep. 

English Heritage’s Wroxeter Roman City – Photo by Jane Roberts

Back to the church. Inside was crammed full with centuries of parish history, spanning pre and post Reformation Christianity. We felt so privileged to stay in such a wonderful building, with such a central connection to the life of a community down the ages. This thread of life, through multiple generations, was visible all around us: From the 14th century parish chest, to the 16th and 17th century tomb chests;

Tomb Chests of Sir Thomas (d1555) and Mabel Bromley; Sir Richard Newport (d1570) and wife Margaret (d1578) and John Berker (d1618) and wife Margaret, bathed in Stained Glass Light – Photos by Jane Roberts

To the ledger stones on the floor, the earliest dating from 1684, to the various wall plaques, the earliest commemorating the 1627 death of Thomas Alcock founder of Wroxeter Grammar School; to the benefactions board recording gifts made to the church from 1773-1837, to the War Memorial commemorating those parishioners whose lives were cut short in the service of their country in the two World Wars.

Benefactions Board and a Jenkins Family Floor Ledger Stone – Photos by Jane Roberts

The names on the Memorial are unclear on my photo. I’d used my iPhone for my main photos, in what in hindsight was a huge mistake. Whether the cold proved too much for technology, but by morning my phone would no longer switch on. To attempt to remedy the blurry image, these are the names:

1914-1918

  • W. Beech
  • J. Everall
  • R.J. Farmer
  • A. Feltus
  • H. Feltus
  • G.C. Ford
  • T.J. Frank
  • J. Harris
  • C.E. Bailey
  • J.E. Haycox
  • W. Holden
  • W. Leake
  • R.H.W. Mainwaring
  • W. Page
  • H. Thomas
  • W.H. Williams
  • C.W. Wolseley-Jenkins
  • J. Lewis

1939-1945

  • E. Cooke
  • A.R. Fear
  • G.J. Parry
  • H. Williams
  • R.G. Williams

War Memorial and Thomas Alcock’s Brass Monument – Photos by Jane Roberts

Above all you could not fail to notice the glorious stained glass windows, with others containing 15th century glass fragments, as well as the impressive Elizabethan and Jacobean panelling of the choir stalls, pulpit and pews. It is a beautiful church, absolutely no doubt.

Stained Glass East Window and Window Depicting Saints George and Andrew, above the War Memorial – Photos by Jane Roberts

The church was so redolent with echoes of the past I could imagine the parishioners sitting in those solid oak seats. So much so that I compiled a list from the Parish Register (digitised on FindMyPast) of those baptisms, marriages and burials which took place on the anniversary of our anniversary, 9 May, over the centuries.

St Andrew’s Wroxeter 9 May Marriages, Baptisms and Burials – Source: FindMyPast

St Andrew’s closed in 1980 and its care passed to The Churches Conservation Trust in 1987. More information about this historic church can be found on their website, with a downloadable leaflet detailing its rich history.

So what are the Champing basics? We booked camp beds and sleeping bags, so they were all set up under the organ loft by the time we got there. But you can bring your own.

Our Beds for the Night – Photo by Jane Roberts

Chairs were provided too. The church is very cold – it’s an old, unheated, cavernous space, so plenty of warm layers are a must. As for illumination, we relied on battery-operated candles and lanterns (supplied), supplemented by torches when the sun set. There was lighting but I forgot to mention it to Chris. Funnily enough to he failed to question why the church had light bulbs. Oops!

There is no running water, so forget your make-up, as you can’t wash it off. But we had tea and coffee making facilities and an Aquaid water cooler. We also pre-ordered a continental breakfast which we collected from the neighbouring hotel upon arrival – no need to worry about a fridge….brrrrrr. We had our picnic hamper too stocked with goodies from Apley Farm Shop, so no danger of hunger pangs.

The one glitch, I pre-ordered a bottle of champagne (yes alcohol is allowed). A lengthy game of church “hunt the champagne bottle” ensued, otherwise known as “Champers seeking champers“. We even checked to see if we had to collect from the hotel. All to no avail. We couldn’t check with the Champing team, as the phone lines shut at 4pm (my phone was operating at this stage). So Chris drove to the outskirts of Shrewsbury to purchase a celebratory bottle. No major drama, in fact it meant we investigated the church more fully; and the Champing team have been fantastic in resolving the issue since our return home.

Breakfast is Served – Photo by Jane Roberts

St Andrew’s was all ours between  6pm-10am. In the intervening period it was open to visitors. One very bemused couple did turn up at 6pm – we hadn’t got round to locking the door. They were very confused to see us preparing to take up residence. Perhaps we were squatters? Or had we bought the church to convert to a house,  and lived there during the renovation work? They had never heard of Champing, and were fascinated to have stumbled upon a pair of aged Champers. They even joined us on our champagne hunt. So all a bit of a laugh.

And as for the very basics, a dry toilet was in the vestry. So all equipped and survivable for even less adventurous souls for one night.

It was actually a very peaceful, comfortable and cosy night. Envelopped in my thermals, onesie, dressing gown and slanket as well as the sleeping bag I was extremely toasty! Chris, resplendent in woolly hat, had an equally restful night.

Early Morning Proof of Sleep – Secret Snap by Jane Roberts

These are consecrated churches, and some may find it a tad difficult to get their heads round the concept of hiring these sacred  buildings out for what essentially are short holidays. But I think you need to break out beyond that mindset. I am religious attending weekly mass in my Catholic Church so I understand the religious sensibilities. But these ancient parishes and old churches go way beyond the religious element. They were integral components of the community; they were secular, as well as religious, units of administration; they were part of the daily life fabric of our ancestors.

What would become of these churches, no longer used as regular places of worship through demographic movement, population shifts, and changes in religious practices? Yes they could be retained as places to visit, and The Churches Conservation Trust facilitate this. But would you also end up with many others being converted into houses, original features removed, and lost to the wider community forever as a result? 

I believe Champing is an inspired way of preserving and generating interest in Britain’s rich heritage. It’s a totally different way to connect to history. It certainly made me look into the history of St Andrew’s, including all the architectural, fabric and furnishing aspects, which is something I never considered previously when going into a church. There could also be a potential link-up with local Family History Societies and Ancestral Tourism opportunities (this could equally embrace non-Champing churches too). 

On a practical level the venture also generates much needed money to help conserve church heritage. It means people are in the building overnight at various points in the year, providing a measure of security. And the churches are being loved, appreciated, used and introduced to a whole new generation. If your locality has a Champing church, it is something to be welcomed, embraced and promoted.

St Andrew’s, Wroxeter – Photos by Jane Roberts

For those contemplating a holiday with a difference, if you’ve a love of archaeology, history and family history, and want a totally different experience in a wonderful tranquil setting which simply oozes the atmosphere of centuries of tradition, I can certainly recommend Champing. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. 

The Inspiration for our Champing Adventure, Our Wedding Anniversary – photo by John Plachcinski

More information about this unique experience can be found here.

Sources:

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Shropshire, Staffordshire, Shrouds & Shoes: Striking a Light on the Captain Webb Connection

In Shropshire, Staffordshire, Shrouds & Shoes I said I’d start to piece together my husband’s family tree. The project was inspired by my mother-in-law. She was very enthusiastic about it and retained that enthusiasm throughout. But sadly, as her health deteriorated, I found it wiser to quietly drop my research. I found she was becoming so involved she could no longer distinguish between past and present, fact and false memory. An example was frantic phone calls and threats to summon the police in the middle of the night because she had time-travelled. She was convinced she was back in the 1950s. It turned out she’d dug out some old newspapers before going to bed, woke up in the early hours, started reading them then saw the date.   

Things reached crisis point at the beginning of December when she was admitted to hospital on a long-term basis. In hindsight her detention has been a blessing as we now have a definitive diagnosis, Alzheimer’s, and she is finally able to access the correct treatment. 

She is now is out of hospital, the illness has truly taken hold, and she is no longer has her own home. In the process of clearing it we discovered more family papers which I will go through in due course, once things have settled down.  
But initially they have solved one mystery: the Captain Webb connection. He of the English Channel swimming fame. Even as far back as the early 1990s my husband had insisted they were related. He wasn’t sure how. 

My preliminary research yielded no obvious link. There was a common surname. My husband’s great great grandmother was Mary Webb. She was born in Adbaston/Flashbrook area of Staffordshire in around 1830. She married Joseph Haynes at Aston in Edgmond, Shropshire, on 10 February 1859. Joseph founded a wheelwrights business in Stone, Staffordshire. But I could see no link. However, my mother-in-law’s papers seemed to indicate Mary Webb was the supposed connection.  

In her possession was a “Nostalgia Notebook” article from the “Staffordshire Newsletter” dated 28 October 2004. It states that Joseph’s wife “Mary was believed to be the sister of Captain Webb…..”  

Captain Matthew Webb was the son of surgeon Matthew Webb and his wife Sarah Cartwright Garbitt. They married in 1845. Matthew was a bachelor, aged around 32, at the time of his marriage. Their second son, Matthew of the swimming fame, was born in Dawley, Shropshire in around 1848. He was baptised in Dawley Parish Church on 9 March 1848 and the entry is annotated with the words “Swam the English Channel August 25 1875”. 

In contrast Mary Webb’s baptism took place on 7 March 1830 at Adbaston Parish Church, Staffordshire. She was the daughter of William Webb, a wheelwright, and his wife Ann.  

Baptism entry for Mary Webb

 Her father’s name is confirmed on her marriage certificate. It is also detailed in various newspaper marriage announcement columns, including the “Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser” of 16 February 1859. This goes on to say for 12 years she had been a valuable and faithful servant for William Sillitoe Esq., The Bridge, Newport. The 1851 census shows her as a house servant in this household. 

“Wolverhampton Chronicle & Staffordshire Advertiser” marriage announcement for Joseph Haynes & Mary Webb

 
I’m not ruling out a Webb connection further back. But if the link was supposed to be as stated, that my husband’s great great grandmother was the sister of Matthew Webb, it is false. As a result, my husband’s claim to family history fame seems to be on very dodgy ground with the flickering match flames rapidly extinguishing. And the Webb family have one bunch fewer kinsfolk.    
So be prepared when you start out looking into your family tree – you may end up disappointed and learning things you’d rather be oblivious to! 

Sources

  • Find My Past – newspapers, censuses & Shropshire & Staffordshire Parish Registers
  • Staffordshire Newsletter” – 28 October 2004

Shropshire, Staffordshire, Shrouds and Shoes – Part 1

This is, I hope, going to be an on-going record of my progress in researching a family tree from scratch. This recurring section of my blog will record my research highs, lows, successes and failures, brick walls and hopefully their demolition. I have no set timetable to complete this, so there may be gaps of several weeks between updates. But finally I aim to piece together the history of my husband’s family and write some individual stories. Part 1 describes the preliminary phase of my research.

This particular project is inspired by my mother-in-law. A few weeks ago she announced she had a family bible, complete with a record of a couple’s marriage and the births and deaths of their children.  There was also a series of non-conformist quarterly meeting cards. She was unclear exactly how they connected to her and  so she loaned me the impressively weighty Victorian tome to see if I could discover more.  Within days she added to this treasure, with the discovery of a totally unrelated bundle of documents containing assorted certificates, an apprentice indenture, baptism and burial documentation, and a will linking to various branches of her maternal and paternal line along with some others connected to my now deceased father-in-law’s family.

19th century family bible

19th century family bible

So a wealth of documents to get me started,  far more than other families I have researched.  I feel a bit like a kid in a sweet-shop – so many choices. But I am focussing on one branch at a time rather than adopting a scattergun approach. And I am being disciplined in recording my information sources, as well as any searches (both succesful and unsuccesful), far more so than when I started our researching my family tree. Hopefully this will save time as I progress.

With this in mind my first line of research is my mother-in-law’s paternal line, starting with her father William John Haynes. The reason for starting here is that his is the most complete set of documents in the parcel of papers, with his birth, marriage and death certificates along with various other papers chronicling the key stages of his life. The bible does not relate to this branch of the family.

William Haynes’ birth certificate states that he was born on 27 February 1904 at Elford Hill, Eccleshall, Staffordshire. He was the son of master wheelwright, Joseph Thomas Haynes and his wife Maria (neé Yates).   By the time of William’s marriage to Ada Eardley on 15 September 1929, William’s father was described as  a funeral undertaker. This information was a catalyst for a rather unusual memory for my mother-in-law. She recalled staying at her grandfather’s house and sleeping in a bedroom full of shrouds! According to GRO indexes he died in 1958, in his early 90’s.

A preliminary search revealed that J Haynes undertakers still exists at Eccleshall, with the website providing a brief resumé of the buisness.[1] So in my later research I intend exploring the life and business of Joseph Thomas Haynes.

However, based on the information provided by my mother-in-law, my first week or so’s research has centred around the 1841-1911 census returns and the odd foray into parish records. Using this combination of online sources I have constucted a basic skeleton of a family tree.  This is reproduced below.

Haynes Family Tree

Haynes Family Tree

The census search has proved fairly routine. No real difficulties tracking back to 1841. I used both the Ancestry and FindMyPast UK sites to do this. The only minor hurdle was finding William’s great grandfather, James Haynes, in the 1851 census. Although he was there in the 1841 census and then from 1861-1871, there was no trace of him in 1851. At this point I consulted on-line parish registers available for Shropshire on FindMyPast. Through the censuses I had located seven possible children[2] for James Haynes and his wife Ann. I then identified their baptisms in the Parish Registers for the parishes of Edgmond, Longford and Church Aston in Shopshire. This provided the breakthrough. The youngest children bore the surname “Haynes Parker” or “Parker Haynes”.  Only the youngest child George was born post-GRO registration. His baptism in 1838  is under the name Haynes-Parker, his GRO registration surname is Parker with Haynes being listed as a middle name.[3]  Eldest child, John, was baptised on 10 January 1824 at Edgmond Parish Church with the surname Parker and no mention of Haynes.  From this information it was now easy to locate James in the 1851 census – recorded under the name Parker not Haynes.

It also proved a breakthrough in locating James’ marriage. At the time of the 1851 census James’ mother-in-law Ann Hamlet resided with the James and Ann. The Parish Register of Stoke on Tern, Shropshire has a marriage on 31 March 1823 between James Parker and Ann Hamlet.  The Shropshire Parish Registers also provide a possible baptism for James in June 1797 at Lilleshall[4], illegitimate son of Ann Parker.

So if possible I would like to find out a little more about the reason behind this transistion of surname from Parker to Haynes, which took place during the late 1820’s to the early 1860s.

James’ son Joseph (1834) is the grandfather of William  Haynes. Born in around 1834 the Shropshire Parish Registers show that he was married by licence at Aston in Edgmond on 10 February 1859.  His bride was Mary Webb, daughter of William.  My husband says there is a family story that they are somehow connected to Captain Matthew Webb, the first recorded person to swim the English Channel. As yet, even despite this now shared surname, I have found no evidence to support the anecdote. My husband’s Webb Ancestry from the 1800’s appears to be Staffordshire based, with pre-1800s possibly Shropshire. A preliminary look at Captain Webb shows he was born in Shropshire in 1848. But it is something else to explore.

Of more immediate interest is an occupational connection between William Webb and the Haynes male line. They were all wheelwrights. By the turn of the 19th century the Haynes family  were diversifiying  adding building, joinery, carpentry and undertaking to their trade skill set.  In the late 1860’s they moved from Shropshire to Stone, Staffordshire to ply their trade and appear to have been extremely succesful at it. I had a quick look at the image archive on the Staffordshire Past-Track website[5] and was amazed to find images of  Haynes and Sons, Wheelwrights. This contains photographs of family events as well as ones of their business, including images of portable bandstands (one produced below)[6] manufactured by the family firm.  So again this is another aspect of the family history I intend exploring.

12 May 1910: Proclamation of the Accession of George V, Stone read from the portable bandstand in Granville Square. The portable band stand seen here was the first of its kind and was manufactured by Haynes and Sons, wheelwrights, of Station Road, Stone, and was purchased by Stone Urban District Council. See Copyright footnote at  [6]

12 May 1910: Proclamation of the Accession of George V, Stone read from the portable bandstand in Granville Square. The portable band stand seen here was the first of its kind and was manufactured by Haynes and Sons, wheelwrights, of Station Road, Stone, and was purchased by Stone Urban District Council. See Copyright footnote at [6]

Finally I quickly looked at the family details of William’s mother Maria (neé Yates). Her father John was a shoemaker, born in around 1830 in Stone, Staffordshire. John’s wife Ann and all his children were engaged in this trade. I traced John back to the 1841 census, living in the household of bricklayer James Thornhill and Ann. Other household members included George Yates (14) and Joseph Yates (7). From GRO indexes it appears that James Thornhill married Ann in 1838.[7]  So this is a certificate I would like to obtain to see if Ann’s name was Yates and to find out her background to see how this fits in with John.

I think the most satisfying aspect of researching my mother-in-law’s tree is her sheer delight at each new discovery. Of late she has struggled with memory issues, but this research is rekindling long forgotten episodes in her life.  It is an absolute joy for all concerned when some new find triggers the recollection of something buried deep in the recesses of her mind; or, because she knows I am working on her tree, she suddenly recalls some other fact or story. For example she thought her family routes were in Staffordshire, but when I identified a significant Shropshire connection she recalled her parents visiting family in that county. So this process is proving fascinating for me and an interest for her.

My next steps will be to try to flesh out the tree further with online parish records and the ordering of BMD certificates (oh, for that certificate price reduction, but sadly this research cannot wait!). Then to try to fill in the details of the individuals, their occupations and the times and areas in which they lived. I will return to this portion of my blog later in the summer.

Sources:   

[1] http://www.robertnicholls.co.uk/our-history/7.html

[2] I say possible because of the omission of family relationship details on the 1841 census.

[3] GRO Ref: Q3 1838 PARKER  George Haynes Newport  Vol 18 Pg 124

[4] The 1851 and 1861 censuses record his birthplace as Lilleshall, 1871 Woodcote,

[5] Staffordshire Past-Track website:  http://www.staffspasttrack.og.uk/

[6] With thanks to Staffordshire Past-Track and Mr David Haynes for allowing me to use this image. Copyright is retained by David Haynes who has kindly made his collection available to Staffordshire Past-Track for non-commercial private study & educational use. Additional information about permitted uses of content and commercial enquiries is available via the Copyright statement Copyright Statement on Staffordshire Past-Track. Re-distribution of resources in any form is only permitted subject to strict adherence to the guidelines in the full Terms and Conditions statement.

[7] GRO Ref: Q3 1838 Stoke on Trent Vol 17 Page 147