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Strouds, Thatchers, Bearfields and Keates – two of these recently discovered maternal families can be traced back into the 1500s. The earliest West records come from the mid 1700s. Tracing “West” ancestry earlier than Daniel becomes increasingly difficult, since in Medieval times family names were not used among the common people (yes, we are “commoners”), and when such names evolved from the 16th century onward, they were frequently place names: Newton of Letcombe, Aldworth (from the village of Aldworth), West, (from the West country) and so on. I noted with amusement the names of the co-authors of the Blewbury town history: Peter East and Roy Northeast. It is interesting to note that although we were commoners, we were an independent lot (the official term is “non=conformist”) from a religious standpoint, more likely to attend a Strict Baptist Chapel or a United Reformed Church, than a Church of England.
THE FIRST GENERATION
Daniel (b. 1759) & Mary West: In the parish records of East Hagbourne, there is an entry under baptisms in the year 1789: “James, son of Daniel and Mary”.
The Thatchers: John Thatcher came to Sparsholt from Letcombe Regis in the mid-sixteenth century and the family seems to have flourished there until the mid 18th century. At that time George’s daughter Jane (b. 1746) met & married William Westall (b.1752) and their grand-daughter Jane (b.1815) later married Daniel (b.1813).
The Aldworths: a family of builders, likely came from the town of Aldworth in the 16th century. At that time, the parish records of Wantage (Wantyng) begin to “swell” with the ranks of Aldworths. There are records of 10 wills of a family of Aldworths (tanners) at Priors Hold (near East Hanney) between 1500 & 1700. (See Aldworth Village, Wantage Parish Church and Childrey Holloway in Part III). Another family story is that the Aldworths were originally from, or had relatives, in Ireland. Mary Irish remembers a story of “Grandma” Sarah going to visit “titled” relatives there and Edna remembers Grandma Emma saying that mother-in-law Sarah was always aware of her connection to Irish nobility. I have recently found, in the British Peerage, a string of Richard Aldworths between 1629 and 1899 in County Cork, Ireland, there being no other concentrations of that family name in Ireland. Philip Hope remembers an Aldworth family story which tells of ancestors coming over with William the Conqueror in 1066.
William Smith, Jane Westell’s (b.1815) grandfather, lived at Garlands Farm. A family story has his initials carved on a table there. (This is from a family anecdote – I have not included him on the chart, since I can find no records.) Garlands farm was later settled by Daniel West (b. 1856) and is now the home of Peter & Joe West. William had a cousin Percy Smith who “by his will…1884 bequested 5,000 pounds for the establishment and maintenance of a cottage hospital for Wantage and neighbourhood, including particularly East Hanney and Letcombe Basset.”. There is reportedly a plaque in the hospital commemorating these gifts. Photo above: The Wests at Venn Mill – 1890 – Counter clockwise from bottom left: Elsie, Grandpa, W.W.W., Molly Will, Emma, Sarah, Eleanor (Will’s wife)
THE SECOND GENERATION
James West 1789-1857 was born at East Hagbourne and after marrying Mary moved to Aston Tirrold where according to United Reformed Church records, a daughter Ann died in infancy in 1817. The parish records tell us that Daniel was born in 1813 and William in 1815 (dying in 1829). The birth of subsequent siblings are recorded at Blewbury where the family moved after 1815: John b.1818, Martha b.1820 (had an “illegitimate” daughter Elizabeth in 1840), Joseph b.1823 and James 1825-1827 and the death of James’ wife Mary was recorded in that same year, 1827. The cramped quarters of the Mill must have been quite relieved by an addition to the mill. James’ son Daniel was by his first wife Mary. His daughter Susannah and another son “James” who died in infancy, was by his second marriage to a widow named Susannah Street, née Witherall ((b.1798). According to family tradition, she had 2 sons by a previous marriage.
William Westell 1778-1869 – was a prosperous saddle and harness maker in Steventon. His first wife, Christian, died in 1817 and his second wife in 1845. His land was usurped by the Great Western Railroad in the 1830s.
George and Mary Whiting (b. 1771): There is a family story that George Whiting signed away his inheritance to “false friends” while “under the influence”.
George and Lydia Long (b. ca. 1790): This branch of the family may have lived at Chalgrove and Stadhampton, Oxfordshire, until the end of the 19th century, when they moved to East Hanney and Garford.
THE THIRD GENERATION
Daniel West (b. 1813) must have had a difficult time after the death of his mother Mary and his infant brother James in 1827 followed by the death of his 14 year old brother in 1829 and his father James’s re-marriage to Susannah. Family history has it that she brought two sons from a previous marriage into the family. Daniel apparently didn’t get on with his step-brothers. One story tells of him glueing the hair of one of them to a bed-post as he slept. Daniel left Blewbury Mill sometime after 1830 to go to Abingdon. The next record we have of him is the 1841 census which puts him with his new bride Jane and her father in Steventon. The 1851 census shows him at Hine’s Mill in Grove as “a lodger” as the family was still in Steventon. In 1881 the census shows him at Hine’s Mill with Jane and his grandson (William Westell West’s eldest son) Will, his own children having grown and moved on. He is buried with Jane in the Grove Chapel churchyard.
Jane Westell (b. 1815), from Steventon, was originally engaged to marry a “gentleman of means”. After going to Abingdon Chapel with her father and meeting Daniel, she decided it was right to give up the wealthy worldly gentleman to marry “Christian” Daniel. Not surprisingly, Jane’s father, William Westell was offended by Jane’s decision to marry “chapel-going Daniel”. Percy (b. 1877) remembers his grandmother as a Lady with lovely hands.
Jane and Daniel lived in Abingdon after they were married. As a father, Daniel was very strict. He would not allow the girls to have dolls as his fundamentalist religion forbade “graven images”. Jane’s step-mother died in 1845 and her father insisted (even though he had two other daughters who could do it) that Jane look after the house in Steventon. As a result, Daniel had to work during the week at Hanney Lower Mill and later at Hine’s Mill in Grove, returning weekends to Steventon, where most of the family including William Westell West (b.1847) was born.
William Aldworth (b. 1818) married Emma Whiting in 1842. Family tradition has it that the Aldworth & Whiting families were originally quite well-to-do. As a girl, Emma had her own ponies. Emma died fairly young in 1857. William re-married to Mary Ann Piggot. In 1925, Philip Aldworth West (Uncle Phil) visited England and Jack Ireson remembers him driving him as a young boy to visit “Uncle John” in Brightwalton. He sub-sequently remembers Jack and Phil’s later visit with brother Jack in 1981 and a visit to Bright Walton to inquire about an Uncle. It is possible hat this was John Aldworth, however. Mary Irish believes that he died in Nottingham.
Susannah West (b. 1810) married Henry Prior, (illegitimate) son of John Prior in 1852. He and his sons ran the Blewbury Mill into the early 20th century. A daughter, Miss Prior, lived at the mill until 1956. Mary Irish visited her before she died.
THE FOURTH GENERATION
William Westell West (b. 1847) was born in Steventon in 1847. In 1858, aged 11, he was installed as Mill Manager by his father Daniel (b. 1813) along with his eldest sister Fanny, aged 15, as a housekeeper, at lower Grove Mill (now demolished), where W.W. also supervised a miller and a carter. There were several harsh winters in those years and young William had to get up at 3 AM to break the ice so that the water could flow to run the mill. William and Fanny were given 16 shillings a week for housekeeping and buying clothes. The census of 1861 confirms that he and Fanny were still there in that year. He was for 25 years “Guardian of the Poor” for Abingdon District (1885-1910). This meant that he served on a committee which decided who would and who would not go to the workhouse (a 19th century British institution which took care of the indigent and infirm, including many retired people). W.W.W. worked particularly hard to keep husbands and wives from being separated in these institutions (as was the custom). 1993 Venn Mill owner: Alan Stoyel had early twentieth century Guardian of the Poor records in W.W.’s hand (along with a piece of wood from Venn Mill with “Percy” carved on it). W.W.W. was also an overseer and school manager, travelling on foot or by tricycle. In 1905, he went to Reading, leaving Grandpa John in charge of Venn Mill. In 1907 at age 47, he became a preacher and became the pastor at the Ebeneezer Strict Baptist Chapel at Heathfield, Sussex. He died in 1924 and is buried in the Strict Baptist Chapel churchyard in Heathfield. W.W.W. married Sarah Aldworth on Boxing Day, 1868, and they lived and worked at the Ham Mill, part of a large manor near Wantage, until 1869, when they moved to Venn Mill.
Sarah’s family had been well-to-do as a child but poor later. She was a great herbalist. Her recipe for yarrow tea, from Dr. Coffin’s herb book, was so noxious that the children refused to admit when they had a cold. Grandpa John, asked later if he still used it, said “No, I had enough for 3 generations.” (Click to see Sarah’s Page) Her will is an elaborate list of pieces of furniture and a tea service bequested specifically to each of the children, which consisted of a “headless dragon tea set service” in equal parts to the four girls. The remainder of the furniture was divided among the children. Interestingly the last clause in the will states that the remainder of the estate will be divided among the four daughters, Heber and Fred (none to Asher, Will, Grandpa John or Percy).
Daniel West, (b. 1856) WWW’s brother, married Catherine, who died early at age 37. They lived and worked at the Hanney Mill in East Hanney. On a Sunday in the late 1880’s or early 1990’s, while visiting at Venn Mill, one of Daniel and Catherine’s daughters was shot and killed in a gun accident by one of the Venn Mill boys. Understandably, this caused great grief and a rift between the two families. Equally understandably the story has not been talked about and is virtually unknown in the Canadian branch of the family. Another family story tells of one mill diverting water so that the downstream mill could not operate. The stories are possibly connected. Daniel retired from milling after dust affected his health and began farming at Garlands Farm, West Challow as a tenant farmer. One son, Charlie, emigrated to Canada, running the marina at Maple Bay, B.C. for a time before dying in the Veteran’s hospital in Victoria in the early 80’s.
Roseamelia, (b. 1853) WWW’s sister, married Martin Shepherd, living and raising a large family in West Hanney.“They had a bakery where the old Post Office is now, but his round was a small, local one.
Philip & Harriet Long (Grandpa John’s “in-laws”) The Long family seem to have come from Chalford and Stadhampton in Oxfordshire, not appearing on the census rolls of Garford or Hanney area until the census of 1881 which lists Philip and Harriet Long, with family Charles at 10 years of age, George – 6, Emma (Grandma West) – 4, Florence – 2, Alice -1, and Nellie at 10 months. Philip was a Baker and Coal Merchant “who baked old-fashioned top-and-bottom loaves, usually burnt black but crusty and very sweet. They were so popular that his round went out to Lyford and Southmoor”. They seem to have been members of the West Hanney Church, as their prominent gravestones indicate. They appear to have deferred to the West family’s Strict Baptist tradition in allowing the wedding of their daughter to Grandpa to take place outside of their church. Grandpa and Grandmas’ wedding certificate says “Grove Particular Baptist Chapel”.
Mr. & Mrs. William Long (b. 1847) (William was Philip’s brother) were another prosperous family. They had the Manor Farm which has a chapel in the farmyard in Garford Village, one mile away from Venn Mill over fields in which there is an ancient barrow (burial mound). Percy remembers Mr. Long as a kindly man who gave grand suppers for many friends and family at the end of the harvest. Enid Ireson remembers stories of soirées given in a large room in the Garford Manor. Eva Neville, who married George Long and their daughter Mabel were gifted performers and musicians, who performed at these events, the latter being particularly skilled at elocution.
THE FIFTH GENERATION:
William & Sarah’s family at Venn Mill 1869-1910.
Firstborn William (Will) was born in 1869 at the Ham, Wantage. He travelled to Canada in 1885 at 16. Percy remembers letters which described him getting lost in the wilderness and lighting three bonfires to stave off the wolves. Needless to say, mother Sarah and the family were very worried. W.W.W. sent him money to come home, which he did shortly thereafter. He married Eleanor (Nell) Winter and lived at Marcham Mill. Later, he lived at Drayton, were he was in charge of a large pig farm. Mary Irish remembers visiting a wonderful earthy old man with a broad Berkshire brogue. Both Will & younger sister Molly had severe glaucoma and were virtually blind at the end of their lives.
Emma Jane, born in 1871, went to Miss Bailey’s School in Wantage, as did Mary and later Mary Irish . Miss Bailey was a Lady much beloved by many generations of girls and women in that area. As the eldest daughter, Emma was somewhat of a second mother in the family. She was known for her work with the sick and is remembered as a kind older sister who loved to cycle around the countryside. She was with Molly at Horsham for a while and then served a lady in Sussex for a number of years. She died in 1940 and is buried at the Strict Baptist Chapel at Heathfield, Sussex.
Asher, born in 1873, was, among other things, a popular singer and whistler, singing in local concerts (to the disapproval of his strict baptist parents ). Asher was also reported to have “had the education” but his tendency to “talk Berkshire” and not pursue his education would not have helped his status in the family. He does not appear at Venn Mill in the 1891 census, so he must have left home by the age of 17. The “black sheep” of the family, he married Mary (Polly) – reportedly from a family unacceptable to William and Sarah, and moved to Ceylon, Saskatchewan in 1905 and to Panorama Ridge in Surrey, B.C. in the early 1930s. Mary was reportedly a real “live wire”. She played piano well, giving her piano to niece Elsie before she died in 1936. In his later years, Asher had a companion (Hilda) who lived across the street. Although she was rarely around on the occasions when the family visited, she was obviously a good friend, and in spite of the some members of the family’s view of this as “scandalous”, she was a great support to him until his death in 1972.
Frederick, born in 1876, married Minnie Simmons. In 1920, he left England for Canada, leaving his wife and infant son in England (causing understandable consternation within the family). He lived in Edmonton and later farmed in Langley Prairie, B.C. A quiet man, he rarely visited Grandpa’s family in Vancouver, although Grandpa went out to visit him on occasion. He died in 1945 and is buried in Ocean View Burial Park, Vancouver. (click for letter to England in 1939)
Percy, born in 1877, went to Grove School until he had learned as much as he could from the teachers. He helped out teaching the younger children for a time and at thirteen, wanting to get on with his life, he took a job as a grocer’s assistant. Father William put a stop to this and apprenticed him to an engineering pattern maker. His artistic skills are seen in this pencil drawing, a self portrait:
He was planning to travel to Canada with Grandpa John, but after getting his passport, he changed his mind at the last minute. He remembers father W.W.W. passing him in the hall and saying “take a return ticket, boy!” He married Letitia Oldacre and they had Mary (later “Irish”) in 1904. He was a pattern maker at Nalder’s works in West Challow, near Wantage, until 1913 when, for health reasons, he took a poultry farm. He returned to pattern making in about 1930, retiring in 1943. After Letitia’s death in 1951, he re-married to Miriam Smith. Percy only remembered one occasion in which the entire family was together at Venn Mill. Percy died in 1975 and is buried in Grove Strict Baptist Chapel Churchyard with his second wife Miriam. (Click for recording of Percy telling stories).
Elsie was born in 1879 and went to school in Nottingham, living with Uncle John and Aunt Esther Aldworth. John was the head of the tram system in Nottingham at the end of the 19th C. Elsie became a successful businesswoman who owned 3 businesses (millinery, dresses, draperies) in Guildford. In 1850, she sold her businesses & became involved with the CAWG (Christian Alliance of Women and Girls), living and acting in various administrative posts in these institutions in England and Wales. She spent her last years with Ruth in Heathfield, Sussex and then in Eastbourne, reaching her 100th birthday in 1979.
The family archives, in my possession, contain a message of greeting from Queen Elizabeth on that occasion. She died that same year and is buried in the Heathfield Strict Baptist Chapel churchyard.
John (Grandpa) born in 1881 – (see separate article)
Mary (Molly) born in 1884, also went to Miss Bailey’s school in Wantage and later to Nottingham. She was a clever milliner and had a shop in Horsham creating window displays and wedding displays. She lived in Reading, later in Horsham with Emma and for a period including the second world war, she lived on the top floor of the beautiful Manor House in Mayfield, Sussex. She filled it with antiques and Mary Irish remembers spending vacations with her there. She lived in Grove until she died in 1965 and is buried in the Strict Baptist Chapel churchyard at Heathfield, Sussex.
Heber was born in 1886. He and Ruth (below) were great friends. Ruth was lame from birth and Heber took great care of her. Heber went to Canada first around 1910, returning to England to join the Imperial Army in the first world war. After the war, he obtained some farmland through the Soldier’s Settlement Plan in the Peace River area, met and married Ellen Victoria Lawrence (Aunt Vic) in 1918 and had two children: Ruth (Arlet) in 1920, and after moving to Vancouver in 1922, Robert in 1924. In 1927 or ’28, mother Victoria left home and never returned. Edna took the children to her in Calgary from Vancouver a year later. Heber lived in Vancouver until he died in 1944. According to Arlet (Ruth), he never saw his wife or children again. He worked as a postman and spent his time with Grandpa John and the family, always hoping that some day he would be reunited with his family. He is buried in the Soldiers’ Plot of Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver.
Ruth, born in 1890, went to school in Guildford, living with Elsie and later working in her business for a time. She then lived with and helped out her mother Sarah. She married John Cook in 1933 and lived in Heathfield, Sussex, reaching her 100th birthday in 1990. The family archives also contain a message of greeting from Queen Elizabeth on that occasion. She died that same year and is buried with her parents and sisters in the Heathfield Strict Baptist Chapel churchyard.
Telegram from Queen Elizabeth to Auntie Ruth