Earlier Ancestors

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The white horse of Uffington

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.


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)


Blewbury Mill

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.  Later, his grandson William Westell West was involved in a legal dispute over these lands.

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.


Daniel & Jane’s grave at Grove Chapel

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 where he met Jane.  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 WestellJane 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 (our great great grandfather)

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.


William Westell West & Sarah Aldworth (click for their page)

Hanney Mill

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 in West Challow as a tenant farmer, founding a dynasty of 4 generations of Wests there.  Charlie West, one of Daniel’s son, 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.  He is described as a very independent young man who left home early in his life, returning home to collect his inheritance and going right back to Canada, losing the inheritance in a very short time. Another son, Daniel (b. 1856) was injured by a Great Western Railway train and was in court several times seeking redress from the railroad.  This is perhaps the court case in which his brother William Westell West participated against the railway – though it was more likely pertaining to the  land of his mother Jane in Steventon, which has been expropriated by the Great West Railway.

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.

The Shepherd Family

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) (Probably not related to Philip) were another prosperous family in the area.  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.

Garford Manor House
Garford Manor House