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Foxearth & District History Society – Report of Meeting, 13th November

At the meeting of the Foxearth and District Local History Society on 13th November  President  Ashley Cooper took a record attendance of about 40 members and guests through 8 centuries highlighting the Heroes, Villains and Colourful Events that made “the news” in Essex and Suffolk in those years. Throughout his talk Ashley fired questions at the audience rewarding each correct answer with a commemorative postcard and introducing a competitive element by making it a boys versus girls contest. In an impressive display of memory I think the ladies just had the edge but it was a close run thing.

Taking as his starting point the birth of Simon of Sudbury in c1316 Ashley described the rise of this local lad to become Archbishop of Canterbury (crowning Richard 11)  and Chancellor of England  in 1380. He was beheaded the following year having been dragged to the Tower of London by leaders of the peasants who held him responsible for their misfortunes by introducing a poll tax. After being impaled on London Bridge Simon’s head was  placed in St Gregory’s Church Sudbury where – so the story goes – an unscrupulous verger would sell Simon’s teeth to visitors; later excavations on the site revealed numerous toothless skulls!  Another resident of the Tower- where he died – was a squire of Borley who held a banned catholic mass.  Edwardstone saw the birth in 1587 of John Winthrop, a Puritan lawyer who led a group of colonists to the New World and became the first governor of Massachusetts in 1629. Still in the 17th century Ashley mentioned the notorious Hadleigh gang of smugglers, numbering about 100, who brought mainly horses but also spirits and tea  ashore at Sizewell. Their leader, John Harvey, served 7 years in Newgate prison before being transported.

One could not discuss great figures of Sudbury without including the famous artist,Thomas Gainsborough  (baptised 1727)  about whom the Society had a memorable lecture in 2017. Rather less is generally known about two of his brothers. Humphry Gainsborough – some 9 years older than Thomas – who was a minister of religion, an engineer and an inventor, credited with inventing the drill plough. Another brother, John, known as scheming Jack ,was also an inventor who made copper wings in an unsuccessful attempt to fly and several other improbable bits of apparatus. Both left their mark on Sudbury’s history. The list continued … in 1821 there was Henry Frost who sold his wife in a Suffolk pub, and in 1834 George Smith was transported to Australia for stealing 3 hens.

Nearer to home Ashley referred some to 20th century heroes – Major Bernard Ward MC of the Royal Flying Corps and Foxearth, killed in action in 1917,  Private Samuel Harvey of Ipswich who earned a posthumous VC at the Battle of Loos – and Sue Ryder, born 1924, who came to prominence in World War 2 and who set up the Sue Ryder Foundation in Cavendish. Finally Ashley recalled Tom Hastie, who died in 2012 and who is fondly remembered for his  pioneering research work in the early days of the Society which formed the basis for our now so well-regarded web site. No apparent villains in modern times

Ashley illustrated his talk with numerous paintings  of agricultural and village scenes by local artist, Ben Perkins, which superbly captured the essence of the periods. He was warmly thanked by Secretary Clare Mathieson and enthusiastically applauded by the appreciative audience

Ken Nice

 

Foxearth and District Local History Society – 9th October 2018

“Who am I?” was the intriguing question around which Clare-based, Kelly Cornwell built her talk to the Foxearth and District Local History Society on Tuesday, 9th October. Sixteen members showed their warm appreciation of Kelly’s expertise and enthusiasm at the end of her detailed description of the processes of researching one’s family tree and discovering perhaps some surprising facts about one’s ancestors. From a show of hands it appeared that at least half of her audience had done some historical delving into the past and Kelly gave some valuable advice to those wishing to approach the subject.

Clarity about what you want to find out is the starting point. Recollections of relatives – especially older ones – can lead to lines of enquiry. Documents such as wills, baptism, marriage and death certificates give reliable information, although a word of caution here is relevant; it is not uncommon for a person to be known – perhaps for all their life -  by a name quite different from that shown on official documents so verifying a suspect fact before proceeding may prevent an excursion into a blind alley! Old photographs are often very useful particularly if a name, place or date is written on the back.The list of sources goes on and on including newspaper accounts, parish registers, censuses- and, if you feel like a wander, gravestones. Local Records Offices are usually very helpful. These are all possible avenues to explore off line but when it comes to searching via the computer there is a multitude of helpful web sites – some of which are completely free. Kelly demonstrated the access to some of these.Why not take up the challenge or if you would rather engage an expert to do the job for you then Kelly runs a consultancy service and over the last 14 years has achieved some impressive and highly praised results. (htpp/www.whoamifamilytreeresearch.co.uk)

Kelly told us of some of her research into her own ancestry and gave a delightful account of an aunt  who, some generations ago, was convicted of “borrowing” a gown and some jewellery from an employer for a night out. For this she was sentenced to transportation to Tasmania where her colourful career apparently continued – so, as I understand does the research!  This was a most interesting and enjoyable evening. Kelly fielded a large number of questions demonstrating the keen interest she generated.

Secretary Clare Mathieson reminded members of the arrangement for the annual dinner (The George, Cavendish, Tuesday 11th December) for which menus are available and deposits due. She also asked that members give some thought to topics, visits they would like to see included in 2019 and future programmes.

Next meeting: Tuesday 13th November at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when President Ashley Cooper will discuss Heroes, Villains and Colourful events in our Local History.

Ken Nice

Foxearth and District Local History Society Meeting Report – 11/9/18

About 25 members gathered at a meeting of the district society in Foxearth Village Hall on Tuesday 11th September to hear Dr Richard Young talk about the Victorian observatory dome  and   telescope on the top of the Athenaeum Club building in Bury St Edmunds. Although the town is not short of historical features the presence of the observatory was not widely known until the Club – which owns the observatory – decided in 2015 to launch a project for its restoration seeking to raise intially £6,000. The purpose of the project is to preserve a rare piece of astronomical history, show to the public views of the stars and to teach their location. Dr Young, Founder and Chairman of the enterprise described, with many photographic examples, the work involved with the first priority being the repair of the access stairs to the dome. In its present form the Athenaem building dates from 1789 with the dome being added after the Astronomer Royal, George Airy,  had given a talk on Donati’s comet which was then – in 1858 -  causing great excitement to local sky watchers. Rev. Lord Arthur Hervey was President of  the Athenaeum Society and a leader in the dynamic scientific community who added his weight to the movement for a dome.

The restoration will include a complete overhaul of the telescope which was made by the 19th century renowned firm of instrument makers – Troughton and Simms. It is a 4 inch retractor with a magnification capacity of between 30X and 300X and complete dismantlement, cleaning and re-assembly will be necessary to ensure its valued use for generations to come.

Dr. Young also talked about the rare sundial situated in the Abbey gardens.  The dial is on the side and at the top of a tall stone column – a Victorian drinking fountain -and dates from 1870 when it was given to the people of the town by the 3rd Marquess of Bristol. It is thought to be possibly the earliest example of a dial which allowed people to set their clocks by Greenwich mean time. Many photographs showed the details of the apparatus and the various astronomical inscriptions and calculations it bears.

This was a fascinating insight into a hitherto unexplored aspect of local history which generated a large number of questions and earned a warm response for Dr Young.

Secretary Clare Mathieson informed members that a reservation had been made for the Annual Dinner of the Society on Tuesday 11th December at the George, Cavendish. Members will shortly receive the menu and booking and deposit details.

Next meeting: Tuesday 9th October 7.30pm when Kelly Cornwell will talk about investigating your family history.

Ken Nice