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Week 30: The Old Country

Because we moved around a lot when I was small, it wasn’t until I was about 7 years old that we settled in one place when my parents bought a new build bungalow in Rockdale Drive, Grayshott. Four years later they moved on to nearby Headley and then on to Leicestershire, by which time I was teaching in Shottermill and living in a bedsit on the London side of the Hindhead crossroads. Although I spent my secondary school years away at school in Lyme Regis and then at college in Chichester, via a “gap year” in Hong Kong, that is the area which I know best and little did I know then, it is the area of a quarter of my paternal roots.

OS Old Series Hampshire 1810s

I had written in my blog about my relocation to West Sussex and the coincidences I have since found with the places where my paternal ancestors lived in Genetic memories …. or just coincidence? As I had got further back in my tree, it looked as though I might have ancestors from the parish of Headley – the Hampshire one – in the late 1600s/early 1700s. The parish includes several hamlets; Standford, Arford, Headley Down, Barford, Wishanger. Sleaford, Trottsford, and part of Hollywater and at that time, also included Grayshott. Lindford and part of Bordon.

Rockdale c1959

While researching for this article, I came across Pat Nightingale’s Memoir. It was fascinating reading since I remember her sister Maureen and their parents very well. We must have moved to Rockdale at about the same time and I am fairly sure that Maureen is in this picture along with me, my brother and two of her brothers. She moved on to secondary school a year before me and soon afterwards we left Grayshott – I have a vague memory of being told that they went to Australia, whether that was before or after we left Grayshott, I don’t remember. In those days we were able to spend all day roaming in the woods, coming back when it was time to eat. The village was surrounded with woods and heathland with ponds and good climbing trees and we could explore for miles, travelling through the Golden Valley and up towards the Devils Punchbowl.

When we first went to the village, I was able to walk up the road to the classroom annexe of the village school in the Village Hall where  Miss Miles was in charge. I have vague memories of long division, lumpy custard, scratchy pens and having to sing with my arms hooked over the back of the chair and Miss Miles always calling me Frances. I wasn’t with that class long and soon after, I was moved to the main buildings of the school at the other end of the village. Many years later as a student summer job, I taught foreign students who had come over to learn English in that same village hall classroom. One of my teachers then who encouraged me to play the piano and started my love for singing and music, later turned out to be my supervisor when I was doing my final teaching practice at The Herbert Shiner in Petworth – a small world!!

One of my favourite places in the village was also in the village hall – the library. There were two halls – the library was in the smaller of the two and The Grayshott Stagers performed in the large hall which had a stage. Both my mother and I appeared on stage with the Stagers. In Surprise match, I have written about discovering lately through DNA that we are distantly related to Les Larkham, one of the leading lights of the Stagers. The village hall was also the focus of organisations like the WI which my mother also became involved with, as well as Brownies and Guides which we were both involved with.

Names which have popped up in my tree are familiar from my time at Grayshott School and later living in Headley. They aren’t uncommon names at all, but maybe one of them will also test out their DNA, although the match will be so far back that with the recent announcement of the changes which Ancestry is about to make, we may never find each other now. They are local names which feature strongly in the parish registers as hosted by John Owen Smith – Boxall, Hawkins, Hudson and Coombs (in various spellings) are names I remember well.

My bedsit from 1972-1976 was above an antique shop, Albany Antiques, on the London Road going towards the Punchbowl. The postcard, from about 1910, shows my dormer windows in the roof quite clearly above the woman standing alone in the centre of the picture. In 1901 and 1911 it looks as though the building was a general store. The building between there and the Post Office was a tea and luncheon room then and was a restaurant when I was there. I would wait for the bus towards Shottermill outside what was then the Hindhead Huts Hotel and buy my magazines in the corner shop which was once the Post Office.

Although the building I lived in is still there today, what was once a very busy and noisy crossroads has changed immensely since the building of the A3 tunnel, as has the whole area.  Instead of the constant background noise of the lorries heading north and south waiting at the traffic lights, the road is now closed off and has been grassed over now.

The crossroads at Hindhead is probably important in my family’s history too. Going north and turning left at the crossroads takes you eventually to Farnham and Odiham and turning right would take you over the border to Sussex where yet more putative relations are to be found. Going south towards Portsmouth, you get to Bramshott and further south to the Clanfield area. One of my direct ancestors, Joseph Hart, was a coachman based in Farnham – he must have known the crossroads well, travelling towards London or Portsmouth many times, braving the highwayman while travelling across Hindhead Common.

In the 17th century, the route around Hindhead was a particularly hazardous one, with highwaymen lying in wait to ambush unsuspecting travellers as they made their way down the Portsmouth Road. Such was the reputation of Hindhead Common in those days, many travellers actually wrote their wills before setting out on their journey.

I had no idea whatsoever when I was living and working there of all these connections with my paternal roots. The people from the villages in the surrounding area met, married and intermarried until their descendant George Albert Lewcock, who was born 1842 in Farnham and was my great x2 paternal grandfather, left for London where he met his wife who was from St Ives, Huntingdonshire.

FURTHER READING

Grayshott Heritage

Wikiwand: Grayshott

Headley by the Wey

Headley Village

Hindhead Crossroads

Hindhead tunnel

Old Hampshire Mapped

The Grayshott Stagers

Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl

 

Week 27: Solo – choice or circumstance?

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Week 10: Strong Woman

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Week 15: From Fire to Form

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Week 24: Handed Down

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Week 23: Wedding

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Week 16: Air

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Week 9: Disaster

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Schooldays

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