Tag Archives: family history

I Feel Rather Stupid – To Post Or Not To Post?

 

Leading up to Castle Rising.

The reason I feel stupid is that I travelled for just over two hours by car to Castle Rising in Norfolk and spent less than twenty minutes in the castle itself.  Before we go any further, I have to state that Castle Rising is a wonderful place to visit and I would certainly recommend it to anybody.  So, if indeed it is such a good spot to visit, why did I only spend twenty minutes in the castle itself?  I believe I have a bit of explaining to do.

At the moment, I am working on a supernatural novel set in Victorian times called Mulgrave Castle.  I have been working on this, on and off, for a number of years.  At one point, I actually got rid of the supernatural element and decided to have it as a detective story.  The reason for this was that whilst writing it, strange things happened and it spooked me.  I have had a number of supernatural experiences in the past and I find them hard to believe and on occasions have been frightened, I am a sceptic but know what I have seen, heard and felt.

A short while ago, when I decided to go back to working on Mulgrave Castle, I decided that it would be what it had set out to be – a supernatural story.  I resolved that instead of cowardly hiding from the supernatural world, I would do lots of research and find out more instead of closing it firmly out.  This is how I ended up at Castle Rising.

At the same time, my son and I have been doing a lot of family history.  This has brought up some surprises which makes me question why I am sensitive to supernatural experiences even though I have always tried to block them out.  Whilst looking up family history in Lancashire, I stumbled upon MJ Wayland’s (author, paranormal explorer and relic hunter) website www.mywayland.com  In one post, he writes about the most haunted families in Lancashire.  As I read the names the Singletons, the Osbaldestons and the Southworths – I realised that I am descended from all these families.   I will explain further on why I am mentioning these three families.

English: Isabella of France, wife of Edward II...

English: Isabella of France, wife of Edward II of England. From http://www.william1.co.uk/pg1.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Further research discovered that Isabella of France is my 21st great grandmother, for those who are not au fait with her, she is otherwise known as She Wolf for allegedly being involved in the murder of her husband, Edward II.  Castle Rising in Norfolk is where Isabella was under house arrest for many years.  It has been said that she haunts the castle and people have heard her hysterical laughter.  The genealogical line which I followed to get from myself to Isabella involves the families Singleton, Osbaldeston and Southworth from Lancashire.  Are certain genealogical lines more susceptible to hauntings than others?

English: Castle Rising Castle. By William M. C...

English: Castle Rising Castle. By William M. Connolley; 2006/11. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we love visiting castles, we decided to go to visit Castle Rising.  I have to point out that I sincerely did not want the story of Isabella laughing hysterically to be true.  Ancestor or not, the thought of souls who cannot rest in peace leaves me feeling desolate.  I wanted to visit the castle and enjoy it purely for its history minus any supernatural incidents.  So not only am I a sceptic who needs proof of supernatural phenomena, I also think deeply about what some of these stories actually mean if they are true.

Do these creatures guard Castle Rising?

So we arrived at Castle Rising and had a very civilised picnic in the grass covered car park and used the exceptionally clean and well looked after lavatories.   After putting away our chairs and picnic basket, we sauntered down to the castle.  We decided to walk where the battlements would have been first to take in the magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.  After a few minutes, I started to feel unsure of my footing even though I had no need to.  We left the battlements and went into the castle.  By the time I had climbed the first lot of steps, I felt decidedly ill.  I felt so hot my head was pounding and I felt as if I had a huge lump of something in my right ear.  It was a hot day but we were in the cool darkness of the castle.  I complained about how hot I was and my son said that I was standing in what was once the fireplace.  I hadn’t realised as I felt too uncomfortable to read any information signs.

I was trying desperately to feel well as I didn’t want to spoil the visit for the rest of the party.  I looked out and saw a bridge and I heard myself saying that I could not go across the bridge; no one could make me go across the bridge.  I was aware that I sounded like a petulant child but at that point fear was a stronger emotion than shame.  My family asked if I wanted to leave as I looked on the verge of having a palpitation attack.  We hurriedly made our exit.

Within minutes of getting into the car, I was well again.  My son asked me why I was so afraid of going across the bridge.  I told him that at that point, I knew that if I went on that bridge, it would collapse underneath me.  He said that the floor had collapsed around that area in the 16th century.  I had been too unwell to read the wall plaques when I was in there.  The suggestion could be that my eye maybe had quickly skimmed it or I had read about it and not remembered.  The only problem with that theory is that I did not do much reading about the castle before I went to it once I had read about Isabella supposedly haunting it as I did not want any suggestions of anything which have happened implanting itself in my brain.  The other problem with the theory that I might have briefly seen the wall plaque or read about the floor collapsing was that I was truly petrified and I have been to many places where things have happened but they didn’t have that effect upon me.  Nobody would drive all that way on a family day and leave so quickly if not made to do so.

A way to make a quick exit.

Also, it left me feeling really stupid, it has taken me almost two weeks to write about it – in fact, I almost didn’t write about it because it seems too silly for words.  I will be going back; firstly, I am so annoyed with myself because none of us got to really see it and explore.  Luckily, my son had the sense to get some quick photographs before we left.  The other reason I will return is my curiosity – will I be able to overcome my fear of what looks like a perfectly safe bridge?

 

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Filed under Mulgrave Castle - Harriet Twine the Saucy, Strange Stories

Six Great Reasons To Do Family History With Kids.

I love family history, I get to be the detective, I couldn’t be in reality.  I have been doing it with my son since he was about nine.  He is now a grown up and does it without me as he is crazy about history and has got a deep interest in particular families he has discovered we are descended from.  This isn’t a post about how to do family history – there are many great books and articles out there to help.  This is a post which explains a few of the reasons why it is good to share it with our children.

My great grandmother, Alice Escritt.

History becomes a reality.  When our children do history at school, it is always other people’s history.  It might be about monarchy, political leaders or wars.  It is nearly always about the folks who are known by many but actually connected to a few.  When anything is covered about the ordinary folks it can seem as bland as my cooking.  Growing up in Lancashire, we covered the cotton industry in history at school.  I remember wishing aliens would come and cause chaos as Mr Hall droned on about the warp and the weft.  Oh how that man knew how to kill any interest in The Industrial Revolution –  that in itself was a talent.  However, much as I would love to indulge myself in remembering Mr Hall’s secret educational weapons, I won’t.  When we look at our ancestor’s lives during these periods, we truly get a sense of reality, especially in periods which cover the censuses.  For instance, finding out that your great grandmother shared one room with ten other people and had to go into the street to get drinking water, really makes us think about the reality and hardships of their lives.  Family history brings history to life for children because it is about folks they are directly connected to, people whom they share DNA with.  It doesn’t get more personal than that.

Family History Mormons

Family History Mormons (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Research skills.  Whilst having lunch with a teacher friend of mine, we decided that one of the most important skills a child can learn is to be able to research well.  Family history is a  productive way of doing this.  Children love to discover something about their ancestors and then grandly announce it to their parents.  When my son discovered that he had a 10X great grandmother called Frances Poo, he adored breaking the news.  Of course, I thought he was joking and had to check it.  He was right, of course.  The point is that family history makes children feel like real live detectives.  The more they find, the deeper they wish to go.  It is amazing how much this aids their research skills whilst having fun.

Francis Poo

England, Marriages, 1538–1973

marriage: 24 Jan 1598 Pocklington, York, England
spouse: William Fallowfyeld

Bonding process.  In this day and age, it is all too easy for families to be in the same house and yet not really be connecting with each other.  A lot of the time, families are all doing their own thing, even watching television programmes is done in separate rooms these days.  This is where family history really helps us bond with our children.  There is something really powerful about the moment your child and yourself discover something fantastic or heart breaking about a shared relative.  It is potent and strange and something which they could not get with friends, neighbours or anyone except the family.  When I first discovered that a great grandfather of mine had spent the last twenty years of his life in a lunatic asylum –I was totally shocked.  I was new to family history and it was the first of many sad or brilliant shocks which were to come.  The only people I could share it with, initially, were my son and my mother – both of whom were from the same ancestor.

Ashton-under-Lyne old hall

Ashton-under-Lyne old hall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Days Out.  Sometimes, it is hard to think of something new to do with our kids or even somewhere different to go.  We often seem to do the same activities and visit the same places.  We’ve had some great days out though visiting the places where our ancestors lived.  It can be good fun to take photos of the children in front of the church where their ancestors got married two hundred years earlier or even just discovering a market town which your ancestors lived in but you haven’t been to before.  I found a fabulous pair of Punch and Judy doorstops for £5 in an antique shop whilst visiting one of the market towns my ancestors once lived. in  Although saying that, it can sometimes backfire.  We visited some record offices in Ashton Under Lyne in Lancashire – that was fine.  We then planned to find an address where some of our ancestors had lived in the early 1800s.  It had turned into a monstrously busy road with huge trucks zooming up and down it. It made me totally stressed so I really do not know what my 4X great grandfather and grandmother would have made of it if they had travelled forward in time.

Meeting Wonderful New Relatives.  We all have an amazing number of ancestors, so logically that means we are related to an amazing number of people whom we have never met.  We were lucky enough to be found by a wonderful Australian lady whose great grandmother was sister to my great grandmother.  When she came to England, she brought her husband and children to meet us and we all had a rare old knees up together.  My son found lovely new cousins whom he bonded with immediately.  It makes family history become real for children when they get to meet the descendants of people who are simply names and numbers on family trees.

Lancashire

Lancashire (Photo credit: Neil T)

Logic and Maths. When children do family history, they have to do lots of mathematical calculations and estimates.  It isn’t the hardest maths in the world but it means lots of practise with basic maths in a productive way instead of filling in one maths worksheet after another.  In the same way, they have to work in a logical manner.  Finding out about our ancestors means working methodically backwards and making sure all the facts fit.  We cannot start in the middle, we have to be systematic and it becomes a habit.  Children who take part in family history projects become adept at careful note-taking and fact checking.  They have to do the maths to make sure that what they have discovered is both logical and correct.

Happy hunting!

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Filed under Education, For children, For Teens, Parenting, The Peculiar Past

Inspiration and Us – Homosexuality and Blackmail in 1808!

Inspiration and Us – Can a time inspire us?

Loony Literature thrives on inspiring others.  We like to share our experiences with you, in the hope that, in turn, you might also be inspired to write something of your own.  We like to use Literature as a springboard for our own creations, this does not mean that it always has to be fiction that we write.  Literature can inspire articles too. In this post we go off on a creative tangent.  We hope you enjoy the journey and feel compelled to do something yourself after reading this.

At the moment we are working on a play inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.   I have been intrigued by Mary Shelley’s life and it set me off wondering what my own ancestors were doing around about that time.  I imagined that compared to Mary and Percy Shelley, my own discoveries would seem dull.  I could not have been more wrong.  I wanted a picture of what my ancestors were doing after Mary Shelley’s birth 1797 up until the publication of Frankenstein 1818 – that was my springboard, my starting point.  The following article is what came out of thinking about Mary Shelley’s time.

HOMOSEXUALITY AND BLACKMAIL IN 1808

In 1808, my 4X great uncle, Robert Escritt and his friend John Paul were in the pillory 3 times for conspiring to blackmail concerning homosexuality; homosexuality was a hanging offence then.  In fact, they were one of the last recorded cases for the pillory in Driffield, East Yorkshire Reading the court documents for his trial would be enough to make any relative squirm at being related to such a cad.  However, following up my research, I uncovered a shocking twist in the tale which included injustice, villainy and transportation.

Robert Escritt was an ordinary agricultural labourer who by a wicked twist of fate had his normal life turned into what can only be imagined as a nightmare. Robert Escritt was born in 1780 at Kirkburn, East Yorkshire to William Escritt and Elizabeth Bentley.  He married Ann Braithwaite on Boxing Day (December 26th) 1802 at St Michael and All Angels Church, Garton on the Wolds and they lived in Garton on the Wolds.

English: St Michael and All Angels Church, Gar...

English: St Michael and All Angels Church, Garton on the Wolds, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine Robert Escritt, like thousands of other agricultural labourers, wearing a wide brimmed hat to protect himself  from the elements, a smock which would reach down to his knees and his only pair of boots made of leather with steel toe caps and hobnailed soles.

 Agricultural labourers were at the bottom of the village hierarchy.  At the top of the hierarchy in village life would be the landowner or village squire.  After him would be the tenant farmer who tended the landowner’s livestock and land.  Usually the tenant farmer would be provided with a farmhouse.  The farmers who tended a large farm with fertile soil would be able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.  In the middle of the village hierarchy would be the skilled craftsmen such as blacksmiths, carpenters, saddlers, thatchers and coopers.  These men were vital to the smooth running of the village.   At the very bottom of the heap would be the poor labourers like Robert Escritt and John Paul.   They would have constantly done back breaking work but the landowner would have enjoyed most of the profit.  The landowner would give the farmer his share and the labourers would get a pittance for all the relentless work they were forced to do in order to earn a meagre living.

Agricultural labourers were often the poorest people in England.  Even though their rewards were minimal, the work and suffering they had to endure was not.  For instance, during the planting season the whole family would be expected to work out in the fields, in freezing cold weather, from dawn to dusk.  Alternatively, during harvest the whole family could be toiling in the fields from dawn to dusk in the blazing sun.  He certainly would not have had much in the way of comfort but that life was probably viewed as much better than what was to come.

Looking for one ancestor can often bring up another one with the same name and an interesting story.  I was not aware of Robert Escritt’s existence until I was looking for my two of my great grandfathers by the same name.  I had decided to look on the Beverley Treasure House Archives.  The search for Robert Escritt brought up the form QSF/399/B/6 – Indictment of John Paul and Robert Escritt of Garton labourers 26th April 1808.  I knew it could not be one of my direct line Roberts as one was a farmer who had died in 1800 and the other was a cooper who was yet to be born.

After looking on Familysearch to find out if I could place that Robert Escritt, I found out that he had married Ann Braithwaite.  I referred to my family tree on Ancestry.com and was able to place Robert Escritt as my 4X great uncle.  A trip to the Treasure House was in order to see what was in the document.

Was Robert Escritt a murderer, a burglar or a petty thief?

The journey was met with both trepidation and excitement.  I knew he had done something unlawful but what?  As the archivist brought the 200 year old document to me, my mind was buzzing with every single crime that could be committed – was he a murderer, a burglar, a petty thief?  The list was endless but  I was nowhere near the truth.

The document was placed before me and weighted down.  The first court hearing was 28th July 1807.  Robert Escritt and John Paul were

“persons of ill name and fame and dishonest and unlawfully contriving to deprive one Francis Brown the younger of his good name, credit and reputation and also to obtain and get themselves of and from large sums of money on the 10th day of July in the reign of our sovereign Lord George the third with accusing him of the unnatural act of sodomy, commonly known as buggary”

It was stated that John Paul and Robert Escritt conspired to accuse Francis Brown, gentleman, of sodomy to try to obtain large amounts of money from him.

On the 11th day of July they had gone to Henry Grimston Esquire, being one of His Majesty’s justice, to keep the peace, and told him that Francis Brown had sodomised John Paul.   Robert Escritt had witnessed it.   If they were blackmailing Francis Brown for sodomy when he was not guilty, but he would not pay up, surely they would have gone on to another victim who might be so frightened that he would hand over the cash.  It does not make sense that they would have gone to the magistrate, after all they were supposed to be in it simply for the money.  However, they were poor labourers and Francis Brown was a gentleman farmer, they were not believed.  They were taken to court and suffered the humiliation of embarrassing cross examination on a subject which in those days was considered so terrible that it was a hanging offence.  On the 12th of January 1808 both men were found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail.

The cross examinations in the court, about sodomy, would have been deeply humiliating.  The punishment to come would be more so and physically painful.

The sentence was a year in the House of Correction and to stand in the pillory at Driffield for three consecutive market days.   The court document states that Robert Escritt and John Paul should stand in the pillory for one hour between twelve and 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  Robert Escritt and John Paul would have had the humiliation of standing at the top of Exchange Street, Driffield for 3 consecutive market days.   Their heads and hands would have been put into the carved out slots in the wood and then a second piece of wood would have been closed down upon them so that they could not move from the missiles which would have been thrown at them.   Decayed fruit and vegetables, rotten eggs, excrement, dead rats and sometimes hard rocks would be hurled at the person in the pillory.  Often, a pillory would be rotated so that the public could get a good look at the person trapped in it.

English: Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire, ...

English: Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. c. 1838 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The House of Correction at Beverley is famous for holding Dick Turpin the highwayman.

Robert Escritt and John Paul were also sentenced to one year in the House of Correction at Beverley.   The House of Correction at Beverley is famous for holding Dick Turpin the highwayman in 1738.  His real name was John Palmer and he was incarcerated in the House of Correction for shooting his landlord’s cockerel.  In those days the House of Correction was situated at Beverley Guildhall.  The House of Correction had one small courtyard for all prisoners with a work shed in it but no water.  When the prisoners were allowed water, the gaoler would have to fetch it from across the way.  Men and women felons each had a separate day room upstairs and the room where the women would sleep would adjoin it.  The smell was overwhelming for lack of sewers.  Robert Escritt and John Paul would have slept in one of the two dirty cells below.  They measured about four square yards and were badly ventilated.  There was a small window with bars in each room.  Their beds would have had straw in the ticking and they were allowed two blankets and a rug for warmth.  To pass the time they would have been made to pound tile-shards which they were paid 6d a bushel for.

What happened to Francis Brown, the gentleman farmer?  I searched for him on Ancestry.com. and found him in the England and Wales Criminal Register 1791-1892.  He was transported for 7 years.  It was time to research in The Treasure House archives again.

A week earlier, I had been reading what a dishonest person my ancestor was for intending to deprive Francis Brown of his good name and reputation.  The document before me named Francis Brown as a common cheat.  He had promised George Sproxton, a tailor from Driffield, a house and land for £150.  The house and land had belonged to the late Francis Brown, Brown’s father.  The property had never been Brown junior’s to sell.  He simply intended to relieve George Sproxton of his money.

Always follow up any name in a story.  It is easy to overlook shocking facts.

Robert Escritt settled down to live what seems to be a quiet family life.  He returned home to Garton-on-the-Wolds to his wife Ann.  She gave birth to Robert in 1810 and Hannah in 1812.  Robert and Ann are both on the 1841 and 1851 census, still living in Garton-on-the Wolds.  Even at the age of 71, Robert put his occupation down as an agricultural labourer.  He died at the age of 77, which considering the mortality rate of the period and what he had been through, he survived quite well.

So, can a time inspire us?  I think that it can, for instance – the above piece is an article but it could also have been turned into a story – maybe it will be one day.  The point is that one of the most inspirational things you can do is ask yourself a question – what were my ancestors doing whilst Mary Shelley was growing up?  I know what one of mine was doing – how about yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Creative Writing, Education, Inspiration and Us, The Peculiar Past