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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Freston Tower and Woolverstone Hall, Suffolk

Ipswich Heritage Open Days 2012

Freston Tower

The first weekend of September once again marked the heritage weekend in Ipswich and the surrounding area, where many of the buildings we take for granted all year round or just don't know exist, open their doors for us to have nose around. You may have seen my blog from last year when we spent the day in the town centre.  As we were so busy this year, we decided that we could only spend a short time, a Sunday afternoon, exploring and decided on visiting Freston Tower and Woolverstone Hall which are both just outside the county town and down the River Orwell.

View of Freston Tower from the River

Through dendochronology it has been found that Freston Tower was built between 1578 and 1579 by a local merchant Thomas Gooding.  The purpose of the building is unclear although there are many theories including; a leisure house for his daughter, where she could participate in six different pass times (one for each floor) including astronomy from the top floor, a lookout tower against pirates, part of a pleasure garden and also, that it was built especially for the visit of Queen Elizabeth I's visit to Ipswich in 1579.  However, the most likely purpose for the building was that it was a folly (built entirely for decoration and no specific purpose), if so, it would have been one of the first in the country.

There were quite a few visitors, so we had to wait to enter as it is quite a small building with many stairs but there were volunteers on the ground floor who explained the history of the building and answered questions while we were waiting. Unfortunately, I can't remember the order of the floors as I had to take a quick snap when there was no-one around, which was quite difficult, but here are some pictures in random order.

 The Master Bedroom

 The Stairs

 The Guest Bedroom

    View from the Top looking towards Felixstowe
    View from the Top looking towards Ipswich

 The Cosy Living Room

The Tower has been restored by the Landmark Trust and is available to let for holidays. It really is a charming, quaint and unusual place to stay, as you can see, is it has everything you need for a holiday.

Woolverstone Hall


Woolverstone Hall

Woolverstone Hall was built in 1776 for William Berners, a property developer from London, who requested it be built in a modern Palladian design. The house passed down to his son upon his death who built an obelisk in honour of his father.  The obelisk was burnt down by fire in 1943 and was so badly damaged that it was demolished using explosives.

The building remained in the possession of the Berners family until was taken over by Oxford University in 1937 and where it stayed empty until the War Office took it over in 1939. After the war, London County Council leased the Hall in order to re-house the London Nautical School which became Woolverstone Boys Boarding School in 1959 and which closed in 1990.

Ipswich High School was relocated to Woolverstone Hall in 1992 and is still situated there today.

The Beautiful Ceiling in the Study

We were a little concerned to find this message on the door to the entrance to the underground passageways.  It reads: 
It's a cruel, cruel world to face on your own, 
Flesh turns to dust, as to dust turns bone, 
Was it really that wise to come here ALONE?

Err yes! And it was rather spooky!

 There were lots of tunnels and rooms down there

 View from the first floor window

Another beautiful ceiling

One of the most remarkable things that we saw was the weather vane, not unusual in itself, as you can see here, until you see other part of the feature.

Downstairs in one of the rooms, which is now used as an office, is this dial which shows you the wind direction without you having to go outside. It may be totally unique. Fascinating!

Incidentally, Freston Tower was once owned by the Berners Estate.

Butt and Oyster Inn, Pin Mill

We ended our tour with a visit to the popular and famous 'Butt and Oyster' and a pint of real ale.  It's a lovely old building with lots of history and it's always very busy, but very pleasant for a drink or some food.

 A view of the Pub from the river (the cream building on the left)

 I had a quick play with the black and white and sepia buttons on my camera...

Monday, 15 October 2012

Tutorial - Session 2

Census Returns 1911 to 1881

A census has been carried out every ten years in England and Wales since 1801, except in 1941 when it was taken in very few places because of the war. Between 1801 and 1831 the government took the census to learn about the population rather than individuals so only statistics were sent to the central authorities and most of these have been destroyed. Since the 1841 census more information was included in the records collected, this information included names, sex and some other information and has gradually improved up until the latest available census which is the one taken in 1911. Any later census returns are confidential and unavailable to the public.

Census records can be accessed through all the major genealogy websites (findmypast, ancestry etc.).

For best results combine using the census records with birth records as discussed in Tutorial - Session 1.

1911 Census 

The 1911 census was taken on Sunday 2 April 1911 and records the best information for family historians compared to other census returns. It gives you; the address, the names of everyone living in the house, their ages, their marital status, occupations, whether they were an employer or employed, and where they were all born. For me, some of the most interesting and useful information on the 1911 census return is the marriage state.  This lists how many years the present marriage has lasted, how many children had been born alive during the course of this marriage, how many were still alive and how many had died. Also, the 1911 census return differs in that the whole page, rather than a few lines, is devoted to one dwelling and you can see the signature of your ancestor.

Mark's Family Tree

As I said previously, you should always go backwards, so the most recent available census records are those for 1911. Mark was lucky that I already have subscriptions to some of the well known genealogy websites, so he was able to look this up straight away at no extra cost.

1911 Census Return for Ephraim King and family

We found Ephraim, and his children; Edward, Flossie, Alice, Daisy, Charles and of course Gertrude living in Orwell Road, Ipswich. Sadly, Ephraim's marital status was a widower. Ephraim had completed the marriage state incorrectly as his wife had died, but I'm very glad he did because we found that they had been married for 30 years (this gives us a marriage date to add to our information) and that he and Matilda had had 10 children but 1 had died. We were able to find out Ephraim's occupation, a coal carter and that his eldest son John was a coal porter.  The difference between these occupations is not entirely clear but the best we have found is that the Carter drove the horse and cart to deliver the coal and the Porter carried the sacks to and from the cart. The three daughters were all Daily Domestics which meant that they were living at home and doing domestic work during the day, and just the youngest son, Charles, was at school.

This census also tells us where the children were born which also places the parents at points in time.


1901 Census

The 1901 Census Return was taken on Sunday 31 March 1901. Apart from the usual; name, address, marital status, the number of rooms occupied if less than five, occupation, where born and any disabilities, this census tells us: the number of rooms in the dwelling, whether an employee, employer or working on one's own account, whether working at home or not.

Mark's Family Tree

1901 Census Return for Ephraim King and family

In this census we can see that Matilda was still alive, they were living near Park Farm at Nacton, a village a short way from Ipswich, and they had 8 children living with them.  Ephraim's occupation was a Milk Seller (presumably from the farm that they were living near) and it appears that their son Thomas, aged 13 was working with his father as a Milkboy. Their son Edward, who was 19, was working as a Seaman and his place of birth is stated as Dovercourt, Essex (we now know where to look for them in the 1881 Census). Flossy was aged 10 and born in Ipswich (so we know where to look for the family in the 1891 census. Matilda said that she was born in 1858 in Bradfield, Essex, so we know where and when to look for her birth record.


1891 Census

The usual information is given in the 1881 Census, taken on Sunday 5 April, as well as; whether an employer, employee or neither and number of rooms occupied if less than 5.

Mark's Family Tree

 1891 Census Return for Ephraim King and family

The 1891 Census Return shows that Ephraim and Matilda were living in the centre of Ipswich in 1891. The place of birth for Matilda and Edward was now stated as Harwich and Ephraim's place of birth was now Ipswich and not Rushmere as stated in the 1901 census. Ephraim was working as a Carman, which is another name for a Carter (a man in charge of a horse and cart) and John aged 15, the eldest son, was a Doctor's Groom.



1881 Census

The 1881, taken on Sunday 3 April 1881, gives the same information as in the 1871 census.

Mark's Family Tree

1881 Census Return for Ephraim King and family

This particular document was particularly interesting but posed some more questions for future research. As was expected from the 1891 census, they were living in Dovercourt, Essex, but quite unexpectedly, it appears that John, born in 1876, was noted as the Step-son of Ephraim and had a completely different surname - Bergen. Obviously, John was not Ephraim's son.

The birth certificate of Gertrude (Mark's grandmother) as referred to in the previous post, stated that there were two other surnames for her other than her married name, and upon checking the middle name in the list, it was confirmed as Bergin (although a variation in spelling).

Mark's family tree so far including all the family members found from the census records

We will carry on with census returns in Session 3



1. Add all relevant information which appears in the census and use that information as clues to finding other information (i.e. where they were 10 years earlier in the previous census).
2. Names change over time, so look for any variations including spelling in surnames.
3. People used their second names instead of their first names quite regularly so be aware of this when searching. Double check your information by using the names of other family members.
4. The census isn't always accurate.  People often got confused with birth year and place because birthdays were not celebrated as they are now.
5. Look for other people living with your family, they may give you clues as to other branches of the family and new surnames.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Tutorial - Session 1

I have been doing my own family history for many years and so after all this time talking about it and pointing out the value and fascination of doing your family history, my husband has finally been worn down and has decided that he would like to do his - HIMSELF! I had started his tree about ten years ago, but lack of interest from him resulted in a lack of enthusiasm from me and I gave up. I decided to leave it until a time when my children were old enough to be interested in it. The only thing I can remember from my previous research was finding that part of the family were living in 'The Cold Dunghills!'.

I thought that there may be others who would like to start their family tree and who may be wondering where to begin. Or perhaps there may be some people who have come to brick wall with their research or are unsure of where to go next, so I thought it would be a good idea to keep a record, in the form of a blog, to help them along. So here we go...

I hope you find it interesting and helpful. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to make any comments or suggestions or who would like to ask any questions which could possibly be included as a tutorial within this blog.

Making a Start

First things first! You really do need to start at the beginning and, for best results, family history is always done backwards, therefore begin by making a diagram or a list of you and your immediate family.  From there go back as far as you can by memory and by asking relatives about your grandparents and great-grandparents and their families, keep a record of all the information you collect and where the information came from. Collect together any documents you may have such as birth, marriage or death certificates, old family bibles and anything else relating to your ancestors which can give you information.

It would be really useful to use a computer program to record all your information as this does make things much easier especially when your family members get into the hundreds.  The standard software for family historians is called Gedcom (GEnealogical Data COMmunication) and it is an open file specification for exchanging genealogical data. This means that your research can easily be shared with others easily and shared on genealogical websites such as GenesReunited, Ancestry and FindMyPast. There are some open source versions of this software such as GRAMPS which you can download from the internet for free. Websites, such as those mentioned above, replicate many features from these programs which you can use online instead of having it on your own computer, however, your information would be inaccessible should you find that you can't connect to the internet.

If using software, be sure to start with yourself as the 'root' person. Always input female relatives with their maiden names. Always cite your sources, in other words keep a record of where you got your information.

Mark's Family Tree

Mark began by entering his family into genealogy software, he is using Family Historian 5 which costs about £45.  He added his parents, siblings and grandparents and input all the information he knew about them (birth/marriage/death, addresses, occupations etc.).

The beginnings of Mark's Tree

Mark already had the birth certificates of two of his grandparents, so we began with one of these, his paternal grandmother Gertrude Laura King.

Gertrude Laura King's Birth Certificate

From the birth certificate we were able to find her parents names, when and where she was born, where her parents were living at the time of her birth, her father's occupation and her mother's maiden name.  Her mother's maiden name was not clear, it appears that there are two other names as well as her married name King.  This will need investigation further down the line when we look further into Matilda's family, as Mark was keen to follow just one line to begin with, his great grandfather, Gertrude's father, Ephraim Ambrose King.

Civil Registration

A registration system for recording births, marriages and deaths was introduced in England and Wales in 1837.  This system is vital to family historians and enables us to find out when and where a person was born, who their parents were to whom they married and where they married, and when and where they died.

How to Order Birth certificates 

You will need to find the birth record you are searching for in the General Register Office Indexes to be able to order the birth certificate. When you search on one of the genealogy websites for a birth, a record or multiple records will appear.  Choose the one which is most likely to be your ancestor and click on the record to view the index. Cross reference the information you already have in order to make the right choice when selecting the record. A transcript will appear which gives you the details needed to order the certificate, see below the transcription for Gertrude Laura King which enabled the above certificate to be ordered.

You will see the name, the registration district, county, year, quarter, mothers maiden name (available after) the volume number and page number. The registration district is usually named after the nearest town or an area so do not take this information too literally.
Indexes were kept on a quarterly basis so the date of birth could be within that quarter or before. The volume also relates to the area as Registration districts were bound together in volumes. The page number is where the entry may be found in the volume.

You can order birth, marriage and death certificates through most of the genealogy websites or through this link directly from the General Register Office. use the information found from the index to fill in the online order form. All certificates are currently priced at £9.25.


1. Collect as much information as possible.
2. Ask relatives what they know.
3. Don't believe everything you are told, however, there may be some truth to it!
4. Use software if possible - it makes your research easier in the long run.
5. Always start at the end - go backwards!
6. Use civil registration certificates (birth/marriage/death) if you have them, to gain more information about your ancestors. You may want to consider ordering them if not.
7. Be sure to add all the information any new source gives you to your genealogy software (a birth certificate gives you more then date of birth and parents names).
8. Back up your research.
9. Most important of all - KEEP GOOD RECORDS!