On the hottest night of the year to date, more than thirty members and visitors (including two new members) to the Alde Valley Family History Group’s June meeting were treated to an informative, entertaining and, at times, amusing journey through a varied range of historical records capturing the misdemeanours of our ancestors.
Always a popular speaker at the Group’s meetings, Gill Blanchard is a professional genealogist, tutor and author of several books, including ‘Tracing Your House History’ and ‘Tracing Your East Anglian Ancestors’. Her latest publication, ‘Lawson Lies Still in the Thames’, is a biographical novel recounting the extraordinary life of Vice Admiral Sir John Lawson, a native of Scarborough, who died of wounds received at the Battle of Lowestoft.
Gill’s lively talk, ‘Prison and Criminal Court Records’, included many colourful examples gathered from her extensive research in national and local archives, including a cautionary tale about a one time priest of Stiffkey, Norfolk. Tried at a consistory court and defrocked for over zealous ministrations to so called ‘ladies of the night’, he first pursued a career as a showman in Blackpool, before joining ‘Captain’ Fred Rye’s animal themed show at Skegness. Here, he was billed as ‘Daniel in a modern lion’s den’. The act proved very popular, but it did not end well for ‘Daniel’, who was badly mauled by a lion during an evening performance in July 1937 and died from his wounds two days later.
On a happier note, the Group’s next meeting will take place at Leiston United Reform Church at 7.30 p.m. on Monday, 17th July when Sheila Harrison will present ‘The Diary of a Norfolk Parson - James Woodforde, 1740-1803’. Entrance to the church is along the left-hand side as you face the building. Parking is available in the adjacent Co-op/Solar car park, but you must register your vehicle at the tills in the supermarket or possibly face a £100 fine. Anyone with an interest in family or local history is welcome; admission is £1 for members, £3 for non-members and includes tea/coffee.
Family historians are also reminded that the Alde Valley Family History Group’s research centre in the Leiston Council Offices is open to all, free of charge, on the first and third Saturday morning of each month. The facilities can also be booked on Wednesdays by appointment (contact Maggie Strutt on 01728 602298 or firstname.lastname@example.org). There is a wealth of local material in the archives, much of it not available online, and the research centre also provides computers with Internet access, wi-fi connectivity, a printer and a scanner. Experienced family history researchers are also on hand to provide assistance if required.
The Group looks forward to helping you with your family history research, including the guilty pleasure of tracing those elusive black sheep!
Chris Broom, June 2017.