A powerful force which has been evident when delving deeper into family tree research is how places where people have been born, brought up or lived translate into a longer-term sense of ‘home’ or some other relationship with an equal intensity in shaping our experiences or even our sense of self. It can even rattle across the generations.
When I first started rummaging amongst the genealogical undergrowth, it all seemed so simple. ‘Home’ always meant a fairly limited patch which spanned the Hampshire/Berkshire/Surrey border alongside the River Blackwater, but with a skew towards the North East corner of Hampshire. The DNA that flowed into that appeared straightforward too – small patches in rural North East Hampshire from my Mum’s side, and the city of Leeds on my Dad’s side.
These things translate into so much more than words on official forms. Specialist occupations and skills; variety and beauty of local countryside and ecosystems; development and impact of human infrastructure and design; even football teams supported, for example. It’s where physical and human geography almost cross with the spiritual, even a touch of psychogeography.
The longer I’ve gone on with this endeavour, rather than collecting a growing list of such places as the tree grows and branches divide, it has been possible to refine or add to that original list and use them not only to tell me more about my ancestors’ stories, but also to reflect on how these places contribute to the translation of something bigger in terms of meaning. I’ve always called it “the particular”. And yes, you guessed it, Week 10’s #52ancestors theme is ‘Translation’.
Charlotte Hale & sons
A case in point is that of Charlotte Hale (1875-1969), my 2x great grand aunt who was introduced to us in my last post as one of the eight children of my 3x great grandparents George Hale (1841-1924) and Esther Kinge (1843-1884). Like her father, Charlotte was born in the small hamlet of Ramsdell, Hampshire, just north of Basingstoke, and off the main road to Newbury.
Over a number of generations and family units, she was one of many who were either brought up or lived their entire lives in a rural arc which brings together Hampshire villages including Wootton St. Lawrence, Ramsdell, Monk Sherborne, Pamber and Tadley, with nearby Bradfield, Padworth, Mortimer and Woolhampton across the border in Berkshire. The area is a mix of rolling green fields, woods and common land, and was particularly known for a range of specialist woodworking trades as well as agricultural labouring during the time I was exploring at the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries.
One in the series of ‘Footpath Guides’ produced by the Saint Catherine Press in 1947, “Hampshire Highlands” by R.H. Brown captured it elegantly.
“North of the chalk line the country is studded with woods, some of which are several of hundreds of years in extent. So numerous and so close together are they that in many parts of our walks it is possible to traverse several miles along bridle-paths under oak, beech, elm and pine without reaching an open space other than a field dividing the wood from another. Several villages are entirely surrounded by these woods, and one of the beauties of them, on emerging, is to find yourself in a neighbouring village. Each wood has its peculiar beauty and undergrowth of greater variety.”
He continues, “These woods are of great material benefit. The village baker obtains his bundles of faggots for heating his oven; the cottager his fuel; the gardener his peasticks and bean poles; the coal-miners their pit props; the farmer his wattle hurdles to enclose his sheep; the basket-maker his osiers; the bee-keeper his withies for his hives; the brush-maker his beech stocks; and the acorns and beechnuts go to feed the hogs of Hampshire.”
Today, Pamber Forest is a local nature reserve, and with Silchester Common a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Some of those eight children of George Hale and Esther Kinge moved away from the area, and I had initially been quite surprised. I am particularly interested in focusing on this one sibling Charlotte, and how her relationship with this ‘home’ area was maintained, even though she had ended up moving to London, marrying a police constable, and settling down to have a family there.
Born and raised in Ramsdell, by the age of 16 in the 1891 Census, Charlotte was already making moves. She was working as a domestic servant some 10-15 miles away for a brewer/licensed victualler in a pub near Burghclere – The Carnarvon Arms Hotel, next door to Highclere Castle, made famous by the TV drama Downton Abbey.
By 7 July, 1904, she was away from the area completely, as this was when she married Metropolitan Police Constable Ernest John Pullen (1877-1923), when she was 28 years old. They tied the knot at St. Paul’s Church, Herne Hill. His first wife had also been called Charlotte, but she died in 1902, the same year she gave birth to their child, Charlotte Gwendoline Emily Pullen (1902-1991).
By the 1911 Census our own Charlotte was the second Mrs Pullen, and the couple had moved north of the River Thames to Pleasant Place, Islington. Her step-daughter from the first marriage had been joined by their son Ernest George Pullen (1910-1991). They’d had a daughter of their own, Dorothy, born in 1905, but she did not survive beyond her very early years. They had a second son, Edward Wilfred Pullen (1915-1980). Tragically, Charlotte’s husband Ernest John Pullen – the father of the three children Charlotte, Ernest and Edward – died in 1923, aged just 46.
What was to happen next to the fledgling family unit makes for interesting reflection on those initial thoughts about ‘home’ and ‘place’.
By the 1939 Register, both of Charlotte’s sons had moved back to where she had grown up. They were both mental health nurses at Park Prewett Hospital, which, although to the north west of Basingstoke, actually borders right onto the two villages of Wootton St. Lawrence and Ramsdell where their ancestors had lived. More about Park Prewett here and here.
Ernest and his wife Muriel Smith (1913-1997) lived on a social housing estate which appears to have housed mainly hospital workers. Edward and his wife Edith Welch (1914-2008) lived on Woodgarston Farm, Monk Sherborne – just a few hundred yards along the main Basingstoke to Newbury Road from Pitt Hall, Ramsdell, which was where his aunt (Charlotte’s older sister) Sarah Hannah Hale (1870-1940) was now living! She had married a James Lipscombe and had a family of her own in the meantime.
Something more profound than their mutual careers in mental health nursing has brought both brothers Ernest and Edward Pullen (my 1st cousins 3x removed) to this particular corner of Hampshire which their mother had once called ‘home’.
The same could not be said of Charlotte’s step-daughter. She obviously felt no similar pull. With her father and her birth mother both no longer around, life gravitated towards the other side of the world. She married Henry Stanley Riddle (1902-1971) on 15 December 1928 in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. They had at least one child. The step-daughter died in Geelong on 3 June 1991.
And then of course there is our Charlotte herself. In the 1939 Register we see that during WWII she went to live with her deceased husband’s first wife’s brother and his wife in Spring Gardens, Carmarthen, Wales – Thomas and Jane Bennett. He had been a Metropolitan Police officer, just like his brother. However, Charlotte’s story did not end here. She ended her days by returning to the area she was born, with her death certificate recording she died in 1969 in the Basingstoke area at the age of 93, just a year before I was born.
What was the pull that drew her back to that area? Who was she still in touch with beyond her two sons who now lived there too? As well as her sister Sarah Hannah, her brother James (my 2x great grandfather) had lived in Whitedown Cottages, Wootton St. Lawrence until he died in 1944 and eldest brother George lived in Padworth until he died in 1946. Charlotte appeared to live by far the longest of the siblings, but plenty of her extended Hale family will have still lived in the area. For example, the nieces and nephews via her brother James, such as Florence Jane Hale (1896-1989), my great grand aunt who lived at Beech Hill and Reginald Richard Hale (1899-1981) – my great grandfather – who moved over further afield towards Eversley.
Faces and Places
The mists have definitely cleared, and a small number of micro-areas have become increasingly crucial to the journey of my DNA, and trying to translate this into some kind of tangible story. Whereas before, I merely thought my ancestry was about the meeting of North East Hampshire and Leeds, Yorkshire, it is now apparent that the list of these places can be grouped something like this:
An arc north of Basingstoke on the Hampshire/Berkshire border: Wootton St. Lawrence, Ramsdell, Monk Sherborne, Pamber and Tadley, together with nearby Bradfield, Padworth, Mortimer and Woolhampton across the border in Berkshire. Home to Hale, Kinge and Smith families on my Mum’s Mum’s Dad’s side of the family.
The North East Hampshire border area: Elvetham, Hartfordbridge, Hartley Wintney, Crookham, Crondall, Dogmersfield, Bentley, Odiham, Fleet, Winchfield, Heckfield, Eversley, Yateley (including Aldershot) – and Sandhurst across the border in Berkshire. Home to Vickery, Varndell, Hale, Holland, Watts, Sawyer, Wyeth, Halfacre and Phillips familes on my Mum’s side of the family.
South East London: Deptford, Greenwich and Lewisham. Home to Holland and Barrett families on my Mum’s Dad’s side of the family.
Rural Derbyshire: Stony Houghton and Glapwell, between Mansfield and Chesterfield. Home to Holland and Livesey families on my Mum’s Dad’s Dad’s side of the family.
South West Suffolk: Great and Little Thurlow. Home to Barrett and Trudgett families on my Mum’s Dad’s Mum’s side of the family.
Yorkshire: Particularly SE area of Bradford (Bowling); Burmantofts area of Leeds; Halifax and the Moors. Home to Simpson, Backhouse, Walton, Noad, Swithenbank, Winterburn and Dudley on my Dad’s side of the family, plus Hull on my Mum’s Dad’s Mum’s Dad’s side.
Ireland: Clonmel (Tipperary) and Dublin. Various specific stories on my Mum’s Dad’s side of the family (Sawyer and Holland) and Dad’s Mum’s side of the family (Dudley and Connor).
See you next week for another #52ancestors post. If you believe you can add any clarity to anything I’ve written, think I’ve got anything wrong, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Thank you for bearing with me on this journey!