Whose body? A Plymouth Quaker mystery

Dr. Johnson reading “The Vicar of Wakefield”, from Illustrated Exhibitor & Magazine of Art, 1851. Drawn by Gilbert, engraved by J. Linton

Imagine how annoyed you’d be if the graveyard you were buried in was repurposed as a car park? Everyone else who had laid beside you for over a hundred years was disinterred, but because you had been buried deeper than all the others, your body was missed. The car park was built over you, and still you laid there, silent, uncomplaining and forgotten, as for sixty years cars drove over where you lay.

Now imagine your body is discovered, and you’re misidentified.

This has happened to a lady called Elizabeth Cookworthy, who was buried in the Quaker burial ground in Plymouth in 1833. I was curious about this story partly because my father was an undertaker so I find strange burials interesting, and partly because as a genealogist, I was intrigued by the headlines which said she’d been identified. How had this been done?

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Update: Bradfield

I’ve finished transcribing the earliest register for Bradfield, Essex, from 1564 to 1695. I’ll be adding spreadsheets of baptisms, burials and marriages over the next few days, so stay tuned.

Please make sure you check the “Notes” on the Bradfield page, which explains gaps in the register in the mid- to late-1600s.

The Bridges family of Lawford and John Constable’s portrait

A family of eight stand around a piano. Through the window behind them, a church tower can just about be seen.

The Bridges Family 1804 John Constable 1776-1837 Presented by Mrs Walter Bogue Bridges 1952 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N06130. CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0. Photo © Tate

If you’re from north-east Essex, and perhaps if you’re from south-east Suffolk, you cannot avoid John Constable. My grandma had a print of The Haywain above her television, and we had Constable table mats. I grew up eating my Sunday roast while gazing down around the edge of the plate at what I could see of the horse outside Flatford mill, and the boat-builders along the river. If you go for a row at Dedham, you round a bend, and you’re suddenly in one of his paintings.

In 1804, John Constable painted a portrait of the Bridges family, who lived in Lawford. Pater familias George was a banker and a corn merchant, and Lawford Place was built by him in about 1790.1)If the house was built then, where did the family live when their eldest child was born in Lawford in 1788? Was the house perhaps built earlier than 1790? It’s a famous painting (although didn’t feature in our table mat set), and I became curious about it while transcribing Lawford’s parish register, covering 1764-1812. Were the sitters in the register?

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. If the house was built then, where did the family live when their eldest child was born in Lawford in 1788? Was the house perhaps built earlier than 1790?

Where was East Donyland’s old church?

Recently, someone asked me if it’s possible to still visit the site of Rowhedge’s (East Donyland) old church of St Lawrence – the one that was demolished once the new “pepper pot” had been built in Rowhedge in the 1830s.

I have to say, I’m not sure, and I wasn’t even sure where the old church used to be. I grew up in Wivenhoe, but alas, the river was in the way when it came to visiting Rowhedge. In my grandparents’ time there was a ferry, which made the journey simple. Now it only runs in the summer.

So I went to the National Library of Scotland website to look at their historic maps, and this map from 1881 (from a survey made in 1874) shows the site of the old church in the bottom middle, just north of East Donyland Hall.

The position of the old church isn’t a surprise – churches were often placed beside the house where the lord of the manor resided, purely for his family’s convenience. Even if it wasn’t very convenient for anyone else! You can see why they built a new church in Rowhedge as that settlement developed. Looking at the occupations in the baptism registers from 1813, it’s clear to see that most people in the parish were sailors: yachtsmen or fishermen (sometimes both), with the number of agricultural labourers dwindling. In other words, more people lived by the river, and the old church’s position just wasn’t much good anymore.

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