Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Olney's visit to Simpson, Buckinghamshire in 2007


In 2007 Joy and Peter Olney visited Simpson, Buckinghamshire, England. I had made an appointment to meet up with Peter Barnes, a Historian in the village of Simpson. Peter took us on a walking tour and pointed out places and homes of interest to our family in particular. He also gave me a book - "Simpson: people & places"- compiled by himself and Monica Shelley. I found it most interesting as many of the photos and notes were of signifigance to the Saunders family who lived in Simpson. I have interspersed some of the old photos with my more recent photos in this blog. An interesting comparison.

Peter took us to St Thomas the Apostle Church.  The tower and much of the present building date from about 1340.  The height of the tower was increased in about 1400 and later in the fifteenth century the nave was re-roofed and stair were built to give access to the roof loft. The roof timbers date from the seventeenth century but for much of the nineteenth century they were hidden by a plaster ceiling.  The removal of that ceiling during restoration work in 1904 revealed a royal coat of arms which is unusual in two respects - it is painted directly onto the plaster rather than on canvas or wood, and, although it is dated 1742, placing it in the reign of George 11, the arms depicted are actually those of Queen Anne.

St Thomas The Apostle Church in the village of Simpson in 2007

St Thomas The Apostle Church in the village of Simpson in 2007

Stairs to Bell-tower & Queen Anne's Coat of Arms.  Photo taken in 2007.
Chancel in St Thomas The Apostle Church in 2007
Looking from Chancel to Nave with organ and pews in 2007
Font where many of the Saunders babies were christened.

Joy Olney met cousin Bill Bowler who has lived in Simpson all his life. Bill was 80 years old and a descendant of Sarah (Saunders) and John Matthews. Photo taken in 2007.
Peter Olney with Peter Barnes in the belltower. The bells are regularly rung. Photo taken 2007.

John Matthews born 11 August 1828 and died 25 December 1906.  Sarah (nee Saunders) Matthews born 10 April 1830 and died 12 March 1900.  Buried in St Thomas the Apostle Church graveyard. Photo taken 2007.

St Thomas the Apostle Church in Simpson, Buckinghamshire

We wandered through Simpson to "Freedom Cottage" 203 Simpson Village. Harry & Jane Matthews lived there in 1878-1894 and again from 1916-1938.  Thomas & Sarah Saunders lived there 1894-1916 while Harry was working at Woburn. Thomas & Sarah were Joy's great great grandparents.

This small cottage was owned by members of the Matthews family until 1952, when, in need of renovation and modernisation, it was sold for 425 Pounds.  Following renovation of the property it was bought by Miss Hilda Lindsay, a talented musician who played with the Philharmonic Orchestra.

"Freedom Cottage" 203 Simpson Village where the Matthews & Saunders families lived.  Photo taken 2007.

Previously called "Homeland Cottage" ("Freedom Cottage") before renovations. Cottage owned by Harry & Jane Matthews 1878-1938.  Thomas & Sarah Saunders lived there 1894 - 1916 while Harry & Jane were living in Wobun.

"Hoemland Cottage" ("Freedom Cottage") after renovations. This small cottage was owned by members of the Matthews family until 1952, when, in need of renovation and modernisation, it was sold for 425 Pounds.  Following renovation of the property it was bought by Miss Hilda Lindsay, a talented musician who played with the Philharmonic Orchestra.

"White Cottage" home of John & Sarah Matthews 1850-1906. Photo taken 2007.
Matthew's old storage Barn next to "White Cottage". In 1990 it was converted into a bungalow with windows and courtyard on the other side. Photo taken 2007.
The oldest surviving cottages in the village.  They share a medieval cruck truss against the party wall which suggests they date from the sixteenth century or even earlier.  The facade of the houses is a later addition, but the original timber frame structure can be seen at the side.

"Wayside Cottage" or "Coffin House" was the Funeral Home for Matthews Funerals.  Photo taken 2007.
"Orchard Cottage"  left of "White Cottage"in 2007.

"Poplar Farm" is one of the oldest surviving farmhouses in Simpson. Next door to "Freedom Cottage". Taken in 2007.

"Bowler's Bridge House".  The cottage was originally used for canal overseers.  Bill Bowler lived here with his parents, George & Rosie Bowler.

Bowler's Bridge House, originally used for canal overseers. Now a private residence.
George & Rosie Bowler celebrated their 50th wedding anniveresary May 1969. See notes below when Beatrice Macdougall and Wyn Tregear visited Simpson in 1958.

(left) The 2 storey dwelling attached to 3 others where Elizabeth Saunders was living when Harry Wells left for Australia in 1887, (centre) new Methodist Church now a residence. Photo taken 2007.

(Left) House where Elizabeth Saunders lived, (centre) Old Methodist Church, (right) house at 442 Simpson Village.

Herding cows in 1960

"Simpson House" was built by Charles Warren in 1823. He was a skilled architect and designer and made his mark on the village in a number of ways. James Sheahan wrote of Simpson in his "History of Buckinghamshire", published in 1862. "Thirty years ago it was, in appearance, one of the most wretched of manymiserable villages in the country.  During a great portion of winter time the main road was generally impassable, without wading through water three feet deep, for a distance of about 200 years.  But chiefly through the exertions of Mr. C. Warren, this road has been raised three and a half feet, and the handsome villa residence of this gentleman, with its tastefuuly laid out pleasure gardens sets the place off to great advantage. Mr Charles Warren died in 1872 and is commemorated in Simpson Church.

Rear of "Simpson House". The old cottage where Thomas & Sarah Saunders lived has now gone but see photo below.  Photo taken 2007.

Behind "Simpson House" was a white thatched roof cottage where Lydia Saunders & son Thomas Saunders were living according to 1861 Census. Ten years later in 1871, Thomas Saunders was married to Sarah (nee Grisold)  and living with 4 children - Elizabeth, Emma, Ellen, Kate, also his mother Lydia Saunders.

1871 Thomas & Sarah Saunders with their 4 children - Elizabeth, Emma, Ellen, Kate, Also Lydia Saunders. Note Charles & Sophia Warren lived next door.

Methodist Church built in 1935 - now a residence.

New Methodist Church, now a residence.

Simpson Forge now a residence.
442 Simpson Village and Forge (right)

House in Simpson village, see above photo on left.

The Plough Inn, Post Office & "Simpson House" in Simpson.  Photo taken 2007.  The current Plough Inn building was built in 1877. The Post Office moved there in 1906 and continued in use until the 1990s when it was converted for residential use. "Simpson House" was built by Charles Warren in 1823.

Plough Inn, Post Office, "Simpson House" in Simpson

Post Office  - converted for residential use in 1990s.

Grand Union Canal transformed Simpson in 1800s. It provided a more efficient and economical means of transport. The working boats on the canal have been replaced with holiday barges.

Grand Union Canal just before World War 1

Old Fenny Stratford Station, now closed.

Of interest to the Saunders family.

My Grandma, Beatrice Macdougall, daughter of Elizabeth Wells (nee Saunders) visited England with her sister Wyn Tregear in 1958. I have included in this blog extracts from Beatrice Macdougall’s 1958 diary that relate to the Saunders family.

11-13 July 1958 – Guildford.
We waited on the Guildford platform for George Whitcombe.  Wyn recognized him from a photograph that she had of him.  He took us in a taxi to a place which he had arranged for us to stay at for bed and breakfast while in Guildford and later to his home where we met his wife Rhoda and small daughter Eleanor – a sweet charming child of about 4 ½ years.  His other children by his first wife are now married.  We had a late tea or supper as it is called in England.  George showed us some photographs which his Mother – our Aunt Kate – my Mother’s sister had put in an album and some other snaps that Mother had sent her during the years.  We caught the last bus – accompanied by George.

After breakfast served at about 8.30am we put on hats and coats and awaited the arrival of George, bringing with him his young daughter Eleanor aged 4 ½ years.  Eleanor or Pip as her father calls her is an old fashioned child with very quaint sayings and delightful dimples.

We later made our way by bus to George’s home.  We met there his newly married son Geoffery and bride Janet – a fine young couple of 20 and 19 years respectively.  After tea these two showed us their wedding photos and George accompanied us to our place of abode.

Lunch at George and Rhoda Whitcombes.  Dinner was served soon after our arrival and the time after the meal was spent in reminiscing and looking at photos etc.  We said our goodbyes to Rhoda and little Eleanor and left with George in the bus for our place of abode.  He walked with us and we said goodbye to George.  He had had a very sad life but should from now on have an easier time.

21 July – 8 August 1958 - Rugby.
Uncle Walter Cook and Dorothy Wells were at the station to meet us and we went by taxi to the home of Uncle Walter at 47 Manor Road.  He is looking very well after his recent illness and he and Dorothy made us very welcome.

After a nice dinner we all went for a walk and Uncle showed us over Rugby school famous since the year 1567.  There is a fine Chapel there and also a smaller Chapel in memory of those who lost their lives in the two wars.  A tablet is on the brick wall facing the playing field commemorating William Webb Ellis who was the founder of the game “Rugby” in 1823.

Uncle has a pet budgie and the dear little bird loves music and sings as loud as loudly as possible and for as long as the tunes last.

A nephew of Uncle Walter and his wife called and had tea during the afternoon.  They live close and are a very happy couple and celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary today.  Our brother Glad Wells arrived today. We went to the Cemetery to put flowers on Aunt Nell’s grave.  She died in March 1932.

Margaret, the youngest daughter of the house returned from her holiday in Canterbury with her sister Wyn and Bill Law. 

30 July 1958 – Coventry.
A pleasant trip to Coventry.  We were met by Bert Sturgess, the husband of Fanny.
Bert took us to his home in Elm Street.  Plans had to be rearranged owing to an early morning accident. Nancy Bla? – Fanny’s sister had fallen down the stairs on the way down to breakfast and the Doctor sent her away for Xrays.  Nancy was not too good – 2 cracked ribs and a cut to the back of her head that required stitches. 

We looked at old photos of the family. Fanny and Nancy are grand daughters of John Saunders, and Wyn and me of his brother Thomas Saunders.

It was a great day for Wyn as she had corresponded with these two sisters since taking on Mother’s correspondence.  Bert motored us back to Rugby.

31 July 1958 – Drayton.
We planned an outing to Banbury and Drayton today.
We took a bus from Banbury to Drayton, a small village away and found the old Church. The earliest date was 1441. My Grandmother Saunders was christened in this Church and we also saw the house in which she was born.

6 August 1958 – Simpson.
We (Wyn, Dorothy Wells and myself) trained to Bletchley and were met by Mabel Willis, daughter of our Mother’s only brother, Thomas – the last of that generation. She was in the Refreshment Room at the Bletchley Station and provided us with a cup of tea and suggested the “Bletchley Arms” for the night.

We took a taxi to Simpson Village where my dear Mother was born and spent the first years of her life. Dorothy had stayed at Simpson when a child and was able to point out the house Mother was in before leaving for Australia and where Father had said goodbye some months earlier in 1887. This was a 2 storey dwelling attached to 3 others of the same construction.

The house that Mother was born in has been pulled down.

We walked further on and met a man named George Bowler who was born and lived in the vicinity and who married Rose. George Bowler was the grand son of Sarah Matthews, (Mother’s Aunt and our Father’s sister, Sarah).  We talked with him for some time, then he took us to his house and we met his wife Rose who suffers with Arthritis in her knees.  We had afternoon tea and later George went with us to the village and we saw the home that our Grandmother Saunders lived in after she was widowed.  The house is very old but has been nicely renovated and is now owned by a Miss Lindsay who had she been at home would gladly have shown us through this lovely home.  Dorothy has stayed there with Grandma at times when she was a girl.  The house is right on the road side and has a thatched roof.

We also saw the renovated house that our Great grandmother Lydia Saunders lived in and where she died. She had been left with 4 sons – George, John, Thomas and Daniel and daughter Sarah (Matthews) previously mentioned. She had property and land – so our ancestors here were fairly well off, but owing to early widowhood (Thomas our grandfather was only 4) she had to put in an overseer and he proved to be none too honest so most of the property was lost.

We went along to the Methodist Church and were shown through by George Bowler who attends there and then to the Village Church where Mother and the other members of her family worshipped.  I have a photo postcard of this dear old Church. We sat in the pew which Dorothy said had been the Saunders pew.

We looked for the tombstones of some of our ancestors.  They were covered with ivy many of them and we stripped it off and found one we wanted to find– the grave and headstone of our great grandfather Daniel Saunders who died 25 December 1837 aged 41 years and two small daughters Lydia and Mary.  There was no name there of his wife Lydia. There was no gravestone to the graves of our Grandfather and Grandmother Saunders and our aunt Lily (Mother’s youngest sister who died at 17).

The old Rector came along and he took us into the vestry of the Church and opened the cupboard and we searched the funeral and baptismal registers and found the names there of the Saunders family etc.

We walked back to Bletchley and to our hotel and had a quick wash up and then walked to our Uncle Tom’s home for tea (my Mother’s brother, Thomas). His daughter Mabel was there also. Uncle Tom is very bright and happy – is 83 on 18 August and was full of his trip to America nearly 2 years ago. We saw many photos of the family – the chair that was Grandpa Saunders and a small round table which had belonged to our great grandmother. We walked back to the Bletchley Arms for the night.

7 August 1958 - Bow Brickhill
We walked to Bletchley Station and took the train to Fenny Stratford and Woburn Sands.
We walked along the road and came to the home of the Garratt family of days gone bye.  This was the house Mother “worked” in after she was 12 years old.  Mrs. Garratt had lost a daughter Elizabeth and asked a friend where she could get a small girl for company.  Mother’s name being Elizabeth, went and was treated as one of the family.  The property has since been sold but a grand daughter of Mrs.Garratt’s is there while she lives.

We made enquiries at the house but Miss Garratt was away but a lovely lady working there showed us some of the place including the dairy where Mother said she used to skim the cream off the large pans of milk there.

We walked along the road, across the railway to Bow Brickhill and would have liked to go on to Great Brickhill but it would have been a walk of about 8 miles there and back and felt it was too far. We ate sandwiches on a seat along the roadside, then walked again past the Garratt home and onto Simpson Village where Mother had often walked in her youth.

We again visited the Church and graveyard and took a taxi back to Bletchley Station, collected our luggage and train to Rugby.

8 August 1958 – Rugby.
We had to say our goodbyes to Uncle Walter and Dorothy Wells in Rugby.  We had some very happy days.  Margaret Cook was of course at the Rugby Station also as she is the announcer there.    

If you have any corrections or comments, please contact the author Joy Olney via email: joyolney@gmail.com

You might like to also take a look at Wells Family Archives.

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