Friday, 11 September 2020

The Thorpe St Andrew Rail Crash

 So this is probably at train crash you have never heard of and why would you unless you know the history of the area. Well I do know the area as my family lived there and on that fateful night they may well have rushed to the scene of devastation to assist.

The river Yare at Thorpe St Andrew. Photo © Helen Steed
The river Yare at Thorpe St Andrew. Photo © Helen Steed

The accident happened on the night of the 10th September 1874 in the town of Thorpe St Andrew. A peaceful place on the side of the river Yare east of Norwich in Norfolk. At the time the population was between 4000 and 5000. It was an extremely wet night and due to the time it happened it was also dark. The crash happened on the single track line at about 21.45 when the 20.40 mail train from Yarmouth collided head on with the 17.00 London to Yarmouth passenger train. Both trains were running late that night and had both received written confirmation that they could proceed onto the single track line. But unfortunately mistakes were made with a misunderstanding about which train was to be given permission to enter the line. The station master at Thorpe meant for the passenger train to enter the line but the duty inspector thought he meant the mail train. With both travelling at speed they stood no chance of stopping when they each caught sight of the other. There was nothing the drivers could do to prevent disaster. It was said that when the engines hit they pushed each other up into the air and the carriages were destroyed. In the accident the drivers and firemen of the trains died instantly and 17 passengers died at the scene and more died from their injuries. A further 75 people were seriously injured.

Now at the time of the accident my ancestors were living on Thunder Lane in the town. My great great grandma was 8 years old and living with her mother and stepfather. Her eldest brother Edward was 21 and newly married with his first child. It is fair to say when the accident happened Edward and his stepfather along with other members of the family would have rushed to the scene to see what had happened and they then probably stayed to help the rescue of those trapped and the transportation of the injured to the nearby pub for treatment. The young men of the town would have been pressed into service to help in the rescue efforts. There were no heavy rescue units to call upon. It would have been all hands on deck to get the injured out and to safety.

Thorpe St Andrew rail crash site

Thorpe St Andrew showing the site of the crash and where my family lived

The eyewitness accounts of the accident said what a sight of devastation with the mangled trains and carriages with the cries of the injured. As it was night bonfires had to be lit so that the rescuers could see what they were doing. Bodies had been flung from the train and survivors landed in peoples gardens. Many had serious injuries that needed instant treatment and others had lost their clothing or what they had left was in tatters. One child had to have her leg amputated at the scene.

Of those who died there was a family. A mother, a father and a young child. A family outing that ended in tragedy.

What did my family see, what did they hear. How did it affect them at the time and in the future? I guess I will never know for sure, but I can’t see them not being troubled by it. Anyone who had to witness such an event must have been impacted by it. Did it impact them in their later lives? Did little Julia Weeds see any of the carnage or was she sheltered form it by her mother?

This rail disaster just goes to show that history and family history/genealogy go hand in hand. The history is the rail disaster but my family’s potential involvement is the family history and the genealogy. So the moral of this blog is do not ignore the history of the time your ancestors lived in. You can get an insight into their lives from it.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Genealogy Tips

So with everything that has been going on you may have decided this is the time you want to find out more about your ancestry. You could hire someone to do the research for you or you could do it yourself. Either way you need to take certain factors into account. So I’ve decided to list my top genealogy tips.

1. Decide what you want to know before you begin. Do you want to focus on one branch of your family or are you just going to set to and do all your family?

2. Ask you family questions before you begin, they may know what you want to find out or have some access to family records you don’t.

3. Go through your old photos as they could yield some answers to your questions as previous generations may have written on the back of them.

4. Be realistic in what you want to achieve. You can’t just decide you want to set aside a day to do your entire tree.

5. Start from yourself and work backwards. You need to make sure every fact is correct. Just because you think your 3 times great grandparents were call Burt and Connie doesn’t mean they really were, so you need to check the facts.

6. Don’t ignore any sources. You really need to use them all to make sure you get a complete picture of your ancestors. Also don’t ignore sources just because they don’t agree with what you think you know or other sources. You don’t know which is true, so consider everything. Remember to check, check and recheck your findings.

7. You will need to accept that you will hit brick walls in your research. You don’t have to get all the answers now. You can always come back later when you have new ideas and perhaps access to more records. You also need to remember that some people cannot be found in the records no matter how hard you search.

8. Don’t get side tracked. Stick to what you intended to research. Make a note of what you’ve found and come back to it later. I really should stick to this point!

9. Keep meticulous records so if you need to come back to a fact or source later you can find it. Also it will make keeping track of your ancestors easier. Consider using forms to keep track of your research. There are loads of them available free online, or make your own custom one.

10. Check your spellings. Many names can be spelt in different ways. It is not uncommon for those writing down the records to spell the person’s name as they heard it so accents can make a name sound completely different.

11. Explain your findings. Just because you know what something means doesn’t mean others will. It also helps you to future proof your research so your descendants can understand your work.

12. You may uncover things you didn’t expect. You need to accept what you found and try to understand, but remember it has no impact on you and does not need to be kept hidden. No matter what it is it is part of your family history.

13. Don’t forget your family history. What was happening in the world whilst your ancestors were alive would have impacted on their lives and would have been just as important to how they lived as what’s happening in the world today is to us.

14. You may not find you have really exciting ancestors. Unfortunately your family may not be as exciting as it appears on the TV programmes, but don’t be downhearted. You ancestors are just as important. But remember some celebrities families are deemed too dull for the TV.

15. You need to remember genealogy is addictive and you must remember life exists outside your research. Also it’s going to take time to research all your ancestors, so don’t expect to complete you research in months, it will probably be years.

16. If you are having difficulties or you don’t have the time to do the research yourself consider asking a professional genealogist for help, they may know where to find things you don’t. If you do ask them to carry out research for you remember they cannot do it overnight any more than you can, so give them plenty of time.

Do remember that whatever method you use to trace your ancestry remember the most important thing it to have fun and enjoy the process.

Friday, 21 August 2020

How did the monarchs of England/Great Britain die?

 So the other night I couldn’t sleep as we were having an epic thunder storm and I hate thunder. So what was I thinking about while hiding under the bed cover? Well obviously how many monarchs of England and Great Britain dies of the same thing or similar. So here we go.

Let’s start with illness. Well this can be divided into 5 main categories. 5 monarchs died from dysentery. Can you imagine, you’re a monarch, the most powerful person in the country and you end your days on the toilet with your hose round your ankles. Well not really, more likely in bed dying from the dehydration. Well this was the way Henry the Young King in 1183, King John in 1216, King Edward I in 1307, King Henry V in 1422 and King James VI ended their days. Although Henry V may have died from heatstroke or both.

The dysentery Kings. From left to right. Henry the Young King, King John, Edward I, Henry V (Image courtesy of and James VI
The dysentery Kings. From left to right. Henry the Young King, King John, Edward I, Henry V (Image courtesy of and James VI

4 other monarchs died from the result of a stroke. These were King Edward III in 1377, Queen Anne in 1714, King George I in 1727 and Queen Victoria died.

Now onto TB. This was the final cause of the deaths of 2 of the Tudor monarchs. It took King Henry VII in 1509 and then his grandson King Edward VI in 1553.

Heart attacks took the lives of King William IV in 1837 and then King Edward VII in 1910 along with bronchitis.

18 of the other monarchs died as a result of illness. These were due to a wide spectrum of conditions.  Stomach conditions from overeating was a cause in the case of King Henry I and possibly King Edward IV although there is some evidence it was the purging after over eating got King Edward IV and most notably King Henry VIII but he had lots of other things as well. Brain conditions were also a cause. King James VII died from a brain haemorrhage in 1701 while in exile and King George III died from the result of dementia. King George IV must have had a massive death certificate from all the things that lead to his death. They included upper gastrointestinal bleeding due to a rupture blood vessel in the stomach as well as bladder tumours, an enlarged heart and obesity.

Let’s consider those who died as a result of an accident or injury. The most noticeable accident was probably King William II in 1100. He died while out hunting in the New Forest. He was hit by an arrow that no one knew where it came from. So thought it was probably a stray arrow that got to close during the hunt. Others thought it was deliberate and done so that his younger brother Henry could take the throne. If it was it worked as he became King Henry I. He got his comeuppance thought as he died from over eating on lamprey’s, gross eel fish things.  King Richard I also died as a result of an arrow wound. He was shot with one while from a crossbow at the siege of the castle of Chalus-Chabrol in France. William I may also have died as a result of injury. He is reported to have been injured by the pommel of his horse which caused him to suffer internal injuries which eventually cost him his life in 1087.

Surprisingly since as a nation we have engaged in many wars with other countries especially the French and Scottish, only 1 monarch has died in battle. This of course was the King in the car park King Richard III. He died in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth during the Wars of the Roses. Richard from the house of York was against the house of Lancashire’s Henry Tudor.

Now murder played a part in the death of 6 monarchs. So we’ve already looked at King William II and King Richard I. Many believed that King Edward II was murdered in a most unusual way while in the hands of his wife and her lover. He may have had a red hot poker stuck up his bottom. This would mean there would have been no noticeable wound and the reason of depression while in captivity could be used. Which it was who knows? Then there is King Edward V. What did happen to him after his uncle Richard III usurped the throne from him? Was he one of the bodies found under a staircase in the Tower of London alongside his brother or did something else happen to him? I guess we shall never know.

The possibly murdered monarchs. From left to right King William II, King Richard I, King Edward II and King Edward V. All images courtesy of

The possibly murdered monarchs. From left to right King William II, King Richard I, King Edward II and King Edward V. All images courtesy of

Technically these 2 were not murder, but then what is execution if not sanctioned murder. Anyway. Queen Jane was the first monarch to be executed in 1554. Whether she was actually a monarch is open to contention, but I regard her as a monarch, not matter how short the time. In short the dying Edward VI didn’t what his catholic sister Mary to take the crown so he gave it to his cousin’s daughter. Jane was the daughter of Frances Brandon and her husband Henry Grey. Frances was the daughter of Mary Tudor the dowager Queen of France, Duchess of Suffolk and her husband Charles Brandon the Duke of Suffolk. Mary Tudor was King Henry VII daughter and King Henry VIII sister. Edward’s sister Mary didn’t like that she had been passed over so she marched to London and with her supporters took the throne. Jane was imprisoned and eventually beheaded so that her followers couldn’t rise against her.

Charles the second had a similar fate to Queen Jane in 1649. Charles effectively got too big for his boots and felt he was above the laws of the land and felt he should rule without the interference of the Government and his Lords. In short a civil war began with the Royalist Cavaliers on the side of the King and the Roundheads fighting for the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. Charles was captured and tried. He was executed in Whitehall in front of a crowd of on looker.

So our past monarchs have died from a variety of causes ranging from illness to murder and it just goes to show that even if you are the Monarch you can still die of the same things as the rest of the country.

Friday, 14 August 2020

King Henry VIII of England’s Father’s in Law. Part 2


So in part 1 we looked at Henry’s first 3 fathers in law, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, Sir Thomas Boleyn and Sir John Seymour. Now we move on to fathers in law 4 to 6.

John III, Duke of Cleves with his wife Maria of Julich-Berg
John III, Duke of Cleves with his wife Maria of Julich-Berg

John was born in 1490 to John II, Duke of Cleves (the baby maker) and his wife Mathilde of Hesse. His father was prolific before his marriage and is rumoured to have had around 60 illegitimate children. John was born in the Dukedom of Cleves in the Holy Roman Empire in the northern Rhineland. Cleves is now on the German/Dutch boarder close to the Dutch town of Arnhem. Not much is known about John. He was married in 1509 to Maria of Julich-Berg and they had 4 children including Anne who would marry Henry and William who became Duke after John’s death and negotiated Anne’s marriage to Henry. John was a follower of Erasmus who was a catholic priest who influenced the development of protestant reformation and he incorporated his work into Cleves. This was one of the main reasons for approaching Cleves for a wife for Henry as most of Europe was still staunchly catholic. John died in around 1538 and thus never knew his daughter became Queen of England, even if it was for only 186 days.

Catherine Howard’s was Lord Edmund Howard. He was born around 1478 to Thomas Howard the 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his wife Elizabeth Tilney. This made Edmund the brother of Thomas Howard the 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Lady Elizabeth Boleyn nee Howard the mother of Anne Boleyn King Henry VIII 2nd wife. So Edmund was the father and uncle of 2 of King Henry VIII wives. Edmund had 9 full siblings and 6 half siblings. He was a tournament competitor and was at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in the tournament. He was also at the Battle of Flodden where he was master of the horses. He was no much at court as for most of the 1530’s he was the Controller of Calais. Edmund was married 3 times. His first wife and the mother of Catherine was Joyce Leigh nee Culpeper. His second wife was Dorothy Troyes and his third wife was Margaret Mundy. Catherine was only 10 when her mother died hence her upbringing in the house of her step grandmother and the problems that brought her later in life. Edmund died in 1539 thus never knowing his daughter would be the Queen Consort of England.

Queen Catherine Parr daughter of Sir Thomas Parr
Queen Catherine Parr daughter of Sir Thomas Parr

Thomas Parr was born around 1483 to Sir William Parr and his wife Elizabeth Fitzhugh who was a decedent of King Edward III. Thomas was well educated as would be his children. He was a regular courtier during the reign of King Henry VIII. He held the positions of Master of Wards a position responsible for collecting income and sorting out wardships. He was Master of the Guards and the Comptroller of the King which was the department that looked after the King such as his wardrobe. Thomas was also the Sheriff of both Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. All this brought him extensive lands and incomes. His popularity at court was bolstered by his wife being one of Queen Catherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting with the queen being the namesake and godmother of his daughter Catherine. Thomas married Maud Green and they had 3 children. Catherine who would become Queen after her father’s death, William 1st Marquess of Northampton and Anne who became Countess of Pembroke through her marriage. Thomas died in 1517 at his home in Blackfriars and was buried at St Anne’s church in Blackfriars. His daughter Catherine who was around 5 when her father died would become Queen Consort 26 years after his death.


Part 1 can be seen at:

Friday, 7 August 2020

Smell of our past


Every now and then you smell a smell and it brings on a memory. We all have them but what do we smell that our ancestors would recognise.

No I’ll start with 3 smells that always remind me of my childhood. The first is swarfega. For those who don’t know it a hand cleaner for getting bad muck and grim off. It’s used a lot in industry and most people doing engine work will know about it. It has a really unique smell and is green so it looks a bit like ectoplasm from Ghostbuster. Now when I smell it I think of the end of the day when I was a kid coming in from helping my family in the garden or having had my hand in an oily engine. Ah nothing better than sitting trying to work out how to sort the electrics out on an original Mini. It evokes happy memories.

The other 2 smells are linked as they were always used in conjunction. The first is Dettol. The brown liquid poured into water and used to clean out all the cuts and scrapes I got playing outside and falling over or off my bike. I remember one liberal dose of the stuff after a bamboo cane was thrown at me on my bike and by sheer luck when straight through the spokes of the wheel and over the top I went. Lots of Dettol that day! The second is Zambuk. This is a herbal antiseptic ointment used on cuts and scrapes to aid healing, and I can say it works. It’s made from eucalyptus amongst other things and smells really great. I had a lot of it on me as a kid. I used to fall over all the time and usually had scabs on my knees and my toe ends held on my Zambuk and plasters. I have to say it worked really well and I have no scars at all, which is a miracle. I still use it today and in fact have some on my finger at the moment.

So what smells are still around that our ancestors would recognise? Well there are the obvious ones from nature shall we say, especially with my ancestors that had a lot to do with horses and other animals.

Now it may surprise you to know some of the perfumes that are still on the market today have been around for a long time. Some are even pre Victorian era. Even some of the big branded perfumes have been around since the 1920’s. So if you think about it most of my great great Grandma’s were alive then and even some of my great great great Grandma’s. This means they would recognise these smells if they went into the perfume shops today. Even now the smell of a perfume can remind me of my Grandma.

Now off to the kitchen. Here we find smells that will never change as they are the smell of the natural product. But brands were emerging that may have been found in our ancestors homes. Worcestershire sauce is a prime example. That was developed in the early years of the Victorian period. The Sheffield version came along in the later Victoria era but both may have been used by our ancestors so if they entered our kitchen they may find it interesting to find it. I mentioned Dettol earlier and that would have been available to our ancestors. I can just imagine my grandparents as kids sitting on the kitchen table having their cuts cleaned out before being sent back out to play. Zambuk was available in the 1900’s so my great grandparents may have been sat on the kitchen table.

So have a think about the smells that remind you of memories from your past and of your ancestors and add them to you family tree. Who knows in the future your descendants may read it and think I know that smell and it creates a link to the past.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

So as we move into August we start to think about sunny days, warm weather, the sound of leather on willow and lazy days. It’s Britain so let’s amend that to cloudy days, mild weather and the sound of rain on covers or sky’s so blue it’s unbelievable and it’s too hot to move. All this means its holiday season. Jetting off to far of places or staying in the UK, although this year it is most likely staying at home, annoying perhaps but if it gets rid of the Rona then it will be 100% worth it. Which ever you do it will be really different from the holidays of our ancestors.

Let’s start off with the obvious. May of our ancestors will never have had a holiday in their lives. They probably only had Sundays as a day of rest, but probably worked at home on this day.

So off to the seaside then. The main places to develop in the Victorian era as holiday places were Blackpool, Scarborough, Ramsgate and Brighton. Llandudno and Rhyl were the places to go in Wales.

Now we don our short and t shirts for a beach outing but think of our ancestor. They wore their everyday clothes or even their Sunday best. Men in 3 piece suits and women in so many layers they could virtually stand up without needing their legs. Can you imagine how hot they were?

Victorians at the beach
Victorians at the beach

They may have worn a straw bonnet instead of the normal hat but that would have been the only nod to the beach.

So they needed to cool down. What better way than an ice cream. No cone and lovely flavours for our ancestors though. You got a penny lick. Now this was a solid glass which had a small indentation on the top which would hold a small amount of ice cream. You paid your penny, ate your ice cream and gave the glass back. If you were really lucky the glass may have been rinsed before you got it, but not always. Think of it like hundreds of people sharing a spoon, gross.

Perhaps a donkey ride across the beach? These rides began in the Victorian era and continue to this day at Blackpool amongst others. The wind in their hair as the donkey trotted (well slowly walked) along the sand.

The best way to cool off was probably a dip in the sea. What better way. Not for me, seaweed, crabs, fish no thank you. Apparently you’re not supposed to squeal and run out of the sea claiming something touched your foot! Why? But not just a normal dip in the sea for our ancestors there was etiquette to consider. You had to be correctly dressed.

Victorian bathing attire

Victorian bathing attire

Ladies wore full length dresses to begin with made from a non transparent fabric and weighted at the hem so it wouldn’t float up and show an ankle, the horror! Later into the Victorian era women began to wear a pair of bloomers with a short dress over the top. Modesty at all times. Men began by wearing what looked like woollen long johns from ankle to wrist. Over time these became shorter and looked more like a modern ladies racing swimsuit. I’ve got a photo somewhere of my Grandpa in a thigh length bathing suit that when it got wet stretched out of all shape.

But I hear you cry how did they change? Well the answer was one of two ways. There was the bathing machine. This was effectively a garden shed on wheels. You went inside and got changed and then stepped out in you bathing attire. Some were wheeled from the promenade to the sea so you stepped out into the sea and then when you were done you were returned to dry land. It was usually only the rich who were taken into the sea. You could also use a sort of beach tent thing. We had one. It was like a huge towel with a hole in the top for your head. You simply got changed underneath it. Surfers use them these days to get out of wetsuits. Another way ladies got around the need for a changing room was to use the bell dress type thing.

The modesty aids at the beach

The modesty aids at the beach

I’ll be honest it looks more like a drowning aid than a swimming dress.

So this summer when you’re lying on the beach in your chosen attire think of your Victorian ancestors and be grateful no to have to wear a suit or crinoline.


Friday, 24 July 2020

Make do and mend

Today we live more in a throwaway society and if something is damaged or broken it goes. At the moment though we may be more inclined to repair or upcycle things or maybe even modify. But our ancestors would have had no choice but to keep mending and reusing things until they had no life left in the item.

I’m sure we’ve all done it. We get a garment that gets a hole in it and so it goes. But what would our ancestors have done. Well this would have depended on the damage. So for clothes they would have mended them if they could. Socks would be darned and holes would be stitched up.


How many of us would have thrown these jeans away? Our ancestors would never have done this. They would have carefully stitched over the area until the mend would nearly have been invisible. If the damage was too great then the garment would probably have be reused in another way. In the case of a pair of trousers that were damaged on the bottom they could be shortened and given to a younger member of the family. If this wasn’t possible then the garment could be turned into something else. So for example if a pair of curtains was ripped on the top and couldn’t be mended then the fabric could be recycled into clothes for someone.

But if the fabric was beyond use for being turned into new clothes then it still had a use. Cleaning in the home was a very time consuming chore for the lady of the house. Everything had to be done by hand. So having rags was essential. Old clothes could be used for washing floors and dusting and even for use as washing cloths and towels for the family. They could even be used to make a rag rug by attaching rags to a hessian sack to keep the cold from their feet.

But what when the rags were beyond use for that. Well they could be used in the garden. They could be strung over the garden to keep the birds off the crops. If they weren’t even fit for this they would be sold to a rag and bone man who would then sell the rags to shoddy makers. These were factories that recycled the rags into yarn to make new cloth.

Rags could be used to make new yarn

But what else did our ancestors make do and mend. Well obviously scraps of material could be used to make toys for children such as balls and rag dolls. Also old furniture could be reused after its functional life was over. So if a chair had a broken leg then the leg could possibly be mended by a new piece of wood being attached but if all the legs were damaged by rot at the foot then the legs could just be cut down to make a child’s chair. Or if the whole set of chairs and the table had rot then the whole lot could be shortened.

Pieces of wood could be collected and used in a variety of ways. In rural areas wood could be used to mend fencing and mend holes in buildings and even to build new items such as storage boxes to pack vegetables and flowers to send them to market. In the towns wood could also be used for covering windows instead of curtains or even making pallet beds to sleep on.

Today there is a mass market for selling crafting products and we can make so many different things from our own clothes to our own furniture. We make our own Christmas decorations and gift for one another, but in reality our ancestors had been doing this for as long as time can remember with the bits and pieces they had in their homes as nothing was wasted, everything was used until it couldn’t be used anymore or made into something else and then they would perhaps have been able to get a few penny’s for them.

The Thorpe St Andrew Rail Crash

 So this is probably at train crash you have never heard of and why would you unless you know the history of the area. Well I do know the ar...