The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians.These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Righteous perisheth-The Thornhills of Liston

On February 6th 1858, the Bury Free Press reprinted from 'The Times' the following report

Died at Lucknow on the 12th of October 1857 from wounds received on the 29th of September when nobly heading a party to bring in some wounded men that had been left behind when General Outram and Havelock forced their way into the Residency on the previous evening.
J.Bensly Thornhill Esq of the Bengali Civil Service aged 25 years and six months, he had got in all the wounded except 12 men and was taking the eldest son of Sir Henry Havelock to a place of safety, as he entered a gate a Sepoy from a house opposite sent a ball through his right arm, he tied it with his handkerchief and went on with his noble duty, when returning the same Sepoy fired again and the ball wounded him in the temple leaving him insensible, he was taken to hospital and his right arm was amputated, he lingered for 16 days then died.
He left a young widow of 18 years (who is the niece of General Havelock) to mourn the loss of both him and the infant child, her husband got his death with doing a brave humane Christian act and had he lived the highest honour of the Victoria Cross would have been his, this is some consolation to his widowed mother.

Lady Inglis kept a diary that records the event

A sortie was made by our garrison to-day, and four guns taken. Mr. Thornhill, Civil Service, volunteered to go out with a force to bring in the wounded; amongst them was General Havelock’s son and his cousin. Poor fellow! he reached them all right by a safe road, but for some unknown reason returned by a different one through the most frequented streets, which had been Ioopholed by the enemy. The dhoolie-bearers could not stand the fire which was opened upon them, and dropped the dhoolies with the wounded inside them. The escort was overwhelmed and Mr. Thornhill himself badly wounded, but he managed to get into the Residency. The enemy, we were told, collected the dhoolies in the Khass Bazaar square and set fire to them. General Havelock and his aide-­de-camp breakfasted with us.

Monday 12th
Mr. Thornhill died to-day from his wounds; he had not been married a year.

The Pension List to 30 April 1858 mentions his widow
Mrs Mary Thornhill, widow of Mr J Bensley Thornhill, of the Bengal Civil Service, who met his death in rescuing Lt Sir Henry Havelock , who during the advance to the relief of lucknow was lying wounded in a Duli in dange rof falling into the hands of the mutineers.

Also from The Times (Feb 10, 1858) comes the following sad extract...

Killed, at the massacre at Cawnpore, supposed about the 15th July last, Robert Benaley Thornhill, Esq., Civil Service, third son of the late John Thornhill, Esq., E.I. Director; and his wife, Mary White, youngest daughter of the late George Siddons, Esq.,of the Bengal Civil Service, with their two younger children, Charles and Mary.

Mark Bensley Thornhill, the third brother was at one point Deputy Collector in Cawnpore, but in 1857 he was a magistrate in Muttra. Mark, unlike his two brothers, survived the slaughter -- by posing as a Muslim woman during his escape.
In 1884 he published his memoir The personal adventures and experiences of a magistrate during the rise, progress and suppression of the Indian mutiny

The Thornhill family lived at Liston Hall, Essex, near Long Melford. J.B. Thornhill was Assistant Commissioner of Lucknow when he was killed. There is a memorial tablet in the church which according to the Rev Brian Sampson is a Piscina which is unusual in a church.
The memorial reads

"In memory of Robert Bensly Thornhill and Mary White his wife who after 66 days and nights of extreme sufferings were with their children, Charles Cuthbert and Mary Catherine and their faithful nurse Mary Long, cruelly massacred on the 15th of July 1857 at Cawnpore
The righteous perisheth and no man layeth it to hearts and merciful men are taken away none considering that the righteous is taken away from evil to come.

Also on the same Piscina is the following...

"Henry Bensly Thornhill and Emily Heathfield his wife and infant child Catherine who with their faithful nurse Eliza Jennings were ruthlessly murdered at Seetapore on the the 3rd of June 1857.
"They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided"

Some of the dates in the Times extract do not correspond with the Liston Piscina, perhaps understandable.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Glemsford Poachers

Philip 'Tulip' Rowe (1871-1955) was a farm labourer from Bulmer who, fortunately for us, was encouraged to write about his life whilst in hospital. Edited abstracts from his writings have now been published as a booklet by the Bulmer Historical Society. In this short extract, He hands down to us one of the few descriptions we have of the Glemsford Poaching Club.

The Glemsford folk were a rough lot I can vouch for. The place was called little Hell. I had little to do with them, but I have worked there and have had somewhat to do with Glemsford people nearly ever since I left school. Those mat weavers had little recreation in the large village, although a man or two there had a fair with roundabouts, swing-boats etc. These men worked early and late, earning good money compared with farm workers, for there were some very good land and farmers around Glemsford. .

As the weavers did not work on Saturdays, they had to do something for recreation. They did, for they were poachers of the poachers. For they, in their numbers going out on Saturdays and Sundays with plenty of money in their pockets for beer, would take long walks around with a dog or two. If the dogs put up a rabbit that runned to ground one of them had a ferret in their pocket. This was put in the hole. If a small hole a line was put on the ferret. One or two of the party on scout to see if anyone was coming who knew them, to let those know who was after the rabbit. If so, they waited till the coast was clear, then they had the rabbit if possible..

The Glemsford folk were a rough lot

It was said they had a club between them. So if they were caught and given a penalty or fine it was paid out of the funds. I am only writing of that I have been told by more than one, although I quite believe it was so. I know a gang came as far as Bulmer and walked over Smeetham Hall and Goldingham Hall, because I have seen them myself. Although I never had anything to do with the party myself or with those who I know did, I have had a drink with the Glemsford folk and those who belonged near to Bulmer or in it. I have seen them from a distance walking across a large field, just as sportsmen do for the beaters, to drive the birds over the hedge whilst the guns were at their stand, ready for the birds to come up for the guns. Also I have known the bailiff and his son who told them to clear off. The only notice they took was told both of them they would be better at their breakfast than "looking after us." What [sic] surprised me the most was they did the same for several Sundays. There were two keepers on one farm belonging to the Auberies as well as a policeman in the parish. Yet these men did not get taken or it seemed as if it were not known. Anyway nothing I heard of was ever done to stop them.

'...they had to do something for recreation'

They also came moonlight nights when the snow was on the ground, for they were seen by the tracks, beside people hearing the noise of the guns they had. I know [once] I was killing or helping to kill some pigs at Gestingthorpe and we were talking of the episode to the shopkeeper who was having the pigs killed by my mate. This house was an Off-Licensed house where one could have beer to drink off the premises, but of course we could drink at the place with pig killing. He said a Belchamp policeman told him once, not long before, of these Glemsford sportsmen. .

He was on duty at Seven Forms in Walter Belchamp [where grew] a very large oak with huge limbs on it, hollow so a man can stand inside without being seen on dark nights. This road leading from Sudbury to the three Belchamps is the way to come for the three. Turning right above a steep hill to St.Pauls and Otten Belchamp and straight on or turning by another road to Belchamp Walter Church and the village of Belchamp Walter. There is not a house near the road for upwards of four miles. A great part of the way is between a high bank and a hedge. Both sides thickly [planted] with plenty of fir trees. So to travel these roads it is very dark if nearly night and the moon is not showing. At about this large oak is a culvert that sometimes is flooded to a depth, hence the name Severn Forms, as there were so many planks to walk on when in flood. After the culvert was made the forms were not necessary. But there is a flood if the culvert get blocked up - for a great rush I have seen at these roads. The one to Foxearth goes by way of old lanes and this narrow road that leads directly over the culvert to Foxearth, Pentlow, Glemsford etc. This tree were a meeting place for Bulmer, Belchamp and Foxearth police. One night when three of these policemen were there - to part again soon or at a given time - three men came by in the road with dogs. These said, "Good-night mates." They turned up this road called Hoe Lane. The policeman telling the tale had to go that way on his beat, the other two, one back to Bulmer the other by way of Borley. This policeman said we asked each other what was best to do in the case - follow them or not. They had to be at another point at a [set] time [and] what could they do with three men who perhaps were as good men as themselves. Also the three men had long dogs with them. They said, "Let them go." The one policeman had to go up this road to another point. The Hoe Lane up where he had to go is narrow and bordered thickly with trees that grow to a great height. This policeman told that it was not a comfortable walk -not a house within a mile. The nearest but a large house, Easton Hall, with a bungalow that was near half a mile off and not many living there, [but] a man and wife. He was alone with three strong young men poaching, who he might or might not come across in a little way. Presently he heard a low whistle. A hare banged into a net with dogs behind and one man after the hare. The other two standing near - less than twenty yards away from him. Those he could not see, for if he had it was too dark to recognise them. He said, "Good-night." They, "Good-night mate." He felt much better then - he was passed them. They did not wish to harm him he knew. Neither did he tell this tale till just before he was leaving to go to another place..

These Glemsford chaps be they what they may, I knew they were poachers. Yes they did well too, not often [being] taken. But most folks know that where the shoe pinches there is pain. As with them, also with keepers and others. One incident is this of one of the folk. He was out one day somewhere in Suffolk. The place or names I do not say, although I may know both or I may not. His dog caught a hare and before he could make a start a man came to him - told him he wanted the hare. "So do I," said the man who had got the hare. The gamekeeper thought he was man enough to take it away. He tried to but was not man enough. The poacher, if one like to call him one, did not let him take the hare, but he took a thrashing off him and he had a sore hide. So the man to escape the law, as the gamekeeper knew him and also where he came from, went to Canada. He did well. Also he came from there three or four times to see his old pals and relatives who has told me from time to time that he did well in Canada. Good man too, for he was the part I knew him. If anyone needed help he would [oblige] one way or another, whether they were relatives or not.

Well enough of this, but readers do not think too bad of poachers then or now. They did it for a recreation. Nothing else good around them unless sport, for they were at their looms five day out of seven. They wanted exercise. That is how they had it.

from "In Tulip's Time, from the writings of Philip 'Tulip' Rowe Vol 1

Monday, October 10, 2005

Toponymy: Ugley Nasty Foulness with Shellow Bowells

There are some wonderful names of places in Essex. Shellow Bowells, Steeple Bumstead, Matching Tye, Foulness, Mucking and Fobbing for example. It is a quirk of science that the ladies of the village of Ugley are radiant in their loveliness and remarkable for their gorgeous complexion, though it was a mistake for them to change the name of the Ugley Womens' Institute to the 'Womens' Institute (Ugley Branch). I'm not even sure if the nearby village of Nasty (in Herts) has a Nasty Women's institute. Probably not.

Ugley (Uggelegh on old documents) is said to derive its name from Ugga's Leigh (meaning Uggah's enclosure) This sort of explanation is the place-name expert's equivalent to a shrug of the shoulders.

We are on much firmer ground with Shellow Bowells. This manor (Scheuele) was once, in 1249, held by John and Ralph de Bueles, or Bouelles. The Sceolge was the old name for the Roding river, and the name gradually got corrupted over the years. The village of Nasty is near Sevenage in Herts. One guesses that it actually means the clearing (Tey) on the headland (Nes). I prefer to believe that the name stuck after a particularly violent football match played in the seventeenth century between two villages. Matching Tye is near Matching in Essex. This probably comemmorates a saxon settlement and probably refers to 'Maecca's people'. The Tye probably refers to a cross-roads or clearing. Likewise Fobbing derives from 'Fobba's people', and Mucking refers to 'Mucca's people'. Foulness is much lovelier than the name would suggest and means, in old English, 'a headland frequented by birds'

In honour of the ladies of Nasty, Simon Banks has written the following verses.


The Nasty Women’s Institute
Meets in the Church Hall vestibule,
Discusses who to garrotte or shoot,
Collects for violins for school,

Embroiders rumours, cushions too,
Poisons the constable with tea,
Arranges flowers, makes curates stew
And drops the Bishop in the sea.

The works of God are wondrous strange;
The Nasty women are strange as well.
They spread the mildew and the mange
And pull the bellrope on the bell.

He adds

'I'm from Herts, and once passed through Nasty on a long walk. As you entered the village you were greeted by a big sign about the women's institute. It bore the name of the next-door village!

County Durham's rich collection of odd names - No Place, Pity Me, Stony Heap and others? Unlike the Ugleys and Nastys, they are deliberate, and my theory is that coal mines were opened in places where there had been no previous settlement at all, so the new settlements were named by miners with a wry sense of humour.'

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Those small components of the Historical Record

I've never met an unhappy Local Historian. Even though they often work long hours through unpreposessing material, unappreciated by those around them, they seem content plough on through their chosen field, to occasionally come up with polished gems that illustrate with startling clarity the upheavals of history.

One such gem was produced by Alf Daines of Poslingford. So many times, in the course of rummaging through old attics or boxes of memorabilia, we come across a photograph of a group of people and ache to find out the names for everybody and discover more about them. I never get round to it, but Alf did, and managed to identify everyone in this photograph of the Posligford Summer Men's Outing to Great Yarmouth

The Summer Men's Outing to Great Yarmouth was arranged from Poslingford in 1938.Two coach loads of buses run by Longs of Glemsford made the trip, driven by Tommy Tice and Charlie Gibbons. (see the Glemsford photographs for more of them and their coaches)

Alf Daines names those on it (left to right from the back):
Arthur Bridge, George Mortlock snr, Tommy Tice, Archibald Barton, Cliff Meekins, Joe Manfield, Alf Frost, Bob Cooper, Teddy Taylor, Arthur French, Charlie Bowers, Don Streeter, Cecil Mansfield, Walter Hickford, Fred Meekins, Bert Bridge, Walter Rawlinson, Reg Meekins, Ernest Hickford, Herbert Bridge, David Brett, Harold Mason, Albert Hicks, George Mortlock jnr, Vic Basham, PC Knott, Jimmy Deeks, James King, Charlie Gibbons, Fred Beacham, Jack Deeks, Charlie Basham, Arthur Jay, Bill Daines, Toss Barton, Ted Basham, Willy Webb, Harry Bridge, Percy Addison, Bill Stone, Clem Crick, Arthur Green, Mr Melton, Bert Hicks, Bert Mitson, Joe Mitson, Bill Blewitt, Bill Meekins, Charlie Bridge, George Meekins, George Bridge, Bill Mayes, Harry Spooner.

For some descendents, this photograph is the only known pictorial record of a grandfather or great grandfather. Sadly, these surnames, so evocative of the border regions around the Stour Valley, are no longer so prominent in the area: The homes of Poslingford are now quite out of the financial reach of local people, and their little farm cottages are now gone, or converted into gentrified 'weekend retreats' by Londoners. Of the names of the men on that trip, only the names Daines, Deeks, French, Frost, Mansfield, Mason and Taylor are still to be found in the village. What then has happened to the other twenty-nine families?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Savages of Cavendish

Back in April (2005), Andrew (no relation) posted an item on the Hysterical Historian about the lives and bequests of George and Emma Savage, and their connection with Cavendish.

By way of addition, I commented that some descendants of a Glemsford family were carrying out some research which involved the Savages.

The starting point for this work was a group of letters written by Emma Savage between 1900 and 1913.

"Some research" turned into a mammoth hunt, parts of which are still incomplete, but the bulk of our findngs including transcripts of the letters (and carrying all sorts of caveats where uncertainties remain) can be followed through the Glemsford website at

Any comments or additions will be gratefully received.

Steve Clarke