From the Thorley Archives

Churchyard Survey Update - July 2004

It is two years since a database containing details of all our churchyard memorials was compiled and published on the Friends of St. James website. At Easter this year an older churchyard map 'came to light' that had been drawn up by our recently elected churchwarden, Paul Jacobs, for his Queen's Scout badge in 1974. This map is proving invaluable as it shows the names of those buried in the unmarked graves, names that were obviously missing from our 2002 survey of known interments. We are now in the process of collating the names of these unmarked graves by matching them with details in the burial register. These will then be added to our published database. The updated database will be available in paper and electronic form at this year's August Bank Holiday Festival of Flowers and Music.

Of all the many enquiries that we have had over the past two years the most rewarding has been the location of the grave of an infant child. Thanks to Paul's map we were able to reunite the parents with the exact place in our graveyard. The mother felt 'that her daughter had now been given back to her'.

We have had numerous enquiries from relations of previous Thorley residents and Thorley connections from all over Britain and as far afield as Australia, Canada and South Africa. There has been genuine recognition for the efforts of the team of 30+ church members who transcribed the original details. We have been able to correct mistakes and omissions from these contacts. Also, in replying to e-mail enquiries we have been able to send digital pictures of personal memorials.

In April this year I was contacted by Mrs Grey enquiring about the location of the unmarked grave of her Grandmother, whose funeral she attended as a very young girl in 1942. Once found, she was pleased to be able to mark the grave with a plaque and to be responsible for its future upkeep.

A link has been made with Thorley, Pretoria, South Africa when Jeanette Wilkins found four of her Fowler relations on our database. She is the great granddaughter of a member of the 19th century Fowler family of Thorley Hall who went to South Africa in 1896 to set up a tent & tarpaulin business. Another Fowler, Frank, ran a tramways business in Johannesburg.

Grandfather and Grandmother Fowler, Thorley, Pretoria, S. Africa

Myke Watts, on finding gravestone details of a Thorley relation who died in 1901, dug deeper into the family archives to discover that he had died falling over a stair rail at Charing Cross Hotel.

Wendy Gabriel is researching a 'Cook' relation who was a blacksmith in Thorley Terrace. By tapping local knowledge we found that there was a blacksmith 'Cook' with a forge in London Road, located where Station Garage is now, and then, from the 1901 census tracked down Thorley Terrace which has since been renamed Twyford Road.

Some contacts thank us for solving a mystery - David Brimson in Oxfordshire knew that his relation died whilst on holiday in Devon but didn't know that he was buried at St. James, Thorley. He only discovered the fact whilst idly surfing the net for the surname Brimson.

We were able to further Frank Warboys' extensive family tree research by passing on an e-mail enquiry from Mark Watson who proved to be a distant relation of Gladys Warboys' mother, Maud Watson.

Four 'Frost' entries on the database help to answer Anne Stevens' enquiry about her relations who immigrated to Canada in 1872. She has plans to visit St. James when she travels from Ontario later this year.

The database has been of great value to the Frere and Raper families to confirm and extend their family tree details. Through the medium of the Internet, enquiries from Frere relations have come from Australia, Canada, Scotland, Dorset, Oxford and Chelmsford. Information gained has been incorporated into my 'From the Archives' articles.

Bill Hardy
July 2004

From the Archives

Churchyard Monuments