Two generations removed from my Norfolk (England) ancestors, I still have family connections to Norfolk, have lived there for a while, visit the area frequently and am intimately familiar with its towns, villages and hamlets. My two Norfolk ancestral lines are the Farmans and the Graves.
The Farmans were originally reed thatchers in Norfolk’s Broadland (notably In Ashmanhaugh, Wroxham, Coltishall and Salhouse), later branching out to North Walsham and Sheringham in North Norfolk, and (in the case of my own branch) to Great Witchingham, Sparham, East Dereham and Reepham in Breckland.
My Farman great-grandmother never married, but gave birth to multiple illegitimate children: several, including my grandfather, were born, and spent their early years, at the local workhouse at Gressenhall (now a museum). It seems that children brought up in the workhouse were at an advantage compared with their peers, in that they received a half-decent education, rather than being put to work in the fields at a very young age: this certainly appears to have paid off in my grandfather’s case. His father’s identity remains a mystery, although recent DNA matches suggest that he may have been a member of the local Peachment family who worked at the workhouse.
The Graves were agricultural labourers from an adjoining group of small hamlets (Southburgh, Cranworth, Letton and Woodrising) close to East Dereham. As a child, I spent many a holiday in Norfolk, visiting relatives in Southburgh in particular. The paternity of my Graves great-grandmother is far from clear, and she also spent part of her childhood at Gressenhall Workhouse.
My paternal grandparents, both from the East Dereham area, appear to have met in London, where my grandmother was in domestic service and my grandfather had moved to pursue work as a pill-grinder in the fledgling pharmaceutical industry. They “made good” in London, and were eventually able to buy a newly-built house in the north-east London suburb where I was born: quite remarkable, given their humble origins.
My maternal lines are the Singles and the Fussells. The Singles were originally brickmakers, and later bricklayers, from the Eaton Socon area of Bedfordshire (England); some went on to become builders and, eventually, wealthy property developers - not so my branch! My 3rd-great-grandfather, a bricklayer, moved his family to the East End of London, before being found guilty of stealing a window sash and sentenced to 7 years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, where he died. Three generations later, my maternal grandfather also “made good” as a compositor for a national newspaper, and was able to purchase a house and a motor car.
The Fussells originated around the Somerset/Wiltshire (England) border: other branches of that family became prominent locally, founding enterprises such as Fussell's Ironworks and Fussell’s Brewery. My branch were cabinetmakers, and eventually brought their trade to London’s East End. There my Fussell great-grandfather married a descendent of the Marmoy family of Huguenot silk-weavers, who had fled religious persecution in France during the late 17th century and established themselves in London’s Spitalfields.
In short, I am a typical mongrel!
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