Entries in Norfolk (13)

Monday
Aug012011

Smallburgh: A Story of the Trorys

Nestled between Wroxham and Hickling, just under 15 km north east of Norwich, Smallburgh misses much of the tourist traffic heading to honey pot locations. Perhaps for that reason, this is a lovely part of the world. Today the village is, as it’s name might lead you to believe, a small place in terms of population - just 518 in 2001. Don’t be misled though. The name is nothing to do with the size of the place but actually derives from the River Smale, now known as the River Ant, which borders the parish.

Despite being a somewhat diminutive parish in terms of numbers - if not acreage - Smallburgh once punched much above its weight in terms of local influence. In 1785, a House of Industry was constructed, one of the ‘Norfolk Hundred Incorporations’ formed by local acts of parliament. The House provided a place for the poor and infirm of all the parishes of the Tunstead and Happing hundreds except North Walsham. This meant that it catered for over 40 parishes in North Norfolk. Indeed, Smallburgh’s influence was great enough with this facility that even until the 1974 local government reorganisation, the local Rural District Council was that of Smallburgh.

Extended in 1836, the House of Industry did not become the Smallburgh Poor Law Union until 1869. Long before this time, in 1808, the burial ground lying to the south of the site was consecrated (see the NRO’s catalogue at www.archives.norfolk.gov.uk). Today, only a commemoration stone remains to show the location of the cemetery, shaded in this peaceful part of the Country by several large trees. The church’s parish register contains many burials which contain the words “from the work house”. So many, that the official regularly just notes ‘do’ under each successive entry.

The old House of Industry burial ground in Smallburgh. Look closely and you can see the commemoration stone by the fence to the left of the picture.

The House of Industry appears to have never been used to capacity. Having been built to house 800 souls, it seems to have regularly housed less than 100, and rarely any able-bodied inmates to use its own ‘one penny tokens’ on local produce. In later years, much of the building was boarded up and finally demolished in the 1950s. Only some minor buildings (now residential) survive today, along with the telltale street names of “Workhouse Road” and “Union Street”. For more about the workhouse, please visit Peter Higgenbotham’s website: www.workhouses.org.uk.

Excuse the effects, I couldn't resist a little fun with the photographs! To the left are buildings remaining, to the right the road sign.

So to St Peter's church, a newer structure on top of what was once possibly a much older building. The church lost its tower in 1677, probably before my ancestors arrived. Unlike Alderton in Suffolk there is no suggestion that the tower's collapse brought about the demise of a local cow during a Sunday service! The west end as we see it today was constructed only in 1902, replacing a small square tower as sketched in a drawing hosted by Picture Norfolk (search ‘Smallburgh’ at www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk). It is not a ‘typical’ looking church, as in one a child might draw with a high square tower and oblong nave. In my opinion this works in the building's favour – this is not a church that will blend in with others I have visited recently.

To my untrained eye, the bells hang in too narrow a surround, and the walls are too high for the ‘tower’ and the length of the building. However, I love the crossed-keys on the outside and the somewhat minimalist nature of the interior, complete with steps covered by a grate in the aisle and a spiral stair case to nowhere in the wall. It’s quite easy to imagine my forebears standing at the font or the alter.

 

Nearby Dilham also has a unique place in my memory because its ‘ruined’ tower is rather too perfect and could perhaps be a folly. Not being an expert on medieval churches, I direct you to Simon Knott’s fabulous www.norfolkchurches.co.uk for more enlightened observations than I could possibly give.

The well ordered gravestones, almost all in family groups, are something of a boon to genealogists on the trail of their ancestors. Nestled in the back corner lie several members of the Trory/Trorey family. My last direct line Trory was my 4x Great Grandmother Hannah Trory, baptised in the village in 1821. Before her, I have tracked her father James (baptised 1800 in Smallburgh) and grandfather John (possibly baptised a few miles away in Sutton in 1763?). Beyond John, my trail currently falters. 

Mr Pewegwin and I take a look at my ancestor's grave. Just occasionally I trust my significant other with my camera!

‘Trory’ is not a common name. Interestingly, it is one that appears to have origins very much localised to the Hickling/Smallburgh area of the Norfolk Broads. Personally, I have a theory that potentially an original John, who may have married a ‘Brigitt’ in 1750 (French sounding? Or a red herring?), was of Huguenot descent. Perhaps this is too tempting an explanation to explain the sudden arrival of the Trory family, but I am hoping that the parish records, as opposed to the parish registers, may hold some clues when I get a chance to sit down and go through them. It is said that many of the Huguenots who settled in Norfolk were employed draining the Broads to the north east of Norwich – could this apply to my own family?

Curiously, neighbouring stones from the 1800s for husband and wife - in not one but two cases - feature different spellings of the name; sometimes ‘Trory’ and sometimes ‘Trorey’. Just goes to show how surnames have only become standardised in relatively recent times. Those entries in the register that include occupation describe this family line as husbandmen by the 1800s (free tenant farmers below the social status of a yeoman). To my knowledge to date they avoided spending any time within the local House of Industry.

Local people reading this may make a connection between the Trory name and Trory Street in Norwich, not far from Chapelfield Gardens – if you know the connection I’d be interested to hear it! I think it is very likely that there is one, as even in 1841 the surname was likely restricted to Norfolk. It seems that everybody with Trory ancestry in Norfolk is ultimately related to one another. (No jokes about our wonderful County please!). It is true to say that the men bearing this name were quite prolific, often having more than ten children, which explains how perhaps one original gentleman bearing the name came to leave such a legacy in the County.

Smallburgh is a fabulous example of a North Norfolk settlement with a rich history. There is nothing better than visiting the places connected to your tree - you never know what you might find! If you have any Trory ancestry feel free to get in touch, I would be very interested to hear from you.

Tuesday
May242011

My mantra: 200 year old advice from a Norfolk yeoman

I have a ‘motto’ stuck to the divider around my desk.

When I was about ten I diligently learnt it off by heart and have tried to live by the sentiments ever since. The motto came from a family letter written by my Great Great Great Grandfather's brother and I first became aware of it when the letter was transcribed by my Dad in the mid 90s. On the more difficult days since (bad hair, bad boss, bad bank - to mention the more minor trials!) I have tried to focus on his advice to his son. I must say that it has been particularly useful, repeated as a mantra, to psych myself up before job interviews and difficult meetings! 

Reading it, I never fail to marvel at how relevant the advice still is today. Rather than write out a whole lot of thoughts, this week I am simply going to copy out the letter my ‘motto’ is extracted from, containing wonderful advice as well as an insight into the life of a country yeoman in Norfolk in the early 1800s. It is but one of several letters I am lucky enough to have access to and part of a series of letters between Augustine, his father and brothers, during a tour for the former's health. 

I hope you find it as enjoyable (and useful!) as I have over the years…

Brockdish 28th October 1820 

My dear Augustine 

I thank you for your letter, which relieved my mind very much, as I was fearful you might have sailed to encounter the late horrendous Gales. I now hope you will have much more favourable weather, and that you will encounter no material difficulties in your destined voyage to Madeira – where I trust you will arrive safe and meet with a very satisfactory reception – your introductions appear to be very flattering and respectable, and likely I should hope to be very useful – but be prepared for some disappointments, for we must not expect to pass this life without some difficulties – suffer them not to depress your spirits, but bear up against anything of the kind manfully and with a becoming spirit. Tell G I will accommodate him as soon as in my power and that I regard his request as reasonable, Henry is also in my thoughts, but it cannot be convenient to assist him until my Bullocks are sold. Corn fetches but little money and the calls upon me here are frequent and not small – so that I find considerable difficulty. I have no reason to doubt with the blessing of God, being in town at the time mentioned in my former letter, when I will assist your brother as far as I may be able. Pray take care you run no hazard of your health etc. during your voyage, for which I hope you are provided with some fruit and refreshments – tell Henry I am much gratified by Mr Rogerson’s remembrance of such insignificant being as myself, and that when he writes to Mr R. he will not forget to make my respectful compliments to him, and inform him I cannot forget his kind attentions to you and your Brother, of which I had such strong proof during your illness. Accept my best regards for you and your Brothers, with kind remembrances to the Hunter Street Family – and believe me to be most sincerely your affectionate Father –           

                                                                                                                         Thomas

PS The apples will be forwarded as soon as I can possibly send – perhaps it may be a fortnight. I wish you a prosperous voyage and God bless you and your undertakings.

Your uncle has hired a farm for your cousin Daniel of upward three hundred acres, in the parish of Bracon Ash and has taken possession I believe of about 130 acres, the remainder will be taken at Michelmas next, the whole under Mr Benney

 

I don't believe for a second that Thomas would have written the letter thinking that 200 years later it would be read and digested by his brother's descendants. Letters and diaries are a truly magnificent resource because they can add so much colour to your family trees. Through letters you can try to get to know people who are long gone; share a joke, feel an emotion and get a greater understanding of the social graces and economies of times past.

Today, another line of my family still raises bullocks and grows corn – this year they are facing issues with the lack of rain, an age old problem for farmers. Thomas’ home is still lived in (though not by any relation), and the village is still a small one on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. We live in a fast changing world, but not everything is so very different – sons are still funded by their fathers, and many of those dads are still giving sensible advice (although perhaps not always so eloquently!)

With any luck, if I eventually have children of my own, Thomas' thoughts can be passed down for many generations to come.....I can't see his advice becoming irrelevant any time soon.

Tuesday
May172011

A drink on them: Pubs and Breweries of Norwich past

It was with sadness that I noted another pub - The Marquee in Norwich - closing its doors a week or so ago. Once the Shirehall and then the One & Only, the Marquee provided a haunt for me throughout university and since.

Unfortunately it’s not such an unusual occurrence these days to hear about a pub closure. However, although greater numbers seem to have been suffering in recent years, hundreds of others have disappeared since the Victorian era, not least due to the Licensing Act of 1904 and damage during WWII.

Norwich was once known as a city with a pub for every day and a church for every Sunday of the year - indeed, at one time there were almost enough for two pubs for every day of the year (and even then not including beer houses!). This is no longer the case today, but it has been great to uncover my own family connections to pubs not just here in the city but across the land.

It wasn’t at all a shock to find ‘pub people’ in the family. My grandmother lived in a pub in Aldeburgh while growing up, starring as the town’s carnival queen one year - driven to the Moot Hall on that occasion by none other than Benjamin Britten himself.

My ancestors’ occupations span brewing, ‘landlording’ and barrel making (coopering) and I know several others enjoyed a drink or two even if they weren’t employed in the industry – I recently heard a distant cousin described as “a drunk who left to make his fortune in Australia”  - so I imagine some may have liked three or four! Let’s hope he wasn’t slurring his words on census night.

Starting with brewing I introduce you to Thomas Massey, my 5x Great Grandfather, who was born in Norwich in 1772. Thomas went on to own the ‘St Stephen’s Gate’ brewery which operated from the Champion on Chapelfield Road (still open today) and which was tied in 1845 to both the Champion itself and the London Steam Packet on St Catherine’s Plain. According to www.norfolkpubs.co.uk, The Champion was named after boxer Daniel Mendosa who visited Norwich in 1790. I would recommend this website for anybody with Norfolk pub connections – they have been incredibly helpful to me and ever so friendly with queries when I’ve been in touch.

Incidentally, in Thomas’ time, St Stephen’s Gate was still in place, being taken down in 1793 (for more see http://www.norwich.gov.uk/webapps/citywall/25/report.asp). The gates once stood close to the engraving that will be familiar to commuters heading into the city from the A11. In my own humble opinion, the roundabout and multi storey is hardly such an impressive entrance to the city proper as the gates which once stood there must have been.

Over the decades, smaller breweries were consolidated and larger breweries, like the famous Steward and Patteson, went on to dominate by the end of the 1800s. The Pockthorpe area employed scores of coopers, many of whom lived in the local yards and housing such as that at Weeds Square which once stood at the bottom of Gas Hill near the old gas works.

Licensees litter my tree. Perhaps one of the most intriguing was John Miller - one of three successive John Millers through my maternal Great Grandmother. Most likely born in Carleton, near Poulton le Fylde, Lancashire, John settled in Norwich on retirement from the 9th Regiment of Foot. In 1851, he can be found at the Yarn Factory Tavern at 152 Cowgate. Again thanks to Norfolk Pubs it seems the pub was compulsorily purchased for road widening and served it’s last pint in 1950, almost 100 years after John left, probably around 1856.

Just like the Marquee (at the time The Shirehall) the pub was damaged in air raids in 1942. As many as 100 city pubs were lost in the raids over the city. The Yarn Factory name is unsurprisingly connected to the textile industry which was once one of the dominant trades of the city – large yarn manufacturies are visible on maps of Cowgate as late as the 1880s.

While John had retired as a Chelsea Pensioner by 1861, his wife Hannah was still living in a public house. Whether she lived away from her husband for a long time or just on the night of the census is as yet unknown to me. The Old Globe on Botolph Street close by was nonetheless her boarding house on the night of the census. Supposedly, the Inn was haunted by the murdered wife of a weaver who was hung nearby in 1701. I wonder whether Hannah had the pleasure of meeting the mysterious Mrs Watts?

The pub, now somewhere under the architectural wonder that is Anglia Square, was a victim of the Licensing Act passed in 1904. The 1908 sessions determined that there were 17 other licensed houses within just 200 yards. Although it was ‘fairly well conducted’ it was ‘small and inconvenient and not wanted in the neighbourhood’ and referred to compensation, closing for good on 1st September 1908. (Again I must thank www.norfolkpubs.co.uk).

It was not unusal for so many pubs to exist in a small area. Some quote that King Street had over 50 (see heritagecity link below) – hardly the same as today where even the Ferry Boat has now changed use (although a very good use it is too!). The market was also a hub of activity for the consumption of alcohol having been a bustling meeting place for centuries. The claim of oldest Norwich pub seems to go the quirky Adam and Eve, first recorded as an alehouse in 1249 (http://www.adamandevenorwich.co.uk/history.htm) when it was favoured by labourers building the cathedral. 

However, I digress…

The Old Globe was one of 9801 pubs closed by the Act between 1905 and 1914. I would recommend visiting http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/at-leisure-in-norwich/norwich-pubs.htm for more information on the rise and fall of city pubs. You may also be interested to know that Norwich Heritage Projects, previously responsible for a fantastic site on the Norwich Yards, are currently working on a Norwich Pubs and Breweries project for 2011 which promises to be a fantastic resource. The website, under construction and looking for input, is situated here: http://www.norwich-pubs-breweries.co.uk/

While my publican ancestors tend to be focussed in Norwich, I also have connections across East Anglia and further afield – from the old Crown in Kenton, Suffolk to another Crown in Old Dalby, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. The one thing most of the pubs in my tree have in common however is that they are no longer serving local ale, something that this area is very good at producing!

Landlords often leave a very good paper trail and hence the inclusion of a licensee in your family tree can be quite a bonus. I would love to hear from anyone that can tell more about any of the pubs and taverns mentioned in this blog, and especially anyone that can tell me about my Great Grandfather, Louis (known as John) Outerbridge during his time at The Mill in Aldeburgh – there are, I’m sure, many people that remember him.    

With that, I will raise a glass to ancestors past.

 

Tuesday
Apr262011

Uncle Thomas: Legend of Happisburgh (in more ways than one)

For this, my second blog installment of the week denoting memorable ancestors, I turn to an uncle by marriage, Rev Thomas Lloyd. 

Those that have heard of Happisburgh (pronounced 'Hayes-brough') often first think about homes at the top of cliffs and coastal erosion. However, there is of course far more to the village. A couple of years ago, a simple search engine request threw up Thomas Lloyd as a central figure in the parish history and sent me on a path of discovery. Supposedly, I found, he is remembered for baptising an awful lot of children at once, and for holding a party for the occasion. 

The church at Happisburgh has one of the highest towers of any in Norfolk, and the graveyard overlooks the sea.

 The village sign, not far from the church, is pictured below.


At the top, a vicar is depicted, baptising a child. This vicar is Rev. Thomas Lloyd. While I was fairly sure there was some truth behind the legend of his throwing a party and baptising as many children as possible on Whit Sunday, 1793, I wanted to find out for sure. I consulted the original register and found the following - 

“Memorandum – Observing a great reluctance in the poorer inhabitants of the Parish of Happisburgh to give their children full baptism, most chiefly owing to their inability to afford their friends such little entertainment as they imagined to be suitable and necessary upon such occasions and being seriously convinced that to general a neglect of that ancient Rite, was become very detrimental to the principles and morals of the times; I invited all such as would bring their children and friends to receive full baptism on whitsonday 1793 to an entertainment; and baptised on that day one hundred and seventy persons. Thos Lloyd.”

So, if your ancestor was resident in Happisburgh in the late 1700s and you have no specific baptism record for them, maybe they were at the party! 

I know little about Thomas’ early life so far. He married my 5xGreat Grandfather’s sister Susannah Walne in Redenhall in 1782, shortly after he became vicar at Happisburgh and eleven years before the village’s memorable shindig – perhaps she helped with the catering! 

Rev Lloyd was similarly efficient with his own offspring who were both baptised within 24 hours. The couple had two sons, Thomas Henry, who followed his father into the clergy, and Randall Walne (yes, that’s two surnames as Christian names – his grandmother’s maiden name Randall, who hailed from a gentry family in the Hempnall area, and Walne for his mother) who became an Officer in the East India Army. 

Their baptisms appear in the North Walsham register, and it’s great to note the extras that you can’t get from transcriptions - if Susannah had given birth only a few days earlier they could have saved a few pence: 

“The New Stamp Duty began on the 1st Day of October 1783 for Births and Christenings, Burials and Marriages, at 3d Each- 

October 4th 1783 - Thomas Henry Lloyd, son of Thomas Lloyd Cl and Susannah his wife late Walne of N Walsham; paid 3d”

and

“Randall Walne son of Thos Lloyd Clk and Susannah his wife (late Susannah Walne) was born March 13th 1789, baptised privately March 13th 1789 and received into the church August 1792.”

The Stamp Duty Act 1783 imposed a charge on all baptisms, marriages and burials of 3d in order to pay for the American War of Independence. Because paupers were exempt, you may find a larger than usual amount of paupers in the registers between 1783 and 1794. 

Both also appear, together, in the register at Happisburgh out of order with the rest of the entries:

“Thomas Henry Lloyd (son of the Revd Thomas Lloyd, Vicar of this parish and Susannah his wife (daughter of Daniel Walne of Harleston in this County, Gent) was born Oct 3rd and baptised Oct 4th 1783. He was born at North Walsham. 

Randall Walne (son of the said Thomas and Susannah Lloyd) was born and baptised March 13th 1789. He was born at North Walsham.” 

A history of the family included a passage, written in Thomas’ hand, as follows:

“Susannah, the fourth child, married the Rev. Thomas Lloyd, Rector of Westwick and Vicar of Happisburgh in Norfolk, by whom she has two sons, Thomas Henry Lloyd of King’s College, Cambridge, and Randall Walne Lloyd, who completes his 15th year this 13th day of March 1804 and is far advanced in his classical studies under my own tuition.”

Sadly to my knowledge (to date) neither son went on to marry or have children as both died young. In fact mother, father and sons all died within five years, and Thomas and his wife died 'within hours' of each other.

A large tablet in North Walsham Church reads as follows:  

“Near this place were interred the remains of the Rev’d. Thomas Lloyd, LL.B., Vicar of Happisburgh and Rector of Westwick, and an active intelligent magistrate for this County who departed this life November 26th, 1813; for Susanna his wife, who died a few hours before him, aged 62; for their eldest son, Rev. Thomas Henry Lloyd, A.B., Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge, bom October 3rd, 1783, died June 6th, 1808 ; also for Randall Walne Lloyd, their only other child, bom March 13th, 1789; died in the East Indies, May 23rd, 1808.” 

My next plans are to find out more about Randall Walne’s time in the East Indies (thank you to FIBIS who were very helpful at this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live) and also to follow up the rest of the Lloyd family. 

It seems Rev. Lloyd not only provided a legend, but potentially was a legend. As ever, if there are any family links reading this article, please feel free to contact me. I’d also love to hear about any other events like that at Happisburgh!

Monday
Apr252011

Cousin Albert Septimus: Queen Victoria's Consul in Cairo

To celebrate a few days of uninterrupted research, this week I hope to make up for a couple of weeks' blog absence with a series of posts about a few of my more intriguing ancestors. While I am fascinated by people of all places, occupations, walks of life and circumstances there are some that for whatever reason pique my interest more than others. So, tonight, I introduce you to Cousin Albert.

Even when I was little I was aware of having an ancestor who travelled further than most Walnes before or since. It made my lessons about the Egyptians from Mrs Ingate at Primary School even more enthralling, because I knew that somewhere I had an ancestor that had really been there. 

It is only more recently that I have begun to find out more about Alfred Septimus Walne. My first cousin, six times removed, he was born in Market Weston in Suffolk on 22 February 1806, the youngest child of Thomas Walne and Elizabeth Cole.

‘Ordinary’ records (by which I mean the census and parish baptisms, marriages and burials) give little away about his life abroad but give tantalising hints into his existence. The census for 1861 shows him staying at the White Lion Hotel, High Street, Bath, occupation “HM Consul Cairo”. Among the other guests are ‘gentlemen’ and a captain in the Bengal Artillary. Ten years later, he can be found at the United Hotel (19-25 inclusive Charles Street, St James Square) a similarly grand hotel, this time occupation “Landowner late HMC”. 

His lack of an appearance in earlier census’ is probably due to his being in Cairo at the time. In this post I can only scrape the surface of his life as Consul, but I hope to touch on a few of the things I have so far discovered about Cousin Alfred. 

It would appear that Alfred first ventured to Egypt not as Consul, but as a doctor, and specifically, an eye doctor. A book, online here, first published in 1837, entitled “Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea and the Holy Land” by John Lloyd Stevens (1805 – 1852) who travelled to Egypt in 1835, includes the following passage: 

“Nearly all the time I was at Cairo, Paul and myself were ill, and for a few days we were in a rather pitiable condition. Fortunately, a young English army surgeon [Dr Forbes] was there, on his way to India, and hearing there was a sick traveler in the house, he with great kindness called upon me and prescribed for our ailments….At that time there was no English physician in Cairo, and I believe none at all, except some vile Italian or French apothecaries, who held themselves fully qualified to practice, and were certainly very successful in relieving the sick from all their sufferings. On my return I found Dr. Walne, and though for his own sake I could wish him a better lot, I hope, for the benefit of sick travellers, that he is there still.

A post-script to the page adds:

“I have seen with great pleasure, in a late English paper, that Dr Walne has been appointed English vice-consul at Cairo. In the close relation now growing up between England and Egypt by means of the Red Sea passage to India, it is a matter of no small consequence to England to have at Cairo as her representative a man of character and talents; and I am sure I but express the opinion of all who know Dr. Walne when I say that a more proper appointment could not have been made.”

A year after his meeting with John Stephens, Alfred appears in the Gentleman’s Magazine, volume 5, online here, in June 1836:

 

At the time, Alfred must have been relatively new in post. As a little girl, the thought that a cousin of mine had been involved in investigating such things long before Howard Carter would have been astonishing. Today, I find it a little more difficult to be as excited, as I’m not so sure that at the time the excavations were handled as modern day ethics might require. Still, it is fascinating nonetheless to find an ancestor mentioned as such - ancient Egypt still hold me in some kind of enchantment which adds a magic of sorts to the connection. 

The Literary Gazette, Volume 20, also of 1836, contains the following article: 

“Egyptian Society – The Augsburg Gazette states, that a scientific society under this name has been formed at Cairo, by a British physician, Mr Alfred Walne, long resident in Egypt, and a zealous student of hieroglyphic and Coptic literature. The Society has hired a house for he reception of travellers, and are collecting a library of books likely to be useful to such as explore the Egyptian provinces in Africa and Asia. One Turk has subscribed, but the members are chiefly English, with some French and German.” 

One of my favourite discoveries to date has been a portrait, sold at Sotherby’s, which can be viewed here. The painting, by David Roberts, depicts an ‘Interview with the Viceroy of Egypt at his Palace in Alexandria’ and the inscription on the reverse states that one of the men is Alfred. The meeting took place on 12 May 1839. Alfred is the only Englishman ancestor I have yet found a portrait of (even indirectly!), my Bermudan and Belgian ancestors usually being those with the money and tendencies to indulge in such things. 

Another book, “State and Society in Mid-Nineteenth Century Egypt” by Ehud R. Toledano, first published in 1990, also has references to Alfred. At a meeting with other acquaintances on 1 February 1856 at his ‘country house near Cairo’ he was quoted as saying: 

'Abbas’ refers to Abbas I of Egypt, who had died a year and a half earlier, murdered by two of his slaves. Alfred was certainly involved in important circles, and must have been embroiled in all aspects of Egyptian, Indian and English politics for the whole of his time abroad, including outbreaks of violence as well as historical discoveries. It boggles my mind to try and imagine what his life must have been like in an era where so many things were so markedly different from today (and so many tensions are still unresolved?). 

A couple of years later, The London Gazette made a couple of puzzling announcements about Alfred’s career. On 9 February 1859, the Foreign Office, in Issue 22229 published that: 

“The Queen has also been pleased to appoint Alfred Septimus Walne Esq. now Her Majesty’s Consul at Cairo, to be Her Majesty’s Consul at Alexandria” 

This was swiftly followed by another on 2 May 1859, in issue 22229: 

“The appointment of Alfred Septimus Walne Esq. to be Her Majesty’s Consul at Alexandria, which was notified in the Gazette…is cancelled; and Mr Walne retains his appointment as H.M. Consul at Cairo”. 

This is just one of things I intend to investigate when I get my hands on the “Letterbooks of Walne, agent at Cairo, 1838-59” in IOR/G/17 at the British Library. The dates I believe are probably significant as I know he was awarded a parting gift in 1861 on his resignation of office. Amongst the dedication (painstakingly copied out by me as a little girl) are mentions of his involvement in the construction of the railway between Alexandria and Cairo in 1851, increased public security, the first regular conveyance of Indian Mail between Alexandria and Suez in 1853 and his appointment as Her Majesty’s Commissioner for the affairs of Guddah after June 1858 (nb I think possibly this refers to the Jidda Massacre?). He was certainly a busy man. 

On resignation from his post in 1861, Alfred returned to England and seems to have spent much of the remainder of his life in gentleman’s clubs, grand hotels, and on his country estate. He died twenty years later, his probate calendar entry stating: 

“Walne Alfred Septimus Esquire Personal Estate £70,486 7s 10d 20 August. The Will with three Codicils of Alfred Septimus Walne formerly of the Union Club Trafalgar Square but late of 72 Guilford Street Russell Square both in the County of Middlesex Esquire who died 17 June 1881 at 72 Guilford Street was proved at the Principal Registry by John Henry Hill of 39 Old Broad Street in the city of London solicitor Amelia Elizabeth Gimingham of Broomfield Villa Weston-Super-Mare in the County of Somerset spinster and Thomas Walne of Pulham St Mary in the County of Norfolk Esquire the Executors” 

Although Alfred died in London, he was laid to rest in Brockdish in a handsome red tomb, not far from the family vault containing several more of my ancestors.

The Grove estate in Brockdish, one of several owned by the family at the time, was passedfrom Alfred to Thomas Alfred Walne (known as Alfred), his cousin’s grandson and his own adopted son (the latter according to a stone in Brockdish churchyard). 

When I come to write my first book, I think Alfred would be a wonderful candidate for research. I would welcome comments from anybody that can provide more leads, or help fill in my knowledge of Egypt in the 19th Century which I am very willing to admit is somewhat limited to date. 

I can’t imagine many places more different than Brockdish, a leafly little village of just 434 souls in 1881, and the rapidly growing city of Cairo upstream of the Nile delta. Alfred must have seen incredible things, both good and terrible. I am sure there is an enormous amount waiting to be discovered on a spectrum from the deep to the more mundane – why did he go to Egypt in the first place? What were his political views? Why didn’t he marry? How did he cope with the heat?! What drove him to take on his career? What was he like as a man? 

I hope over time, these, and other questions, will begin to reveal their answers.