A sad story

When I started the 50,000 word novel-writing challenge, I was very hazy as to which way it would go, how it would go and whether it would go at all! I really don’t think I am going to complete, but it has been an interesting journey.

I started with the idea of an imaginative memoir, being creative about things I couldn’t remember or didn’t know, but creative in a realistic and not anachronistic way. I used rivers I have known and loved as a way of travelling though my memories and reminiscences, and like with all rivers they wander and flow, sometimes disappearing to reappear unexpectedly… and trying to find the source is always tricky and mysterious.

I started doing a little research about the actual rivers, as well as about my family, and I’ve already mentioned the tragic skating accident of 1903 when a young woman drowned. Now in researching a different river, the Axe which comes out into the sea in our village, I found another tragedy, but which led me to explore an interesting life. The Axe winds its way through the Somerset countryside, and the nearest village to us that it passes through is Bleadon; an elderly man drowned in 1957 trying to save a young lad who had got into difficulties. This man came originally from Cornwall and it seems that he was a conscientious objector during the first war – which must have been hard and a courageous stand to take. I am now looking into his family history, and seeing what more I can find out about him. There is a gravestone for him in  Bleadon churchyard which I will have a look at – if it ever stops raining!

Here is a link to my other books, some of which were started in previous novel writing challenges:



      1. Lois

        Same here! Especially people with an unusual sounding name or with an intersting message on the gravestone – in our local churchyard here we have a Thrisseldew next to Mr Froest, better known as the detective who headed the hunt for Dr Crippen!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. simonjkyte

        I should imagine that many of the people who died next to my new place did not exactly get a nice headstone to follow up – I am living in a cottage (formerly Twickenham House stables) adjacent to the old gaol and gallows in Abingdon

        Liked by 1 person

  1. simonjkyte

    It reminded me of something i had to write to a family history magazine at the end of 2009, published early the next year with some photos etc…
    31st December 2009,
    publication in whole or in part)

    The Editor,

    I was taken by surprise to see the grave of Thomas Hornshaw photographed on your letters page (Jan 2010) in connection with the Gravestone Photographic Resources Project. I was even more surprised to find that you claimed it was in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Tadcaster. It is in fact located at All Saints, Thorp Arch. Thomas was one of the witnesses to the marriage of my great great grandparents Francis Harrison and Caroline Makepeace at that very church in August 1859.

    You will note the circumstances of his death: on 3 April 1874, Thomas drowns in the River Wharfe (or ‘fell of (sic) a bridge’ as the grave says). A record of the inquest into his death, held at the Three Leggs Inn, Wetherby was reported in the Wetherby News and is recounted in a book on the family by John Edwin Wood[1], who is better known for his book on Rennes-le-Chateau and for unravelling the Da Vinci Code in History Today.

    On the evening of Good Friday 1874, Richard Kay of Linton and Thomas were talking and drinking at the Windmill pub (which is still there) in Linton. Kay mentioned that he intended to cross the temporary bridge (the current bridge was under construction) over to Collingham and the two men decided to go together. Whilst crossing Kay heard Thomas behind him say ‘I se’in’ (whatever that means).
    When Kay turned around Thomas was already falling. Kay made his way back to the Linton side and told a boy to run to get help. Meanwhile Kay tried to follow Thomas’ course from the bank of the Wharfe. By the time he was opposite the Barleycorn Inn in Collingham he could see Thomas throwing up his arms for help again. But that was it: he disappeared beneath the surface and did not come back up again. In Wetherby, a couple of miles downstream, Benjamin Kitchen found the body some 80 yards from the Wetherby Mill dam. He had a bad bruise and was still bleeding profusely probably from where he had hit the bottom of the river after falling. The river had been in flood and the construction company renounced all responsibility.

    Thomas left behind his wife, Isabella nee Hedley, who had been born at the Fox Hall Inn on what is now the A66 between Scotch Corner and Brough. She had previously been married to Benjamin Robinson in West Hartlepool with whom she had 2 children. She had married Thomas less than eight years prior to the accident. Thomas left five of his own children behind too. Isabella brought up these five children and James Robinson on Whynns Farm, for which she would be the matriarch for the next 45 years. During all that time she claimed to remain in constant spiritual contact with Thomas Hornshaw and would even ignore other people’s business advice, saying that the choice was not her own but Thomas’ recommendation. When in 1915, Isabella’s daughter, Alice Maud died (on the same grave) ‘Grandma Hornshaw’ took on the two young grandchildren (John and Foster Hardy) and brought them up as her own.On 1 April 1919 Isabella died suddenly and unexpectedly.

    Whynns often appears on old maps as ‘The Trust Farm’. The Hornshaws took over the running of a farm held in trust from Lady Elizabeth Hastings. Lady Elizabeth lived from 1682 to 1739 and set up a charitable trust in 1738. She was the daughter of Theophilus, 7th Earl of Huntingdon and lived at Ledston Hall near Castleford.. She never married and concentrated on philanthropic work. The Trust Farm House came into being in 1829 when enclosure of the village resulted in all the trust lands being at the eastern end of the parish.

    John, Thomas’ brother, left home and at 15 undertook an apprenticeship as a saddler in Wetherby after which he set up a saddlery in Knaresborough Market Place. In 1853 he married Louisa Makepeace, the daughter of William Makepeace, a coffee house keeper from Marylebone, London and my great great grandmother’s sister. Their father, William Makepeace, was an enigmatic figure, the footman of Lady Olivia Bernard Sparrow (whose daughter was Milicent, Duchess of Manchester) for much of his working life. Having been born in Warwickshire and having lived in Brampton, Hunts whilst working for Sparrow and in Marylebone, he ended up ‘looking after’ a property in Hereford Gardens in London’s Oxford Street, surrounded by senior figures of the aristocracy before dying at his son’s house in Hampton in Middlesex.

    After having made contact with some descendants of the Hornshaws in Bradford – John Hornshaw and Louisa Makepeace moved there in the 1860s – I have discovered that there is a supposed family secret which relates to the Bernard-Sparrows..
    I suspect that this may be connected with William Makepeace and may explain both how he came to live on Oxford Street and why Caroline Makepeace was apparently living in Thorp Arch at the time of her marriage when she had no previous associations with the place. I have tried – unsuccessfully – to link Olivia Bernard Sparrow with Lady Elizabeth Hastings as I think this may relate both to the connection with the Trust Farm and why Caroline married at Thorp Arch. The Trust Farm itself (or Whynns) is no longer there. In 1940 the Government made a compulsory purchase of Whynns and its neighbouring farms to build munitions factory ‘8’. It was ideal. It had good transport connections (at least before Beeching) and yet was out of the way of an adjacent centre of population should anything go wrong at the factory. It is now under the trading estate at Thorp.

    There is one other unsolved mystery which I bumped into on a web discussion board. A certain Annie Louisa Houghton born in 1883 in London was sent to Thorp Arch when her mother, Eliza, died. Annie was about 12 years old at the time and on the 1901 Census she appears to be working as a servant at Whynns. Why was she sent to Whynns when her sister was placed in a girls’ school in Ealing? According to the web poster, somebody from Whynns came looking for Annie in London but nobody knows who that was.




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