Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Family History Through The Alphabet Challenge: B is for...

Posting a blog on the letter B really is a no-brainer for me because my hometown is Beccles and my mother comes from Bungay; both are Suffolk market towns and both are very dear to my heart. A cousin of mine joked that my letter B post should be called, "Beccles, Bungay and Best Cousin". ;-)

For the purposes of this blog post I have decided to focus on Bungay and incorporate the letters B and C in my Family History Alphabet Blog Challenge because one particular street in Bungay, which is dearest to my mother's family story, is Cross Street.

Bungay is steeped in history, though if you passed through it not knowing anything about its story, you will not find it at all obvious. Bungay has never been one to boast so I will happily boast on its behalf. It has a Castle, a Printing Works (Clays, who were responsible for the printing of Harry Potter books), a theatre,  a web of hidden and blocked-in tunnels which once linked Church to Castle, the infamous legend of the Black Dog (or Shuck as it also known by), a headless horseman ghost, as well as famous people such as Elizabeth Bonhote (nee Mapes) who was the 18th Century author of the gothic novel, Bungay Castle and author Chateaubriand who sought refuge in Bungay during the French Revolution in 1757 (which brings to my mind another, more recent "refugee" in Julian Assange who also stayed in Bungay). Yet another famous author and one-time Chairman of the Bungay Petty Sessions, was Henry Rider Haggard.
Bigod Castle Bungay
Taken by MJ Preston
Bungay has two parishes (St Mary's and Holy Trinity) and upon researching my family tree, I discovered that some of my ancestors were baptised, married and buried in either the St Mary's parish or the Holy Trinity parish. Searching the census returns of 1841-1911 there are clear indications which parish the people of Bungay lived and worked in.

My first known ancestor from Bungay was my five times great-grandfather, Henry Ward. I am yet to find where he was baptised but one avenue I have investigated hinted that he may have come from nearby Flixton. Henry married Rosamund Curtis in 1771 in Bungay St Mary. They had five known children, four boys and one girl. I am descended from the only girl; Mary Ward. She never married but she did have six children. Her eldest, Henry (Harry) Ward was my three times great-grandfather.
Around the year 1830 another of my ancestral lines - Jolly - came to Bungay from Laxfield. My three times great-grandfather Josiah Jolly moved with his wife Susan and their first-born, Mary. Finances were at the bare minimum though for Josiah, who got his living as an Agricultural Labourer and Farmer, and on the birth of their second child Josiah junior in 1830, was recorded as seeking Relief at the Shipmeadow Workhouse.
It was not until the middle 1890s that my ancestral line - Preston - came to Bungay from Norwich in county Norfolk. Here, my great-grandfather Percy Preston, the tenth child of eleven, married a Jolly girl who was also the tenth child of eleven! They had three children, including my maternal grandfather, Percy junior.
Postcard Image of Bungay, circa 1905
What I love most about Bungay is its wealth of local history authors, past and present. One family that immediately springs to mind are the Reeve family - Chris, Terry and their late grandmother Iris. Others are Ethel Mann, Frank Honeywood (the Town Recorder), Malcolm Bedingfield and Charles Patrick. I must single out Frank Honeywood here as he went one step further than merely writing about Bungay. He went out and took copious amounts of photographs of the town, and some of these can be found in published works, as well as at the Bungay Museum in Broad Street or, I would imagine, at the Lowestoft Record Office.
St Mary's Church
Taken by Debs_Dwelling
Holy Trinity Church
Taken by MJ Preston
The Old Pump Site, Looking Towards Bridge Street
Taken by Debs_Dwelling

Earsham House, Grade II Listed Building
One-time Home of Ethel Mann
Taken by Debs_Dwelling
If you are interested in the history of Bungay, please check out these wonderful websites:
Packed with local history and information on Bungay today
Make sure you check out the 'Theatre History' link

Next week, Cross Street...


  1. I enjoyed reading your B post about Bungay. I had never heard of it before (living in Oz) nor have I visited Suffolk so it was interesting to learn about your family connections and its history. My Herts ancestors came from Sandon which is not all that far away in Australian terms.

  2. Hello Pauleen, Welcome to my blog and thank you for leaving comments. Ebay is fantastic for local history books and postcards. Hope you enjoy uncovering your family history. xx