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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #85

Dear Reader,

Philosophical joke…

A new species discovered in 2020. As mankind goes backwards, the world continues to evolve.

A special week for Eve. Operation Zigzag is #1 while Operation Treasure, published 30 January, is #11 on the hot new releases chart 🙂

You make some interesting discoveries when you delve into the past…

15 August 1944, Allied troops landing in Provence. Colourised.

My 11 x great grandfather, William Hodsoll, was born in Ash by Wrotham, Kent in 1560. A gentleman farmer, William married Ellenor Dudley in Ash in 1587.

Ellenor was a widow. Born in Ash in 1562, she married Henry Parker in 1580 and gave birth to their son, Richard, a year later. Two years after that, Henry died and four years later Ellenor married William Hodsoll. 

South Ash Manor House, the Hodsoll home. From the Kent Archeology website.

In his Will, dated 30 September 1616, William left his wife, Ellenor, a yearly rent of £50 plus his lands, tenements and inherited items.

William also deferred a loan to his wife, a debt accrued by his stepson, Richard Parker. The loan totalled £27 2s 6d, which Richard had to pay to Ellenor, his mother.

William was buried on 5 October 1616, so this Will was just about the last act of his life.

William’s horses also found they way to Ellenor along with his riding furniture. The Will strongly suggests that Ellenor was fond of riding, “furniture wch my sayd wyfe doth vse when shee rydeth or iornyth abroad.” 

Ellenor probably rode sidesaddle, a form of horse riding that developed in Europe in the Middle Ages. Sidesaddle allowed a woman to ride a horse in modest fashion while also wearing fine clothing.

William instructed Ellenor to offer board and lodgings to their son, William, my direct ancestor, and to give their other son, John, £300 “upon condition that, at or on the Feast of St. Michael 1618, he makes release by sufficient conveyance to said “sonne William” of all right and title “of & in all my Mannors, messuages, etc.”

A third son, Hewe, received £300 “at or on” 29 September 1620. While the executor was to pay “my sayd sonne Henry” £10 a year upon his making similar release to “my sayd sonne William”. Daughters Hester and Ellenor, at age 24, were to receive £100 each. 

Much of William’s original Will is damaged, but the pages that remain ofter an insight into his life. Although not as wealthy as his father, John, who outlived him by two years, William was still an extremely rich man who could afford a comfortable lifestyle.

William was a contemporary of William Shakespeare (both died in 1616) and it’s possible that he saw the original performances of the Bard’s plays. Certainly, he was aware of them.

Ellenor’s name is recorded in various forms across a range of documents, including Elianora, but in his Will, William writes her name as Ellenor. She died in Ash on 29 July 1631, aged 69 and survived at least three of her daughters.

– o –

My 10 x great grandfather, William Hodsoll, was baptised on 21 July 1588 in Ash by Wrotham, Kent. A gentleman farmer, he married Hester Seyliard in 1609, in Ash, Kent.

The Seyliards were a noble family that arrived in Britain from Normandy about a hundred years after the Norman Conquest and prospered through to the age of the Hanoverian succession.

Portrait of a Lady, c1600. Emilian School, artist unknown.

William and Hester produced four children, possibly five, before Hester’s premature death in 1623, aged 33. Their eldest son, Captain John Hodsoll, my direct ancestor, inherited the estate.

From 8 May 1598 in nearby Ightham, an example of the incidents that troubled the local court. “William Willmott, yoman, on 7 May, 1598, broke the head of Richard Austin with his dagger and drew blood. Fined 5s.—remitted because he is in the service of the lord.”

The remission of Willmott’s fine looks generous. However, on the same day the court heard that, “Richard Austin, labourer, attached to himself five other armed persons in the night of Saturday, 6 May, 1598, and they assaulted William Willmott in the mansion house called ‘Ightam Courtlodg’, and with an iron-shod stick which he held in his hands he broke the head of William Willmot, and drew blood, against the peace of our Lady the Queen and to the alarm of her people. Fined 5s.”

During William’s lifetime, the Hodsolls ceased to be the only manorial family resident in the parish. Although the family still enjoyed great wealth, there is a sense of slow decline, as a result of turbulent times and the number of progeny produced by each generation.

William lived through the English Civil War (1642–1651) also known as the English Revolution. The war pitted Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, the Parliamentarians, against Charles I’s Royalists, the Cavaliers, which ended with a Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and the beheading of Charles I.

The Battle of Marston Moor, 1644. Artist, John Barker.

The Hodsolls could trace their family’s roots back to the English royal family, moved in royal circles and later served in Charles II’s navy, therefore it is fair to assume that they supported the Royalist cause. William was probably too old to participate in the Battle of Maidstone on 1 June 1648, but a victory for the attacking Parliamentarians meant that he had to tread carefully.

The Hodsolls did not lose their lands during the English Civil War and therefore it’s possible that they accommodated, and adjusted to, Cromwell’s victory.

St Peter and St Paul, Ash near Wrotham. Picture: John Salmon.

After Esther’s death, William married Elizabeth Gratwick and produced a second family with her. William died on 31 December 1663, aged 75. He was buried not with his predecessors in the nave of the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, but in the former Lady Chapel. This chapel became the Hodsoll chancel and many later generations of the family were also buried there.

This week, I added a Canadian branch to my family tree. Meet Elizabeth Dent and family, c1885. More about the Dents in future posts.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #81

Dear Reader,

My historical novels are great fun to write, but it’s always lovely to return to Sam, a bit like returning home after a holiday. Here’s Stormy Weather, book eighteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series, available for pre-order from today.

Pregnant in a pandemic. My life is never dull. While Alan and I set about the pleasant task of selecting a name for our baby, Faye interviewed candidates for the role of maternity leave assistant.

Our plans were going well until a friend was murdered. The evidence pointed to a hitman, a professional killing. A further murder underlined the fact that the stakes were high, that someone had a secret to hide. 

Who was behind the murders? And what was the secret they were desperate to hide?

Stormy Weather, an investigation that threatened my life, and my baby’s, a case that revealed that greedy men are prepared to kill anyone and anything, including our planet.

Stormy Sunday

Amazing to record that over a quarter of a million of my books have now been downloaded. I honestly thought that if that figure reached a hundred it would be remarkable. Many thanks to everyone who has made this possible.

Swansea Market, 1880.

🎼🎼🎼 Oh the Deadwood Stage

is a-rollin’ on over the plains 🎼🎼🎼

Deadwood, South Dakota, USA, 1876

On 19 December 1778, Marie Antoinette gave birth to her daughter, Marie Thérèse, in front of 200 people. Her maid said, ‘The persons who poured into the chamber were so numerous that the rush nearly killed the Queen.’ These persons included two chimney sweeps who climbed on the furniture to get a better view.

Locals use German military equipment as they man the barricades during the liberation of Paris, August 1944.

The 1930s, fashion Canadian style. Cone-shaped face masks to protect your face in a snowstorm.

Now aged 99 and resident in New Zealand, Phyllis Latour is the only surviving female SOE agent from the Second World War. She served in France under the code name ‘Genevieve’. You can read my appreciation of this remarkable woman here

https://hannah-howe.com/eves-war/phyllis-latour/

Ancestry

My 2 x great grandfather, William Howe, was born on 3 March 1855 in South Corneli. His parents were William Howe of St Brides and Mary Hopkin of Corneli. He was baptised on 6 April 1855, Good Friday.

In 1861 William was living with his parents and siblings, Hopkin and Mary Ann. Lodgers, David and Ann John, also lived in the house. The census shows that William was attending school and his main language was Welsh.

Newspaper reports of the time show that William’s father, also William, owned a bank account, which suggests that the family were careful with their money and had a few spare pennies to stash away for a rainy day.

By 1871 William had left school and found work as a servant, farm labouring for Thomas Powell in Newton Nottage. He was one of three farm labourers and two domestic servants working for the Powell’s. One of the domestic servants was Mary Jones. Mary introduced William to her sister Ann, and the couple started courting.

On 13 November 1876 William won five shillings for plowing half an acre of land with a pair of horses within four hours. Five shillings was the equivalent of a day’s wages for a skilled tradesman.

On 5 December 1878 William married Ann. Ann was born in Corneli on 22 April 1854, the youngest child of David Jones of Merthyr Mawr and Ann David of Margam. William was still working as a farm labourer at the time of his marriage. Interesting that when William recorded the family birthdays in the Howe family Bible he did not know the exact date of Ann’s birthday. A typical man?!

William and Ann were married at Hermon Methodist Chapel in Bridgend, a grand chapel for a grand occasion. They signed their names, thus proving that they were literate, and the marriage was witnessed by William’s brother, Hopkin, and Ann’s friend, Mary Phillips.

William and Ann, c1905

By 1881 William had returned to Corneli. Along with his wife Ann, he lived with his father-in-law, David Jones, and their baby daughter, Mary Ann, born in 1879. A niece, Elizabeth Burnell, Mary Jones’ daughter, was also living in the house. Elizabeth Burnell was living with the Howe family because Mary Jones was suffering from a chronic mental illness that stayed with her for the rest of her life. The family were now in North Corneli and William was working as a railway packer. 

Around this time William would walk three miles to Newton – and three miles back – three times a week to receive lessons in English and other subjects. Each lesson cost one penny. 

William became Headman in South Corneli and through his learning he helped the villagers with their reading and writing. Another duty of the village Headman was to lead the band of mourners as they carried a coffin from home to burial ground, many miles sometimes, over fields and mountains. He was living at a time of changing attitudes, and he seized the opportunity to improve himself and give help and support to the less educated in his village, a Howe trait that can be traced back many generations.

By 1891 four more children had appeared in the Howe household: Christiana in 1881, Evan in 1885, Elizabeth in 1887 and William David in 1890. Sadly, William David died on 20 May 1891. The family were now living in South Corneli, two doors down from Ty Draw. The house had three rooms and William was working as a stone quarryman in the limestone quarry. His parents, William and Mary, lived next door.

William’s handwriting, recording the family’s birthdays in the Howe Bible

In February 1895 William had a life threatening accident in the quarry, which was recorded in the South Wales newspapers.

In 1901 William was still working in the quarry and his family were living on Porthcawl Road, South Corneli. Now, they had a four-roomed house. They also had four more children: William, born in 1892, Margaret, born in 1894, Priscilla, born in 1897 and Edith, born in 1899. Along with Elizabeth and Mary Ann, all were living at the house. William was now bilingual; he could speak Welsh and English. And although his mother, Mary, had died in 1897, his father, William, still lived next door.

The workforce at Corneli Quarry, c1920 when William was foreman 

Along with a host of other people William Howe was fined five shillings on 16th February 1906 for not sending his children to school. He was a platelayer on the railways at this time and the fine is interesting because it seems to go against his character of a well-respected member of the community and chapel. Also, William was a firm believer in education so he must have had a good reason for not sending his children to school. Unless any further evidence comes to light, we can only guess at his reasons.

By 1911 William and Ann had been married for 32 years. All the family, except Christiana, were living in a five-roomed house in South Corneli. William was an excellent gardener and grew fruit and vegetables to support his family and augment his wages.

Tragedy struck the family when on 6 November 1913, Priscilla, William and Ann’s daughter, died during an operation. She was sixteen years old. Evidently, Priscilla had a sweet voice because she sang at the Corneli Literary Society concert in December 1909.

William’s wife, Ann Jones, died on 29 February 1916 of Bright’s disease. She was sixty-one. Ann was buried at St Mary Magdalene, Mawdlam, plot A118. The census described Ann as a ‘housewife’, but one suspects that there was much more to her than that. She gave birth to nine children and no doubt supported her husband in the running of their home and allotment. In all probability, she shared William’s Methodist beliefs, although the fact that she was buried at Mawdlam and not at Capel-y-Pil adds an element of mystery.

By the 1920s William had become one of the elders at Capel-y-Pil Methodist Chapel. Therefore he was in the company of some of the leading land owners in the area. His house in South Corneli was called Lilac Cottage and William was now a foreman at the quarry. In his youth, his ambition had been to become a Methodist Minister. However, family finances dictated that only his older brother, Hopkin, could train for the ministry.

Elders of Capel-y-Pil, c1930. William is seated, third from left.

On 14 May 1933 William died at ‘Woodview’, North Corneli. His son, Evan, was at his side. The Howe family continued to live at Lilac Cottage in South Corneli while William was buried with his wife, Ann, at St Mary Magdalene, Mawdlam.

Lilac Cottage, home to my 3 x great grandparents, William and Mary, and my 2 x great grandparents, William and Ann. 

In the twentieth century, William David Howe, his wife Gwendolyne and their children lived in Lilac Cottage, followed by my great grand aunt, Mary Ann and great grand uncle, Evan. Mary Ann lost a leg as a child and Evan was blind in later life. Both were great ‘characters’. 

Painted by Priscilla D Edwards, nee Howe.

A Christmas card from 1876.

Merry Christmas!

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #80

Dear Reader,

It’s very satisfying when readers enjoy your books and this comment about Eve’s War: Operation Locksmith is particularly pleasing. “The writing has such historical authenticity it made me feel as though Eve had written her own story. Highly recommended.” 🙂

The brave Americans who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War. “Somebody had to do something.”

A Mercedes 35 hp motor car, 1901. Designed by Wilhelm Maybach and manufactured by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft of Cannstatt, Germany, these cars achieved great success in the early years of motor racing.

The Eiffel Tower under construction, 1887-1889.

An example of the sabotage work undertaken by my SOE agents Eve, Guy and Mimi in my series Eve’s War Heroines of the SOE.

One of the great deception plans of the Second World War. British soldiers moving inflatable tanks on the south coast, 1944. The idea was to confuse the Nazis about the size of British forces and the D-Day landing zones. Amazingly, the plan worked.

Ancestry

My 2 x great grandfather, William Howe, married Ann Jones in 1878 and they had nine children. However, before exploring their lives there is a mystery to solve: why was their nine year old niece, Elizabeth Burnell, living with them in the 1880s?

Elizabeth Burnell was the daughter of Ann’s sister, Mary Jones and  Thomas Burnell. Elizabeth had three sisters, Mary Ann, Louisa and Esther, so to unlock the mystery we must explore the records associated with the Burnell’s.

The son of John Burnell and Elizabeth Poole, Thomas Burnell was born on 13 September 1846 in Minehead, Somerset. John was a farm labourer and Thomas began his working career aged fourteen as a plough boy.

In his early twenties, Thomas made his way to Wales, to the New House Inn in North Corneli to be exact, where he lodged while working as a haulier, a miner responsible for transporting coal within a coal mine. We are in the 1870s and Thomas is one of thousands of men who have arrived in the South Wales Valleys to mine the ‘black gold’, the rich seams of coal.

During the summer of 1871, Thomas found himself in Newton-Nottage. It’s highly likely that he was working on the land as an agricultural labourer at this time and that he met Mary Jones there because she was working as a servant at Grove Farm, Newton-Nottage.

Thomas and Mary married on 12 September 1871 at the parish church of Newton-Nottage. Thomas was a labourer, which confirms that he returned to the land. They signed their names with a mark, as did their witnesses, Evan Lewis and Jane Hughes. Evan was Mary’s half-brother and Jane was, presumably, a friend.

Thomas and Mary’s four daughters were born in 1872, 1873, 1877 and 1879. The gap in 1875 is suspicious. Did Mary miscarry that year, or was she and Thomas living apart for some reason? Thomas had returned to the coal mines as a coker and was living in various locations as he sough employment. In normal circumstances, his wife Mary would have moved with him.

While Elizabeth lived with my 2 x great grandparents, William and Ann, Mary’s other children, Mary Ann, Louisa and Esther, moved around the South Wales coalfield with their father, Thomas. Meanwhile, where was Mary?

Mary was born c1849 to David Jones and Ann David. She had an older half-brother, Evan Lewis, and a younger sister, my 2 x great grandmother, Ann Jones. Therefore, a small family for the Victorian era. 

Mary’s father, David, a labourer, was 51 when she was born, while her mother, Ann, was 37. There is a disjointed feel to this branch of my family, with many gaps in the historical record, inaccuracies with ages and unconventional relationships. I sense that these people were struggling for companionship and materially to survive.

Mary Jones gave birth to Esther Burnell on 5 June 1879 at the Level Crossing, Ty Newydd, Llangeinor. Esther’s birth wasn’t registered until 14 July 1879, which suggests Mary was not well after the birth. I’ve managed to track down her full medical record and it reveals that she was indeed ill, so ill in fact that she had no option other than to enter the local asylum.

Mary Burnell was admitted to Angelton asylum on 19 May 1880, aged 29. A collier’s wife, her location was listed as Bridgend and Cowbridge, which suggests that her family was constantly on the move in search of employment.

Mary’s medical record states that her first ‘attack’ was of seven days duration the cause ‘probably puerperal’ and therefore related to the birth of her fourth daughter, Esther. The doctors did not regard Mary as epileptic or dangerous, but they did list her as suicidal because she tried to throttle herself. Also, her husband Thomas had to lock up all knives, ropes and ‘other articles with which she could have destroyed herself.’

At this stage, Mary had been ‘dull’ for four months, ten months after Esther’s birth.

Mary’s medical record states that, ‘She says she has committed a sin against the almighty for which she will not be forgiven. And that she is eternally lost and that I have sold her to the Devil.’

Mary was admitted on 19 May 1880, but she was in the asylum on 20 and 27 April when she ‘slept a little, took food, but was very dull and miserable.’

Angelton Asylum

In May, Mary passed the time with her sewing. However, she experienced a major psychotic episode on 9 May when she cried loudly and threw herself on the ground. She imagined that she was a snake and had married the Devil instead of her husband.

This pattern of sewing and disturbing delusions continued throughout the summer.

In September 1880, Mary stated that she had ‘done something seriously wrong.’ Her behaviour was good, but sometimes she could be ‘silly’.

There was no change in Mary’s condition for over a year. On 11 February 1882 she broke some windows and cut her hand. Was this a suicide attempt? The doctors didn’t think so and made no mention of attempted suicide in their notes.

The note dated 12 December 1883 is potentially revealing. ‘This woman is rather reserved, getting into solitary corners apart from her neighbours. Her memory is deficient and her morals have apparently been loose.’ Could this imply that Thomas was not Esther’s father and that the birth triggered guilt about an affair followed by a psychotic reaction?

By June 1884, Mary had become,  ‘A rather troublesome woman, often interfering with others and at times destructive. Very demented.’ This pattern of behaviour continued until December 1885 when Mary settled down.

However, by June 1886 Mary was ‘foolish’ again. She suffered from housemaid’s knee throughout the summer. The nurses bandaged her knee, but she kept on removing the bandage. Nevertheless, her knee healed.

On Christmas Eve 1886, Mary stated that she had been in the asylum for eight years. In reality she had been there for six years. She also stated that she had been in Heaven and that it was a room with glass walls, which housed Jesus. She was industrious and always kissed the floor after washing it.

As the years rolled on, the pattern continued. The staff at the asylum regarded Mary as a good worker who saw herself as sinful. She heard voices at night from the spirits in the loft and regarded the other patients as her sheep.

While Mary suffered in the asylum, her husband Thomas Burnell continued to work in the coal mines. He needed help to look after his children and enlisted Mary Williams as a ‘housekeeper’. However, the couple soon became lovers and in the space of eight years produced five children. Obviously, Thomas had decided that his wife Mary would never leave the asylum and that he had to get on with his life. The hard graft of coal mining took its toll on his health, however, and by 1896, at the age of fifty, he was dead.

On 24 September 1889 while working in the kitchen, Mary threatened to ‘cut her little head off’ twice during the day. As a result, the staff confined her to the ward under constant supervision.

On 7 February 1891, the doctors transferred Mary to Parc Gwyllt, a new hospital that housed patients deemed incurable. After eleven years of psychiatric care the doctors decided that Mary’s condition would not improve.

Parc Gwyllt Asylum

By 1896, Mary’s profanity and sexual delusions were becoming more pronounced, which resulted in regular obscene outbursts. This pattern continued for the next seven years.

During January 1903, Mary was ill with influenza and an attack of facial erysipelas. She made a good recovery and returned to stable physical health.

In August 1908, Mary imagined that she was married to Samuel Butler, 4 December 1835 – 18 June 1902, author of the semi-autobiographical novel, The Way of All Flesh, a book that attacked Victorian hypocrisy. At this point, Mary called herself Mary Burnell-Butler. Butler never married. Indeed, he had a predilection for intense male friendships, which are reflected in several of his works. One wonders why Mary felt attracted to him.

Samuel Butler

The final entry in Mary’s medical record, dated 20 January 1909, stated that she was ‘mentally feeble’ and suffered from auditory hallucinations. 

Mary Burnell, October 1909.

Aged 67, Mary died on 19 January 1919 at Parc Gwyllt of heart disease, ‘duration unknown’. Her death certificate also acknowledged that she suffered from dementia.

Mary’s daughter, Elizabeth, left my 2 x great grandparents home to nurture her own family. In 1891 she married William Cocking and the couple had six children.

And what of Esther? After a tough upbringing she established herself in the world. At the turn of the century, she moved to Cardiff where she was employed as a servant, looking after a middle-aged man, Aaron Rosser. The 1901 census described Aaron as an ‘imbecile’. Undoubtedly, Esther knew about her mother and decided that the goal in her working life was to help others less fortunate than herself.

Mary’s sins, were they imagined or real? To Mary, they were real, yet her medical notes make no mention of any facts to suggest that she had sinned. In the Victorian asylum, therapies were basic with little hope of offering a cure. Mary worked and the asylum provided food and a bed, but for 39 years she suffered with her delusions, her mistaken beliefs born out of physical illness, the attitudes of a deeply religious community and a susceptibility to mental health problems doubtless inherited from her ancestors.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx