Friday 14 December 2007

Annie Elizabeth Cruwys and Frank Chilcott

Richard Chilcott has contacted me about the Cruwys family of Witheridge, Devon. Richard is the grandson of Annie Elizabeth Cruwys (1884-1966), the eldest daughter of John Cruwys and Sarah Quant née Chown. Annie married Frank Charles Chilcott in 1906. I had previously been unable to allocate Annie to a specific tree as she does not appear with her family in the 1891 or 1901 censuses, so I'm delighted that I've now found out where she belongs. In the 1891 census Annie, age 6, is living with her uncle and aunt, James and Anne Richards, at Clogsmoor in Templeton. The census was taken on 5th April and just one week earlier, on 29th March, Annie's four-year-old brother, George Herbert Cruwys, was killed in a fire. Annie had perhaps been sent to stay with her uncle and aunt while her parents dealt with the aftermath of the fire. Richard recalls that the story of the death of George Herbert was drummed into him as a child as a consequence of playing with matches.

Richard has sent me some wonderful photographs which he has kindly allowed me to reproduce here. The first picture below shows Annie Elizabeth Chilcott née Cruwys (standing upright) with her husband Frank Chilcott beside her. At this time Annie and Frank were living with her parents John and Sarah Cruwys at Jurishayes Cottages in Withleigh. The other people in the picture are believed to be Annie's brothers, her father John Cruwys (on the right) and her mother Sarah Cruwys and perhaps her mother-in-law. The second picture shows Annie's mother Sarah Cruwys née Chown (1851-1921). Sarah married John Henry Quant in 1871 and bore him three children. John died in 1881 and the following year Sarah married John Cruwys (1860-1919), a mason. She and John had eight children.

Monday 3 December 2007

Cruwys of Shrewsbury

Sharon Hindmarsh in Australia has been in touch and sent me some interesting information about a Cruwys family from Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Sharon's mother-in-law is descended from John Cruwys and Elizabeth Prichard who married on 10th February 1817 at St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square, London. John and Elizabeth's daughter-in-law, Sarah Ann Cruwys née Harris, emigrated to Australia in 1879 with her five sons Colin, John, Ralph, Ernest and Arthur. Sarah's daughter, Selina, had emigrated to Australia the previous year with her new husband John Parkes, his parents and his brothers and sisters. Nearly all the Cruwyses in Australia are descended from John Cruwys and Elizabeth Prichard. Interestingly Sharon tells me that her mother-in-law's family have always pronounced the surname Kruse, whereas elsewhere in Australia it is pronounced Crewiss. Judith Bowen is the expert on the Cruwyses of Australia and she has over the course of the last 30 years recorded nearly all the Australian descendants. However, the birth and death of the John Cruwys at the head of the Australian tree remain as elusive as ever.

Sharon has only recently made contact with Judith and wasn't aware of all the research which had already been done on the Australian family. In the quest for the elusive John Cruwys she purchased a number of certificates for a family from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, before she realised that the timeline did not work out. She has now very kindly sent me copies of all these certificates which have all proved very useful.

I have not so far heard from anyone who is researching the Shrewsbury Cruwys family so I will publish some details below in the hope that other researchers will be able to get in touch and provide further information.

The Shrewsbury tree begins with Thomas Cruwys, a tailor, who was born about 1768. In the 1841 census he is living in the Parish of St Mary's in Shrewsbury with his wife Hannah and their children Richard, 25, a gardener, Harriet, 15, a female servant, and Robert, 15, a tailor's apprentice. Thomas stated in the 1841 census that he was not born in Shropshire. Unfortunately he died in 1848 and we therefore have no further clues as to his place of birth. I have not been able to find any record of Thomas and Hannah's marriage but we now know that they had the following children:

1. John Cruwys, born about 1804 in Shrewsbury. John moved to London where he appears to have worked first as a tailor before becoming the innkeeper at the Bell Inn in Kilburn. John seems to have married three times. He married Margaret Taylor in 1829, Mary Ann Farnsworth in 1836 and Eliza Plumridge née Brown in 1843. All the marriages took place at St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square.

2. Elizabeth Cruwys was born about 1815 in Shrewsbury. In 1851 she was living at the Bell Inn with her brother John and working as a barmaid.

3. Richard Cruwys was born about 1815 in Shrewsbury. He worked variously as a gardener, seedsman and police constable. He married Margaret Sanderson in 1851 at St Martin in the Fields.

4. Ann Cruwys, was born about 1816, probably in Shrewsbury. She married Alfred Lloyd, a painter, in 1838 at St Martin in the Fields.

5. Harriet Cruwys was born about 1823 in Shropshire. She married James Walsh, a leather breeches maker, in 1843 at St Martin in the Fields. By 1851 they were living in Westminster St James and had three children.

6. Robert Cruwys was born about 1824 in Shrewsbury. He was a tailor. He married Eliza Tomson in 1851 at St Martin in the Fields.

Intriguingly we know that Thomas Cruwys was sent to Gaol in 1811. The full details are not yet known but "Thomas Cruwys, late of Shrewsbury, in the county of Salop, Tailor" was included in a list of "Prisoners in the Gaol at Shrewsbury in and for the County of Salop" which was published in the London Gazette on three separate dates in July 1811. Thomas's absence in prison might well account for the gap between the births of John in 1805 and Elizabeth in 1815.

I've had great difficulty tracking Thomas and Hannah's children beyond the 1851 census and would be very interested to hear from anyone who is related to any of these families.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Peter Cruwys the unsung hero of sport

My father, Peter Cruwys, was both surprised and delighted to receive a nomination in the BBC Midlands Sports Personality of the Year Awards for 2007. He is one of five nominees in the category "Unsung heroes of sport". Details of the awards can be found on the BBC Midlands website. The video in support of the nomination can be seen here. The awards are being presented this evening at a special presentation dinner. He seems to be up against some stiff competition and is not expecting to win, but will no doubt enjoy the evening and the nomination is a reward in itself for all his hard work. There was also a brief story published in the Gloucestershire Echo about the award which can be read here.

Thursday 29 November 2007

DNA update

The DNA project is now well under way, and I have been gratified by the number of people who have shown an interest and who have agreed to be tested. We now have nine testers, four from England, two from Australia and three from America. One representative from each of the following lines is now participating in the project:

Crewes of Gerrans, Cornwall, England

Crews of Georgia, USA

Cruse of Berkshire, England
Cruse of Rode, Somerset, England
Cruse of South Africa (of English origin)

Cruse of Clark County, Kentucky, USA
Cruse of Virginia/Kentucky, USA

Cruwys of Winkleigh, England
Cruwys of Wiveliscombe, England

Thus we now have a reasonable cross-section of testers representing some of the key families. The tests from the Gerrans and Winkleigh descendants are particularly important as these two families both have strong documentary evidence to prove a descent from the Cruwys Morchard family. The common ancestor for these two lines is John Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard (born c. 1449), who inherited the Cruwys Morchard estate after his father, Thomas, died at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The Winkleigh family are descended from John Cruwys, the eldest son from John senior's first marriage to Elizabeth Whitley. The Cornish Crewes, who settled in Gerrans and Liskeard, are descended from Anthony Crewes, one of four sons born to John senior's second wife Mary Fraunceys. There was of course no standardised spelling of surnames at this time. The Crewes spelling was later adopted by the Cornish family while the Cruwys spelling was used by the Devon family. It is of course not possible to test a representative of the current Cruwys family at Cruwys Morchard as they are all descended from a female line through George Sharland (1802-1874), the eldest son of Harriet Cruwys (1771-1847) and George Sharland (1758-1831). George Sharland junior was given the right to use the additional surname Cruwys by Royal Licence in 1831 and was at the same time permitted to bear the Cruwys arms.

So far we have received two sets of results, both of which are from our American testers. The two testers (a Crews and a Cruse) had a perfect 12/12 match at 12 markers proving that they both share a common ancestor. The results can be seen on the project website. Interestingly, too, the first two testers both belong to haplogroup I1a. A haplogroup is an indication of your deep ancestry, the family tree from many thousands of years ago from which you originate. Haplogroup I1a is one of the rarer haplogroups and is an indication of Viking ancestry, although the haplogroup is also found in Northern Europe, particularly in north Germany, Denmark, the British Isles and the old Norman regions of France. Further information about the I1a haplogroup can be found on this Wikipedia page.

It is far too early yet to draw any firm conclusions but it will be very interesting indeed if all the Crews and Cruses in America do indeed descend from the same person. Unfortunately they will have to wait a little longer to find out if their results match with those of any of our other testers in England and Australia. The postal strike in England caused delays with the receipt and despatch of some of the kits, and most of the results are now not expected until the New Year. All the remaining tests except for one have been done at 37-markers. It takes longer for these results to come through but they are much more accurate.

We are all looking forward to the results with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I'm hoping that we might finally have a few answers but I have no doubt that there will also be a few surprises and unexpected discoveries in store.

Monday 12 November 2007

Cruwys of Mariansleigh

I was very pleased to find in my inbox when I returned from holiday an e-mail from Samantha Hill in New Zealand. Sam is a regular reader of Cruwys News and has been researching her Cruwys family for a number of years. Sam is descended from the Mariansleigh Cruwys family. She is the great-granddaughter of George Herbert Cruwys and Anna Agnes Jackson who married in Deptford, London, in 1899. We have had a most useful exchange of information and Sam has been able to fill me in on some of the later generations of her family. She has also solved the long-standing mystery of Jill Cruwys, the England cricketer, who played in the England team, captained by Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, which won the first Women’s Cricket World Cup in 1973. I'd never previously been able to fit Jill into any of my existing trees as the names of her parents were not known. Sam tells me that Jill was the youngest child of Leslie Jackson Cruwys and Margaret Elizabeth Gosling. She is the first cousin of Sam's mother. Jill Cruwys tragically died of breast cancer in 1990 at the age of 47.

The Mariansleigh Cruwys family is the most numerous of all the surviving Cruwys branches. Unfortunately it has not been possible to trace the tree further back than the late 1700s as no baptism has yet been found for the earliest known ancestor George Cruwys, a mason, who died in 1856 in Mariansleigh. George married twice. His first wife was Ann Eastmond, who died in 1841. They produced six children. George’s second wife was Mary Ann Bartlett. They married in 1842, and the marriage certificate informs us that George's father was George Cruwys, a malster. We know from the 1851 census that George junior was born in Mariansleigh. His birth date varies from source to source and he was born any time between about 1781 and 1788. Unfortunately the Mariansleigh parish registers are not very well preserved and there are gaps for this critical period. I’ve also had searches done of the Bishop's Transcripts, but again there are gaps and no record of George's baptism has been found. The best hope now is to find a living Cruwys descendant from this tree who is willing to take a DNA test.

Wednesday 7 November 2007


We were away on holiday in Malta over half-term and I've had a lot of catching up to do since we've been back, hence the lack of posts. If I haven't replied to your e-mail as yet then I promise I will do so shortly! In the meantime I'm posting a few photographs of my Maltese highlights. Malta was once the home of the Knights of St John who have left a remarkable architectural legacy. Unfortunately today much of the island is over-developed and is scarred by back-to-back apartment blocks and hotels, which form a continuous sprawl along most of the coast from St Paul's Bay down to Valetta, the fortified capital built by the Knights after the Great Siege of 1565. The photograph below shows the Siege Bell Monument in Valetta which commemorates the award of the George Cross to Malta in World War II and honours those who lost their lives during the Siege of Malta from 1940 to 1943.The Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar is the finest stately home on the island. It was built in 1733 by Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, and was lavishly refurbished by the Maltese banker and philanthropist, Giuseppe Sciculuna, at the end of the nineteenth century. The formal gardens contain an exotic collection of Mediterranean plants with a colourful backdrop of bougainvillea on the walls.Gozo is Malta's sister island, and is just a short 30-minute ferry crossing from Malta. It is much greener and much less spoilt than Malta. The Azure Window (below) in Dwerja on the west coast of Gozo is one of the island's natural wonders.

Saturday 6 October 2007

Cruwys of Witheridge

I was very pleased this week to make contact with Roy Cruwys in Australia. Roy is a descendant of the Witheridge Cruwys tree. He is the grandson of Thomas Edwin Cruwys and Edith Baker, whose Golden Anniversary celebrations were the subject of an earlier post.

Roy has a letter dating from 1988 from his Uncle Ernie which provides a list of all the Cruwys birthdays. Ernie copied out the birthdays from a book belonging to his mother Edith Cruwys née Baker. By combining these birthdays with my extractions from the GRO indexes between the two of us we have now managed to come up with a comprehensive list of names and dates for the Witheridge family. Roy has also kindly sent me a few family photographs, three of which I am reproducing below. The first photograph shows Thomas Edwin James Cruwys and Edith Baker on the occasion of their Golden Wedding Anniversary. This photograph was use by the Tiverton Gazette to accompany their article.The second photograph is of Roy's father, Victor William Cruwys, in his RAF uniform. Flight Sergeant 530492 V W Cruwys served out in the Middle East and Egypt in World War II, and was awarded the Africa Star campaign medal.Victor was one of seven boys. One of the boys, James, died as a baby, but the other six brothers all served their country in World War II. We already knew from the Tiverton Gazette article that two of Victor's brothers, Thomas and Sydney, were prisoners of war. Now it transpires that a third brother, John Edwin Cruwys, was also a prisoner of war. Sadly John contracted some sort of infectious disease in prison and died shortly after coming home in 1947. The final picture is of the wedding of Victor William Cruwys and his bride Edith Moorhouse. They married in 1943 in Manchester while Victor was still in the RAF.

Thursday 27 September 2007

DNA project - going live!

I am pleased to report that the DNA project is now up and running with Family Tree DNA. As group administrator I have the facility to compile a profile page and a simple web page, both of which are now online and can be accessed from here.

My father has agreed to take the test so I will be ordering a kit on his behalf. Jim Crews in Georgia is being tested separately for the Wiregrass Families DNA group in south-east Georgia, USA, and has agreed to share his results with me. He is very excited about the prospect and is hoping to find some evidence of native American ancestry. Now it is just a question of recruiting further participants and waiting for the results to arrive.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

DNA project

On Friday I went to an illuminating talk by Chris Pomeroy on the subject of DNA testing for family historians. Chris is a fellow member of the Guild of One-Name Studies. He has pioneered the use of DNA in genealogy and is the author of DNA and Family History. Fellow researcher David Cruse was also at the talk. We were both inspired by the presentation and are now convinced of the need to set up a project for the Cruwys/Cruys/Cruse/Crewes surname. DNA testing will not provide all the answers but will be a useful pointer for further research and we hope that it will help to break down some of our brick walls.

I have started to make initial enquiries about setting up a project with Family Tree DNA, the largest DNA testing company in the world with the largest database on the market. DNA projects have already been registered with this company for three similar surnames which might or might not be related: Kruse of Denmark, Crews/Screws in the USA and Cruise of Ireland. The company provide the facility for results to be checked with existing results on their database. If two people have identical or near identical results they will inform both parties, provided that both people have signed the appropriate release form. Crews researchers in America were surprised to discover that they were genetically related to people with the surname Screws.

The DNA test used for genealogical purposes is the Y-DNA test. The Y-chromosome is handed down unchanged from father to son except for the occasional mutation. Therefore only men who are directly descended in the male line are eligible. (The family at Cruwys Morchard in Devon are descended in the female line through Harriet Sharland née Cruwys (1771-1847) and so cannot be tested for the purposes of this study.) The Y-DNA test examines a series of markers on the Y-chromosome, each of which is assigned a numerical code. People with an identical or near identical sequence of matching marker numbers will share a common male ancestor.

The test itself is quite harmless and very quick and easy to do. Each sample is assigned a unique number, and the testing facility do not have access to any names. DNA is tested only for the specified number of genealogical markers. The test cannot be used for legal purposes such as establishing paternity or involvement in a crime, and will not provide an indicator of a genetic predisposition to a particular disease. The cost of the test varies according to the number of markers. Family Tree DNA are currently offering four different tests for 12, 25, 37 and 67 markers, and the pricing is structured accordingly. The 37-marker test is recommended to provide sufficient information to identify the time frame to the common ancestor and to identify possible major branches in the ancestral tree. It takes around seven weeks to receive the results of the tests.

Once the project is up and running it will then be a question of finding suitable candidates to be tested. David Cruse and Pieter Cruse have already indicated that they would be willing to be tested, and I'm hoping that we will be able to recruit many more people. If anyone is interested please get in touch and I will endeavour to answer your questions. In the meantime watch this space! I've provided below a selection of links to websites which provide further information on the subject for those who are interested:

Family tree DNA

Oxford Ancestors

World Families Net

The Sorensen Foundation

The Genographic Project

DNA of famous people

The Journey of Man video on You Tube

Wednesday 22 August 2007


There hasn't been much time for the Cruwys research in recent weeks as we've been away on holiday in Corsica. Vanessa Goodwin has sent me an update on her Cruwys research together with a wonderful selection of family photographs. I hope to have them on this page soon once I've caught up with everything else. Patricia Rice has also been in touch about her Cruse family and I will be replying to her shortly. In the meantime I'm posting some photographs of Corsica as a reminder of what summers should be like! We were staying in a resort called Santa Giulia in the south of the island near the town of Porto Vecchio. Santa Giulia has the most beautiful beach with the clearest water I've ever seen. The photograph below doesn't really do it justice.
This photograph shows the Barrage de L'Ospedale in the Bavella mountains. It is a large reservoir which provides water for the Porto Vecchio region.
Bonifacio (below) is the most southerly town in Corsica. It is a mixture of old medieval streets and tall, elegant Genoese buildings, some of which are perched in impossibly precarious positions on the white limestone cliffs. One of the houses actually fell into the sea in the 1960s!

Wednesday 18 July 2007

RAF Tempsford Summer Reunion 2007

I was privileged to receive an invitation to attend the RAF Tempsford Summer Reunion on Saturday 14th July. The reunion was held at Tempsford airfield which is on private land owned by the Erroll Estate and is not normally open to the public. Reunions are held twice a year (in the summer and on Remembrance Sunday) and entry is restricted to veterans and relatives of those who served at Tempsford in World War II. I have a close connection with Tempsford as my uncle, Gerald Herbert Cruwys, was a navigator in the RAF and served with both 138 and 161 Squadrons at Tempsford. RAF Tempsford was the centre of the Resistance and SOE operations during the war. 138 and 161 Squadrons were known as the 'moonlight' or 'cloak and dagger' squadrons because of the clandestine nature of their work which was always carried out in the five or so days either side of the full moon. The work was so secret that the villagers knew nothing of what was going on until after the war was over. Everyone working at the base had to sign the Official Secrets Act and they were forbidden to discuss their work with family and friends. Gerry was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Bronze Palme, but the reason for the award was kept secret at the time and it was only after the war, when my grandparents went to the French Embassy to collect the medal on Gerry's behalf, that they learned he was being honoured for his work with the Resistance.

Gerry joined 138 Squadron at Tempsford on 28th November 1941. 138 Squadron was responsible for dropping and picking up agents, supplies, leaflets and equipment in occupied Europe. He transferred to 161 Squadron on 8th March 1942. 161 Squadron performed similar duties to 138 Squadron and was formed from a nucleus of personnel who had already gained experience with 138 Squadron.

I am very fortunate that Bob Body in Crete has kindly sent me digital copies of all of Gerry's ops with 161 Squadron from the ops books, the battle order books and the pilots' debriefing notes. From these I have now learnt that Gerry completed a full tour of duty with 161 Squadron flying ops mostly over France, but also in Holland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Gibraltar. A tour normally consists of 30 missions, but Gerry's name is included in 33 missions. The records are however incomplete and in some cases the missions were possibly cancelled at the last minute which could account for the discrepancy. Gerry flew on the despatch missions, dropping passengers and supplies in occupied Europe. From June 1942 the Squadron also embarked on a number of bombing ventures. When Gerry first transferred to 161 Squadron all his ops were carried out in Whitleys, but from December 1942 they flew in a Halifax V.

The records provide a fascinating insight into the nature of the work and the dangers involved. Gerry must have had exceptional navigational skills to enable the pilot to reach his target and drop the passengers and equipment in a remote field with only the moonlight to guide them. The reception party usually consisted of nothing more than three people shining torches, and signalling a pre-arranged letter in Morse code. Sometimes there was only one person to greet them. On one mission on the night of 27th/28th August 1942 Gerry was the navigator on a Whitley captained by Wing Commander Edward 'Mouse' Fielden, the former royal pilot, who later that year took command of Tempsford. The mission was a combination of two operations - Turquoise and Syringa XIV. Fielden reported afterwards that there were no reception lights but "there was a man flashing a small white torch". The unnamed passenger "jumped when told" and was "quite happy".

Sometimes the records raise intriguing questions. Gerry was the navigator on a Whitley flown by Pilot Officer Wynne on Operation Lucky Shot 7 combined with Operation Secundo on the night of 24th/25th September 1942. This is the night when Lise de Baissac and Andrée Borrel became the first two female agents to be dropped into occupied France. There were however four planes which took off from Tempsford that night, and I have not been able to establish in which planes they flew.

The photograph below of Gerry and the other members of his Halifax V crew was probably taken in around January 1943. The picture shows Pilot Officer Gerry Cruwys, observer (top left), Pilot Officer Herbert Lloyd Wynne, Captain (top centre), Pilot Officer Thomas William Challoner, Rear Gunner (top right), Sergeant Shearer, Wireless Operator (bottom left) and Sergeant Thomas Bell Colwell, Flight Engineer (bottom right).

Sergeant Hugh Shearer was one of two Tempsford men from 161 Squadron who died on 15th March 1943 on Operation Director 34. Their Halifax, piloted by Flying Officer G A Osborn, was on its way to France when the engine failed. The plane crashed at Fawley, Buckinghamshire, and the wreckage caught fire. Osborn miraculously survived and managed to pull four of his injured crewmates off the plane. Shearer and the seventh crew member, Sergeant Barrie Lincoln Crane, could not be saved. Osborn was subsequently awarded the George Medal for his gallantry. Shearer is buried at Falmouth Cemetery in Cornwall.

Wynne, Challoner and Colwell were killed on the night of 19th/20th March 1943. They were flying in a Halifax on Operation Vega 3 to Norway. The plane did not return, and the crew were all lost without a trace. Their names are recorded on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede which commemorates those airmen who died in World War II who have no known grave.

Gerry left Tempsford at the end of January 1943 and was sent to the Officers' Training Unit at Honeybourne in Worcestershire. He would no doubt have heard the news of the loss of his crewmates and this is perhaps the reason why, rather than return to Tempsford, he transferred to Bomber Command where he joined the elite Pathfinder Force, serving firstly with 97 Squadron at Bourn in Cambridgeshire and then with the newly formed 635 Squadron at Downham Market in Norfolk. He sadly died at the age of 22 on the night of 20th/21st April 1944 when his Lancaster was shot down over Belgium by a German nightfighter. I have written a brief biography of Gerry's life for Jennie Gray's 97 Squadron website which can be seen here.

Gerry was very much in my thoughts on Saturday during the visit to Tempsford. I was unable to persuade any of my family to attend, but fortunately Derek and Daphne Eliot came to my rescue, giving me a lift there and back, and making me feel very much at home. Derek was only eight years old when his father, Sergeant Eric Marshall Eliot, an air gunner, was killed on an operation in Holland on the night of 5th/6th July 1944. The pilot on this mission was Flight Lieutenant John Watherston (Ian) Menzies. His nephew, Bob Body, has written a book ''Taking the Wings of the Morning" about the final flight of the Hudson FK790 in which they were flying, and the dramatic story of the recovery of the wreckage. Further details are provided on Bob's website.

When we arrived at Tempsford we headed for the memorial barn (pictured below), which has become the focal point of the reunions. Tempsford airfield was built on land belonging to Gibraltar Farm, which was requisitioned by the RAF during the war. The barn was one of the original farm buildings and was used as a storage room for the agents' equipment and supplies. The agents gathered here on moonlit nights before their missions, and the planes would taxi up to the barn to collect their passengers. Most of the farm buildings have long since been demolished but the barn has been lovingly restored and today stands in lonely isolation among the corn fields as a proud monument to all the Tempsford men and women who lost their lives during the war.Inside the barn the shelves are no longer filled with parachutes, poison pills and other paraphernalia. Instead the barn has become a repository for an informal collection of newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia left by visitors over the years. Poignantly the paper poppy wreaths from last year's Remembrance Service are still on display. The following plaque is displayed on the wall:Edwin Bryce, the organiser of the reunion, had advised us all to bring along our cameras for a surprise. We were not disappointed as we were treated to a flying display by a Lysander, the only airworthy Lysander left in the world, which is part of the Shuttleworth Collection at the nearby Old Warden Airfield. Unfortunately my attempts at capturing the plane on film were not particularly successful as can be seen below.After the display we had the chance to look round the makeshift museum near the main entrance. The museum has an interesting collection of newspaper cuttings, photographs, plans and models. Unfortunately, it is housed in a somewhat dilapidated building and, being on private land, there are very few opportunities for members of the public to visit. I hope that one day a more permanent and easily accessible home might be found for the collection. We then drove back to Tempsford village for a brief but moving service at St Peter's Church, which was followed by lunch at The Wheatsheaf, where I had the opportunity to get to know Derek's sister Fay and brother-in-law Peter. I was also delighted to make the acquaintance of 161 veteran Tommy Thompson, who regaled us with some remarkable stories of his wartime exploits. Tommy was an air gunner on the mail pick-up operations. During his time at Tempsford he flew on Lysanders, Hudsons and Halifaxes. For the mail pick-ups the Lysanders would hover dangerously about thirty feet off the ground. Tommy had a bamboo cane with a hook on it with which he had to snare the mail bags. It was also a privilege to meet a remarkable lady called Yvonne, who worked for the Resistance in France and was responsible for identifying suitable terrains for the moonlight landings.

After lunch the group dispersed and we all made our way home. I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to be present on such a special day.

Monday 2 July 2007

Elizabeth Cruwys and William Mogridge

I have received from fellow Guild member Des Gander the marriage certificate of Elizabeth Cruwys and William Mogridge from the latest Guild Marriage Challenge for the St Thomas Registration District in Devon. Marriage Challenges are an exciting new Guild initiative whereby members offer to search the registers of all churches in a given district at their local record office to find marriages requested by fellow Guild members for the period from 1837 to 1911. The success rate can vary from one district to another because not all registers have been deposited, and also because record offices do not have copies of Register Office marriages. I only had one Cruwys marriage in the St Thomas District and fortunately Des was able to find it. I was not previously able to fit Elizabeth Cruwys into any of my existing trees but now, with the information from the faux certificate, I know that she is the daughter of Courtney Cruwys and Sarah Weslake. Elizabeth was baptised on 28th February 1829 in Treborough, Somerset. Within a year or so of her birth the family moved to Thorverton in Devon where her younger brother John was baptised on 18th December 1831. Elizabeth married William Mogridge, a farm labourer, on 6th September 1847 at the parish church in Broad Clyst, Devon. William was the son of Abraham Mogridge. Interestingly both fathers were described as soldiers. Elizabeth's father, Courtney Cruwys, was born in 1768 in Thorverton, Devon. He almost certainly served with the British Army in the Napoleonic Wars. I have now managed to locate William and Elizabeth Mogridge in all the censuses. They lived in Broad Clyst throughout their lives and they do not appear to have had any children of their own. They seem to have brought up their niece, Hephsibah Weslake. By the time of the 1881 census they were looking after baby Alice M Gale who was described as a "nurse-child". Alice was still living with them for the 1891 census, by which time she was described as a boarder. William Mogridge died in 1895. By 1901 Elizabeth was one of a number of widows living in the almshouses in Broad Clyst. She died in 1910 at the age of 81.

Monday 25 June 2007

Mystery solved!

I have now discovered that it was Shirley Bray from the South Molton Local History Society who very kindly sent me the photocopy of the 1922 invoice from Edwin 'boss' Cruwys. Shirley found the invoice in a drawer at the South Molton Museum. She did e-mail me to let me know it was on the way but unfortunately the e-mail was sent at a time when most of the Tiscali e-mails were being blocked and her original e-mail did not reach me. I'm delighted that the mystery has now been solved.

Thursday 21 June 2007

The surname Cruys in the Netherlands

Arian Smit has been in touch and has provided some most welcome information on the history of the surname Cruys in the Netherlands from the Dutch surname database. Cruys (or Cruijs) in the Netherlands is a spelling variation of the name Kruis, meaning cross. The explanation for the origin of the name is given as:
1) A person living near a place known as "The Cross" (more usually a cross on a signboard)
2) The professional name of one who makes crosses.
The earliest known occurrence of the surname in Holland appears to be from the sixteenth century with a reference to Christiaen Adriaensz Cruys, who was born in 1533 in Delft, the son of Adriaen Claesz or Cruys. The name Cruys also started to appear in Amsterdam in the sixteenth century and Rotterdam in the seventeenth century. Later on more common spellings were Kruijs/Kruys and Kruis.

The most well known bearer of the surname in Holland is Cornelius Cruys (1655-1727), Vice Admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy and the first commander of the Russian Baltic Fleet. He was half-Norwegian and half-Dutch. He was in fact born as Niels Olsen (Olufsen) but for some unknown reason changed his name to Cruys when he moved to Amsterdam. There is an interesting article on Wikipedia about Cornelius Cruys. There is also a somewhat melodramatic video clip from the forthcoming Cornelius Cruys project on YouTube:

The video is partly in Dutch and partly in English, with possibly some Norwegian thrown in for good measure too. It does however provide a useful opportunity to discover the pronunciation of the surname in Holland - Crows with a sibiliant s - which is very different to the English pronunciation cruise.

Cruys quite possibly developed as a separate surname in Holland, but it is interesting to note that both Cruys and Cruwys are derived from the word cross.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

The Drakes of Cruwys Morchard

Lara Pollard in Australia has been in touch to tell me that she has now launched a new website dedicated to the Drakes of Cruwys Morchard. The website includes some very interesting will transcripts and a full pedigree of the Cruwys Morchard Drakes. The website can be found here.

The Drakes first appear in the Cruwys Morchard records in 1545 when John Drake was listed in the Lay Subsidy Roll. He was one of the wealthier parishioners with an annual income from goods of £12. John Cruwys, the then Lord of the Manor, was the wealthiest person in the parish with an income from land of £40. John Drake married Agnes Locke, the daughter of Hugh Locke and Johan Jete. He died in about 1552. A transcript of his will is provided on the Drake website. The hamlet of Ruckcomb which is mentioned in the will is Ruckham in Cruwys Morchard. The Drakes lived at Ruckham Farm from around 1550 to about 1801.

It seems highly likely that the Drakes of Cruwys Morchard are in some way descended from the Drakes of Ashe in the parish of Modbury. There was an earlier marriage which appears in all the published pedigrees between John Drake and a Miss Cruwys, the daughter of John Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard. John Prince provides the following convoluted account of the early Drake pedigree in his book The Worthies of Devon, published in 1810:
John Billet and Alice his wife had issue Christian, their sole daughter and heir who was married first unto John Drake of Exmouth; secondly unto Richard Francheyney, and had issue John Drake and Christopher Francheyney; which Christopher held Ash, and his son Simon after him. Against whom, John Drake brought his Formedon, as being son of John and Agnes, daughter of John Kelloway, the son of John and _______ daughter of John Cruwys, of Cruwys-morchard, son of John and Christian, his wife, daughter and heir of John Antage, who was eldest son of Christian Billet, by John Drake her first husband, and recovered Ash, which he left to his posterity; in which it hath florished ever since, now upward of two hundred and fifty years.
The name of the Cruwys daughter is not known, though some unreliable sources suggest that she is called Alice Jane. The estimates of the date of the Cruwys/Drake marriage on the IGI vary wildly from as early as 1446 to as late as 1480. Ros Hickman has prepared a detailed timeline which suggests that the eldest son from this marriage, also called John Drake, married Agnes Kelloway or Kayleway in about 1489. It would therefore seem most likely that the Cruwys/Drake marriage took place some time in the 1460s. By this time, the Lord of the Manor of Cruwys Morchard was Sir Thomas Cruwys, the son of John Cruwys. Thomas was confirmed as the son and heir of John Cruwys in 1447. He seems to have married shortly afterwards for we have confirmation from his IPM (inquisition post mortem) that his eldest son was born in about 1449. Sir Thomas famously fought at the Battle of Towton in 1461 and was subsequently killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. We know that Thomas's father, John Cruwys, died some time before 1438 as his mother Joan or Johanna is mentioned in a deed of this date as the "relict of John Cruwys of Morchard". Unfortunately the Cruwys daughter who married John Drake does not appear in any of the Cruwys pedigrees so we have no independent confirmation of her parentage. If she is indeed the daughter of John Cruwys, as the Drake pedigrees suggest, then the only plausible explanation is that she is the daughter of the John Cruwys who died before 1438 and hence the sister of Sir Thomas Cruwys. If so, she must have been born before 1438, which makes a marriage in the 1460s less likely, as medieval brides often married in their teens rather than in their twenties. The date of the Drake/Kelloway marriage could of course be much earlier than suggested because it is based on the approximate birth date of the eldest son. It is quite possible that there were other sons and daughters from this marriage who died as infants. The research continues and we hope that one day we might find the answer.

Monday 4 June 2007

Update on Edwin 'boss' Cruwys

I have received a surprise package in the post in the form of a photocopy of a 1922 invoice from Edwin Cruwys, undertaker, of 9 East Street, South Molton, to a Mr Buckingham regarding the funeral of Mr Cockram of Molland Lake. One glass hearse and three mourning coaches were hired for the occasion and the total bill was £8 8s 0d. I've already written about Edwin in a previous post and I've now updated the page to incorporate a scan of the invoice. Unfortunately there was no address on the package and no covering note so I don't know the name of the sender. If the person who sent me the invoice reads this posting perhaps they could get in touch so that I can thank them personally.

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Thomas Edwin Cruwys of Tiverton

My friend Chris Gibbins in Devon has been searching through some of the old newspaper cuttings at the Devon and Exeter Institution and she has sent me a most interesting story about the golden wedding anniversary of Thomas Edwin Cruwys and Edith Baker. The article was originally published in the Tiverton Gazette on 4th October 1960 with the heading "Worked on a farm for shilling a week – memories of life in the early 1900s".
While farm workers discussed their 9s. a week pay rise, Mr. Thomas Edwin Cruwys, of 56, Council Gardens, Tiverton, was looking back over 50 years of married life, and recalling the days when he worked on a farm for 1s a week.

Mr. Cruwys, who was 72 this month, was talking to a "Gazette" reporter on Wednesday, his golden wedding anniversary. He and his wife, who was 73 on Friday, were married at St. Peter’s Church, Tiverton, by the late Rev. G. G. Hall.

Born at Witheridge, Mr. Cruwys started his working days at the age of 11, and for nearly a year he worked just for his food and lodging at Higher Withleigh Farm. Later, at Nethercleaye Farm, Withleigh, he earned 1s a week and recalls the time the farmer was taken ill and he was paid an extra sixpence a week for the additional work he had to do. When he gave up farm work his weekly wage was 5s. 6d.

For 46 years Mr. Cruwys was employed at Tiverton Cemetery, retiring as caretaker seven years ago.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Cruwys come from large families. Mrs. Cruwys, whose father was the late Mr. John Baker, sexton at Creacombe Church for about 50 years, was one of two girls and 11 boys. Three of her brothers went to Canada, where they took up market gardening, and are now living at Catarqui, Ontario. Two other brothers live at Tiverton and Bradninch.

Mr. Cruwys came from a family of six boys and five girls. His father, the late Mr. John Cruwys, was a mason.

During the First World War, Mr. Cruwys spent over four years in the Army, after volunteering in November, 1914. He served in Africa, where he contracted malaria, France, and Germany, and spent 13 months in hospital with two broken legs after he had been knocked down by a motorcycle combination.

Mr. and Mrs. Cruwys have had six children, five of whom survive, and nine grandchildren. During the Second Wold War all six sons were in the Forces at the same time, three in the Devons, and the others in the R.A.F., A.C.C., and R.A.M.C. Two were prisoners-of-war – the eldest, Mr. Tom Cruwys of Exeter, for two years, and the youngest, Mr. Sidney Cruwys, of London, for two weeks.

Their other sons are Messrs. Vic. Cruwys (Manchester), Charles Cruwys (Tiverton), and E. Cruwys, who lives with his parents.

Mr. Cruwys is a Roll of Honour member of Ye Twyford Lodge, R.A.O.B. [Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes], and the couple received a telegram of good wishes from the lodge on their anniversary. They also received flowers from Tiverton Aged People's Association.

A party given by their family at Exeter on the previous Saturday was a well-kept secret until Mr. and Mrs. Cruwys entered the room, where about 20 of their relatives were waiting for them.

One of Mr. and Mrs. Cruwys's most treasured possessions is a 42-piece tea-set which was one of their wedding presents 50 years ago, and which is still complete.
Since receiving the article I have done some further research on this family. Thomas Edwin Cruwys was born in 1888 in Witheridge, Devon. He belongs to the Witheridge Cruwys family which can be traced back to William Cruwys and Sarah Taylor who married on 2nd February 1820 in Witheridge. Thomas was the son of John Cruwys, a mason, and Sarah Quant née Chown. His mother was previously married to John Henry Quant, by whom she had three children, two boys and a girl. She was widowed in 1881 and married Thomas's father the following year. I have so far found a record of six children born to John and Sarah Cruwys, three boys and three girls. Further children were probably born after the 1901 census.

Tragedy struck the family on 29th March 1891 when Thomas’s older brother, George Herbert Cruwys, died in a house fire. A transcription of the newspaper reports about the incident can be read here. Thomas was only two years old at the time and probably had no memory of the accident.

Thomas's recollections of his early working life are confirmed by the 1901 census. Thomas, then aged 12, was a farmer's servant at Nethercliffe Farm in Withleigh, where he was working for Fred Phillips, 41, a farmer.

Thomas did not live to celebrate another birthday after his golden wedding anniversary. He died in 1961 aged 72 years and Edith died three years later in 1965 aged 78. All six of their sons have now passed away, though there are many living descendants. I wonder if the prized tea-set is still in the family.

The transcription of the article from the Tiverton Gazette is reproduced by kind permission of the Editor.

Tuesday 22 May 2007

John Henry Cruse,
fishmonger and pocket book maker

Michael Freeman has spent a further two days in London at the Guildhall Library and the Metropolitan Archives in search of the family of Henry Cruse the shipwreck survivor in South Africa. Michael had previously identified John Henry Cruse as the possible father of the South African Henry. He has now spent a considerable time researching John Henry and his family, but so far Henry’s baptism remains as elusive as ever. In the meantime I thought other researchers might find the story of John Henry Cruse of some interest.

John Henry Cruse was born about 1785. We do not know where he was born as he died before the 1841 census and no record of his baptism has yet been found. John Henry married Ann Parker on 2nd August 1812 at St Margaret Lothbury in the City of London. They were married by banns. John was a bachelor and Ann was a spinster. They were both from the neighbouring parish of St Christopher Le Stock. St Christopher Le Stock is in the centre of the square mile of the City of London. It was united with its neighbouring parish St Margaret Lothbury in 1781. The witnesses were Eli Noone and Ann Davis. Eli Noone is probably the churchwarden or verger as he was also a witness at the next wedding. We have not yet been able to identify Ann Davis. The first clue as to John Henry’s occupation is found in the baptismal registers of St Mary at Hill in the City of London, where John Henry was described as a fishmonger when his eldest daughter was baptised in 1813. The City of London is of course the home of Billingsgate Fish Market and John Henry almost certainly worked at the market where he perhaps had his own market stall. At that time the market was situated in the streets around Billingsgate Wharf by Lower Thames Street in the shadow of London Bridge. Fish and seafood were sold from stalls and sheds around the 'hythe' or dock. A purpose-built market was not constructed until 1850 and this building was demolished in 1873 to make way for the present building in Lower Thames Street which is now the largest indoor fish market in the country. John Henry worked as a fishmonger at least until 1817, but some time between 1817 and 1820 he made a rather surprising career move and became a pocket book maker. He had quite possibly inherited the business following the death of a family member. We have found records of four children born to John Henry and Ann:

- Ann Margaret Cruse, born on 5th July 1813 and baptised on 28th November 1813 at St Mary at Hill in the City of London. John Henry and Ann were living at Harper Lane at the time of the baptism.

- John Edward Cruse, born about 1815. No record of his baptism has yet been found. He was buried on 23rd February 1817 at St Michael, Crooked Lane, in the City of London. He was said to be 22 months old. John Henry and Ann were now living at Fan Court, Miles Lane, Thames Street. Miles Lane is one of the roads running off Thames Street and is next to Fish Street Hill, the approach road to the old London Bridge. Miles Lane can clearly be seen in an 1827 map of the City.

- Hannah Cruse, born on 30th June 1817 at Fan Court, Miles Lane, and baptised on 21st September 1817 at St George the Martyr, just across the Thames in Southwark.

- Thomas Cruse, born in the parish of St Michael Crooked Lane (probably at Fan Court, Miles Lane) and baptised on 17th September 1820 at St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, on the other side of the river. Thomas was buried on 3rd March 1822 at St Michael, Crooked Lane. His age at burial was 17 months.

Ann Cruse née Parker died in 1836 and was buried on 20th March 1836 at St Michael, Crooked Lane. She was said to be 46 years old.

The following year, on 2nd July 1837, John Henry’s younger daughter Hannah married William Henry Willett, a coach painter, at St George in the East in Stepney. John Henry was one of the witnesses. John Henry also lived to see the marriage of his eldest daughter Ann Margaret. She married Richard Wrigglesworth, a glass cutter. The marriage took place some time before the beginning of civil registration on 1st July 1837 though the marriage has not yet been located and the precise date is not known.

Just three months after his daughter Hannah’s wedding John Henry died suddenly of apoplexy on 9th October 1837. He was said to be 52 years old. At the time of his death his address was given as 4 Little College Street, St Michael, College Hill. The informant of the death was his daughter Ann Margaret Wragglesworth [sic] of 2 St Dunstan's Alley. John Henry was buried at St Martin, Vintry, on 15th October 1837. Unusually the burial records for this church also record the cause of death and provide confirmation that John Henry died of apoplexy.

John Henry and his family are a very good example of the difficulties faced when researching in London. The City of London, the oldest part of the capital, was formerly a county in its own right. In 1811 there were 122,924 people living in the densely populated City of London District (the area which is currently under the jurisdiction of the Corporation of London and which is slightly larger than the medieval City). As a comparison, the nineteenth-century population of the City is roughly equivalent to the present-day population of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. There were over 100 churches in the square mile of the City of London, and of course many more churches in the surrounding area. The three baptisms which we have so far located all took place in different churches, and the baptism of John Edward Cruse has still not been found. Michael Freeman searched through 17 burial registers before he finally struck gold in the eighteenth register and found the burials of Ann and her two sons at St Michael, Crooked Lane! No doubt there were other children and any information would be gratefully received.

Saturday 12 May 2007

Colonel Derek Robbins (1918-2007)

I was saddened to learn yesterday of the death of Colonel Derek Ivan Mathie Robbins, OBE, a veteran of World War II and a survivor of the Normandy landings. Colonel Robbins is connected to my own branch of the Cruwys family through his first marriage to my father's cousin Mary Elizabeth Cruwys, the second and youngest daughter of Thomas Cruwys and Clara Mascord. Colonel Robbins served with the Wiltshire Regiment in North West Europe from 1941-1944. He served as town major at Bergen-Belsen in Germany in 1945. He modestly credited his rapid promotion through the ranks to the fact that so many of his colleagues were killed. After the war he served with the 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment in Cyprus from 1956-1958 and subsequently worked for the Ministry of Defence in Oman from 1976-1979.

His first wife, Mary, died of cancer in 1962. He is survived by his second wife, Fleur, his three children and his seven grandchildren.

An announcement of his death was published in The Daily Telegraph on 2nd May which can be read here. An obituary was published in The Times on 11th May 2007 which can be viewed online here.

Wednesday 2 May 2007

Mary Ann Cruwys and
Samuel John Witheridge

Kim Cook of the Witheridge Family Society has provided some welcome information about a hitherto unknown Mary Ann Cruwys and her husband Samuel John Witheridge, a sailor who served with great distinction in the Zulu Wars and the First Boer War. Mary Ann Cruwys is descended from the Thorverton Cruwys family. This line can be traced back to William Cruess and Mary Brook who married in Thorverton, Devon, on 17th September 1721. I've compiled a brief outline of Mary Ann Cruwys's life below and Kim has kindly provided a most interesting account of Samuel Witheridge's life and naval career. Further information about the Witheridges can be found on the Society's website or by contacting Kim Cook.

Mary Ann Cruwys
Mary Ann Cruwys was the eldest daughter of John Cruwys and Sarah Thomas. She was born in St Clears, Camarthenshire, some time between 1852 and 1856. It seems likely that she was registered at birth as Mary Ann Thomas as she was almost certainly born before her parents' marriage in 1856 in Camarthan. Her father, John Cruwys (1831-1884), was an agricultural labourer. He was born in Thorverton, Devon, and was the fourth and youngest child of Courtney Cruwys and Sarah Weslake. Within a few years of their marriage John and Sarah moved from Wales back to Devon, settling in the seaside resort of Dawlish on the South Devon coast. By the time of the 1871 census John and Sarah were living at 8 Town Tree Hill, Dawlish with their four children, Mary Ann, 17, a domestic servant, Anne, 11, John, 8, and Maria, 5. Seven years later when Mary Ann married Samuel John Witheridge at Portsea Register Office on 8th March 1878 she was living at 44 Somers Street, Portsea. Just a few weeks after the wedding Samuel set sail for Africa on the HMS Boadicea. That was to be the last time Mary Ann saw her husband alive. Samuel served in Africa with the Naval Brigade for three years before tragically losing his life on 27th February 1881 at the Battle of Majuba in the First Boer War at the age of 30. Unsurprisingly there is no record of any children from the marriage. By the time of the census on 3rd April 1881 Mary Ann was a young widow aged 26 living alone at 25 Albert Street, Plymouth, and working as a cook.

Two years later Mary Ann married Joseph Charters, another seaman. At one time Joseph had lived a few doors away from Samuel Witheridge's family, and the records show that both men served on HMS Cambridge, although it is not known if they were ever aboard the ship at the same time. Mary Ann and Joseph had five known children:

1. Mary Charters, born in 1884 in Stoke Damerel
2. Edward John F Charters, born in 1887 in Stoke Damerel
3. Sarah Jane Charters, born in 1890 in Stoke Damerel
4. John Charters, born in 1893 in Stoke Damerel
5. Bessie Florence Charters, born in 1896 in Plymouth.

The last record we have of the Charters is from the 1901 census when they were living at 25 York Street in Plymouth. Joseph, Mary Ann and their five children were living in just three rooms in the house with the other two rooms being occupied by another family. Joseph, now 52, was a labourer and his wage was supplemented by a naval pension. We have no details at present of the deaths of Mary Ann and Joseph and it is not known if they have any living descendants.

Samuel John Witheridge (1851–1881)
Samuel John Witheridge, born in January 1851 in Plymouth, was the third son of  Thomas Witheridge (born 1820, Devonport) and Mary Ann Garry (born 1820, Exeter). On 30th March 1851, aged three months, he was in the family home at 1 Woolster Street, Plymouth Charles, with his parents and paternal grandfather Joseph Witheridge (born 1788, Wembury, not Holsworthy as the census states). At some time between 1851 and 1854, the family moved to 10 Lower Batter Street. On 2nd April 1854, Samuel's six-month-old brother, Joseph William Witheridge, died there of pneumonia. In 1855 his younger sister, Elizabeth Jane Witheridge, was born, but on 8th September 1857, Samuel's father Thomas Witheridge, a bargeman, died there of phthisis and diarrhoea.

Mary Ann Witheridge was thus left a widow, with four surviving children, all under the age of ten. Samuel's brother Edmund later wrote that Mary Ann kept the family out of the workhouse 'by turning a mangle'. By 7th April 1861, Mary Ann, with Thomas, Edmund (wrongly listed as Edward) and Elizabeth, had moved to 9 Looe Street, Plymouth Sutton, where Mary Ann was a laundress, but Samuel remained with his grandfather Joseph Witheridge at 10 Lower Batter Street.

In 1865 Samuel joined the Royal Navy as a boy sailor, and soon progressed to ordinary seaman and then to able-bodied seaman. By 1871 he was serving on HMS Caledonia which naval records state was based in Malta, but census returns place in Naples. In 1873 Samuel was transferred to HMS Cambridge, where he served until July 1874. During this time he was promoted from able seaman to TM, and his character was 'very good'. He then served as a TM on HMS Topaze from July 1874 to April 1876, when he was promoted to Leading Seaman. His character throughout was 'exemplary'.

In 1877 he went to the Portsmouth shore base, HMS Excellent, where he received gunnery training, and later served as an instructor to both Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel. When he married, on 8th March 1878 at Portsea, Hampshire, Mary Ann Cruwys, age 24, he was described as a Seaman, RM of HMS Excellent. Throughout his time on HMS Excellent, his conduct remained exemplary.

In April 1878 he was appointed Petty Officer 2nd Class on the newly-launched HMS Boadicea, a Third-Class Screw Corvette, which soon sailed for the Africa station. By July 1878, Samuel had been promoted to Petty Officer 1st Class, and was later appointed Quartermaster. In Africa, a number of Boadicea's crew were seconded to the Naval Brigade to reinforce troops in the Zulu Wars, and Samuel served in Pearson's column at Gingindhlovu and in the relief of Eshowe. He was awarded the Zulu Wars campaign medal, but its present location is unknown.

When the Zulu Wars ended, the crew returned for a while to HMS Boadicea, but in 1881 were again called upon to serve in the First Boer War, under the command of Sir George Pomeroy-Colley. After a number of failed encounters with the Boers, by mid-February it was apparent that Colley had made a number of serious errors of judgement, and may have been having a breakdown.

In a disastrous manoeuvre kept secret from other commanders, Colley led his motley collection of troops (who had never served together before) on a night trek up the treacherous south face of Mount Majuba to capture this strategic point 6,000 feet high. Although they secured the summit plateau, no proper reconnaissance had been made, and no entrenchments or fortifications were dug, except by the Naval Brigade. As a result, on the morning of Sunday 27th February, the Boers crept up a gentler slope of the mountain and over-ran the British troops. Throughout the ensuing battle Colley failed to issue a single order, and in the resulting chaos many lives were lost unnecessarily. Colley himself was eventually shot and killed.

The attrition rate was highest among the Naval Brigade, the most disciplined and well-trained troops there, as they guarded the retreat position, covering the fleeing troops. Among those who died were Samuel John Witheridge and his friend George Hammond, also from Plymouth. The two died side by side, shot through the head by Boers. Later, a Boer commandant pointed them out to a British officer as brave men 'who had stayed at their post till the last'. They were mentioned in despatches when details of the battle were published in the London Gazette on 3rd May 1881.

Samuel John Witheridge and George Hammond are both buried in the small cemetery on the summit of Majuba, and are commemorated on the Boadicea memorial in Haslar Cemetery, Portsmouth. Sadly, the cemetery at Majuba has been desecrated, partly because of the strong feeling that this was an unjustified battle, and partly because local tribesmen believed that 'white men's bones make good magic'. It is not known whether Samuel's grave is intact, but the memorial stone to the men of HMS Boadicea bears a large bullet hole.

Wednesday 25 April 2007

Cruse of Landkey and another Archelaus

Pam Robins from Beaudesert, Queensland, Australia, has been in touch about the early Cruses of Landkey in Devon, and we have had a most useful exchange of information. Unfortunately the Landkey registers have only survived from 1602 onwards so the Landkey tree begins with Anthony Creuse who married Johan (or Joan) Cornish on 22nd June 1603. Anthony and Joan had six children, all of whom were baptised at St Paul's Church in Landkey:

1. William, baptised on 18th April 1604
2. Anthony, baptised on 17th November 1605
3. Wilmot, baptised on 22nd November 1607 and buried on 1st December 1607
4. Elizabeth, baptised on 8th June 1611
5. Archelaus, baptised on 9th April 1614 (his name appears in the records with a variety of spellings such as Achilles, Archilles, Archillis, Archerlus and Archalus)
6. James, baptised on 25th March 1616.

The eldest son, William, married Ann May on 17th January 1634/5 in Landkey. They only appear to have had one son, William, baptised on 2nd May 1639 in Landkey. This particular Cruse line comes to an end with William junior as he had five daughters from his marriage to Damarus Smitham and no sons.

Anthony married Mary Lewes on 23rd April 1660 in Landkey. By this time Anthony would have been in his fifties so it was possibly a second marriage. This couple, too, only appear to have had one child, another Anthony, who was baptised on 11th December 1661 in Landkey. We have no further information on this line at present.

Elizabeth married Hugh Fry on 7th November 1640 in Landkey. Pam is descended from their daughter Joan Fry who married William Morrish on 17th May 1676 in Barnstaple.

Archelaus married Joan Blackmore on 1st April 1647 in Landkey. They appear to have settled in the nearby town of Barnstaple after their marriage, and their daughter Joan was baptised on 26th February 1650/1 in Barnstaple. She died at the age of ten or eleven and was buried on 6th August 1661 in Barnstaple. Archelaus and Joan also had a son called James though so far his baptism has not been located. James married Eleanor Jones from Llandue, Wales, on 21st September 1679 in Barnstaple and the marriage record conveniently provides confirmation that James was Archelaus's son. Joan Cruse née Blackmore was buried on 3rd December 1664 in Barnstaple. At some point in the next five years Archelaus married again, but we have no record of the marriage and the name of his second wife is not known. There were two daughters from the second marriage, both of whom were baptised in Barnstaple: Anne on 2nd March 1669/70 and Elizabeth on 20th February 1672/3. Archelaus possibly did not live to see the birth of his daughter Elizabeth as his will was proved in 1673 at Barnstaple. Unfortunately his will has not survived as all the Barnstaple wills were stored at the Exeter Probate Registry which was bombed by the Germans in World War II.

As many of you will know the name Archelaus also appears in the tree of the Cruse family from Rode in Somerset. We believe that Archelaus Cruse the newsvendor of St Botolph, Aldersgate, was born in 1760 in Rode, Somerset. The Rode tree goes back as far as a John Cruse who married a Susannah in 1686. However, at the moment there is no obvious connection between the two branches.

Anthony and Joan's youngest son, James, disappears from the records and we have no further information about him.

Friday 20 April 2007

George Cruse the Crimean War hero

Robert Cruse has sent me some fascinating information about his great-great-uncle George Cruse of the 1st Royal Dragoons who served in the Crimean War with great distinction. Robert has written a brief biography about George which I am reproducing below in its entirety. He has also transcribed a selection of letters relating to George's career in the Dragoons. The most interesting item of all is a letter written by George from the Crimea to his father-in-law, Sam Woolley, in which he provides an eye-witness account of the events at the Battle of Balaclava on 25th October 1854. The letter was written just eight days after the battle.

George Cruse
Regimental No. 616
1st Royal Dragoons

George was the ninth of thirteen children born to Henry Cruse and Elizabeth Skinner. He was born on 21st June 1818 in Frome, Somerset, and baptised on 30th April 1819 in Frome. George became a career soldier at the age of 20 years. What made him choose a military life? Was he influenced by the fact that his father Henry was a member of the North Somerset Yeomanry Cavalry? Did he play with his father’s sword or musket, did he try on his father’s uniform, and did he go to the stables and get to know his father’s horse – perhaps even riding upon it? Whatever the motivation, George joined the 1st Royal Regiment of Dragoons on 11th July 1838 as a private. He served as a private until 30th June 1840 when he was promoted to Corporal. He was promoted to Sergeant on 1st December 1842, and served as such for well over five years until 31st March 1848.

On the 1st April 1848 George was promoted to Troop Sergeant Major on the retirement of Sam Woolley from the army. Sam Woolley was to become George’s father-in-law as George married Eliza Woolley on 13th April 1848 at the Church of Cahir, County Tipperary. George and Eliza had a daughter named Mary Anna, who was born on 1st February 1849 and baptised at the Parish Church, Leeds.

On 21st May 1854 George sailed from Liverpool on the sailing ship Arabia for service in the Crimea. The sea journey lasted 42 days.

In the Crimea, George served under Lord Raglan and General Simpson. He saw active service at:

- The Battle of Balaclava on 25th October 1854
- The Battle of Inkerman on 5th November 1854
- The Battle of Sebastapol October 1854 – April 1855

For his service he was awarded the Crimea Medal on 20th September 1855 with clasps for Inkerman, Balaclava and Sebastapol. Later, in March 1859, he was awarded the Turkish Medal.

George was promoted from Sergeant to Troop Sergeant Major on 1st April 1848 and he served as such for well over six years until 4th November 1854. While serving in the Crimea he was promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major on 5th November 1854. This promotion caused his Commanding Officer, Major Wardlaw, some anxiety as his letters seemed to get lost and he had to write on at least three occasions. (See below.) To qualify for promotion he had to have a medical which showed he was "in good health and fit for active service". There is no record of George sustaining an injury during his service in the Crimea.

During his service in the Crimea, from May 1854 to March 1855, George wrote 63 letters to his family. (The original letters are at the National Army Museum.) These letters show that George was posted to the following places

- Scutari and Buykdere in the Bosphorus (Istanbul, Turkey);
- Varna (Camp Adrianople Road), Devnya, Kanajusin/Kana Hussin, and Calasnya (Bulgaria)
- Balaclava and and a "Camp near Sebastapol" (now in the present-day Ukraine)

On 16th March 1855 George was promoted to Riding Master (without purchase) and served in this post until August 1871. (The promotion is recorded in the London Gazette.) On 9th August 1871 he was made an Honorary Captain and retired on half pay.

A remarkable career – from Private to Captain, all on his own merit.

George retired to Huntley House, 15, Elliston Road, Redland, Bristol. It is possible that George bought the house new as the house was built in the late 1860s and he retired in 1871. The house is quite large and has four floors. The ground floor – which leads into the garden - was the kitchen. The present house has two large reception rooms on the first floor, two large bedrooms on the second floor and other rooms on the third floor which no doubt were bedrooms and living quarters for the servant. These appear to have been altered and therefore do not reflect how the house looked when George owned the house. George no doubt had a servant and perhaps her rooms were on the third floor – the attic. When George’s daughter Mary died, she left the house and a mahogany military chest-of-drawers (George’s chest?) to her servant Elizabeth Napper.

George died on 9th February 1878 and his wife Eliza received arrears of George’s pay totalling £46. George was buried at Westbury-on-Trym Church, Bristol. The inscription on the Memorial reads:
In memory of
Captain George Cruse
Who served for 33 years
In the Royal Dragoons
And died at Redland on the 9th February 1878
Aged 59 years

Erected by brother officers
As a mark of their esteem
There is a further inscription on the side of grave which reads: "Also in memory of Eliza wife of Captain George Cruse who died in February 1908".

George's daughter Mary Anna never married and died in 1936 in Bristol.

The following was letter was sent by George Cruse to his father-in-law, Sam Woolley, from the Crimea. The letter is dated just eight days after the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Camp before Sebastapol
Nov 2nd 1854

My Dear Father

I posted a letter yesterday for dear Lizzie, but I have just acclaimed that the mail does not leave until tomorrow, so I have taken the opportunity of scribbling a few lines to you as I am quite certain you will all be anxious to get the latest intelligence from me, and knowing you to be fond of Military affairs and also able to comprehend any little tactic which I may be enabled to describe I have enclosed a rough sketch of the action before Balaklava on the 25th Oct and though it is a rough affair in every sense of the word ? as I said before, I think it will be rather interesting to all my dear friends at Peterborough. I will now endeavour to explain the movements of the troops on that day and describe the little sketch as well as my poor abilities will admit. You will see our encampment was nearly at the end of a large plain about 3 miles from the height – near the village of Kamara and between the two roads leading to Sebastapol.

The 93rd Highlanders were posted on our right front so as to protect the road leading to Balaklava, there was also a larger body of Turks on the right of the Highlanders. The heights round about Balaklava are well defended by Sailors and Marines so that the Russians will have a difficult job to retake that place. The Russian army was posted some few miles behind the height which were defended by the Turkish redoubt, and the whole of the heights round about that spot and near the village of Kamara had picquets and videttes(?) posted on them. We thought ourselves in a pretty decent position forgetting that our own Countrymen did not defend the Redoubts. As I mentioned in my former letter, we were always saddled and mounted by three o’clock in the morning; so on the morning of the 25th, about half past five we were roused by hearing the guns from all the redoubts open fire, and several of the picquets were sent in to give intelligence that the enemy was advancing in great force. Of course we were not long in advancing at a smart trot to the positions described in the sketch in rear of the redoubts defended by Turks and which the Russians were attacking in great force – our horse artillery was sent forward between the two large redoubts and opened a brisk fire but were soon obliged to retire as the Russian guns quite overpowered these and they lost several men and horses. The Russian guns began to advance and several round shot fell into ranks, breaking the legs of two horses and one large ball struck a man named ‘M’ right in the face, of course killing him instantly. I have marked the spot where he fell. The shot began to fall so thick around us that the men began to bob their heads which made ‘L’ and I pitch into them for being so foolish, just as if they could avoid a 32lb shot by moving their heads one side or another. Just about this time, the Turks fled in confusion down the hill towards us, abandoning the redoubts in a shameful manner.

The Russians came up in dense masses and bringing up their heavy guns with them, besides moving those the Turks had abandoned. They opened such a fire upon us that we could do nothing but retire, which we did about half a mile behind our encampment. Our tents had in the meantime been struck, but of course in the confusion they could not be packed up, and we had the pleasure of galloping over all our little property. We did not know at first whether the Russians would advance to us or not, but in about half an hour we saw an immense body of cavalry approaching, preceded by a cloud of Cossacks. One wing of them prepared to charge the 93rd, which you will see by the sketch, while the other wing prepared to charge us. It appears they had mistaken the 93rd for Turks, but when they came within 100 yards of them they were soon convinced of their error, for the highlanders (without forming a square), poured in such a volley upon them that they were glad to retire. Meanwhile, the other body came down in a very compact manner to attack us, but as we charged them, as you see by the sketch (Royals and Greys leading), they soon retired in great disorder leaving many on the field, but we did not follow them. They retired in great haste to the other side of the heights, and as our generals went to reconnoitre, they found the Russians strongly posted in the position which I have endeavoured to sketch. We remained at the edge of this height for some time, meanwhile a message had been sent to Lord Raglan, and reinforcements of infantry began to arrive. Some little time after, Captain 'N' rode up and gave the order to drive the enemy from their position.

We advanced over the heights to attack them, the Light Brigade leading the Greys, and we following, and the other heavy regt. in the rear; nothing could be more bold and daring than the advance of the Light Brigade who darted forward at a tremendous speed. They galloped right up to the position and cut down the gunners of the 30 guns in front, but the immense body of infantry in rear of the guns poured in such volleys upon them that as we advanced to the support, I could scarcely see a mounted man returning. Lord Cardigan saw that we had rushed upon an overwhelming force with a mere handful, and he ordered us to retire, but meanwhile we had been halted just between the fires of the cross batteries, which were also well filled with riflemen, and it was just at this spot that our officers and men were cut down. We retreated in a very orderly manner and our men did not bob their heads as they did in the morning, but it was the opinion of all the old officers present that in no previous battle on record was a body of cavalry exposed to such a murderous fire. How we escaped (a single man of us), God alone knows, and I am sure I have reason to remember his mercies as long as I live, for bringing me safely out of such a carnage. I could describe the affairs much better than I can write a description of it, but as I am denied the pleasures of a fire-side chat, I hope you will be able to understand the rough manner in which I have sketched it. We retired to the edge of the heights, which the Russians had been driven from, and after lighting fires to deceive them, we retired to our old ground, packed up our tents, and drew our picquet poles and ropes and retired about two miles nearer to Sebastopol. It was twelve o’clock before we lay down, having been out twenty-one hours that day, the men had scarcely any refreshment for that day, but I began to look out for number one. We have shifted camp twice since then but we are now pretty close to Sebastopol, which has been bombarded now seventeen days; there is a rumour of its being stormed tonight, but I cannot vouch for the truth of it, and as my paper is now pretty full, I must say good night and God bless you my dear father, and believe me your affectionate son,

George Cruse

Letters from George’s Commanding Officer recommending his promotion:

Camp near Balaclava
11th December 1854


In having been notified in the general orders of the 9th December that the Regiment under my command is to receive an augmentation of two troops by which augmentation it appears probable that the present riding master of the Royal Dragoons, being Senior Lieutenant and a Subaltern of 22 years standing, will be promoted to the rank of captain. I beg most respectfully to forward the name of a most deserving non-commissioned officer. No. 616 Troop Sergeant Major Cruse is excellently adapted to fill that appointment – I consider him to be a man of excellent ability, he has always been a very high character in the regiment and had received a superior education previous to his entering the army; has been through a course of instruction at the Riding Establishment under Major Meyers (?) from whom he obtained a very high certificate and he was ? Sergeant for nearly six years in the Royal Dragoons - I have therefore the honour to request that the Earl of Lucan will be kindly pleased to recommend Troop Sergeant George Cruse for the appointment of Riding Master to the Royal Dragoons in the event of that situation falling vacant – I should also add that he is equally qualified for the post of Adjutant.

[The rest of the letter concerns the recommendation for promotion of John Lees.]

I enclose a statement of service of both ??? officers and a medical certificate of their fitness for service.

I have the honour to be
Your most obedient
Humble Servant
Robert Wardlaw
Major Royal Dragoons

Lord Lucan
11 December 1854

Royal Dragoons
Troop Sergeant Major
Geo. Cruse

Regimental Sergeant Major
John Lee

Cavalry Camp
December 11th 1854


? ? ? to enclose
a recommendation from
Major Wardlaw commanding the
Royal Dragoons for two non-
Commissioned officers of
The Regiment under his command to
Be appointed commissioned to the cavalry
And that ? ? ?
? they to ?
? recommendations
to the favourable consideration
of the Field Marshall
? ……………………..

Camp near Balaklava
13th February 1855


I had the honour to forward to you through the Lieutenant General commanding the Cavalry on this December last a letter recommending Sergeant Major George Cruse of the Regiment under my command for promotion to the appointment of Riding Master and requesting that the Commander in Chief would be pleased to ? his name to the Authorities at the Horse Guards. Finding that the General Commander-in-Chief had not received my recommendation of the above named non-commissioned officer on the 26th of January I beg again respectfully to recommend him as extremely well adapted for that situation and in every way worthy of promotion to the rank of a commissioned officer. In case of former documents having been mislaid I enclose a certified record of service and the proper medical certificate –
Trusting that the Commander in Chief may be pleased to forward this recommendation to the horse guards at an early opportunity.

I have the honour to be
Your most obedient Humble Servant
Robert Wardlaw
Major Royal Dragoons

The Military Secretary
Headquarters before Sebastapol

Camp near Balaklava
16th February 1855


I had the honour in December last to forward to you through the Military Secretary to Field Marshal Lord Raglan a letter containing a strong recommendation on my part on behalf of Troop Sergeant Major (now Regimental Sergeant Major) George Cruse of the 1st Royal Dragoons for promotion to the rank of coronet and the appointment of Riding Master vacated by Captain Chamberlain on his succeeding to a troop in consequence of the augmentation – as it appears by a letter dated Horse Guards 26th January 1855 that "no recommendation on the part of his commanding officer had been received up to that date." I beg again most respectfully to bring before your notice this non commissioned officer as most deserving of promotion and most excellently qualified for the Riding Mastership having received a very good certificate from Major Meyers (?) when at Maidstone and having been rough riding sergeant for six years in the regiment. In my former letter I enclosed a medical certificate and record of service, and I have again done it through the Military Secretary here. Trusting that my anxiety to serve a non commissioned officer whose zeal and merits I have observed both at home and in the Crimea may excuse the liberty I have taken in again forwarding a recommendation in his favour.

I have the honour to be
Your most obedient and humble servant
Robert Wardlaw
Major Royal Dragoons

The Military Secretary
Horse Guards

Wednesday 11 April 2007

Mary Fraunceys the child bride

Peter Ploptson in Ontario, Canada, has sent me a huge package of material on the Ayshford and Fraunceys families, both of which are of particular importance in the history of the Cruwys family of Cruwys Morchard. It will take me some time to work my way through all the new information but I have made a start by looking at the tree of the Fraunceys family. Peter has sent me three inquisitions post mortem (IPMs) relating to the Fraunceys all of which provide valuable genealogical information.

The Fraunceys family are of French origin. In earlier records their name is often spelt Fraunceis, which is the Old French word for a Frenchman or Frank. The Franceis spelling is preserved in later generations in some branches of the family. Some time in the early part of the fourteenth century the Fraunceys acquired the manor of Killerington, later known as Killerton Franceis, in the parish of Broad Clyst. The family home in Killerington was known as Franceis Court. The house remained in the family until the beginning of the seventeenth century when it was purchased, along with the manor of Killerton, by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Baronet. Today there is a farmhouse on the estate but nothing remains of the old Fraunceis mansion.

Some time in the late 1300s William Fraunceys of Fraunceis Court made an advantageous marriage to Alice, the daughter of Nicholas Hele and Alice Florey of Hele in the parish of Bradninch, Devon. Alice brought to the marriage a considerable estate which she had inherited from her father. She subsequently received a substantial inheritance from her mother which included the manors of Combe Florey in Somerset and Tallaton in Devon. Later generations of the Fraunceys family moved to Combe Florey, and they reputedly held the manor for some twelve generations.

The Mary Fraunceys in whom we have a particular interest was the second wife of John Cruwys of Cruwys Morchard. We know from the records at Cruwys Morchard House that their marriage took place some time in 1490. Mary was the daughter of John Fraunceys and Florence Ayshford. John Fraunceys died on 20th November 1485 and an inquisition post mortem was held on 5th October 1493. We learn from the IPM that John Fraunceys and Florence Ayshford were granted the manor of Hele Payne and various lands in Hele Payne, Bradnynch and Pounde by means of a charter dated 20 May, 17 Edward IV (1477). This transfer of land presumably coincided with their marriage, which would have taken place either that same year or perhaps one or two years previously. There is a medieval farmhouse in Broadclyst known as Hele Payne Farm which was quite possibly where John and Florence Fraunceys lived after their marriage. The farmhouse has been considerably extended and altered over the years but still retains some of its original medieval features. It is now designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building.

John Fraunceys' IPM provides no clues as to Mary's date of birth but her brother Nicholas is named as the son and heir and, at the time of the IPM, he was "aged 16 years and more", placing his birth at around 1476 or 1477. It is probably therefore safe to assume that Mary was born either a year or so before or after her brother Nicholas. They were probably both born at Hele Payne. At this time it was legally possible for a girl to marry from the age of 12 onwards so, in view of the 1490 marriage, Mary could not have been born any later than 1478. Whatever the truth of the matter it is clear that Mary Fraunceys was a very young girl, possibly as young as 12, and, if not, certainly in her early teens, when she married John Cruwys.

By the time of their marriage John Cruwys was about 41 years of age. He was a widower with six young children, three boys and three girls, all under the age of ten – a daunting proposition for any young woman, let alone a young girl who was probably only just in her teens. However, marriage at this time was very much a commercial transaction, and no doubt there would have been female servants to take care of the step-children. Mary bore her husband four sons: William, Thomas, Edward and Anthony. John died in about 1515 and Mary subsequently married John Acland of Landkey. The date of the marriage is not known but by this time Mary would probably have been in her forties. John Acland died in 1539. It is clear from his will that the marriage was not a particularly happy one and that Mary had caused considerable "vexation" in the family. The surviving Landkey parish registers do not begin until 1602 so there is no record of Mary's death. She was predeceased by her eldest son William who died in 1525.