Monday, 17 November 2008

Charles Kingsley and the Cruse tapestry

I've been a member of the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society for nearly a year now but have only just got round to adding my interests to the society's website. Shortly after submitting my post, I received an e-mail from none other than the Society's webmaster Alan Brown whose wife coincidentally has Cruses in her ancestry from Clovelly in North Devon. Alan has put details of his wife's Cruses and various other lines on his website. He has also kindly sent me a Gedcom file of the Clovelly Cruse line which has saved me a lot of hard work inputting all the data into my family history program.

Clovelly is a picturesque fishing village on the North Devon coast, and is now a popular tourist attraction. Not surprisingly the Clovelly Cruses feature several mariners and fisherman, with a number dying at sea at a young age. On one tragic evening on 17th May 1917 Thomas Cruse and Catherine Tucker Howard lost two of their sons, James Thomas Cruse and William Thomas Cruse, when their ship the SS Kilmaho was torpedoed by a German UB20 submarine just off the Cornish coast near Lands End. Only one of the crew of 21 survived.

The Clovelly Cruses have a particular claim to fame with a link to Charles Kingsley, the author of The Water Babies and Westward Ho! Kingsley spent much of his childhood in Devon. His father was the rector of Clovelly from 1830-1836 during which time the Kingsley family lived at the Rectory. Elizabeth Cruse née Hickling (1807-1886) was Kingsley's nursemaid during the early 1830s. Elizabeth was born in 1807 in Teigh, Rutland. She married Richard Cruse, a merchant seaman, on 8th December 1831 in Clovelly, and continued to work for the Kingsleys for a short time after her marriage. Charles Kingsley's christening gown is still owned by the Cruse family. His cradle was also stored in the family's shed for many years but was sadly broken up for firewood and burnt by someone who didn't realise its significance! The photograph below of Elizabeth Cruse née Hickling was kindly supplied by Alan Brown and is reproduced with his permission.Alan's wife's family also have another treasured heirloom, the Cruse tapestry (below), which has a most interesting history. Alan tells me: "A few years back a solicitor's office in Bideford were having a clear out and threw an old framed picture in a skip. The whole thing broke and the tapestry was revealed, being used as a backing. Fortunately one of the office staff knew my wife's uncle, and passed it to him."The Cruses recorded on the tapestry are not the direct ancestors of Alan's wife, but it is still very fortunate to have such an unusual possession in the family. William Cruse the head of the family on the tapestry, was a farmer. He married Jane Martin in 1825 in Langtree, Devon. They moved away from Clovelly and settled in Frithelstock. One of their sons, Oliver (born 1833 in Langtree) emigrated to America, where he settled in Seattle, Washington. He married Jane Sowton and had nine known children.

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