One of the many reasons I started photographing churches, was that over the past 5 years or so, I became much more deeply interested in Family History research and the ever-increasing records of sites like Ancestry made such research so easily possible. I had always been interested and even aged 13 in 1971 had compiled a photographic record of family on my mother’s side back to my fourth great grandparents. But in those days, one had to visit record offices and families spoke little or seemed to have very little knowledge or interest in who had travelled life before them. Then the computer age dawned! Bliss! Suddenly the census’, christening records, and other wonderful information became easily accessible from the ease of one’s armchair.
Of course the rest is history as they say; and I have a personal theory that the day and age we find ourselves living in, with such global uncertainties, and with such a fast pace of life…may have simultaneously fuelled a desire in us to find out more of those who went before us, almost looking for clues and reassurance as to how they coped, and what difficulties they endured, survived and sometimes rose above. There is a strange comfort in knowing that they managed and a feeling that we might too and a desire to feel our own sense of belonging to a much longer human history. We want to know our place in the scheme of things.
So, I was amazed when starting to research my Fathers side of the family to find out that far from being Norfolk through and through…[as I had been led to believe when I wanted to move away to Scotland-where virtually all my mothers historic ancestors came from] one enterprising young man, [my great great grandfather] in the family had moved to Norfolk from Woodchester in Gloucestershire. It must have been quite a move; because his family had been there for generations. But economically the trade he was in; [wool…he was a wool sorter] was declining there…and there was still business to be had what was also the rapidly modernising city of Norwich. So Albert Peter [not mentioning surnames] with his wife Emma, a local Woodchester girl moved to Norwich with their son and arrived in there in time for the 1871 census. From the census reports, it is obvious they struggled at first, he making brushes, she becoming a laundress…but by 1881 they had made it and were ‘on the up’, living in a better area and more secure.
My pilgrimage to my family ancestors began and I decided to start with Woodchester and stand in that church they would have known so well; walk round the churchyard and see the little school they were educated in. It felt so very very strange I have to admit. I flew down to Bristol from Inverness, hired a car and started my travels round the Cotswold areas that increasing numbers of ancestors from various branches of my Father’s family were turning up in. Here I am posting about two, Woodchester and Painswick. Firstly St Mary’s Church Woodchester. The sky was thunderous, and the pink cherry blossom made a beautiful contrast. The rain poured down almost as soon as I got within the sanctuary of the Church. Somehow that made it all the more atmospheric and peaceful.
The building to the left of the picture below what used to be the schoolhouse where Alfred and Emily and their son would have all been educated.
The school is so close to the church entrance!
Here is one of the huge tomb slab graves which I turned into black and white for better effect.
And the rolling views the ancestors look over.
Here is the delightful interior…
And Stained Glass
It is obviously a well used and well-loved church, with evidence of regular activity by various groups. That is nice to see.