One-place studies are a branch of family history with a focus on the entire population of a single village or community, not just a single, geographically dispersed family line.
Sodbury Genealogy has been officially registered as a one-place study.
It now has a dedicated page on the Register of One-Place Studies website. As you can see, there is plenty of work to be done to cover the variety of sources suggested and this is not something I can ever hope to achieve on my own. If you know of any online sources for the parishes covered by Sodbury Genealogy, or if you have material of your own which you would be willing to share, please notify me using the contact form.
It's Christmas and, at this time of year, I love to listen to English folk carols and Christmas songs. One of my favourites is the Gloucestershire Wassail. The word wassail comes from the Old English greeting waes hael, which means "be healthy". By the twelfth century it had become a drinking toast (the response was drinc hael) and, by extension, became the name of the drink, the drinking song and of general merrymaking.
The king doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 4, William Shakespeare, 1598.
By the 19th century wassail was limited to the Christmas / New Year period. In Somerset it involved semi-pagan libations to apple trees but here in Gloucestershire, according to the wonderful website Gloucestershire Christmas, it took the form of "a group of people going from house-to-house during the Christmas period, singing the Wassail Song and carrying a decorated wassail bowl."
There seem to have been as many versions of the song as there were villages - the Gloucestershire Christmas website lists 19 of them, some accompanied by rare archive recordings of how they sounded. Two of the versions are from places covered by Sodbury Genealogy - Badminton and Little Sodbury / Horton.
The version from Little Sodbury was collected by the doyen of English folk music, Cecil Sharp, in 1907. His information came from a 68 year old agricultural labourer called Isaac Bennett. (Follow the link for lots of genealogical information about Isaac.) We are fortunate to have the words and music carefully written down by Cecil Sharp, from which we learn that the pronunciation in this part of Gloucestershire was waysail. This pronunciation can be heard in a recording of the song on the Gloucestershire Christmas website.
In 1970 a retired farmer at Wickwar called Mr Hatherall gave a fascinating account of wassailing in Little Sodbury to Richard Chidlaw:
A group of six or seven lads, aged 14-21 would come round to the lawn in front of Little Sodbury Manor. They brought with them the Horton Bull, which was two men under a papier maché head with a tail going down the back, and they had ribs of beef, a tambourine, a jew’s harp and a mouth organ. The bull would roar and chase the girls and make them scream. They had a bowl made of white wood decorated all over with ribbons and garlands of evergreen, from which they would drink.
The bull was an important part of the Gloucestershire wassail. One survived in Tetbury as late as the 1970s. The version of the Gloucestershire Wassail popular with folk singers today includes toasts to named bulls, broads (cows) and horses. It was first printed in the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928. The tune was collected by Gloucestershire born Ralph Vaughan Williams and the words came from William Bayliss of Laverton, near Tewkesbury, as well as from Isaac Bennett. My favourite rendition is by the Albion Christmas Band on their album An Albion Christmas but there is no video or audio of that available on the internet to share with you. Instead, you can hear it sung by Loreena McKennitt, from her album A Midwinter Night's Dream. The lyrics are below, so you can follow along.
Wassail, wassail all over the town
The Sodbury Genealogy website has only been active for two weeks and already contains over 170 links to help people with their genealogy research in Chipping Sodbury and the neighbouring parishes in south east Gloucestershire.
The good news is that there is so much available online for genealogists interested in this beautiful corner of England. The bad news is that I've already had to make some hard decisions about restricting the scope of the site. I've settled on a group of 19 parishes within a 4 mile radius of Chipping Sodbury. I'm acutely aware that our ancestors travelled far greater distances than that - often on foot - in search of work, a market or a bride. But I'd rather cover a small area thoroughly than take on more than I can comfortably handle.
The growing number of links means that I have also begun dividing the parish pages into categories. At present these cover books, censuses, directories, families, history, images, mailing lists, manorial records, monumental inscriptions, parish registers, parochial records, poor law records and surnames. I'm sure I'll be adding more before long!
Do take a look around the site and see what's new and please email me if you have a link to a resource I've overlooked. Please also post your parish and surname interests in the forums. I've started the ball rolling there with some of my own.
I look forward to hearing from you.
It was the morning of Friday, 5 August 1949 and the Cross Hands Hotel at Old Sodbury had been open for just over an hour. Into the lounge strolled a young RAF officer, who ordered a glass of beer and asked if he could use the phone. Nothing in his appearance or behaviour gave any hint that a few minutes earlier he had had a miraculous escape from death.
Flying Officer Paul Flewelling was a Canadian who had already demonstrated his courage when he won the Distinguished Flying Cross with the RCAF during the Second World War. In the summer of 1949 he was serving as a flying instructor at No 2 Flying Training School in South Cerney, Gloucestershire. When the Flying School first moved to South Cerney in April 1948 it was equipped with Tiger Moths and Harvards but in June 1949 the Tiger Moths were replaced by Prentices. It was one of these new Prentices that Paul Flewelling was flying that morning when he hit a 6,000 volt high tension cable, somersaulted over a main road and crashed into a field of clover.
Eye witnesses to the crash included two farm workers stooking corn, who ducked as they heard the crack of the breaking cable and the plane roaring over their heads. A motorist on the main A46 road from Bath to Stroud was forced to brake hard as the plane passed in front of him, a few feet above the road, dragging with it a trail of electric cables and telephone wires.
One wingtip struck the ground and the plane came to rest in the clover field. The engine was torn from its mountings, the cockpit hood shattered and the fuselage gashed by the cables and wires. To the amazement of the onlookers, Flewelling climbed out the wreckage unscathed, dusted off his uniform and started walking towards them. He suffered only a few scratches and was described by his would be rescuers as "the luckiest man in the world". They were astonished that the plane had not caught fire.
The motorist, a Mr Stevens from Coventry, took Flewelling to the Cross Hands where, having calmly ordered his beer, he phoned his base at South Cerney to report the crash. Meanwhile the Sodbury Fire Brigade had been summoned but, as only a small amount of fuel had leaked from the plane, their services were not needed. Within an hour of the crash, engineers had arrived to repair the cables whilst the Western Daily Press interviewed the witnesses. One of them, a farm worker called Wyndham Perks from Hawkesbury Upton, who was a rather good looking young man, even got his photograph in the paper.
The Cross Hands was probably not to know such excitement again until 1981, when the Queen took shelter there from a snowstorm, but that's another story.
1. This story is based on an article published in the Western Daily Press on 6 August 1949 and now available on the British Newspaper Archive website.
2. Information about the RAF's No 2 Flying Training School at South Cerney comes from the page about Flying Training Schools on the Air of Authority website.
3. According to the book To Soar With the Eagles by Sidney R Bolick, Paul Flewelling was from Moncton, New Brunswick. He was a Sergeant Pilot with the RCAF in the summer of 1942.
The British Newspaper Archive is a wonderful source of information for genealogy research. The earliest newspaper references to Sodbury I have found on the site date from the early 18th century. On 5 October 1732, the Derby Mercury published a short report on page 2 under "Country News" for Gloucestershire, datelined 23 September 1732:
And on Monday last the Wife of William Harvey of Chipping Sodbury in this County, was delivered of three Girls, who were chriften'd the next Day by the Names of Love, Peace, and Unity.
Family Search provides the information that Love, Peace and Unity Harvey were the children of William and Mary Harvey and were baptised at St John the Baptist, Chipping Sodbury, on 19 September 1732. Sadly, Love and Unity died on 1 October and Peace on 8 October 1732.
Welcome to my new website, devoted to genealogy and family history research in Chipping Sodbury and the surrounding parishes. My name is Caroline Gurney and I'm a professional genealogist. I've lived in Chipping Sodbury since 2004 and developed a special interest in the history and genealogy of this delightful market town. This website is my way of giving something back to the town, its people and my fellow genealogists. I hope you will find material here that will help you with your own research.
Caroline Gurney is a professional genealogist and historical researcher. Her work includes family, local and house history, tracing living people, and research for businesses, authors and the media. See Historical Research Services.