Category Archives: Eaton Bray, UK

Tearle family history in Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire.


Eaton Bray Tearle memorials

St Mary’s Church, Eaton Bray

The vicar of Stanbridge, Helen Gardiner, wrote to me to say she had seen mention of a Tearle in the Church of St Mary’s, Eaton Bray. She thought it was on the lectern. This was of great interest because Eaton Bray is one of the Tearle Valley villages, which we had visited, but on all occasions, St Mary’s was closed. This time (Feb 2017) we were lucky, a very pleasant and knowledgeable lady was arranging flowers for the coming weekend services and she was happy to have company while she did so. St Mary’s is an old and beautiful church built in the 1200s, so it is not a classic Norman design, but it is tall and of ample proportions, with a few additions that had been tidily added over the centuries of its life. Very few of its headstones are left; some are leaning against two perimeter walls, and a block of concrete had little plaques of the names of villagers who had been cremated. A war memorial took pride of place at the head of the pedestrian access to the building. We examined everything we could find for Tearle names, but there was nothing, in spite of there being Tearles in Eaton Bray since at least the early 1700s.

The first impression of the interior of the church is that it is filled with light and it is well maintained.

St Mary’s Eaton Bray interior towards the altar

A glance over your shoulder exposes the quite beautiful pipe organ attached to a wall behind which is the belfry. I asked the flower lady about the organ and she said there were recitals in the church, and they were well attended.

The pipe organ, St Mary’s Eaton Bray

Over time, some quite beautiful stained glass windows had been added.

St Mary’s Eaton Bray stained glass windows

We set about trying to find the Tearle memorial that Rev Helen Gardiner had referred to. First, though, was a complete surprise; a Roll of Honour with the name Robert Tearle.

St Mary Eaton Bray Roll of Honour

He had been born in Eaton Bray in 1887 and died in 1962. Below is the reference in closeup: “Beds” refers to his original enrollment as a private in the Bedfordshire Regiment.

Robert Tearle on St Mary Eaton Bray Roll of Honour

Then we found the lectern and the name of the Tearle we had come to find: it was Jeffrey, born in Eaton Bray in 1874, who died in 1952.

Lectern with Jeffery Tearle’s name

Here is a closeup of the memorial:

Jeffrey Tearle 1874-1952 in St Mary’s Eaton Bray

We were very touched; Jeffrey had continued his work as church verger, literally until he died.

But there was one more surprise; underneath the organ was a display which included a booklet on the Roll of Honour which, when it had been taken from its original hanging place was found to contain a note of all the villagers who had served in the Second World War, and amongst those was Jeffrey’s son Basil Jeffrey Tearle, who was born in Eaton Bray in 1921.

Basil Tearle St Mary’s WW2 Roll of Honour

Who were these men, and what do we know about them? Let’s start with Robert. He was born in 1887, so he was only 27 when WW1 started. He was always going to be drawn into that massive conflict which raged across Europe for four years at the cost of approximately 10 million military lives, and around 6 million civilian casualties.

Robert Tearle 1887, of Eaton Bray, was born to Alfred Tearle and Mary Ann nee Roe, also of Eaton Bray, on the 15 Sep 1887. His parents took a little while to baptise him, but that did take place, on 4 Sep 1890. He was the eldest of four children – Doris May in 1899, Arnott in 1900 and Aubrey in 1903 all followed him. Alfred and Mary Ann were married in 1887, in the beautiful church you can see above. In 1911, when Frederick filled in the census form, he was a bootmaker and poultry farmer, working from home. Robert was 23yrs old and he was a shoemaker and repairer, working on his “own account” presumably from the same address. The other children were at school.

In order to show you Robert’s ancestry, I need to digress for a moment and show you an outline of the Tearle tree from Alfred and backwards into history. Alfred’s father was William Tearle, born 1830, in Eaton Bray, who married Harriet Janes, of Eaton Bray, in 1851. They had three children, Hannah 1852, Tabitha 1854 and George 1856, who died in 1873. Remember Tabitha; we shall see her again.  In 1858 Harriett died, aged just 28yrs. I’m afraid I do not know why. With three small children on his hands, William married Ann Rogers of Leighton Buzzard in 1861, in the beautiful little church above, St Mary’s of Eaton Bray. At the time, she was a single mother with a son, John Rogers (named after her father) born 1857. The couple had seven children, of whom Frederick was second. Jonas, the first of their Tearle children was born and tragically died in 1861 at what cost to his parents, we cannot tell. Most of the Tearle children who were born after Alfred moved to the industrial areas of Northamptonshire, to become machinists and boot makers, and here is why: in 1849, a branch railway line was opened from Stanbridgeford to Dunstable; it was a walk of a few miles from Eaton Bray to the station, but only a few hundred yards from Stanbridge, and the people of Tearle Valley could take advantage of the opportunities in the new industrial cities to rid themselves of the sometimes intolerable grind of rural poverty.

William’s parents were George Tearle 1797, of Eaton Bray and Mary nee Hill of Hallibridge, near Spalding, in Lincolnshire. How they met is anyone’s guess, because people tended not to travel much outside their immediate countryside, if only because travel was difficult, dirty, expensive, and sometimes hazardous.

George’s parents were Thomas 1763 of Stanbridge, and Mary nee Gurney of Eaton Bray. In this marriage, we can see the movement of one family from the ancestral home of the Tearles in Stanbridge, to a village still in the same well-defined valley, about 4 miles away. And there they stayed, until the children of Alfred heard the call to the cities not particularly far from home.

Thomas’ parents were John Tearle 1741 of Stanbridge and Martha nee Archer. They had seven children, of whom Thomas was the second. John’s parents were Thomas Tearle 1709 and Mary nee Sibley. In another essay on this site, I have explored the relationships and events that lead to the marriage of Thomas and Mary, but the Tree now goes back to John Tearle of Stanbridge born about 1560, and with a few gaps here and there, the story of the Tearles in and around Tearle Valley goes back as far as the late 1300s.

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Jeffrey Tearle 1891, Eaton Bray, UK (1/Beds Regt)

On the Roll of Honour in the Dunstable Priory Church, there are two names: Tearle G and Tearle J. The first is George Tearle, born 1876 in Dunstable; the second is Jeffrey Tearle, born 1891 in Eaton Bray. They are only distantly related.
Below is a picture of the War Memorial in the grounds of the Dunstable Priory Church.

Here is his entry in National Roll of the Great War:

Tearle Jeffrey Cpl National Roll

Here is Jeffrey’s service record from the CWGC.

  • Name: TEARLE, JEFFREY Initials: J   
  • Nationality: United Kingdom
  • Rank:Corporal   Regiment/Service: Bedfordshire Regt Unit Text:1st Bn.
  • Age: 24  Date of Death: 31/10/1914
  • Service No: 3/6459
  • Additional information: Son of Mrs Sarah Jane Tearle of 9 Alfred St, Dunstable, Beds
  • Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference:Panel 10 and 11.
War memorial inside the gates of Dunstable Priory Church.

War memorial inside the gates of Dunstable Priory Church.

Jeffrey was born 1891 in Eaton Bray and his parents were George 1861 of Edlesborough and Sarah Jane nee Horn. He was the brother of Frank Tearle 1898 also of Eaton Bray. George 1861 was the son of George 1831 and Hannah Maria nee Janes. George 1831 was the son of Jabez 1792 and Mary nee Green and his parents were William 1749 and Mary nee Prentice. Thus Jeffrey is of the branch William 1749. George 1876, the other Tearle man on the memorial, descends from Joseph 1737 and Phoebe nee Capp, via Charles Bowler Tearle and Constance Cleaver nee Dickens. Jeffrey and George are 4th cousins.

Panel of WW1 casualties on Dunstable Church war memorial

Panel of WW1 casualties on Dunstable Church war memorial.

Steve Fuller, historian of the Bedfordshire Regiment says of Jeffrey:

“His death – on the 30th October – two companies of the Bedfords retook trenches the Ghurka’s had vacated as a result of all their Officers being killed or wounded and them not knowing what else to do under a heavy bombardment. That day was a confusing minor engagement that is not really listed or included in the diary. The Germans caused even more hassle as they were shouting “We are Ghurka’s” at the Bedfords, making them hesitate and allowing the Germans to pick those who paused within sight of them. Nasty little **&@##’s. The following day saw the Beds split in 2 and both portions in the trenches supporting other units who were hard pressed by localized attacks and bombardments. The entire 15th Brigade was having a horrible day but they simply clung to their posts and put up with it despite the dwindling Officer supply. Although the diary does not record it, several men were killed.”

Roll of Honour inside Dunstable Priory Church.

Roll of Honour inside Dunstable Priory Church.

“Jeffrey being on the Le Touret Memorial would be down to his being buried in the field and his grave being lost in the four years of fighting that raged over the area before the Imperial War Graves Commission began the process of collecting the dead from all over the battlefields and condensing them into the cemeteries we know today. The chances are that he is buried in a cemetery as an unknown soldier, bless him. When men were killed outright on the spot they were buried where they fell, left there until it was possible to do something abut their corpse or moved to a small collection area, usually behind the trench lines somewhere. All these kind of graves were condensed in the 1920’s but they are still finding men even today, as you may well know.”

Closeup of Roll of Honour inside Dunstable Priory Church

Closeup of Roll of Honour inside Dunstable Priory Church.

The massed graves at Le Touret Military Cemetery

The massed graves at Le Touret Military Cemetery

Jeffrey does not have a headstone at Le Touret Military Cemetery, he is remembered by inscription on the Bedfordshire Regiment section of the Le Touret Memorial.

Corporal Jeffrey Tearle Bedfordshire Rgt Le Touret Memorial

Corporal Jeffrey Tearle Bedfordshire Rgt Le Touret Memorial

Here is Le Touret Memorial it remembers the names of more than 13,000 soldiers “who have no known grave” and were killed in the Le Basse – Bethune area of Pas de Calais.

Le Touret Memorial

Le Touret Memorial.

Jeffrey Tearle in the Book of Remembrance

Jeffrey Tearle in Le Touret Book of Remembrance.