Category Archives: Tearle Stories UK

From England we are able to research the history of the Tearle Family. Here we will share what we have found in our research, and our travels around England, to find Tearle sites and Tearle graves.


Ronald William Tearle 1897, Luton, UK (RFA)

I first saw this chap on the Luton War Memorial outside the town hall, close to the Arndale Centre, and I immediately bought some flowers and left them for him. His name was Ronald William Tearle and he was the only son of a famous Luton Methodist lay preacher, William Underwood Tearle 1864 of Luton and Mary nee Bird. This family is on the branch of Joseph 1737. Here is his record from the CWGC.

Ronald William Tearle 1897-1817

Ronald William Tearle 1897-1817

  • Name: TEARLE
  • Initials: R
  • Nationality: United Kingdom
  • Rank: Gunner
  • Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery
  • Unit Text: “C” Bty. 95th Bde.
  • Date of Death: 04/10/1917
  • Service No: 141935
  • Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
  • Grave/Memorial Reference: X. A. 18.
War memorial Luton

War Memorial, Luton

WW1 inscription Luton

WW1 inscription on the Luton War Memorial.

WW1 War Memorial Luton Gunner Field Artillery RW Tearle 4 Oct 1917

WW1 War Memorial Luton. Gunner, Field Artillery, R W Tearle died 4 Oct 1917.

We visited The Huts Cemetery in Dikkebus, not far from Ypres. You can get there by bus, but you cannot come back by bus on the same day. We took a taxi there – and back.

The Huts Cem Dikkebus Ieper Ypres

Across the headstones to the Great Cross; The Huts Cemetery, Dikkebus, Ypres.

The Huts Cem Dikkebus Ieper Ypres

The Dikkebus Memorial, Ypres,

Ronald William Tearle 141935 The Huts Cem Dikkebus Ieper Ypres

Ronald William Tearle 141935 – headstone in The Huts Cemetery, Dikkebus, Ypres.



Here is the report to say Ronald has been correctly buried and recorded.

Ronald William Tearle recorded buried correctly at The Huts Military Cemetery Dikkebusch

Ronald William Tearle recorded buried correctly at The Huts Military Cemetery Dikkebusch


Norman Tearle 1919, Soulbury, UK (RN)

Norman TearleHere is his record from CWGC
Name: TEARLE, NORMAN Initials: N
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Stoker 2nd Class
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy Unit
Text: H.M.S. Pembroke II.
Age: 20
Date of Death: 31/05/1940
Service No: C/KX 103452
Additional information: Son of Frederick and Deborah Tearle, of Soulbury, Buckinghamshire.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot 9. Row 3. Grave 17. Cemetery: OOSTENDE NEW COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Norman Tearle 1919, of Soulbury, Buckinghamshire, was killed during the Dunkirk evacuation, also known as Operation Dynamo. Although he is listed as sailing on the Pembroke II, in Chatham, Kent, that was simply his shore base, which he would have attended for training, and to which he would have returned when he was transferred from one ship to another. During Operation Dynamo he was actually on one of the “Little Ships” ferrying soldiers from the beach to the waiting transport ships. We do not know the name or type of boat he was sailing at the time. It was probably a sea-going fishing trawler, commandeered by the navy for this one purpose.

Norman’s navy service number is telling: C/KX 103452. The C/ refers to his base, Chatham, and K refers to Stokers and Mechanics, while the X indicates that he was engaged after the the new pay code of the early 1930s.

Here is a transcript of Norman’s Methodist baptism, which also helpfully tells us his birth date and both parents:

Norman, son of Frederick & Deborah of Soulbury born 26 Sept 1919 Bap 13 Nov 1919

His parents were Frederick Tearle 1875 of Soulbury and Deborah Elizabeth nee Rowe. Frederick’s parents were Richard Tearle 1843 and Elizabeth nee Ellingham and the parents of Richard 1843 were Richard 1805 of Stanbridge and Martha nee Walker, the grandparents of all the Soulbury Tearles. Richard 1805 was the son of Richard 1775 of Stanbridge and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth, and his parents were John 1741 and Martha nee Archer.

Soulbury Wesleyan Chapel

Soulbury Wesleyan Chapel

The Wesleyan Chapel is now a private dwelling, and the Roll of Honour was moved from this building to All Saints Church.

Norman Tearle on Roll of Honour Soulbury Wesleyan Chapel

All Saints, Soulbury.

All Saints, Soulbury.

We visited Oostende New Communal Cemetery, but first let me show you the reaction that Soulbury had to the death of its fine young men, including Norman.

War memorial, Soulbury.

War memorial, Soulbury.

Here is that part of the base of the War Memorial that carries Norman’s name:

Norman Tearle on war memorial Soulbury

Base of the War memorial, Soulbury

Inside All Saints Church is the Roll of Honour that was written to remember the names of all the men who were killed in both World Wars. Here is that part where Norman’s name is recorded:

Norman Tearle on honours board All Saints Soulbury

The next part of this post is possible only because of the hard work and a great deal of love, from Catherine Brunton-Green, Norman’s nice. She came to a TearleMeet with a beautifully prepared tribute to her uncle.

Catherine Brunton-Green with her memorial to her uncle, Norman Tearle.

Catherine Brunton-Green with her memorial to her uncle, Norman Tearle.

The memorial includes:

The notification of Norman's death that his parents received

The notification of Norman’s death that his parents received.

Norman's war medals

Norman’s war medals

The box that carried Norman's medals

The box that carried Norman’s medals.

Letter that accompanied Norman's medals

Letter that accompanied Norman’s medals.

And all of that was beautifully displayed:

Display in memory of Norman Tearle

Display in memory of Norman Tearle.

Here is the Oostende New Communal Cemetery. We took a bus from Ypres to De Panne and visited Edward Kefford William Tearle in De Panne Communal Cemetery, then we took the tram on the beautiful coastal route from De Panne to Oostende. The cemetery is a little tucked away, but findable with the help of the locals. We took the train back to Ypres.

CWGC Great Cross in Oostende New Communal Cemetery.

CWGC Great Cross in Oostende New Communal Cemetery.

It is, as always, beautifully laid out and maintained. In the little building behind the Great Cross there is the book containing all the names of those killed in this area, as well as a book to write a short note about or even to, the soldier whose grave you are visiting. Norman, even though he died at sea, has a headstone in this cemetery, which means his body was recovered and he was given a military burial; if not immediately, then when he was interred here.

Norman Tearle C-KX 103452 Oostende New Communal Cemetery

Norman Tearle C-KX 103452; Oostende New Communal Cemetery.

The inscription at the base of the headstone reads “To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.”  It is a fitting tribute to a fine young man, for whom Catherine has worked tirelessly to keep his memory alive.

Finally, it is well to note that Norman is related to the other Soulbury Tearles who were killed in WW1 and WW2. I have summarised this in the article on Edward Kefford William Tearle, who was killed on the same day as Norman. Edward was killed fighting a rearguard action on the shore-side of Dunkirk to keep the Germans at bay, while Norman and his Little Ship were busy transporting British and French troops from the beach of Dunkirk to the waiting warships.

Norman is also related to Leslie James Tearle of St Albans, who was killed in France in WW1, as well as John Henry Tearle of Hertford, who was killed in Gallipoli.

All the Soulbury Tearles (including Norman) are on the branch of John 1741.


Richard Elmore Tearle 1914, Pottersbury, UK

Coventry War Memorial

Coventry War Memorial

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Civilian Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
Age: 27    Date of Death: 11/04/1941
Additional information: of Hare and Hounds Hotel, Bramble Street.
Son of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Tearle, of 80 Western Road, Wolverton, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire.
Died at Hare and Hounds Hotel. Casualty Type: Civilian War Dead

Since Bletchley did not meant much to me (except for the Enigma machine we had visited) I concentrated on other things. Sue Albrecht of Auckland, NZ, gave me my first hint about the story of this chap. “I see that John Gates Tearle on the WW1 Cosgrove memorial married a Violet Elmore in 1913. I also see on your site that one of the WW2 casualties was a Richard Elmore Tearle. What’s the bet that Richard Elmore Tearle is John Gates Tearle’s son?”

I checked his death date for action that night and this is what Wikipedia said:

“On the night of April 8/April 9, 1941 Coventry was subject to another large air raid when 237 bombers attacked the city dropping 315 high explosive bombs and 710 incendiary canisters. In this and another raid two nights later on April 10/April 11 about 475 people were killed and over 700 seriously injured. Damage was caused to many buildings including some factories, the central police station, the Warwickshire Hospital, King Henry VIII’s School, and St. Mary’s Hall.”

Richard has sent me a little more information from a website dedicated to deaths during the Blitz and it tells us that Richard Elmore Tearle was employed as a bodybuilder at the Humber car works and that he is buried in a communal grave in the London Rd Cemetery, Coventry.

Coventry War Memorial from the gate.

Coventry War Memorial from the gate.

It’s a terrible irony, and very sad, that John Gates Tearle should survive WW1, and his son be killed in England, as a civilian, in WW2. It is now clear that he was buried in a communal grave with more than 1100 other victims of German bombing of the Coventry Blitz. By a communal grave, we mean that the Coventry Borough Council dug a large pit and the bodies of the citizens of Coventry were placed side by side and buried. There was a memorial service, but no headstones, and much haste because of the possibility of more bombing.

To mark the occasion, the Great Cross of the CWGC was erected to denote a CWGC site, and the Coventry War Memorial was built. On it, all the names of those in the communal grave were inscribed. There is also a small pocket of CWGC headstones, surrounded by a low, whitewashed wooden fence and more headstones scattered randomly around the cemetery.

Richard Elmore Tearle on the Coventry War Memorial.

Richard Elmore Tearle on the Coventry War Memorial.

John Gates Tearle 1890 Wolverhampton, married Violet Elmore in Pottersbury in 1913. His parents, Charles 1859 of Stanbridge and Lizzie nee Gates were in Wolverton (the home of the big railway workshops on the LNWR line from Euston, through Leighton Buzzard to Preston and beyond) was a Railway Platelayer. Charles was a servant for a farmer of 100 acres in Newbold around 1881, so he had obviously used his farming connections to move from Stanbridge. Perhaps it was just luck on his part that he was then well sited to take advantage of the industrialisation of Northampton, in order to improve his prospects. Charles was a son of William 1832 of Stanbridge and Catherine nee Fountain, amongst other children, whom you will see liberally scattered throughout this site. William’s parents were Thomas 1807 of Stanbridge and Mary nee Garner of Toddington, from whom my family is descended. Family Tree Maker tells me John was a 2nd cousin to my father. Thomas is a son of Richard 1773 Stanbridge and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth, and Richard is a son of John 1741. So Richard Elmore is on the branch John 1741.


Mary Andrews 1830, Eggington, UK

I have decided to have a long look at my gg grandmother, Mary nee Andrews of Eggington, a village that is only a short walk from Stanbridge. Cousin Thelma called her “Much Married Mary” although she never told me what that meant. In Mary’s case it is a story of three marriage certificates.

Here she is in the 1841 census, aged 11 (b1830) and still at home in the hamlet of Eggington:

1841 = Mary Andrew p1 11 at home in Eggington

1841 = Mary Andrew p2 Thomas 6 Amos 4m in Eggington

Her father is James, aged 40 (b1801) and her mother is Sarah, also aged 40. I have on record that her maiden name was Moore, and I have given 1801 as her birth date given the census return. Mary, then, has a sister, Dinah, 15 (b1826), a brother Abel, 14 (b1827) then Mary, then Sarah, 8 (1833), a brother Thomas 6 (b1835) and little Amos 4m.

I have added these children into the Tree.

John Andrews sent me the following information in Dec 05 and you’ll notice that some of the names below are not in the census return, so I guess not at home that night:

JAMES ANDREWS was born June 2, 1799 in Eggington, Beds, and died 1851 in Eggington, Beds.  He married SARAH MOORE, daughter of William Moore and Elizabeth Bishop.Children of James Andrews and Sarah Moore are:

ABEL ANDREWS, b. 1827; d. June 12, 1864.

AMOS ANDREWS, b. December 28, 1823, Eggington, Beds; d. January 1, 1837.


MARY ANDREWS, b. 1830, Eggington, Beds.

SARAH ANDREWS, b. 1833, Eggington, Beds; d. March 13, 1861.

THOMAS ANDREWS, b. April 16, 1835.

WILLIAM ANDREWS, b. June 6, 1820, Eggington, Beds; d. February 17, 1907, Hooper – Weber – Utah.

HANNAH ANDREWS, b. 1826, Eggington, Beds.

AMOS ANDREWS, b. February 3, 1841, Eggington, Beds.

JOHN ANDREWS, b. March 30, 1851; d. April 2, 1851.

You’ll also notice that one of this family, William 1820, went off to Utah, after marrying one of the Pantling girls. There were several Pantling families in Eggington.

Dinah married David Scrivner, and she was a witness to the marriage of Amos Tearle, my great-grandfather Levi’s brother. Also there was George Blake, who was married to Amos and Levi’s sister, Sarah 1853 Stbg. Both men (Amos and Levi) are Mary’s sons. Just a snapshot of village life, really.

So here is the first marriage certificate: James 1826 Stbg, my gg-grandfather and Mary Andrews of Eggington, married at a very young age, by banns, in Stanbridge Church on July 26, 1847. You can see their entry in the banns register, which, in spite of its age, is still being added to in the “marriage season” even in the 21st Century.

However, I have the marriage certificate:

James 1827 my gg-grandfather marries Mary Andrews in 1847

James 1827, my gg-grandfather, marries Mary Andrews in 1847

In the 1851 census we can see Mary and James Tearle in Stanbridge with their first child, Levi, just 8m old.

1851 = James 1828 Stbg p1 Mary 23 in Stbg

1851 = James 1828 Stbg p2 Levi 8m in Stbg

They are living right next door to Joseph 1798 Stbg and Maria nee Millings of Soulbury.

One day, I must track the spread of Methodism amongst the Tearles. We know from the Dunstable Methodist circuit records that Joseph and Maria were Methodists and we know that Phoebe nee Capp was also a staunch Methodist; how much did this influence James and Mary and therefore Levi? Levi is my great-grandfather who moved to Wing, set up a successful smithy there and was the superintendant of the Sunday School in the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Church St, now a private residence.

Joseph and Maria are much older than James and Mary. Joseph 1798 Stbg is one of the grandsons of Joseph 1737 and Phoebe nee Capp. These are two parallel families living side by side in Stanbridge; Joseph 1798 grandson of Joseph 1737 and James g-grandson of John 1741, the brother of Joseph 1737. I know from living for 10yrs in a village of 100 houses, that these two families would have known exactly what their relationship was.

In 1861, Mary and James are living in Tilsworth Rd, Stanbridge and have their children:

1861 = James 1827 Todd Mary 31 Levi 11 Sarah 8 Elizabeth 5 Isabella 3 in Stbg.

Amos was b July 1861, so he missed the April census day.

In 1871 all the family is there, living in Leighton Rd, Stanbridge, with an addition – James and Mary have just become grand-parents:

1871 = James 1828 Tod Mary 40 Eggnt Sarah 18 Elizabeth 15 Isabella 13 Amos 9 Mary gd 2m Mary Ann Andrews niece 3 in Stbg

The grand-daughter belongs to Sarah, who goes on to marry George Blake 1857 of Stanbridge.

In 1881 they are living in Totternhoe Rd and only Amos is living with them:

1881 = James 1827 Tod Mary 50 Amos 19 in Stbg.jpg

This is where it starts getting complicated. James died in April 1887.

I first knew of the existence of a second marriage certificate because I found a Mary 1830 of Eggington in the 1891 Stanbridge census; she had to be my gg-grandmother. She was married to Charles Shillingford 1825 Stbg, a “Retired plate layer on the railway.”

1891 = Mary 1830 Egtn Charles Shillingford 66

And eventually I found it:

Mary nee Andrews 1830 Eggington marriage to Charles Shillingford 1888

Mary nee Andrews 1830 Eggington marriage to Charles Shillingford 1888

I also have a wonderful photograph of the two of them, but it’s in New Zealand and I will have to wait until I visit there again before I can see it.

In 1891, they are living in Tilsworth End, not far from the Hockliffe Bridleway, now called Kings Way. In the Hockliffe Bridleway are James 1819 Stbg and Hannah nee Phillips of Fleet Marston, Bucks. This James 1819 is the uncle of our James 1827 Tod, being the much younger brother of James’ father Thomas 1807 Stb. Both men are among the sons of Richard 1773 Stbg and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. Mary would have known James’ uncle.

1891 = James 1819 Stbg Hannah 61 Fleet Marston Elizabeth 22 Thomas 20 Sarah 16 in Stbg

I can sketch a little bit of Charles Shillingford:

1841 Charles Shillingford 15 in Stbg, hence b1825.

He was a worker on the farm of James and Sophia Frambleton (?) in Backlane, Stanbridge. This must have been renamed, because I am not familiar with the road. He is one of seven such workers and the next door farm is the one belonging to Daniel Ellingham 1776 Stbg.

1881 Charles Shillingford 1825 Stbg Catherine 64 in Stbg.

Charles is living with his wife Catherine in Tilsworth Rd and he is a railway labourer.

I know that Mary died in 1914 and I know that Levi visited her almost every weekend, travelling there by horse from Wing. It’s not too far, but the roads were a bit rough. It was probably incorporated into Levi’s weekly trip to Leighton Buzzard for supplies. I have walked from LB to Wing and it’s not very far at all. One nice sunny day soon, I’ll walk from LB to Stanbridge.

So that brings me to 1901.

This is the most intriguing entry of all:

1901 = William 1832 Stbg Mary 1831 Egtn in Stbg

Mary nee Andrews has married William 1832, her first husband's brother.

Mary nee Andrews has married William 1832, her first husband’s brother.

This is a portion of the 1901 census report for Stanbridge. The record clearly states that he is Married, 69, Retired Railway platelayer, and the word Pension is written in bold. The record also clearly states that Mary is Wife, 70, and has Superannuated alongside her name.

This, without doubt is William 1832, of William and Catherine nee Fountain 1834 Eaton Bray. He is the brother of James 1827 Stbg, of whom Mary is the widow; he is also the brother of John 1829 Stbg “For 60 years the sexton of this parish.” The headstones of James and John stand side by side near the church, but there is no sign of William’s.

There was a third marriage certificate to find, and when eventually I did, it was quite unusual.

Mary Shillingford nee Andrews 1830 marriage to William Tearle in 1893

Mary Shillingford nee Andrews 1830 marriage to William Tearle in 1893

When I found this certificate, and it took a while, I wondered why they got married in Watford, and I speculated that there might be a bit of subterfuge involved. Mary was, after all, marrying her late husband’s brother; and if it wasn’t actually illegal, then it was frowned upon. However, if you consider the nature of William’s family – that they founded two Willesden families and at least one Watford family, then perhaps it wasn’t so difficult to comprehend. I noticed the witness: Henry Walker Simmonds. He married Ann Tearle in Stanbridge in 1864 and you can see that in the banns register.

Ann was the sister of James 1827, and John the sexton – and William 1832. She was already Mary’s sister-in-law.

In the 1891 Watford census, Ann has a “Nephew,” William aged 16 (b1875) a sawyer, living with her family. This is probably William and Catharine’s boy.

1891 = Ann Simmonds nee Tearle 1834 Stbg Henry W Simmonds 46 Thomas 19 William 18 Frederick 15 Kate 14 William Tearle 16 neph in Watford

I can’t find the address Mary says she was living at when she married; Ann and Henry were living at 44 Frarnley St, Watford, when the 1891 census was taken, but that didn’t mean they were still there when Mary was staying in Watford prior to her wedding. However, whatever the circumstances under which Mary and William were married, it was conducted in dignity with family and friends in attendance.

 The last sighting I have of Mary is a sad one, but tinged with relief. On her death certificate you can see that she has died at Levi’s home in Wing, with Levi at her side.

Mary nee Andrews 1830 Eggington death cert Wing 1914

Mary nee Andrews 1830 Eggington death cert Wing 1914

Levis house Wing

Levi’s house, Wing.

The house in the middle is called the Ebenezer Cottage (you can see the name carved into the window sill) and Levi Tearle, my g-grandfather, lived here with his family while he built The Big House, as the family called it, which is the attached house on the left of the two cottages.

I think the two headstones in Stanbridge Church cemetery tell their own story. Mary is buried with James:

James Tearle and Mary headstone Stanbridge Church

Headstone for James Tearle 1827 and Mary nee Andrews in Stanbridge Church graveyard.

and Charles Shillingford is buried with Caroline.

Headstone of Caroline and Charles Shillingford in Stanbridge Church.

Headstone of Caroline and Charles Shillingford in Stanbridge Church.

It’s easy for us to criticise Mary, but without someone to look after her, she had a very dismal future, stricken with poverty. Charles’ pension from the railways would have helped, and so would the railways pension that William would have provided. As couples, they would have kept each company as well. We know that Levi certainly did not hold it against his mother, because he gave her care with a room (at least) in the Ebenezeer cottage, and he was at her side when she died. I also have no doubt that he paid for the headstone for his parents.


William Tearle 1832, Stanbridge, UK

William 1832 of Stanbridge was a son of Thomas 1807 Stbg and Mary nee Garner. His grandparents were Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth and his g-grandparents were John 1741 and Martha nee Archer. William, then is on the branch of John 1741. He married Catherine Fountain in 1856.

Here he is in 1841, at home with his parents, his sister Emma and little brother John, 1840, who would go on to be the “Sexton of this parish for 60 years.”, as told by his headstone in the Stanbridge Church cemetery. William’s eldest brother (my gg-grandfather) James 1827 was already at work as a manservant in the household of James Goodeson, a farmer in Heath and Reach.

1841 = Thomas 1811 Beds Mary 1806 William 9 Emma 3 John 1 Stbg

The Tearles were not educated and many could not read or write. It is not unusual for people in the various censuses to have different birth dates because they could not keep an accurate track of their age. Couple this with the 1841 census enumerators who often rounded up or down people’s ages by as much as 5 years and you can see how William is 9 in 1841, but 12 in 1851.

This is him in 1851, just 12 yrs old, a Farmers Labourer (Servant) for William Pratt in Totternhoe:

1851 = William 1832 Stbg farmers lab for William Pratt in Totternhoe

He first appears as a railway labourer in the Stanbridge census of 1861 – now married and living in Stanbridge:

1861 = William 1832 Stbg Catherine 24 Sarah 4 Thomas 2 Charles 1 in Stbg

They were married by banns in Stanbridge Church in 1856

In 1871 he is a “Platelayer on the Railway” – does that mean he’s gone up in the world?

1871 = William 1832 Stbg Kate 36 Charles 11 John 9 Ellen 7 Henry 5 George 1 Alfred 1m in Stbg

In 1881 he is still a platelayer on railway but they are living in Houghton Regis

1881 = William 1832 Stbg Catherine 47 Henry 15 George 12 Jeffrey 9 William 7 Ezra 5 in HR

In 1891, no change in employment, but most of the children have left home:

1891 = William 1832 Stbg Catherine 57 Ellen 27 Ezra 14 in HR

In 1901 he is a “Retired Railway Platelayer,” but he has married a Mary 1831 of Eggington, who is described as Superannuated.

This Mary is Mary nee Andrews 1830 of Eggington. On Mary’s page you can see this story from her viewpoint.

1901 = William 1832 Stbg Mary 1831 Egtn in Stbg.

I’m not sure when he died, but I am looking for his death certificate.

One small note you might like to make is that Catharine was often referred to as Kate.

This is a very influential family when you look at Tearle history, and it adds to the story of the dispersal of the Tearles from Stanbridge:

Sarah 1857

Thomas 1858 married Pamela Andrews of Eggington and founded a family of Willesden Tearles, working on the railways.

Charles 1859 married Lizzie Gates in 1882 and founded a family in Wolverton, Northants, also working on the railways.

Jonathon 1862 married Alice Kearns in 1882 and was the second family in Willesden

Ellen 1864. I don’t think Ellen married. The last I saw of her was in the 1901 Edlesborough census, where she was working as a housekeeper in the household of Henry Vasey, a baker, of Leighton Rd. At the same time and in the same house, working as a Journeyman Baker, was Albert Tearle, 1874 EB, the son of William 1852 Edles and Ann nee Bird. Albert is the brother of Louis (Lewis) of the headstone in Edlesborough Church. Albert is descended from William 1749 (and Mary nee Prentice) while Ellen is descended from John 1741. This is another example of the Tearle network in operation. This is surely not a coincidence. They would have known their familial links and the fact that their distant grandfathers were brothers. Victorian women maintained these links by giving their children their own and their mother’s maiden names.

Henry 1866  went to Higham Ferrers, Northants and married Ada Hale in 1889. In 1891 and 1901 he was working in a shoe factory.

George 1870

Alfred 1871 – 1874

Jeffrey 1872

William 1874

Ezra 1876

John Tearle 60 years sexton of this parish

Stanbridge Banns Register

During the very first TearleMeet in 2006, Enid Horton and her daughter Lorinda took on the task of compiling a Tearle-only Stanbridge Banns Register. The result is below, and all of us are grateful for the legacy Enid and Lorinda have left us. It took a long time before I had a database comprehensive enough to fully annotate everyone in the register. It eventually happened in January 2009, and Rosemary Tearle of Auckland, NZ, worked out who the Elizabeth Tearle was who married George Tearle in 1831.

You can see that the first entry is 1825 and the last entry was in 1923; almost a hundred years of documentation. The wonderful thing is, this book is still in use, in the Stanbridge Parish Church, 191 years after the register opened.

Compiled by Ewart Tearle, July 2006 – thanks to Enid Horton and Lorinda.

 The Cat number, in the column on the left, refers to the number of the page on which the banns appears. Hence the banns of John Tearle and Elizabeth Mead are on page 3 of the Banns Register.

Annotated by Ewart Tearle, Jan 2009






09 Sep 1825

John T

Elizabeth Mead


John 1799, son of William 1769 and Sarah nee Clarke. Joseph 1737

09 Oct 1825

Thomas T

Mary Garner


Thomas 1807, son of Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. John 1741

18 May 1831

George T

Elizabeth T


George 1809, son of Richard 1778 and Mary nee Pestel. G-son of Joseph 1737 and Phoebe nee Capp. Elizabeth Tearle, 1810, of Stanbridge, dau of John Tearle 1770 and Mary nee Janes. G-dau of John 1741 and Martha nee Archer. George and Elizabeth were cousins.

09 Jul 1833

Abel T

Martha Emmerson


Abel 1810, son of William 1769 and Sarah nee Clarke. Joseph 1737.

18 Sep 1841

Joseph T

Mary Turney


Joseph 1823, son of Richard 1778 and Mary nee Pestel. Joseph 1737. This has been entered on the wrong page by the vicar.

26 Jul 1846

James T

Mary Andrew


James 1827, son of Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. John 1741. Mary’s family is usually spelt Andrews, and they are from the neighbouring village of Eggington.

26 Nov 1848

Joseph T

Mary Turney


Joseph 1823, son of Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. John 1741. Marriage cert date 25 Jan 1849. This is the correct record.

02 Nov 1851

James T

Hannah Philips


James 1823, son of Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. Banns in Stanbridge, but registered in Aylesbury. John 1741

15 Apr 1857

William T

Catharine Fountain


William 1832 son of Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. My gg-grandmother Mary nee Andrews married him, too. John 1741

06 Sep 1857

Geo Pratt

Emma T


Emma 1837, dau Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. John 1741

01 Oct 1857

James Birch

Jane T


Jane 1838, dau Joseph 1798 and Maria nee Millings. Joseph 1737

04 Oct 1857

Ephraim Gates

Sarah T


Sarah 1837, dau Abel 1810 and Martha nee Emmerton. Joseph 1737

03 Nov 1863

Jason Field

Phoebe T


Phoebe 1843, dau Abel 1810 and Martha nee Emmerton. Joseph 1737

07 Jun 1864

Henry Simmons

Ann T


Ann 1842 dau Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. John 1741

11 May 1868

John T

Harriet Bliss


John 1840, son of Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. John 1741. This was Maria Bliss, not Harriet.

27 Feb 1869

George T

Lavinia George


George 1844, son of Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. John 1741. There is also a 1780 Q1 marriage in Hendon.

12 Nov 1871

William T

Rebecca Sinfield


William 1848, son of John 1823 and Eliza nee Irons, g-gson of John 1770 and Mary nee Janes. John 1741

23 Mar 1874

Levi T

Sarah Blake


Levi 1850, son of James 1827 and Mary nee Andrews. My g-grandfather. John 1741.

31 May 1874

David Thomkins

Ruth T Gates


Ruth Tearle Gates 1850, dau of Ruth Tearle 1813 and George Gates. G-dau of John 1770 and Mary nee Janes. John 1741

27 Jul 1874

Samuel Chapman

Isabella T


Isabella 1858, dau James 1827 and Mary nee Andrews. G-dau Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. John 1741

06 Oct 1874

James Thomson

Mary Ann T


Mary Ann 1857, dau James 1823 and Hannah nee Philips, G-dau Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. He was usually called Thompson, rather than James. John 1741

03 Jun 1877

Joseph T

Elizabeth Chapman


Joseph 1823, son of Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. His second marriage. John 1741

06 Dec 1877

George Blake

Sarah T


Sarah 1853, dau James 1827 and Mary nee Andrews. Sister of Levi, above, who was married 1874. John 1741.

18 Jul 1881

Amos T

Martha Timms


Amos 1861, son of James 1827 and Mary nee Andrews. G-son Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. Brother of Levi m 1874 above. John 1741

16 Feb 1884

John T

Annie Walker


John 1861, son of James 1823 and Hannah nee Philips, g-son of Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. John 1741

06 Oct 1889

Emmanuel Hogston

Emily T


Emily 1851, dau James 1823 and Hannah nee Phillips, g-dau Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. John 1741

18 Apr 1892

Charles Rose

Annie T


Annie 1868, dau John 1840 and Maria nee Bliss, g-dau Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. John 1741

13 Jul 1896

William Wilson

Sarah T


Sarah 1874, dau James 1823 and Hannah nee Philips. G-dau Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. John 1741

07 Aug 1900

George Horne

Phoebe T


Phoebe 1877, dau John 1840 and Maria nee Bliss, g-dau Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. John 1741

20 Apr 1908

Albert Jeffs

Amy T


Amy 1880, dau Catherine 1853, g-dau James 1823 and Hannah nee Phillips. John 1741

02 Apr 1923

Ernest F Webb

Mabel Edith T


Mabel 1899, dau John 1861 and Annie nee Walker, g-gdau Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. John 1741


George Tearle 1818, Dagnall, UK

Grandfather of the Watford Tearles

This is another story of the family of Fanny Tearle 1780. We have elsewhere discussed the origins of Fanny, and John L Tearle (Tearle, a Bedfordshire Surname) tells her story at some length. George 1818 is the founding father of the Watford Tearles and what I intend to do is to show the development of the Watford Tearles and the highlights of their 150 years in Watford. Let’s start with George’s father.

Fanny Tearle had one son, Abel, born 1797 in Edelsborough. He married Hannah Frost of Tilsworth on 16 Oct 1817 in Edelsborough. We can catch up with them in 1841. Here they are in Dagnall, working oln the farm of Thomas (?) Mead. Dagnall, Edelsborough and Northaw are so close together they are almost one village, strung along a country road. You can see that George has already left home.

1841 = Abel 1795 Bucks Ann 35 John 15 William 4 Joseph 6 Jabez 5 in Dagnall.

He is down the road a bit, in Slapton. He is working for Mary Gurney, who calls herself a Victualler, and is probably a pub-keeper. George learns his craft here. He will go on to be a brewer. Now, the choice of Slapton is interesting because John 1824 Dagnall, George’s younger brother also goes to Slapton and he, too, works for Mary Gurney and you can see him in the 1851 census in Slapton. This time she is calling herself a Maltster and Victualler, while John is a Malt Maker. John’s story is an interesting one – or more correctly, the story of his wife, Sarah nee Bishop. Look up this story under John 1824 of Dagnall.

1841 = George 1821 Bucks MS for Mary Gurney in Slapton

1851 = George 1818 Dagnall Ann 31 Jabez 6 Catharine 2 Sarah Ann 1m in Elstree

As a point of interest, George’s sister, Susanna 1827 Dagnall, is featured on one of the headstones in the Dunstable public cemetery.


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.


James Tearle 1862, Preston, UK (Welsh Regt)

Here is his service record from the CWGC:

Name: TEARLE Initials: J
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: Welsh Regiment
Secondary Regiment: Royal Defence Corps
Secondary Unit Text: transf. to (3711)
Age: 36
Date of Death: 16/04/1918
Service No: 20724
Additional information: Husband of Alice Maria Tearle.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: A2. 12. 16.

I had wondered for a very long time who this was, but Lost Generation told me he was James and I had a James 1862 of Preston married to an Alice M… Was the CWGC wrong about his age? Ancestry gave me the medical records for a soldier whose military service began in 1880 and this lead me to be increasingly certain we had this chap already on the Tree. His parents were Thomas 1836 of Leighton Buzzard and Emma nee Ayres who moved up to Preston around the time Thomas’ brother Joseph 1838 of Leighton Buzzard (LB) did, closely followed by their father, Joseph 1803 Tebworth. Young James had brothers George 1868 Preston, and Robert 1871 Preston, both of whom died in 1873. Their father Thomas died in 1871, close to the birth of his youngest son, and their mother Emma died in 1879. In the space of eight years, James had become an orphan, with no family at all that he knew about. At 18yrs he joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regt, renewing several times. I can’t find any record of his serving anywhere overseas except for one year and 196 days on Gibraltar, in 1884. At this time he gave his next of kin as Sarah and Robert Gaunt of Preston. I have looked for a Sarah Tearle in Preston, but I can’t find one, so it is likely they were his foster parents. Around 1891 (I can’t find the marriage certificate) James married Alice Maria Edwards of Sipton, Staffs. In the 1891 census of Burnley, Lancs, they were newly married and living in 28 Aqueduct St, James describing himself as a Herbalist’s Assistant. Between 1892 and 1899 they registered four children in Colne, Lancs; Emmeline 1892, Alice 1894, Reginald 1896 and Minnie Louisa 1898. In the 1901 Colne census we can see James, Alice and their children living in 70 Market St, which is also the business address. James is a Herbalist (Shopkeeper) and the census enumerator categorises him as a SubMed.

James 1862 Preston 3711 and 2763 and 20724 ex-Lancs attestation 1914 in Wales.

James 1862 Preston 3711 and 2763 and 20724 ex-Lancs attestation 1914 in Wales.

WW1 started in June 1914 and James signed his attestation form, for 1 years service, in Cardiff on 16 Nov 1914. He said he was aged 45, but you can see that CWGC has this transfer at age 36. He transferred from the Loyal North Lancashire Regt to No 4 Supernumerary Co, 5th Battn Welch Regt, presumably because he was still a reservist, but now living in Cardiff. I have attached the two documents crucial to establishing who he was and to show his original attestation to the army in 1880 and again in Cardiff in 1914.

James 3711 and 2763 and 20724 army record p1

James 3711 and 2763 and 20724 army record p1

You can see his Loyal North Lancashire number (20724) in the lower document. It’s difficult to read because it’s scribbled out, but subsequent documents clarify it.

St Mary Whitchurch, Cardiff.
Above: St Mary, Whitchurch. On 19 Apr 1916, James transferred to the 24th Protection Coy of the Royal Defence Corps. He was living at 3 Hazelhurst Rd, Llandaff North, West Cardiff.He was described as a Shopkeeper, 5ft 7in tall, blue eyes, fair hair. In a medical report dated 22 Mar 1917, he was said to have been on leave in Preston from Fairweather Hospital, Cardiff when he contracted diarrhoea. He was operated on in Worley Hospital on 26 Feb 1916. He was certified “No longer physically fit for War Service” on 16 Apr 1917, and died on the very same day one year later. He was just 56 years old. Here is a copy of the record the army used to ensure he was correctly awarded the Silver War Badge.

James Tearle WW1 Silver War Badge

James Tearle 1862 Preston CWGC headstone in St Mary Whitchurch, Cardiff.

James Tearle 1862 Preston CWGC headstone in St Mary Whitchurch, Cardiff.

On 17 Apr 1918, his widow was awarded a pension of 15/- a week.

The fact that James was in Preston when he fell ill means to me that he still kept in touch with his family. The trip to Preston from Cardiff is a major undertaking and indicates the depth of the relationship he still enjoyed with his far-off family.

I wonder sometimes if James knew Charles 1894 Preston, above? It’s possible that in being an orphan he didn’t, but they are closely related, and in the same Lancashire regiment. James did receive a medal, but the record is unclear as to which one.

I have no clue as to why James should move all the way from Colne, Lancs to Cardiff, but his wife’s name might be Welsh and perhaps she felt the need to go to her family.

As with all the Preston Tearles, he is on the branch Joseph 1737.

Thelma Mary Shepherd

Thelma Mary Shepherd 1931 Wing, Buckinghamshire, UK

I cared deeply for Thelma, and here is the obituary I wrote for her:

Goodbye Thelma Shepherd 2005

Thelma Mary Shepherd

Thelma Mary Shepherd

We were still living in New Zealand when I wrote to Barbara Tearle of Oxford in 1992 asking her if my grandfather Arthur Tearle had any brothers and sisters. She wrote back to say he had one brother and many sisters, and she would put an advertisement in the local paper to see if there were any members of that family still in the district. It was Thelma who wrote to me. She explained that she was the daughter of Harry Tearle of Wing, son of Mahlon who was the brother of my grand-father Arthur and they were both the sons of the blacksmith of Wing, Levi Tearle.

From that letter came a lasting and deep friendship that I have enjoyed with my cousin, Thelma. We wrote letters, swapped cards and I even rang her a couple of times. She never forgot a birthday and she had a knack of getting a card to me on time, even though she may have sent it from England only three days before. She rang me once to say she had been allowed to buy her little house on the High Street in Wing that she had rented from the council for many years. Did I think she should buy it? I said “Definitely, it’s always better to own it than to rent it.” That Christmas she asked us to raise a toast to her as a newly propertied woman.

In March 1994, our dear son Jason was tragically killed and it was Thelma who organized her aunt Clarice Pugsley and cousin Sheila Leng to go with her all the way to New Zealand in November that year to help us in our grief. It was Thelma who gave us the 6 walnuts from the tree in Jennie Pugh’s back yard, which was itself a son of the tree that grew in Levi’s garden in Wing, which in turn was grown from a walnut gathered from the tree which grew for his mother in Stanbridge. Elaine, Thelma, Clarice, Sheila, my mother Tia and my father Frank each planted one of the walnuts under the kitchen window of our house in Whawharua. Two of those walnuts grew into trees and both of them are planted in different places on our farm, a tribute to Levi Tearle and the wonderful family he had brought up. Two years later, my father and I transplanted one of the saplings to a special corner of the block set aside for the tree and the Rev Fred Day, retired, of Te Kuiti conducted a small ceremony entirely in Latin to dedicate the tree to Jason’s memory. It was Thelma, too, who held Elaine’s hand in the car on the long journey to collect Jason’s ashes in the urn from the funeral director’s studio and Thelma, Clarice and Sheila were there in Hamilton with Genevieve, our daughter and a small collection of family and friends when my younger brother sang “Let the Circle be Unbroken” as Elaine and I finally laid our beautiful son to rest. A special bond had been formed, a bond that would grow stronger with time.

There was the wonderful reunion when they met my father for the first time. He and Mum came to Otorohanga for the formalities and saved us all the long trip to Hahei, and there were tears on the one hand and joy on the other, because my father was first cousin to Thelma’s father, Harry, and first cousin to Clarice herself. Arthur was much loved and much missed by his sisters.

Elaine and I were working in Te Kuiti at the time and each day we would go to work and we would organize something for “The Girls” to do while we were away. One day a Te Kuiti businessman took them on a trip to the black sand beach at Mokau where they met up with a bus carrying marching girls on tour. The busload of marchers was so taken with Thelma, Clarice and Sheila having come so far, that they put on their marching display, in their lovely costumes, just for them. They sat in the sun on a giant log watching the marchers while Tony Pivac poured tea from a flask into plastic mugs on a blanket on the beach. It was a magical day. On another morning, we took them to the Waitomo Club where they met one of the local bowling enthusiasts and captain of his team, the best bowler in the Waitomo. When we came home Thelma, Clarice and Sheila were sitting on the pool deck in the late afternoon summer sun, swirling their legs in the cooling water, drinking New Zealand sauvignon blanc, laughing and shadow bowling and celebrating Sheila’s remarkable win. She had crushed them, every single Waitomo bowler who had dared challenge her; every one who had thought she was merely lucky with the way she bowled. No-one had told them Sheila was the Bedfordshire champion. They thought she was just an English girl! Thelma and Clarice had sat in the shade under the veranda of the Waitomo Bowls Club and watched their cousin play her beautiful shots with borrowed bowls; and they had laughed and cheered for Sheila and talked with these delightful Waitomo Club players who bought them cups of tea and cool glasses of lemonade all day long. It was one of the sunniest and happiest days of the many adventurous days that Thelma spent in New Zealand.

“I was very brave today,” she said with a shy smile, “I watched someone take a bungy jump.”

“I was very brave today, I watched the “geezers” in Rotorua and dipped my feet in a hot pool.”

“I was very brave today, I walked under the Natural Bridge. I know its solid stone, but anything could have happened.”

That was after the day we took them on a trip along the Marokopa Road. We stopped briefly at the little Waitomo Caves School where Elaine used to be principal. We took a ride in a cave boat inside the Waitomo Caves and Thelma sat there utterly in awe, revelling in every minute of looking up at the thousands of beautiful glowing pin-pricks of light and being most impressed at how handsome and polite the young chap was who rowed the boat and helped her in and out.

We drove to the Marokopa Falls and Thelma watched the thundering water and felt the spray – that was brave, too, she said. Then we walked from the road to the Natural Bridge and along a narrow path beside a clear, cold stream. That was brave, too. We walked along the black sands of Marokopa Beach, dug fossils from the mudstone and listened to the thunderous roar of the Marokopa surf. That was brave, too. She was loving being an outdoors girl. We stopped at the Waitomo Hotel on the way home and had a cup of tea, just so we could go inside and sample its Olde Worlde elegance. It’s a late Victorian kauri building in a Regency style perched on top of a limestone cliff with a panoramic view over a pretty valley full of native bush. Thelma stood in the open glass doors and drank in the view while she told me how much she loved being in New Zealand. She would emigrate here and we could all live in the sunshine and she wouldn’t have to freeze in the bitter English winters.

That night we sat outside and had a glass of wine on the wooden steps of the house deck and Thelma looked up to see the Milky Way. “Where’s the Southern Cross?” I showed her where it was and how it pointed more or less to due south. “I have never seen so many stars.” During the time she was there, she would sit on the deck overlooking the farm and admire the skill and sheer hard work of Hurricane Jimmy, as they called him, the farmer who looks after our block. They admired his tractor work and he would come over to see them sitting on the deck and swap stories with them about his time on holidays in England and what they were doing on their holiday in New Zealand. Thelma talked about Hurricane Jimmy for years. For the whole time they stayed with us a tui visited the flax flowers and sang his beautiful melodies. A tui is a thrush-sized native bird, glistening black with a white tuft of feathers at the throat and a remarkable song of great clarity and purity of tone, distinguished from his imitators by a self-deprecating little cough at the end. They were totally charmed by this beautiful bird and considered themselves blessed.

They left a couple of days before Christmas. “Why not stay? We go to Pauanui for Christmas. You could join our beach barbies and go surfing every day. Who wants to go back to winter?”

“We’ve got to go home, our families would miss us.”

When we saw them off at the airport it was in the knowledge, the certain knowledge, that we would see them again. Our English family was not a myth; it was real, and the people we had met – Thelma, Clarice and Sheila – were some of the loveliest people we had ever met.

Elaine and I moved to England in 1999 and between then and now, Elaine’s friendship with Thelma has deepened into an enduring love. Elaine and Thelma dropped into a routine of contacting each other before the school holidays and Thelma would plan a trip they could take together. One year, she was feeling very lonely and asked us to take her to see Clarice. We drove down to Ilfracombe and Thelma stayed with Clarice while Elaine and I stayed in one of Clarice’s cottages about 3 doors away in the same street. Thelma and Clarice were like schoolgirls again; they gossiped and laughed and dug out family photos until deep into the night. We took Thelma to Lynmouth and she and I rode the cable railway up to Linton.

“I was very brave,” said Thelma, “I went up the railway and I didn’t close my eyes. Anything could have happened, you know.”

She and Clarice had a very tearful parting but they would see each other one more time. Clarice came up all the way from Ilfracombe to St Albans and Elaine took her and Thelma and Jennie Pugh to the Moat in Luton and it’s true that they never saw each other again. Thelma was so pleased that she had seen her beloved aunt.

On other holidays, Thelma would sit happily in the passenger’s seat and guide Elaine through the narrow country lanes of Beds and Bucks and point out all the places she used to bike to and all the places she used to know and she would talk about all the people who used to live there. One holiday recently she took Elaine to Southwold and Great Yarmouth and they sat on a wooden bench overlooking the beach, wrapped in blankets while she watched the RAF trying to salvage a Harrier jet that had crashed off the beach. Not far away, a young chap in T-shirt and shorts was watching the scene through a telescope mounted on a tripod and he noticed her watching him intently.

“Do you want to see the rescue?” he asked.

“Oh,” she said, “Do you think I might?” For the week they were there, the news was full of this Harrier being salvaged, but Thelma had organized a ring-side seat. Each morning she and Elaine went to the beach, examined the scene through the telescope and talked knowledgeably to the owner about things military. After all, her brother was an RAF Squadron Leader with an MBE.

“I was very brave,” she said, “I paddled in the North Sea. I could have been frozen, you know.” As she sat in the bus shelter with Elaine drying her feet, she collected quite a gathering of people who were happy to talk to this delightful old lady telling her story to her Kiwi companion. In a nearby café, she met people she knew from Wing. Later, she wanted fish and chips. Not any old fish and chips, mind, the ones in Great Yarmouth were not good enough. The only ones suitable were the fish and chips in Kessingland. There are rules about fish and chips; they have to be excellent quality and it’s not proper to pay too much. If the sign says the fish and chips are too expensive, you move on until a sign says the price is right. Thelma knew these things and Elaine loved her for it.

One holiday, Thelma navigated Elaine through the Buckinghamshire country lanes exploring thatched cottages and little Norman churches, some still showing damage from visits by Cromwell’s army. They trawled the churchyards for famous people from this time and examined the oak doors for bullet holes from Cromwell’s muskets. Thelma always had an exciting story to tell for every place they visited. Every holiday trip was thoroughly planned and each trip had a theme. Sometimes, they would sit under a tree while Thelma got her breath back and they would watch the passers-by and giggle as they made up stories about what their lives might be like. Thelma never took Elaine anywhere on the main roads, she always took “The scenic route.”

The very last trip Elaine and Thelma took was to Mentmore. Thelma was too weak to get out of the car, so Elaine jumped out and photographed the scene so Thelma could see the picture in the little screen on the back of the camera. She told Elaine all about the places they were seeing and how things had changed over time. She imagined herself living there…

A couple of days later, Thelma rang us to say she wanted to drive her red Ford Ka to Mentmore, did we think it was a good idea? Elaine said, “If you feel you can make it, then, yes of course you should go.” Thelma later rang to say that she had taken exactly the same route she had taken with Elaine and had sat in her car and looked out over that beautiful valley all the way to the narrow, steep spire of Leighton Buzzard church. As far as we know it was the last time she drove her beloved little Ka.

Thelma had a heart and a mind for the simple things; she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of English plants and of local history and yet she could play the high life as well. She was on the committee that vetted the people who would live in the Wing Almshouses. She took this job very seriously; my grandmother Sarah Jane Adams was brought up in the Wing Almshouses. On our last visit to see her in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, she told us how angry she was that the government was messing her pension about. Every time she went to hospital the pension stopped immediately, but it took weeks to get it started again when she got back home and that was a long and tiring business when it was so difficult for her to leave the house.

“I am going to write to the Minister of Pensions and tell him how to do this properly,” she said. “If you hear that he has resigned to spend more time with his family, you may assume that I had a hand in his downfall.”

Thelma was a woman of dignity and wonderful presence. She was intelligent and steeped in the knowledge of her family and mindful of her obligations to her friends, her mother and her village. She was a woman of rare character and great charm. She was a woman of the old school; gracious, generous and beautiful to the core. We shall not see her like again.

Ewart Tearle
St Albans
January 2005