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.

06Jan/20

Levi’s bridge in Wing

On the same morning Elaine and I visited Dennis Tearle and Betty, to say goodbye on our way home to New Zealand, a problem I had been working on for about 15 years, with no sign of a solution, reminded me that Dennis was an engineer, a local of Wing, where Levi Tearle, one of three smiths in the village, lived and died, and he was a senior member of Levi’s family. Alec Tearle, Dennis’ elder brother, had told me that Levi had built a bridge, but he was very unsure of where it was, and he thought it had been demolished to make way for a bigger bridge. I asked Dennis, on a whim, did he know where Levi’s bridge was? It was my last chance to solve the puzzle, and I held my breath.

“Do you know where the Wing Alms Houses are?”

I certainly did. My grandmother, Sadie Adams, was brought up by her grandmother in the Wing Alms Houses after both her parents had been killed, within six weeks of each other. I did not know any of the occupants, but I certainly knew a bit about the little houses – still in use today.

“Yes.”

“And the road goes steeply downhill to Mentmore?”

“Yes.”

“The road flattens, and in about 100m you will see a handrail on both sides of the road, with a small stream running from right to left. That is Levi’s bridge. I thought it had been demolished, but if you go there, ring me and describe what you can see.”

If, I thought. Not if today, but first thing the following morning. No Ifs about this one. Fortunately, the morning was still, warm, and sunny. A perfect day to go exploring on our last day in England.

At Wing, we dropped into the cricket ground at Ascot House to admire the hand-made gate, lock, and the beautiful fencing. All made by Levi Tearle.

The lock on the cricket ground gate
Levi’s gate, lock and all that fencing.
When you go to Wing, always drop in to see if All Saints is open. It’s very special.

Levi was not a member of the church; he was a Primitive Methodist, and the superintendent of the Sunday school. The very simple building contained no images of saints or any works of art. The congregation was there to read their Bible, listen to their Minister, and learn the works of God.

There was a striking unintended consequence to this; Methodists could read. When they joined the workforce, they were so much more educated than many other children in the village. This was a small village, but it was divided into Church, where you were buried in consecrated ground, and Chapel, where you were buried outside the drawn line that was the church’s grounds. There was, actually, a small advantage to the Chapel graves; because their graves and headstones were not tended, they were covered in weeds. This meant the elements were not able to harm them so much. They lasted a lot longer than Church graves did.

The Wing Alms Houses

We moved on, and briefly looked at the Wing Alms Houses. I know of only one story; Little Sadie Adams (my grandmother) lived with her grandmother (Kate) after her parents had died. She told my father that Kate would go to the house next door to beg a coal cinder because she would not use a match – they were called Lucifers and she would have no truck with the Devil!

These little houses have been in use for a considerable length of time.

We took the car slowly down the hill to Mentmore from the Alms Houses, being careful that we did not over-run the distances we thought we had. At first, there was no stream, then there was a small one that followed the road, finally we saw steel handrails on both sides of the road, and stopped to see if it was Levi’s bridge.

The bridge has rails both sides of the road, the stream is going from right to left. Are we there yet?

I rang Dennis, hoping he had not left the house. “What am I looking for?”

“What can you see?”

“I have steel pipe both sides of the road, and definitely a stream below. There are lots of black bricks here. A very thick bank of them on both sides of the stream. On top of the bank are two very large steel I-beams, and on top of that a two-foot thick bed of concrete, and on top of that, road tar.”

“The black bricks are construction bricks. They are specially made for construction and they are strengthened by coal, hence their being black. All they have done since Levi built the bridge is to replace the top of it.”

“You are standing on Levi’s Bridge. Well done.”

“Thank you!” I said. Finally, we had solved the problem of where and what had happened to Levi’s bridge. It was still there, and it was still a functional bridge. It’s time to add the photos we took, and to simply admire Levi’s skills.

Bridge footings
Levi’s bridge footings on Mentmore Rd from Wing
Footings viewed from the other side of the road. Note the black bricks.
All that has happened to the bridge is the addition of the I-beams, the concrete pad on top and some concrete stablising the base, whether it was needed or not.

It was a pleasure working with Dennis Tearle, and we thank him for the assistance he has freely offered. We can also see the knowledge and the experience he has gathered in a lifetime of engineering.

06Jan/20

Renshaw, William, RAF

One of the last families we visited before we left England in 2018, was the family of Dennis Tearle and Betty nee Renshaw. We told them about our stop-over in Singapore, and Betty asked us if we could find out what happened to her beloved younger brother, William Renshaw. All she knew of the circumstances of his death was that he was killed when the Japanese invaded the island. Dennis suggested there was a large Commonwealth War Graves Commission site somewhere in Singapore. We promised we’d have a look, and as is usual with these things, what we found far exceeded what we had expected to see. A few weeks after we landed in New Zealand, I arranged all the photos that best illustrated our experience at the Kranji CWGC, then wrote an accompanying text for each photo. The result is below – as much as possible, word for word. I wrapped the printed photos and the story we had to tell in a large envelope, and sent the whole parcel to Dennis and Betty.

26 July 2018

Dear Dennis and Betty

While we were in Singapore, on the return journey to New Zealand, we took the bus to Kranji in the north of Singapore and, after a few miss-steps we found the CWGC Kranji War Memorial. There are an incredible number of names on the various plaques; these commemorate all those who died, but whose bodies were never found. There were huge plaques for the Royal Indian regiments, with literally thousands of names.

We arrived at the same time as a group of early high school students turned up, with flags and tokens, to explore the memorial and to commemorate the memory of those who had been killed. Near the end of their time, there was a moving little ceremony of remembrance, and a particularly beautiful rendition of The Last Post by a single bugler.

I will explain each of the numbered prints below, in order of their appearance.

State Cemetery. The cemetery is a co-operation with the CWGC, but it is on Singapore land.
Cemetery Gate. There is a long walk of about 200m from the road to the gate, and a small parking area between the gate and the entrance to the cemetery. We could see the children alighting from the bus and walking to the memorial. We did not interact with them, because we felt it would be a distraction. One of their teachers told me they all came from the same school, but they individually came from many countries. Some of the children were carrying the flag of their parent country.
These are the main gates to the memorial.
Note to visitors to the memorial and its significance to Singaporean history.
Close-up of the writing on the memorial gate.
There is a visitors book, and Elaine has signed for all of us.
It took a while to find the book that had William’s name, but it led us directly to Panel 430, where he and his comrades were memorialised. Here is his name, for Betty’s sake.
Here is the close-up of William’s name on the Kranji Memorial.
The children are lined up ready for their ceremony and you can see the CWGC Great Cross, and the spire of the memorial itself. It is truly a magnificent sight.
If I remember correctly, there were more than thirty books in the brass cabinet that contains these things – I have never seen so many in one place.
Here is the note in the Book of Remembrance with a very short version of William’s life.
Here is a stepped-away view of the memorial. It looks like a huge bomber about to take off. You can see the headstones in the cemetery, but they were very few in comparison with the numbers of those missing.
Between the Great Cross and the memorial itself, there is a small ante-room containing this huge plaque. Behind this memorial there is yet another wall with about five thousand names of those found after the memorial was finished. Most of the names were from the Royal Indian regiments.
Wing Church, beautiful and historic.
The headstone in all Saints, Wing, which has the details of William’s life and parents.

There is an uncomfortable codicil to this story. Squadron Leader Roger C Miller was on post with the RAF in Singapore after the war, and his wife was an aircraft controller. Elaine and I know him because he has ties to Sandridge. He told me that it was not well known, but after the Allies found out what the Japanese did to prisoners of war, both the RAF and the Americans destroyed ships carrying prisoners. The tactic deprived the Japanese of fresh intelligence, and the prisoners were spared the horrors of Japanese prisoner camps. He was sang-froid, but I found the situation deeply disturbing.

I hope we have given you a flavour of the Kranji War Memorial, and we send you and Betty all the very best.