Category Archives: Buckinghamshire, UK

Tearle Family history in Buckinghamshire.


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.


“And the road goes steeply downhill to Mentmore?”


“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.


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.



Holy Cross Church, Slapton

Here, right, is the memorial to John Tearle b22 Dec 1824 in Dagnall, the son of Abel 1797 of Stanbridge, and Hannah nee Frost. He married Sarah Bishop of Oxon and died aged only 42. I have added a picture of the full headstone below right so you can find it, if you ever go to this part of Bucks. John is of the branch Thomas 1737.

John was also the father of Jabez b1856, Slapton. He is well-known to the Australians, and is buried in Forbes, NSW.
John was also the father of Jabez b1856, Slapton. He is well-known to the Australians, and is buried in Forbes, NSW.
The lynchgate
The lynchgate

The John d 1867 of the headstones in the Slapton Churchyard above died aged just 42. He was John Tearle 1825 (actually Dec 1824) son of Abel 1797 and Hannah nee Frost. Abel, son of the famous Fanny, is the grandfather of several families in Australia.

In 1851, John is a servant, a malt maker, in the house of Mary Gurney in Slapton, Bucks. She describes herself as a Maltster & Victualler, but I can’t find a street address for her. I suppose she possibly runs a pub or an inn. Just two doors away is young Sarah Bishop, 22, from Milton, Oxon, and she is a servant in the house of Thomas Ginger a farmer, originally from Edlesborough.

In 1861 John and Sarah are married and living, as far as I can tell, at an address called The Bury Farm, but I’m not completely certain since the address is about 3 pages before John and Sarah’s house, and I only have the margin numbering to go by. The family is as follows:

1861 John 1825 Dagnall Sarah 32 Oxon William 8 George 6 Jabez 5 Sarah A 3 Louisa B 1

Young Jabez there goes to Australia, marries Ann Gordon, and dies in Forbes, NSW, 1936 leaving Australian descendants.

In 1871, Sarah 1829 is by herself, a widow, a victualler, and her family is as follows:

1871 Sarah 1829 Oxon Jabez 16 Sarah A 13 Anna F 7 in Slapton.

Louisa B is on the last page of the Slapton census returns, a servant in the household of Alfred Gurney, a maltster.

In 1881, Sarah 1829 is a publican and grocer and her household has:

1881 Sarah 1829 Oxon Sarah A 23 Louisa B 21 Ann T 17 in Slapton

Sarah is a dressmaker, Louisa B is back home with Mum and is also a dressmaker, while Ann is a pupil teacher.

In 1881, Slapton also welcomes Joseph 1856 from Dagnall, labourer, and his wife Mary. Joseph is John’s nephew because Joseph is the son of Thomas Tearle of Dagnall and Jane nee Draper, and Thomas is John’s brother.

In 1891 Sarah 1829 is living in the Public House and Shop on Leighton Rd, Slapton. She calls herself inkeeper and grocer, so she must be running the pub. We now find out that Sarah A is Sarah Ann, she is single and still a dressmaker.

Joseph 1856 Dagnall is now a brewers labourer and lives in a block of 6 cottages in Slapton called “The Row.” Their family is:

1891 Joseph 1856 Dag Mary 35 George 12 Frederick 11 John 8 Sarah 7 Annie Naomi 5 Alfred 1 I guess there is more than one pub, so Joseph does not necessarily work for Sarah, but the possible connection is interesting.

I’m afraid there is no sign of Sarah 1829 or Sarah A in Slapton in 1901.

However, in 1901 Mary 1856 Edels is a widow, so Joseph has died, and her family is:

1901 Mary 1856 Edels wid George 23 John 18 Alfred 11 in Slapton – so that is how I found out the identity of George of the headstone died 1953 – with Edith Jane died 1967, below.

And one more thing you will really, really like. Have a look at the photo I took in Edlesborough of the headstone of Jane, wife of Thomas Tearle of Dagnall.  She was Jane Draper and Thomas re-married and is buried in Dunstable. Joseph 1856 of Dagnall is their son. He married Mary Reeve. George 1878 of the headstone below is Joseph’s son, and Jane nee Draper was his grandmother. Very nice.

Thomas was also a son of Abel 1797 and Hannah nee Frost. It is very tempting, isn’t it, to surmise that Joseph and Mary went to Slapton to work for Sarah, who looks like she was quite a successful pub manager?

Pat Field recently sent me these Slapton baptisms of Joseph and Mary’s family:

13 April 1884 Susan Jane child of Joseph & Mary Tearle of Slapton, Brewer’s Man

24 June 1883 John aged 10m child of Joseph & Mary Tearle of Slapton Brewer’s Man

24 June 1883 Fred aged 3 child of Joseph & Mary Tearle of Slapton Brewer’s Man

20 June 1886 Annie Naomi aged 8m child of Joseph & Mary Tearle of Slapton Brewer’s Man

If Joseph did not go to Slapton to work for Sarah nee Bishop, it looks as though once he got there, he joined her in helping to run the pub.

Here is Joseph’s death:

Joseph Tearle aged 44 of Slapton buried 21 April 1900 at Parish of Slapton St Botolph.

This memorial, left, is to George 1855 Dagnall and his wife Edith Jane nee Hing.  George was the son of Joseph 1855 Dagnall, one of the sons of Thomas 1830 and Jane nee Draper, whose headstone we saw in Edelsborough. Thomas 1830 and John 1824 were brothers, so this George is grandson and grand-nephew.



18 Oct 2020  
Tearle family, Slapton
Carolyn Whitney
Hi Ewart,

I am a descendant from the Soulbury Tearles (originally Stanbridge) and we met briefly some years ago at Stanbridge, my grandmother was Caroline Tearle – daughter of Annie Tearle, father unknown.  I recently visited the Tearle website, which you have done such a fantastic job of and many thanks for all the work you have put in, in order to see if there was anything about Joseph Tearle married to Alice Hide.  This was how I started reading your piece about Slapton.  I have done a bit of delving and hope that I may be able to give you an answer, at least in part, to some of the questions you were left with.  I will go in chronological order.

Mary Gurney senior, born 1800 in Oxfordshire, give or take a year, was married to William Gurney who had extensive property and land in Northall, Edlesborough and in Slapton.  From what I can see, the Gurney family as a whole had a reasonable amount of land and property throughout Bucks and as a profession were maltsters, publicans, victuallers.  I think they must have married 1820 roughly but cannot find a record and so cannot tell you Mary’s maiden name.  William made his last will and testament on 6 August 1841 and it was proved on 24 August 1841, among its many details he leaves land and property in Northall to one of his sons and land and property including a bakehouse and importantly, a malt house in Slapton to his son, Alfred.  He makes provision for his daughter Mary, poss born August 1824 and also his wife, Mary. He states that he wishes it to be lawful that his wife will be able to carry on his profession as a victualler if she chooses.  I also found out that a maltings was built adjacent to The Carpenters Arms in Slapton in early to mid 1800s.  I imagine this must be the malthouse left to Alfred.

As far as I can tell, there has only ever been one pub/inn at Slapton, The Carpenters Arms which dates back certainly to 1500s.

In the 1841 census Mary senior is listed as a victualler in Slapton, in 1847 both the Kelly’s and Post Office directories list her as a maltster at The Carpenters Arms, 1853 Musson & Cravens Commercial Directory has her as a victualler and maltster at same place and in 1854 Kellys Directory still has her at The Carpenters Arms.

As you already know, the 1851 census has Mary as a maltster and victualler living with her daughter plus John Tearle as servant and malt maker.

On the 1861 census Mary is a brewer living with daughter Mary.  Mary senior dies on 10 December 1861, she appears to leave everything to Mary and Alfred who is still a maltster.  Alfred is listed as being the enumerator for this census.

Alfred marries Martha born at Waterloo Farm on the outskirts of Wing, they have several children but he dies aged 49 in 1886 leaving his family over £13,000.

In 1864, Kellys Directory lists Miss Mary Gurney as a maltster and commercial and lists John Tearle as a shopkeeper at The Carpenters Arms. Sadly John subsequently dies but wife Sarah, née Bishop from Oxfordshire, stays at The Carpenters Arms as listed in the following directories; 1869 and 1877 Post Office, 1887 and 1891 Kelly’s.  I wonder if there was a connection, possibly family, between Sarah and Mary senior given that they both came from Oxfordshire?

On the 1871 census Miss Mary Gurney is a landowner living with two nieces and a female servant. In 1881 she is listed as formerly brewer living with two nieces and a male servant/groom/gardener who stays with her probably until her death, in 1891 living on her own means at The Villa in Slapton with a niece and said servant, in 1901 she is at the same address living on her own means with said servant.

Miss Mary Gurney never marries and lives in Slapton until she dies on 6 January 1907. According to a newspaper article she was a respected member of the Slapton community with many villagers attending her funeral. Her Will leaves her estate to Alfred John Gurney, Steam Laundry Proprietor and Frederick George Gurney, gentleman who was her nephew – I believe his father died when Frederick was quite young but left the family quite well off. I imagine Alfred John was another nephew.

On the 1901 census Sarah has retired and is living at Horton Wharf farm and on the 1911 census at Grove Farm, Ivinghoe Aston, from memory I think I am right to say she was always with at least one of her daughters, she dies in 1914.

In 1901 William and Ruth Hing are at The Carpenters Arms.  From memory at some point in the 1920s  members of the Hing and Gurney families marry so all very interconnected.

You mentioned a Louisa B Tearle being a servant to Alfred Gurney, this Alfred would be Mary senior’s son and so there seems to be a bit of a history of Tearles working for Gurneys.

You will be relieved to hear that is the sum of my research!!  Hopefully not too long winded but I think it is nice to fill in the blanks where possible.

With my very best wishes and thanks again for all you have done, it is very interesting and a great help.

Carolyn Whitney


Tearle, Sqn Ldr Alec Raymond, MBE 1929, Wing, Buckinghamshire, UK (RAF)

Alec and Beryl Tearle

I knew my cousin, Alec Tearle, although only slightly. He rang me once in New Zealand, and I remarked then on his beautiful, cathedral-filling, gravelly voice, with perfect diction. He and his wife Beryl took us to a wedding in Langtoft, Lincolnshire, where they were in the church choir for the ceremony. He modestly called himself a “wedding singer,” and he had an effortless baritone.

He told me one story of his military life. He had just been promoted to Base Commander of an aerodrome where he was in charge of the Queen’s Flight. His first morning in the control tower was cold and foggy, but as the fog lifted and the tower began to count down to the first of many flights that morning, he saw a small woman in a tweed coat walking a dog on the macadam.
“Who the hell is that!” he stormed. “Get her off the runway!”
“Excuse me, Sir.”
“That’s the boss.”

In 1946, immediately after WW2, RAF Benson hosted Kings Flight; it became the Queens Flight in 1952. That Alec was in charge of Queens Flight means this incident occurred at RAF Benson. Queens Flight was disbanded in 1995 to become part of No.32 Squadron at RAF Northolt.

Alec’s MBE was notified in a Supplement to The London Gazette of 3rd June 1972, page 6261.

London Gazette

Here is his MBE alongside his RAF Long Service Military Medal

There are other small but valuable snippets in the London Gazette. The earliest would appear to be his promotion on 29 June 1971, page 6948:

In the Gazette of 18 July 1978, p8265 was Alec’s promotion to Squadron Leader. As you can see, he already had his MBE:

Flight Lieutenant to Squadron Leader:
K. F. DAVIES (4022524).
C. J. ORME (4335409).
A. R. TEARLE, M.B.E. (4025695).
J. ROLLS (583369).

And finally, in the Gazette of 28 August 1984, page 11701, there was this announcement:

Air Commodore W, J. J. NORTHMOKE, C.B.E., C.Eng.,
M.I.E.R.E., M.R.Ae.S., 10th Jul. 1984.
Wing Commanders :
BULLOCK, Bi.Sc. (504033H), llth Jul. 1984.
H. HUGHES, C.Eng., M.R.Ae.S., M.I.W.M.,
M.B.IM. (3035291J), 20th Jui. 1984.
Squadron Leader A. R. TEARLE, M.B.E. (4025695B) (at
own request), 14th Jul. 1984.
Flight Lieutenant W. D. JAMES (4116333P) (at own
request), 12th Jun. 1984.

At one stage, he was the president of the Langtoft and Deepings branch of the Royal British Legion.

His official obituary was published in The Telegraph of 12 January 2016:
TEARLE Sqn.Ldr Alec M.B.E. (ret’d) passed away peacefully at Peterborough City Hospital on 22nd December 2015, aged 86 years. Dearly beloved husband of Beryl, treasured father of Stephanie, Simon and Timothy and beloved grandfather of Gemma, Andrew, Elizabeth and James. He will be sadly missed by all his devoted family and friends. The funeral service will take place on Tuesday 12th January 2016 at 12.00 (noon) at Peterborough Crematorium, Marholm.

He is remembered with great affection by his family. His son, Timothy, sent me this fine obituary:
In recent years Alec and Beryl lived in Langtoft, Lincolnshire, a small village just outside of the picturesque market town of Market Deeping strangely enough just inside Cambridgeshire.
They enjoyed a significant number of years in happy retirement, being active in the local Church, the local village hall and events therein. Their garden, their pride and joy, an oasis of colour and scent in the Flat Lands of the Fens.
It is with sadness that we, Stephanie, Simon, Timothy and our wonderful mother Beryl, lost Alec to a brief but troubling illness in December 2015. He passed away peacefully at Peterborough General Hospital 22nd Dec 2015.
Father was an incredible man of quiet nature, but huge achievements. His engineering skills embraced the introduction of modern technology to the Royal Air Force, seeing the transition from the most advanced Piston Engine Propulsion, to the fledgling, and latterly the high tech world of supersonic jet propulsion. Being a unique man, his craft of Air-Frame and Engines meant that he was frequently called upon to pioneer procedures on the new fighters, bombers and specialist aircraft entering service with the Royal Air Force throughout the 1950’s and well into the 80’s.
His grasp of engineering led him to refurbishing and re-commissioning a gas production plant in Bahrain. This enabled the Armed Services to have valuable assets in terms of liquid gasses at their disposal in an area where tensions were ever fraught, and the constant supply of liquid gasses essential to the operational capabilities of both maritime and airborne services in the Middle East during the 1970’s.
This successful project, together with work on the Island’s only power plant, (4 Rolls Royce Aero engines converted for running on gas) to secure a constant and uninterrupted power supply to the Island, were recognised with the award of his MBE. There are many other major achievements that we children know too little about to list in any detail!
He was born to Harry and Millicent, 15th June 1929 in Wing, Bucks, the eldest of their children, and brother to Thelma (Sheppard), Roy (who died very young from TB), Denis and “little” Rachel.
On the 20th Jan 1951, he was married to Beryl Jean Proctor at St. Barnabas Church, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.

Their love and strength together enabled them to celebrate 64 years, and very nearly 65 years of marriage before his passing.
During their life together they lived a happy and varied life, encompassing over-seas postings, periods of enforced separation, and very many moves at the behest of the Air Force.
We children grew up in a happy, loving and, in a great many ways, privileged household. We enjoyed the trappings of Father’s continued successes most ably assisted by Mothers constant loving, support, and drive, to enable him to excel at every task he undertook.
Beryl was lovingly cared for by Alec up to the final days before he went into hospital. Beryl in later years developed Vascular Dementia and the demands this uninvited condition placed upon Alec were considerable. He did, however, deal with it as with everything in his life, stoically and with love, tenderness, compassion and considerable good humour. Proving how even at this most delicate and demanding of tasks, he excelled.
Beryl is now living close to Stephanie and Simon in Oxfordshire, close to RAF Benson where Alec was stationed as Ground Engineering Officer in the late 1970’s.
We are all able to visit regularly and at time of writing, I am delighted to report that she is very well, comfortable and happy.

The pioneer years:

The photographs below are privately owned, and supplied by Tim Tearle, Alec’s son. If you compare Alec in his wedding photo above, with the photos of him below, then the first four photos were taken in the 1950s, but the location is unknown.

Tim says that Alec was at RAF Benson in the late 1970s, and that is possibly the setting for the story of the “lady on the runway” because he would have had sufficient seniority to be in charge of Queens Flight.

Alec, left, and compatriot.


Gloster Meteor, the only jet fighter of the Allies in WW2, and the first civilian-registered jet aircraft in the world. Five Meteors worldwide are still airworthy.


Alec, standing centre, with fellow engineers. The aircraft in the background looks like a Gloster Meteor.


Alec Tearle


Alec Tearle


Alec Tearle, centre.


Thanks to Tim Tearle for sending me the resources above with the request that I write an article about his father. Without Tim’s help, there would have been no story.

Thanks also to Barbara Tearle of Oxford who alerted me to the London Gazette postings, above.

Levis house Wing

Wing Tearle Memorials

I suppose Wing wouldn’t immediately spring to mind as a hotbed of Tearle activity, but this ancient little village, just over the border in Buckinghamshire from Leighton Buzzard, became a very busy spot when a blacksmith and his brother moved to Wing in the late 19thC to set up their houses and bring up their families. 133 years later, Tearles still live in Wing.

Below is the headstone for my g-grandfather, Levi, b27 July 1850 in Stanbridge and his wife, Sarah nee Blake b24 Aug 1851 also in Stanbridge. 

Levi and Amos are sons of James 1827, featured on the Stanbridge page, and Mary nee Andrews. Also recorded here are: 

Rose b1877, Wing

Edith b1892, Wing

Emily (Pugh) b1886, Wing.

These are some of Levi and Sarah’s children.

Here are the summaries from all of the census returns in which Levi appeared. You can see the full extent of his and Sarah’s family in the last two returns. His family called themselves “The Tribe of Levi.”

  • 1851 = James 1828 Stbg p1 Mary 23 in Stbg
  • 1851 = James 1828 Stbg p2 Levi 8m in Stbg
  • 1861 = James 1827 Todd Mary 31 Levi 11 Sarah 8 Elizabeth 5 Isabella 3 in Stbg
  • 1871 = Levi 1851 Stbg apprentice blacksmith in Stbg
  • 1881 = Levi 1851 Stbg p1 Sarah 29 Arthur 6 in Wing
  • 1881 = Levi 1851 Stbg p2 Rose 3 Mahlon 11m in Wing
  • 1891 = Levi 1851 Stbg Sarah 39 Arthur 16 Rose 13 Mahlon 19 Ellen 9 Ruth 7 Emily 4 Minnie 2 in Wing
  • 1901 = Levi 1851 Stbg Sarah 49 Arthur 26 Ruth 17 Emily 14 Minnie 12 Edith 9 in Wing



Some of the Tearles attended All Saints, the beautiful little Saxon church in Wing 

All Saints Church

All Saints Church

but Levi and his family were Methodists and attended the Methodist chapel (above right) down the road in Church St, where Levi was the superintendent of the Primitive Methodist Sunday School. This is now a private dwelling.

Wing Methodist Church

Wing Primative Methodist Church.

Levi and Sarah were married by banns in Stanbridge on 23 Mar 1874. Their son, Arthur, my grandfather, was born in Wing that December 24th. Levi’s parents were James b1827 Toddington and Mary nee Andrews of Eggington. James parents were Thomas 1807 and Mary nee Garner. Thomas’ parents were Richard 1773 and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. Richard’s parents were John 1741 and Martha nee Archer. Thus Levi is of the branch John 1741.

Levi and Sarah, my great-grandparents

Levi and Sarah, my great-grandparents.

Levi and his grown-up family. Rear row, Levi, Ellen and Mahlon. Front row, right to left; Ruth, Emily, Minnie and Edith.

Levi and his grown-up family. Rear row, Levi, Ellen and Mahlon. Front row, right to left; Ruth, Emily, Minnie and Edith.

I suppose memorials don’t always have to have a name on them. Apart from the beautiful house he built in Wing, Levi’s lasting memorial will be the fencing he made for the property around Ascott House, Wing. This is the cricket ground fence.

Cricket ground with fence built by Levi

Cricket ground with fence built by Levi.

Here is his house which he built in Stewkley Rd. In 1901, the Big House (the one on the left) was not built and Levi and family, including my grandfather, Arthur, were living in the cottage in the middle. The painted cottage contained Mr and Mrs Cutler and family. 

Levi's house

Levi’s house.

Jennie Pugh of Luton says that the house next door to that always contained the chauffeur from Ascott Hs and the Rothschilds sent the children of the chauffeur to a school in Leighton Buzzard that charged £3.00 per term. As far as I know, Levi did not build the two cottages, but Jennie says he did carve Ebenezer Cottages into their window sills, named after a (Methodist preacher?) friend of his.

The little tablet briefly records the family of Harry Tearle b1908 in Wing. He was a son of Mahlon and grandson of Levi. He married Millicent Green, from a very long-standing Wing family. 

Harry Tearle b1908

Harry Tearle b1908

They and two of their children – Roy, who died only nine years old and Thelma – all of whom died in Wing, are listed here. Thelma is actually buried in another section of the churchyard and here is her tablet.

Thelma Mary Shepherd

Thelma Mary Shepherd

Emily, Mahlon’s sister, also has a sad story. In 1913 she married John Pugh, a butler, and had a son Ernest b1915, Wing. John Pugh joined the war in 1915 and lived and fought through it all as a sergeant machine gunner until just three months before the war ended. Here he is, on the war memorial in the Wing churchyard.

Emily stayed in Wing for the rest of her life, working as a maid for one of the local families. She is remembered on Levi’s headstone, above.

War Memorial, Wing Churchyard

War Memorial, Wing Churchyard

Martha Timms lived across the Tilsworth Road from Amos when they were growing up in Stanbridge. They married in St Johns Stanbridge on 18 July 1881 and moved to Wing soon after Levi, Amos’ elder brother, set up the smithy there. Amos was the blacksmith’s assistant until Levi’s son, Mahlon, took over the job. There is no memorial in Wing to Amos or Martha, but here is the headstone for Jeffrey, Amos’ first son and his wife, Maud nee Cutler. Amos and his family are, of course, on the branch of John 1741.

The headstone for Jeffrey, Amos’ first son and his wife, Maud nee Cutler

The headstone for Jeffrey, Amos’ first son and his wife, Maud nee Cutler

This memorial is for Jeffrey’s son, Fred.

This memorial is for Jeffrey’s son, Fred.

Strictly speaking, the graffiti in the clock tower, below may not be called a memorial at all. I am pretty certain it was carved by a young Mahlon Tearle, perhaps while he was mending something to do with the bells, or the clock.

Some 20th Century graffiti on the wall near the church bells.

Some 20th Century graffiti on the wall near the church bells.

There is a great deal of information about Wing on a site dedicated to it, and all the events that have happened there.

Did you know, for instance, that when Levi lived in Wing, there were no fewer than three blacksmiths in the village – and at least one wheelwright.

While we are there, here are the bells and mechanism he might have been repairing.

While we are there, here are the bells and mechanism he might have been repairing.

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


Sarah Tearle nee Bishop, 1829, Oxon, UK

I am now going to have a look at the story of Sarah Bishop b1829 of Little Milton, Oxfordshire. I don’t have the 1841 census return because she would have been 12 so possibly at home in Little Milton and there are three Sarah Bishops there. Without the marriage certificate, I can’t be sure I have the right one.

HOWEVER – in 1851, Sarah is a servant for a farmer in Slapton, Bucks and there she meets our handsome John.

1851 = Sarah Bishop 1829 Oxon servt to Thomas Ginger Slapton

In 1861 Sarah and John have a lovely family, John is a maltster and Sarah looks like she can afford to stay home and look after the children.

1861 = John 1825 Dagnall Sarah 32 William 8 George 6 Jabez 5 Sarah A 3 Louisa B 1 in Slapton

John dies in 1867 and times get very difficult. William goes to live with Uncle George in Watford (John’s brother) while George becomes apprenticed to a grocer in Dunstable. By 1871 Sarah is called a victualler and has only Jabez, Sarah and Anna left at home, while Louisa is a nursemaid in the household of Alfred Gurney, a malster of Slapton. Perhaps he works for Sarah… But I suppose there is more than one pub in the village. Sarah is running the Carpenter’s Arms.

1871 = Sarah 1829 Oxon Jabez 16 Sarah A 13 Anna F 7 in Slapton

In 1881, Sarah is a publican and grocer. Another example of just how strong and determined our Victorian mothers were. It looks as though the business has grown. Sarah Ann is a dressmaker, possibly working from the store, as is Louisa, now back home with Mother. Anna is a pupil teacher. In the 1880s a pupil teacher was a teacher apprentice (sort of) and was working to get onto the teaching staff as opposed to an assistant teacher, who helped out, but would never become a teacher.

1881 = Sarah 1829 Oxon Sarah A 23 Louisa B 21 Ann T 17 in Slapton

In 1891, Sarah and dau Sarah Ann are running the business in Leighton Rd, Slapton in a property called a “public house and grocer” by the census enumerator. Sarah Ann is running her dressmaking business from the premises, probably helping Mother in busy times. Sarah calls herself an Innkeeper and grocer. She is 62, still working.

1891 = Sarah 1829 Oxon Sarah A 35 in Slapton

In 1901 Sarah and Sarah Ann are in Ivinghoe! Sarah, at 72 is now a retired grocer and Sarah Ann is still a dressmaker “on own account” meaning she is not on parish relief. They are living next door to George and Susan Ginger. He is a lock-keeper on the canal and I wonder if it is this pair who has drawn Sarah to Ivinghoe. We may never know, but Sarah has well deserved a quiet and gracious retirement.

1901 = Sarah 1829 Little Milton Oxon Sarah Ann 43 in Ivinghoe.

Here is the last chapter in the story of Sarah nee Bishop. Pat Field sent me this picture from the Ivinghoe Churchyard. She says:

“Have today found a Tearle Gravestone in Ivinghoe. The details on the stone were “In Loving Memory of Sarah Ann Tearle who died Aug 19th 1910 aged 52yrs also Sarah Tearle Mother of above who died Oct 5 1915 aged 87yrs.”

She certainly did have a nice long retirement.

Sarah Tearle headstone, Ivinghoe

Sarah Tearle headstone, Ivinghoe