Tag Archives: John


The Virginians

On 20 Dec 1606, Captain John Smith commanding the Susan Constant, with two other ships, the Discovery and the Godspeed, set sail for America on a charter from King James 1 to colonise part of the Chesapeake area for the Virginia Company, arriving at Jamestown Island on 13 May 1607 with 103 settlers. Wed, 20 Dec 2006, marked the 400th anniversary of the day they left London. The stained glass window below is in the church of St Sepulcre, opposite the Old Bailey, parish church for Captain John Smith.  Don’t get him confused with the Pilgrim Fathers, because that is a completely different story. I have a friend who lives in Virginia and they celebrate the day Captain Smith and the other ships arrived – 13 May 1607.

I have tried to find out the names of all the early settlers, but the ships’ passenger records show only the names of the captains, about 40 “Gentlemen,” 20 “Labourers” including the ship’s surgeon, “and diverse others.” Bad luck if you were a diverse other because now history has no knowledge of you.

Cptn John Smith was appointed governor of Virginia and under his structured leadership, the town prospered. When he left for England in 1609, they suffered their “starving time” winter when only 60 of the original settlers survived. Disease, failing crops and the attacks of the local Algonquian tribe heaped misery on the settlers. All of these, as you can imagine, are the products of poor management. This catalogue of disasters and mismanagement followed the township for the next 15 years. Eventually, the king became impatient with lack of progress, dissolved the Virginia Company and the the area became a crown colony in 1624. Once back in England, Smith wrote copiously about his life and adventures, making it difficult to tell fact from fantasy. He died in London in 1631. When you consider he was in America for only 3 years, he really has written a great history for himself.

Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith

Everyone has heard the story of Pocahontas, if only because of the Disney movie. Smith says the 11yr old girl saved his life when he was captured by the locals and sentenced to death. He wrote about her often and made her a real celebrity. She later married an Englishman, John Rolfe, and died of smallpox in Gravesend, London, aged just 22. She is buried there in St George’s church. I can’t show you a picture here because they are all copyright.

The ship that Smith captained, the Susan Constant, is pictured below from the stained glass windows of the Church of St Sepulcre. It took 4 months to get to America because of storms affecting these little ships.

"Susan Constant" stained glass window in St Sepulcre Church.

“Susan Constant” stained glass window in St Sepulcre Church.

Below is a photo of the plaque marking Cptn John Smith’s grave. There is a notice in the church to say St Sepulchre was the last place he visited before catching the ship to America, as well as pointing out that he died in a house on Snow Hill, within a stone’s throw, and is actually buried in the church.

Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith

I met a Bostonian lady here who said Cptn Smith was regarded as the first American because, when he was mayor of Jamestown, trying to keep his new settlement viable, his motto was “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

This may come as something of a surprise, but Captain Smith was a member of the Cordwainer’s Guild. The Jamestown Foundation of the Commonwealth of Virginia (their words) presented a statue to the City of London and in 1960 it was mounted in the churchyard of St Mary le Bow, in the heart of the Ward of Cordwainer. The cordwainers were leather workers and merchants who bought their leather exclusively from Cordoba in Spain.

Statue of Captain John Smith in churchyard of St Mary le Bow

Statue of Captain John Smith in churchyard of St Mary le Bow

This statue of the cordwainer at work represents the Ward of Cordwainer, where mostly shoemakers worked. Smith was not necessarily a shoemaker, but his father probably was, hence this was the guild he joined.

The Cordwainer, Watling St

The Cordwainer, Watling St

Here are the other two ships that went to Jamestown on the same mission: The Discovery captained by Sir Robert Bertie, Earl of Lindsay, and The Godspeed, captained by Sir Samuel Saltonstall.

"Discovery" in St Sepulcre Church

“Discovery” in St Sepulcre Church

"Godspeed" in St Sepulcre Church

“Godspeed” in St Sepulcre Church


Tearle, John, 1895, Toddington, UK (7/Beds Regt)

Tearle, J
Lance Corporal
th Bedfordshire Regiment of “South View”, Princess Street, Toddington, Bedfordshire.

Tearle John L-Cpl National Roll

This is John Tearle 1896 of Toddington, son of Joseph Marlow Tearle 1865 and Emily nee Evans. Military serial number 16521, 7th Beds Regt. I am not sure why National Roll has him in the 6th Regiment, because his medals card (below) clearly says 7/Beds.R.

Here he is in the 1911 census:

1911 Joseph Marlow Tearle 1867 Tod Emily 42 May 22 William 18 John 16 Percy George 13 Joseph 11 Violet Emily 8 Frederick Hector 6 Victoria Daisy 1 in Toddington

His father, Joseph appears to be working a dairy herd on his own farm. His mother, Emily, and May, his elder sister are machinists for a hat manufacturer. It is not clear if the factory is in Toddington, or whether the women are working at home on machines they have been supplied with. The evidence above suggests that Emily has her own machine, and May walks to work. This is in the fading times of the straw hat business in Bedfordshire, but a large number of women, girls and boys were employed in the straw-plaiting and hat-making industries.

William is in a cement works and John would appear to be the runner who delivers telegrams for the Post Office.

The only other morsel of evidence I have for John’s entire life is his medals card:

John Tearle 16521 WW1 army medal rolls

You can see how early he started in the war, but National Roll tells us that he joined the 7th Battalion, The Bedfordshire Regiment, in September 1914. Was he one of those brave young men who really did think the war would be over by Christmas, and it was an adventure not to be missed? His effective date for war pension and service medals was 26 July 1915, the day his ship dropped him and others of his unit in France.

If you look carefully at the statements by National Roll, John was thrown into the very thick of the greatest battles of The Great War. He was at Arras, he was in the Somme, he was at Wipers. How on Earth did he survive? Someone took pity on his injuries and he was sent to England (and anywhere else in the then UK) to perform light duties for the army. It is impossible to imagine what was in his head every time he heard a loud noise, whenever he went to bed, what nightmares he endured even when he was awake. When you are 18-23, things that happen to you then, stay with you vividly and uneraseably for the rest of your life. It must have been a doctor or a senior officer who had some streak of humanity to see that John was no longer fit to be a soldier, who devised a way to get him to safety. Surely he had served his country with distinction, and he was good enough to have been promoted to lance corporal.

As far as I know, he never married. Little wonder, I think, if you look at his length of service, the battles he was engaged in and the number of times he was injured and returned to service. He fought through the entire First World War, and then at the end of hostilities he still had to wait another six months before he could go home.

His grandmother was Sarah Tearle, an unmarried mother of three when she married John Marlow of Toddington in 1868. Judging by the names she had given the first three children, all born in Sundon, Bedfordshire, they look like John Marlow’s children, and Joseph himself was the second one. Sarah married John Marlow in Toddington, in August 1868. Because of his name we follow John’s ancestry to Sarah’s parents who were Joseph 1797 and Sarah nee Millings, Joseph’s parents were William 1769 and Sarah nee Clark, and William’s parents were Joseph 1737 and Phoebe nee Capp.


John Tearle 1831, Toddington, UK

John 1831 was home for the 1851 census, at which time he was recorded as being an Ag Lab, the same as his father, William 1796 of Stanbridge. His mother was Catherine nee Fossey. His grandparents were Richard 1773 of Stanbridge and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth. His g-grandparents were, of course John 1741 and Martha nee Archer, so he is of the branch John 1741.

On 04 Oct 1855, John married Maria Major in Toddington. According to the marriage certificate, her father was William Major, a carpenter, and it looks like she had a sister Elizabeth, who signed as a witness. In the 1861 census, we find out that her mother was Sarah and she was a seamstress from Ampthill, Beds.

I cannot find any John born 1831 Toddington anywhere in England, but at home in Toddington, there is Maria and her family:

1871 = Maria nee Major 1829 Tod William Tearle 8 John 3 in Toddington

1861 = John 1831 Tod Maria 29 Sarah Major MIL 63 in Tod

Their first little boy, Moses, was born in 1858 died in 1859. Their next child was Elizabeth, born in 1861, who died in 1863. Since Catherine is not in the 1871 census, there is the chilling possibility that she did not make it, either.

Their last child was Martha born in 15 Jun 1871, after the census was taken. It looks very much as though she went to stay with her uncle and aunt, as we have seen above, after her mother died.

Maria died in 1876, in a place called Ham, New Brentford, near Ealing and not too far from the Borough. Barbara told me she died of breast cancer. So this now places John somewhere in London.

We found him in Acton, with William, in the 1881 census

1881 = John 1831 Tod wid William 18 in Acton Mdx

There is an interesting little aside here, because also in Acton for the 1881 census was John’s nephew Egerton:

1881 = Egerton DC Cecil 1854 Worthing Elizabeth DC Cecil 29 sis Ada A Cecil 26 wife in Acton

I wonder if they met up?

I simply cannot find John Jnr (born 1867 in Toddington) anywhere.

There are stories of a William born 1863 living in Australia, and we are coming to the view that he may well be John and Maria’s boy. He is nowhere to be found in any other England census.

John 1867 Toddington turns up in the 1891 census as a machinist in Mile End Old Town. He has married an Annie from London and it’s interesting to speculate if he knows that George 1885 of Slapton is there, too.

1891 = John 1868 Tod Annie in Mile End Old Town Lon

His father, John 1831 Toddington simply is not in the 1891 census. And I can’t find either Annie or John 1868 Toddington in the 1901 census.


John Tearle, 1856, Stanbridge, UK

I saw John first in the 1901 London census, where he was a Foreman Platelayer on the railway. His eldest son, John 22, is a Stoker. Another son, George is said to have been born in Stonebridge, Mdx. Here is a transcript of the census return:

1901 John 1856 Stbg Elizabeth 45 John 22 Louisa 18 George 12 Horace 5 Freda 4 Herbert C 1 in Willesden Mdx.

I dug back into John’s past.

In 1891, John and Elizabeth are living in 5 Melville Rd, Willesden and he calls himself a General Labourer.

1891 John 1856 Stbg Elizabeth 35 John 12 Laura 8 Arthur 4 George 2 Ethel 4m in Willisden Mdx

Now, this is the interesting bit:

In 1881, John and his new wife are in Northall, but they have with them their new son, John 1879, who was born in Middlesex. I found their marriage:

Name: John Tearle

Year of Registration: 1877  

Quarter of Registration: Oct-Nov-Dec  

District: Leighton Buzzard  

County: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire  

Volume: 3b  

Page: 895

and she is Elizabeth Tompkins of Eaton Bray. The certificate says John’s residence at the time of marriage was Northall and his father was John Tearle, Labourer. Also interestingly, they are living in a house immediately next door to John and Charlotte Irons.


1881 John 1857 Stbg Elizabeth 24 Northall John 2 Mdx in Northall

In 1871, John is 15ys and living with John and Charlotte Irons – he is John’s nephew.

1871 John 1856 Stbg neph John Irons 56 Charlotte 53 in Northall

In 1861, John is 5yrs old, living in the household of his uncle John and Charlotte Irons. He is their nephew.

1861 John 1856 Stbg nephew of John Irons 41 Charlotte 1818 Edels in Northall

I could not find the link that made John Tearle 1856 a nephew of John Irons, so I concentrated on his parents; who were they? One of them was John, not surprisingly, a labourer and in the village was a John Tearle who in 1840 had married a Northall girl called Eliza Irons. I sent off for their marriage certificate, too.


Eliza Iron’s father was Edward Irons and a search though the IGI gave me the marriage of Edward Irons and Hannah Tarman in Northchurch, Herts, on 12 Aug 1803. They had 10 children, and two of them were Eliza, born 1818, and John Irons, born 1814, one of Eliza’s elder brothers. Another brother was Thomas Irons born 1812, and Ann Irons, born 1821, they were here making their marks as witnesses to this wedding. There was no question I had the right family. As we can see from the marriage certificate, John was born to an unmarried Mary Tearle, almost certainly of Stanbridge. I went looking for her. In the 1841 census, a John Tearle aged 20 with a wife Eliza 20, a daughter Sarah aged 2 and a daughter Mary aged 4m, are living in Stanbridge only a few houses from Abel Tearle and Martha nee Emerton. Abel has his children living with him as well as his 65yr old father-in-law, Joseph Emerton. In villages, families combine and re-combine to give support to each other. And to a certain extent, in a village as small as Stanbridge, everyone is also a neighbour. If our John is 20, then he was born about 1820. Barbara reminded us that there was a Mary Tearle who baptised a  “John son of Mary Tearle a bastard” in 1823. Mary was the daughter of John 1770 and Mary nee Janes. The Stanbridge PRs record her baptism in 1803.

We have to be careful not to get too tied up over accurate dates, here, because John is a bit woolly either on his maths or his birth date, or both, because in 1841 he is 20, in 1851 he is 32, in 1861 he is 40 and in 1871 he is 54. He died on 1 Oct 1877.

There is the fascinating picture of John in the 1871 Stanbridge census with an unmarried daughter Mary Ann (29) and her daughter Annie, as well as another unmarried daughter, Jane (26) with her son Zephaniah.

So the last son of John and Eliza, John 1856, did not live with his family, although admittedly not very far away from them, but lived with his uncle and aunt, John and Charlotte Irons. Why? I think the answer lies in the fact that his mother Eliza died in Dec 1856, probably of childbirth or one of its many complications. Unusually, John did not remarry, probably because he had daughters who were old enough to look after him so he didn’t need to marry again quickly, as many of the village men had to do. John 1856, therefore, was given to his childless uncle and no doubt into a very grateful and caring little family, no matter how poor they were.

So why did he go to Willesden?

Richard Tearle has pointed out the following:

“As I’m sure you’re aware, Willesden, Harlesden and Stonebridge are very close together in London and, all of these places tie in with Watford and Leighton Buzzard as being important places on the (then) fairly new LNWR line from Euston to Scotland (via Preston!!)”

There was work – and there was family.

We know John and Elizabeth were in London between 1881 and 1891, because in the 1891 census, John is recorded as having been born in 1879 in Alperton, then Louisa was born in Willesden in 1882.  In 1881, Jonathon 1862 (son of William 1832 and Catharine nee Fountain) was in Willesden, George 1844 of Stanbridge and Lavinia nee George were in Kentish Town, George 1855 of Slapton and Elizabeth were in Mile End, Old Town (a railway town) John 1831 from Toddington and William were in Acton, Joseph 1834 of Dagnall and Elizabeth nee Naylor were in Hammersmith, William North Tearle and Emily were in Camberwell. It’s noo far a stretch to point out that there are family ties throughout all of this, but the strongest ones are to George 1844 and William North and Emily. George is a Stanbridge man, so ties to the village are very strong, and a railway voyage was an adventure. William North T and Emily must have gone back to Leighton Buzzard to have their last child, because Monta Monica 1876 died in Leighton Buzzard in 1877.

So we have now uncovered the story of John 1823 and his son John 1856. Interestingly, we have also visited the stories of John’s mother, Mary 1803, and even of his grandparents, John 1770 and Mary nee Janes. In two sons, we have traversed from 1770 to 1901.


Tearle, Sidney John, 1880, Dunstable, UK

Sidney John Tearle, Lance Corporal

Jo Smith wrote: My granddad was Sidney John Tearle, born in Dunstable on 22 Nov 1880. His father (my great granddad) was Charles Bowler Tearle. He died 18 Mar 1970. I don’t know that much about my father’s family, except that my granddad’s family came from either Eaton Bray, or maybe Stanbridge, Bedfordshire, and that he had a few brothers, 4 or 5 I think. My granddad was 31345 LCpl Sidney John Tearle, 2 Middlesex Regt. In WW1 he was awarded the Military Medal for Gallantry after rescuing other soldiers while they were under fire. I have attached the letter he received from King George – see below.

My dad, now deceased, was Ernest Leonard Sidney Tearle, born in Dunstable 17 Mar 1917. The only boy, he had 3 sisters. My dad was in the navy during WW2 and I think he mainly worked on mine sweepers.


Paul Moseley came across the references above to the Tearle family and wrote:

‘I was interested to note Jo Smith’s comments regarding LCpl S J Tearle as I have in my collection, this brave gentleman’s Military Medal.”

Jo also said this of her grandfather:

I thought I would tell you some memories I have of my grandfather Sidney John Tearle. I always remember him having a fresh carnation in the button hole of his jacket & a coronation pen in his top pocket. He & my grandmother lived in an end of terrace house right next door to a coach depot called Costin’s Coaches in Dunstable. In their garden they had some lovely gooseberry bushes which had the loveliest tasting fruit. He wasn’t a very tall man, he was only about 5ft 4in, as was my dad Ernest. Sidney lived to a good age because he was 89 when he passed away, so had a good full life.

The King's message which accompanied Sydney's Military Medal.

The King’s message which accompanied Sydney’s Military Medal.

Sydney is the brother of Pvt George Tearle, who is buried in the Dunstable Cemetery. His parents were Charles Bowler Tearle 1849 of Dunstable and Constance nee Dickens. His grandparents were James 1806 Tebworth and Mary Ann nee Webb. Mary’s mother was Charlotte Bowler, hence Charles’ middle name. Sydney’s gg-grandparents were Richard 1778 Stanbridge and Mary nee Pestel and his ggg-grandparents were Joseph 1737 and Phoebe nee Capp. It would be no surprise that the boys called themselves Wesleyan Methodists. Phoebe was a staunch believer.


Tearle, John Gates, 1890, Wolverton, UK

I’d heard that there was a Tearle memorial in Cosgrove Church and it took me two trips there even to find it. However, the adventure was worth the trouble because this is a fascinating story. You can see below the memorial to “Those who served” in WW1 and amongst the names was John G Tearle.  His parents were Charles 1859 of Stanbridge and Lizzie nee Gates. They called him John Gates Tearle.  He had the service number 1469 and he fought with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

WW1 Memorial on the wall of St Peter and St Paul, Cosgrove

WW1 Memorial on the wall of St Peter and St Paul, Cosgrove

Now, Lizzie Gates was the daughter of Ephraim Gates and Sarah nee Tearle 1837 Stbg, and Sarah’s parents were Abel 1810 Stbg and Martha nee Emmerton. This means she is on the branch Joseph 1737 via William 1769 and Sarah nee Clark. You can see the marriages of both Abel and Sarah in the Stanbridge banns register.  Thus Lizzie is on the branch Joseph 1737.

Charles’ parents were William 1832 Stbg and Catharine nee Fountain. William was the brother of my gg-grandfather James 1827 Stbg so Charles was a cousin of my g-grandfather Levi, the blacksmith of Wing. This puts him on the branch John 1741.

You can see John just 10 months old, in the Wolverton census of 1891.

1891 = Charles 1860 Stbg Lizzie 32 Rose L 7 John G 10m in Wolverton. Charles is a railway worker, like his father, and is living amongst a group of railway employees, possibly employee accommodation.

And then we see them one last time in the Wolverton census of 1900.

1901 = Charles 1860 Stbg Lizzie 42 John 10 Nellie 6 in Wolverton. Charles is a railway platelayer and is living at 524 Glyn Sq, Wolverton. So I’m now fairly sure this was tightly-packed worker accommodation.

John married Violet Elmore in 1913 and they had a son in 1914 who they called Richard Elmore Tearle. This is where John’s story becomes very sad. Richard was working in Coventry during the Blitz of 1940 and he was tragically killed in a bombing raid. You can see his story on the WW2 page.

List of men from Cosgrove who served in WW1

List of men from Cosgrove who served in WW1

Detail of the list, showing John G Tearle

Detail of the list, showing John G Tearle