Thanks to Kathy in Australia for passing this on:
There’s a hand written inscription on the back of what is clearly a professionally taken photo. It reads: Aunt Louie and Uncle Alf Ellacott, Babbacombe. Father’s sister.
It’s a lovely photo and nice addition to the archive.
Part of the info Kath passed on was this report in the Western Daily Press (I’ve cut out the middle bit) of the degrees awarded at Bristol University in 1922 including Uncle Stan’s 2:2 in engineering.
I’ve got a lot of new data to sort through!
I think I’ve firmed up James Ellacott born 1665 and there’s a chance that his father was Robert although his birth year of about 1625 makes this 50:50 at the moment, but there are about 150 new Ellacott leads in my notebook now and hopefully a fuller picture will emerge from them. However, who knows when I’ll be able to sit down and go through them‽
It seems that the Ellicott drapery business may have died a natural death. In 1926 when it was being wound up, Alfred was 56 and his sisters Annie and Adela were 59 and 70 respectively. Julia, the family milliner had married in 1911 aged 39 and had probably moved away – her husband Fred Bidwell died in Southampton in 1932. So it looks like the sisters had moved or retired prompting the move to “Ellicott & Son” in 1923 in an attempt to keep it going. The son in question must have been William because as I’ve mentioned before, Ted was in the Seychelles with Cable & Wireless and Stan was an engineer and it is now clear was on a ship bound for Lagos as the business was closing.
William married Peggy Brunsdon, who was from Swindon, in Gloucester in early 1929 and moved to South East London soon after, so it seems likely that his interest in the business had rapidly waned, if he was interested at all. This must have prompted Alfred to close the business and retire. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to discover William’s occupation yet but it looks unlikely to have been drapery.
I was trawling the newspaper archive (britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk), taking advantage of their half price month offer (NOV50), and finally came across this advert from The Western Morning News and Mercury for November 20, 1926.
John Yeo is selling off the drapery stock from a number of businesses including Ellicott and Son. So we have an end date for the business, now we just need a reason.
Going to Devon to hunt ancestors was an expedition long needed. I had two principal aims; to dig further back in time and discover the earliest generations of Ellicotts that I could, and to discover what happened to A& J Ellicott’s drapers shop in Torquay. We planned an itinerary that would allow a day at the Devon Heritage Centre and a few days exploring the area, including a visit to Farlecombe and Sampford Courtenay.
So, day one:
The heritage centre had plenty of parish records to trawl both in transcript and on microfiche, and I was fairly successful; adding three generations to what I knew and can now look back to the 1660s and a certain James Ellacott in Zeal Monachorum.
There weren’t, however, as many trade directories or business records available as I’d hoped and I was only able to narrow down the timeframe in which to look further. Interestingly, A&J Ellicott became, in about 1925, Ellicott & Son. – interesting because by this time Alfred’s sons were largely elsewhere. Edgar was in the Seychelles, Stan was engineering and heading for Sierra Leone, which leaves William. William got married in Gloucestershire in 1929 and soon after moved to Woolwich, so if he is the “& son” his removal would go some way to explain the business’s disappearance from the 1929 edition. I fear/suspect a trip to Torquay may be required!
All of which leaves a few loose ends but at least I feel that I’ve made good progress and I’ve still got a good amount of fragmentary data to go through.
The next day we went to Newton Abbott market and then tracked down Farlecombe, Uncle Stan’s old farm. The narrow tracks became more recognisable and as we drew up to the farmhouse it was immediately familiar. Thankfully the current occupant was in the yard with her horse and she remembered “Old Mr Ellicott” so we were able to have a quick look round, which was most enjoyable.
On the third afternoon we arrived in Sampford Courtenay, the centre of the area the Ellicott/Ellacott family lived before moving to Torquay. It is a charming village with lots of thatch and picturesque cottages. We found St Andrew’s church and started clambering among the gravestones looking for any Ellacotts we could, uncertain if there were any to find. About half way round, success! there was the grave of Susan, William and their daughter Susan Snell Ellacott. The gravestone was crisp and legible and as far as you can jump for joy in a graveyard, I did. We also spent an interesting few minutes in the church itself, which was an education learning about the Prayerbook Rebellion of 1542.
After all that excitement, I’m working out which part of the country to visit next – possibly the Medway Towns to look for the original Philip!
I’m off to Devon next week on a well-deserved break. I will also be taking the time to visit the Devon Heritage Centre and am ready to dive into the microfiche, thumb the trade directories and search the archive. Should be a lot of fun! Hopefully I’ll find out more about the drapery business and make some more connections further back in time. Unfortunately some of the local records are being re-shelved and may be unavailable, but by emailing ahead I’ve got a few documents set aside for me by the very helpful Mandy.
The next day we’re going to visit Sampford Courtenay, where the Ellicotts were based until the move to Torquay, and see if we can find some pertinent gravestones in the churchyard.
After a few hours sifting through the lists of results from Find My Past and sorting them into trees, I’ve managed to link up the Honeychurch, Winkleigh and Ashreigney lists. There’s still a question mark over some of Richard and Joanna’s later children; whether it’s still the same family as there’s 21 years between the oldest and youngest on the list with parents “Richard and Joan[na]” – not impossible, obviously, but questionable. I’ve put some of the info into Ancestry and got plenty of reassuring green leaf hints, so that’s some sort of confirmation that I’m heading in the right direction.
There’s no obvious link yet to the list of Ellacotts in nearby Hatherleigh, which is the next one to tackle, and there’s still a biggish gap in data for the mid 18th Century making the Sampford Courtenay list still a bit detached.
And they really weren’t very imaginative with names either; Richard, Mary, Elizabeth, Thomas, William and James in abundance.
The beauty of the internet age for the genealogist is that new stuff gets digitised all the time. Find my Past recently (I think it was recently) released a whole tranche of Devon parish records and I thought it would be useful to have a poke around them looking for more Ellicotts. Because there seems to have been a substantial period of time when the family, or the name at least, centred around Sampford Courtenay in North Devon, I ran a search for Ellicott* and Sampford with no time restriction and got about 50 results. It was clear from these results that there were four distinct Ellacot family groups in the area at different times; all very good, except they don’t really connect with each other and there’s a noticeable gap in data between 1700-1780.
So I expanded the search to include the communities around Sampford Courtenay, places like Bondleigh, Ashreighney and North Tawton, and got a further 40 results. Some of these tie in with what is already known plus there seems to be a big Ellacott family in Winkleigh in the 1820s but there is still a lot of work to do. This is when genealogy becomes a jigsaw puzzle; I have lots of data but no clear picture. Now is when the fun begins; matching dates, places and people – wish me luck.
*including Ellacott and Ellacot
When I was a child we spent several summer holidays at my uncle Stan’s farm at Farlecombe on the edge of Dartmoor. It was an idyllic time, even the boredom of the stupidly long journey down there would evaporate as we turned into Devon’s narrow lanes – although this may have been due to the adrenalin rush as the possibility of tractor-based calamity increased.
Uncle Stan (actually my great uncle; Alfred Stanley Ellicott) was, to me, the archetypal farmer with his heavy corduroy trousers and wellington boots, he seemed completely at one with his surroundings as his thick Devon burr coaxed his cattle down the lanes through this beautiful landscape. He could have been there forever.
Many years later I’m busy tracing my grandfather’s globe-trotting for Cable and Wireless and I start to notice another Ellicott appearing in the passenger list searches and it transpires that his brother, far from being a lifelong son of the soil, spent many years as a civil engineer in Sierra Leone, something no doubt other members of the family already knew but, at the time, was quite a surprise to me!
I suppose the moral of this post is never to assume you already know a person’s story: ask (about) your relatives, and even if you never find someone famous in your tree, there are always interesting tales to tell.