Joseph Oliver 1635, Brede to Heathfield

Joseph Oliver baptised 19 April 1635 in Brede, Sussex

St George's Brede
St George’s Brede

Wife – unknown Mary in Sussex
Jane (1661-1677, Heathfield)
William (born 1665, Heathfield)
Nicholas (born 1669, Heathfield)
John (born 1671, Heathfield)
Thomas (born 1676, Heathfield)

Finally getting back to my own family research after a few years concentrating on study and other people’s research.  I received an email from a contact wanting to see my family tree with regard to the Oliver family.  This fired me on a couple of weeks ago to pick up the family and carry on the research.

Now I had searched to find Joseph for some years but couldn’t find an appropriate baptism anywhere near Heathfield where he married and had children. But back in 2009 with some help from another contact also descended from the Oliver family we found an earlier family of Oliver’s in Sedlescombe and Brede near Battle in Sussex.

By checking the Sussex Family History Group baptism database I eventually found a baptism that looked promising.  Joseph baptised at Brede on 19 April 1635.  I found a number of siblings for him including a set of twins, Lydia and Rebecca.  There are twins everywhere in my family tree!  If I search the baptisms for a Joseph Oliver between 1620 and 1640, this baptism is the only one to appear.  All the children were baptised to William Oliver and by checking the Sussex Marriage Index a likely marriage was found.  William Oliver and Susan Weekes married on 10 June 1634 in Warbleton.  Both of this parish.  So could this be the connection?

So what do I believe links this William back to Brede?  Well firstly I could not find deaths for either William or Susan in Warbleton or anywhere close by.

But in Brede, William Oliver was buried 16 May 1653.  Susan his widow, was buried in Brede on 10 January 1669.

Secondly they baptised all their children as above, in Brede, none were baptised to a William and Susan in Warbleton.  And there was no other suitable Joseph to be the father to the next generation all baptised and living in Heathfield.

I am yet to search for Susan Weekes’ baptism but I wonder if she was born and baptised in Warbleton and that was where William met her.  Perhaps Joseph went to Warbleton to work or live with relatives?

Lastly there are a number of documents that I need a closer look at, that I found on The Keep (East Sussex Records Office) website that show a William Oliver witnessing various records in Heathfield, (next to Warbleton) but I cannot find a William Oliver from Heathfield or Warbleton.  So again I believe this to be the correct William.

Now of course I could be completely on the wrong track and will continue to explore all avenues but I think I have found the connection to Joseph.  Now I have just got to find his death!


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My ancestors of the Weald

I work at the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in a Unit set up to help conserve a very special landscape.  Long before I started working there or even before I had heard of the High Weald or AONBs, the Wealden part of Sussex was a special place to me.

Grandparents at Punnetts Town
Grandparents at Punnetts Town

My grandparents lived in Punnetts Town and my childhood was punctuated with holidays there, exploring the woods, gills, fields and footpaths around the area between there and Dallington.  I always felt a strong affinity with the landscape and have always felt drawn there as if I was at home despite living some 10 miles away.

It was not until 2004 when I embarked upon my family history that I realised why, for 500 years and more my family have lived in that part of Sussex.  Burwash, Dallington, Warbleton, Wadhurst, Heathfield are all names embedded in my family tree and now I know why I feel so at home.

So what has this got to do with working at the High Weald AONB, well this is a special landscape, and as quoted on the homepage of the website ‘A medieval landscape of wooded, rolling hills studded with sandstone outcrops; small, irregular-shaped fields; scattered farmsteads; and ancient routeways.’  I feel an immense pride in the fact that this landscape was shaped by my ancestors along with many other local families who helped to farm the medieval landscape, fell the woods and create the sunken routeways.  I have been carrying on that tradition for 15 years by ‘doing my bit’ at the Unit.

Dudwell Valley, photographer Janina Holubecki for the High Weald AONB Unit
Dudwell Valley, photographer Janina Holubecki for the High Weald AONB Unit

The Weald is not a wild place like the Lake District or the Peaks, its beauty to me at least, is in the fact it has been managed over centuries by people making a living for themselves in a number of landscape based industries such as farming and the Iron industry, which was so prevalent in the Weald during the Tudor times.

Through this blog I will tell the human stories of some of those who lived and worked in this landscape and why this landscape is so important and why we should care today.

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William Pilbeam, Chicken crammer!

William John Pilbeam was born on 4 April 1849 in Warbleton, Sussex and baptised on 6 May 1849 at Dallington Church to James and Sarah.  James was an agricultural labourer.

When William was 2 he was living with his parents and Ann, aged 9, Harriet, aged 8 and Emily, aged 3 at Rushlake Green at the time of the 1851 census. James was an Agricultural Labourer and Dairyman.  William had five siblings, all born and baptised either in Warbleton or Dallington.

During the 1861 census William was still living at home, aged 12 with his parents. Also at home were Harriet, aged 18, Emily, aged 10 and Lucy Hannah, aged 9. William was working as an Agricultural Labourer on the farm. James was now a Bailiff and Agricultural Labourer on a farm at Tye House, Herstmonceux, (probably down Lower Road near Golden Cross, Herstmonceux).

Little Rigford FarmBy 1871 the family had moved to Little Rigford, Earl’s Down, Warbleton. James, William’s father had died the previous year and Sarah was now a farmer of 20 acres. Harriet, 28 was married to James Martin who was helping on the farm. Emily, aged 23 still lived at home. William, 22 was a gardener.

The marriage of William John Pilbeam and Phillis Funnell took place on 4 April 1877 at the Parish Church, Warbleton, Sussex. William was described on the certificate as a 28 year old bachelor and Farmer from Warbleton and Phillis was described as a 28 year old spinster from Warbleton. Both fathers, James Pilbeam and John Funnell were Farmers and both deceased. The witnesses were Lucy Hannah Pilbeam, sister of the Groom and James White, Phillis’s stepfather.

By 1881 William had taken over the farm at Little Rigford and was living with his wife Phillis and their first sons, William, aged 3 and Thomas, aged 2.  Sarah, William’s mother, by this time, 67 years of age had moved to a cottage, Golan Cottage, Warbleton with Emily and her daughter Edith, aged 4. There is no mention of a husband for Emily.

At the time of the 1891 census Little Rigford Farm had become Rushford Farm, (still in the Pilbeam family to this day). William was a Farmer and Chicken Fattener. With them were children; William, aged 13, helping on the farm, Thomas, aged 12, Caroline, aged 8, George, aged 6 and Lucy, aged 3.

Chicken Fattening or ‘cramming’ was carried out on several farms in the Warbleton area and for a short time proved to be very profitable. Poultry farming was especially suited to small farms because of the skill and supervision required. The farmers organised themselves into two groups, rearing and fattening. Fatteners were often called ‘higglers’ and after collecting lean chickens from the rearers they would keep them for a month or so and sell them deadweight to the central markets in London, sent by train from Heathfield. In 1893 at a time when William was a chicken fattener more than one million chickens were sent to London.

The chickens were fed with oats and separated milk that was produced on the farm and the manure used on the farm. Thus a farmer could run a farm and cram chickens to help his family survive at a time when agriculture was generally on the wane in the Weald. To dispense with labour, the chickens, previously fed by hand were now crammed by a machine worked by a treadle. Apparently chicken cramming was a lucrative business and earned a lot of money for the young farmers who took part in this dubious activity!

The machine could be worked by one man, who could work the treadle with his foot and hold the bird with his two hands. The cram, mixed to a paste was poured into a hopper and one press of the foot would plunge a measured quantity of the cram directly into the crop of the bird, along 8 inches of rubber tubing which had been forced down its throat. Chicks could quadruple their weight in several weeks.

After killing, the chickens would be plucked, usually the stubbing (pinching out the new feathers and any remaining stubs carried out by women) and then turned quickly over a flame to singe remaining feathers. Then they were powdered with flour, placed in a press, breast down to give the appearance of a plumper breast and packed and sent to market.

By the time of the 1901 census William was still living at Rushford Farm. He was aged 51 and a farmer, however there is no mention of chicken cramming still be carried out on the farm. Living with him and Phillis were Caroline, aged 18, George, (my great grandfather) aged 16 who was working on the farm and Lucy, aged 13.

William died on 26 May 1919 at home on the farm at the age of 70 years old.  He died from Apoplexy 1 hour and the informant was his son, George Pilbeam, who by that time was living at Blackdown, Punnetts Town.  He was buried at the Independent Chapel, Cade Street, Punnetts Town and left a will with the sole beneficiary being his wife, Phillis.

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John Funnell, 1818 – 1863

John Funnell was my 3 x great grandfather, born in Chiddingly in 1818 and he ended up at the Three Cups Inn near Punnetts Town.

Father – John Thelwell
Mother – Phillis Funnell (1801 – 1879)
Wife – Elizabeth Harriet Message (1822 -1914)

Children:Elizabeth Harriet (born 1842)
Mary (born 1844)
John (born 1846)
Orpah (born 1847)
Phillis (1849 – 1947)
Lois (born 1851)
Charlotte (1853 – 1889)
Owen (1855 – 1910)
Caroline (born 1857)
Horace (born 1859)
Edith (1861 – 1875)
Rhoda (born 1863)

John was born illegitimately on 6 November 1818 and baptised at Chiddingly Parish Church on 28 March 1819. His father appeared to be a John Thelwell, a gunner driver stationed in nearby Ringmer

John married Elizabeth Harriet Message on 27 October 1840 at Herstmonceux Church. They were both from Bodle Street and he was a labourer.

By the time of the 1841 census John and Elizabeth were living with a lodger, David Harmer in Sandhole Lane, Warbleton. John was an Agricultural Labourer.

Ten years later at the time of the 1851 census John and Elizabeth remained in Sandhole Lane, Warbleton, along with David Harmer still lodging with the family. The children with them were: Elizabeth aged 9, Mary aged 7, John aged 5, Orpah aged 4 and Phillis aged 2. John was an Agricultural Labourer.

Copyright Julian P Guffogg and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Three Cups Inn, Copyright Julian P Guffogg and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

By 1861 the family had moved and were living at the ‘Three Cups‘ Beerhouse, Three Cups, Punnetts Town. John was described as a Farmer of 15 acres and presumably running the Beerhouse too. He lived with his wife Elizabeth and children; Elizabeth aged 20, Orpah aged 14, Lois aged 10, Charlotte aged 8, Owen aged 6, Caroline aged 4, Horace aged 2 and a grandson Leonard aged 4 months. Leonard appeared to be the illegitimate son of Elizabeth, their eldest daughter.

John Funnell died on 22 May 1863 in Warbleton accidentally killed by the wheel of a cart running over him. John’s wife Elizabeth Harriet went on to marry James White on 5 February 1868 at Warbleton Church and appeared in the 1871 census at the Three Cups Beerhouse where James was the Beerhouse Keeper. Living with them were: Orpah aged 24, Charlotte aged 18, both Waiters, presumably in the Beerhouse, Owen aged 16, Horace aged 12, Edith aged 10 and Rhoda aged 8. Also with them was Leonard, grandson aged 10.

Ten years later in 1881 James was a Farmer of 30 acres and Beerhouse Keeper, still living at the Three Cups Inn with Elizabeth Harriet, wife and Horace aged 22, Rhoda aged 18, Barmaid.

By the 1891 census James and Elizabeth Harriet had moved to Thomas’s Farm, Dallington where James was Farmer. Rhoda aged 27 lived with them. They were still there by the time of the 1901 census. James was still a Farmer and Rhoda still lived at home aged 38. Also with them were 2 grandchildren, Maud aged 13 and Douglas aged 8.

Giffords Farm
Giffords Farm

On 4 March 1914 Elizabeth Harriet died of Apoplexy and exhaustion at Giffords Farm, Brightling, Sussex.

© Kerry Baldwin

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Hannah Oliver 1780 – 1868 – who was she?

Hannah Oliver – 1780 – 1868?

Probable ancestry of Hannah baptised 17 September 1780 at Warbleton:
Father – Joseph Oliver baptised 23 October 1737 at Warbleton, Sussex
Mother – Mary Moor (married 4 May 1768 at Wartling, Sussex)
Mary baptised 10 February 1771, Warbleton, Sussex
Sarah baptised 19 June 1774, Warbleton, Sussex
James baptised 6 October 1776, Warbleton, Sussex
Thomas baptised 20 July 1783, Warbleton, Sussex
Jesse baptised 16 October 1785, Warbleton, Sussex
Ann baptised 4 May 1788, Warbleton, Sussex

The story so far:
The search for Hannah began with the baptism record for her daughter Elizabeth Harriet Message. She was baptised at the Independent Chapel, Chapel Cross, Cade Street, Sussex on 1 April 1823 to __________ and Hannah Message.

From this I presumed that Elizabeth’s father had died somewhere during 1821 to 1823, however after extensive searches of local parish registers nothing could be found. On Elizabeth’s marriage certificate to John Funnell, 27 October 1840 at Herstmonceux she gives her father as Richard Message. (Although it should be noted on her second marriage certificate dated 5 February 1868 at Warbleton to James White she leaves her father as blank).

So I started searching for a Richard Message and came up with a marriage to Hannah Oliver on 20 October 1803 at Dallington, Sussex on the Sussex Marriage Index. Then I found the baptism of a Richard Message on 9 February 1807 at Warbleton in the parish registers to Richard and Hannah Message. Then all went quiet.

Then to my surprise on a search on Ancestry for Richard Message I found records of a transportation to New South Wales as a convict in 1807 on the Admiral Gambier. To cut a long story short Richard Message from Sussex was convicted of Larceny in 1807 and transported, pardoned in 1816 and then married the same year to Mary Ann Mullins in Hobart. He died in 1821 in Hobart. The ages fit with the Richard Message married to Hannah Oliver, supposing he is the Richard Message baptised in Shoreditch 1786 on the IGI to Richard Message and Mary. No baptism has been found for a Richard in Sussex and various family trees that I have seen have Richard Message senior as coming from Dallington, Sussex. This is yet to be proved by me.

Hannah also had an illegitimate child before she married Richard, Benjamin Carley Oliver baptised at Warbleton on 16 February 1800.

Possible census returns for Hannah 1841 to 1861 are as follows:
1841 – Herstmonceux, Alehouse
John Catt 50 Ag Lab
Hannah Message 60

1851 – Herstmonceux, Bodle Street
John Catt, head, widower, 63, Ag Lab born Warbleton
Hannah Message, servant, widow, 70, born Warbleton
Emily Sands, servant, unmarried 15 born Arlington

1861 – Warbleton, on common (not far from the Three Cups Inn where her daughter and family were living)
John Catt, head, widower, 74, Ag Lab, born Warbleton
Hannah Message, servant, widow, 80 Housekeeper, born Warbleton
Caroline Funnell, granddaughter, 4 born Wartling (although Caroline, daughter of John Funnell and Elizabeth Harriot Message is also with her parents at the Inn the details are exactly the same so I am sure this is the same child with her grandmother).

The last bit of the jigsaw is the death certificate I obtained from GRO which could possibly be Hannah. She died on 12 November 1868 at 3 Cups, Warbleton, 88 years which does fit with the baptism I have. However the informant, Hannah Hedgcock who I believe was a neighbour, there were certainly Hedgcocks next door on the 1861 census has entered that Hannah was the widow of Thomas Message, Farm Labourer. I have been unable to find a marriage for a Thomas Message with a Hannah. There was a Thomas Message who lived next door to Hannah and George Hedgcock in the 1861 census but he was half Hannah’s age. Therefore I am assuming this is a mistake, Hannah Hedgcock did not know who Hannah Message had been married to or more interestingly Hannah had spread that rumour around to stop gossip about Richard Message who was a convict!

So the hunt for Hannah continues. Who exactly was she, was her husband a transported convict? Sadly the records I have acquired about Richard all say he came from Sussex but nothing more than that, sadly none add Warbleton. If you have any details about this woman please contact me.

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