My name is Neil Prince, aged 74, and I am a retired Firefighter. I was born in Hednesford, Staffordshire at the home of my maternal Grandmother, Fanny Newton. I was always fascinated by the stories that were told around the large coal fire in her rambling old house. I was born at the end of WW11 and my Grandad had served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during WW1. He had died prematurely as a result of his injuries which were sustained prior to his medical discharge. I never knew him, just photographs and those memorable stories. Fanny had remarried before I was born.
Those family stories have remained with me, creating such a feeling of belonging that I decided to start on the ‘genealogy trail’. I knew that Fanny was born in Oakham, Rutland so I obtained some facts from the site ‘Find My Past’ and armed with these set off for Oakham to stay for a couple of days.
I was very lucky as my first ‘port of call’ was Rutland County Museum. The staff there were very helpful and pointed me in the right directions to assist my early research. My main contact was Jayne Williams who, through her knowledge and experience, unravelled my stories and opened avenues to further my family history; too much to write in this blog! For their services, I am eternally grateful.
Grandma Fanny was born in Oakham in Dean Street in 1884 and was christened along with three of her siblings at All Saint’s Church, in August 1895, aged 11. It was common place then for children to be christened as a ‘job lot’!
In 1879 her brothers Edward and George had been christened together. George was later to lose his life fighting for his country in France at the Battle of the Somme. His body lies in Chapelle British Cemetery. He was 34 years old and is remembered on Oakham’s War Memorial at All Saint’s Church.
Fanny’s father John Newton was recorded as a labourer, bricklayer and stonemason. Whilst researching John Newton it came to light that his father, William Newton born 1818 in Exton, married Sarah Hercock in Easton in 1839. The family moved to Old Gaol Lane, Oakham around 1840 (Census 1841). John Newton is recorded on the 1851 Census as 8 years old and living at Northgate Street.
The next piece of research led to a ‘golden moment‘!
With my wife, we began to search Kilburn Road Cemetery in Oakham for either Fanny’s father (John’s) grave or that of William, her grandfather’s grave. Whilst doing the ‘footslog’ searching in the older section, I came across a headstone and the word ‘Newton’ was just visible. We came back the following week and started restoring it. After a couple of visits the wording became clear and it had details of William’s birth and death together with those of his wife Sarah.
The stone had been erected by Mr Benjamin Adam, a solicitor and dignitary of Oakham. William was employed by Mr. Adam as a gardener and his wife as a domestic servant. The family lived at ‘The Cottage’ in Uppingham Road. The building is still there and is now a school called ‘The Shires’. Ironically it is sited approximately 150 yards from my starting point at Rutland County Museum!
The inscription etched on the gravestone was moving and emotional, showing respect and loyalty in their relationship as employer and employee.
On telling my immediate family of our find, they were keen to visit Oakham and whilst there, take some photographs round the grave of William Newton. For the grandchildren, they were standing beside their Great Great Great Great Grandfather’s grave!
I am led to believe that this is a rare occurrence!
My times in Oakham somehow feel very comforting and it is reassuring to know that I am walking in my ancestors footsteps!
Research is still ongoing but the focus has now moved to Exton and surrounding areas.
Transcripts have unearthed a strong possibility that I may be a very distant relative of the great man Sir Isaac Newton!!
I am now having to look out for falling apples….!!!
We would like to thank Neil Prince B.E.M, for his wonderful blog and wish him good luck as it moves to Exton.