Cornwall to Morgannwg: 6 May 2005

Continued from: 5 May 2005, Cornwall

We woke up about 5:30 at the Trewint B&B near Blisland, Cornwall, where we had spent the last two nights, and packed our things. We watched the news on TV. More election results were out, and it seemed that the Liberal Democrats had made gains at the expense of Labour, which seemed satisfactory to me, as it might send a message to Tony Blair that his war mongering was unacceptable.It looked as though Cornwall, in particular, was a Tory and Labout-free zone.


Ytewing B&B at Waterloo, near Blisland, Cornwall

Trewint B&B at Waterloo, near Blisland, Cornwall

We had breakfast at 7:30, and left Trewint at about 8:15, driving up to St Breward again, and then across the moors to Camelford, and down to the church at Lanteglos, and took a couple of photos of the outside, but did not go in and take pictures in the churchyard or inside the church, as we only knew of one family member who had been born there, my great granduncle Richard John Tilley Greenaway, younger brother of my great grandmother Elizabeth Greenaway, who married William Matthew Growdon. Richard was born and baptised at Lanteglos-by-Camelford in 1847, but as the family seemed to move around a lot at that time, his siblings were all born elsewhere.

North Cornwall coast at Tintagel, 6 May 2005

North Cornwall coast at Tintagel, 6 May 2005

We went on to Tintagel, where William Matthew Growdon’s mother, Christiana Dyer, had lived with her first husband, John Pope. Her two eldest children, Thomas and Philippa Pope, were born there in 1838 and 1840, but seem to have disappeared, as we could find no record of their subsequent marriage or death.

"King Arthur's Castle" hotel at Titagel, Cornwall. 5 May 2005

“King Arthur’s Castle” hotel at Tintagel, Cornwall. 5 May 2005

At Tintagel there was a large block of a hotel, calling itself King Arthur’s Castle, a rather kitsch Disneyland type of thing, with an “Excali-Bar”. We drove to the church, a little outside the village, and found a couple of Sandercocks buried there, and took photos of the church and of the island from the cliffs.

UKtrip59Those Sandercocks were probably not related, as  ours seemed to have lived mostly in Cardinham, on the south side of Bodmin Moor, and the ones on north-eastern Cornwall seemed to be entirely separate.

Tintgel village, from the churchyard. 6 May 2005

Tintagel village, from the churchyard. 6 May 2005

Then we headed east along the north coast, driving through Devon, and stopped at Barnstaple, where we found an interesting market, where we bought some batteries, and a newspaper at the newsagents,
and some roast beef rolls with horseradish sauce.

Market in Barnstaple, Devon

Market in Barnstaple, Devon

We drove through Exmoor forest and stopped for a picnic lunch at the side of the road, eating the beef rolls we had bought in Barnstaple.

Exmoor Forest, Somerset. 6 May 2005

Exmoor Forest, Somerset. 6 May 2005

.We joined the M5 at Taunton, and stopped at the Gordano Services centre for petrol. My great grandparents William Allen Hayes and Mary Barber Stooke had been married at Easton-in-Gordano, and some other members of the Hayes family had been buried there, but we did not go off the motorway to have a look since they did not seem to have lived there very long. We drove on and crossed the Severn Bridge to south Wales.

Crossing the Severn into South Wales 6 May 2005

Crossing the Severn into South Wales 6 May 2005

There were now two bridges, and we took the eastern one, which I had walked across in 1968, after visiting my college friend Chris Gwilliam at Chepstow when on a “seeing people” hitchhiking tour during the college vacation.

We tried to get off the M4 and go to Whitchurch, which we reached by a rather roundabout route, and looked for somewhere to stay near there, and there didn’t seem to be anywhere suitable, so we drove up to Caerphilly, with lots of roadworks on the way through the rush-hour traffic. We saw the castle there, and settled for a hotel on the edge of town, one of a chain similar to the Formula I hotels in South Africa. It was bland and boring, and looked like any such hotel anywhere in the world, but at least there was a table where one could put the computer. In spite of their name, laptop computers don’t really work very well on laps, and tend to slide off onto the floor. At the Trewint B&B we had managed to balance it on a bedside pedestal, after moving all the fluffy toys and dolls onto the bed.

We tried to phone my cousin Simon Hayes, who lived in Cardiff, but at first got no response, and left a voice mail message for him, and he phoned back a bit later to say he was driving home from work. He commuted each day to work in Bristol.

My cousin Simon Hayes outside his house in Cardiff. 6 May 2005

My cousin Simon Hayes outside his house in Cardiff. 6 May 2005

We drove over the hill to Cardiff to meet Simon and his wife Gill, and their younger daughter Jessica, aged 7. Their elder daughter, Sophia, aged 10, had gone to a Guide vigil.

Gill, Jessica and Simon Hayes. Cardiff, 6 May 2005.

Gill, Jessica and Simon Hayes. Cardiff, 6 May 2005.

We had supper with them, and spent a very pleasant evening chatting about family history, and politics and various other things. Simon was the son of my second cousin Roger Hayes, who had been a marine engineer. We drove back to the hotel in Caerphilly, and went to bed about midnight.

Simon & Steve Hayes, Cardiff 6 May 2005.

Simon & Steve Hayes, Cardiff 6 May 2005.

Continued at Wales and Ellwood cousins.

UK Trip 5 May 2005: Cornwall

Continued from Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

We had breakfast at 7:00 am, and by 8:00 set off to explore the Bodmin Moor villages where some of my ancestors had lived. We went first to Cardinham, where William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock had
got married in 1792, and the first of their children were born. Just over the road from the church was the village hall, where they were setting up the polling station for the general election.

Cardinham parish hall, Cornwall, being set up for use as a polling station in the General election, 5 May 2005

Cardinham parish hall, Cornwall, being set up for use as a polling station in the General election, 5 May 2005

Cardinham village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, where the Sandercock family had lived for several generations 5 May 2005

Cardinham village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, where the Sandercock family had lived for several generations 5 May 2005

The grass in the churchyard was dewy, but we found a number of tombstones of Sandercock and related families, and took photos of them with the digital camera and also of the interior of the church, where the pews were very ancient indeed, and it was quite a thought that ancestral bums had sat upon those pews.

St Meubred's Church, Cardinham, where William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock were married in 1792.

St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, where William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock were married in 1792.

The Sandercock family went quite a way back in Cardinham, but William Growden appeared from nowhere, and we have not been able to find where he was born or who his parents were. You can see more about the church and these families here, and the gravestone of the earliest Sandercocks is here. The church is also known for its Celtic style wheel-headed crosses, which are said to be the oldest in the area.

Celtic-style Wheel-headed crowss in Cardinham churchyard

Celtic-style wheel-headed cross in Cardinham churchyard

If you are reading this because you are interested in family history, and would like to learn more about these families and discuss them with others, you can find a discussion forum for the Growden family here, and one for the Sandercock family here.

Carvings at the end of one of the pews in St Meubred's Church, Cardinham, where ancestral bums had sat. Each pew seemed to have a different carving.

Carvings at the end of one of the pews in St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, where ancestral bums had sat. Each pew seemed to have a different carving.

From Cardinham we drove in to Bodmin, about 6 km away, and bought some more detailed Ordnance Survey maps, and then went to take some photos of the Growden family home at 3 Higher Bore Street, where the Growden family was living in 1861. My great grandfather, William Matthew Growden, was ten years old when they were living there. His father, Matthew Growden, was shown in the census as an agricultural labourer. His mother was Christiana Dyer, originally from Roche in Cornwall.


We also went to Scarlett’s Well, not far away, where my great grandfather, William Matthew Growden, was born in 1851. It was very interesting, as the well was a holy well, reputed to have healing powers.

Scarlett's Well, Bodmin, Cornwall. 5 May 2005

Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall. 5 May 2005

Next to it was a cottage that could well have been where the family lived, because it was the only dwelling in the vicinity. Though there had been some modern additions, the basic house looked very old, and it also made sense of Matthew Growden’s occupation as a “woodman”, someone who took care of the woods on the land. For more pictures of the area, including the cottage and William Matthew Growdon, see here.

We went on to Penpillick, near Tywardreath, whiere my grandfather, William George Growdon, had been born, and seeing an advertisement for cream teas went to a farmhouse and had some, but like so many other such places, the people were not Cornish, but had moved here from elsewhere a few years ago. They had a nice smooth dog, called Manic Mabel. We took some photos of the parish church in Tywardreath, but did not stay very long, because the family had not lived there very long either. We went to Par to look at the beach, and drove East along the the south Cornwall coast towards Fowey.

South Cornwall coast near Par. 5 May 2005

South Cornwall coast near Par. 5 May 2005

There was a footpath along the coast, but we did not walk along it, as we did not have enough time. If we ever win the Lotto and can afford to have a return visit it might be fun to do that. We turned inland at Fowey, and drove through Lostwithiel and St Neot. St Neot was where another Growden family had lived, though we have not found any link between it and ours. From there we went past the Dozmary Pool, where King Arthur’s sword was supposed to have been thrown after his death. It did not look much different from the Colliston Lake on the other side of the road.

Dozmary Pool, Cornwall, where King Arthur's sword is said to have been thrown after his death.

Dozmary Pool, Cornwall, where King Arthur’s sword is said to have been thrown after his death.

It was lunch time, and we went to Jamaica Inn nearby, but it looked too touristy, and very crowded. It was on the A30, the main road through the area, and it looked as if every passer-by had had the same idea. Instead we went to look at the parish of Temple, where Mary Ann Tilly had come from. She was my great great grandmother, and had married Richard Greenaway of St Breward, and their daughter Elizabeth Greenaway had married William Matthew Growdon.

Temple Church, Cornwall, 5 May 2005.

Temple Church, Cornwall, 5 May 2005.

Temple was a tiny village, but there were lots of cars there, and at first we thought that the entire population had come to vote all at once, but then we saw strangely dressed people, looking like druids or something, though some were dressed as friars or knights in suits of armour. They seemed to be coming up from the church, and it turned out to be a medieval wedding, and we spoke to some of the guests.

Medieval wedding at Temple, Cornwall. 5 May 2005.

Medieval wedding at Temple, Cornwall. 5 May 2005.

We then drove to St Breward, thinking to have lunch at the pub there. We drove across Bodmin Moor from Temple, and the road was on the surface instead of in a sunken lane, so one could see the horizon, and there were ponies that appeared to be wild wandering about on the moor.

Ponies on Bodmin Moor

Ponies on Bodmin Moor

It was 2:30 by the time we got to St Breward, and they stopped serving food after 2:00 pm, so we went back to Bodmin, to Weaver’s tea room, over the road from the Weaver’s bar where we had eaten the previous evening, and there at last they did have Cornish pasties on the menu. The woman running the place was from North London, however. There don’t seem to be any Cornish people around. She said she worked part time, and lived in Blisland, near where we were staying, and she said there were still some Greenaway families in the village.

Bodmin, Cornwall, 5 May 2005

Bodmin, Cornwall, 5 May 2005

We walked around the churchyard of St Petroc’s, where all the tombstones had been placed around the
walls, but there were no Growden ones. The church was closed at 3:00 pm. Though it was supposed to be western Ascension Day, there didn’t seem to be any services at any of the churches we had visited. There was a museum with exibits showing the history of Bodmin, and and we went up to The Beacon, a hill with views all around, but the day wasn’t clear enough to see very much. There was also an obelisk, a  memorial to Sir Walter Raleigh, on top of the hill.

St Breward Church and pub. 5 May 2005

St Breward Church and pub. 5 May 2005

We returned to St Breward, and wandered round the churchyard, taking pictures of tombstones, as there were several Greenaway ones, some quite recent, and had supper of sausage egg and chips at the pub, which was quite good. The sausages were real, and not like the bread-filled Walls sausages that were all one could get in England 40 years before.

Val Hayes in St Breward churchyard, 5 May 2005

Val Hayes in St Breward churchyard, 5 May 2005

We went down to Blisland again, and went to the church there, and took more photos in the churchyard, where the old school was being used as a polling station. Then went to the pub which was quite crowded, and had a beer, and were joined by a couple who had been at the medieval wedding at Temple, Martin and Bemi Murphy, and chatted to them for a while. They were originally from Manchester, but now lived at St Ives, where they ran an ice cream van, and they had made most of the costumes for the wedding.

Blisland Parish Church, 5 May 2005

Blisland Parish Church, 5 May 2005

When we got back to Trewint farm we went to bed, and watched TV for a while, when the first election result was announced, which was Sunderland South, which Labour held with a reduced majority.

Continued at Cornwall to Morgannwg, 6 May 2005.


Growden family in Lancashire

When we began researching our family history 40 years ago, we fairly soon discovered that there were Growden families in Lancashire. I wrote to a Joseph Growden in Bolton, Lancashire, and he said trhere was a family tradition that the family had originated in Cornwall, but when they cjecked it out, the earliest member of the family they knew of turned out to have been born in Rishton, Lancashire.

Now many more records are more easily available, and I’ve been able to piece together something of  the story.

To put it in a nutshell:

Joseph Growden, a blacksmith, was born in Bodmin in 1830. He married Mary Ann Knight of Roche in 1855 and worked in various places in Cornwall. In the 1871 Census they were at Kea, where their younger children were born, and in 1875 their daughter Catherine died there, aged about 14. In 1877 the eldest son, Thomas, married a local girl, and within the next couple of years the family moved to Caterall in Lancashire, where they seem to have stayed, with the exception of Thomas, who returned to Cornwall. Some lived at Rishton, and others at Radcliffe.

This Joseph Growden was my 1st cousin three times removed — in other words, he was the first cousin of my great grandfather William Matthew Growden, though being the son of an older brother, he was some 20 years older. That generation of Growdens seem to have got wanderlust, because in the late 1870s they scattered from Cornwall in different directions. My great grandfather came south to the Cape Colony, and his cousin Joseph went north to Lancashire. Another cousin, James Growden, had gone west to Canada some ten years earlier, and yet another cousin, Henry Growden, ended up in New Zealand, with some of his descendants living in the USA, in places as far apart as New Orleans and Alaska. So in that period, 1850 to 1880, Cornwall seems to have acted as a giant centrifuge, spitting out Growdens in all directions.

But back to the Lancashire ones.

Joseph Growden (1830-1887) and Mary Ann Knight (1836-1902) had eight children:

  1. Lavinia Growden (1855-1938)
  2. Thomas Henry Growden (1857-1919)
  3. William Henry Growden (1839-1954)
  4. Catherine Growden (1860-1875)
  5. Joseph Growden (1863-1928)
  6. John Growden (1865-1904)
  7. George Growden (1856-1940)
  8. Emily Growden (1867-?) married Richard Dilworth

Lavinia never married and Catherine died young, but all the others married and had children

First World War medals for George Growden of Rishton, Lancashire. Click the link to the Rishton page for the full story, and lots more on Rishton people

First World War medals for George Growden of Rishton, Lancashire. Click the link to the Rishton page for the full story, and lots more on Rishton people

In the course of searching for members of this family I came across a marvellous web site devoted to Rishton in Lancashire, which I still haven’t fully explored yet. It has a full page devoted to the military service and medals of George Growden, son of Joseph (1863-1928), who served in the first World War. It is well worth looking at if you have any ancestors who lived in or around Rishton.

A lot of the Lancashire Growdens seem to have had son’s called George, which makes it a bit difficult to work out which ones married which spouses, but at any rate, there are now probably more Growdens in Lancashire than there are in Cornwall.




Growden siblings

Brad Growden of New Orleans just discovered that today (or was it yesterday?) was world sibling day. He’d never heard of it, and neither had I, but it was a good excuse for posting this photo of himself and his siblings on Facebook. Trouble is, stuff posted on Facebook is often impossible to find after yesterday, and this one was too good not to share, so to all Growden and Growdon cousins out there, here are your New Orleans cousins.

Arthur Bruce Joseph Growden, Vicki Growden and Lori Growden Murphy at Southern Yacht Club, 2 June 2013

Arthur Bruce Joseph Growden, Vicki Growden, Lori Growden Murphy and Thomas Bradley Growden at Southern Yacht Club, 2 June 2013

For those who want to know the details, Thomas Bradley GROWDEN (& siblings) and Stephen HAYES are 4th cousins 2 times removed.  Their common ancestors are William GROWDEN and Elizabeth Couch SAUNDERCOCK, who were married at St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, Cornwall, England on 26 November 1792.

Brad is descended from William, the eldest son of William Growden and Elizabeth Saundercock (or Sandercock), who, with his son Henry, emigrated from Cornwall to Australia. Henry Growden later moved to New Zealand, and his son, the Revd Arthur Matthew Growden was a missionary who travelled all over and eventually settled in Tennessee, USA. One branch of his descendants moved to the New Orleans area of Louisiana, while another went to Alaska. Brad’s great-aunt, Monica Louise Deragowski, who collected much of this family history, said someone had once told her that in Cornwall the Growden families were so close that they traded roosters. That certainly isn’t the case today, where the different branches are widely scattered.

My own branch are not so widely scattered. Matthew Growden, the fourth son of William Growden and Elizabeth Saundercock, seems to have stayed in Cornwall all his life, and died in the Bodmin Workhouse at the age of 83. His son William Matthew Growden (my great grandfather) emigrated to the Cape Colony in about 1876, where he became a platelayer on the Cape Government Railways, eventually rising to the rank of permanent way inspector.

So, does anyone know if there is a world cousins day?


Adding Growdon and Sandercock to Find A Grave

I’ve been adding pictures some of our Sandercock and Growdon gravestones to the Find A Grave web site.

You can see them here.

All our branch of the Growdon/Growden family are descended from William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock, who were married in Cardinaham, Cornwall, in 1792, so most of the Sandercocks buried in the Cardinham churchyard are related to us too. Some Sandercocks also married members of the Riddle family, but the Riddles are not direct ancestors (so there is no chance that we might be descended from Lord Voldemort!)

St Meubred's Church, Cardinham, Cornwall -- ancestral bums sat on these pews

St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, Cornwall — ancestral bums sat on these pews

We visited Cardinham in 2005, and took several photos of gravestones, and Find A Grave seemed to be a good way of sharing them. If you have any photos of gravestones, you might like to share them on Find A Grave too.

St Meubred's Church, Cardinham, Cornwall

St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, Cornwall

There are other Sandercock families from other parts of Cornwall, but we have have found no links to them (yet). There are also Growden families from the nearby parishes of Warleggan and St Neot, but we have found no links to them either.

Tombstone Tuesday: Growdon, Queenstown, Eastern Cape

Having just written a blog post about my great grandfather, William Matthew Growdon (or Growden), it seems appropriate to include a closer view of his tombstone in Queenstown Cemetery.

William Matthew Growdon’s grave in Queenstown Cemetery, Eastern Cape

His wife Elizabeth Growdon (born Greenaway) died some 14 years later, and was buried next to him. She was born in St Breward, Cornwall. Her brother William Greenaway also came to South Africa.

Elizabeth Growdon, born Greenaway (1842-1927), Queenstown Cemetery

When we first visited the cemetery in 1975, we found the graves quite easily. We took black & white photos then. In 2011 we visited again, and had some difficulty in finding them. Memory seems to play strange tricks. We took a number of colour photos this time, and also noticed that several of the graves nearby had been vandalised. We took some photos to show the graves in relation to surrounding graves, to make them easier to find next time (if there is a next time).

Queenstown Cemetery, May 2011



William Matthew Growdon (1851-1913)

William Matthew Growdon (or Growden) was my great grandfather. Today my cousin Jenny Aitchison asked me for the story of his death, and I thought it might be more interesting to tell the story of his life — what little we know of it.

William Matthew Growdon (1851-1913)

His story can be briefly told: he was born in Cornwall in 1851, and emigrated to the Cape Colony about 1876, and lived in the Eastern Cape, working on the Cape Government Railways as a platelayer. He was later promoted to permananet way inspector, and when he retired from the railways he went farming in the Free State. He tired of that, and went to live in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, where he died a few months later after a cart accident in 1913.

But from various pieces of information from censuses and church records and the like, it is possible to expand the story a little.

He was born on 22 February 1851 at Scarlet’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall, the son of Matthew Growden and Christiana Growden, formerly Pope, born Dyer. His father Matthew Growden was also born in Bodmin, the son of William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock, and his mother Christiana was apparently born in the nearby town of Roche.

By the time the widow Christiana Pope married Matthew Growden she already had three children, so when young William Matthew Growden was born in 1851 he had four older siblings — his half-brother James Dyer, aged about 15, another half-brother Thomas Pope, aged about 13, a half-sister Philippa Pope, aged about 11, and a full sister, Elizabeth Ann Growden, aged 2. Only his sisters were at home when he was a baby, though, because when the 1851 Census was taken when he was a month old, his father and brothers were living at Constantine, Cornwall, where all three were listed as labourers. Constantine is about 50 km (30 miles) south-west of Bodmin.

Scarlett’s Well, where William Matthew Growden and his sister Elizabeth Ann were born, is an interesting place, a holy well  on the outskirts of Bodmin. The Holy Wells of Old Bodmin Town | The Heritage Journal:

Scarlett’s well, is another of Bodmin’s peaceful and secluded holy wells. A mineral rich healing well situated by the beginning of the Camel trail on the edge of town. The site is set back into an Ivy clad bank, where a spring gushes forth from the hillside and flows into a granite trough which holds the water briefly before it continues its flow towards the bubbling stream which meanders along the valley floor towards the larger River Camel and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean. This site is very beautiful and peaceful. The well was once part of the Priory of Bodiniel and has many stories of healing and miracles associated with it. The well and its immediate vicinity is reputed to be haunted by a lady dressed in white. This ghost has been linked to Victorian times, but it is undoubtedly a much earlier ancient folkloric echo of the goddess of the sacred spring.

I’m a little sceptical of the “undoubtedlys” that are liberally sprinkled in such accounts, but since William Matthew Growden grew up there in Victorian times, I wonder if he ever saw the ghost, or witnessed the events that gave rise to it.

Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall, England

But whether or not he ever saw a ghost, there are plenty of other things to see, and it must have been a marvellous place for a child to grow up, with woods, fields and streams to play in.

Footpath at Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall

William Matthew Growden was baptised at St Petroc’s Church in Bodmin on 28 December 1851.

St Petroc’s Church, Bodmin, Cornwall, England

The family was probably poor, and so I find it difficult to picture them living in this house as it is today, but it is the only house in the vicinity of Scarlett’s Well. Perhaps back in the 1850s it did not have so many additions, or perhaps they lived in another house nearby, now demolished.

House at Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, in 2005

Matthew Growden’s occupation is shown on contemporary documents as “woodman”, which does not seem to have been lucrative or well paid. It could mean someone who cared for the woods, thinning trees, clearing away dead wood, repairing fences and stiles etc. Or it could be someone who simply scavenged dead wood for sale as fire wood and so on. If Matthew Growden was the former, it is possible that the cottage shown in the picture (in its original form) went with the job. If the latter, the family might have lived in a dwelling of the type found in what are today called “informal settlements”, and being a temporary structure, could easily have vanished or fallen into ruin after 150 years.

By the time of the 1861 census, when William Matthew Growden was 10 years old, the family was living at 3 Higher Bore Street, in Bodmin, which is not very far from Scarlett’s Well. Theirs would probably have been one of the whitewashed houses on the right of the picture, unless the street numbering hass changed drastically since then. He is shown as a scholar on the census, though it is not clear which school he attended. By that time he also had two younger brothers, Mark Dyer Growden  born in 1853 and Simeon Growden born in 1855. Simeon died at the age of 8 in Plymouth, Devon.

Higher Bore Street, Bodmin, where the Growden family was living at the time of the 1861 Census

On 2nd August 1868 William Matthew Growden married Elizabeth Greenaway, in the parish of St Breward. He was 17 years and 5 months old, and she was about nine years older than him, which makes her look, on the face of it, like a bit of a cradle snatcher. They lived at Limbhead (also called Limehead) down the hill from the centre of the village, and W.M. Growden is described on their marriage certificate as a labourer. Their banns were called in the 12th, 19th and 26th of July 1868. His mother, Christiana Growden, died a month after they were married

We can only speculate about what took W.M. Growden to St Breward. Possibly he worked for, or was apprenticed to, a stone mason, as stone working was one of the industries St Breward was known for. In later life his occupation was sometimes listed as “stonemason”.

Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant when they married, and their first child, Christiana, was born about November 1868, named after William Matthew’s mother who had died a couple of months previously. Christiana was baptised on 26th August 1869, and died a few weeks later. She was buried on 16th September 1869 in St Breward. Her name was listed in the baptism register as Growdon with the “o” spelling rather than Growden with the “e” spelling, and thereafter William Matthew Growdon, his children and his grandchildren used the Growdon spelling.

Soon after Christiana’s death William Matthew and Elizabeth moved to Bodmin, where they were living at the time of the 1871 census with their 9-month-old-daughter Melinda Francis. William Matthew Growden (the Growden spelling was still used on the census) was shown as a general labourer.

In about February 1872 another child, Richard Matthew Growden (known as Dick), was born in Bodmin, and on 28 July 1873 William George Growdon (known as George, and with the Growdon spelling) was born at Penpillick, near Tywardreath. William Matthew Growdon is shown on George’s birth certificate as a tin miner.

The family’s stay in Penpillick did not last long, however, because by 1875 they were back at St Breward, where another son, Mark Dyer Growdon, was born about February 1875. He was baptised in St Breward on 27 Jun 1876, and died a few days later. It seems that the Growdons only had their children baptised when they were in danger of death. But the next child, Simeon Growdon, born on 12 May 1876 in St Breward, was baptised on 27 June at the same time as his ill-fated brother Mark.

Some time between the middle of 1876 and the middle of 1878 the Growdon family moved to the Cape Colony, where railway lines were being built from the costal ports inland. In 1870 there were only two railways in the Cape Colony, one from Cape Town to Wellington, and another to Wynberg, built and owned by private companies. In 1872 the Cape Government bought the railways, and a railway boom developed, wilth lines going inland from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London, all aiming to connect to Kimberley, the diamond boom town.

William Matthew Growden was a platelayer, building the new lines. By 1877 the railway line from East London had reached King William’s Town, and James  (Jim) Growdon was born there about 1878. Joseph (Joe) Growdon was born in Cathcart on 3 December 1879.

In 5 May 1880 the railway reached Queenstown, and Christiana Jane (Jenny) Growdon was born somewhere along the line on 12 January 1882, possibly at Cathcart, because her younger sister Florence Growdon was born in Cathcart on 12 September 1883. In 1888 the Anglican priest from Queenstown discovered the Growdon family living at Bushmanshoek, and on 14 April 1888 the South African-born Growdon children were all baptised on the same day. On 2 September 1885 the East London line reached the Orange River at Aliwal North.

On 22 September 1890 William Matthew Growdon’s eldest surviving daughter, Melinda Frances, married John Ainscough, a well-sinker for the railways,  at Springfontein in the Free State.

At Springfontein, across the Orange River in the Free State, the East London railway line joined with those from Port Elizabeth and Cape Town on one side, and Bloemfontein on the other. On 2 November 1899, a month after the start of the Anglo-Boer War, William Matthew Growdon was transferred to Springfontein on account of the resignation of Permanent Way Inspector W. Blair. Blair may have resigned because of the war, and it would be interesting to know what WMG did in Springfontein in war time, when it was unlikely that there would be a great deal of cross-border traffic. Possibly there were attempts on the part of one side or the other to blow up parts of the railway line, which would require repairs that a permanent-way inspector would supervise, but we don’t know. At that time Springfontein was simply a railway junction in the middle of nowhere, probably with few inhabitants other than railway employees. Free State forces had crossed the Orange River into the Cape Colony at about this time, but by February 1900 the British had pushed them back and were advancing on Bloemfontein, In May 1900 the British announced the annexation of the Free State as the Orange River Colony, though it would be another two years before they had undisputed control of it. Later in the war, in January 1901, a concentration camp was established by the British at Springfontein, in which over 700 women and children died.

Melinda Francis Ainscough and her husband had nine children, several of whom died young. At least two of them, Alice and George Ainscough, were born at Springfontein during the Anglo-Boer War, and George died at the age of two weeks, perhaps of the same disease that caused the death of so many children in the concentration camp nearby. On 29 May 1903 Melinda Frances Ainscough herself died, and the surviving children were brought up by their grandparents, William Matthew and Elizabeth Growden.

In 1904 a town was established at Springfontein. William Matthew Growdon bought a farm in the area, Mooiplaats, on 4 January 1904. He must have retired from the railways soon afterwards, because he received a pension of £36/4/2 which, according to the resident magistrate at Bethulie, he drew up to and including 31 March 1908, but at no later date.

In April 1913 the Growdons moved to Queenstown, and William Matthew Growdon died four months later in a cart accident. He had taken Mrs Berry and Mrs White on a drive to see the Bongolo Dam, on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 August 1913, and on their return the horse bolted, and the spider overturned, and the occupants were dragged for about 50 yards. They were taken to the nearby Bongolo Tea Room, where he died the following afternoon. Here is a contemporary newspaper account:


A serious carriage accident occurred on Tuesday afternoon last near the Bongolo Dam as a result of which Mr. W. Growden, the driver and owner of the vehicle, received such serious injuries that he succumbed on Wednesday evening. From what one can gather, it appears that Mr. Growden, who resides at the corner of Batchelor and Berry Streets, took out to the Bongolo Mrs S.J. Berry of Milner Street, and Mrs. Geo. White, a lady friend from Port Elizabeth, who has been spending a holiday in town (and who was due to leave for home the following morning.) Having viewed the dam the return journey was commenced. The horse, which was very frisky, set off at a brisk trot down the hill, and when passing through a drove of cattle evidently took fright, and becoming unmanageable, ran the spider into the side of the hill, violently overturning it and burying the unfortunate occupants beneath the smashed vehicle, under which they were dragged some 50 yards, till the horse broke its traces. No one, it seems, saw the accident occur, and  the injured ladies say that it all happened so quickly that it is hardly possible to say how it all occurred. Mr. Myburg, who was working in the field near by,  saw a cloud of dust and a horse careering down the road, having freed itself from the vehicle. When he arrived upon the scene the Port Elizabeth lady, though injured in the hand and shoulder, was endeavouring to lift the broken spider off her less fortunate companions, who lay stunned and bleeding beneath. They were taken as speedily as possible to the Tea Rooms, and a telephone message was sent to Dr Clark and the S.A.P. who were soon on the spot and gave all the aid that was possible. It was found that Mrs. Berry was badly cut about the head and face, and her ankle was sprained. Mrs White received injuries to her left shoulder and arm, and her right thumb was sprained. In Mr. Growden’s case it was seen that the injuries were the most serious of all. The skull was badly cut nearly half  way wound, and  the poor old man never regaind consciousness for any length of time. Add to this his age (72 years) and one can hardly wonder that the shock was too much.

The injuries were so serious that it was deemed advisable to keep the patients  at the Tea Rooms for the night, where every attention was given them by Mr. and Mrs. Myburg and many willing helpers. Corpl. Avery, of the S.A.M.P., rendered yeoman service in dressing the wounds of the injured, remaining with them all night, and saw to the safe removal into town the following day of Mrs. Berry and Mrs. White For this purpose Mr Bremmer kindly placed his motor car at their disposal. It was deemed inadvisable to move Mr Growden who, as stated above, died at Bongolo the same evening.

The ladies, we hear, are progressing favourably towards recovery.

Mr Growden was at one time on the C.G.R., and afterwards he went farming in the Free State, There he remained until four months ago, when he returned and took up his residence in Queenstown. He was an old Freemason and will be buried with Masonic honours on Saturday ar four o’clock. To his sorrowing wife and family we offer our sincere sympathy.

Like many journalistic accounts, there are some in accuracies. WMG was 62 years old, not 72 as stated in the article. After his death, the family gathered for his funeral at Queenstown.

The Growdon family (and a few friends) gathered for the funeral in Queenstown

Elizabeth lived for another 14 years, and was buried next to William Matthew Growdon in Queenstown Cemetery. Her tombstone lies too, because it says she was 87 when she died (which would have made her 15 years older than her husband), but if her birth certificate is to be believed, she would have been 84, having been born at St Teath, Cornwall, in 1842. My mother, Ella Hayes (second from the left in the front row of the photo above) did not have fond memories of her grandmother, and said she was a fierce termagant. According to my second cousin Violet McDonald, the Aiscough children (of whom her mother was one), who were brought up by Elizabeth after their mother died, had similar memories.


Queenstown Cemetery, May 2011

If you have any more stories about William Matthew Growdon and his family, please add them in a comment below, or better still, add them here.


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