Day 30: Robert Allen & other Suffolk families

Trip Start May 14, 2012
Trip End Jul 13, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A fine but cool morning as we headed east from Elveden towards the Suffolk coast and the town of Lowestoft where my Allen and Lincoln forebears lived, an easy journey of just over an hour. Sat Nav took us directly to the parish church of St Margaret which in their day would have been in the countryside some distance from the town, but is now surrounded by a large housing estate, part of Lowestoft itself.

The church is a large building in the Perpendicular style, with a tall spire and surrounded by mature trees.  As previously arranged by email with the Rector, Michael Asquith, the church had been unlocked and a very friendly man was there to welcome us. When I mentioned that we had come to see the Allen Window he led us up the long central aisle towards the altar, above which is the very large and impressive East Window dating from a later time than the Allen Window. The latter can now be seen in the South wall of the chancel. Seeing it for the first time was an amazing feeling, as this is something I have known about practically all my life but never ever thought I would be able to experience for myself.

The Allen window is composed of many panes of coloured glass and was painted by my 4xgreat-grandfather, Robert Allen and completed in 1819, when he was 74 years old. Our guide pointed out Robert Allen's name, high up in one of the panes, something I would possibly not have noticed myself. Christine, the Verger, arrived and we had a pleasant chat, then she showed us where the light switches were and she and the nice man left and we were locked in and had the place to ourselves for the next hour. We had a great time exploring all the nooks and crannies, and kept coming back to admire the Allen window.

When we finally left, making sure the church was securely locked behind us, we spent a further hour in the churchyard, looking at all the headstones many of which are no longer in their original places but are lined up close together in rows. We found Robert Allen and his second wife Tryphena, his daughter Elizabeth (Woods), his first wife Anne, his brother-in-law John Ibrooke and son James Ibrooke (aged 95!), his son-in-law Samuel Johnson and grandson William Lincoln Johnson. Sadly we could not find the headstone of my 4xgreat-grandparents William and Ann Lincoln of which I had a transcription.

By this time we were feeling rather hungry, and as we were near the sea I had an ambition to have lunch "on the beach". We navigated our way through the town, headed in the direction of the sea and found ourselves at South Beach, a long stretch of white sand with a row of colourful beach huts, and backed by large car parks. The road facing the sea was lined with tall terrace houses many of which appeared to offer accommodation.

There was a chill wind blowing so we took refuge in a cafe on Claremont Pier and dined on crayfish sandwiches, with a view along the empty beach. We then went for a short walk on said beach but didn't hang around for long as it was not very pleasant in the wind.

Our next planned stop was the Lowestoft Arts Centre where some artists had set up a new Lowestoft pottery studio in 2000. I had an address for this place but we walked a very long way in the wrong direction before finding it quite near the High Street, 5 minutes before it was due to close at 4 p.m. We were very pleased that we did, because we then spent the next hour in fascinating conversation with Colin Challis, the resident china painter, who when I told him that I was a descendant of Robert Allen could hardly contain himself with excitement. He professed to be a great fan of Robert Allen, and I think was just pleased to be able to talk to someone who had actually heard of him. We learnt a lot about the history of the Lowestoft pottery and its connections with the town, and Colin stated at least 3 times that we had "made his year"!

I bought  a small coaster with a transfer picture of a poppy, one of Colin's designs. He produces a lot of objects with transfers as well as original hand paintings as the latter are of course very expensive. One of his specialty objects is a "bird creamer" based on an original Lowestoft Pottery design of over 200 years ago, and these are made to order and sell for 200. He also gave me a china thimble with a picture of "Maltsters Score". Scores are narrow alleyways which run between the High Street and the lower part of the town and port area.

We walked along the well-maintained historic High Street where my g-g-grandfather Robert Samuel Lincoln was born in 1828, and I was surprised to see that there are still a lot of apparently quite old buildings, despite the town having suffered severe damage from bombing in WW2. We also visited Crown Street West, the site of the original Lowestoft potteries.

On the way out of Lowestoft to the south we called in at Pakefield churchyard, right on the edge of the sand dunes, and saw the headstone of family member Charles Lincoln who lost is life in a storm while trying to rescue the crew of a foundering vessel, the Joachim Christian, in 1895. The brief details are written on the headstone. Another lovely old flint church, with white doves nesting in the square tower.

A further short drive through the countryside to the south brought us to Wrentham where we parked just off the High Street, and I was able to see for the first time the house where my great-grandmother, Augusta Louisa Lincoln, was born in 1853. I have been aware of this building for many years, so once again it was a thrill to be on the spot where my family lived. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the temperature was 12 deg! At least a bit of good light for my photos.

We wandered up and down the High Street which was a lot busier than I thought it would be, with a lot of through traffic. Had a chat with a friendly local lady who is trying to sell her house but some potential buyers are put off by the traffic noise. My old postcard that I have of Wrentham shows one horse and cart in the main street.

A short drive along Chapel Road but well beyond the outskirts of the village brought us to St Nicholas Church,  a square-towered building well-hidden amongst many large trees. Many of the gravestones are completely overgrown with all manner of weeds and woody plants, including rather large nettles which I soon discovered to my cost. After a good look around, and knowing that the graves I was looking for would be found under some large trees, Jens as usual was the first to discover a number of headstones bearing  the names Girling and Scarlett. After bashing down the aforementioned nettles with a stick we soon found that there was a whole row of a dozen or more with these names, all members of my family and some direct ancestors. The earliest of these belongs to my 7xgreat-grandfather, John Girling 1689-1756, and his wife Elizabeth 1678-1737, all names and dates still legible. Needless to say I was hugely excited to spend a bit of time among these family members.

While kneeling down to get better photos, I actually got stung by nettles through my jeans! Also had a few stings on my hands which I was able to relieve a bit by applying pawpaw ointment. Learnt a lesson here.

Leaving Wrentham we took the road that led to Brockdish, back in Norfolk, where the Brigham family had moved to from Brooke about 1820, and where John Brigham, and later his daughter Maria, farmed at the Hall. I did know that Brockdish Hall could not be seen from the road, but with the help of instructions from a friendly dog-walking local, we found the gateway, with an almost indecipherable name board, and walked a little way up the drive. The house was completely hidden amongst the trees and surrounded by lovely farmland.

The church of St Peter and St Paul, where Elizabeth Brigham married Girling James Scarlett in 1822, is another square-towered building up a very narrow lane some distance from the village of Brockdish (but fortunately signposted), and it was a pleasure to see it glowing in the evening sunlight. We enjoyed a brief stroll around the churchyard before returning to the village in search of dinner.

The one pub was not able to offer food but the publican directed us to the next village, Needham, where the Red Lion was buzzing with activity. In the car park we were arrested by the sight of a large group of Morris Dancers entertaining the outdoor drinkers. After negotiating our way around them and parking the car, we managed to find a table in the packed bar and enjoyed our meal to the accompaniment of music and singing from the same group. Fine renditions of traditional folk songs and sea shanties which we enjoyed very much, and a wonderful end to a very long and interesting day.

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