Dear Grandpa Sam

#52Ancestors #I’ve lost count

Hello Samuel, I am your great granddaughter (x 5) and we have something in common; we are both the last born in our large families. You had 8 siblings and I had 5. I am writing to you today to let you know that I feel like I am beginning to know you a little more from my research. It is over 200 years since your time and I have so much to tell you. My research is being done with the assistance of a computer and the world wide web; (a computer is a new fangled machine that uses a keyboard and a browser to connect to the Internet) more about that later.

I am here in 2021 taking a virtual tour of your location in Higher Street, Dartmouth; thinking back to what it would have looked like 200 years ago. At the top end, I can see the old tudor style pub on one corner and the quaint garden surrounding the Cherub House opposite. Your house further down the road where it has now become the B3205 highway, has a great view of the river Dart. Your place was within a four minute walk to St Saviour’s Anglican Church in Anzac Street, where you were married. You would not recognise the interior of the church now, it underwent major restoration during the first part of 2014, and the Rood screen built in 1496, of very high quality carved oak, looks very different to how it was for your wedding day on 3 November 1815. Do you remember the Reverend Robert Hillsworth, who performed the ceremony? I don’t know the people who were the witnesses that day; do you remember John Adams and B Tucker?

The Parish Sung Eucharist now takes place here on the second and fourth Sunday of the month at 11.00am. Was that a tradition for you back then? This beautiful church is now under Grade 1 Heritage Listing – meaning it is a property of ‘exceptional interest’ and it is protected and funded in perpetuity.

During my research I have learned more about, St Saviour’s in the lower town of Dartmouth, which was constructed in the middle ages when the town began to develop on the foreshore of the river Dart and parishioners no longer wished to struggle up the hill to reach the parish church of St Clement. St Saviour’s is now considered to be one of the best 100 churches in England and features the large memorial brass to John Hawley, believed to be Chaucer’s ‘Shipman’ in the Canterbury Tales as well as the major donor of funds to construct the building and (in)famous local politician. This church is steeped in history and I am glad I made the journey back to Dartmouth today. Even the local tavern at the Dartmouth Arms is famous; having been located on Bayards Cove, in which the Mayflower visited for repairs on her way to America in August 1620. I note that there is even a plaque to commemorate that. It is located opposite the pub.

Did your father Richard tell you anything about his marriage to Elizabeth Clackstone Angel, in St Clements, up the hill a bit from you, in Dartmouth on 24th December 1774? I can tell you that the discovery of the marriage certificate of your parents, by one of your descendents, caused quite a stir in the 1920’s. Your great, grandson (x3), William Adrian Allery, believed it was the key to proving his lineage and being the rightful heir to the Angell Estate in Brixton. I do not know if your mother Elizabeth was actually the descendent of the Angells, or whether it was coincidental that she bore the same name. I did notice that your father was illiterate, and it was only your mother Elizabeth, who could sign her name on the certificate. Maybe her education as the daughter of an upper class family was more extensive. Do you recall any controversy over their marriage? The spelling of your mother’s name is also not clear. Was it Elizabeth Clackstone Angel or Clarkstone Angel? Do you know where the Clarkstone name originated?

I noted from the 1851 Census that you and Grandma Elizabeth were living in Fish Market Lane, Dartmouth and had your youngest with you, Frederick aged 12 years. I guess your eldest, William, was already making his own way as a young man of 34 at the time of that census. Can you tell me what the names of your other children were? I am having trouble finding them. I am guessing that there would have been more after William, born 1818 and before Frederick, born 1839. Perhaps I can locate them in the Parish records for Dartmouth in that time period. If in fact there were more.

Update on research: I just discovered (in the 1851 and 1861 Census records for St Saviour) that Grandma Elizabeth, your wife, was blind. There was no mention of this disability in the 1841 census, in fact in that era very little was recorded for individuals. Now I am wondering about how Grandma became blind and how she coped. It was not until the 1850’s that Braille was accepted as a preferred reading aid; but was not widely promoted until the advent of the British Institution for the Blind in 1887. Could Elizabeth have used Braille then?

Your Fish Market Lane location is pretty close to the Dartmouth Harbour, where I have walked virtually today, quite an impressive place. I have ‘walked’ from the oldest pub in Dartmouth, the Seven Stars, along the Quay towards Spithead, and then around the South Embankment, through the Royal Avenue Gardens and back to Duke Street. Then I thought about a visit to the Dartmouth Castle; what a wonderful 600 year old fortification it is – setting an imposing facade, out there on Castle Cove. I have booked a tour of Dartmouth Castle to learn about its history and get a glimpse of life in ancient times. This will cost me £22 – a sum that you probably thought of as a small fortune in your day – and will take 2 hours.

Your occupation as a Chandler intrigued me, and I wondered what that meant. My research enlightened me. A chandler is a dealer in supplies and equipment for ships and boats; and a dealer in household items such as oil, soap, paint, and groceries. Being near the river Dart and having access to ships and boats in the harbour, would have been beneficial for your business. I live reasonably close to a large river too, which separates one state from another, here on the border towns of Albury/Wodonga. This is in Victoria, Australia – oceans away from you. Your great grandson (x4) Cecil Henry Allery made the journey here in 1948 and his descendants are now spread out across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Update on Research: Further revelations about the family saga surrounding the claim to the Angell Estate, was found today in the Western Morning News 28 March 1928. I had not read this article before! It mentions you. Your grandson William Adrian (then aged 83) reported to the newspaper about how well known the Allery family was in Dartmouth. He specifically mentions you, his grandfather.

“In his time, my grandfather Samuel Allery, was known by everyone in Dartmouth, and even now the older people still remember him. He was by trade a candlemaker, and died at the age of 84. He was in business in Lower street, opposite the Post Office. The premises in which he worked were the property of a Mrs Adams, and the business was afterwards, run by Mr Jasper Bartlett.”

I took a close look in Google to find what the Old Market looks like today, and I believe that the premises on the extreme left may have been the one you rented for your Chandler business. You may be interested to know that section is still a hardware store. I found this by using Google Maps, found the Old Post Office opposite, and then dived into a street view. From there I swung around and there was the Old Market. Amazing.

I am sure you would be pleased to hear of William Adrian’s praise for you. And I am sure you will have been amused and intrigued with the title of this article Romance of the West Country – £60 million claim by Devon Man. (I have included part one of the article here for you:

Whilst travelling through time, using the census records from your era, I located your son William with his wife Mary, and your grandchildren William Adrian, John and Alice – now living near London.. You must be very proud of your son; as a Master Tailor and living in such a grand house in Russell Street, Bermondsey. My guess is that they returned there, as this is where Mary was born. (Mary Newth as she was then.) Their house must have had several rooms as I notice there were four lodgers, two of whom were tailors; one was a clerk and the other a currier. Being curious once more, I asked for the meaning of currier using an Internet search engine called Google; something that would have your mind boggling; to find that it means a person who curries leather. That did not help much so I delved deeper to find that, currying means: leather tanned by working oils and greases into the hide. Currying increases the strength, flexibility and water repellency of the leather. Cod oil, paraffin and tallow may be used in the currying process. Now I see the connection between chandler and currier.

Your other grandson Samuel John Allery, my great grandfather, was also a master tailor and established his own tailoring dynasty in London. You would be most proud of his enterprise and achievements.

I notice that by 1861 your occupation has changed to Beer seller and shop keeper. I imagine that Beer was as popular then as it is now. In that census I noted that you and Elizabeth had your brother William staying with you, at Higher Street, Dartmouth. He was a widower then, aged 74 years old. I notice your two lodgers Robert and Emma Chase. Robert’s occupation is gardener, so now I am wondering if he was your gardener; if so you have really done well in your trade. I notice, from the census that your brother William was born in Blackawton, just 5 miles from Dartmouth, and the home town of several more of your ancestors. There’s a quaint little BnB just outside the village there, called The Mayflower Cottage, now 500 years old. I think I would love to stay there, one day when we can travel again. Right now we are in the grip of a global pandemic and many places are in what we call ‘lockdown’. Did your family experience any of the suffering during the pandemics of your era; the Cholera Plague in 1817 or the Bubonic Plague in 1855?

The 1870’s were times of great change and I imagine you were amazed at some of the weird and wonderful inventions of your erea. One that you probably did not take much notice of, but was a significant break through in technology, took place in October 1871: Charles Babbage’s Successful Failure—The First Computer. Few 19th century devices have had as much influence on modern technology as Charles Babbage’s calculating engines, most notably the Analytical Engine, a mechanical digital computer which anticipated virtually every aspect of present-day computers. Without computers and the Internet today, we would not be able to run our businesses or governments. I will return and tell you more about the Internet of things another time.

Update on Research: Whilst sifting through the old British Newspaper archives, (specifically the East and West Devon Advertiser) I noticed an interesting article about you posting bail for John Court – who was convicted of night poaching on the 12 August 1874. That sounds like something you would do for a friend. You and and another Samuel, Samuel Gurney, posted £ 10 each, on the proviso that John Court did not offend again in 12 months. This last fact was reported in the Dartmouth & South Hams chronicle 11 September 1874.

My travels have been virtual, however, with the aid of a special type of map available from Google, I note that it would have taken me over 4 hours to walk the 11.4 miles, from one town to another to see the places that were familiar to you. You would be amazed at the changes in the landscape, the industry, the buildings, the fashions and the size of the population now.

I was even able to see how Higher Street, Dartmouth looks today. We would describe it as quaint, today. It may look vaguely familiar to you, as the buildings have been standing there for centuries. Those things parked in the street are called motor vehicles. You would be astounded at how far we have advanced in our transportation methods.

I know that you were ailing by the time you were 84, and it was a sad revelation to see your death record in the Devon Parish Records for 1877. I hope that you had loved ones around you towards the end. I have searched in vain for your Last Will and Testament, but it remains illusive. Maybe you did not make one. I can tell you that I have found various Wills from your descendants; the tailors and master tailors in our family.

You lived a long and fruitful life, and you will have faced man challenges. I know that you have passed on some of your traits to your many descendants, me included. Enterprise, resilience and fortitude are traits I see in my grandfathers, William B: 1818; Samuel John B: 1847 and Walter Frederick B: 1852. I think my grandfather Walter was named after your youngest son, Frederick. It was really sad to see that he had died so young; aged just 17, in 1856. My granddad died quite young too; he was just 43 when he died.

To finish on a lighter note, Grandpa Sam, I wanted to tell you that these names, Samuel and William, have been kept in your clan over the centuries. And although I sometimes get mixed up with the Samuels and Williams whilst researching, (the family tree now displays the details of over 2000 people in the Allery clan); I do keep records for each of these ancestors separately. You would be very proud to see the family tree now.

I am proud to be a descendant from the Allery tribe from Devon and would love to visit the birth place of these ancestors once more. These Devon locations are on my ‘bucket list’; (a term we use these days for things to do before we go): Paignton, Dartmouth, Blackawton, Totnes and Taunton. I wish I could travel back in time and talk to you; but writing this letter is the next best thing.

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