Wednesday, 25 April 2012

part two ...Ancestral Village

Part 2 of my pictorial journey....
Armitage village is not mentioned in the Doomsday Book as it's name is a corruption of *Hermitage*, and in the 11thC came under the parish of Handsacre.

On entering the village I passed Armitage Park, the estate of  Hawksyard Hall  which was purchased in 1840 by Josiah Spode (of ceramic fame) ..  In the years he lived there until he died in 1893 it was known as Spode House… In 1896 the Dominican Order built a Priory in the grounds which was originally occupied by nuns, but in the early 20thC this changed to a monastery and was run as a prep. school for boys - at this time it went under the name of Hawksyard Priory …This former priory is now a nursing home, and the old Hall itself is restored and now a conference centre and has reverted to it’s original name of Hawksyard Hall.

  Hawksyard Hall and
    Dominican Priory  
        c 1900

A little further on along the main road, at the junction with Church Lane  is the old school,, which is still in use today as a village hall…a new school having been built in the mid 19thC just a short distance away.

Old School c1920

Situated at the bottom end of Church Lane is the parish church and according to reports, a hermitage chapel built in the 11thC stood for two hundred years on the site where the present day parish church of St John the Baptist stands, and until the 13thC this was known as the Hermitage of Handsacre. ..A West tower was added in 1632 and apart from this tower, the whole of the building was demolished and the church rebuilt between the years 1844 - 1847 by  Henry Ward...much of it in a Romanesque and neo-Romanesque style.  The South doorway is said to be a copy of the original 12thC original, and the font is lavishly decorated in an idiosyncratic way and dates from the Norman era.


 St John the Baptist Church 
In the churchyard stands a large highly decorative cross erected in the 19thC - some stones from the original South doorway have been incorporated into this cross.

The old part of the churchyard where I was hoping to find evidence of my ancestors, proved to be a personal disappointment
...According to the old parish records I have numerous ancestors who were baptised, married and buried here, but the only tangible evidence I could find of their existence were just a few tombstones for ancestors who were buried here during the last 140 years… I managed to obtain a plan of the burial plots for about this time and was able to locate two of the family  graves which had no markings - these graves are now encroached upon by verdant undergrowth...It felt very surreal to be laying flowers on these long forgotten graves.

......As for earlier ancestral burials from the year 1729 - 1868, I could find no trace at all.
It saddens me to think that (a) they were perhaps too poor to have a marker erected over their graves, or (b) - and most likely, that these very early graves were flattened due to lack of space in the churchyard with the growing population in the village over the years, and that later burials were placed on top of them
 ....It is an unsettling thought that there are people today constantly walking over where my ancestors lie.... If it wasn't for the old parish records no-one would ever know that these people had ever existed.
As I left this village by motor car it dawned on me that a hundred years ago I would have been using a pony and trap to travel this same journey.

…..The final part of my journey will cover the neighbouring village of Mavesyn Ridware where more of my early parental ancestors dwelt.

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