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04 August 2015

Tuesday Genealogy Travels

       Churches – Then and Now
by Mary Mettler

Plaque for Mayflower Pilgrims at St. Mary's in Henlow

Whew! We are covering two to three towns a day, most of which have multiple ancestor lines. The good news is that all of the church buildings still exist. Some, such as St. Andrew’s Church in Shalford, Essex, have some damage. A crashing B-17 in World War II clipped this church, and you can still see some damage. A bomb also blew out one of the stained glass windows, which has since been replaced. Others are having a difficult time surviving financially. One priest might serve two churches to reduce costs.  In one case, the church, St. Giles in Upper Gravenhurst, was closed, and posted outside was an ominous plan to convert it to four apartments.

Cemeteries have not escaped problems either. Several years ago, I wrote a blog about all the things that could happen to your grave. I could write an addendum after this trip! The walkway of Church of St. George the Martyr in Great Bromley is made up of old tombstones!  St. Mary the Virgin in Bocking has a fence made from old tombstones;  and tombstones are used for parking places at St. Michael’s in Bishop Stortford.

Walkway at St. George the Martyr in Great Bromely

Tombstone fence at St. Mary the Virgin in Bocking

On the good side, we have met many fine priests and wardens who opened the churches and were very generous with their time. Special thanks to one of the coolest priests of the Church of England, Tim Goodbody, my new Facebook friend from St. Mary the Virgin Church in Stebbing! Although my ancestor Rowland Stebbing/Stebbins was born in Bocking, we wondered about his family’s possible connection to the town of Stebbing in earlier generations. We knew that sometimes a town is named for its prominent founding family, but our Stebbins did not appear to have illustrious ancestors! Tim gave us an interesting tip that children orphaned at a young age often were given the name of their town. I doubt we can go back far enough to find such an orphan, but the tip is intriguing.  

I can’t cover all the churches, so I will highlight just two of them. Church of St. George the Martyr in Great Bromley is where the brothers Gregory and Simon Stone were baptized and Simon married before emigrating to Massachusetts in 1635. Much of it was built in the early 14th century. Stone descendants donated a lovely stained glass window. The second one, St. Mary’s in Henlow, has plaques for Mayflower Pilgrims, Elizabeth Tilley and Henry Samson, and a spoon which belonged to Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland. 

Church of St. George the Martyr in Bromely
Stained glass at St. George's

St. Mary's in Henlow

Please contact me for pictures and information for the following towns, churches, and surnames covered during the period of this blog:

Bocking  --  St. Mary the Virgin  --  Stebbing/Stebbins, Whiting
Stebbing  --  St. Mary the Virgin  --  Perhaps original Stebbing
Great Bromley  --  St. George the Martyr  --  Stone
Messing  --  All Saints  --  Loomis, White
Shalford  --  St. Andrews  --  Allgar
Henlow  --  St. Mary’s  --  Tilley, Hurst, Samson
Meppershall  --  St. Mary’s  --  Whitbred/Whitbread
Upper Gravenhurst  --  St. Giles  --  Whitbred/Whitbread
Stotfold  --  St. Mary’s the Virgin  --  Spencer, Earle, Savage


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