Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Ann Gomm Coombes’s Birthday Book


‘Grandma Coombes’ as she was known in the family was my mother’s mother’s father’s mother; that is, my great, great grandmother. She was born in 1819 and was still alive in the early 1910s when my mother remembered her as a bed-ridden old soul at the Crown Inn, Shipton-under-Wychwood.

Like Nana, Grandma Coombes had a birthday book but hers was not started until 1892 according to the note in the front of its wooden binding. Grandma Coombes was born Ann Gomm Young in 1819 and first married James Spencer, my great great grandfather. Later in life she married into the Coombes family who were already cousins by a previous family marriage.... Our family was bit like that!

The Spencer line can be traced back to the 16th century and a few years ago Jo and I had the enormous pleasure of visiting the house which one of the Spencer ancestors had built at Northleach in Gloucestershire in the early seventeenth century.

Some pages from the birthday book demonstrate that Grandma Coombes also used it as an autograph album as many of the entries are in different writings.

Her home from 1846 was the Crown Inn which she and James ran until his death at which stage her daughter, Sarah Sophia Young Franklin, took over. In her birthday book she comments on 20th January1906 that it was ‘My Home for 60 years’ .

In the second entry about Nana’s birthday book I shall mention some events from the outside world which she felt merited entry but only one crept into Grandma Coombes’s – 24th May – ‘Our Queen – God Bless Her’.

Only one entry merits an address and that, in the light of GB currently being in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, is quite remarkable:-

A young Flora

Grandma Coombes

Mum, Flora Edwards (née Body), met Grandma Coombes at the Shaven Crown Inn in Shipton-under-Wychwood in the 1910s. Flora lived into the twenty first century and saw men on the moon, television, aeroplanes, genetic science, the internet, the European Community...

Picture then the England into which Grandma Coombes was born. The population was only eleven million souls. There were more than three-quarters of a million slaves in the British Empire, though slave trading had ceased some ten years before. Wilberforce was then a man of sixty. Leeds was a little town of 80,000 inhabitants. Travelling was by stage-coach. There were no trains or trams or cabs. There were only two steamers in the British Empire and together their tonnage was only 456. Gas was practically unknown. A Member of Parliament got up in the House and said "You might as well talk of ventilating London with windmills as talk of lighting the streets with gas." Duelling was common. Intemperance was an everyday fault.

Laws were severe. Poachers could be transported for seven years. Men could be hung for stealing a sheep. The prisons were in a dreadful state. Elizabeth Fry had recently paid her first visit to Newgate and launched her career of mercy. Women could be flogged in public places. One person in every eleven was a pauper.
Only one child in four was receiving any education whatsoever. Shelley wrote - "In countries that are free such starvation cannot be as in England now we see." Children were sent to work at the age of seven, and were often made to work 16 hours out of the 24.


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  3. Pam put a comment on telling me - with great excitement - that her Mum was my second cousin and she was my second cousin once removed. Her greatgrandmother was my great-aunt Edith Sophia Jarvis. Both Pam and her mother Edith live on The Wirral and she had identified all sorts of things about me and the family.
    There was probsbly a bit too much detail in one space for cyber-safety so, with great regret, I decided to delete it.
    I also got an e-mail from Pam and have replied - with great delight - to that and hopefully we will all meet up when I get home from The Hebrides.