The Fox and Goose, Fressingfield

IMG_0265Crucial to the setting of ‘The Fressingfield Witch’, is The Fox and Goose Inn which nestles in front of the churchyard. Formerly the guildhall of St Margaret of Antioch, the structure was built around 1509 and has been a public house since 1710. The side facing the churchyard is an attractive mix of brick and timbers and there is an interesting carved corner post with the figure of Saint Margaret on the church side of the building. The post, quite naturally, appears worn and I worked it into the book with one of the characters touching it for luck.

The village of Fressingfield in the book is populated with real inhabitants from the 1891 census, mostly where they do not play a lead role – and even sometimes where they do. The publican in 1891 was  63-year-old Benjamin Powley from Burlingham, Norfolk, coincidentally bearing the same name as one of my nephews. Prior to that, he was victualler at ‘The Feathers’ in North Walsham.

Though serving as a public house, The Fox & Goose regularly hosted inquests. The following, extracted from The Ipswich Journal 8th November 1884, records the inquest following the death of Jonathan Carter, an integral event in ‘The Fressingfield Witch’:

Sudden Death – An inquest was held at the Fox and Goose Inn on Monday morning before C.W. Chaston, Esq upon the body of Jonathan Carter, agricultural labourer, aged 77 years. Harriet Corbyn stated that the deceased, who was her brother, had lived with her and her husband for the last four years; he had had fair health and witness had not heard him complain. He left home about nine a.m. on Saturday to be shaved, which was the last time the witness saw him alive. Several of the family had died of heart disease. Deceased had not for a long time been attended by a medical man. Harriet King, widow, said that as she was walking through the churchyard on Saturday morning, about 10 o’clock, she noticed someone lying on the path, and on going up found it was the deceased. She spoke to him, but receiving no answer she went at once for assistance. John Edwards, baker, said that in consequence of what the last witness said to him on Saturday, he went into the churchyard and found the deceased lying as described. He breathed twice, and almost immediately afterwards expired. Dr Anderson stated that he had made an external examination of the body, and found no marks of violence. Judging from his experience and from the evidence given, he was of the opinion that death was caused by sudden failure of the heart’s action. The jury returned a verdict accordingly. 

Today, The Fox & Goose is a popular, friendly restaurant attracting a range of satisfied customers and even coming to the notice of The Telegraph. It is a far cry from the place of torture assigned to its upper floor in the book – a place where Matthew Hopkins accused Faith Mills of witchcraft and tried to extract a confession using the cruellest methods. Nowadays, the only cruelty is having to choose from so many delicious menu options. Time has moved on, in a good way.



Hacked Off

EAngAncMy other WordPress site has just been hacked; attacked by malicious software & closed down without warning yesterday, just like that. My web site host sent a blunt and somewhat complicated email last night; then relieved me of my monthly renewal fee this morning.

I’m still smarting at the injustice of it. I use an Antivirus; I am ultra- selective when uploading files & I run regular scans so it doesn’t seem fair that some backdoor virus has sneaked its way into the guts of my website. I backed it up, of course – but apparently I am not allowed to use the backups in case the site gets re-infected.

Did I mention it’s a genealogy site? A large genealogy site – I would tell you how large only I no longer have access to the statistics. I can still look longingly at it using the Wayback machine but it’s not the same.

I haven’t uploaded any new data for about 2 years. The site was large enough then but after 2 years of constant research & some fortunate removal of brick walls, I now have 43,892 individuals on my working tree. Take away those who may be living (bad manners to publish the living online) and those with whom I have a historical but not genetic interest, and there are still probably around 40,000 individual relatives. (Does that make me a record breaker in family history terms?)

It took me forever to upload half as many records two years ago and website hosting isn’t free, so I wonder whether it is worth all the time and frustration to put it back together again? And is there any point in a world where websites are destroyed just because somebody can?

I am a writer as well as a genealogist and am currently editing my first book for adults. It is a murder mystery set in the heart of Suffolk, beginning in the 1850’s and concluding during the 1900’s when the suffragettes were active in East Anglia. It is not only based on a true story, but features some of my relatives on – or who would be featured if the site still existed. I would have enjoyed bringing the two ideas together.

So I’m licking my wounds and wondering whether to go through the painful process of reviving my dead website – or let it rest in peace. I am undecided; feedback would help. If you have relatives in Norfolk or Suffolk; if the names Bird, Fairweather, Corben, Dennis or Kersey have any meaning to you, drop me a line. My fragile ego needs stroking before I decide to grit my teeth and get on with it, or consign the website to history.

Update:  It has taken a few days to get over myself, but I have stopped sulking long enough to re-instate the website & although it has taken the best part of 4 days, it was nowhere near as difficult as I first thought.  The original website is back.  I will try to update the last 2 years worth of research in the near future. 

Generating a character name from genealogy

Famhist LogoSo, you’ve carefully crafted your plot, nurtured your creation and developed a story.  But what do you call your characters?  Perhaps a name evolves along the way, but if not, where do you turn for inspiration?

Sometimes luck strikes and a name appears out of the blue. In Beau Garnie & the Invisimin Mine, Beau’s best friend Skyle fell into that category. Her name came first and her character was built around the name, but that was an exception. Normally, more thought goes into naming.

Some writers use the telephone directory, some use baby naming books and there are several random name generator sites – some are genre specific.

I didn’t use any of these resources. The approach I took fitted in with another of my interests. As a keen genealogist, I manage a large website containing myriad East Anglian families. The current working database contains over 51,000 individuals so is a rich resource of old English names. Some are commonplace – there are more John Bird’s than you can imagine, but there are also a number of unusual names or names that have fallen from favour.

A lead character in my children’s fantasy novel, Beau Garnie, was shamelessly ‘borrowed’ from a genealogical source. My 11x Great Uncle Nicholas Fairweather worked for the Sheriff of Suffolk, Nicholas Garneys. My character’s name is a variation of that. Beau’s father Gwalter was based on my 10 x Uncle Walter Brook; his name appears as Gwalter in many documents.

There is an extensive choice of names to work with ranging from biblical to those that must surely have been invented. Old male Hebrew names Shedrac, Onesimus, Gad and Jabesh sit side by side in the name index with their female counterparts Jerusha, Kerrenhappuch, Keturah and Salome. Relatives include Methuen (a Scottish name), Ethelbert, Angier and Esmond (Norman) and my East Anglian ancestor Athelstane Nobbs whose name is Anglo-Saxon.

Using a surname as a forename was popular in Suffolk generating combinations like Catling Fairweather, Pells Kersey, Bosom Abbs and Candler Bird. The rarity of such names makes it is easier to find information, particularly in searchable newspaper databases. This in itself generates ideas for backgrounds and stories for characters. I know from records that Rudd Turner murdered his wife and child in 1831 and was subsequently declared insane and that my 4 x great grandfather Minns Riseborough was violently assaulted with a knife by John Buck following accusations of pig stealing.

Genealogy contains wonderful resources for female names too. The ugly sounding Grysigono Smith sounds more like a witch than the heiress she was. Eszma Seago naturally conjures up an unappealing woman, perhaps with a skin complaint. In fact, she married so was probably quite a normal looking girl. Repeniler Barrett’s name is a little too similar to repulsive to invoke a wholesome character. On the other hand, Gallindra Bayfield is a wonderful name that trips off the tongue and is well-suited to a fantasy character, Haidee Mallett sounds joyful and Fairlino Love must have stepped straight out of the pages of a Mills and Boon novel.

I can’t imagine being able to use the obscure ancestral names of Hersee Fosker, Hiwasse Bullock and Thurley Ulph.  They are just too ugly. But I must find a way to work Sebborn Gonner, Pitcher Belding and Barzillai Brighty into one of my books. My favourite name, for reasons I haven’t fathomed, is the wonderfully christened Scapy Tydeman of Earl Stonham in Suffolk. That name is too good to be lost in the mists of time and a character namesake grows in my mind, even as I type…….