June 2018

It must be in my genes! Along with my wife, Ruth, I found myself tracking down my Hooke ancestry in Norfolk on a short break staying at the Dales Hotel in Upper Sheringham. DalesHotel1I had discovered that this was the area that many Hookes, including our particular line, had settled back in the 16th century and beyond. It was my Great Grandfather, George Archer Hooke who began the Hooke ancestry search back in 1927; this led to his son Cyril, my grandfather, along with his wife Elaine and his sister Ella, undertaking even more intensive research in the period 1958 to 1963. This led to the production of a Hooke Family Chart which was copied on rolls and given to all members of the family. This is where I began my journey into the past, nearly 60 years later, transferring all the hand-written data to My Heritage software, data searches increasing the tree to over 1900 names to date. Computerised records, accessible online (at a price!) has replaced the hard slog of writing letters, visiting churches, gaining permission to see and then decipher ancient records. I have in my possession all the research notes of both George Archer Hooke and Cyril Hooke, faithfully kept by Cyril's wife, Granny Elaine. Having read them all through I have the greatest admiration for the thoroughness and dogged determination of their search for our Hooke ancestry.

It all began with a letter written in 1927 by George Archer Hooke to his son Cyril, out in India. The seeds of enquiry had already been sown and George was beginning to take up the ancestry challenge. It's worth getting a feel for the Hooke family at this stage before reading the letter which makes an initial stab at exploring Hooke roots, but also opens a window on the Hookes in 1927 and has at least one surprisingly frank revelation towards the end. You'll have to read it to see what I mean!

January 1927

The Hooke family comprised:

EllenHooke1927George, who is approaching his 70th year and retired but still quite active.

Ellen is 71 and ailing. The following year she became seriously ill and died in September 1928. Her condition deteriorating, you can read George's sad correspondence with his son Cyril, out in India, here.

Mildred is 36, single, teaching in Birmingham but shortly (May 1927) to achieve the promotion which would define her career, as Headmistress of Bradford Girls Grammar School where she would discover an impetuous and gifted 16 year old, Barbara Castle and appoint her as head girl.Then in the following years Mildred would build a whole new school, opened by royalty in 1936 and ultimately receive the OBE.

Frances, 35, is single, and still living at home. For uncertain reasons it seems that she was never able to build her own life and career, but her love and caring skills came into their own as she appears to have taken the greatest burden in caring for her dying mother.

Trixie, aged 35, is also unmarried, a Cambridge graduate and employed as a statistician.

Ella, aged 31, is unmarried, working as a school secretary in Nottingham.

Cyril, just turned 30, an army officer, married for one year to Elaine, is just beginning to get used to being a parent to George who is about 10 weeks old. The family are in Meerut, India, and cherish every letter that arrives from England, this being one. The rest of the Hooke family were altogether for Christmas in Barnes, London, as described in the letter reproduced below.

The research revealed that the wider Hooke family populated many North Norfolk villages during the 16th-19C, as shown by this sketch map drawn by Cyril. In the short time we had available to us we focussed our attention on just three places, Upper Sheringham, Blakeney and Beeston Regis.

NorfolkCoastMap

UpperSheringhamChurchAll Saints Church, Upper Sheringham gave us nothing of note. There was no sign of a Hooke brass that had once been displayed on the walls. Understandably, such artefacts are removed over time. We took photos of the church and font, undoubtedly the place of many a Hooke christening. UpperSheringhamFont

It was a gentle 8 mile drive to Blakeney where the tide was out. Blakeney was once a thriving port until the river silted up and the coastline receded. We took time to enjoy the promenade, climb the small coastal hill for the view and take a look inside the oldest building in the village - the basement of a merchant's house.

See some photos of Blakeney below. Click on each image to see the full picture and details.

 

BlakeneyGuildhallSignBlakeneyChurch

BlakeneyFont2St Nicholas' church is on the edge of the village and we searched the graveyard in vain for any sign of a Hooke grave. Many were so weathered they were impossible to read. However, just before we were to leave I checked Cyril's notes and realised that we needed to look for a Jackson stone rather than a Hooke stone. We were quickly rewarded with three prominent stones just to the left of the main entrance. Cyril had traced our Hooke ancestry back to a Thomas Hooke (1695-1746) and his wife Bridget (1699-1778). They had five children, the fourth of whom was also named Bridget, but known as Biddy. She married a certain Michael Jackson and both ther gravestones are clearly visble with the larger inscriptions legible. We struggled with the smaller text at the bottom, even after removing the undergrowth, some words were well-worn. BiddyJacksonGraveThe full text of Biddy Jackson's grave is as follows:

IN MEMORY OF BIDDY JACKSON (nee Hooke) THE WIFE OF MICHAEL JACKSON GENT.

LATE OF THIS PARISH WHO DIED 6 NOV 1814 AGED 78 YEARS

IN GREAT AFFLICTION OFT I'VE BEEN ALONE

AND TO MY BLESSED SAVIOUR MADE MY MOAN

AT LENGTH THE LORD UNTO MY CRY GIVE EAR

AND WITH KIND DEATH TO END MY GRIEF AND CARE

???? AND BODY ????

MichaelJacksonGrave

 

Michael Jackson's grave (right) is inscribed with images of the tools of his profession - a bricklayer - the text as follows:

To the Memory of MICHAEL JACKSON BRICKLAYER

who departed this life the 21 day of May 1795 AGED 91 YEARS

Also CATHARINE his first wife

who died the 20th day of February 1740 aged 29 years

Also ELIZABETH his second wife

who died the????

17     aged    years

 

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