Australian visitor searches for forebears at Markbeech. October 20, 2010


We had a tentative knock on the door today from a charming lady from Australia, Pat Rawlings, who was hunting links to her English forebears, and in particular was looking for a family that lived at Gilridge Farm at the end of the 19th century. She knew that Thomas Smith had died of TB at Gilridge in 1896 and that he had been baptised at Markbeech shortly before his death and was buried in the churchyard here. HIs two brothers, Ernest and Joseph were also baptised here a few months after their Thomas’s death. The family seems only to have lived here briefly as they can’t be found on either the 1891 or 1901 census, and maybe they came out to the country, from Caterham where they had been living, for the sake of Thomas’s health. Pat had hoped at least to be able to see the font where they had been christened, which was easily achieved but to Pat’s delight we were also able to find the entries in the Baptism and Burial books in the church that corroborated her family stories and best of all located Thomas Smith’s grave. The parents were William and Harriet Smith and WIlliam had worked for the railways as a station master or ticket collector, but lists his occupation in the registers as a farmer. The records showed that Thomas had indeed been christened shortly before his death at age 21 in April 1896, and that his brothers were also baptised in August 1896. We were able to locate Thomas’s grave from the ‘terrier’ the map that plots the churchyard, and to Pat’s surprise we found it easily. It has a fine stone cross with the inscriptions still legible. Pat believes she is the first in her family to visit his resting place in a hundred years.
If anyone should know anything more about the family or their time at Gilridge Farm, please let me know and I will pass it on to Pat

Marielou Linklater


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