The faces of history – Jeanne Marion Winchurch

Jeanne - about 1939
Jeanne - about 1939

Jeanne Marion Winchurch was born on 5 July 1919. By this time Percy Walter Winchurch, her father (he was also my grandfather) was well established as a businessman. He clearly prospered during the 1920s since photographs show Percy and his family in increasingly comfortable surroundings and on holiday in Devon and later Cornwall. The children both had private educations.

Jeanne Marion and Percy about 1926 The car, I think, is a Morris Oxford 'flatnose'
Jeanne Marion and Percy about 1926 The car, I think, is a Morris Oxford 'flatnose'

There was always a car somewhere in the pictures, as in this one taken in what looks like the Welsh border country; a popular destination for Midlanders on a ‘Sunday day out’

Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion's younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown. About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.
Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion's younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown. About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.
Jeanne loved the water
Jeanne loved the water
Marie, Jeanne and Vic Winchurch - about 1925
Marie, Jeanne and Vic Winchurch - about 1925



Jeanne was successful at school, excelling at languages and mathematics. She was also a strong swimmer and an avid supporter of West Bromwich Albion Football Club. This led to a friendly rivalry with Percy whose loyalties always were directed towards Aston Villa. He was a season ticket holder and shareholder.

At the start of the Second World War, Jeanne’s life moved into a new direction.  Vic my father, had joined the Royal Navy in 1941 and Jeanne, who by this time was doing well with a firm of accountants, desperately wanted to enlist in the WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Service).

Early in 1943, she finally got her wish

Following the revelations about the Enigma decoding process, involving literally hundreds of WRNS acting, in effect, as a human computer in an operation led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park in Bedfordshire, it seemed very likely to me that her rapid recruitment happened because of her mathematics and accountancy qualifications.

I was surprised to find from Jeanne’s service record that she spent the early part of her wartime service at HMS Pembroke, nominally the supply department, based at Chatham, but there is no doubt that her recruitment corresponded with this surge of WRNS personnel with Maths qualifications.

By the spring of 1943 she was on leave at Quinton in her new uniform

Jeanne Margaret Vic with John, Spring 1943
Jeanne Margaret Vic with John, Spring 1943

Jeanne clearly had a succesful three years to demobilisation in March 1946. She was by then a Wren Petty Officer and her service record notes that her character was ‘Very Good throughout service’.

Vic had risen to Petty Officer too, but only in an acting capacity. It is of course understandable that being parted from his wife and new son must have dampened his enthusiasm for the service, particularly towards the end of the war.

Jeanne and John - 1945
Jeanne and John - 1945

Very soon after demob, Jeanne took up the post of Secretary to the Birmingham branch of the International Friendship League.

This organisation had been set up before the war to promote interaction between young people, primarily within Europe

I quote from the IFL website (still in existence in 2007 ) :

In August 1931 30 students from Berlin University spent a holiday at the bungalow of Noel Ede at Peacehaven in Sussex and with British students built an extension to the overcrowded home.
On 26 September, with three friends Noel Ede inaugurated the IFL.

Reading those lines now there is a double irony.

Firstly, the name ‘Peacehaven’ at a time when Nazism was beginning to take hold in Germany. A peace so violently shattered.

Secondly, Jeanne’s own ‘European relationship’, which was to end so tragically a few years later.

She seems to have been very enthusiastic about her role, there are photos of a visit to Holland and she bought back souveniers: for example a wooden miniature clog with a slotted metal plate to use as a money box .

This was for me and I still have it.

Jeanne accompanied us on outings and holidays too. Here is a photo from about 1946 or 47 taken at Weston – Super – Mare

John, Margaret, Jeanne, Annie Downing, Judith and Marie Price (friend of Margaret from schooldays)
John, Margaret, Jeanne, Annie Downing, Judith and Marie Price (friend of Margaret from schooldays)

Jeanne’s suicide in June 1949

1948, Jeanne met a German ex prisoner of war called Peter. She was by now in her late twenties and I don’t think she had had a long term boyfriend before this. The relationship developed and Peter was taken to meet Percy and Marion. This can’t have been easy for Percy, in particular, because he had very strong anti German views and he must have been worried about Jeanne’s association with a young man who was basically homeless and without a job.

Towards the end of 1948, Peter returned to Germany to look for work. He seems to have gone to stay with relatives in Wiesloch in South Germay, but left to travel to the ‘British sector’ early in 1949. From this point onwards, Jeanne apparently lost touch with him, but continued to write to him via his sister in law in Wiesloch.

Then in June 1949, Jeanne’s world fell apart.

The sister in law wrote telling Jeanne that Peter was about to get married.

Percy and Marion were away at the time ( I think in Torquay ). Jeanne’s friend Muriel Fletcher was so concerned abut Jeanne’s state of mind that she stayed with her for the night after she received the letter.

But the next day, Sunday 20 June 1949, Jeanne killed herself by putting her head in the gas oven. Percy found her when he returned home,

The Birmingham Post reported the inquest:


When an inquest was held in Birmingham today on the secretary of an International Friendship League centre, the City Coroner (Dr .W. H. Davison) was told that the girl, an ex-Wren petty officer, Jeanne Marion Winchurch (aged 29), had suffered a great disappointment in an attachment with a former German prisoner-of-war.
The girl’s father, Percy Walter Winchurch, with whom she lived at 755, Hagley Road West, Quinton, said he found his daughter lying with her head on a cushion in a gas-oven in the house.
The cause of death was given as asphyxia due to gas poisoning.
Witness told the Coroner that his daughter had recently completed the final of an extremely difficult accountancy examination and that the suspense of waiting for the result had been very worrying for her.
” About 18 months ago,” he said, “Jeanne met a German prisoner of war. I met him once at our house when he came to tea.” The man returned to Germany last Christmas, and Jeanne, he believed, was expecting to renew the association and marry him.
Very Depressed
Muriel Ann Fletcher, who worked with Miss Winchurch, said that Jeanne collected a letter from the International Centre on Saturday, which told her that her German boy friend was married. She believed the letter had been written by the man’s sister-in-law.

Because she could see that her friend was very depressed as a result of this news she stayed the night with her.
The girl was left alone in the house on the Sunday night.

Returning a verdict of  “Suicide while the balance of the mind was disturbed,” the Coroner said her death was due to an accumulation of various disturbances.
The disappointment of her German friend in not cooperating as she intended and the worry of the examination had had a cumulative effect, resulting in a strong feeling of depression and melancholy.

The effect on the whole of our family of this tragic event was profound and lasts to some extent even today, over sixty years later.

I can still remember walking home from school along Thornhill Road in Handsworth. It was a Wednesday and a custom had grown up that Marion, my Grandmother came over from Quinton for tea. She would look out of the window for me as I walked the three hundred yards or so from St Michaels Primary School, which stood on the junction of Thornhill Road and Soho Road.

That day, I knew from quite a distance that she wasn’t there.

I believe that Jeanne had asked to come away on holiday with us that summer to Friog, near Barmouth, but that my mother had refused because the cottage was too small. I know she regretted that decision to the end of her life.

Contact was made with Peter’s family the following month (July 1949), but I don’t think there was ever any direct correspondence. Marion seems to have written to the sister in law who had broken the news of Peter’s marriage, because I have the reply, written from Wiesloch. This letter is written in German, but to the best of my knowledge, Marion neither spoke or understood the language, so I assume that she had sent the basic details in English.

The reply begins :



Dear Mrs Winchurch

I am very distressed by the sad news about your beloved daughter,Jeanne, which I could almost not believe. When I received your letter
I felt such deep pain that I was not able to reply immediately.
First I would like to send you and your whole family my heartfelt sympathy on your deeply felt suffering over your unforgettable daughter.
The pain is especially unbearable for a mother. My whole family and I are so sad at the sad news.
I feel so sorry for Jeanne and feel the pain as deeply as if she had been my own sister.
I got to know and get on with Jeanne so well through our exchange of letters.
I would like so much to been able to send her more news about Peter but unfortunately he only ever wrote very little to us too.
We are all appalled at Peter that he has a human soul on his conscience, that he was so cowardly towards your daughter, Jeanne, and that after he left us he did not ever write to her again………………..
Peter left us at the beginning of January und first went to visit his sick mother in Spiterl?? and from there then went to friends in the English zone to look for work there and said to me when he left us that I should accept all post from Jeanne and as soon as he found work he would write to Jeanne and if he didn’t find work then he would come back to us and I kept comforting Jeanne with these words.
And throughout this whole time we heard very little from him. At Easter he wrote to us that he would come to us after Easter. We waited eagerly for him and unfortunately he didn’t come.
And at Whitsun the news came from him that he was about to get married. We were all horrified by the news. And so I felt that I had to write to Jeanne with this news if he was so cowardly and hadn’t written to her. But believe me, dear Mrs Winchurch, how heavy my heart was to write this news to Jeanne. Believe me that as his sister in law I can never forget how Peter treated Jeanne and that he brought her to her death, it will and can never bring Peter any happiness because I feel so deeply that if fate had handed out the same to me as to Jeanne I would have arrived at the same point. Because one person takes their life more easily and another person less easily.
We would very much like to have got to know Jeanne because from her letter she seemed such a good person. But unfortunately fate did not want that.
May God give Jeanne eternal peace because she passed through difficult times.
I would still like to be able to hear more about how Jeanne died.
With sincere good wishes from our whole family.

I don’t know if Marion or Percy ever had this letter translated, but I doubt it.

As far as I know, its contents have remained unknown for almost sixty years.

As part of this project, Jane Monti kindly offered to translate it for me and I am very grateful to her.

I know the letter, its contents and the story moved her, especially as a visit to Berlin with David, my brother, shortly before she did the translation had sharpened her awareness of the effects of the war.

As Jane puts it :

“..I can’t help wondering how many thousands of individual tragedies like this must have been brought about directly and indirectly as a result of the war and all the events leading up to and surrounding it.”

Very sadly, Jane herself died not long after this act of kindness.

Jeanne had sat the finals examination for the Chartered Institute of Secretaries in Birmingham in May 1949. A cutting from the Birmingham Post records that she passed, but this result came after her death.

Jeanne was undoubtedly of one of the most talented Winchurchs of her generation.

The aftermath of Jeanne’s death

With characteristic single mindedness Percy moved on. Jeanne was rarely mentioned by anyone in the family in my experience. I think this is probably a common way of dealing with a suicide, especially sixty years ago, but it has never corresponded with my own feelings.

I think that her relatively short life is worth commemorating for so many reasons.

Jeanne was  the essence of a ‘modern woman’ – intelligent, articulate, determined and passionate.

She was in the vanguard of the post war process of reconciliation and reconstruction in Europe.

It is a tragedy that in so taking part Jeanne paid such a terrible price and those of us who were left suffered such a profound loss.

John Winchurch


21 December 2008

Laurence Binyon's memorial plaque, Pentire Head, Cornwall
Laurence Binyon's memorial plaque, Pentire Head, Cornwall
Laurence Binyon's memorial plaque, Pentire Head, Cornwall
Laurence Binyon's memorial plaque, Pentire Head, Cornwall

The faces of history – Francis George Sternberg 1829 – 1869

Francis George Sterberg 1829-1869
Francis George Sterberg 1829-1869

FGS was the grandson of another Francis George Sternberg, who came from Lüneburg in North Germany as a trumpeter in the  Royal Horse Guards Regiment. He was one of many soldiers to migrate across the North Sea during the Hanoverian period and arrived in England about 1790. He subsequently settled in Northampton with his English wife Frances Furnivall and the Sternbergs became well established in the town, with a music shop and a singing and instrumental tuition business.

One of their sons was George Sternberg a carver and gilder and it was he who married Mary Leach Mumford and was the father of Francis George born in 1829.

Lizzie Plucknett was born at Thorverton in Devon in the same year, 1829, the daughter of Thomas Loaring Plucknett from his first marriage to Harriet (née Tootel). Francis and Lizzie  married in Bristol in 1853

Their relationship had got off to a good start.

Francis wrote this poem to ‘fairest Lizzy’ for Valentine’s Day 1851, when they were both 21 years old.


When fresher than the dew wet rose,
My lovely Lizzy smiles on me,
And in her blue eyes gently glows,
The light of heartless gaity
A nature seems with her to shine,
Far banished every dreary pain,
Its ills forsake the earth awhile,
And joy and gladness only reigns.
When pity melts my Lizzys soul,
and glistens in her eye the tear,
That meek affliction bid to call,
Ah! how much more is Lizzy dear
An angels sweetness then descends,
And softening every feature’s grace,
a more than human beauty lends
to Lizzys ever lovely face
Thus still whatever passion reigns
Whatever feeling moves her heart
My own an equal share sustains
Nor can resist her guileless art
And dear the chain that binds me so
A chain for life I would not break
For Oh! that life itself to me
Is only dear for Lizzys sake

February 13th.1851

F. G. S.

(to) Miss Plucknett

(c/o) Mr.Totills (Lizzy’s uncle, living in Bristol)

This romantic start continued after their marriage in 1853 with the birth of no less than ten children, eight of whom survived beyond infancy, one of whom was another Francis George Sternberg. In fact the name Francis has been given to a boy descendent of the Sternbergs in every generation since 1761. The current ‘title holder’ is fifteen at the time of writing.

Sadly Francis George, the poet, died of ‘alcohol poisoning and brain disease’ at the age of forty, leaving Lizzy pregnant with her youngest child Charles in 1869.

I have the original of this poem, sadly kept by Lizzy in a black banded mourning envelope.


In 1860 the Sternbergs had moved to Birmingham and Elizabeth and her eight children survived remarkably well. Thanks for this were largely due to the Mumford family (Lizzy’s inlaws), I suspect.

The faces of history – Introduction

One of the things that I have found after several years of sorting through family history details is that it is very easy to overlook or even forget important items. There have been several instances where I have ‘discovered’ information, only to find that my father had already recorded it years before.

Part of the problem is trying to find a format to make family history both readable and informative, but also accessible.

With this in mind, this a more personal view of the faces, people and events from my earliest years, plus an attempt to revisit previous generations in a way that gives some insight into the lives, thoughts, hardships and successes of the people whose very existence led to my own and that of other members of my family.

The internet has provided a ready medium for this in a way that has not been possible before.

As I record each individual, I find that the very act of doing so makes me look more closely at details and often link together pieces of information from my own and other people’s investigations.

The surnames of my ancestors that I know of so far (without most spelling variations included) are, in alphabetical order :

Barrow, Bate, Brady, Bright, Brook, Brown, Burton, Callender, Downing, Freeman, Furnivall, Gadsby, Gornall, Gritten, Grove, Heath, Hussey, Jewkes, Kellan, Kurtzbauer, Leach, Loaring, Merricks, Mumford, Otzmann, Plucknett, Pugh, Reeve, Shaw, Smith, Squire, Sternberg, Sutton, Taylor, Tester, Thornton, Tootel (Tothill), Webb, Winchurch.

This is therefore a fluid and expanding narrative, likely to be altered and added to as facts emerge and style and content change. Please keep reading, commenting and revisiting.

It was a conversation between my grandmother and her sister in 1961 that was an early inspiration for both me and my father to look into family history more. Dad began straight away, my research had to wait a few decades. Click here to listen to a recording I made that Christmas in 1961

When I was born on Sunday 27 September 1942, much of the ‘civilised’ world was at war. The Battle of Britain was more than two years in the past.

The Americans had entered the war after the Japanese had been stupid enough to attack them at Pearl Harbor and the Soviet Union was engaged with Hitler’s Army in a war of bloody attrition at Stalingrad, with results that would influence not only the world at large, but more personally, my life and political thought as the decades followed.

At the time that I was born, My father Francis Victor Winchurch ( Vic ) had been in the Royal Navy for eighteen months and did not see his first born son until Christmas of 1942, when I was three months old.

Three of my four grandparents were living, all within the ’30 year generation norm’. In other words they were within a year or so of their sixtieth birthdays in 1942. I will return to each of them later

Unusually, I also had three great grandparents to dote on this new arrival into war torn Britain.


Alice Brown, neé Sternberg, my father’s mother’s mother

Alice holding John 1943
Alice holding John 1943

On my mother’s side of the family, living in Stone, Staffordshire were her grandparents:


Arthur Smith, my mother’s mother’s father



Elizabeth (Lizzie) Smith neé Gadsby, my mother’s mother’s mother.

These three were, although I was not aware of it until years later, members of the generation that had been born at the pinnacle of the power and glory of Victorian England which about to be followed by an extended period of change lasting well into the twentieth century.

It occured to me only a few years ago, that my grandfather, Percy Winchurch was in most respects a ‘modern man’.

He had at the time of his death in 1953, his own business, car, house with gadgets including a vacuum cleaner and TV.

By contrast, his grandfather, Thomas Winchurch was born in 1787 and had few belongings throughout his life.

The lives of those four generations, including my own, represent a phenominal change in industrial society in general and Britain in particular.

The faces of history – Thomas Loaring Plucknett

Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875
Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875

Thomas Loaring Plucknett born in 1809 at Thorverton in Devon was my great great great grandfather. For those of you who have been following this series (thank you) he was the father of Lizzy Plucknett (the recipient of the Valentine’s Day poem and future bride of Francis George Sternberg).

I think it is my favourite ‘ancestor’ photo. Somehow the man’s strength of character and determination stand out over the years. It is also the oldest direct ancestor photograph that I possess, albeit a copy of the original.

My father spent a lot of time researching the Plucknetts and TLP in particular. This is an extract from a letter he wrote to a very helpful local historian in Devon in 1993.

…My gt.grandmother was Elizabeth Plucknett, baptised at St. Paul’s, Exeter…… Her grandfather, Thomas Plucknett married Elizabeth Loaring at St. Sidwell, Exeter, and, unusually for that time, the marriage register gives his occupation – Drummer in the Marines, Plymouth Division. I followed this up in Admiralty records, and found that he enrolled in 1796 and was discharged, unfit, in 1803, which was when he came to live in Thorverton. His baptism was given as 1791 (sic) at St. Sidwells. Presumably he settled in Thorverton because it was his wife’s home, but I have not yet done a great deal of work on the Loarings.
I was greatly puzzled for many years because I could not find his son, Thomas (Loaring) Plucknett in the 1861 census. Two attempts, with a 20 year interval, failed. Recently, without going into details, I found him in London……. Before he left Thorverton, his second daughter married a William Henry Clout, a butcher of Kennington. W. H Clout was also a witness at the marriages of the next two daughters, Sarah and Lucy in 1870 and 1871 (both at Clapham). He was evidently quite important in the family and I am wondering if he originally went to Devon to buy stock and later persuaded his father-in law that it would be a good move to go to London. This, of course, is only supposition and probably quite wrong.

Much as I respect my Dad’s research on the above and so many details of our family history, I can’t help feeling that he rather misinterpreted TLP being in London in the 1861 census. It seems to me that he was either staying close to the Clouts’ home in Bradley Terrace, Lambeth, or that TLP and his wife had a London base of their own – in other words he was only visiting London. I do think though, that his guess at W. H. Clout’s reason for visiting Thorverton  makes sense. The arrival of the railways in Victorian Britain saw the end of traditional cattle droving, with a rise in live meat and dairy transport to Smithfield and other markets in London.

He is described as what I think is a ‘Butterman (Master)’ in the 1861 census – the handwritten version is difficult to decipher and gave Dad trouble – but this would tie in with his description in 1878 as a ‘dairyman’. I think Dad was quite right about William Henry Clout’s influence though with regard to trading in London.

thomaslplucknettlambeth1861click to enlarge

He was living in Thorverton in 1871 and died there in 1880, at the age of 70.

Dad continues in the same letter –

The other matter that interests me is the mill. Edward Coombe married Thomas Plucknett’s daughter, at Thorverton, in 1823, and is described in the marriage licence bond as a miller. He ran the mill at Feniton until he died in 1840 and then his sons Thomas Loaring and James Coombe ran it successively. They had another brother, Edwin, and I am wondering if it was he who later took over Thorverton Mill. Thomas Plucknett’ younger son, James Summers Plucknett. was also a miller, first at Tipton St. Johns and then at Honiton.

My grandmother had a story that her grandfather (Thomas Loaring P) defended his mill with a pitchfork single-handed against anti-corn law rioters, but as he was never a miller this cannot be true. But I have found out that there were food riots in the Honiton area in the 1840s, so it could have been one of the other members of the family.

TLP's bread-baking ovens. Exposed during renovations at the Bury, Thorverton
TLP's bread-baking ovens. Exposed during renovations at the Bury, Thorverton

TLP was a forceful character, well illustrated by this extract from the Western Times, 01 Jun 1869.

“Thomas Plucknett, of Thorverton, was summoned by Mr T. Hutchings, lessee of the Cattle Market (at Exeter), with an assault. Complainant stated that on the 21st he was standing inside the market gate counting some sheep that were being driven in, when defendant came up with twelve pigs which he tried to mix up with the sheep. There are double gates, but one of these was locked at the time in order that complainant might count the sheep. Defendant then asked for the key of a gate at the higher end of the market, and on complainant refusing to let him have it he pushed the closed gate as hard as he could and knocked complainant violently. The defence was that as the pigs were likely to be hurt by a waggon passing at the time, defendant merely pushed the gate open to prevent the pigs being killed. The Bench said that this did not justify the assault and fined defendant £5 and expenses.”

TLP seems to have had a rather defiant nature all of his life. When he married Harriet Tootell in April 1829, they were both under 21 and therefore needed parents’ permission. Bearing in mind the fact that their daughter Lizzy was born in July 1829, it is easy to imagine that the teenage Thomas had left Thorverton and gone to the ‘big city’ of Exeter where life was less restrictive than that in a small village. His father Thomas was by this time well established in Thorveton and within a couple of years of his marriage, TLP was back establishing his bakery business in the Bury. Lizzy and her sister Emma left Thorverton at a young age and TLP seems to have tried his hand a several ventures from baking bread to cattle dealing.

In 1854,Thomas Kingdon (cider manufacturer) of Netherexe took Thomas Loaring Plucknett, baker, to court over the latter’s manuring (or not manuring)  two meadows he leased from the former and his seeding out (or not seeding out) an orchard. Through his solicitor, Plucknett insisted that he had manured and seeded out the land in accordance with the terms of his agreement in a proper husbandman-like manner.
The Judge’s decision seems to have been that he was guilty, but not by much. He awarded the plaintiff not the £10 demanded but merely 7s 1d.

He was not an exucutor of Thomas Plucknett’s final will made in 1860, shortly before his death and only a week after the death of his daughter, Sarah Coombe. The sole executor was James, TLP’s younger brother by five years and whilst all of Thomas’s three children, (or heirs), were beneficiaries, James had authority to make decisions about retention and disposal of property. This was perhaps  strange, since TLP was the eldest son.

Maybe, just maybe, Thomas senior did not trust the judgement and business acumen of his first-born.

Thomas senior’s will seems to have led to futher negotiation with TLP’s niece Elizabeth (née Coombe) and her husband John Beard, three years later in 1863 –

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

August 3rd 1863

In consideration of the sum of nineteen pounds sterling paid by me this day by Thomas Loaring Plucknett of No. 15 Bradley Terrace in the Parish of Lambeth, Surrey, I assign unto the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett my one twenty first share in the estate of the late Thomas Plucknett of Thorverton, Devon to which my Wife Elizabeth Beard is entitled under the will of the said Thomas Plucknett and hereby agree that all monies and proceeds to arise out of the sale of the said —- Leasehold and personal property being 1/21 st share thereof unto the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett and the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett hereby agrees to free the said John Beard from all or any liability that may arise in reference to the settlement of the said estate

John Beard
Elizabeth Beard
Thomas Plucknett
Solicitor’s signature.

The one twenty first share is interesting, since it presumably is calculated as one seventh of one third share. Edward Coombe and his wife (née Sarah Loaring Plucknett – TLP’s sister) had seven children, so they must all have lived beyond childhood (Edward died in 1840 – the year of his youngest son’s birth) and been living in 1863. This was an unusually high survival rate for a Victorian family.


The Bury (Berry in older documents) leads from the church, left to Bullen Street running vertically.

The Dolphin Hotel (now Thorverton Arms) is the long building at the T junction between The Bury and Bullen Street

The Church and churchyard where several of my ancestors – Loarings and Plucknetts – are buried is to the right and slightly below centre.

Plucknett graves in Thorverton churchyard
Plucknett graves in Thorverton churchyard

The small tombstone in the centre has the inscription:

Thomas Loaring Plucknett, late of Thorverton, born 9th Sep. 1809, died 22nd July 1880
also Emma, wife of the above, died 6th Oct. 1885 in her 74th year.

Harriet, Thomas’s first wife and my 3Ggrandmother, has her memorial on the stone next but one to the right, which is that of Thomas senr and Sarah (née Loaring)

Loaring tombstone reads - Sarah Loaring died July 3rd 1785 aged 36 also Nathaniel Loaring died June 27th 1806 aged 36 ……………………………. also Joseph Loaring died October 14th 1827 aged 51 also Thomas Loaring
Loaring tombstone reads - Sarah Loaring died July 3rd 1785 aged 36 also Nathaniel Loaring died June 27th 1806 aged 36 ……………………………. also Joseph Loaring died October 14th 1827 aged 51 also Thomas Loaring

Although Thomas Loaring P’s children were baptised in the Anglican church, he was not a docile parishioner. He objected to an increased church rate in 1865 (DWT 2 Jun): … The Vicar resisted the amendment proposed by a non-churchgoer (at which) “Mr Plucknett said he didn’t go to church because he had been turned out of his seat, and he wasn’t coming to church, for nobody could benefit or learn anything from the reverend gentleman (laughter)”.

The reference is to a new seating plan of 1864, from which his name is absent.

I am descended from TLP and his first wife Harriet (Tootell). Sadly, no photo of Harriet exists to my knowledge. TLP’s maternal grandmother was Sarah Tothill Summers, probably the daughter of Sarah Kellan and her first husband Thomas Tothill (on his death she married Simon Summers), It seems likely that Tootell is simply a variant of Tothill, so that Harriet had roots, or at least relatives in Thorverton. In fact there are  records of Tothills being baptised in the village church going back to around 1640.

So the Plucknetts, Loarings and Tothills were very much families of that part of Devon for two or three centuries.

Thomas Loaring Plucknett and his second wife Emma. The handwritten description is by Elizabeth Plucknett, TLP's daughter, Emma's stepdaughter.

His second marriage to Emma Babbage (whose photo is entitled ‘His Wife’ by Lizzy) produced two daughters, Sarah Babbage Plucknett (b1844), Lucy Harriet Plucknett (b1845)  and a son, Tom Babbage Plucknett (b1849)

Charlie Thomas Plucknett and Eva about1930
Charlie Thomas Plucknett and Eva about1930

Tom’s son, Charlie Thomas Plucknett married Eva Price and their daughters Dora and May were the last Plucknetts to live in Thorverton. The sisters ran the Dairy, Thorverton’s shop, which finally closed in 2007. May died in 1992 but Dora had almost reached her hundredth birthday when she died at Crediton in 2006.

Dora and May Plucknett, about 1914
Dora and May Plucknett, about 1914

My father met Dora Plucknett (his half second cousin once removed !)  in Thorverton in 1996, adding another ‘face’ to these pages of history.

Lucy Harriet’s descendants live in Australia from where both Dad and I have exchanged information with Helen Swaine.

Sarah Babbage Plucknett spent most of her life at East Molesey in Surrey – more details to follow from Rosemary Binnie as mentioned in her comment, below.

My thanks to Ian Stoyle of Thorverton for his help with so many details.

John Winchurch

The faces of history – George Sternberg

George Sternberg 1798 - 1878
George Sternberg 1798 - 1878

I am not certain that this is photo of George Sternberg, my great great great grandfather, but I am certain that George was born in Northampton in 1798. The photo is from a family album which contains several serious looking people not yet positively identified. The balance of probability though, is that this one is of  George.

He was the sixth child of Francis George and Frances (née Furnivall) Sternberg. Unusually for the family, George was not given a middle name. He was a carver and gilder, which were trades followed by a number of the Sternberg family members who were not directly involved in music.

He was also the father of another Francis George Sternberg, my great great grandfather, a child of George’s marriage to Mary Mumford. There was only one other child born to Mary and George, namely Elizabeth Sternberg, who lived until 1905.

Mary died in 1848 and in 1851, at the age of 53, George married Lydia May Bird, a spinster and housekeeper, in Northampton.

I do not know what became of Lydia, since ten years later in 1861, the census return shows George as a widower living alone and in the 1871 census, George Sternberg, 73, Gilder, living with sister Rosina (75) and her husband William Amerson  (64) in All Saints Northampton. There is a Lydia Sternberg recorded a few years later in New York, but I haven’t yet followed up on that report.
George was described as  ‘Sexton of All Saints’ on his first wife’s death certificate in 1848.

George Sternberg died of ‘fever’ at the age of eighty in 1878

The faces of history – Francis George Sternberg – 1761- 1828

Francis George Sternberg signature 1789
Francis George Sternberg signature 1789

For this entry, I do not have a photo, only a description of my great great great great grandfather, whom I suspect had a huge influence over subsequent generations.

Height 5’5″, born Luneburg, Germany. Hair, eyes and complexion brown; Musician by trade

The love of music is a clear trait that I inherited from my father, grandmother and I believe goes back to Francis George and beyond. On the marriage certificate of his son George to Lydia Bird in 1851, he is referred to as ‘George Sternberg,  Professor of Music’ and I assume that ‘George’ was the name he used throughout his life.

Francis George was from a family of musicians from Lüneburg in north Germany. See Stan Bruce’s account of the German Sternbergs for more information.

Ironically, I stayed in Lüneburg when I was eighteen, cycling across Holland , Germany and Denmark with a school friend whose grandmother lived there. At that point in my life, I knew nothing of my Lüneburg ancestors, but I fell in love with the ancient town.

But I digress.

Francis George Sternberg was born in Lüneburg on 29 August 1761  and baptised in St. John’s Church, Lüneburg with his original German names, Frantz Georg Sternberg on 1 September 1761. His godfather at baptism was  Frantz Georg Brown. More coincidence here, since his great grandaughter married Henry Brown. His mother died when Francis George was only seven, in May 1769. He became a trumpeter in the Royal Horse Guards Regiment in 1786. George III who was King of Britain at this time was also elector of Hanover and it was not uncommon for soldiers from North Germany to enlist in British regiments.

Details of his service with the Royal Horse Guards can be found in the following regimental records :

Royal Horse Guards Nominal Roll, Book 1 (click to see original)

RHG Officers Succession; and Rank and File Services, 1750-1890 at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, gives the following information
Age at enlistment 22 (this does not quite tie in with birth date – he should be 24 or 25 !), Height 5’5″, born Luneburg, Germany.

Hair, eyes and complexion brown; Musician by trade; date of service: 5 March 1786, Troop H.

End of service: trumpeter, 30th May 1797, own request; character good.

Trumpeter with Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (Blues) under Rt Hon Gen Henry Seymour Conway (1762 -1792) and under His Grace the Duke of Richmond ( 1793 – 1798 )

He was enlisted on 18 March 1786 and was present at the following musters :

25 Dec 1785 – 24 June 86 Cptn Lewis Buckle Leicester 30 Sept 1786 On Party
25 Jun 1786 – 24 Dec 86 Cptn Robert Shaw Milnes Colney 18 April 1787
25 Dec 1786 – 24 Jun 87 Cptn Robert Shaw Milnes Hertford 3 Sept 1787
25 June 1787 – 24 Dec 87 Cptn Robert Shaw Milnes Hertford 1 April 1788
25 Dec 1787 – 24 Jun 88 Cptn Robert Jefferson St Albans 23 August 1788
25 June 1788 – 24 Dec 88 Cptn Robert Jefferson St Albans 30 April 1789
25 Dec 1788 – 24 Jun 89 Cptn Robert Jefferson Bedford 22 Aug 1789
25 Jun 1789 – 24 Dec 89 Cptn Robert Jefferson Black Heath 5 April 1790
25 Dec 1789 – 24 Jun 90 Cptn Robert Jefferson Peterborough 2 Sept 1790
25 Jun 1790 – 24 Dec 90 Cptn Robert Jefferson Black Heath 12 April 1791
25 Dec 1790 – 24 Jun 91 Cptn Robert Jefferson Birmingham 20 August 1791
25 Jun 1791 – 24 Dec 91 Cptn Robert Jefferson Birmingham 23 April 1792
25 Dec 1791 -24 Jun 92 Cptn Robert Jefferson Birmingham 27 Aug 1792
25 Jun 1792 – 24 Dec 92 Cptn Robert Jefferson Northampton 27 May 1793
25 Dec 1792 – 24 Jun 93 No Records surviving
25 Jun 1793 – 24 Dec 93 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Lutterworth 11 April 1794 On detachment at Northampton
25 Dec 1793 – 24 Jun 94 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Leicester 1 Sept 1794 On detachment
25 Jun 1794 – 24 Dec 94 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Leicester 24 April 1795 On command
25 Dec 1794 – 24 Jun 95 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Leicester August 1795 On duty at Northampton
25 Jun 1795 – 24 Dec 95 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Leicester 24 March 1796 On duty at Northampton
25 Dec 1795 – 24 Jun 96 Cptn Henry Wave Brighton Barracks 30 Aug 96
25 Jun 1796 – 24 Dec 96 Cptn Henry Wave Ipswich Barracks 3 April 97
25 Dec 1796 – 24 Jun 97 Cptn Henry Wave Camp nr Weymouth 21 Aug 97

Discharged 13 June 1797
Source PRO records WO/12 55-57

In many of the above musters his name is recorded as ‘Stanburg’ or ‘Stanberg’ . Also present at several of these musters was Nicholas Doring, trumpet Major, enlisted 25 May 1777. Could this be where his son Francis Doering Sternberg got his name from?

There is another fascinating cause for speculation in that last posting. His future namesake grandson, Francis George Sternberg born in Northampton in 1829, married Lizzie Plucknett. Her grandfather, Thomas Plucknett was a drummer with the Royal Marines. Did the two men meet in Weymouth and form a family friendship that was to survive to their grandchildren ?

Weymouth was a favourite resort of George III and I am sure that his Hanoverian soldiers, including FGS, were made to feel at home there.

“From 1789 on, George III suffered from mental-health problems which could not be concealed, and his re-appearance at Weymouth in the summer of 1789 to take the waters was a welcome sight, for the situation in France prompted a fear the English monarchy could also collapse. Watched by a puzzled and fascinated crowd, the King entered the sea from a bathing machine for his royal dip while a band played God Save The King. It was the King’s regular public dips at Weymouth through the 1790s that helped popularise the new “spa” idea of salt-water sea-bathing had curative properties.”

Notice also that on Christmas day 1788, the young FGS was posted to Bedford. It is very likely that shortly aferwards he met twenty year old Frances Robina Furnivall who was born in that town in 1768.

Frances and Francis George were married on 13 October 1789 at St Mary’s church in Bedford (see register entry). They had eight or nine children between 1790 and 1805. However, FGS was a widower when he married (see licence) and it is possible that his eldest son, William was born in Germany to FGS’s  first wife. No record of William’s birth has been found in England and he seems to have moved away from Northampton early in his life. The International Genealogical Index records the baptism of an (Emily) Amelia Elizabeth Redmayne Sternberg to a William and Elizabeth Sternberg on 12 May 1837 at Leek, Stafford – could this be the same William? ( His possible ‘little – (half?) sister’ the first Amelia died in 1810 at the age of 5 – so maybe William named his daughter after her ?)
In the 1861 census Elizabeth Sternberg widow, mantle maker, living in Barnstaple with daughter Amelia E.R.(24) Elizabeth’s birthplace given as Yorkshire. Amelia is a milliner, born Bolton, Lancashire (1837). Sadly, ten years later, Elizabeth is recorded in the 1871 census as a patient in Devon County Lunatic Asylum at Exminster. Amelia Sternberg married Stephen Henry Wadham about 1868 and was living Barnstaple at the time of the 1881 census.

Francis George and Frances had a son Thomas Furnivall Sternberg (notice use of mother’s maiden name – common practice at this time) however he almost certainly died in infancy since another Thomas was baptised in 1794. This Thomas is the likely author of  ‘The dialect and Folk Lore of Northamptonshire’ published in 1851. In turn his son, Vincent Thomas Sternberg was librarian of Leeds ‘Old Library’ from 1857-1880 and is said to have haunted the library after his death. I have a copy of Thomas’s book.

The other Sternberg baptisms in Northampton are:

Elizabeth Furnivall Sternberg 1792

Rosina Sarah Sternberg 1793

George Sternberg (my 3G grandfather) 1798

Frances Maria Sternberg 1800

Frederick Doering Sternberg 1804

Amelia Sternberg 1805. Amelia died in 1810

Eight years after his marriage, Francis George sought discharge from the army and settled with his family in Northampton. In all they had nine children and were a well known family in Northampton by the start of the nineteenth century.

In Northampton Mercury cutting of 22 July 1826 he is described as a ‘Teacher of Pianoforte, Violin, Tenor, Violincello, Guitar, Spanish and Harp Guitar, Lyre Lute etc at College Street, Northampton.

Their daughter Frances Maria Sternberg taught Italian and English Singing and the Pianoforte (Cutting in Northampton Mercury for 9 September 1826).
Described as a pupil of Ferrari, Knyvett & Beale (cutting from Northampton Mercury for 20 January 1827).

On 29 Sept 1826 a cutting announced that he had moved to a house adjoining the Stag’s Head Inn in Abington Street.

Francis’s address at death was given as Abington Street, Northampton. His age at death given as 67 (may be 63?) and he was buried on 3 April 1828 at St Giles Northampton

The Northampton Mercury reported on 5 April 1828 :

‘Death. On Monday last, deeply lamented by his family, Mr Sternberg of this town, aged 67. He was a good husband and a kind parent’

Occupation : Professor of Music

Much of the information contained above was researched by Stan and Gillian Bruce. Gillian is a descendant of William Mumford Sternberg my great grandmother Alice Plucknett Sternberg’ s brother. Stan has added a chapter to ‘Faces of History’ on the ‘German’  Sternbergs and associated families.