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.


One thought on “The faces of history – Introduction

  1. Sorry that I have not writen for some time. Some thing last night, 16-Jul-2011, told me to look it up? I see that you have found a lot more information. It is good to read. I have given your WEB SITE to my sister in HALIFAX, WEST YORKSHIRE, so she can read all the new items. I do have a problem, can not copy some of the TREE’S of the family’s. yours Eric.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s