England | Tracing roots: Norfolk

In part 2 of my little English holiday, my parents and I got to spend time in Norfolk, visiting family and tracing back parts of our ancestry. This is a picture-heavy post, so be warned!

My mother’s mother’s mother’s father (I think it was) came from Norfolk. We still have family there, though the relationships are distant, and we’ve stayed in contact over the generations. My great-grandmother trained as a nurse in Canada and then went back to Norfolk for a time to nurse an elderly relative; then my grandmother and grandfather, when Granddad was stationed in England in the 1950s, re-established the connections. My parents, in their turn, have visited about every 20 years: first in the early ’70s as newlyweds, then in the early ’90s with my sister and me in tow, and again on this trip.

The Grange

The Grange, home to Peter (Granny’s second cousin, I think) and Dill and their daughter Judy, and our home-away-from-home.

The Grange (and the surrounding village) has been a sort of touch-stone for us all, if you will. My parents even had a custom cross-stitch kit made for me after our visit, and I carefully stitched the textures of thatch, brick, and stone.

Grange cross-stitch

Here’s the finished cross-stitch, which I stitched up when I was 14. (Thanks to my father for the photo!)

That said, the Grange was only purchased a few generations ago. (I felt a little cheated when I learned that it only traces back to the point where my own branch of the family split off, so it was never technically home to MY ancestors — until I realized that any home that had been in the family for well over 100 years here in Canada would be a remarkable thing, and worth celebrating! Funny how the perspective on time changes so drastically in an ancient place like England.)

We did, however, get to see the house where my great-great-grandfather was born:

Mill House

Mill House!

He and his 13 other siblings all grew up in this home, working at the associated windmill (which no longer exists).

Mill House

Another view, showing the outbuildings and stables that have been gradually grafted onto the house. Not a huge place, with 14 kids, eh?

We had some challenges trying to find the house. We knew the name of the village (er, hamlet), but not the road, and of course houses aren’t numbered for ease of navigation in rural England. Thankfully, we spotted a Royal Mail van, and Dad asked the postman for directions. He knew the house, but couldn’t think of how to explain the twisty turny directions, so he told us to follow him, and drove us all the way (a couple of minutes, but a complicated route)!

Mill House

Mom walking down the road a little way.

No one was home, but we explored the house as well as we could from the road.

Mill House

The garden beside the house, with fragrant lilacs and idyllic English-country-garden charm…

Mill House

Dad walking along the path, to one side of the house, that presumably led to the windmill.

Mill House

The view across the road, with blooming rape (canola, to Canadians) and one of Norfolk’s many, many medieval churches in the background. (As always, click through to Flickr to see the photos bigger.)

Back at the Grange, we got to spend some time with the living members of our family, not just the places our ancestors must haunt.

We were greeted by the official welcoming committee of Rosemary (the wire-haired miniature dachshund), Dottie (a terrier of some sort), and Charles (the cat). These three creatures are the best of friends, and even groom each other!

Rosemary, Dottie, and Charles

Rosemary (top), Dottie (bottom), and Charles (right)

The humans came out to welcome us too!

Amy and Emily with Rosemary

Peter and Dill’s granddaughter, Amy — who is my fourth cousin! — and her daughter, Emily, with Rosemary inspecting the toy selection.

Dill

The lovely Dill, who was every bit the gracious hostess and the country lady.

Dill and Judy made a lovely dinner for the extended family (including Judy’s brother, and their cousin and his wife) which was capped off by two of the most quintessential English desserts puddings I can think of: bakewell tart and summer pudding, served with pouring custard and lashings of heavy cream. (There was also delicious apple strudel, but I can’t claim that it was especially English.) Some things are worth the extra insulin!

Bakewell tart

Bakewell tart

Summer pudding

Summer pudding

Custard

Custard

Summer pudding with cream

Summer pudding with cream

There is more to come about this portion of the trip, including a village that’s falling into the sea, and a truly spectacular car, but that will have to wait until the next post. Remembering those desserts has me looking for a snack… or an exercise routine!

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3 Comments

Filed under Adventures, Family

3 responses to “England | Tracing roots: Norfolk

  1. creative pixie

    You’ve written a lovely post, I look forward to reading more on your trip.

  2. I didn’t know the house has only been in the family that long either! Where were they from before that? I wonder how they made the $? I know that lots of estates were bought and sold in the 20th century, but I thought it was much less common before that! Hmmm!

    • Annie Bee

      They were from Mill House, just a few little villages over! I’m not sure how the money was made, but I know that once the two brothers owned the Grange and the Hall, they built a giant business breeding chickens. Eventually Peter and HIS brother were producing something like 60% of the breeders in England, the chickens that laid the eggs that grew into broilers (chickens for cooking). Dad knows more of the details – I wasn’t actually present for that conversation!