Category Archives: Escrick

Saturdays with my Gran

It is not often that I sit down to write a piece without a plan on how I intend to develop it or a set offacts, data or references I intend to use. Today is different though. I want to use this piece of writing to honour my gran Glenda as she is someone who played an important role in supporting me in her own quiet way at a time in my childhood which was confusing and difficult to navigate.

I’m not sure exactly when I started to regularly visit her on a Saturday afternoon but it was probably around the time my great grandmother died, when I was 13. I had passed my eleven plus and moved from a village school to one in York where I was one of a number of scholarship girls. Then when my great grandmother died it triggered the start of a mental health struggle for my mother.

I knew I could visit my gran on a Saturday afternoon and sit in a quiet place to read a book, chat with her or watch her black and white TV. There would only have been two channels at that time and Saturday afternoons were usually reserved for sport. I know that when I went home it would probably be to see my family watching the wrestling. Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks were firm favourites in our house.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the conversations I had with my gran and I certainly didn’t take the opportunity to ask her about her siblings and parents. Something as a keen family historian I know find rather frustrating. At the time I did know that she was one of ten children, many of whom I came into regular contact with.

Gran’s first names were Glenda Florence Edith. All her siblings had multiple names. Her father Francis had been coachman, later motor car driver, to the Lawley family and her mother Violet Kate had been born to a Yorkshire father and a mother of Irish descent whose family had come to York in the mid-19th century to escape the famine in Ireland. 

What I do remember about my gran was that there was always a quiet sadness about her. I knew that she had lost her husband in World War Two and had been left to bring up her two daughters on her own. After he died, she moved back to the village to be near her family and worked locally. When I was a child, she was the caretaker for our local primary school so I probably would had seen her at work.

She was an important presence in my life as I was growing up. I continued to visit her on Saturday’s until she became too ill to see people. She died not long after I took my ‘O’ levels and I will always be grateful for the quiet space she provided me when I was studying.

Her death was reported in the local Parish Magazine where she was described as:

“Mrs E had been a widow for many years. She was a quiet, friendly person, who usually did not enjoy good health, but did not wish to inconvenience anyone. Many will remember her as Caretaker of the Primary School, which she looked after so conscientiously for seventeen years, and there will be several former babies who wore her finely knitted garments, which were sold at the garden fete every year. She passed away peacefully with no pain, nursed by her daughter. We shall miss her familiar figure walking from East View to the Post Office and having a friendly word from her. We offer our sympathy to her daughters, and her sisters living in the village and to other members of her large family.”

Digweed – origin of the surname

Researching the Digweed side of my family has been much helped by Jenny who had already done so much before I even got started. She has also been a wonderful source of family photographs, something which adds so much to the stories of our ancestors.

What I hadn’t realised, until I started to look at my Digweed ancestors, is that the surname isn’t a Yorkshire surname. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names, Digweed, and its variant Digwood, is a locative surname. Their presumption is that it comes from Thickwood in Colerne, Wiltshire. At some point -weed was substituted for -wood.

The dictionary also provides some information about early bearers of the surname, the earliest of which was Thomas de Thikwode, found in Colerne, Wiltshire in the 1332 Subsidy Rolls. So far, I have traced the Digweed line back to probably my 8th great grandfather William Digweed, possibly born about 1600 in Thatcham, Berkshire; a place about 43 miles from Thickwood. Interestingly the dictionary mentions a record for Guilelmi Digweed 1683 in Kingsclere, Hampshire and two records in Thatcham: Thomas Digweed 1691 and Ann Digwood 1764, which could be relevant to my research.

Unfortunately, the only available on-line parish records for Thatcham are transcriptions with the earliest baptism an unnamed Diggwid dated 16 March 1627, earliest marriage John Digweed/Digwood to Mary Norcutt on 30 November 1612 and earliest burial of John Diggwid on 16 August 1629. When I looked at a small selection of the Thatcham parish records, I found the following additional surname variants: Diggweed, Diggwidd and Dugwidd. A trip to consult the originals at the County Record Office is now on my list.

My Digweed ancestors continued to live near the parish of Thatcham, probably until the middle of the 18th century, when they next appear in the parish records for Hampstead Norris in Berkshire. William (1739-1823), my 4th great grandfather, married his wife Sarah Shackler (1739-1796) on 10 March 1765 in St Mary the Virgin, Hampstead Norris (see following photograph).

St Mary the Virgin, Hampstead Norris

William and Sarah’s 6th son, John (1791-1855), my 3rd great grandfather, was baptised on 29 May 1791 in St Mary’s Church, Hampstead Norris. He married Rachel Hilliear (1793-1851) on 26 August 1811 in St Michael and All Angels Church, Inkpen. They had at least eight children which included seven sons and one daughter. The family initially lived in Inkpen and had moved to Ham by 1817 when their second son was born. John was recorded as a farm labourer living in the village of Ham in both the 1841 and 1851 censuses. It was largely an agricultural area as described in Lewis’ 1848 topographical directory of England:

Lewis’ 1848 Topographical Directory of England – Ham

Rachel and John remained in Ham until their deaths in 1851 and 1855 respectively. The following OS map dated 1877 shows the relative locations of Ham and Inkpen and the arrow indicates that Hungerford was about 4 miles north of Ham.

Extract from OS Map Berkshire XLI dated 1877

John and Rachel’s youngest son was my 2nd great grandfather Thomas (1836-1910). He was baptised on 1 May 1836 in Ham parish church and, at the age of 14, was recorded as an agricultural labourer in the 1851 census in Ham.  Thomas married Mary Ann Tuttle (1837-1900) on 1 May 1959 in St Mary’s Church, Reading. The family were living in Sherfield upon Loddon, Hampshire by the time my great grandfather Francis (1873-1959) was born.

Francis was only recorded with his parents in the 1881 census. By 1891 he was a boarder in a household in Hayes, Middlesex, where he was described as a “groom domestic servant”. At some point he moved to Yorkshire where he married my great grandmother Violet Kate Richardson (1878-1971) on 16 October 1900 in St Helen’s Church, Stillingfleet. By 1901 they were living at West Marton near Skipton where Francis was working as a “coachman domestic servant”.

It is likely that the family had moved to Escrick, near York, by 1905. In 1911 Francis, Violet and six children where living at Escrick Park with Francis described as a “coachman domestic”. He continued to work for the Lawley/Forbes-Adam family and in 1939 was described as a “Chauffeur”. The following photograph shows him with the car he drove:

Great Grandfather Francis Digweed

Francis and Violet continued to live in Escrick Park until their deaths in 1959 and 1971, respectively. The following photograph is of Francis and Violet’s grave in St Helen’s Churchyard, Escrick.

St Helen’s Churchyard, Escrick – Francis and Violet Digweed’s gravestone

I am interested in knowing more about the origins of the Digweed family on the Berkshire/Wiltshire/Hampshire borders. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence and sourced from the NLS maps site


1939 Register.  : accessed December 2021.

Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials.  and : accessed December 2021.

Census Records.  : accessed December 2021.

Ham. : accessed December 2021.

Hampstead Norris (Hamstead Norreys). : accessed December 2021.

Hanks, Patrick et al. (2016.) The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Inkpen. : accessed December 2021.

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. : accessed June 2021.

OS Maps. : accessed December 2021.

Thatcham. : accessed December 2021.