BERESFORD FAMILY SOCIETY SPRING GATHERING
Notes: Anne (from Canada)
I have been researching my genealogy since the 1980’s and became a member of the Beresford Family Society earlier this year. When I received the newsletter with notification of the Spring Gathering it coincided with an invitation for an event in London on May 19 so I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to combine both events and attend the spring gathering.
My only communication with the society had been with the membership secretary John BFS659 so I emailed him to ask if any arrangements were made for overseas visitors since I don’t drive in England. He said that another member would be in touch with me shortly, and within ten minutes I had an email from Ralph Beresford BFS 930. After several emails back and forth, we learned that Ralph’s grandfather Herbert and my grandmother Harriet were brother and sister so we are very closely related.
Ralph didn’t know me from Adam but immediately offered to meet me at Derby station and drive me around the countryside to the cottage where our great grandparents John Henry Beresford and Harriett Haynes raised their family. That was incentive enough for me! I was amazed at his generosity and went ahead and booked my trip. Ralph also recommended a B & B in Ashbourne and another in Matlock where I needed to go to visit the Derbyshire Record Office.
When I arrived at Derby station on Friday, Ralph and Valerie were there to meet me and after a rest stop at his house we started our countryside tour. We headed to Alderwasley where Ralph had been given directions to our grandparents cottage but when we arrived at Brook Cottage I knew it wasn’t the right place as I had the name Knob Cottage from census records. We asked directions from a local farmer who pointed us in the right direction and we headed up a steep hill past Knob farm to the cottage. We were reliving history. We knocked on the door of the cottage since we thought the owner might have been suspicious of a group of people taking photographs of his home. He was delighted to meet us and to learn the history of the Beresford family who lived there. He also produced sepia coloured plans of the original cottage before the additions were built, right down to the spot where the outside toilet was at the bottom of the field. While the view across the moors from the cottage is fabulous, living up there in winter must have been a challenge. The children went to school at Wirksworth primary school and were presumably driven there by horse and cart. We learned that 50lb sacks of flour and sugar were purchased to last the winter and Harriett would have had milk and eggs from the farm but she would still have had to go into Wirksworth for additional groceries.
On leaving Knob Cottage, we drove to our great aunt Sarah’s cottage on the moor above Wirksworth. I visited Aunt Sarah at the cottage once with my mum when I was about 10 years old, when it was just a one story dwelling. It has since been demolished and rebuilt on the original foundation with an addition at the back, but the entrance is still in the same spot. I remember that entrance with the 18” thick walls and the low doorway leading into the cottage. There was a huge black stove along one wall that served as the heating and cooking source, with the kettle hanging on a hook over the hotplate so that the water was always on the boil to make tea. It is amazing to think how they survived the winters in these remote cottages with no running water and electricity. Sarah had to walk up the road to the local pump to fetch water. She would walk into Wirksworth once a month for shopping, and since her load was too heavy to carry she would take a horse and buggy taxi back home.
We tried to find the house where my mum was born at 11 Wash Green in Wirksworth. These were originally known as the prison cottages and stood on the main road leading into Wirksworth. All that remains now is a blank retaining wall, though a new blue house has been built on the site and is numbered 11 Wash Green. My mum told me that there were a couple of outside toilets at the back of the cottages and each housewife had to take turns scrubbing them clean. Talk about primitive!
On Friday night, Ralph had arranged for a Beresford dinner at a local pub and since he was unable to attend, he arranged for me to be picked up at the B & B by Eric who also lives in Canada. There were about 16 of us for dinner and it was my introduction to many other members of the society. I’ll leave it to others to write a report on the rest of the events of the Spring Gathering to avoid repetition of details.
On Sunday afternoon we visited the recommended Beresford sites and enjoyed a walk through Beresford Dale. From there Ralph drove us to Monyash where we found the cottage where our great great grandparents Henry Beresford and Rachel Fearn lived. The cottage is on the edge of the village and is known as Toll Cottage and, like Knob Cottage it has had additions built on. Henry’s occupation in one census is listed a toll collector and it was his job to keep the roads open during the winter and collect the tolls from the horse and buggy drivers that crossed the moors.
Derbyshire is a very special place for me. Although I was born and raised in the London area, I spent much of my childhood in Matlock where my mum’s sister lived. We used to stay there every Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and for a week or more in the summer holidays. The ruins of Riber Castle were our playground. The spring gathering was such a memorable weekend and I am thrilled to have met so many Beresford, to have learned so much about my Beresford family history, to visit new places and once again admire the glorious Derbyshire countryside. And my daughter was quite impressed to learn that we are related to Sarah Ferguson! But most of all I am honoured to have been received with such a warm welcome by everyone in the society, and especially grateful to Ralph for all he and Valerie did to ensure a memorable weekend. To say they went above and beyond is an understatement and I am thrilled to have met my new ‘family’ including Joyce, Kathleen and Helen. I felt like I had come home.