8 Dec 2016

Swinfield Exhibition at Hereford Cathedral

Dingley's image of Gilbert's grave
Where Gilbert's stone was found
in St John's Walk in 2015
On 21st November, Di and I were very pleased to visit Hereford Cathedral to view the exhibition of items for the Swinfields who lived and worked there in the 13th and 14th centuries. As I wrote in the Blog of 28th February 2016, the star of the show is the 700 year-old stone which marked the grave of Gilbert(us) de Swinfield, Chancellor of the Cathedral, who died in 1299. His tomb was opened in the 1840s during the excavations and building work of Dean Merewether. Subsequently the slab was known to be stored in the north-east transept by 1871. It was later broken into usable pieces and the surviving section was employed as paving in St John's Walk. It was re-discovered during restoration work last year. What an amazing survival of enough of the inscription to be able to attribute it to the original grave which was illustrated by Dingley in his History in Marble of the 17th century! It is situated beside the tomb which was incorrectly attributed to Bishop Robert Kilwardby. The stone is now on display in the Chained Library.

Gilbert's stone in the Chained Library 

The Swinfield Exhibition
When Gilbert's tomb was opened, the body was left in situ. However, the grave goods, which included fragments of the gold braid of his vestments and possibly his shoes as well as his pewter chalice and paten, were removed and preserved. Those are now on show until the excellent exhibition closes at the end of 2016. If you are in the Hereford area this month, take the opportunity to visit. It will not be repeated.

      Other artefacts and documents are displayed for Gilbert's brother, Precentor John Swinfield (died 1311), and their uncle Bishop Richard de Swinfield (died 1317). Those include the amazing wooden and gilded head of Richard's crozier. Both men have much grander memorials than that of Gilbert. John's effigy, with its lovely arch of pigs and acorns, is readily visible to the right side of The Lady Chapel. Richard's much desecrated memorial can now only be found by gaining access to the locked storeroom of the Cathedral gift shop and fighting your way behind the bubblewrap!

Geoff Swinfield, Ian Bass and
Clare Wichbold at the memorial
to John Swinfield 
Bishop Richard de Swinfield's
monument in the gift shop storeroom   
We were given an excellent insight into the world of these 13th/14th centuries clerics by our guides, Clare Wichbold, the Cathedral's archaeologist, who unearthed Gilbert's stone, and Ian Bass. For the exhibition, Ian compiled an account of the life of the "forgotten Chancellor" which he presented to those who attended an open day for the exhibition. It can be read online here.

St Thomas de Cantilupe's tomb 
The Bishop was clearly a 13th century entrepreneur who took the opportunity to publicise the miracles attributed to his predecessor Thomas de Cantilupe who was bishop from 1275 to 1282 and was later to be canonised in 1320. Richard insisted that Thomas be buried not where he wished to be laid to rest but in a very prominent position in the Cathedral. That monument has recently been restored to what it would have looked like in 1287 when it was lavishly constructed. Richard Swinfield had a great eye for a business opportunity, offering a place of pilgrimage to try to rival that of Thomas Becket at Canterbury, martyred in 1170.

It is not known what became of the Swinfield lineage, if there were any descendants, after the deaths of the three clerics by 1317. There is little, if any, record of people with our surname from then until they appear in the records of London and Leicestershire/Derbyshire in the late 16th century.

Were any of the Swinfields of Hereford the ancestors of today's generation? We will probably never know!

1 Oct 2016

Swinfield exhibition at Hereford Cathedral now open

In February this year, I wrote about the forthcoming exhibition at Hereford Cathedral which displays the recent finds in St John's Walk, in particular the items relating to Gilbert Swinfield. The exhibition is now open:

If you can get to Hereford before the end of the year, why not go along and have a look? You will be able to see monuments and personal items for the Swinfields. Di and I are planning a visit in November.

30 May 2016

Swinfields in the 1939 Register

In September 1939, at the beginning of WWII, it was necessary for the Government to list the population of England and Wales. To issue identity cards and ration books, the 1939 Register was produced and enumerators recorded those living in each household on 29th September. By address, we see the names of those present, their date of birth, marital status, occupation, and any role which they had in the war effort. That could be as an air raid warden, ambulance driver, having work in vital communications or being in military service.

St Mary's Road, Camberley, Surrey 
The register was subsequently annotated with changes of surname, specifically for women who later married, and sometimes years of death. Amendments are usually recorded with a date when evidence was submitted to the authorities. This makes it a very useful source for family historians and genealogists who are researching what became of a person after WWII. It may be one of the few ways of obtaining a birthday without identifying the relevant birth registration and obtaining a copy of the certificate.

Arthur, Reg & Edith Swinfield about 1954 
with Susan "Cissie" Worsfold (1879-1957)
As people died, their deaths were supposed to be notified to those who then maintained the Register. That was the duty of their doctor and became almost a voluntary responsibility. It was later neglected altogether.
My grandparents at 9 St Mary's Road. Reg Swinfield, my father, born in 1925, is still living and "redacted". (Family 5)
The 1939 Register has now been digitised through the National Archives and made available online at FindMyPast, a commercial website. It is indexed by name and can be searched by date of birth and place of residence. Not all of those who appear in the Register have information which is available for public inspection. The entries for those who would not yet be 100 years of age (i.e. born after 1915), and where no evidence has yet been provided that they have now died, have been "redacted". The information is hidden under a black line.

At present, 199 people have "open" records and can be identified as members of our Swinfield families. Their details have been added to the compiled pedigrees.
The large Swinfield family at 16 Mount Avenue, Leicester (RG101/6009C/018/9) (Family 4A)
Three of the ten children of George and Naomi are still redacted. 

If any of you would like to see the entry for your relatives in England, recording them in late September 1939, contact me at geoff@gsgs.co.uk and I can try to find them for you. 

16 Apr 2016

A drive round some North Warwickshire churches

by Di Swinfield

Last week, we spent three days at the Who Do you Think you Are? Live event at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. On the way home, we realised we were close enough to Swinfield country to take a short detour and photograph some churches we haven't visited before. These places will be of particular interest to the Australian Swinfields who are descended from the two brothers, John and William, who emigrated to New South Wales in the middle of the 19th century.

St Mary, Atherstone

Atherstone church is where Edward Swinfield was baptised in 1834 and married in 1866. Edward was the son who did not travel to Australia with his parents, John and Mary Ann, but found work as a planter in St Kitts.

St Peter, Mancetter

Edward's younger sister, Mary, was the ancestress of Ruth Cuff of Tasmania. Mary was baptised at Mancetter in 1840. Their parents, John Swinfield and Mary Ann Bates, had married there in 1833 and sailed on the ill-fated 1852 voyage of the Beejapore.

Holy Trinity, Hartshill

The family lived in the neighbouring village of Hartshill, which is also where we believe John (William) Swinfield was baptised in 1838. He was the son of  brother William, who emigrated in 1848, and his first wife, Sarah Ballard. Among their descendants are Cheryl Cooper and Andrew, Helen, Pamela and Linda Swinfield, all born in New South Wales and living in Australia today.

These three churches are less than three miles apart and the brothers would have been very familiar with all of them.

28 Feb 2016

An important Swinfield find

Recently a very interesting discovery was made in the grounds of Hereford Cathedral in the west of England. St John's Walk was built in the early 16th century, it is believed from dendrochronology, to protect the members of the College of the Vicar's Choral from both the weather and the local inhabitants on their way to the services. It has been restored over the centuries and the most recent work concentrated on replacing stonework and damaged paving slabs. One of the stones used for the walkway had an inscription to Gilbertus de Swinfield! It is now in Masons' Yard awaiting conservation. The find was reported in the Hereford Times on 1st February

I have been contacted by Clare Wichbold, the archaeologist of Hereford Cathedral who was responsible for unearthing the slab. She learned of our interest in all those with the surname through an internet search. That led her to the Swinfield Genealogy and DNA Facebook page. Clare informs us that there is a detailed description of Gilbert's tomb and its contents in the Fasti Herefordensis of Francis Tebbs Havergal. It is known that after it was removed, the stone was sitting in the north-east transept until at least 1871 when it was recorded by a visiting antiquarian. Subsequently, it was employed as a paving stone.

Gilbert was a nephew of the more widely-recorded Bishop Richard de Swinfield who held that position at Hereford from 1283-1317, when he died at Bosbury. Richard's extensive register was published in 1909 and includes transcriptions of his letters and the documents produced during his time in charge of that diocese. Derrick Swinfield made an extensive study of his papers in the Cathedral Archives in May 2007 and has drawn up a pedigree of his immediate family.

Richard Swinfield (about 1240-1317) was one of three sons of Stephen who died at Bosbury in 1282. He may have been related to Peter Swynsfeld, one of the founders of Grey Friars Abbey, Leicester, in 1255, from where the body of Richard III was exhumed. Richard's brothers were Stephen of Gravesend and Thomas. The Bishop's tomb was examined and recorded by Dean Merewether.

In addition to Gilbert, Richard de Swinfield had nephews named Robert of Leicester and John
Swinfield. The latter, who was Precentor from 1294, has a grand tomb in the Lady Chapel at Hereford Cathedral constructed after his death in 1311. Running along the archway are 16 pigs or swine, a pun on his surname, each decorated with the blue and gold chevrons taken from the arms of the Dean and Chapter.

Some leather and gold braid from the vestments in which he was buried have survived from Gilbert's tomb in the Cathedral Archives. Photographs of these are reproduced by kind permission of Gordon Taylor. They will form an important part of an exhibition of the St John's Walk finds to be staged in the Cathedral from 12th September to 31st December 2016. Di and I have been invited to visit. It will be a great opportunity for us all to see the tombstone and possessions from over 700 years ago. If only there was surviving DNA too!