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My ancestry - My most remote and famous ancestor

'Planning' and 'The County Plan'- amend page textIn his eighties Billy was frequently invited to speak to community groups on all sorts of topics. He frequently spoke about his experiences in the building trade and about some of the great houses he had renovated. On this occasion he shared a few tales from his early childhood in Steyning, West Sussex.

My most remote and famous ancestor disappeared at about the time of the Assizes. He was a blacksmith at the old forge opposite Brotherhood Hall, Steyning Grammar School.
 The Old Forge in Steyning
The Old Forge, Steyning

He was also a notorious poacher – not a night poacher. He used to collect all the likely dogs in the parish and go “dogging” on the Downs hunting hares and rabbits until he was caught by Sir John Goring’s keepers. He was a magistrate who sentenced him there and then to transportation - in Sir John’s dining room, so the story ran. This was in the early days of the nineteenth century. He is said to have gone to Australia – could not read or write, aged 34, never heard of again. His wife, Nan Godley, was left with 4 children. She was a hefty wench and rather a character, and carried on the blacksmith’s business actually shoeing the horses herself with the aid of a boy!
Billy's Grandmother's house in Steyning.Billy's Grandmother's house, Steyning.

My Grandmother’s house was on the bank in Church Lane, Steyning. It still stands, but has been irretrievably spoilt by a recent addition of two flat-roofed, dormer-type windows. The result is horribly ugly. Except for that I would have bought the place to live in some ten years ago. My Great Grandmother also lived in a little cottage in the continuation of Church Lane [1].
I met a son of this “boy” in the summer of 1889 who gave me more information on this than I was ever able to obtain elsewhere. My Great Grandmother[2], and Grandmother[3] who live in the house on the bank in Church Road Steyning, were always rather “mum”, felt I think never to have outgrown the stigma of having a relative transported. My grandmother was a tenant of the Gorings of Wiston. I went with her as a little boy to the coming of age of the Rev. Sir John Goring’s son, and remember this episode being talked about over the tea table, in a marquee. My impression was Nan Godley’s man had at least committed murder! 

Elizabeth Hoad (Langford), Billy's paternal Grandmother.Elizabeth Hoad (Langford), Billy's paternal Grandmother.

My paternal Grandfather[4] I never knew. He and his son, my Uncle Tom, worked on Maudlin Farm on the Downs between Steyning and Bramber. Maudlin Farm[5] was at one time owned by Magdalene College, Oxford and so gave its name and Oxford pronunciation to the farm.



William Hoad, Billy's paternal GrandfatherWilliam Hoad, Billy's paternal Grandfather.

My Uncle Tom used to plough with oxen. He was a great lumbering chap with a queer sense of fun. He delighted to take me in his arms and scrub my cheeks with his 3 or 4 days growth of black beard. I suppose he thought it funny, seeing how he laughed. My Grandmother would say, “Give over, Tom, don’t terrify the boy”. I think to her “terrify” was to tease. Uncle Tom was reputed to be a great man with horses, but he once explained to me that ’osses was alright if you wanted to get a load of corn down to “Suthick” Basin in a hurry, but they was not much good for ploughing, tearing about in such a tarnation hurry. “For ploughing goo’ long steady like, same as oxes do”. Uncle Tom’s reactions to tractor ploughing would be illuminating! 

  • [1] Ann Langford was 76 and a widow at the time of the 1871 Census, living in Mill Row, Steyning, and described as a “pauper (living outdoors)”. She died in 1880 when Billy would have been seven.
  • [2] Ann Langford (née Godley, 1798 – 1880).
  • [3] Elizabeth Hoad (née Langford), 1821 - c.
  • [4] William Hoad, 1821-1869.


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