In the footsteps of ancestors February 1999

Many visitors come to our village to seek out their family roots. David and Evelyn Street from Australia, came on such a journey last autumn. On their return to Australia they wrote to relatives and friends about their trip to Pirton. This month we are privileged to reprint David and Evelyn’s letter


I thought you might like to share the story of our visit to Pirton where my convict ancestor, Richard, lived with his wife Jemima and children.

Richard was sentenced to transportation in 1834 for stealing 15 dozen pigeons, some got away, there are still plenty around – just visit Trafalgar Square. He came to Hobart in 1836. Jemima ended up in the poor house at Pirton, supported by the church.

So we came from Hitchin (where they married) to Pirton, a small village. As we drove in, Evelyn said stop the car. So, like an obedient husband, I did. She took the video camera with her. I parked the car a bit further down the road and came back to see what had caught Evelyn’s attention. This lovely home – nicely painted and kept, had a beautiful garden and lawns with lots of flowering roses (Evelyn loves them). As I looked it seemed to be familiar. I realised that this was the former poor house that Jemima lived in all those years ago – from 1836. (The Illustration below shows the private house that was then the poor house or workhouse)


Evelyn called over to an elderly chap who was walking past. He confirmed my thoughts and told us that the owner had gone to London for the day. So we talked.

We came to the local pond (Blacksmiths) where ducks now swam but years ago, according to the local, it was red from the blood of slaughtered animals. It was time to say farewell to him and continue onto the church – St. Mary’s Church of the Virgin. We took photos outside and then tried the church door. It was open! We went inside. It was a lovely little church. It was an eerie feeling. Here was where my Street ancestors had worshipped. (The illustration above is of the church in 1835 – the time at which Richard & Jemima would have known it)

A lady was there doing the flowers and was very interested in why we had come. We spoke to her as we wandered backwards and forwards inside the church looking at all sort of things. She invited us to her home and there we met her husband. We had a lovely time with them. How many of us, ourselves included, would invite complete strangers into their home?

After leaving their home, we walked back past the village green, the site of a Norman castle and the village shop. Looking in the shop window, I spotted two postcards of Pirton. The shop was shut for lunch, so we went on to Ickleford where Jemima was born – it was down the road a bit but then we went back to Pirton to buy the postcards.

Little did I ever think that one day, my wife and I would walk in the steps of ancestors and sit in the pews of the church where they worshipped. We give thanks to God for the friendliness of God’s people at Pirton who made our visit there so memorable.

In next month’s Magazine David Street tells the remarkable story of his ancestor, Richard Street who, in 1834 was sentenced to transportation, how he survived and with Jemima forever made the link between  Pirton and Australia.


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