July 2011
Edition 76
Jerrems Family Newsletter
Looking Forward to a Glimpse from the Past
Dear Donald,
We take you to another journey to Willingham by the Stow, where the Jerrems family got its namesakes and start.

Enjoy the trip.

Ray Jerrems, Our Genealogist, Historian  
Willingham By Stow is a pretty little rural town in Lincolnshire, 148 miles north of London. The area is lightly undulating, and the town is surrounded by fields. The town itself is picturesque, with old houses sprinkled along its main street (predictably called High Street) and adjacent lanes, and at the main road intersection there is a beautiful church. Away from the highways, its residents enjoy a measured pace of life. To prove that I am correct, aerial photos of the modern town (taken from a model aircraft!) and old photos of town scenes are on the town website at http://www.willinghambystow.co.uk/slideshows.html. Videos of the town are located at http://www.willinghambystow.co.uk/videos.html

But what is the reason for my interest in this little town?

The name Willingham-By-Stow will be familiar to our more attentive readers who have been following the history of the Jerrems family in Lincolnshire, England. The earliest known Jerrems families in Lincolnshire came from this area in the early 1700s, and lived there for over 150 years, so the town forms an integral part of our heritage. But what more do we know about the area, and why did the Jerrems families eventually leave it during the 1800s? I have attempted to answer these questions in this article.

Division of article into two Parts

I have divided the article into two Parts because it is too long for publication in a single Jerrems Journal. In Part 1 of this article I start with some miscellaneous items (the correct name of the town, the Jerrems families who lived there, its location, early history), then I have adopted the "reverse chronology" of describing the modern town first, to give us a modern context.

In Part 2 I will be:
(a) describing the town in 1851 , drawing on the 1851 Census.
(b) attempting to describe the town in 1801, for which I have a population figure, and is about the time that "Big Bill" Jerrems (my great great great grandfather) moved from the town to Gainsborough, and
(c) attempting to describe the town in 1720.

What is the town's correct name?

The name is very often abbreviated to "Willingham", a situation which confused me for some time because I thought that possibly Willingham and Willingham-By-Stow were different places. I also found it confusing as to what the "By-Stow" meant. It actually denotes that Willingham is near the older town of Stow (three kilometres to the south), just as Sturton-By-Stow and Coates-By-Stow are near Stow. This distinguishes Willingham, Sturton and Coates from other places in England bearing the same name.

This makes you think that Stow must be a big town, but it is not much bigger than Willingham-By-Stow. However, historically it dated back much earlier, to Roman times. This explains why the names of later towns refer to it.

Apart from its connection with the Jerrems families, Willingham-By-Stow is typical of the large number of villages in England, including Wappenham, where another arm of the Jerrems family originated.

The Jerrems families in Willingham-By-Stow
We know that the following "Jerrems family" events (spanning a period of about 150 years) took place in Willingham-By-Stow, in chronological order:

  • (a) William Jerom married Cecelia Futtit in 1750 (so one or both would presumably have been born there in the 1820s).
  • (b) William and Cecelia lived there, and their 4 children William (Jnr), Alice, Ann and Mary (all christened with the surname of Jerrems) were born there between 1752 and 1764.
  • (c) William (Jnr) married Mary and they had 7 children Jane, Mary, Robert, William ("Big Bill"), John, Charles and Mary between 1778 and 1793.
  • (d) William (Jnr) and Mary lived there until at least 1821, when Mary was buried there (presumably her husband William was also buried there). Her gravestone is in the St Helen's graveyard.
  • (e) We know that some of their children continued to live there also.
  • (f) Big Bill had a farm there until about the 1850s. Although his main residence was in Gainsborough he travelled regularly to his farm.
  • g) Jane Jerrems, the wife of Big Bill's younger brother John, lived there in 1851 (in accordance with the 1851 Census). She was buried there in 1870. Her gravestone is also in the St Helen's graveyard.

Location of Willingham-By-Stow, land use, population

Willingham is about six miles (10km) south east of Gainsborough, and near the River Till (actually what we would call a creek in Australia), which passes near the eastern end of the village. It has always been a mainly farming community with twenty farmers working the land in the late 19th century compared with just a handful now.

The 1876 Willingham Postal Directory stated that "The soil is various, producing excellent grain crops; subsoil, clay and sand".

The population in 1801, when Big Bill was a youth, was 233. In 1851 it had doubled to 463, and when Jane died in 1870 it had built up to 517 (1871 Census). In 1901 it had dropped down to 312 (1901 Census).

Primarily, the role of the town has always been the provision of services to the surrounding rural community. Lacking any significant local industries, and not being on a railway line (the nearest station is Lea, 4km away) or a main road, its scope for expansion has always been limited.

History of Willingham-By-Stow

The first recorded mention of Willingham-By-Stow is in the Domesday Book of 1086. St Helen's Church dates back to the 11th Century (see later). Willingham House is perhaps the next oldest building, dating from 1605. A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built here prior to 1841, and a school was built here in 1818 and enlarged in 1880. It was later sold when it was a primary school and the proceeds placed in a trust to help charities and groups with under 18's within the vicinity of Willingham.

The fact that Willingham dated back at least to the 11th Century would support the view that it was well established for a long time. Later events like the building of the large Willingham House in 1605 show that the town was in a healthy state.

Willingham was not a "frontier town" such as we see in the history of the United States and Australia. Stow (three kilometres to the south) was established in ancient Roman times, and the comparatively close towns (now cities) of Gainsborough (six miles to the north) and Lincoln (ten miles to the south east) had similar origins. It should also be borne in mind that in those days few residents (other than farmers) would have had horse transport (eg carts), so they would look to services within walking distance. The result would have been that "supply" and "demand" for routine services in towns like Willingham remained fairly static.

Modern Willingham-prominent buildings and activities
  St Helen's Church
(a)St Helen's Church (pictured)

This Church has featured extensively in the history of the local Jerrems families. Shown at the bottom of the town photo, amongst trees, it is situated on the corner of High Street and the road to Stow (the main intersection in the town), and it dates from the 11th century with registers starting in 1562.

The body of the church was rebuilt in 1880, seating 200 people, which would house much of the village's current population.

In a previous article about Big Bill's wedding I queried why the wedding had not been held at St Helen's. I concluded that it was probably due to etiquette that it was held in the bride's church. Having now unearthed references to St Helen's at the time of the wedding, perhaps part of the answer lies in the following extracts from the description of its spartan interior prior to the 1880 renovation, taken from the 1876 Willingham Postal Directory:
"The church is an ancient stone building, having an undivided interior, the body of the church dates from the eleventh century, and the tower from the fourteenth...the inside of the edifice has a very ancient appearance; the carved benches are of oak, and will seat 350 people, the chancel has a quaint illuminated reredos dating from the time of James l, and there is an old Saxon font."
A reredos is a screen or a decorated part of the wall behind a church altar.

The God-fearing builders of the church must have had exaggerated ideas as to Willingham's future population, and perhaps they had a theory that parishioners should not be allowed to be too comfortable in the church in case they dozed off during sermons.

Curiously, at the time St Helen's was built, Stow (three kilometres to the south) already had a parish church (sometimes referred to as the "Mother Church of Lincolnshire") which is one of the largest and oldest parish churches in England.

The Willingham town website tells us that the Willingham Church stands in the centre of the village easily visible as one passes through, and is an integral part of village life. There is a regular pattern of Sunday services which are well attended and services are held for special feast days, baptisms, weddings and funerals. The Church has six bells in the tower (before the 1880 renovations it had three bells) and there is a team of enthusiastic ringers who ring before services and practise every Wednesday evening. It also has a choir who sing at services and by request at special occasions. The Church is managed by a Parish Church Council which helps with the services and organises many of the social events in the village. These events also help to raise money for the upkeep of the very beautiful church.(photo of Methodist church below)

The website concludes its religious comments by observing that St Helen's also has a very strong partnership with the Methodist Church (built in 1885) in the village and there are regular shared services.

Looking at the photo of the Church, it is interesting (and evocative) to visualise what it must have been like when the Jerrems families attended it over a period of possibly 150 years, whether for normal services, baptisms, weddings or funerals. Imagine the adults standing at the front of the Church, with the children running around, simply being children. What were the hopes and aspirations of these people? Could they have imagined that you would be reading about them on a computer in the far off year 2011? I rather doubt it!

As previously mentioned, the gravestones for Mary and Jane are in St Helen's graveyard. However the low incidence of existing gravestones in the graveyard, and the large gaps between existing gravestones, makes it very likely that other members of the family were buried there.

Methodist Church
  Methodist Church
Pubs and Inns
In England (as in many countries) the traditional pubs have been the focal point of entertainment and socialising over the centuries. Willingham-By-Stow is no exception. There are now two pubs, The Half Moon Inn and the Fox and Hounds. The Half Moon is on High Street in the middle of the town, and the Fox and Hounds is on the Gainsborough Road north of the town.

The Half Moon Inn is a two storey building with a very pretty exterior thanks to the extensive use of flower gardens and flower boxes. According to its page on the village website it was built in 1945, and renovated recently. I must say that I think that it was built before this, due to its design and the aspect that in 1945 building materials would have been impossible to obtain at the end of World War. However, regardless of its actual heritage it has an excellent ambience and it is a popular night-time venue for the locals.

The owners Phil and Tracy Troop brew their own award winning beer, and the Inn sponsors The Half Moon Golf Society which, according to the pub's website, consists of a maximum number of 24 golfers "of varying age, sex and abilities" (discerning readers interested in syntax may wonder how many varying sexes there are in Willingham) and the Half Moon Football Team.

The Fox and Hounds, which is referred to in the 1876 Willingham Postal Directory, seems to be a more sedate two storey pub which aligns more with what we now call a B&B (bed and breakfast).

(c) Other buildings and activities

Again drawing on the town website, we can see that, like typical small towns, there is a lot of local activity indicative of a strong community spirit. Willingham Village Hall was built in 1913 and stands in the centre of the village on High Street opposite the Half Moon Inn. The Hall is a typical institution for villages. It is used for many activities including Scouts, Brownies, the Parish Council, the ubiquitous Womens Institute, the Willingham Friendship Club, drama performances, entertainment, yoga, and practice sessions for the Willingham Band.

Readers should note that the Willingham Horticultural Show is held in the Hall annually on the last Saturday in September (this year it will be on 24th September). The exhibition consists of flowers, fruit, vegetables, baking, preserves, art, photography and handicrafts. However there is a catch for readers who are planning to drop in to the show with their prize pumpkin. Unfortunately, exhibitors must live within a five mile radius of Willingham (drat!) and produce must be grown in the area (bother!).

Cricket is popular, with children's teams, a ladies' team, an over 45s mens' team and an under 45s mens' team. The village has a playing field with a new amenities block, but users are reminded that DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON THE PLAYING FIELD! (I hope the dogs can read).

Part 2 of the article

In Part 2 of this article I will describe the town in 1851, 1801 and 1720.

Fox and Hounds Pub

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