Part 3 Family Histories

The Smith and Eley Families


The Smith Family

One of the families known to have been in Little Thurlow for almost 200 years is the Smiths, and although the Smith name itself can no longer be found direct descendants still live in the village. Joseph Smith and his wife Elizabeth were both born in 1802 and were married in 1826. They had four sons and three daughters, and in the 1861 census they were to be found living at Overgreen Farm (in the area behind Tara in Little Thurlow Green). Two of their sons were recorded as being agricultural labourers like their father, although their eldest son William, born in 1829, proved to be more adventurous, and emigrated to South Australia in 1854. Their youngest daughter Mary left the village to go into service.

Their son John Smith (born in 1839) spent all his life in Little Thurlow, marrying Eliza in 1858. They lived at Temple End and had four sons and two daughters. John was widowed when his youngest daughter (Kate) was born. In later life he lived at Locks Cottage, where two of his grandchildren were born to his daughter Harriet. All of the children born to Eliza and John are buried in Little Thurlow churchyard and extension, except William, the eldest, who left the village to work in the brewing trade in Burton-on-Trent.

John and Eliza’s second son Thomas was born in 1861, was married to Jessie, and was a blacksmith working in the smithy that stood in the Square opposite Driftside. His daughter Eliza married Dick Sargent, who for years was the village builder and undertaker, and their son Fred continued in the family business at Brookside until the 1970s. Fred died in 1993.

Tom and Jessie ended their days in the middle almshouse, next to brother John, who had lived previously next to his sister Kate, in cottages that have long since disappeared but which were alongside Mill View. Kate married Jerry Wright, and they were the parents of Dora Rowlinson, who now lives in Porch Cottage. Their son (Herbert) spent all his working life working at Manor Farm. Dora’s grandson, Paul Atherton, is the sixth generation to live in the village, and he carries on the unbroken tradition of working the land.

John and Eliza’s daughter Harriet Smith, born in 1866, married Charles Webb from Great Bradley, and made her home in Little Thurlow Green, first in the Old Thatched Cottage, and later at Green Farm Cottages (now one half of Blackbirds Cottage). They had four sons and four daughters. Three sons served in France in the 1914­18 War. Sergeant William John Webb was killed, but Frederick and Harry , who was a signaller, returned home from the front, as they were needed to work on the ploughing engines. They and their father Charles were among the first in the area to work these engines. Fred left Little Thurlow to drive one of the first steam lorries for ‘His Master’s Voice’ Record Company in Hayes, Middlesex. The four daughters and the youngest son all went to London to work in service.

Harry stayed and married Winifred Smith (no relation) of Withersfield in 1924, and they lived with Charles, a widower, at Green Farm Cottages, where they had three daughters and two sons. Harry spent his working life on the land at Little Bradley, Church Farm, Little Thurlow and later on the Thurlow estate. Living in a tied cottage meant a move to 147 The Green, now Fair Rig, for the job at Church Farm. After a further four years, they moved to 2 Council Houses, before in 1953 becoming landlord and landlady of the Red Lion, now the Old Inn. After ten years they made their final move to Rose Cottage in Little Thurlow. Their daughter, Iris Eley (née Webb) is the only remaining member of this branch of the family still to live in the village.

John and Eliza’s son Fred (born in 1869) married Jane and raised ten children in the Thatched Cottage by the almshouses on the Bradley Road. His son, another William (born in 1900) spent all his life working at Manor Farm for the Tilbrook family. Bill and his wife Louie lived at Locks Cottage, where his father had once lived. Bill was a real character, who rang the church bells, kept the boiler going, took the collection (singing on his way), dug graves and kept everything tidy.

Smith Family tree


The Eley Family

Four generations of the Eley family following the maternal line have lived in Little Thurlow. Bill, Derrick and Eileen Rooks are Thurlow born, as was their mother Alice née Dearsley. Their father Harry was the son of Elizabeth and Arthur, who lived in the Square (now 116b). Harry served in the 1914-18 War winning a medal for bravery in the field, and he received a cup for the best pair of horses in the Royal Field Artillery. Sadly, his life was shortened as a result of the gas attacks in that war. Eileen served for four years in the Second World War, finishing as a corporal.

The Dearsley family had a long connection with the Little Thurlow Post Office. Martha Dearsley, née Rogers, ran it when it was situated in what is now Trudgetts. This business later moved to 122a The Street, when the post master was Alec Sadler who was married to Martha’s daughter Bessie. They ran the Post Office until it closed in the late 60’s. Martha’s father William Rogers was the post master before this.

Derrick and Eileen were both involved in the work of the Post Office in their time. Derrick used to deliver telegrams as far afield as East Green in Great Bradley. He once accidentally dropped the keys inside the post box when collecting the day’s mail, much to his uncle’s disgust. Eileen, too, did her stint by delivering mail for eight years until the early 50s.

Eley Family Tree

Harry Eley