The Family Places Tour, 2014
Part 1- Westminster

I really enjoy the television series Who do You Think You Are? because it allows the subjects, celebrities, to walk in the steps of their ancestors. They are taken to the places where they lived, worked, etc. My most recent trip to England had that kind of feel to it. I tried, where possible, to visit places associated with my most recent discoveries, the Cutlers, Windhams, and Guises.

When in England I was able to watch an episode of Who do You Think You Are? with Brian Blessed. It was the oddest of viewing experiences. Each moment for him was an over the top expression of deep connection to an ancestor, often with little to give in the way of information. For example, at Old St Pancras Church in London he was told the names of his several greats, a wedding date, and an occupation. He was enchanted, connected, thrilled. It was a lovely church (and coincidentally where Mary Cutler married Frederick Paul in 1861) and the information a great start – but connected? It would not be enough for me.

I need a bit more to get excited, and while I seriously enjoy going to these “family places”. I don’t shiver, or feel them there. It is more like a confirmation, okay; this was the place, hmmm. It is like an added layer to my research process. And of course as a historian, research makes me very happy.

So while there were no shivery moments I got a lot out of the experience. I will begin the “Gillian Family Roadshow” with St Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey. My cousin Susan and her husband Peter accompanied me on my London leg of the tour.

St Margarets Church (1)

We approached the Churches from the Houses of Parliament. It was here that William Windham II worked when he was MP for Norfolk, and Minister of War under Pitt. Although most of the building he would have known are now gone, it was here, this spot where it happened. It was part of his world.

St Margaret’s Church is the lovely white church next to Westminster Abbey. When the Abbey had been built the monks found the presence of the public a bit unsettling, and had St Margaret’s built. And because the Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) were nearby , well, the members came to worship here, and made it their church. I have been to Westminster Abbey a few times, and never gone into the adjoining church. I took pictures, but I didn’t really bother.

It was here that my great xs Grandmother Sarah Elizabeth Guise married the Rev John Cutler in 1786, and her sister Frances married Jean Victor Baron in 1789 and John Wright in 1801. The church has changed a bit since that time. There is a picture in the guidebook shows in 1809 there was a very large and ornate pulpit at the front of the altar area. We asked the nice man shooing the people taking pictures and he didn’t know where the marriage ceremony would have been positioned vis-à-vis the altar.

St Margaret's Church interior- postcard
St Margaret’s Church interior- postcard

This was also the church where they would have worshipped regularly. While Richard Guise would have worked at the Abbey’s services his wife and children would not likely have attended, rather they would have gone next door with other ordinary people.

Interior of St Margaret's Church dated 1809 - from guidebook
Interior of St Margaret’s Church dated 1809 – from guidebook

It was really a lovely church. I was really missing out during my last visit. Even without the family connection this church is worth a visit.

We next went next door to Westminster Abbey. After blanching at the £18 admission fee, we asked if we could visit the North Cloister without paying that fee. That is all we wanted to see after all, and amazingly enough, this was possible!

I had received the instructions to finding where Frances Guise and her father Richard were buried from Christine Reynolds (Apr 2013) who is assistant Keeper of the Muniments at the Abbey. She told me there seems not to have been a monument for him or Frances, but that he was buried near the markers of Boyd Carpenter and P Dearmer, in the second bay of the North Cloister. A very nice man in the Abbey took us there. It is a peaceful place, despite the hoards of tourists. The markers with names on them are very recent (20C). Richard died in 1806.

Richard and Frances are interred near my feet in the North Cloister
Richard and Frances are interred near my feet in the North Cloister

It was a lovely place and I am glad to have seen this area. before I left I thanked Richard for being interred there and not in the Abbey itself, thus saving Susan, Peter and I money.