Thursday, August 30, 2012

Marsworth - Visit to an Ancestral Home

A fortnight ago, my older son and I visited Marsworth in England.

Marsworth is a tiny hamlet.  Apparently, it has existed since Roman times. A pub, a church, several old houses surrounded by a number of newer (early 20th century) houses.  All set in quiet, grassy farmlands.  Marsworth is on the Grand Union Canal.

The reason for our visit?  Well, it was something of a pilgrimage really.  Some years ago, I discovered (after 10 years of researching) that my great-great grandfather - William Rowland - was born in Marsworth and had been baptised in the All Saints Church there.  Further research showed that his father (William sen.) and grand-father (John) were also born in Marsworth and also baptised in All Saints church.

There is a strong likelihood that earlier generations of Rowland also lived in Marsworth.  I can reliably trace back to 14 June 1740, when a John Rowland was baptised there.  I suspect John's father was a Robert Rowland and he too was baptised in All Saints at Marsworth on 9 March 1712.  And perhaps Robert's father was baptised there too. That would take our family connection with Marsworth well back into the 1600s. There is a record of a contribution of 6 pence by a William Rowland of Marsworth in 1642.  Such contributions were sought from all the men in Buckinghamshire and were " ... voluntary contributions which were to be used both for the succour of refugees and for the mounting of an invasion of Ireland by an English army." This detail can be found on page 51 of "Buckinghamshire Contributions for Ireland 1642 and Richard Grenville's Miltary Accounts 1642-1645 John Wilson" (Buckinghamshire Record Society).

My eldest son and I visited the All Saints church and were amazed to find it has existed in some form since about 1200, although it has been rebuilt and repaired sveral times - the original wooden church of 1196 AD is long gone.

It was quite amazing to think we were in the same church where several of my ancestors had been christened centuries before. In this little hamlet, my ancestors lived out their lives as either a victualler (John Rowland 1740 - 1820) or a carpenter and canal overseer (William Rowland sr 1799 - 1875).

After our exploration of the eerily empty All Saints, we left a small donation in an envelope then wandered down to the Grand Union Canal.  It was here that William Rowland (sen.) gave away carpentry when he found work as a canal overseer sometime between the 1841 and 1851 census.

My son and I then walked back up past the church and retired to the Red Lion pub, which sits opposite All Saints. 

It too is an old building - apparently it dates back to the 17th century (according to the menu). 
I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this pub. It is warm, welcoming and cosy, with two lounges separated by a wall and doorway. The front entrance is small, like you might expect to find in someone's house. Here you can remove your wet weather gear before entering the pub itself. We chose a beer each then retired to the lounges on the next level. After a while, we ordered our meals. I chose the lamb shanks in gravy and mint suace - superbly cooked!

My son opted for the modern traditional cheeseburger but was somewhat disappointed. We moved to a small table at the rear of the lounge to eat our food, next to a window that overlooked the rear of the pub building. The age of the building was clear to see and the view of the backyard garden was pleasing to the eye. Very quaint.

My great-grandfather was William Rowland (jr.) (1828 - 1920).  In about 1850, William (jr.) left Marsworth. No doubt there was little work available in Marsworth.  He found work in London firstly as a porter, and then as a waiter, at the Red Lion hotel in Edgware Road (now demolished) in Marylebone. Like so many other young men of his time, William was enticed by stories of the fabulous gold finds in Victoria, Australia and saved for his passage of 18 pounds.  He boarded the barque 'Brightman', which departed London for Port Phillip on the 14th of September 1852.

William was unlucky on the goldfields and found work as a crew member aboard various coastal cutters travelling between Melbourne and Launceston.  He was initially a transient resident at Leven River (now Ulverstone) in north-west Tasmania from about 1854, but settled there permanently around the late 1850s.

RMS Ormuz

On the 22nd of March 1898, William and his daughter Susan journeyed by sea, aboard the RMS Ormuz, around the world and visited Marsworth (no small undertaking, especially for a 70 year old man).

William saw the house in which he was born and the church in which he was baptised (this is stated in his obituary).  Which house was his?  Is it still there?  I somehow doubt that it survives, but 'Cottlesloe', a house of the early 1800s, might represent how his house looked back in 1828.

Or maybe this one ..... ?

William and Susan returned home after a six month sojourn in England, arriving home in Tasmania on the 29th of October 1898. 

William died at the grand old age of 92 and is buried in the General Cemetery in Ulverstone, Tasmania. William Rowland of Marsworth, Buckinghamshire - an early Australian pioneer.


  1. Do you want a full list of William Rowland's children?

    1. Hi. Thanks for your kind offer but, after many years of researching etc., I now have a full list of his children and many, many of his descendants.