Notable Thorpe Ancestors

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I first became interested in my family history many years ago and have left off and returned several times over the years.  I think my interest in history in general stems back to my history teacher at school.  He managed to instill and interest in his subject which I’m afraid few other teachers managed!

Despite having four daughters and therefore no chance of my particular family name continuing I have kept on with my research, and now I’m pleased to say I have a grandson and a granddaughter who have both shown an interest.

George Archibald Thorpe

My paternal great grandfather was George Archibald Thorpe.  He was Lord Mayor of Hastings three times.  He was born in 1825 at Battle where his father, George was a boot and shoe manufacturer.  When I visited Battle a few years ago, the shop was still there albeit no longer run by a Thorpe. George had walked from his birthplace in Chiddingly to Battle to start his own business.

George Archibald came to live in Hastings in 1845 and opened a boot and shoe business at 21 & 22 George Street and he later opened branches at 28 &29 Robertson Street and 17 Grand Parade St Leonards.  The Robertson Street shop became Thorpe and Hall in 1890 and then just Halls.  In 1868 he was first elected to Hastings Council. Became a Tory councillor in 1868, then magistrate, mayor and alderman.  He was a director of the Gas Company (and chairman), of the Queens Hotel, the Baths, of Hastings Pier and of East Sussex Building Society.  His eldest son Francis Homan Thorpe was the Borough Accountant and his third son Arthur Davis Thorpe was Deputy Town Clerk and an active solicitor. His son, Arthur Davis Thorpe, was also Mayor of Hastings.

My paternal grandfather and son of George Archibald was partner (with his brother) in a company manufacturing horse drawn carriages.  With the advent of the motor car, he decided it was a passing fad and decided to continue manufacturing the carriages!!

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Milton.  I have traced her ancestry back and find she is descended from Christopher Milton, who was the brother of John Milton – the poet.

My youngest daughter’s partner and father of her two sons, is directly descended from Charles Darwin. Darwin was his great great great grandfather. Josiah Wedgwood was his 5th  great grandfather. His (Josiah’s) daughter, grand daughter Emma married Charles Darwin.

Six Bells, Chiddingly

The most important of my ancestors, however was William Thorpe 1747-1819 (George’s father and George Archibald’s grandfather}, who owned the Six Bells public house in Chiddingly, Sussex. An excellent pub with lovely beer and delicious food.  (Oh, how proud I am of him!!!)

His daughter Jane married John Russell. Their granddaughter Elizabeth married George Bromley and the Russell and Bromley store was born.

As you can see, genealogy enables one can uncover many previously unknown ancestors.  It is difficult to explain the thrill of finding such an individual or even to finally break down a “brick wall” and to tie together two such family members.


Links to famous people mentioned:

Charles Darwin                     http://rs87.pbsrc.com/albums/k152/5eeth/charlesdarwin.jpg~c200

John Milton                          http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/pictures/john_milton.jpg

Russell & Bromley                https://www.allinlondon.co.uk/images/venues/images_all/12480429.jpg

Josiah Wedgwood              https://goo.gl/images/sJbH4M

The Price dynasty of glass painters 1666-1753

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THE PAST:
Imagine, if you will, that it is mid-autumn in London in 1666. The Great Fire which laid waste to most of the city was extinguished weeks ago but the acrid smell of burnt buildings and belongings hangs heavy in the air. On a street corner near the ruins of St Paul’s cathedral, a young man surveys the frantic activity of rebuilding. Everywhere are men and carts, some taking away loads of soot blackened rubble and charred timbers, others arriving with new building materials. The man is my ancestor, William Price, a glazier, and he knows his future is bright, unlike many of London’s unfortunates who had lost everything. Scarcely a month later, he is affluent enough to marry.

THE PRESENT:
Given the pace of building which took place after the Great Fire of 1666, it would be reasonable to assume that William Price became prosperous because of a flood of work, glazing the multitude of new houses which were going up everywhere. However, that would prove to be a totally incorrect assumption. The study of Genealogy is like following leads in a complex detective story and it often throws up unimaginable surprises.

A random Google of Price’s name and dates on a rainy afternoon led to a report by a 17th century Yorkshire engraver anxious to investigate Price’s business on behalf of a competitor who had just secured a prestigious contract to create the stained glass East window of University College Chapel, Oxford. The report on Price concludes, “I belejve he gets a greate deele of Mony for his is belejved Rich.” Thus began my search to find out how William Price became so successful.

THE PAST:
Medieval England had boasted some of the finest and most exquisite stained glass in all of Europe. But when Henry VIII set about sacking the country’s cathedrals, churches and monasteries, this highly skilled art form of painted glass was lost. It was not until Baptist Sutton, a colleague and friend of Sir Christopher Wren, began to revive the art in the 17th century that we see important buildings being embellished once again. Sutton was William Price’s master and mentor and, recognising Price’s extraordinary talent, he encouraged a partnership to form between Price and his son-in-law which resulted in the two men inheriting a prestigious client list when Sutton died in November 1667. Needless to say, Christopher Wren was on that list, no bad thing as Wren had been commissioned to build 51 churches and, eventually, the new St Paul’s cathedral. But by 1687 William Price’s partner was dead and Price was now regarded as the finest glass painter in London. The client list grew to include guild halls, private chapels and even Oxbridge colleges. By 1699 William Price was accorded the ultimate honour of being elected Master of the Guild of Glaziers.

If that weren’t enough, Price was eventually joined by his son, Joshua, a man with such a talent that the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey asked him to create the Rose Window which still wows spectators to this day. He was also responsible for the chapel windows in Cannons, the lavish home of the Duke of Chandos, otherwise known as the Apollo of the Arts, and patron to George Frideric Handel. When the building was complete Lord Chandos opened it to visiting public and it featured in early travel guides including a 1725 travelogue by Daniel Defoe who described it;

Detail of one of the Joshua Price windows, Great Witley Church, Worcestershire, originally from the chapel at Cannons, Stanmore.

“The palace is so beautiful in its situation, so lofty, so majestic the appearance of it, that a pen can ill describe it….The whole structure is built with such a Profusion of Expense and finished with such a Brightness of Fancy and Delicacy of Judgement.”

When Price’s grandson, William Price the Younger, joined the family firm, possessing a talent so precocious that he outshone both father and grandfather, this extraordinary dynasty was complete.

Unsurprisingly, the client list now included more wealthy aristocrats and prominent politicians, all anxious to build ever grander country palaces and London town houses. Amongst others, Horace Walpole, son of Britain’s first Prime Minister, commissioned William for his great Georgian Gothic revival masterpiece, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham which has recently been restored to its original glory. It came as no surprise to anyone when William was asked to create what is probably his most fabulous work, the soaring Great West window of Westminster Abbey. Such was the volume of work produced that William bought a lead mine in Flintshire so he could control the quality of the installation materials as well as the craftsmanship of his glass painting. His wealth grew rapidly. He bought a large house in London’s Hatton Garden with a dining room so lavish he was able to hang the entire set of twelve apostles, seven foot high figures painted by Sir Nicholas Hawksmoor, which had been the inspiration for Joshua Price’s Rose window in Westminster Abbey. Hawksmoor is now lauded as Britain’s Michaelangelo. When William died in 1753 his estate, not including his house and the mine, was worth nearly £10 million as measured against today’s purchasing power.

THE PRESENT:
It is probably worth mentioning that my family history as I knew it before I entered the fascinating world of Genealogy never mentioned the Price dynasty. Over the years, I had visited Westminster Abbey, Strawberry Hill, Trinity College, Cambridge and Witley Court in Worcestershire which now contains the windows and ceiling from Canons. I had admired the beautiful stained glass windows in these buildings never once realising that my own ancestors had created their works of art. If it hadn’t been for this Genealogy Group, I would still be in ignorance.

Peter William LeFevre (Lefever) DFC 1918-1944

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Peter was born in 1918 in Cambridge but his birth was registered in Canterbury (Canterbury 2a 1458 Jun 1918) Kent the son of Frederick Charles and Lilian Edith LEFEVRE nee Langford. Frederick Charles LEFEVRE was mayor of Canterbury but that is a story for another time. Lilian died when Peter was less than a year old in the flu outbreak of 1919 (Canterbury 2a 1677 Mar 1919). His father married Winifred M Blundell in 1921 (Canterbury 2a 2089 Jun 1921) and so he had a woman in his life.

Peter William Lefevre (2nd from left)

In my research so far Peter’s early life was unremarkable being educated at Tonbridge School and subsequently at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in March 1938 and was posted to 38 (some research says 46) Squadron in December 1938. He was involved in the first battle of that squadron in October 1939 off the north coast of Britain. His squadron was posted to Northern Norway in June 1940 and then later in 1940 he returned to Britain where he fought in the Battle of Britain. On 3rd September 1940 he was shot down in combat over Chatham and ‘baled out’ with minor injuries. In 1941 the squadron was posted to the Mediterranean and in May 1941 the squadron was serving on Malta and re-designated as 126 Squadron. On 10th October 1941 he was posted to command 185 Squadron, this post only lasted for a week and he then returned to command 126 Squadron. For his actions in the North Sea, the Middle East and the Mediterranean he was awarded the DFC on 12th December 1941[1].

Peter at far right with 46 Squadron at Stapleford
Peter at far right with 46 Squadron at Stapleford

He returned to the UK in December 1941 and served with 52 Squadron. Early in 1943 he was posted as Flight Commander of 129 Squadron and then in April 1943 he was given command of 161 Squadron. On 16th April 1943 he was shot down by ‘flak’ whilst escorting bombers to Brest. He was found by the French resistance and smuggled into Spain and then to Gibraltar and returned to the UK on 13th July 1943. He re-joined 616 Squadron on 11th August but shortly afterwards was posted to command 266 Squadron.

On 6th February 1944 whilst leading an attack on anti-aircraft guns at l’Aber-Vrac’h, Brittany he was shot down by ‘flak’ and baled-out but unfortunately was too low for his parachute to deploy (200 feet) and he was recorded as missing presumed killed, his body never being recovered from the sea.

Peter was a confirmed fighter Ace with 10 confirmed ‘kills’ [2,3]. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial on panel 200 [4].

lefevre2 runnymeade

 

[1] SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 12 DECEMBER, 1941:

Acting Squadron Leader Peter William LEFEVRE (40719), No. 126 Squadron. This officer has shown the utmost devotion to duty over a long period of operational flying, in which he has destroyed several enemy aircraft. He carried out over 250 hours flying on convoy patrols over the North Sea as well as participating in other operational missions. Squadron Leader Lefevre has participated in operations in the Middle East, and in July, 1941, he attacked an Italian E boat which was forced to surrender.

 

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_II_aces_from_the_United_Kingdom#L

[3] Aces High: A Tribute to the Most Notable Fighter Pilots of the British and Commonwealth Forces in WWII By Christopher Shores, Clive Williams. Available on Amazon

[4] Photograph courtesy of Stephen Daglish

#ww2 #Peter William Lefevre #DFC #RAF