Family stories, handed down

One of the treasures of studying a family, are the precious stories that are handed down through the generations. Some are fanciful, while others prove to have a grain of truth in them. All are interesting and reflect the hopes, dreams and prejudices of a bygone era. Here are just a few drawn from the Ivens family:

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William Hitchcock of Leamington, brother of Mary Hitchcock who married Richard Ivens, was disowned and put out at the age of 17 with a shilling in his pocket. He became wealthy but never married as he was reputed to hate women. Mary and Richard Ivens had eloped – on the eve of her wedding to someone else. ‘She was engaged to marry the son of a well-off neighbour whose name was never divulged. Mother had never been told it, anyway. In the meantime she met our Richard and never having cared for the man her parents had engaged her to, there was nothing for it but to elope, though everyone felt she needn’t have left it quite so late to do. However, somehow she left the home and joined Richard at Woodford, I suppose, where they were immediately married and set off for Richmond and the Old Star & Garter Hotel.

Her father must somehow have known that was their destination (but not of the marriage) as he went tearing after them by post chaise and almost certainly, I fancy, through Banbury and Adderbury. When the furious papa arrived at the Star & Garter he could do nothing, of course, except disown them and refused to see them again.

Richard became the leaseholder of Westbury Manor, the Marsh Gibbon property, after the death of Mary Hitchcock’s father some time around 1830.

They were living in the States in real poverty when her father died and were then offered Marsh Gibbon and apparently only Anne was born at Marsh Gibbon. Mary’s mother lived in a cottage nearby and when her grandson visited her, he received a half-crown every time he produced his own.’

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Richard’s grandson, Arthur Ivens (b.1866), son of John Ivens and Catherine Howe, was drowned in the moat at Marsh Gibbon. 

‘Mother, (Catherine Howe) herself, was quite young. What impressed her as a child was grandpa putting a mirror to his (Arthur’s) mouth to see if he was still breathing. We were told it was a sure test! I wonder if, at that time, artificial respiration was unknown.’   

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Some versions of family stories add interesting extra detail, such as this example from Graham Burnett Ivens, also a descendant of William of Swinbrook:


See post: ‘Why was William of Swinbrook so important?’

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