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Ronald Basil Girdler

1925 - 2017


Helene Girdler

1927 - 2020

Further attempts to trace what happened to Thomas Girdler, the direct descendent (b. 1722), were found only after 3-4 years of intense searching. This was obviously a backwards search as he was known to have died in Funtington, Sussex in 1767 (or 1772) without any record at that time as to where he had come from. The clue was eventually found in the account of a Settlement Dispute reported in the Hampshire Quarter Sessions Records at Winchester Records Office. He evidently married a girl named Ann (surname unknown and marriage details not yet traced) around 1759, and they had three children who were baptized at Bramshott Parish Church - Thomas (b. 4th May 1760), James (b. 11th May 1763), and Ann (b. 20th October 1765). There was possibly a fourth child as well because the Bramshott Overseers Account and Rate Book for 1764-88 shows that 11s-Od was paid to a Mr. Jeanes in February 1766 for the order of removal of Thomas Girdler and wife and 4 children (although subsequent records suggest only 3 children). As mentioned before, 1766 was the start of a very difficult 3 years for the country in general and for the Girdlers. It is not clear why the order for removal of Thomas Girdler and family was given or what role his father, ex-tythingan of Bramshott, played in this affair. This was 2 months before Mary (John's wife and Thomas's mother) died, leaving John Girdler on his own at the age of 84. It is also unclear what role the parish of Alton played in the affair, because the next positive information was found in the Quarter Sessions Records for the 1766 Easter Sessions at Southampton, where the results of a settlement dispute between the parishes of Bramshott, Hants, and Funtington, Sussex, were found as shown in the Appendix (Figure 7). This settlement dispute was reported as follows: -

Funtington and Bramshott

"The appeal of the parish of Funtington in the county of Sussex made unto this Court by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said parish from and against the order of Jonathan Dennis and Richard Willis, Clerks, two of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said county, one whereof is the quorum, dated unto their hands and seals the twenty second day of February last past for the removal of Thomas Girdler and Anne his wife and their 3 children namely Thomas aged about 6 years, James aged about 3 years, and Anne aged about 5 months from the parish of Bramshott in the said county of Southampton unto the aforesaid parish of Funtington as the place of their last legal settlement being now examined into by this Court and argued and debated by Council on both sides and examination of witnesses and other evidence. This Court is of the opinion and doth adjudge that the said recited order ought to be confirmed and the same is hereby confirmed accordingly."

We can only assume that they had been undergoing a very difficult time in Bramshott and tried desperately to settle elsewhere in search of work.

Perhaps they heard rumours of possible work in Funtington and tried to move there, or perhaps Thomas's wife, Anne, originally came from Funtington or had relatives there. Anyhow, one cannot fail to sympathise for the terrible straits in which the family found themselves, with two parishes squabbling to avoid being the one to have to pay for their poor relief, However, they were allowed to settle in Funtington, which is a parish about 3 miles N. W. of Chichester in West Sussex. The difficult life obviously took its toll, because both Thomas (the father) and Thomas (the eldest son) died within the next 6 years - there are records of one Thomas Girdler being buried at Funtington on 13th June 1767 and another Thomas Girdler on 9th November 1772. Thomas's wife, Anne, lived on as a widow for some years looking after the two remaining children and then married Richard Grainger, a widower, at Funtington Parish Church on 11th November 1779. It is interesting to note that Richard Grainger signed his name on the marriage record, but that Ann could obviously not write as she had to make her mark with a cross. At this time, her children were 16 (James) and 14 (Ann) respectively. There is no record as to what happened to the daughter, Ann, who may eventually have married and moved to another parish. James married Mary Batman at Funtington Parish Church on 20th January 1789, and one of the witnesses was an Ann Girdler, presumably James's sister, who it seems had not yet married at that time when she was 23 years old. All the signatures were made by crosses only, showing that none of them had learned to write.

Funtington is a small village. To give some idea of its size, in 1801 it had 137 houses (occupied by 142 families) and a total population of 681 (361 male + 320 female). Of these inhabitants, 146 were employed in agriculture and 62 in trade, manufacture, or handicraft. This shows that it was predominantly an agricultural area, the chief crops being wheat, barley and oats.

James Girdler was an agricultural labourer and suffered the hard work and severe conditions of such an occupation. He and his wife lived in the part of Funtington known as West Ashling (Map 2), about 1 mile S.E. of the village centre. They had 7 children as follows - William (b. 4th March 1790), James (b. 18th March 1792), Thomas (b. 29th September 1793), Ann (b. 12th June 1796), George (b. 30th September 1798), Mary (b. 30th November 1800) and Harriet (b. 3rd August 1803). As an agricultural labourer with 7 children, life must have been extremely hard. James's wife, Mary, died at West Ashling and was buried on 13th August 1819 at the age of 57. The only existing Overseer's Poor Law Book for Funtington starts from December 1819 and goes up to 1899. It shows that James Girdler was receiving annual payments from the Overseers from the very beginning of this period. He was probably receiving payments much earlier as well, but the records are not available. This emphasises the terribly difficult struggle they must have had to survive.

Of the children, Harriet died in 1822 at the age of 18 and was buried at Funtington on 5th April 1822. Thomas married Ann Burcher at Funtington Parish Church on 6th August 1822 (he was able to sign the register with his signature) and they had 5 children - one (George) died at 8 months, one (Caroline) at 16 years, and another (Eliza Ann) at 22 years of age. The other two were Charles (b. 1832), who was a gardener who married Louise ----- and had a son (Charles James) the year before he died in 1864 from phthisis (tuberculosis) at only 31 years of age, and Thomas who was a miller's retailer of flour and died the same year.

from the same disease when only 41. Copies of their Death Certificates are in the Appendix (Certificates 1 and 2). Thomas Girdler (the father) was a labourer by trade and died at West Ashling in 1832, being buried on 24th April 1832 at the age of only 38. He had received monthly payments of Poor Law assistance varying between 5s-4d and 10s-10d from the end of 1828 until the time of his death in 1832. His widow, Ann, received Poor Law assistance from 1832-1847 and then married a widower, Samuel Payne, in 1850.

Continuing the story of James's children, George (our direct ancestor) married Mary Ann Wadge in 1820 and this will be followed up later. Ann (b. 1823) married Seth Wilkes at Funtington Parish Church on 29th November 1823 after having had an illegitimate daughter, Eliza, baptized 13 days previously. There is little record of what happened to the two older sons, William and James, except that William died in 1833 (buried 29th June 1833) at the age of 43, and that James was a mariner who died eventually in Westbourne Union Workhouse at the age of 63 (buried on 28th August 1854). The remaining child, Mary, appears to have stayed at home and looked after her father. From 1838 onwards, James (the father) was described in the Poor Law Book as being "infirm" and the Overseers payments were collected at times by his daughter, Mary, his grand-daughter (Eliza ?) or a Mr. Cooper, Mary presumably looked after him until he died and was buried at Funtington on 21st April 1844 at the ripe old age of 84. Despite his hard life, he outlived all but two of his children. His Death Certificate is shown in the Appendix (Certificate 3), the cause of death being 'given as "old age". After he died, his daughter Mary received four further payments from the Overseers of 2s-6d, 2s-6d, 4s-Od, and 3s-Od in 1845, 1846, January 1847, and April 1848 respectively. She then married James Cooper (possibly the Mr. Cooper who collected her father's Poor Law payment in 1842) at Funtington Parish Church on 12th June 1847 when she was 47 years of age. They had 10 years of married life until she died and was buried at Funtington in 1857.

As previously mentioned, George Girdler (the direct ancestor) married Mary Ann Wadge at Funtington Parish Church on February 21st. 1820. Neither of them could read or write and they signed the register with crosses, and their wedding was witnessed by George's brother and sister, Thomas (who signed his name) and Mary (who made a cross). The reason for the wedding appeared 4 months later in the form of a daughter, Mary Ann (b. 15th June 1820). The baptism register shows George's occupation as a "labourer".

Subsequent records of what happened appear in the parish records for Bosham (Map 3), a village in West Sussex with a population of 1049 (in 1821) rising to 1181 (in 1831) and declining to just below 1130 by 1851. Of the population, the majority of families (116 out of 219) were employed in agriculture, Bosham lies about 2% miles S. of Funtington and about 3 miles W. of Chichester. It is at the head of the inlet from the sea known as Bosham Creek. It appears that George and Mary Ann Girdler moved from Funtington to Bosham some time between 1820 and 1822 as their next child, Rebecca, was born in Bosham (b. 3rd March 1822) as were all their other children C11 in all) . The other children were Harriet (b. 1st February 1824), Martha (b. 12th February 1826), Sarah (b. 4th February 1828), George (b. 4th February 1830), Emma (b. 10th February 1832), Stephen (b. 11th January 1834), Caroline (b.11th November 1835), Eliza (b. November 1838) and Hannah (b. December 1840).

Most of these records have been found in the Bosham Church Book for the Union Chapel at Bosham, which is now the United Reformed Church. George and Mary Ann Girdler were two of the original members who founded the Union Chapel in Bosham in 1824. The very first Congregational service in the village was in a storehouse on the seafront at Bosham (Figure 8) where the house called "Oysters" now stands. That was on 12th October 1812. The Union Chapel was formed in July 1824 and there were 16 founder members, including George and Mary Ann Girdler. In the Bosham Congregational Church (Union Chapel) Book, their names appear as follows: -

Members of Church of Christ

Admitted when church was founded July 1824:

George Girdler Bosham Died June 1843. A faithful man.

Mary Ann Girdler Bosham Died Oct. 1852.

A booklet describing the history of the church will be found as Attachment 1. The present minister of the church, Mrs. Hilda Tizard, invited me to attend the service to commemorate the triple jubilee of the church (150 years) on 17th October 1974, I was thrilled to attend this service at the church my ancestors helped to form and I was asked to read the Church Covenant of 1824 as part of the service.

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