Family Reunion in Sussex 2002

One year after our first visit to England there was another family reunion, this one in the town where our family came from, Billingshurst.  Marcie and I decided we couldn’t miss it so we planned a short trip of one week.  We would be staying with our cousin Linda and her husband Richard, but did fly into London for a night or two at Fox Hill B&B to renew our friendship with the Haigh’s.

It is really great to get to know our family of 5th generation cousins.  We’ve been talking via internet and letters for the past year and here we are visiting in person.   The only way to learn about another culture is to stay in homes and B&Bs rather than big chain hotels.  This was going to be great!

Linda and Richard are amazing hosts and couldn’t do enough to welcome us.  They gave us a lovely tea with lots of little cakes, in fact this is where the previous story of Marcie and I expectantly waiting while Linda made tea, so we could learn how to make an “authentic cuppa”.  So funny how you get these notions from TV and movies.

Linda’s daughter Claire planned the entire reunion.  Claire is the one that has really done the family research.  She is the one that posted on all of the genealogy sites, looking for ancestors.  She really did a terrific job and found from the parish records, the internet and good old fashioned sleuthing many of our families homes, farms, work places and graves.  And so “The First Gravett Tour”, as this reunion was called, was born.

But for the first day Linda had acquired a hall close to her home in Billingshurst for all of us to meet.  Claire had made up a family tree that wrapped around the room and it was fun and interesting to follow the lines and meet the others that connected a few hundred years ago.  Claire and Linda made masses of food and Claire even did a cooking demonstration of some of the old English food that our people would have eaten way back when.  She actually made mead, a beer made from honey, a bit sweet for me, but I’m sure it’s an acquired taste!

If I kept a journal of this trip I can not find it.  However, I do have the itinerary and it was a lofty plan.  So for the second day we loaded ourselves into cars and hit the road in search of family haunts.   In Billingshurst we visited no less than 9 places where Gravetts lived, a plaque in St Mary’s church with our name on it, and 13 graves in the church yard.  We then moved on to Adversane to see a few houses and a granary that were once owned by the family.  We visited Wisborough Green, Petworth, Chiddingfold, Dunsfold, Cranleigh, Ewhurst, and Rudwick each containing homes, businesses, graves, and places where our ancestors walked, lived, loved and died, fascinating! 

There were over 20 of us in all and we had a grand lunch at The Blacksmith’s Arms pub, talking and laughing and uniting in our quest for the past. There are so many mysteries in my tree that I have yet to find the answers to.  When I retire I plan to put in the time to find them out and leave that knowledge with my children.  I am so grateful for the things I have found out about the people that came before me and indeed gave me the life that I have now.  It’s the stories that have come down through generations.  I love it when I find a connection and I think “yes, this is why I feel about this the way I do, it makes sense now”.  So many parts of your life you think are just random and then you find out another clue and it becomes clearer.  Gotta love that!

I’m so grateful to Claire for doing the research and to have the opportunity to go back to the land where part of my family originated.  Just to be where they were and to be able to visualize how they lived.  You can never know really how their life was and I know that.  There is enough story teller in me though to be able to imagine their lives in a fanciful way, not reality I know, but endearing to me just the same.  In this way they are remembered and maybe they go on and are not forgotten.  I sincerely hope that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will keep me alive in the same way:)


7 thoughts on “Family Reunion in Sussex 2002

  1. Lovely memories Linda. Was it really 2002 ??? I remember standing in the village church as Claire told us that your ancestors got married in that very spot before departing for a new life in America. You looked at me with tears in your eyes, and no words were needed between us.


    • It was 2002, and I have a great photo of little Warren, age about 5! How time flies…
      Yes, I remember it well, it was surreal. I just had such an overwhelming feeling, I can’t even put it to words.
      Afterward, we went outside and you showed us the walls of the church where Cromwell’s men had sharpened their swords in disrespect, the grooves and gashes still visible after all that time! Also, the WWI Memorial that has a Gravett name engraved on it. I so want to return!


  2. Re the tea making episode …. so funny because I remember feeling so embarrassed because we had only just stopped buying real packeted leaf tea, and I so wished at that moment that we had some. For years we had been making ‘proper’ tea, and why Richard (who does the shopping because I hate shopping) started buying teabags I have no idea. When I did the shopping I always alternated between PG Tips and Brooke Bond Dividend packet tea, because every fortnight they had offers and I would buy the one on offer that week. I feel so sad about that because I feel I let you down on something that we always used to do so traditionally. I still have the tea strainer! Sorry Linda!


    • Oh silly girl, I didn’t tell that story to make you feel sad. Only to illustrate how naive we were, taking our perspective from movies and TV instead of reality. It was meant to be humorous! It’s one reason that I don’t like to travel alone, I need someone to laugh with at all my dorky antics!! You were brilliant, I still have the instructions written down for that ginger cake you made without a recipe. You just tossed in a little of this and little of that and BAM a scrumptious cake. You made it look so simple!


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