Chapter 5 - London to Birmingham

Buckingham Palace

Monday 30th June

We said farewell to our generous hosts, Chris and Julie, who gave us goodies to take with us to London. Our first stop was at Trimley St.Martin, just up the road from Felixstowe, where we picked strawberries and raspberries to take with us on our journey. Later hopped off the A12 just past Chelmsford, at Stenfield, and had a bite of lunch at the Rose Pub.

Thanks to Tom Tom we reached our London destination, London Cottage, Lennard Road, Beckenham, without too much anxiety. Our self-contained flat was very neat, clean and tidy and we were very pleased with it. Ann, the owner, whose home was attached to the flat, had put in just about everything we needed, including tea, coffee, milk etc.

After moving in, as it was yet early in the afternoon, we drove a couple of blocks to the end of the road and caught a train to Charing Cross Station, right near Trafalgar Square. From there we walked down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. It was a beautiful, sunny day with lots of people taking advantage of the sun sitting on the grass or on deck chairs, playing ball games etc.

The walk to Buckingham Palace and back tired our legs, so, as it was after six o'clock, though still bright daylight, we decided to catch the train back to New Beckenham. The trains were delayed because of an accident on the line, so we popped into Marks and Spencers at the station and bought something to have for our tea when we got home. M & S have a marvellous range of ready to eat or cook, packaged foods of all descriptions. All sorts of chicken and meat dishes prepared and ready to cook and a multitude of different salads all ready to eat. They do a roaring trade at the train stations.

We were pretty tired after our long day and very pleased to reach our comfortable little flat.

Tuesday 1st July 2008

Went to the other end of Lennard Road today and caught the train to Cannon Street rather than Charing Cross. Hopped on a bus and found our way to the British Museum and spent an enjoyable couple of hours there - could spend all day and then some, there is just so much to see.

Had a look through the National Gallery also - likewise could spend heaps more time there. Saw the originals of the Constable paintings we had seen at Flatford and many other beautiful paintings by famous artists.

We took a photo of St Martin in the Fields, the church where Henry Francis married Elizabeth Lucas in 1766. Also popped in for a quick look at Westminster Cathedral before hopping on a double decker bus for a long, slow trip back to Beckenham.

Wednesday 2nd July

We had planned to go to Wimbledon today but the weather was not so good, we were rather tired and there were huge crowds lining up to see Andy Murray play Nadal so we decided instead to have a late start and go into London again.

Train to Charing Cross, bus to Sloane Square and then window shopped our way along King's Road, Chelsea which is a very pretty area with great shopping and very affluent looking apartments lining the streets.

We walked as far as Cheyne Row near the River to visit Thomas Carlyle's house now owned by the National Trust. We talked to the resident custodians about the house and the possibility that Henry and Mary Ann Francis lived in this street in the 1840's, possibly next door. They were very interested and suggested we check at the Chelsea Library for records that might reveal the residents of the street at that time. We went to the Library to find that the records had been transferred to the Kensington Library - too late to go there so headed back to Picadilly Circus to see if we could pick up tickets for the Theatre.

We had high tea at Fortnum & Mason - service and atmosphere was great but not very impressed with the scones - not up to Flo's standard! We had a good look around the store but resisted buying anything. We then went down Piccadilly where we had dinner at a very nice Lebanese restaurant before heading to the Theatre.

We went to the Criterion Theatre where we saw an hilarious version of 'The 39 Steps' by John Buchan. The Criterion is a wonderful old theatre built in the basement of what was originally the large Criterion Restaurant, the first show being held in 1874. Being underground and lit by gas, fresh air had to be pumped into the auditorium to prevent the audience from being asphyxiated, making the theatre one of the earliest air conditioned environments in London. During World War 11 The Criterion was requistioned by the BBC - as an underground theatre it made an ideal studio safe from the London blitz.

John Buchan's 1915 spy thriller was produced as a movie classic by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935. Later, Kenneth Moore starred as the hero, Richard Hannay, in a 1959 version of the story, and in 1978 the story was retold with Robert Powell as the hero.

This stage version is hilarious, with just four actors playing the numerous parts of heroes and villians, cops and casual bystanders, with lightning fast costume changes so that the show flows at the exciting pace that was created in the original story, but with a comedy twist that had the audience roaring with laughter.

We had excellent seats. We were lucky to get two cancellations in the front row of the dress circle, so we were able to enjoy the show and the whole atmosphere of the theatre from the best seats in the house. We had a great night.

Walked up to Charing Cross and caught the train home after the show.

Thursday 3rd July

We slept in to recover from our long day yesterday. Still a bit tired and footsore, we caught a train into the city after lunch and a bus to Kensington. Found the Library which holds the records for that part of London, including Chelsea.

Thomas Carlyle's house is now number 24 Cheyne Row, but prior to 1877, when re-numbering took place, it was number 5. The librarian in charge of that section was most helpful, and brought up old rate books and London directories for us to search. We found that Henry and Mary Ann Francis lived at number 6 Cheyne Row, next door to the Carlyles at number 5, from about 1847 to about 1850. After that the Francis' moved to 37 Princes Road, Rotherhithe, Surrey.

Henry and Mary Ann Francis' second son, Grosvenor Griffin Francis was born at Chelsea in 1847. The London Post Office Directory for 1849, page 1615, records Thomas Carlyle at number 5 Cheyne Row, and on page 1637, Henry Francis at number 6 Cheyne Row.

Friday 4th July

We left our unit at Beckenham about 10.30a.m. after thanking and saying farewell to Ann. Set the TomTom to the address of Winston Churchill's home, 'Chartwell' and in no time at all were driving through narrow tree-lined lanes which led us to Churchill's much loved home in Kent.

The National Trust has done a magnificent job in maintaining the home and garden and presenting a complete picture of the lives of Winston and his wife Clementine. The gardens are a delight and the rooms full of natural light with expansive views of the beautiful Kent countryside. We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours and found it to be a very moving experience. After a picnic lunch in the grounds we drove on to Winchester, a very pretty place but rather busy and we weren't able to find somewhere to park, so we kept driving. Made our way to Salisbury where we booked in to the Clovelly Hotel.

We walked around the town and past the impressive Salisbury Cathedral. Unfortunately the hotel where we were staying was not serving dinner so we selected the old water mill, which had been converted into a bar and restaurant, as the place to have our meal. We were somewhat disappointed with our choice.

Salisbury is a beautiful city, with the River Avon, one of several in Britain, running through it, wide parkland, flowers everywhere, and fascinating ancient buildings spread around the magnificant ancient Cathedral.

Saturday 5th July

Our room at the Clovelly Hotel was clean and comfortable, and we had a very enjoyable cooked English breakfast of fruit juce, cereal, eggs, bacon and tomatoes, tea, toast and local jam. Just the thing to start the day.

Salisbury is the Wiltshire town where one of Dilys' ancestors, James Jenkins and his brother William faced the Assizes in 1789 and were found guilty of sheep stealing. Their death sentence was commuted to 7 years transportation. Since we know quite a lot about their lives after they were convicted, but little about them beforehand, we decided to visit the local library to see if they had any appropriate records.

We left our car at the hotel and walked into town. On the way we met a couple on bikes when we were crossing the bridge to the park. We asked them what was beyond the park and started a conversation. They recognised us as Australians and told us they often visited their daughter who lives now in Canberra. We walked with them to the Market which is held in town every Saturday. On the way we recognised the unmistakable face of Phil, who appears on the TV programme 'Time Team'. We were too slow to register that it really was him so didn't say hello.

We left our new friends to do their shopping and went to the library where the helpful librarian told us that the records were held at the new County History Centre at Chippenham.

We walked up to the Cathedral which, apart from the magnificant architecture, houses some interesting artifacts including the Magna Carter. After touring the Cathedral we visited the near-by National Trust Property, 'Mompesson House' and garden, before collecting our car for the drive to Chippenham.

We drove via Stonehenge and Salisbury plains. We didn't stop at Stonehenge - the car park was overflowing, it was a long walk and since visitors can no longer get close to the stones and have to walk around a perimeter path, we decided to give it a miss.

Chippenham is not as attractive as Salisbury, probably a more recent development, but still with the parking problems. We started to walk to the History Centre but realised it was a lot further than we thought so went back to the car and drove around until we found the place.

The History Centre is a modern, purpose built facility which opened only last year. The staff were very helpful. We looked at court records and the Salisbury Gazette for 1797, which confirmed the information we already have about the Jenkins Brothers, but no new information that might lead us to their parents or other family, except the mention that James was brought from Gloustershire. Looks like we will have to go to the archives at Kew to find any further information.

We drove over to Bath, intending to stay the night there but found the city very crowded, could not find anywhere to park, and it was beginning to rain, so we went on our way, deciding to go to the smaller town of Wells. Tried several places, but could not find accommodation in Wells, so we moved on again, confident that just the right place for us was near by. Sure enough, we found a very comfortable B&B with all we required and a very pleasant rural view to boot. Henley Hill Farm, Haybridge, near Wells (www.henleyhillfarm.co.uk) was our home for the night. On their recommendation we went to a popular near-by pub, the Burcott Inn, for dinner.

Sunday 6th July

After a very fine English breakfast at Henley Hill Farm, shared with friendly fellow guests, we decided to drive down to Castle Cary, where Jane's Dunkerton ancestors lived in the 19th century. Georgiana Dunkerton who married Arundel Everett from near-by Bruton was born in Castle Cary in 1815. The Everetts emigrated to Australia, and their daughter, Emilie Jane Everett married Christopher Francis in Brisbane in 1870. We visited the Church, and as it was shortly after morning service, we met the Vicar who told us the old church records were no longer held there.

We drove over to Bruton where the Everett family lived, but as it was raining we did not stop. Instead we decided to drive up to the Cheddar Caves and Gorge, where we stopped to buy some cheese and pickles at the tourist shops and information centre at the entrance to the gorge. Cheddar is famous for its Cheese Factory and is the home of the original Cheddar Cheese.

The gorge was quite spectacular with the road winding through very high cliffs before opening up again on to high rolling plains. We continued on to the Bristol Channel seaside resort of Weston Super Mere, where we thought we might stop for lunch. Not a very attractive place with the usual parking problems, so we decided to continue our journey on the A5 to Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, where we had arranged to stay with Doug and Val Griffiths.

Managed to negotiate a very confusing exit round-about with the help of TomTom and found our way to Val and Doug's home. They were pleased to see us and welcomed us warmly with a beautifully prepared dinner. Much talking ensued.

Week starting Monday 7th July

This has been a rather quiet week of catching up and finding our way around the area of Sutton Coldfield where Doug & Val live. We rather sadly returned our hire car to 1car1 and are very grateful to Val for letting us have the use of her car while we are here.

Doug and Val have taken us to Lichfield to see the Cathedral, the only one in Britain with three spires, and on a few shopping expeditions to nearby Sutton and Walsall.

The weather this week has been typically English - cloudy and showers one minute and then the sun for a little while. It's not the summer the locals have been waiting for but hasn't worried us too much.

We all went to a smorgasbord lunch at the highly regarded restaurant Jimmy Spicers - as much as you can eat of a variety of Asian, Italian and European freshly prepared foods.

Have spent time sorting photos and generally catching up with the website diary.