Those Places Thursday – Gervase & Clifton

I had found the marriage details for my 6x great grandparents William Oldham & Mary Tebbutt in the Derbyshire Record Office quite some time ago, but had never got round to following it back any further. They were married in Sawley, Derbyshire on the 2nd December 1777 and the entry revealed that William hailed from Clifton which is just outside Nottingham.

So on my last visit to the Nottinghamshire Archives I was delighted to find a record of William’s baptism which took place on the 9th August 1752 at St Mary’s in Clifton and showed his parents were Gervis & Mary Oldham.

What struck me about the Clifton registers was the high number of boys being named Gervis, Jarvis or Gervase.  The name and its variants have cropped up in my Oldham family for several generations & I’d thought it was probably a family tradition, but finding so many others in one area made it obvious that it wasn’t just in the one family.  A quick search of the Family Search site also revealed that it was also a commonly used name in other areas of Nottingham, and I wondered why.

Reading around the history of Clifton I came across details of the Lords of the Manor, the Clifton family, who had been prominent landowners in the area for some 700 years.  The family’s link with the area originates with a Norman knight, Alvaredus, who settled in Clifton and took the village’s name after having been appointed warden of Nottingham castle.

His descendant Gervase de Clifton purchased the manors of Clifton & Wilford in 1324 and from him follow several generations of sons all called Gervase, including ‘Gervase the Gentle’ (died 1588) and ‘Gervase the Great’ (1587 – 1666).

The family were hugely influential throughout their time as Lords of the Manor in Clifton and this influence wasn’t just restricted to their local area.  The Cliftons were favourites of several Royal courts, including Edward IV and Henry VI.  Gervase the Gentle was a particular favourite of the Tudor monarchs; Elizabeth I giving him his epithet in the verse she wrote about four Nottinghamshire gentlemen:

“Gervase the gentle, Stanhope the stout, Markham the lion, and Sutton the lout.” 

Despite being supporters of Charles I during the Civil War, the Clifton family managed to keep their lands and Sir Gervase Clifton (1744-1815) had Clifton Hall remodelled during his tenure. The family remained at Clifton until the 1940s when Peter Thomas Clifton began to sell off the land and then finally the Hall itself in the 1950s.

So it would appear that the abundance of Gervases in Clifton is down to the tradition and longevity of the local nobility.

Picture from & further info here.

Time Consuming Research

We’re now three episodes into the ninth series of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ on BBC1.  They’ve all been good so far; I particularly liked Gregg Wallace’s episode and how the research uncovered a much deeper story than the one passed down through his family.

But the programme does tend to give a distorted view of how difficult and slow genealogical research can be.  The celebs turn up at various archives to meet a researcher who has all the answers ready for them, but they don’t mention the hours of previous research that has been done to arrive at that point.

I’ve recently spent a full two and a half days in Nottingham Archives looking through their Methodist birth & marriage records for the family members I’ve failed to find in the C of E records.  The later Non-Conformist records haven’t been micro-filmed yet, so it feels like a treat to be looking through the original registers.

Anyway, after all those hours of searching I have still only managed to find more distant relatives in them, Gervase Oldham’s daughters’ marriages are the closest ones. I also spotted some Bucknalls, who I’ve been looking for on behalf of my Great-Aunt.  I still have several more Methodist records to check and then there’s the Baptist ones to start!

I don’t see this as a waste of time, the registers are fascinating in themselves, and if you can’t find your family members in the obvious ones, you have no choice but to be thorough and work your way through the lot!  But WDYTYA gives the impression that the answers are immediately available, which they very often aren’t. I wonder how many people are put off researching their trees further when they realise it won’t all be handed to them on a plate?

The Oldham Family Business

I knew already from the Census returns that my Nottingham Oldhams were heavily involved in the machine lace making industry, both in Calais, France and at home in Nottingham.

This cutting from the London Gazette shows a partnership between Gervase Oldham (1842-1914) and his nephew John Oldknow Oldham (1858-1913) being dissolved:

Whilst flicking through the card indexes in the Nottingham Archives, I came across Gervase on one of the cards, so ordered up the original document that the card referred to. It was this agreement dated 1882, between Gervase and John’s lace company and that of Lambert & Wood.

Gervase and John are agreeing to use their lace machines to fulfill work solely from Lambert & Wood for a minimum of six months.

I was thrilled to see this original document, not least because of the signatures of Gervase, my 3x great-grand uncle, and John, my 2x great-grand uncle.

I have to add though, that behind every find like this are many hours of unrewarded ‘digging’!