Johan du Plooy – Artist.

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Johan du Plooy – artist & salt of the earth.

A delightful new acquaintance of ours, soon to become a firm friend, settled in Haarlem in 2007 a block away from our home there. South African artist, Johan du Plooy, set to improving the rundown cottage he had bought, laying concrete floors, rewiring it and adding a bathroom. A man with green fingers, he soon had a flourishing vegetable patch going.

We could not wish for a better friend, knowing that if the tornado hit the manure, he’d be there to help. It gives me the feeling that I need to be worthy of that friendship, and likewise be the friend I’d like to earn.

Johan d PBorn 1939 in Rustenburg, Johan’s parents soon moved to Heidelberg where he was to complete his schooling. Art was not offered as a subject, but that was where Johan’s passion lay. At age 22, he began his studies at Central School of Art & Design, London, UK in 1962. He made use of the opportunity to travel and explore parts of Europe; Greece especially made a deep impression. It was six years before he made his way back to South Africa.

Kougarivier painting

Kouga River

His sculptures were chiefly in indigenous woods and his paintings are mainly in oils, primarily representational, latterly evolving towards surrealism and abstract.

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The largest piece of his life spent in one place was 22 years spent in Herbertsdale, southern Cape Province, where, for 12 of them, he was the Mayor of the town. He is proud of his involvement in various projects for the betterment of the poorer communities there, including the establishment of a profitable bakery.

From there he moved to Calitzdorp for some years, then, all too briefly to Haarlem, and now lives in Krakeelrivier where he is still hard at work at his easel.

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If a man fails to keep pace with his companions perhaps it’s because he hears a different drum …Let him step to the drum he hears!  – Henry David Thoreau.

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My wife Sheila’s second eldest brother, Alan, passed away in 2007 in Vereeniging Hospital, Gauteng Province, aged sixty four. He was admitted on 10th August; Neil, his brother was informed that he had difficulty breathing and was on oxygen, but he passed away on the 13th.

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Alan Maling – artist

When Sheila started her tertiary education as a student nurse in Cape Town in about 1970, Alan was there to keep a brotherly eye on her. They became close during this period, and her progress as new wife and mother in the years that followed were keenly and proudly watched. Her divorce was a serious disappointment and was the reason that Alan and I had a rocky relationship. He disapproved of me as partner for his only sister, and although we actually got on well after his initial bristling, every time we met, the same scenario would play out again and again each time we did so. I liked him. I found him very entertaining with a great sense of humour and was saddened by the fact that he kept reverting to a state of animosity.

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Alan Maling

Years back, on visiting his eldest brother, Tom Maling in Johannesburg, I found Tom and his wife away and Alan was house-sitting. Tom’s youngest son, Neville was not yet back from school. Reluctantly Alan invited me in. Soon we were amicably drinking red wine, and he suggested a scene where, when Neville got home, he would find us both covered in tomato sauce, still fighting!


Fishing boat


Of his art, another South African artist, Johan du Plooy, has said that Alan’s use of shadow was exceptional and he appreciated Alan’s skill. His work can be found in homes and galleries throughout South Africa.



After his passing, his cousin, Norah Shelver (nee Gibson, now Wingreen) wrote the following which I am grateful to share here:



I was six years old when Alan was born in 1943. He was the second son of Chris (Christopher Thompson Maling) and VicMaling (Victoria Alice nee Tricker). Aunty Vic was my mother’s eldest sister. As my father had died when I was in my third year, the Malings became very significant in my life. My mother stayed with them until she found work in Johannesburg, and I spent many school holidays with them throughout my youth.

Alan was an intelligent, talented child. He had a great interest in cars and from an early age he could identify every car on the road. He was fortunate to have a father like Chris who was not only mechanically minded, but a great teacher.

Aged twenty, I decided to complete my nursing training at Frere Hospital in East London (Eastern Cape Province) in 1958, where Alan was a boarding scholar at Selbourne College at the time. He had several friends from Rhodesia, together with whom he would visit me at the Nurses Home, and one of them even invited me to partner him to the matric farewell, which I loftily turned down!

By this time Alan was already showing great promise as an artist and gave me a painting of Xhosa women living on the Maling farm. This is still one of my favourite possessions.

Alan took up Interior Decorating; working for Uptons in Port Elizabeth for a time, where I visited him in hospital when he contracted infective hepatitis. He later moved to Cape Town, where, when I was studying psychiatric nursing at Valkenberg , and my daughters were at Capetown Technical College, we saw a lot of Alan and enjoyed his company. He had a small studio at Firndale Mansions, Tamboerskloof where we would spend many an entertaining evening with him and his friends, sharing mince dishes, wine and music. Edith Piaf, and Chris de Berg were among the favourites we had in common.

Money was always in short supply with Alan, but he was disdainful of the suggestion he produce pot-boilers to help with his income. I loved his scenes of fishing boats at Hout Bay, and the cottages and scenes of the Genadendal area. We loved the opportunity to attend his exhibitions set up by his friends. We had cocktails at the Mount Nelson Hotel where a mutual friend, Bruce Gardner, would play the piano and join us during his break. Another joy was outings in the vintage cars that Alan slowly collected, attracting attention wherever we went.

Contact was reduced to phone calls when Alan moved to Henley-on-Klip in Gauteng, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. The last time I saw him was when we both stayed with a cousin to attend the 90th birthday of our mutual Aunty Jewel. Such fun memories.

Where do we go when we die? We remain in the hearts of those who loved and remember us.

Farewell, Alan.

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Sept06 Cows & shedHaving built Sheila’s little 2-cow milking shed in 2007, with attached feed store, dog kennels, chicken run and pig sty, I got to thinking about cows and their lives. I wrote the following verse and sent it to The George Herald, where it duly appeared.

The Milking Shed.

See all the ladies standing there

At the factory gate.

Some impatient, some dont care

If they open late.

 Some of the old hands just barge in

For their ration meal.

Theyll knock over pail and bin

With determined zeal.

 The new girls, they stand shyly, they

Dont know where to go.

They have to be shown the way,

Have to take it slow.

 So recently theyve dropped their calves,

Some are still in pain,

Their eyes still sunken, tails still arched,

Reach out for the grain.

 Around and round and round they go,

Calve and milk, then dry.

The eternal cycles all they know,

til the day they die.

Peter J. Earle – 2008.

 It amuses my screwed up little mind that verse means heifers in Afrikaans.

Michelle Blanckenberg of the George Herald who compiles “Penveer”, meaning “Quill”, which consisted of 2 pages of prose and poetry to which readers subscribe, also thanked me for my poem, “Yesterday‘s Soul”.  She says she enjoyed it and agreed with me that Hannes Visser, our neighbour here in the village of Haarlem who subscribes almost every week to Penveer, is a special man. He was a teacher, artist and poet before becoming the editor of the Oudtshoorn Courant newspaper in Oudshoorn. With luck, I shall shortly get an interview with him to share some of his thoughts and achievements.

Yesterday’s Soul.

 Observe, my friend, the picture that you painted yesterday.

It stands upon its easel by the tubes still on their tray.

The sunlit attic window holds the oils sharp. They glisten.

You see right through the painting and you tilt your head to listen:

You hear, my friend, the voices calling softly from your dreams.

Was this really in your vision? Is this image what it seems?

You still can feel the tremble of the paintbrush in your hand

As you raised up the mountains and you forested the land.

You still can hear the gushing of the pure, clean mountain stream.

With your soul and hand uniting, you immortalised your dream.


But now, today, you’re frowning and you shiver, though it’s warm.

Is there discord in the mind? Did your hand distort the form?

The figures in the foreground, do they grimace or smile?

Walk they the path of freedom or tramp they the gallows aisle?

You hear the drumbeat plainly, see the dancers move and sway –

Do they still feel the rhythm as they felt it yesterday?

But ah! I hear you laughing. Is it bitterly or gay?

Are they not lost forever, those dreams of yesterday?

Come, hold your head up proudly – give me answers to these things,

Is that your heart a-crying, or that your soul that sings?

Peter J. Earle. 1971.


Geo Herald ads 2008 -1Life is full of amazing coincidences. I add one here from the smalls in The George Herald. A daughter advertised in the Personal column looking for her father in the city of George. Further on in the Services section, her father advertised Home Alterations. I sent her his number.

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R. I. P. Claude Arkell

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L. Claude Arkell & Nicci Earle, 2006.

There had been hints of his pain, I know, like the memory of Claude’s tall stooped figure slowly crossing his brewery yard from his Cotswold-stone built converted stables to open up for the day’s brewing. Jacket and tie, always the Boss. Shuffling a little, walking stick, just in case… Greeting the men, inspecting the brew. To the office manned by the always cheerful elderly Val – Mr Valentine-Teale – where he would captain his ship for an hour or so before returning home for a nap.

On the 1st of June 2007, There was a voice message on our phone from Claude’s housekeeper, Joy: I have very bad news for you; very bad news. Here are the numbers to phone me at…

I phoned Donnington Brewery. Val answered, clearly shaken. “What a terrible thing to happen…” Val himself was in his 80s.

“Yes, but what did happen?” I was frustrated.

“He took his own life, you know,” he said. I tried to absorb the shock. “He did it in his little garden; he took a rifle with him. I saw him in the morning, we chatted. There was no indication…”

Claude seemed to have waited for all the staff to knock off at lunchtime. I hope he took some of Steve’s weed to help, I could not help thinking. He’d told me he’d enjoyed some when his great-nephew, Steve, came to visit, which had amused me immensely.

“He was in a lot of pain, of course,” Val went on, “and he was a very lonely man.”

And damned courageous, I thought; in charge of himself, of his life and his death. Be a nuisance to nobody. Dignity. Pride. How I had loved that man.

Failing to get hold of my brother, Richard, in Australia, I phoned his son, Stephen. Shocked, he promised to pass on the news to his father as well as his brother, Mark, and sister, Jenifer. I phoned my daughter, Nicci, who had had a special bond with Claude. As a devout Christian, she does not believe that one has the right to turn off one’s own switch, but being close to him, she had known he wanted out. Mark phoned from Oz, later, to offer condolences, saying that he’d probably go to the funeral. It was then that I considered going, myself.

Arkell DrayA few days later, I phoned the lawyer involved with Claude’s estate. Claude’s body had been released – there having been a post mortem due to not having died of natural causes – and the funeral would be on Wednesday 13th. He informed me of our entitlements, and there were some shocks to come which would take me days to accept and get over. Petty me. The brewery had been founded by his grandfather in 1865 and it was only right that it continue to be run by Arkell brewers into the future.

Bequeathed to hospitals, servants, staff and family, all inclusive, the amount totalled 5% of his estate. 95% went to two distant cousins, with whom it had been arranged that they continue to run Donnington Brewery, being brewers in their own right in Swindon. I had mistakenly assumed that his close family might retain shares and receive a dividend of some sort. My mother, Richard and I (and the bloody lawyer!) all received the largest bequests, equally. Nicci and Ryan were to receive slightly lesser amounts while Steve would get yet again a lesser amount. Mark and Jenifer were to receive zilch. Nothing, nada. We never could figure out why they had been overlooked.

The lawyer had got around the fact that he was not legally able to include himself in the will by getting a codicil set up by another law firm. I had stupidly thought I’d like to establish an AIDS orphanage here in Haarlem, but my bequest, grateful as I was for it, was much too meagre to consider such a venture.

Sheila drove me to George Airport on Saturday 9th June to catch a flight on Nationwide Airways to O.R.Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, where Nicci picked me up. The following evening, my son Ryan took us both to the airport. Nicci and I flew together on Emirates via Dubai to Heathrow, landing at 14h15, where Nicci hired a car from Avis. We headed to Reading to stay with my old friend, Brian Nicholson, who had settled there after a lifetime of managing sugar estates in Papua New Guinea, Senegal and Ecuador. It had been thirty five years since I had last seen him.

The following day, we went via Smannell, near Andover, Hampshire, to show Nicci the church and graves of her Earle forebears, then on to Stow-on-the-Wold to look for accommodation, eventually settling for a B&B at Foxhill, half way to Cheltenham where we could also book rooms for Richard, Mark, Steve and Jenny who would come from London the next day.

Nicci went for a walk and, by strange coincidence, met up with Sarah (nee Arkell) who lived next door! Her brother, Charles Arkell, was manager at the auctioneers where I had sold some of the items I’d inherited from Claude’s sister, my aunt Puss, the previous year. We were to meet their parents, Peter & Ann Arkell, the next day at the crematorium in Cheltenham. Pleasant folk.

It was there at Claude’s memorial service – he had requested that there be no such thing, but some people don’t listen! – that we caught up with Richard and brood. Joy, Claude’s housekeeper, and her partner, Phil, (who had found a note to him from Claude as to where to find his body,) joined us. Joy had befriended me the previous year when she offered me a bed at her cottage so that I could be near the brewery to sort Puss’ things. (Claude had forbidden me to accept and paid for my accommodation elsewhere – It’s not done to stay with the servants!)

From Cheltenham, lots of Arkells returned to the brewery to a wake to drink his health with either his own brew of Donnington Ales, or champagne. Another amazing coincidence was meeting Sue (nee Arkell) Richardson and her husband who said they lived in a small village in Hampshire that we’d probably never heard of, Smannell.

Blandings Gathering

Rear: Mark & Stephen Earle – Middle: Jo Arkell & Tessa Bott – Front: Sue Richardson, Jenifer, Nicci, Richard & Peter Earle.

Sue said she remembered my parents visiting her parents at their home in Swaziland around the sixties. As us Earles had already decided to drive to Smannell the next day to see the church and graves, Sue asked us to join them for lunch. We did so, and after showing Richard, Mark, Stephen and Jenny all the items given to the glory of God and in loving memory of various dead Earles, like the organ and stained glass windows, we drove down the road to Blandings, the Richardson home. Lunch for us all was set out at a long table in their lovely garden, and we met Sue’s daughter, Tessa Bott.

Tessa and I stared at each other. “Didn’t you live in Maun,” we asked, almost simultaneously. Another amazing coincidence. We had become acquainted when I approached her to organise my work and residence permits, which was her business (Jambalaya) at the time. Little did we guess that we were cousins. (Second, once removed.)

Sad as it was to say a permanent goodbye to Lawrence Claude Arkell, it was good to catch up with my brother, niece and nephews, and my daughter and, back in Pretoria, my son. By the Sunday night, I was back home in Haarlem.

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Of Comets and Cowshit

  1. With the unsatisfactory efforts of my Backpacker’s manager, I had to let him go and look for somebody more committed to making a profitable business of it. In the meanwhile I thus had to be there for guests and would sleep there, if need be.
Richard Walker

Richard Walker

Canadian couple, Karin Kilpatrick & Richard Walker booked in for a night in early January. I was so taken with them that when they reappeared two days later, I had to show them Haarlem and introduce them to Sheila. It turned out that Sheila, too, instinctively liked them, and when she found out that Richard was a fellow muso, she lent him a guitar to take on his travels. Karin is in fact South African, a medical doctor who had married a Canadian farmer, but remained in Canada after their divorce. Her father lived just 160kms from Haarlem in Humansdorp. As a young man, in the Matatiele area in what was then East Griekwaland, he had worked as a learner/junior manager for Sheila’s uncle! Small world.

Richard W. - Karin Kilpatrick

Richard & Karin, beautiful souls.

A week later, Karin and Richard returned the guitar and stayed three nights, bringing Karin’s sister Andrea, her brother David, and Andrea’s daughter, Leah, with them. Lovely people with whom I am still in contact to this day. (Apologies for stolen pics.)

Just after sundown in the evening of 21 Jan 2007, Sheila took me and her neighbour with her children to watch Comet McNaught, also known as the Great Comet of 2007. (It had been discovered on 7 August 2006 by British-Australian astronomer Robert H. McNaught who was studying for things which might collide with Earth. It was to be the brightest comet to enter out skies in over 40 years, and was easily visible to the naked eye for observers in the Southern Hemisphere in January and February 2007. Thanks, Wiki.)



To add to her two Guernsey cows, Sheila decided to buy two Jersey first-calver heifers from a dairy farmer outside Humansdorp. We borrowed her brother’s bakkie with its cattle-sides on the back, and fetched them one at a time. Sheila and Bush, a Zimbabwean tinker who has settled in Haarlem and does odd jobs, joined the nervous heifer in the back to calm her as I drive home.

We were just entering Kareedouw town, slowing up a steep hill when it happened. As we slowed, there were a couple of vehicles caught up behind us. The nearest was a white bakkie, just behind our tail-gate, when the heifer emptied her liquid bowels overboard, all over the bonnet and windscreen.

Sheila and Bush packed up, laughing. We couldn’t believe it when the driver pulled us over at the stop sign. Not only was he a cop with no sense of humour, he was the district stock-thief chief. We had to follow him to the Kareedouw Police station where he would have impounded the animal, too, but eventually had to admit that it had been the farmer’s responsibility, as seller, to provide the stock movement permit. He eventually only fined Sheila R50-00 for moving cattle without a permit, and allowed us to get on our way.

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Of Bequests and Property.

Sadly, I took my leave of my uncle, Claude Arkell, knowing that it would be the last time I would see him as he had admitted to me that he had bladder cancer. I told him that the family gossip had it that he would be bequeathing the Donnington Brewery to the distantly related Arkell Brewery family in Swindon, Wiltshire. If that was so, I told him, then I was very happy that it would continue to be run by Arkells. He was shocked, perhaps expecting some sort of protest regarding our inheritance, as Richard and I, besides his sister, our mum, were his closest relatives, and then he seemed very pleased,

Via email, I had been in contact with an estate agent in Uniondale, and had confirmation in the last week of October, 2006, that our home at 10 Rose Street had a buyer, which was good news. (But the sale fell though later when the buyer failed to get his bank to evaluate the property at a sum that would cover him, so I had released the tenant there to no purpose.)

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EARLEs: Mark, Ryan w/Thomas, PJE, Stephen, Jennifer, Richard, 2006

In London, I spent my last week in the UK just off Clapham Common with nephew, Stephen Earle and niece, Jennifer Earle. My search for a music shop with an Irish bodhran drum for Sheila eventually bore fruit, and after a return visit involving three bus changes, I collected it.

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Sheila’s home on Constitution St. Haarlem

Finally, picking up all sorts of horrible germs on the way that laid me low for a week afterwards, I got home on 8th November. Sheila had managed to finally sell her Pumpkin Art & Craft Co-op shop in Uniondale and buy her dream home on Constitution Street in Haarlem. Being addicted to cows and milking, she bought two Guernsey cows from a neighbour, and the two hectare adjacent strip of land along the Groot River on which to graze them. I had a milking shed, chicken run and pig sty built for her.

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Nick Thyssen

An elderly newly acquired local friend of mine in Haarlem, Oom Nick Thyssen, had an empty plot across the way from Sheila’s place in Haarlem. He was complaining to me that he had been offered only R15,000 for it when he would accept no less than R17,000! Prices were taking off in Haarlem, what with more affluent buyers, seeking rural peace and quiet, beginning to move in. Having given Sheila’s son, Timothy, and my son and daughter each an equal lump sum from my share of my late aunt’s estate, I decided to offer Oom Nick R30,000 for that plot for Sheila’s older son, Nicholas. I suspected that some disgruntled locals would accuse us newcomers of cheating property owners and was determined that I could never be accused of the same.

Needless to say, Oom Nick was delighted. Obviously, it was made available to Sheila to plant pastures for her cows as Nicholas was still resident in East London.

The year 2006 rounded off with building a shed-cum-workshop on Sheila’s Haarlem property, and welcome visits from Botswana friends.

Not to mention the hanging of Sadam Hussein, on 30th December.

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My brother, Richard Earle, stated that, regarding genealogy, he was only interested in the living, not the dead. Me, I think the dead give you far less hassle than the living and detecting their relationships and history is a fascinating and rewarding pastime. If you like detecting, that is.

And I do; witness my life-long ambition to be a writer of thriller and crime novels.

By the time I got to the UK to sort out my dear departed aunt’s possessions, churches had long since surrendered their parish records, firstly to dusty libraries in the county seats, then, as material exceeded space, and we edged into the digital age, to especially built centres to house these precious records and to transfer and transcribe them to microfiche and then to digital.

A lot of this material was free to the world until specialists started blocking it for their own financial ends where you have to pay for access. It is a mystery to me how these records were released to them in the first place and how the original holders were compensated in the second.

Be that as it may – what a wonderful expression; you can avoid an argument, not admit agreement or otherwise and still add you own opinion – I gave myself a week to explore the HAMPSHIRE COUNTY RECORDS OFFICE in Winchester.

Although I had/have a friend in Southampton who, it turned out, would have put me up, I established myself in the town of Stockport, eight miles from the city, being the nearest I could find, at Carbury House for the reasonable price of £25-00 a night. (Compare that to the equivalent of £5-50 I was charging at my Backpackers back in South Africa.) Stockport is a pretty little town with a long main street under which several trout streams pass. It made for a pleasant evening stroll to select any one of several diverse restaurants for supper.

Starting out at 09h00 every day to avoid the rush hour, I could choose a different route to vary the scenery to get to the CRO on the edge of Winchester, opposite of which was a convenient multi-storey carpark.

The front desk was very helpful on my first day, a Friday, where I paid a modest fee as a temporary reader and was given a pencil with strict instructions to use nothing else. A hermetically sealed door separates the reception from the main hall containing the help desk, then 4 computer terminals (at that time), relevant book shelves, banks of micro-fiche machines and parish record indexes. Indices? At the far end of the hall is another desk at which one can order manuscripts that are brought from even more dust-free, temperature and humidity controlled vaults. Gloves provided, of course.

Enham Place

Enham Place cc 1910

Stupidly, I had left all my previous Earle Family notes at home, so I had to work from Enham Place, the turn-of-the century family seat, Knight’s Enham, the parish involved, and Smannell, the church to which my great grandmother turned after a spat with the Knight’s Enham vicar. She donated the organ, stain-glass windows and pews and a monument to her youngest son killed in Cameroon in WWI. She, her husband and brother-in-law are buried there.

But Smannell was a dead end, excuse the pun. Her father-in-law, Henry Earle, had been a solicitor in Andover, died there and was buried there, but the question was: Where was he born and who were his parents? Henry’s eldest son, Benjamin, died in infancy. This I had discovered on my visit to UK in  1971. There was a Benjamin in the family bible which had come into my father’s hands, but no clue as to how he connected to us. There was, however, the tradition of naming one’s eldest son after one’s father, and I hoped that this had been the case as the dates did more or less fit.

Hearing my name called to look at some documents drawn up by my great great grandfather, Henry, led an elderly gentleman to approach me to ask if I was related as he knew a John Isherwood who had, until recently, been a partner in the same law firm. He said he would give me his number to phone to ask if he would like to meet me. It was arranged for the following Tuesday at the CRO.

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St Mary’s, Itchen Stoke

Benjamin Earles were thin on the ground. The next day, Saturday, I finally found one in the parish of Itchen Stoke, a village about seven miles away from Winchester, which I decided to visit on Sunday when the CRO would be closed.

Taking the general direction towards Winchester, I went under the motorway and continued eastwards on the pretty Arlesford road alongside the River Itchen, through such villages as King’s Worthy, Abbott’s Worthy, Martyr Worthy, Itchen Abbas to Itchen Stoke. The buildings tend to red brick and blue flint. Itchen Stoke consists of a few such cottages and a striking church seemingly plucked out of France.

St Mary's Itchen Stoke inside.jpgA little notice on the heavy doors told me to ask for the key at one of the cottages, which I did. It is as beautiful inside as it is out, but the sandstone is crumbling away and there were pamphlets for The Redundant Churches Fund for £1-00 on a shelf with a piggy-bank beside them. Trust is an amazing thing…

2 churches Itchen Stoke plan

The site of 2 churches, Itchen Stoke

I added some coins and grabbed a couple of them along with a photo postcard. Apparently, this church design was based on that of La Saint Chapelle in Paris.

There had been two churches built on this site, the second of which was not likely to have seen Earles on their knees there as even the earlier one had been built in 1831 and demolished to make way for the present St Mary’s built in 1866. The pamphlet tells of an earlier church in the damp meadow down the lane near to the River Itchen.  And, indeed, there were some relicts from it, like the font and two 1500 bronze plaques, in this church.

St Mary's Itchen Stoke carvings.jpg

wood carvings; the pulpit and pew ends.

Lurking behind the vestry I found a family monument to Benjamin Earle, who died in 1825 before the first church was built, and his wife Sarah Earle and some of their children, including a Henry who died young. This was a blow as I was now looking at the wrong Benjamin. But it did tell me that the monument had probably been moved, with or without their bodies, from the earliest church. But, these names were many of those in the family bible, so it was puzzling.

Monday, I spent the whole day researching surrounding parishes to see if there were any more promising threads. Nothing; but it was interesting, nevertheless. On Tuesday I met John Isherwood (70) a retired solicitor from a village near Andover. He was able to tell me the history of his legal firm.

It was started by a solicitor named Bird in 17-something, who took on a partner named Coles. Bird and Coles became Coles and Earle, (Henry arrived in Andover in 1828, aged 26), then Earle & Everett, then Earle & Smith, then after Henry dropped dead of a heart attack on the main street of Andover in 1867 it became Smith & Son, then Smith, Son & Barker, then Barker & Son, and finally Barker, Son & Isherwood. The Isherwood was John’s father, but the name remains so today, even though John himself had retired when I met him.

Family folk-law says our name derives from Arles in France where one or more of them came to England with the forces of William the Conqueror and finally settled in Hampshire where the name is pretty common and most parish records had mention of Earles who were mostly yeomen but also anything from labourers to magistrates.

The most telling find in the Itchen Stoke parish records was a second Henry born to Benjamin and Sarah, their last child, born in 1802! And also, he was the only one to have kids of his own, one son who then begat as well (and boy, did he beget; ten kids including my grandfather who only had my dad just before he himself croaked), and here we are!

(Since then, the Net has revealed that Ben’s dad was Joseph, whose dad was also Benjamin born in 16-something.)

Friday night found me a guest of Joy Evans, a wonderful old friend from Botswana, at her home in Southampton, who treated me royally for the weekend before I returned to my uncle’s brewery on the Monday.


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