The beginning of our second week in England we moved on from Hythe to Lewes. This put us in a lovely historic small town in the South Downs in East Sussex. It has a castle and lots of old buildings. The South Downs is a formation of chalk hills and Lewes is located where the river Ouse cut a gap through. The hills are steep and Lewes is built on them.
We arrived mid-day and hauled our luggage up a long fairly steep hill to the High Street and found our hotel. I had been warned ahead of time about the hills but was still taken somewhat by surprise. Our room wasn’t quite ready for us, but we dropped our bags and had lunch on the terrace looking out from a vantage point about halfway up a hill. Then we wandered up High Street a little and lastly went looking for a garden for my sister. (I wanted family history and she wanted plants and gardens, so we did as much of both as we could pack in.) The garden we found was lovely and had many visitors, including groups of schoolchildren working off the energy they’d had to contain all day. They were running around, jumping off walls and benches, fighting each other with long grass stems and generally having a good time. Fun to watch.
The next morning we got ourselves back down to the train station which was where we’d arranged to meet up with the cousins. They had graciously offered to come pick us up, take us back to their house for the morning to talk and then to lunch and over to Ditchling. This is a Denman cousin I had connected with more than a year ago through this blog and then via a letter I wrote to the Ditchling church our ancestors belonged to. Yes, my posts do occasionally attract a cousin’s attention; and yes, I actually wrote a paper letter to England (because I couldn’t find any other contact information for the Old Meeting House). Serendipity at it’s best!
My newly-found Denman cousin is interested in the family history too, and we have a wonderful ongoing correspondence via email about our interests and what we are finding. Unfortunately we have not yet been able to connect our two family lines definitely. Both of us go back to a Denman man born in the mid-1700s (William b. 1763 in Ditchling and Michael b. c. 1750) in Sussex. Although my line through William has been said to go back a number of generations in Sussex, there is no solid documentation for the relationship between him and the couple said to be his parents. For my cousin’s line, Michael has so far as well resisted all efforts to find/document parents for him.
We spent the morning sitting around her table, talking about family trees and evidence found or not found, and looking at what we each had to share. She of course had much more than I did, since I had pared down what I felt I could carry on planes and buses and trains. And she had very kindly printed and copied a number of pages and trees for me and put all in a large envelope and a mailing tube I could carry in my suitcase, we hoped. While she and I were busy with this talk, my sister and her husband were getting to know each other and my sister got to hear about his interests and also to ask about his family.
At lunch time we went out to a restaurant and got help deciphering the menu. There was a discussion about what a Pimm’s Cup was – that included the waitress – and we decided to try one for the table since none of us had ever tasted one. And at dessert time my sister and I were introduced to Eton Mess which is absolutely delicious and which was more than I should have finished with.
Almost enough good food to make me want an afternoon nap, except that we were heading to Ditchling to meet Mrs. Leonard Maguire and also another Denman researcher, and to see the Old Meeting House and some of Mr. Maguire’s papers that his widow still holds. He was a thorough and prolific researcher who started out with a historic interest in the Baptists and developed genealogical interests in some of the families of the Old Meeting House along the way. With this all to look forward to I couldn’t have napped if you paid me to!