Rita Burgess has been researching her family for a very long time. She was one of the speakers in the early days of the Local History Society when she gave a talk about her relative, Rifleman Byford, which may have inspired many of those present to get out and look for their roots, too.
Apart from her work on Rifleman Byford, Rita has also focused on the Pearman and Hempstead families. In 2005/6 she kindly provided more material for the site. Her early researches put her in contact with Richard Deeks.
Richard deserves, in many ways, the title of "The Father of Glemsford's History". Without his efforts (originally inspired by his own family researches) it is unlikely that much of the Village's history would have been properly recorded. Certainly much of what is now known would have been left to rest in the Local Records Office, just occasionally pored over by an enthusiast or two. That, or the story would have been left in the hands of well-meaning but inherently inaccurate legends, lovingly but deceptively recorded as fact by dewy-eyed romantics.
Two of Richard's works stand out for attention: "The Matmaker and The Magistrate" gives a detailed insight into social and labour conditions in our part of Suffolk in the middle and late 19th Century. "Glorious Glemsford" is engagingly simple, bringing together of vibrant pictures of the Village's past. And, of course, Richard was the driving force behind the creation of the Local History Society. In her piecing together of the Pearman family's past, Rita was helped by Richard in her organisation of a family gathering. The notes, reproduced here, are part of Richard's contribution. They reflect his attention to detail and his very humanity, his insistence on seeing people as people, and valuable contibutors to our present, regardless of their background.
The History of the Susan Pearman Cup
By Richard Deeks 1989
This magnificent silver cup is unique, or perhaps more appropriately, its history is remarkable. It is elegantly shaped, with a large bowl mounted on a stem with a rounded foot and 2 handles made of pure silver, weighing 20 oz and quite valuable. It is competed for annually by villagers entering garden produce in the Glemsford Flower Show and won for the first time in 1936 by Mr Pawsey of Egremont Street, Glemsford.
The cup was donated by Mrs Sarah Ellie of Richmond, Surrey, to commemorate her remarkable grandmother Susan Pearman; not only was she a mother and housewife, silk weaver and a member of the Providence Chapel on Hunts Hill, she was also a midwife and had attended over 3000 births in the area. That must be a pretty good record for any individual during the last half of the 19th century and early 20th. Susan Pearman was born Susan Brown, daughter of Hannah and Thomas Brown on 17th August 1817 in Hunts Hill Glemsford, and after working as a silk weaver she went on to weave velvet by handloom. She married William Hempstead Pearman (also born 1817) on 25 November 1837 and had 7 children in all, one being illegitimate. In the 1851 Census, Susan Pearman is living with her parents and one sister, Christiana, and her baseborn daughter Ellen.
William Pearman was a remarkable man. He had had 2 minor convictions for theft but in 1841 was convicted of receiving stolen pigs from a Sudbury landowner and sentenced to 14 years transportation to Tasmania. However, he did return to England after 12 years, spending some time after his release from Tasmania at the goldfields at Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. On returning to Glemsford a wealthy man, he purchased land and a shop on Hunts Hill. When he learned of Ellen, Susan’s baseborn daughter born whilst he was away in Australia, he said “You broke a cup, I broke a saucer, we’ll call it quits”. William and Susan continued to live and prosper in Glemsford, him as a blacksmith, she running the pork butcher’s shop, alongside her work as a midwife. William died on 18th February 1897 aged 80, Susan died 11th December 1903 aged 86 years. They are both buried in the same grave in the east end of Glemsford churchyard where their memorial headstone was recently discovered under bramble bushes.
So here, with the Pearman Cup, is a continuous reminder of man’s inhumanity to man – those who survived transportation had a very tough time, also it is very rare for a transportee to return home to England. And, some of the descendants of both Susan and William still live in this area, both Browns and Pearmans. This short story illuminates just a corner of our village heritage, which I believe needs to be revealed so that we may live in a more considerate world.
(quoted with permission) from Sue Cain:
My Grandma recently told me of an ancestor who was called William Hempstead who was transported to Tasmania after being convicted of stealing a sheep. He was also 23. I thought I'd do a search on the Internet and found your page. My family are from Feltham, which ties in with [the] Great Grandfather who taught matmaking. She said that William's wife divorced him for 3/6 after 7 years but she did say that he was given permission to move around the colony and he did become a wealthy man before returning to England when he was 60 and buying property. Although there are slight differences between the details your site & my Grandma's story, there are a lot of striking similarities (my Grandma is in her 80's & the story has been passed down from a few different people I believe so I imagine there have been some confusions here and there - nothing has been written down). I was wondering if you had any more family history details. My Grandma hasn't said which side of her parents family that William was related to but her surname is Cain , her father was 'Holland' and her mother's maiden name was 'Francis' and they were from Sunbury.
There are some intriguing similarities here, but also the sort of differences which make the interpretation of the past so constantly fascinating. Despite what Richard had to say, at the time of the 1861 Census, Ellen Pearman, the "baseborn" child of the transportation, was living with her Hempstead grandparents. Needless to say, Rita and Sue are in contact with each other and, yes, it is the same family!