Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rievaulx and Me

Here's an overhead view of a French-sounding place

that really is in North Yorkshire, Rievaulx.  Above is a snip of a street

and here's the remnants of  its famous Abbey. I got this off a YouTube video.  Surreal to see the abbey with grass on the floor and no ceiling. It almost makes its point better than the original construction. I wonder if any movies were shot there?

Up until a while ago, I'd never heard of this place. I still don't know how it is pronounced. (I checked. It is pronounced the French way.) REEVO.

I only learned about it after looking up my grandfather's census listing, to see he was born in Helmsley, in Yorkshire (nice 'market' town) and his mom Mary Ellen was born in Rievaulx.

I assumed she was Mary Ellen Nesfield, as my father's middle name was Nesfield. But no, I just found out she's a Richardson.

Mary-Ellen Richardson, born 1864 into a tailor's family in Rievaulx. They lived at a place called Abbot's Well. Maybe it's in this picture.

No I found it! Right nearby. Abbotts Well cottage now hosts a Sport Vacation Company.

Someone has posted a complete history of the town on the web, without any credit. Just posted it there, no links to nothing.

Anyway, my great-grandmother, Mary Ellen, was not listed in the 1881 Rievaulx population census, so she must have been married by then, to delver Robert Nixon.


I've spent 6 years researching the story of my husband's ancestors, the Nicholsons of Richmond Quebec, because they left behind family letters, about a thousand of them.  300 alone from the 1908-1913 period. I posted them on Tighsolas. And then using the letters I wrote my series School Marms and Suffragettes, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Furies Cross the Mersey

I also have a slew of photos, snaps and formal portraits and also many documents from the era and a complete history of their expenses, 1883-1921.  I know their hearts and minds, their dreams and secrets and problems.

I know these people like the back of my hand. I even know where their ancestors lived. In Uig Carnish in the Hebrides.

And about my own relations, these North Yorkshire ones, I know nothing. Zero. (Well, next to nothing...) That's because my father was a child of the Raj, as they say. I wrote about that in Looking for Mrs. Peel. That's about Mary-Ellen's daughter in law, my grandmother, Dorothy Forster Nixon, who lived most of her life in Malaya. She was born in Middleton on Teesdale.

Rievaulxand Helmsley are near Duncombe Park. My grandfather probably worked as a footman there  before taking off to Malaya.

The article I have says that when Charles Duncombe moved into the area, rents went up dramatically.


I guess one day I'll visit Rievaulx and then perhaps head off to UIG. But that is so far away. It's like going to Newfoundland from Montreal.

(Some people when going to the Maritime provinces, a 16 hour drive from Montreal, think they can 'hop' over to Newfoundland, not realizing it is very far away.)

Hmm. I see they are having a Michaelmas celebration at the Abbey this weekend. Too bad I just can't pop by. But I'd like too. I'd finally figure out what Michaelmas is... They mention it in Pride and Prejudice. Is it a fall solstice thingy? Yes, it is (I just checked) and a religious holiday.

Here's a list of the families living in Riavaulx in 1881: Heaton, Almond (nice name!) Allison, Richardson, Holiday (nice name!)Bowes, Dale, Robinson, Lawn (unusual name) Johnson, Hawkins, Ashpole, Frank, Goldrick, Hunton, Windross, Sherwood.

So, if you are looking up your own genealogy in North Yorkshire, Rievaulx, or Nixon in Helmsley, give me a shout.

How far is Rievaulx from Stoke on Trent? I must check.  I have some Thomas Forester Rembrandt vase pottery from that place...and I'm keen on researching the potter and the young women on the vases.