Blencowe Families' Association Newsletter Vol. 17 No. 1 Spring 2002
Cover picture: From a cartoon by Lyn McClenaghan

Down on the Farm, “Down Under”

In November 1995 I was in Australia and took the opportunity to visit Frank and Pat McClenaghan with whom I had corresponded about Blencowe family history. I travelled some 700 miles up country from Sydney to Armidale NSW and they organised a family gathering at a memorable barbecue at Acaire, their farm some 20 miles from town. It was a great experience! Until I was about sixty I had not met any Blencowes other than my father and son and a cousin of my grandfather. I think that Blencowes and their near cousins must be thicker on the ground in Armidale than anywhere else in the world; here I had a score around me, I even met another Jack Blencowe!

I have been involved in agriculture all my life, arable farming in Europe, then plantation crops in the tropics. This was an entirely different way of life, Frank is a sheep farmer and life turns around the feed available for grazing, the quality and price of the wool clip. When rain drove us and the barbecue indoors no one complained, a good fall meant a new flush of grass. Other things are unexpected, Armidale is only 7° south of the tropics but it is several thousand feet up in the table lands of the New England Range and has cold winters; Pat wrote once of falling heavily on ice in the farmyard, and of course that would have been in July! Driving round the 3,000 hectare property in a Land Rover I found that kangaroos don’t always jump, they often make large holes in the fence instead! Much of the routine work involves care of fencing and moving the flocks from one area of controlled grazing to another.

Pat writes me every now and again and her news from the farm comes like a breath of fresh air, I thought I should share some of it with you.

May: ‘Our trees are nearly all bare with a carpet on the ground. We have had the best autumn for many years with plenty of feed for stock, I guess the usual dry will set in soon but Frank has a silo full of corn and the 2001 crop will soon be dry enough to harvest. Stock and wool prices are still holding up.

We have just had all the adult sheep tested with a new Optical Fibre Diameter Analyser (OFDA) that measures how many microns* thick the staple is. Those testing more than 20µ will be run with coarser rams and they and the lambs will be sold off at our circuit sale next Spring. At shearing time it will make our wool classing much more accurate.

A friend in the far north of Queensland returned from a Winter visit to England. She was puzzled at all the dead trees in the gardens – she had never seen deciduous trees before! *1 micron = 1/1000th mm.

July: ‘We’ve been doing some more OFDA testing. The grand-children were at school so I was roped in to help, made a change from the kitchen. It was interesting to see the variation of the staple from base to tip. The finest we tested was only 13.7 microns. After a couple of days the computer crashed, but we got nearly all the job done.

Our front dam is a main point of interest at present. A pair of black swans have nested down there and hatched out six cygnets. The parents are very protective so we have only watched through binoculars; the kids are all very excited about the event.

August: ‘Our shearing starts tomorrow so it will be flat strap for at least a month, we hope wet weather doesn’t slow things up, even though we need the rain. A good fall of snow would help.

We’re having trouble with feral animals; Captain Cook brought in pigs, foxes were brought for the hunting, (and to ‘control’ the rabbits!), brumbies (horses gone wild), dingoes and wild dogs. Now we have a stupid English woman vet. (a vegetarian!) wants us to stop culling kangaroos and exporting the meat. At least we don’t have Foot & Mouth YET!

Christmas: ‘I’m sure Christmas only takes six months to come around these days. Winter came late and when Spring should have sprung there were frosts and drying winds. We had a good shearing and wool sale; cattle and wool prices have been great and lambing excellent. Rain seems to have been rationed in our area, but at least no cyclones. There’s still a lot of fencing to attend to.

We needed to move 2,500 ewes and the steers across the road and I had to turn out with the 4 x 4 along with Ian and Lyn on the ag. bikes. Ian makes cow noises and the animals know that when a gate is open they are going to get a fresh paddock! It really was quite spectacular, I must try and get a photo next time.

I sent the draft to Pat to check a few details and she came back with:

We’ve had some good rain storms and everything is looking full growth ahead, including the weeds. Frank was dubious about his corn (that’s maize to us Brits) but now “it’s going to make it”. He spread 10 tonnes of pig manure before planting and I really didn’t want to know him for a few days. I had to do the tucker run and I could smell it all the way down from the shearing shed to the front gate!

Pat is very active in the Country Women’s Association and the University of the Third Age, she says that one day she will be asked to sign the visitors’ book back home! We hope that she will find time to keep us posted of life ‘down on the farm’.

Death of a ‘Mountie’

In 1998 Kim Cannon sent me a picture of a Blencowe gravestone in the East Cemetery in Perth, Western Australia. At first we had no more information about Ernest Blencowe, but then she found the obituary notice telling that he had been a Mounted Constable in the Perth Police who had died when thrown from his horse in Bazaar Terrace, Perth in June 1895. Although only 27 years old he had served previously in the West Camden Light Horse of the New South Wales Cavalry. An accomplished horseman, he had competed in military tournaments in London and Dublin and had been awarded a gold medal. This still gave us no clues of Ernest’s family but eventually Maurine Work and Pat McClenaghan turned up some more bits of information:

Thomas and Eliza Blencowe emigrated from England on the Matooka and arrived in New South Wales in 1857; their eldest son Thomas was born during the voyage. He was the first of a large family, he was followed by: John (b 1857), Frances (1859-1917), Mary (b 1861), Phoebe (b 1863) Clara (1865-1866), Frederick (b 1867), Ernest W (1868-1895), Emily (b 1870), Owen B (b 1872), Arthur William (b 1875), and Daisy A (d 1883). The last seems to have been Omega (b 1877); did her name symbolise that Thomas had finally ‘shot the stork’?

Thomas had been born c. 1836 and Eliza c. 1835, she died 9 March 1910 at Wild’s Meadow NSW as did her daughter Frances. Some of the children were baptised at St Mary Magdalen, South Creek NSW; Phoebe married Charles J Ferner or Furner in NSW in 1883. Can anyone tell us more about this family?

The 1901 Census of England and Wales

The British Census data are kept under confidential cover for a hundred years and genealogy buffs eagerly await the turn of each decade. The appearance of a full index of the 1881 Census rather over-shadowed the release of the one for 1891, but 1901 promises to give us a new interest.

In a recent article Margaret Brennand of the Public Record Office reported that from 2 January the entire census returns for England and Wales will be available on line at <> — some 32 million entries will be accessible. The actual census return pages have been converted to high quality electronic images. A database has been created and linked to the images. It will be possible to search the database for family name and forename, place and age. Searching for forename without surname will be possible and will help track down ladies whose married name is unknown. It is not clear how much of this will be open to us without charge, but ‘a small additional fee’ is charged for some items, implying that we are not going to have an entirely free ride!

Coupled with the fact that we are charged for local ‘phone calls in Britain, it will make a lot of sense to share out the work and avoid duplication. We will have to look at how easily things can be viewed on screen and at how easy or difficult it proves to be to access the web-site. I have asked Bridget Fisher to take on N.E. England and Jill Cobb to look at Suffolk. I will aim to deal with Northamptonshire. However, they have told me that it is so popular that it is very difficult to ‘log-on’; it may be that we shall have to rely on Christine Clement in New Zealand to get some information whilst we in UK are sleeping!

Book News

The main task of shipping parcels round the world seems to be accomplished. Initial estimate of a demand for 700 copies seems to have been about right and we are left with an adequate number in reserve for the more occasional requests that will no doubt continue in the months ahead. I have been flattered to receive enquiries from local historians who are not connected with our family, and from the Northamptonshire County Library.

A remarkable souvenir

In the last issue I mentioned a ‘pub lunch’ at Marston St Lawrence where we met up with Francis Sitwell and Clive and Angela Blencowe (see pictures in the centre fold). Clive brought with him a magnificent family Bible that he had purchased at an antiquarian book store. It had been a gift to John Alexander Blencowe from his mother on the occasion of his twenty-first birthday, the occasion of the ‘coming of age party’ at Marston Hall described by Peter Blencowe in our book. It was inscribed :

John Alexander Blencowe

with his mother’s love and blessings
on his 21st birthday Sept 3rd 1867

And thou ... my son know thou the God
of thy father and serve him with a perfect
heart and with a willing mind ... if thou
seek Him He will be found of thee

I. Chron:XXVIII. 9

... As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

Josh: XXIV. 15

Since our meeting Clive has traced his family tree back another generation to John Blencowe who was born in 1857 at South Newington, Oxon., the son of John Blencowe and Ann Mary Betterton. A likely link that he is working on would probably take him back, via Souldern, to Thomas Blencowe who was born c. 1788 in Brackley.


Joy Prudden wrote telling me of the death in November of her mother Lilian Blencowe Gates. My contacts with Mrs Gates started last Summer when Janet Dunn wrote asking me for a copy of our book to give to her aunt on her 89th birthday. News of the surprise gift leaked out and Mrs Gates said, “I might not last that long, can’t I have it now!”. So, when the book came to hand in July I made sure she received the very first copy I distributed. Subsequently she sent me the article and picture of her grandmother featured in our last issue. Joy tells me that seeing the ‘front page special’ gave her mother great pleasure.

Our condolences go to Jill whose husband Bill Dudbridge died on 29th January. Like Jill’s father Sidney Blencowe, Bill was a railway engineer. He and Jill met when they sailed to UK from the Argentine to ‘join up’, Jill in the WAAF, Bill in the Royal Engineers — in which he served throughout the Burma campaign. They returned together to Buenos Aires but moved later to Nicaragua and eventually retired to London. Bilingual in English and Spanish, Bill told me that he held the reserve rank of Captain in the British Army and Major in that of Argentina.

We owe Bill a great deal: he patiently drove Jill to nearly all the English County Records offices and enjoyed his country walks whilst she located and researched the vast number of Blencowe documents that formed the foundation of our book.

On 1st March Ernest Blencowe of Banbury passed away. He was born on 8 August 1915 and was named after his uncle who died just three days before at the battle known as ‘First Ypres‘. Ernest fought as a paratrooper in the next war, as one of the famous ‘Red Berets’. His Banbury family descends from Thomas Blencoe who married Sarah Brickhill in nearby Kings Sutton in 1725. Ernest’s ten grandchildren and twenty great grandchildren will ensure that the Blencowe family continues to flourish in Banbury. When the late Fred Blincow first met Ernest at one of our family reunions, Fred said to me, “I took one look at him across the room and said, ‘there’s a real Blencowe!’”.

On a less sombre note, here’s a charming Xmas picture of Francis Blincoe-Deval, whose addition to the Blincoe family of New Zealand was reported in our last issue.


Congratulations to Isabel Blincow of Sheffield on the award of MBE in the New Year’s Honours List; or, more properly, on her appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

After family responsibilities had led to her retirement from teaching Isabel turned her talents towards professional needlework and embroidered pictures and her work became well-known in galleries all over the UK. Some twenty-five years ago she set up the Hallam Art Group and taught painting to adults.

Realising that there was nowhere in Sheffield for emerging artists to show their work she took the plunge, rented space at the Octagon Centre and launched the Great Sheffield Art Show, bringing 1,200 amateur art works to the public view. The first Show took eighteen months to prepare and has since become an annual event in the Sheffield art world. It was only after a decade that, in 2000, Isabel decided to pass the responsibility on to others. The award of the MBE is a fitting recognition of her contributions to art and society in the city.

I look forward to hearing an account of the ceremony at Buckingham Palace from husband Graham Blincow. Graham, a cousin of our old friend Tricia Heath, descends from Edward Blencow (son of Henry and Ann) who was born in Kings Sutton in 1738.


There has been some interesting correspondence during the last few months. Robert Moltzen of Freeport NY has provided data from the NY State Census concerning Blincoe families of Chenango Co. NY who emigrated there from Gawcott in Buckinghamshire. Bob has caused me to look again at the family trees I published in our book and some revision will be necessary!

Brian Evans, of Dianella, West Australia, is seeking information on Harriet Anne Blencowe who married Graham Berry in 1822. Harriet had connections with Chipping Barnet in Hertfordshire. Graham Berry, who started out as an apprentice draper in London, became a man of consequence in Australia; he was three times Prime Minister of Victoria.

A query from Steve and Lynne Luxford reached me via Christine Clement in New Zealand. They were seeking information about George Harry Blinko whose birth was registered at Ashby de la Zouche in 1894. It looks as if they can trace back from him to John Blinker who married Mary Walsbey at Stoke Lyne in 1807. Stoke Lyne is between Brackley and Bicester and practically every village around has Blencowe records; Steve and Lynn can have a happy time trawling around to find out more!

John Townson wrote from Hatch Beauchamp in Somerset telling of his links with the Blencowes of Marston St Lawrence. Two of Samuel Jackson Blencowe’s children had connections with the Shuckburgh family from whom John descends.

Mike Spencer, of Portishead, near Bristol, asked about his grandmother Edith Blencowe who had married Harold Spencer at Aston Abbotts in 1919. Edith was one of the Mixbury Blencowes and can be traced back to William Blencowe who was born c. 1729.

As Schehezarade might have said, “all these, and other tales, will be related in future issues”. It looks as if we will not be short of material for the Newsletter for a while yet!

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updated: 5 May 2002