Blencowe Families' Association Newsletter Vol. 19 No. 4 December 2004

Wisconsin Blencoes return to Gawcott

On October 8, 2004, three of us set out to look for footprints of William and Mary Ann Blencoe in Gawcott, near Buckingham. My sister Beth Beier, a cousin Gwen Hejna, and I flew into Gatwick Airport. Jenny Coulson (whose grandfather was a Blincoe) had arranged a car rental for us and we headed for Abingdon, near Oxford.

Our home for the next week was a very comfortable cottage at Kingfisher Barn Holiday Cottages, on the edge of the town, recommended to us by Jack Blencowe. We loved being near the River Thames, the interesting town of Abingdon, Oxford, and, of course, Gawcott.

I had corresponded with Jack for nine years and was delighted to meet him and his charming wife, Kee. We had three opportunities to be with them, and when it came time to leave, we did so reluctantly, since a true feeling of kinship had developed by that time.

William A. Blencoe was born at Gawcott on 9 November 1822, the son of John and Hannah (Herring) Blencoe. In 1833, he and his family emigrated to America and settled near Norwich, New York.

In 1853 he married Mary Ann Marof the Norwich area, who was also a native of Gawcott. Mary Ann had been born on 10 September 1835, to Emanuel and Mary (Bennett) Marks and had moved with her family to New York State in 1849.

Shortly after their marriage, William and Mary Ann migrated west from New York and homesteaded on a farm near what is now the village of Alma Center, Wisconsin. William was a successful farmer, brick maker, and builder.

One of their eleven children was my maternal grandmother, Ella Victoria (Blencoe) Buckley. (Mary Ann had fond memories of throwing flowers in the path of the Queen as she rode through Gawcott and so bestowed the name “Victoria” on one of her daughters.)

On our first Sunday in England we decided to attend Gawcott's Holy Trinity Church, which was built in 1827, replacing an older building. It was a moving experience to worship in the very room where our ancestors had once worshipped worshipped. The attendance that morning was not large, but the service was impressive. It was led by a lay person, Sue Ambrose, who invited us to her home for coffee following the service. We then took time to walk through the old cemetery surrounding the church. We saw several Blencowe markers but could relate to only one, that of Frances Blencowe, our William A. Blencoe's half sister. (Frances married her cousin Thomas Blencowe.)

After spending time in Gawcott, we drove a few miles to Great Horwood, the ancestral home of Mary Ann Marks' family. In the church cemetery in this village we found Marks and Bennett graves.

On another day we drove the short distance from Gawcott to Marston St. Lawrence, realizing that our Blencoes were probably connected in some way to the Blencowes of that village. We investigated the ancient church and its many Blencowe graves, drove by Marston House (once owned by the Blencowe family but now the property of Lord & Lady Wellesley), and had coffee and sticky toffee pudding at the cozy Marston Inn. In spite of almost constant rain, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this historic Blencowe site.

Our stop after Marston St. Lawrence was nearby Helmdon, where at least some of our Blencoes lived before moving down to Gawcott. Then we drove to nearby Stowe School, which is at the center of one of the finest landscaped parks in Britain. This school, once a stately home, is now an exclusive boarding school. Blencoes from our family worked there as stonemasons when the magnificent home was built.

While staying at Abingdon, we also toured Oxford, Coventry, Stratford-on-Avon, Winchester, Stonehenge, and Salisbury. And then we proceeded on to Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich, Canterbury, Rye, and Brighton. While at Rye, we stopped for coffee at the Mermaid Inn and were surprised to find that the co-owner of this ancient and fascinating inn is Judith, wife of Martin Blincow.

Our last night was spent near Gatwick at Gatwick Gable End Guest House, which we highly recommend. Jenny Coulson lives nearby and drove us to the airport the next morning.

Jack Blencowe tells us now that our two weeks in England were a portion of the wettest October on record. That we can believe, but in spite of the weather, we had a memorable time!

To walk where our ancestors walked; to enjoy the hospitality of Jack, Kee, and Jenny; to see some of the great historic sights of England; and to experience the courtesy and the kindness of the English people ... Those things we will not soon forget. All three of us came home glowing with pride in both our English and our Blencoe heritage!

Mary E. Van Gorden,
Black River Falls WI
November 2004

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Blencowe Families' Association   Vol. 19 No. 4 December 2004
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