Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yesterday, and Yesterdays Gone By . . .

Yesterday I stood in a churchyard in a place called East Farleigh and looked at the gravestone of my great-great-great-grandfather John, died (exact date unreadable) 1881, age 90. Also named on the gravestone is his niece Ann, who died (date unreadable) age 76.

East Farleigh is the village in Kent where my family comes from, on my father's side.

St. Anne's in East Farleigh, Kent.

East Farleigh dates back to the ancient Iron Age, there is evidence of quarry and agricultural activity there during Britain's Roman Era. In 961, East Farleigh manor was given by Queen Ediva, the mother of king Edmund, to Christ church Canterbury. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the manor is listed in the Domesday Book and was held by Bishop Odo of Bayeaux (also Archbishop of Canterbury), William's half-brother. In the Domesday Book the village is called Ferlaga; usually translated from Saxon as “the way of the passage” (over the river) or from Gaelic as a “clearing in the woods (or grass, or alder)”. By 1300 it is referred to as Fearnlega in the Book of the Church of Rochester and on a map of 1575 as East Farly.

All that remains of the original Saxon church is a little tufa stonework on the outside of the north-west corner.

In the church they have a book with all the records of all the baptism, weddings and funerals of my direct ancestors, on my father's side. To clear up any confusion - 'Sean Linnane' is the name I write under - this pseudonym is derived from my middle name - John - and the Gaellicized version of my mother's maiden name. I am Irish on my mother's side - Anglo-Irish as a matter of fact - and English on my father's side. The English side of our family can be traced back at least 700 years.

Around the year 1120 A.D., the Normans rebuilt the Saxon church, but before they set to work they built an inn, to house and feed the workers. That inn survives to this day, although it was rebuilt due to a fire in the late 1800s.

The Bull Inn, East Farleigh, Kent. My great-great-Grandfather (also John) owned this pub.

I went into the Bull Inn and had an interesting conversation with the present owner; apparently there is some kind of controversy regarding my family and the pub fire. As a Crusader and a Masonic Knight Templar, it was not proper for me to take a drink before entering the hallowed ground across the street. Once that portion of the pilgrimage was complete, I returned to the bar, and took up the subject of the Burning of Bull Inn.

The Saloon Bar at the Bull Inn, East Farleigh.

The publican says of the fire that it occurred under mysterious circumstances, and it is belief of the local populace that the fire was started by my family. I admitted having heard tell of some kind of misadventure, but the timeline does not jive with the departure of my father's family to Australia in the late 1890s. When asked by the publican if my family was "transported" (i.e. convicts) I set the record straight: we WENT to Australia we were not SENT to Australia.

The Bull Inn in 1890. There are still enough of my kinfolk living in East Farleigh to swing an election.

My grandfather used to say of our family; "We are nothing special or royal or anything like that, just ordinary hard-working, middle class people, slightly well-off." It was interesting just to walk around the streets and fields where they still grow hops and tobacco, and reflecting about my ancestors who walked those same streets, working those same fields, brewed beer and operated pubs throughout that area. It was very poignant.



  1. Are you still in England? If so I'd like to meet.


  2. I'm working in London until Wednesday afternoon - email me on the link on the right.