EDitorial ± 28-Jan-2002

Family Matters (Part 2)

Last time round I was recounting how Bridget the archivist had traced the Freston family all the way back to the mid-1700s (and still going). She'd also mentioned that the roots seemed to lead towards an area on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, in particular Harleston, Redenhall and Mendham.

Now those aren't places I'm familiar with. But this past weekend the Broom nuclear family (60% of whom weren't well) were guests at the in-laws, who happen to live on that very county border. Listening to the story so far, abstemious father-in-law Geoffrey pulled out a copy of The King's England, Suffolk, written in the 1940s by Arthur Mee. Lo & behold the entry for Mendham talked of the church being home to the Freston brasses. No prizes for guessing where we headed on Saturday afternoon.

To Redenhall first, parking outside the imposing church. Nearly the first gravestone we looked at was one John Freston, died 1838 aged 66 and his wife Mary, died 1852 aged 77. Ten minutes later we'd also located:

  1. Charles Freston, died June 1881 aged 75
  2. and his wife Emily, died October 1893 aged 83
  3. Henry Freston, died February 1899 aged 85
  4. and his wife Mary Ann, died November 1881 aged 70
Cross-checking these against Bridget's family tree, it transpires that Charles and Henry were brothers of John, my great great great grandfather. This was fantastic, but the best was yet to come.

Plaque in Mendham church

With the light beginning to die, we did the short drive to Mendham. Luckily for us, the church was open. There in the nave (if that's the right word), on the wall, was a memorial reading:

Beneath this Monument
Lyeth Interred the Body of
EDWARD FRESTON Gent: youngest
of Mendham in the County of
Norfolk Esq and BRIDGETT his
Wife Daughter of HENRY COKE
of Thorington in the
County of Suffolk Esq. He Died
the 28th Day of December 1708
Anno Aetatis 43.
As also the Body of ELIZABETH ye
Daughtor of JOHN SAYER of Pulham
St Mary ye Virgin in ye County
of Norfolk Gent: She Died ye 25th
Day of Sep:1727 Anno Aetatis 55.

Right next to this was another memorial, this time in Latin, for Richard Freston Armigeri, died 1722. On the opposite wall were two further memorials, one very long one appearing to give the pedigree of Freston. Shame that the light was such that we couldn't get the details.

Looking up at these wonders, already suffocating in Frestons, I realised that we were standing on the Freston brasses! There's around five of these inlaid in the floor, each the size of a small table. The inscriptions mention:

  • Penelope Smith, daughter of Anthony Freston, died June 1681
  • Ledia Freston, died March 1651
  • Richard Freston, died November 1616
  • Cecilia Freston, died September 1615
  • etc.
I've never seen so many people called Freston in my life. Course, I don't yet know if I'm related to any of this lot, but fingers crossed.

Be seeing you!