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Social History

Social History Annexe

Social History

We are very aware of the social history of the community held within the churchyard and are keen to ensure that this history is not lost. We note the number of surnames which prominently feature such as: Anderson, Browning, Fisher, Fleet, Goodban, Goodwin, Kennett, Marsh, Newman, Price, Ratcliffe, Taylor, Wallis and Wood.

We need to try and discover and record as much social history as we can. To give a flavour of what we mean by social history attached as an Annex is a contribution kindly proved by Mr Lester Clark, whose family has lived in the villages and supported the church for very many years. Hopefully we will be able to add other family details to the Social History Annexe as time goes by.


We are particularly fortunate to have been given details of Mr Henry Taylor, who had particular connections with the churchyard, as he was the Sexton for 54 years! It is right we take note of his history as his family still live in Blean.

Henry was born in Tyler Hill in 1888 and then moved to “Orchard House “in Chapel Lane, Blean with his parents William and Elizabeth Taylor (buried in the churchyard) and his brother Fred. He met Rose Kirby who lived with her parents at Honey Hill Farm, Blean (Frances and Thomas Kirby also buried in churchyard). Rose was a direct descendant of Nathaniel Kirby who moved to Blean and married Mary Pim in Blean Church on 17 May 1759.

Henry and Rose married in Blean Church in 1915 and lived in Chapel Lane all their lives.

Henry was “self employed” and did various jobs, mainly working in the woods making pit props (presumably for the Kent pits operating at the time), hedging, ditching, maintaining Blean Churchyard and grave digging. He was the Parish Clerk for 48 years. He took on the job of sexton when he was 22 and continued in that role until he was 76! He dug the graves of his and his wife’s parents next to each other so that at a later date he and Rose could be buried with their respective parents and remain together for ever.

He was a small, wiry man but very strong, which he needed to be bearing in mind the waterlogged clay nature of the churchyard. He cut the grass with a scythe until the early 1960s, when his daughter gave him a push mower. He never drove, but went around with his tools on the crossbar of his bicycle.

In addition Henry lit the church boilers, prepared the oil lamps and laid out the Communion table very early on Sundays. He then returned home for his sausage meat breakfast and then back to the church to ring the bell.

He sat in the single pew seat by the rear pillar to be ready to ring the bell again at the appropriate times during the service.

While Henry did all this Rose took over from her mother, Frances, as church cleaner. She kept the church spotless, including scrubbing the flagstone floor. The water came from a nearby pond in Church Cottage’s garden, except in the summer when the pond dried up and she had to fetch the water from the Sarre Penn, at the bottom of the valley. To dust the rafters Henry made her a long pole with feathers on the end. She also cleaned the brass and arranged the flowers.

When Henry gave up full time work and his church duties he continued to work part time until he was 82 when he was forced retire, when he fell off his bike and broke a hip. He continued to puff on his pipe, smoking “Hearts of Oak” and “Nut Brown” tobacco, until his death at 91. He and Rose are buried in the churchyard.

We are very grateful to Lester Clark, Henry’s Grandson, who lives in School Lane Blean, and his mother, for providing these details of church, and churchyard, life, which we are glad to help preserve. Henry’s Great Granddaughter, Shelley Clark, was married in Blean Church in recent years. This wonderful family story continues……!



The Truemans of Oakwell, and their descendants, have featured greatly in the life of Blean Church. The house of “Oakwell in the Blean”, in Tyler Hill, has always been within the boundary of the Parish of St Cosmus and St Damian in the Blean, even when most of Tyler Hill was in the Parish of St Stephens.

Charles Joseph Trueman was born in London in 1810 and served in the 6th Dragoons( Carabiniers). In 1838 he married Penelope Susan Hamilton, the daughter of the Revd James Hamilton, the then Rector of St Stephens. She was born in 1818.

Oakwell, which was built in about 1836, was given to them as a wedding present!

Charles and Penelope Susan had a son and two daughters:

Charles Hamilton born in 1839, Florence Augusta born in 1844 and died in 1897, Alicia Matilda born in 1846 and died in 1919

Penelope Susan died at Oakwell in 1877 and Charles Joseph died in 1880. They are buried next to each other in the “Old” churchyard to the South of the chancel. The West stained glass window of the church was commissioned in memory of them and has been refurbished recently with the kind help of the family. Florence Augusta is buried next to her parents.

Oakwell was inherited by Charles Hamilton Trueman. He joined the army and served in 32nd Light Infantry Regiment. He married Dorothea Magdelene Fitzgerald, younger daughter of Dr JP Fitzgerald MD of South Africa in 1874. Charles Hamilton and Dorothea Magdalene had a daughter and four sons: Mary Penelope Florence born in 1875, Charles Fitzgerald Hamilton born in 1877, Henry John Hamilton born in 1878, Arthur Philip Hamilton born in 1880, James Fitzgerald Hamilton born in 1884.

Mary Penelope Florence married John Hayward Taylor Gornall, who had served in the Royal Artillery in the Great War, in 1922 and died childless in 1946.

In 1914 the tragedy of the 1st World War struck the family when Charles Fitzgerald, then a Captain in the Manchester Regiment, who had previously served in the Boer War, was killed in the battle of Le Cateau. The shock of this may well have caused the death of his mother. He is listed on the 1st World War Memorial in the church. He is buried in the Le Cateau Military Cemetery.

Henry John became a major serving in the 43rd Erinpura Regiment of the Indian Army and served during the Great War in Mesopotamia, twice being mentioned in despatches..

Arthur Philip joined the East Kent Regiment “The Buffs” and served in the Boer War. He married Violet Elizabeth Bews. He reached the rank of Lt Col and was awarded the OBE. He was wounded in action in the Great War and was invalided back to England. Both he and his wife died in the great flu’ epidemic of 1918. He is listed on the 1st World War Memorial in the church. He was buried in Mansfield Cemetery

James Fitzgerald died unmarried in 1951. Dorothea Magdelene died in 1914 and Charles Hamilton in1917.

Because of the death of his elder brother Charles Fitzgerald in 1914 Henry John inherited Oakwell on the death of his father in 1917.

Henry John married Margery Norman Wightwick on 2nd September 1911 and in 1914 they had a daughter, Jean Hamilton. She was their only child. John Henry died in 1922 and there is a memorial to him by the back gate of the churchyard. Margery Norman lived at Oakwell until her death on 28th January 1951. She was the last person bearing the name of Trueman to live at Oakwell.

Her daughter Jean Hamilton married Lt Cmdr Rodolf Cecil Drummond Haig, only son of Mr and Mrs Cecil Haig of the Chase, Monnington – on - Wye, Herefordshire, in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral, on 29th June 1935. Jean Hamilton and her husband moved to Oakwell in 1953. Her uncle James Fitzgerald had acted as a trustee of Oakwell in 1951 and 1952. Jean and Rodolf were both very much involved with the church. Jean and Rodolf had two daughters:

Penelope Susan. Born on 23 August 1938, Elizabeth Anne. Born on 26 September 1945

Penelope Susan married George Shetliffe of Hereford on 27 February 1960 and Elizabeth Anne married Lt John Colin Caverhill, of the Royal Scots (the Royal Regiment), the First Regiment of Foot, on 25 February 1967 in the church. Rodolf Haig died in May 1981.

The pattern and chalice usually used at the Eucharist were presented to the church in memory of him. Jean Haig (nee Trueman) died on 16 March 1988. The processional cross was presented to the church in her memory. The two daughters inherited Oakwell. Elizabeth and Colin moved to Oakwell in 1990 and the ownership fell to Elizabeth in 1991. Colin retired from the Army in the rank of Lt Col in 1993. Elizabeth died on 20 January 2004 and many donations kindly given at the time of her death helped with the costs of the reordering of the church. Colin inherited Oakwell on her death.

Elizabeth and Colin had four daughters:

Lucy Helen. Born on 27 January 1969 in Penang, Malaysia and married in the church on 25 February 1996 to Henry Rymill of Adelaide, Australia. Charlotte Louise. Born on 3 November 1970 in Penang, Malaysia and married in the church on 7 July 2001 to Adrian Downing of London. Sarah Eleanor Jean. Born on 22 January 1981 in Salisbury. Katherine Anne. Born on 29 July 1983 in Edinburgh.

We thank the Truemans for the link between Oakwell and the church lasting 170 years.







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