Family Histories

This page provides a forum for those interested in tracing family links to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell.
To find out about someone who lived in the village recently, click here. Contributions from people looking for a particular name from the more distant past are listed below.

To read about the search for descendants of 16th century people depicted on the brasses in St Agatha's Church, click here.
Entries are in alphabetical order by surname.  The most recent entries are for:
  • Windell
  • Harkness
  • Brightwell
  • Eggleton
  • Evans
  • Currill
  • Slade
  • Water
  • Hawkins (Stewart Memorial Institute)
  • Hammond
  • Herring
  • Barlow

A useful organisation to contact is the Oxfordshire Family History Society, which has its own research centre at Stanton St John, and also offers advice through the Centre for Oxfordshire Studies. More details at


Among the reminiscences on our website is Ron Wood's story about 'Zonk Barlow', the village roadsweeper. Now we have been contacted by Sam Ingram, who read Ron's piece and realises Zonk must be the great great uncle he never met. He would like to know: can anyone tell him more? If so, you can email him at You can read Ron Wood's piece here


William Brightwell is researching his family history and writes:
"I live in the United States and my family name has been here for many years. I know the name originated in the England and would like to see if I can make a connection from records in England. Is there any history of the Brightwell name there?"

William can be contacted at


Pauline Long is studying her family tree and recently visited the village with her daughter, Cheryl, in search of the grave of William Currill, who died in 1940. They found this – and discovered that his father was also on the 1939 register of burials. Does anyone know of any history on the Currills, or have any suggestions where to look?

Pauline can be contacted at


Tom Eggleton writes from the USA: "I am embarking on a family history search. Already I have traced 'Eggleton' history back to Brightwell and back to approximately 1860. If any readers can provide further info or search sources, please do!"
Tom can be contacted at


Victoria Colver writes: "I was interested in your family history forum and I wanted to know if anyone has any information on the Evans family. I'm mostly interested in John Evans (born in Sotwell approx. 1791 and married to Elizabeth Perrin) and his family including son Charles Reuben Evans born in Sotwell approx. 1821.
Any information about the family or their relations would be fantastic."
Victoria can be contacted at


Denise Foster, who now lives and works in the south of France, has sent us these pictures of the forge which her family used to run on the site of what is now Bell Garage. Her father, Bill Foster, took the forge over from his dad before the family moved to Belgium in 1962.

Denise can be contacted on
Paul Hammond writes:
Hi I have been looking at your history page .As i am looking into my family conections to Brightwell is there anybody that can help me ,and are there any Hammonds still living in the village?
Yours Paul Hammond
Paul can be contacted at:


Does anyone know anything about the Hands of Mackney? Chris Bamkin came across some Edwardian glass negatives while looking for her relatives. She found some pictures of a family called Hand taken outside Elm Cottage, Mackney, around 100 years ago, and wants to find out whether they lived there or were just visiting.

The ladies sitting on the bench in this photograph are from left to right, Miss Alice Hand, Mrs Hand and Miss Hand again. If you can shed any light, you can email Chris at


Jane Willingale has sent us the following request for help:

'I am looking for anyone who might be related to Alexander Harkness. died in WW2. My mother aunt and sister were all evcuated to live with his mother in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell’

Jane can be contacted at


Keith Bailey, who is researching his wife’s family history, has sent us the following request for help:

‘Please can someone in Brightwell help us find if there are records of the families who lived at the Stewart Memorial Institute? According to the 1901 Census, my wife's great grandmother, Sarah Sophia Hawkins, lived there together with her daughter, Lilian, her husband Charles Edward Calladine, and Ivor their son. It appears that several families lived there at the time. We wonder how long the Institute provided housing, and what the criteria were for eligibility?

‘We enjoyed a brief visit to Brightwell some months ago to take pictures and check in the churchyard. We live in Suffolk but have spent part of our lives in Berks and Oxon.’

Keith can be contacted at


Does anyone know anything about the HEARMON family, who lived in Brightwell from at least the eighteenth century? If so, Carolynne Cotton (nee Hearmon), who is researching her family history, would like to hear from you.
Her great-great grandfather left the village in about 1870 to join the Metropolitan Police, but a number of his brothers and sisters stayed in Brightwell. You can contact her at


Graham Hall writes:
"I'm trying to trace records of my grandmother, whose maiden name was Jessie Herring, born 8.12.1883 and whose early childhood was spent in Brightwell-Cum-Sotwell. She may have attended the village school. Any ideas on where I can find details of her ? She subsequently moved to Reading. Many thanks for any help. "
Graham can be contacted at; telephone 01494 722015.


We have been contacted by Amanda Doster (née Lane), with some memories of Brightwell in the 1960s and 1970s. She writes:

"I was sorting through items from the attic and fell upon class photos at Brightwell School from the 60s. I spent a very happy childhood in Bell Lane, Brightwell until !971 when I moved to Wantage Road, Wallingford - my father still lives there. I still cycled to Brightwell to see friends and attend Guides. Although I now live in Cheltenham, Glos I still remember so much about our lives in 1960's Brightwell as being wonderful.

"I read through Mr Heyworth's account of Brightwell with interest and remember him so well - smoking his pipe in the school grounds! Did any one mention that the Kews used to make little bread rolls called Tommy loaves that we used to race down to the bakery to queue up for? If there were none, left Mrs Kew usually found a bag of broken biscuits.

"All this seems like sentimental reminiscing but as I approach 50 I realise when I tell these things to my children that these memories form part of our social history. How about a 'Down Memory Lane' web page that residents and former residents could post snippets on?"


Christine Orchard is researching into her husband's great great grandfather, Gideon Davis, who married Harriet Orchard in the 'parish church of Brightwell' on December 20th, 1864. Gideon Davis' occupation at the time of his marriage was "tinker"; his father Thomas Davis was a blacksmith as was Harriett Orchard's father James Orchard.
If anyone has any ideas that might help her, she can be contacted at

Sawyer and Messenger

Julia Sutton is seeking information about the Sawyer and Messenger families. She writes: 'I am writing as I have today visited Brightwell-cum-Sotwell to see if I could find graves of family I have from Brightwell. I was not able to find any. I visited both churches and a small cemetery.
I wondered if anyone may have any information on the Sawyer and the Messenger families. Generations of the Messenger family were in Mackney and also Church Lane in every one of the census records and were described as farm labourers. The daughter Ann Messenger married Jesse Sawyer in 1903. My great grandparents The Sawyer family lived in Slade End (Jonah Sawyer and his family).'

Julia can be contacted at


Somewhere out there are the descendants of 11 children, born to Susannah and Joseph Saunders in Brightwell in the second half of the nineteenth century. Do you know anything about them? If so,Pam Bartlett would like to hear from you. She writes: "My great-grandfather, Charles Bartlett, was born in Brightwell in 1841, the illegitimate son of Susannah Bartlett. He left Brightwell sometime during the 1850s. In 1842 Susannah married Joseph Saunders and I believe had another 11 children -George, Elizabeth, Joseph, Susannah (died in infancy), Elijah, William, Mark (died in infancy), Matthew, Jesse, Esther and Alfred! I have made contact with a descendant of Joseph but would be interested to know if any of her Saunders descendants still live in Brightwell."

You can contact her by email at


Tony Bartlett would like to make contact with anyone who is interested in the Sheard family history.

He writes: "I found your site after I put the name Sheard into Yahoo Search and came up with the minutes of a Council Meeting which then linked me to the site.

It appears from the people who attended the meeting that there is at least one Sheard left in the village and possibly more. My name is Tony Bartlett but my mother's name was Sheard before she married and in tracing back I have found that my great great grandfather Robert Sheard, who was born in 1792, is recorded as living at North Farm, Sotwell. I also found out that my great grandfather John and his wife Caroline are buried in the churchyard in Brightwell.

As a boy I can recall visiting an aunt and uncle who lived on a farm in Brightwell and their name was King. Robert Sheard had eleven children, I think, and my great grand father John had ten so perhaps there may be someone in the Village who has knowledge of what became of them. If anyone has any information or has an interest in the Sheard family history I would be pleased to share what I have found out so far."



Anne Brooker has been researching some Brightwell families (starting with the Brookers as she is related to them) and found that they had married into the Sheards a couple of times.

She writes: ''I have contact with a Tom Sheard living in South Africa whose great great grandfather William Sheard emigrated there in the 1840’s from his home village of Stanford in the Vale. The Brightwell branch also comes from Stanford in the Vale. Apparently Tom has a vast family tree he has built up but has no contact with English Sheards. Would any local Sheard be interested in any of this information? I have already contacted Tony Bartlett through his entry on the village website.'

Anne can be contacted by email on


Does anyone know who Slade End Farm was named after? Denis Hamilton
has a family history correspondent who lives in Australia, and has
traced ancestors named Slade back to Emanuel, c. 1758 in East
Hagbourne; his son was Moses. Could this family be related to Slade
End Farm? Any idea, please contact


Meanwhile, Mike Strange has been researching the name of STRANGE, and has traced quite probable links back to Long Wittenham c1625. He has a full list of Berkshire wills for STRANGE and other spellings and notes that there are a couple for Sotwell: William STRANGE (1558) and John STRANGE (1566). He can be contacted at


We have been contacted from Thailand by Stuart Tootell, who would like to trace his cousin, Patrick.

He writes: “Many years ago, say around 1957-59 or thereabouts, there lived in the council houses in Brightwell cum Sotwell a family called ''Tootell' - my aunt, uncle and cousins.

“Robert was the father and he worked for Morses of Swindon, selling household goods etc from a van (a tally man). Beatrice, his wife, was my aunt and they had two children: June (who married a chap called Ian Madgewick 1957-ish) and Patrick her younger brother. Patrick worked at Dowell and Hissetts chrome platers in Wallingford.

“I live in Thailand and have done so for some 16 years and even now I am still looking to find Patrick. I am 62, and Patrick would be around 68. Robert, the father, died around 1992 - again second hand info - and prior to his death was living in Hampshire near the New Forest. Beatrice had it seems died some 2 to 3 years earlier.

“I have been searching everywhere and so far no luck, so any nugget of information would indeed be a joy to me.”

Stuart's e-mail is

George Woronzow Warner Allen

Mark Pallot is researching the name Woronzow, and thinks George Warner Allen, the artist who is buried in St James's Churchyard, might be related to him. He writes:

'My ancestors were christened with their middle name being Woronzow. They were descendants of a Woronzow Greig (1805-1865). I therefore think George Woronzow Warner Allen could be related to me. I have found out that he was born in Paris and died in the John Radcliffe Hospital. I would like to find his parents, wife and children, if any. There is a name on the death certificate, a Joseph G P Delaney. I have also diccovered two of his painting in the Tate Gallery, one presented by a Paul Delaney, executor of the artist's estate. Any help with information or someone to contact would be greatly appreciated.'

Mark can be contacted at


Sandra Smith has been helping her Canadian cousin find out more about her paternal grandfather, Charles Bennett Waters, who died of shell shock in 1915.

She writes: "She has known for many years that he died of "shell-shock" and was incarcerated in Fairmile Asylum until his death. Yesterday she was able to see his medical records at the Berkshire Record Office. He was not buried at the asylum. The only possible clue is that before he was committed he was living with his married sister in Wantage Road, Brightwell. Unfortunately the record office does not hold the parish burial registers for 1915. Would it be possible to discover whether he was buried in the village churchyard and whether his name is on the war memorial?"

No Waters is listed among the names on the war memorial. (For the list, follow the links in the Community section to the Royal British Legion). However, maybe someone has other information? If so, you can contact Sandra at


Chris Kemp would like to contact the Whichello family. He writes:

I am currently researching my late grandfather's, William(Bill) Darby, wartime service. Amongst the very few items we have is a Calendar/Diary for 1943, by which time he was in an Italian POW Camp, after being captured at the fall of Tobruk in June 1942. One of the names listed in the diary is W Whichello, The Orchards, Brightwell, Nr Wallingford, Oxon, who I believe may well have served in the same Royal Artillery Battery as my grandfather. As part of the research I am compiling a history of the Battery, the 107th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery (27th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment) and would welcome the opportunity to contact the family to exchange information.

Chris can be contacted at


Pam Vowles, née Wilkins, would like any memories of Harriet and John Wilkins and their family. She writes: ‘The earliest definite date I have is 1917, when they lived in High Road. They may well have lived there before that date, but I am not sure. In 1925 I know they were living in Mackney Lane. Their son Alfred lived with them and continued living in the house until his death aged 85 in January 1972. I have only just found out about Alfred, and obtained his death certificate; he worked for the ordnance depot.

‘I would dearly love to make contact with anyone who knew the family. My Dad only met Alfred once but he certainly made an impression on him. He said he was an amateur inventor and had gadgets all over the house. He also said the house was haunted! That may have just been a jovial uncle playing tricks!’

Pam can be contacted at


Sarah Razionale writes:

"Does anyone know of a woman by the name of Norah Elizabeth Annie Windell who died 18th April 1983 at Wallingford Community Hospital? Last known address Moat Fall, Brightwell Cum Sotwell. Norah was the wife of Roland Windell and they were possibly dealing with Antiques (circa 1960's or 70's). They had a daughter by the name of Doreen although she was always referred to as Joy."
Sarah can be contacted at