On 21st January after some announcements and discussion, Wheatley Local History Society members entertained themselves with their annual series of members’ stories and research ‘discoveries’. About half of those at the meeting had prepared a short presentation. The first involved a great grandfather who presented the initial problem of tracing him on census returns as his family was easily found but he was not present.
This was eventually solved when he was found travelling around the country with his employer the Duke of Devonshire. His occupation was ‘postilion’ and this led to more searching and an interesting series of slides of him in uniform, his place of work and about the role — postilion is a person who rides the near horse of the leaders in order to guide a team of horses drawing a coach. This was followed by the equally interesting story and investigation into the wartime aircraft crash in the village. It was 1943 and the plane came down near Corner Farm on a flight from Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire, to Goxhill possibly due to bad weather. A Nottinghamshire investigator has compiled records of the pilot from the USA and a number of other aircraft tragedies. The group heard about the retrieval of the majority of the crashed aircraft by ‘Queen Mary’ transporter as well as the stories of smaller bits, including a part with wedding ring that was returned to the family, being ‘ploughed’ up for years following. Some of the live ammunition retrieved found its way into the now disappeared village pond.
Members then had another AV presentation on the owners and activities of Beckingham Shipyard. The progress of Joseph Spencer Compton Watson, was traced in some detail, from initial shipping work in London in 1869 to his purchase of land and establishment of ‘Watson’s Ship Builders’ in 1889. He brought his workforce with him, built houses for them, and donated land for the village school. Joseph’s son carried on the business and members of the Watson family became stalwarts of the village. The group were treated to pictures and details of a variety of ships and boats built in the yards before its closure in the 1960s, even their whereabouts today. This presentation was followed by an amusing poem about the trials and tribulations of a family historian’s research.
The group had received an enquiry in December about a family who had once lived in Wheatley. The discovery of a newspaper piece about a golden wedding anniversary in that family was read out and the details will be passed on to the enquirer. Finally, they enjoyed a third AV presentation originally produced as part of the WWI commemorations last November. This served to demonstrate how research into families can expand knowledge and produce many more stories of interest and intrigue.
The society’s next speaker will be local historian Harry Foxley, talking about Retford Workhouse on Monday 18th March at 10.00am. This meeting will be in the Village Hall and new members or guests are always welcome. For more details call Dave on 01427 880934.