Exploring England #10
Like many Australians who can trace their ancestry back to the towns and villages of England, a friend of mine has researched her family history. On her mother’s side, her knowledge of the Thomas family goes back to 1572 and centres around the Cornish village of Breage and the Parish Church of St Breaca. On our way to Land’s End, we passed through Breage and, knowing my friend may never visit there herself, we stopped at the church to look for evidence of her ancestors.
In the dull light of a foggy morning there was an air of mystery in the churchyard. Old headstones, some tilting haphazardly, were half hidden by the long, thick grass.
The stone bell tower, complete with four carved pinnacles, loomed over us. We knew from my friend that the pinnacle on the back right, destroyed by a lightning strike in the late 1700s, was repaired by Richard Thomas 100 years later.
Inside, the layout of the church hasn’t changed much in 500 years. The side walls are decorated with rare medieval paintings of local saints. Armed with my friend’s copy of the church’s booklet, we were able to find the pew where another ancestor, Mary Thomas, sat each Sunday.
Back outside, we made an exciting discovery. Tucked away in a corner of the churchyard was the grave of William Thomas, who died in 1881. Could he have been my friend’s 3 x great uncle? She’ll need to do some more research!