The Sewells of Ashwellthorpe
By Brenda Ord
This article was originally published in the August 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
I recently visited Norfolk to try and increase my knowledge of my family connections there. My husband Dennis and I knew that my great grandfather William Sewell had been born in Wicklewood in the local workhouse in 1868. He left the area in his youth to join many others in the mining city of Newcastle upon Tyne where he spent the rest of his life. His mother Sarah Ann Sewell was born in Ashwellthorpe, about six miles from Wicklewood. Thanks to the Sole Society I have now traced my ancestors back four more generations, all were born in Ashwellthorpe.
We visited Ashwellthorpe’s All Saints churchyard hoping to find ourselves knee deep in Sewell gravestones – we may have been, but we couldn’t tell, as the majority of the stones had faded or flaked off. Having done the circuit of the yard twice I was just admitting defeat, when Dennis found we were standing next to a Sewell stone. It took some deciphering but our visit to the heritage centre and parish records the next day confirmed our findings. Not a direct descendant but uncle and aunt I think. We were happy!
We stayed in Wicklewood with lovely local people, who the next day pointed us in the direction of the Forehoe Union Workhouse building that was. Formerly a workhouse, then hospital, then a school and finally left to fall into a state of disrepair. It was finally bought up by a developer and is now St George’s posh apartments and cottages, with prices to match!
We were encouraged by our bed and breakfast makers to go into the site of the former workhouse even though it was privately owned – they felt we had a right to be there. I’m glad we did. We got a good look at the building albeit from the outside and we met a lovely man tending the communal gardens (or should I say Comoonl gardens). He had the strongest country accent from anywhere that I have ever heard. He was such a gentleman too. So we learnt from him about the house and he showed us the sad bits of original outer wall where the inmates had carved their names in the bricks. Thank goodness there was no sign of my ‘Sewells’ on the wall. Wicklewood is a sort after place to live now – not so for my great grandfather William and mother Sarah Ann in their day.
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