FROM THE WANDLE TO THE WICKET
by Edna Pritchard
This article was originally published in the December 2007 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
My great grandparents William Paice and Ann Eliza (nee Sewell) were married in 1865 and lived in Mitcham, Surrey, which is situated in the Wandle Valley. The valley is famous for its lavender fields and its physic gardens which provided the London pharmacies with their medication.
William and Ann Eliza had five children; Alfred, born 1873, was my grandfather. In 1891 the family moved to Wrexham where William had been made works manager of a seltzer factory.
My story is about the Sewell family. Firstly, James Sewell, who was born 1777 and married Ann Doust in Streatham in 1803, becoming parents of a large family, and, secondly, William Humphries Sewell who was born in Mitcham in 1808. He was the father of Ann Eliza. His elder brother Thomas was born in 1806. The two brothers were calico printers who worked near the RiverWandle at Mitcham. The early printers were Huguenots who were allowed to settle in the valley to avoid religious persecution.
William Asprey was born from one of these Huguenot families and from humble beginnings he founded the famous shop in Bond Street, London in 1782. His wife was Ann Sewell, born 1765, daughter of Edward Sewell, a calico printer.
The printers made up the dyes from madder and other plants from the physic gardens. These plants were ground up before being used at the saw mills. Calico was bleached, washed and laid out to dry in the meadows before the dye was applied through the use of patterned wooden blocks. Reading and learning about how these families lived and worked together was fascinating for me, but more was to come.
In the Sole Search journal of December 2004 there was an article from a lady in Australia who had found a small brown paper bag in her father's possessions which contained a rectangular piece of calico with a pencilled drawing on it. This was the All England XI cricket team of 1847 and Thomas Sewell, born 1806, was one of the players. How could that be?
Later I found that William Humphries had also played for England, as had his nephew Thomas. Thomas junior, also a calico printer, had sailed to Australia on the S.S. Great Britain to play cricket in 1862. This was the first time this ship had sailed to Australia with international cricketers aboard. The ship is now preserved in the dry docks at Bristol. The images of my family trudging home from work alongside the Wandle, then playing cricket in their bleached cricket whites on Mitcham Common will remain with me for a long time.
The following poem was written by Edna’s nephew, Peter Freeman, after he had read the court case charges on John Doust in 1788 at Bow. John Doust was an uncle of Thomas and William Humphries the cricketers
CRICKET ON A HANDKERCHIEF
When John Doust stole four pieces of calico
from Mr Newton's yard in Mitcham, February 1788
he might have booked a one way ticket
to Fremantle, on the Edith or was it the Samuel Taylor
that took James Doust, his wife, ten month old son
and three Romney Marsh sheep to a new life
a voyage of one hundred and fourteen days.
He might thereby have planted a second Doust tree
in Western Australia and missed his sister’s wedding
to James Sewell a calico printer and descendant
of Huguenots allowed to layout their cloth
on the low lying water meadows of the Wandle.
He wouldn’t have seen William and Thomas
grow up to be journeymen printers, Surrey
and England cricketers, nor have pointed out
to friends his young nephew, second from right
in top hat and bleached whites, leaning on his bat
in The All-England Eleven 1847 block-printed
on the calico hankerchief that would hang
in the Sydney cricket ground museum
an heirloom folded in a brown paper bag
not unlike the one that held not just a copy
of the pencil and watercolour from
Treasures of Lords, but letters from each branch
of our family: the Dousts, Paices and Sewells
Harts and Hudsons, Savilles, Seymours and Creeseys
with your recipe for yoghurt cake, a jar of your piccalilli.
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