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John Barnes

Just as a forward to this article written by John Barnes in August 2011 it is interesting to note the power of the internet.  Josie Selke (née Partridge) had been on the Caston-online mailing list since 2009 having found the village site while surfing the web.  With the introduction of our Friday Coffee Mornings, she wrote tellng me of her background and asked if she could attend one Friday later in the year.  Of course I was delighted to confirm to her that she would be very welcome.
As a result I then spoke to Graham Penfold, who with his wife Maria are the current owners of The Old Rectory, to ask if an inside visit to his home would be possible - he most generously agreed.  I also suggested she might contact John Barnes and Jane Horner whom I copied/called to advise as both are far more knowledgable about Caston than I will ever be. This she did and this led to the very fine article as written below.

So all in all, it worked out very well and I’m really pleased that I was able to be part of bringing it all together.

Brian Brooker

 Visitors from Australia

On Friday June 11th, 2011 it was a pleasure to welcome to Caston Josie and Eck Selke.  Josie’s maiden name was Partridge and her great grandfather, the Rev Walter Henry Partridge, was Rector of Caston for just over thirty years from 1886 to about 1917.

Between 1850 and 1941 three generations of the Partridge family were, in turn, Rectors.  The first was the Rev Walter John Partridge (WJP), who was born in 1813 and who became Curate of Caston in 1839.  When his Rector, the Rev Benjamin Barker, died, WJP became Rector in 1850.  He is on record as being a sincere priest who was concerned to raise the moral and spiritual tone of the village and who led the restoration of Holy Cross Church.  He was involved with maintaining the Caston Common Right and he was a Justice of the Peace.  In 1842 he married Maria Agnes Clarke of Dunham, daughter of Sir Charles Mansfield, an obstetrician.  Their firstborn son, in 1844, was Walter Henry Partridge (WHP).  Following Maria’s death in 1847 (in childbirth?) he married in 1858 Elizabeth Gataker of Mildenhall, Suffolk.

WJP appears to have had a sense of fun.  About 1872 the present candelabra was presented to the church by William Dodgson of Woodford, Essex.  George Banham was given the task of installing it and to do so he placed a 40-stave ladder from the church floor to the small doorway at the apex of the chancel arch.  WJP, then Rector, ascended the ladder to have a look at the void between the chancel ceiling and the outer roof.  When it was time to come down, he stepped onto the ladder, put his legs around its ribs, took his hands off the staves and slid all the way down.  On reaching the church floor, he exclaimed, “That’s something I always wanted to do!”

WJP retired in 1886 and, as patron of the living, he appointed WHP as Rector.  WHP had previously served as a Curate at Holywell, Oxford.  His wife was Ellen Dodgson, daughter of William, above, and a distant cousin of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, author (under the pen name Lewis Carroll) of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass”.  One of her brothers was Campbell Dodgson, CBE, Curator of The British Museum in London.  This was indeed the Victorian aristocracy.

WHP owned a great deal of property in Caston, including Bridge Farm, Chase Farm, the present Old Rectory which was of course his home, the present The Old Curatage, The Old House and The Vines beside the village green, Thatched Cottage near the entrance to The Chase, as well as South Cottage and Old Barn Cottage.  His family of eight included Walter Ernest Clarke Partridge (WECP), Reginald and Richard.  In due course WECP went into the ministry and, having served as Curate at Allestree, Derbyshire, he became Curate of Caston in 1917, becoming Rector in 1920.  Reginald served with the Canadian Infantry in the First World War and was killed on May 15th 1915 at Festubert, France, his name appearing on Caston War Memorial.  However, Richard went out to Malaysia and eventually superintended a small rubber plantation  in Sitiawan.  He returned to visit Caston in May 1913 and gave a lecture to Caston schoolchildren.  Richard was Josie’s grandfather through a son, Joseph.

WECP married Alice Shore of Eastbourne but it is thought that she did not live for long in the village - I can recall no mention of her.  As a boy I remember that WECP had a hessian screen erected on both sides of the church about a third of the way down.  Its purpose was to get the congregation to sit nearer the front.  I think that whilst most people obeyed, there were one or two who did not!  I well remember one afternoon walking with my mother in Church Lane and meeting WECP, a thin, tall gentleman who towered over me.  Later I knew their daughter Mary Vera: she married Horace Abbott who taught me piano at their house, 20 Newtown, Thetford.  WECP retired about 1941 and brought to an end the “reign” of the Partridge family in Caston.  Well, almost the end – throughout my boyhood, in the southern part of The Old House lived Mrs Kate Banham who, as young Kate Tye, was a servant of WHP. When he retired to Sandown, Isle of Wight, Kate went with him as housekeeper, returning to Caston to marry Alfred Banham.  Indeed, she continued to visit what she called “the island” until quite late in life.  Kate was a lovely person and she died in 1963 aged eighty.

Alan Hall and family have good reason to remember WECP, for when Alan’s grandfather, Henry Larwood, died in 1938, the Rector refused him a burial service in church because he had never been baptised.  Thus, the service was held instead in the front parlour of Church Farm.  It was conducted by a visiting minister.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, Joseph Partridge had two daughters and Josie is the only surviving member of his family.  She attended university in Brisbane, Australia, and after returning to Malaysia for five years, she went back to Australia and found work in Brisbane.  There she met Eck, who had also immigrated to Australia with his family from Germany after the Second World War, and in due course they married.  They still live in Brisbane.

Having met Anne and me for dinner at The George at Leeds, Kent, on June 7th, Josie and Eck visited a number of places that have associations with the Partridge family – including Bray (Berkshire), West Tofts, Great Hockham – all of which have Partridge memorials - and, of course Caston.  Whilst in the area they stayed at Colveston Hall Farm, the Partridge family having once lived at Colveston House, since demolished.  In Caston they attended Coffee Morning in the Village Hall and met some local people.  However, there were three surprises in store for them.  Jane Horner has been researching the Partridge family and has been in touch with a Reginald Partridge in South Africa.  (Reginald is a common name through the generations.) Josie had told me that she was aware of him but she thought she might never ever find him.  Not so!  Jane knew where he was and phoned him, thus enabling Josie to make contact with him.  Secondly, Jane had come across one of the Partridge family in Adelaide, Ann Wilson, Reginald’s sister, and Josie was similarly put in touch with another cousin she knew about but whose whereabouts were unknown to her.  Thirdly, Graham and Marie Penfold had agreed to show them around The Old Rectory, and they also kindly provided lunch – and what a thrill it must have been for Josie to dine in her great grandfather’s residence!    Thank you, Caston, for such a marvellous welcome!

Josie and Eck kindly presented to Caston Village Hall a painting by Glenis Black as a memento of their visit.  Anne and I look forward to seeing this.

At Leeds I had mentioned bell ringing and Eck in particular expressed interest in seeing it taking place.  Thus, in London the following Wednesday I was able to take them to St Sepulchre’s, Holborn Viaduct to watch us ring “the bells of Old Bailey”.  Indeed, Eck video recorded some of it to take back to Australia.  They talked over a pub meal about the wonderful time they spent in Caston - what a memorable visit they had enjoyed!

Surprisingly, and I think regrettably, apart from Reginald’s name on the War Memorial, there are no monuments or gravestones in Caston to any of the Partridge family.  WJP probably retired to Bath, where he or his wife had property, and he may be buried there, WHP is buried at Sandown and WECP at Hedenham, near Bungay.  Between them, the three generations of priests, father, son and grandson not only ministered to Caston folk but also influenced their lives considerably.  Bill Mann’s grandfather Merton Mann was gardener for WHP.  Last year I met up with Bill at Leicester and towards the end of my visit he showed me a pewter mug presented at Oxford in connection with a rowing competition.  Inscribed upon it was the name Walter H Partridge, Cox.  Apart from the Partridge photographs in Caston Church vestry, it is the only piece of Partridge memorabilia of which I am aware!

My thanks are due especially to Josie and to Jane Horner for some of the details herein.

John Barnes


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