Today turned out nice and sunny but rather cold so I dressed in many layers and set out to catch the #3 bus to Ryde right after breakfast.
The walk to the bus is shaded with trees that grow over the road to form a shaded canopy. The bus takes me through Sandown, then Lake and then Brading and finally through Ryde to the bus station on the Esplanade, the only dual carriageway (4 lane road) on the Island. I walk up Union Road (where Rebecca and family lived in 1841), stopping for a coffee and then further up. The maps certainly never gave me the idea of how steep the roads were in Lower Ryde.
I reach St. John’s Road where the Williams family lived and walk along, looking for #75. It’s a pretty busy road by Isle of Wight standards, mostly lined with semi-detached houses. After years of different owners, each house looks quite different. I find where George and Harriet Williams lived at #75 (where Jessie lived from the time she was three). The road, like all the roads in Ryde, is a hill and I don’t realize that I’m holding the camera on a tilt when I take the picture!
The house looks quite large from the outside and I try nonchalantly to look into the back yard but can’t see very much over the wall because of all the trees. I picture George watching out the bay window, waiting for Jessie to get home and wonder if the rounded top window set back over the door could have been her room.
I stop and look at #79 where they lived for a while. The house is the same, just a few doors down but the brick has been painted white.
Walking back, I find Mount Street where Harriet’s sister Helen lived. Helen and her husband Jacob Day lived there for many years but I’ve forgotten to bring the house number along so I just look down the street. Less busy than St. John’s Road, it looks like a quiet and peaceful place to call home. I continue walking (uphill, always uphill it seems) looking for All Saints Church where the family attended services.
The church sits high on a hill, overlooking Lower Ryde. I walk around it to see all the sides and find to my delight that there is a small gift shop inside and that the church is open this Wednesday afternoon. I never thought that I would be able to see inside!
I tell her that this is where my ancestors attended church and she invites me to take photographs of the inside of the church. It is pretty large inside and has a really friendly feeling about it all sunny and light. There are needlepoint cushions hanging from hooks along the backs of the pews. In Canada we just sit on the hard wood – what a great idea! I hang out for a while, just wandering around and getting the feel for the place and then ask directions to the cemetery from the volunteer.walk up the street towards the cemetery gates, just up (hill) from the church.
As I step into the cemetery, I see the oldest part on my left, where they’ve let the grass and wildflowers go wild. Somewhere in there is the Leek family – father Charles with baby Harriet and young Walter. I walk further in towards the posted map and then realize that none of the sections are mapped and that my map of Rebecca’s section won’t do me much good without knowing where her section actually is. There is a note on the door of the building that says “back in a few minutes”. I sure hope so!
My map seems to have some type of path running through it so I make note of several names along the path and then wander around looking for any of those graves. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Then I remember that I have a picture of her grave from the on line site so I flip open my laptop. Her grave has a wrought iron fence parallel to it – this could help! The grounds keeper notices me and comes over to see if he can help. I show him the picture and we start wandering again, but this time, looking for a fence near a path. After about a half hour, he spots a car beside the building. Looks like they’re back so he takes me inside. In no time, I see the section reference map and get an idea of where Rebecca’s section is and after that, it couldn’t be easier. The grounds keeper comes with me, because by this time, he wants to see her grave too! And there it is, inscription barely legible in the bright sunshine but definitely I can see “Rebecca Storey” and underneath it reads “Caroline Leek”, her daughter. It seems a beautiful place to be laid to rest, surrounded by trees and lots of green grass and the whole cemetery is well tended and cared for.
I’m so glad to have found Rebecca. Of all my Isle of Wight ancestors, she is my favourite. Perhaps it is her name I like, or maybe I admire her because after being widowed at a young age with five small children, she appears to have made it on her own in a very male dominated world. There is no sign of her having received poor relief, but rather she appears to have started her own small grocery and became a tea dealer and supported her children well.