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{$text['mgr_brown1']} Eldridge 7

Elizabeth Langford and William Ewell

by Winifred Mary Eldridge
Introduced by Richard Eldridge


My mother made many notes and attempted various drafts to show the family line descending from William Ewell (he was my great great grandfather). Most of this research was carried out by visiting churches in Kent which had links with the family. With some interpretation and a lot of help from my wife, Brenda, the following time line has been constructed. This is the third of a series of articles based on her memoires.

Foreword – Alan D Craxford

“The Blean is the area of countryside and villages between the cathedral city of Canterbury and the towns of Faversham, Whitstable and Herne Bay. It is a mosaic of villages, woodlands, farms, local villages, pubs and shops.” (1)

Blean Woods cover over eleven square miles. Hicks Forstall Road runs through East Blean Wood.

We have already noted the reminiscences of Winifred Curtis, Richard's mother, in these pages. Her account of her early years living in Kent can be found at: My Early Years: Personal Memories of Kent and her family's post war experiences are in the second part (Personal memories of Kent: Chapter 1: Family life after the war).

Chapter 3: My mother's side of the family

St Martin of Tours, Herne, Kent

St Martin of Tours (2)

St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich

St Mary the Virgin (3)

Mary and Elizabeth Langford were sisters and came from a wealthy family. We think they lived at Walmer Hall, Sturry, near Canterbury (now a hotel). Elizabeth married William Ewell, son of Peter Ewell who lived at Hicks Forstall Farm. William took over the farm when his father died. Elizabeth came to the farm after her marriage to William bringing her horse and carriage which was lined with red silk. She also brought her piano. She was a rather extravagant lady and spent money very freely.

The farm went through a bad patch and William lost several cows and horses. They eventually became so poor that they had to move out of Hicks Forstall farm to a cottage in Herne village. William died there and is buried in the church yard.

William and Elizabeth had 6 children, one, Elizabeth dying young from scarlet fever. She is buried in Fordwich churchyard. One daughter, Mary Ann – my grandmother – was sent out into service as the family was so poor. Mary Ann was so badly fed in service that she ate cabbage stalks to stave off hunger. A friend of her mothers saw her doing this and informed her mother and Mary Ann was taken home again.

Mary Ewell and William Cannings

Mary Anne Ewell


William Cannings


Mary Ann had one daughter, Alice, before she married William Cannings. After William Ewell’s wife, Elizabeth died, Alice went to keep house for him.

[The 1851 (4) census lists William and Elizabeth (their surname is spelled Ewel) living at Hicksforstall Farm and working as a woodman. With them are sons Edwin and William, daughter Mary Ann and Peter, his father - aged 90 years and in receipt of alms

The 1871 (5) census return shows William and Elizabeth in residence at the farm with their son William. He is described as a grazier of six acres. They were both aged about 70 years.]

Continued in column 2...

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Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught

Prince Arthur (7)

William Cannings (born May 11th 1840) came from Barton Stacey, near Andover, Hampshire. His mother, whose maiden name was Gates, died when he was a young man and his father married again. William was not happy at home and so he joined the army. He travelled abroad a lot with the army and took his wife with him. He became a sergeant. The Duke of Connaught was Colonel-in-Chief of his Regiment. Grannie Cannings was given a tortoiseshell tea caddy when they came home from one tour abroad. Aunt Dora (married to Alfred, one of William’s sons) had the caddy and it used to sit on a side table in her sitting room.

[The 6th (Duke of Connaught’s Own) Battalion; The Hampshire Regiment (6) received its accolade in 1893 when Prince Arthur , Queen Victoria’s third son, who was the first Duke was made Honorary Colonel in Chief. ]

After my grandfather came out of the army, he took to drinking heavily and would come home after the pubs closed and fall asleep on the floor. His wife was a very tiny woman could not move him and would cover him up and leave him until morning when he became sober.

The family lived at 2 Cotton Mill Cottages – tar painted cottages which backed on to a small tributary of the river Stour on which was built a cotton mill which supplied many people in Canterbury with work. The family was very poor and life was very difficult with my grandfather drinking a lot. Money was very scarce and my mother was often only given gruel – a thin mixture of flour and water. ( I used to make this for my children to use as glue to stick things in their scrap books!)

Her father in spite of his precarious position, loved his children dearly, especially the younger two and my mother in particular. His children, apart from my mother, did not think much of their father but I think that after being a sergeant in the Buffs, civilian life must have been tame.

My grandmother Cannings also had a disappointing life. Her mother came from a very wealthy family who lost a lot of money in farming. She, my grandmother, was sent out to another farmer to do housework. She had a hard and sad life and died of cancer of the throat. Those who knew her loved her but criticised her for siding with her husband and his drunken bouts. In those days there was nothing else to do.

Mary's line

Mary Langford married a Mr. Smith and had two sons and a daughter, Mary, who became pregnant and the family decided to go to America. On the journey, Mary became ill and later died at sea. The rest of the family seem to have made a good life for themselves there and had a large plantation. A picture of this used to hang in Aunt Louisa’s house in Canterbury.

Mary Langford often wrote to Mary Ann, her niece and sent her parcels of clothes. My mother, Edith Curtis, could remember the parcels arriving.

In 1977 my sister May and I went to see if the old farmhouse at Hicks Forstall where the Ewells lived was still there. All we could find was a fairly modern bungalow. There was a notice on the door advertising lettuces for sale. We knocked on the door and a woman aged about 60 answered and we bought two lettuces. I asked her if there used to be an old farmhouse and she said “yes, but it was pulled down and the bungalow was built in it’s place.” She said she had been very sorry to see it pulled down but in those days old houses weren’t valued. She was interested that our family had lived there and thought her family could well have taken it over as they had been there for a long time.

Edith Cannings

Edith Cannings was my mother, a beautiful red haired young woman adored and loved by my father. She was born on 4th July 1881, in Battersea, South London, one of a family of five children, a boy and four girls. One, Florence, was younger than my mother and died of ‘inflammation of the bowel’ - acute appendicitis- but in those days no one knew about an operation to remove the appendix. Later the family moved to Canterbury.

She had two other sisters – Louie who married Thomas Curtis ( my father’s brother) and Alice who was illegitimate and married to Thomas Holloway and lived in Dover. The boy, my Uncle Alfred, was seven years older than my mother. He married Dora Taylor and they went to Australia although they returned to England in the 1920’s

My mother’s father, mother and sister all died before my mother was 22. Those who met her then said she was sad and cried easily. About this time she was in ‘service’ at the Wilderness, Canterbury with Mr and Mrs Henry Headley. Here she met my father William Curtis who was a gardener/footman. They had a governess cart drawn by a white pony called Peter. My father used to look after him.

My mother and father were married at St. Mildred’s Church, Canterbury in 1906. Although they were poor in worldly goods they enjoyed themselves; they had good food and for those times, good time off.


1. “The Blean”. Canterbury & Swale's Ancient Woodland
2. The Church of St Martin of Tours, Herne, Kent: Kent Resources
3. The Church of St Mary the Virgin: Fordwich Church, Kent
4. 1851 England Census: Blean, Sturry. HO107/1625 1d 257 7
5. 1871 England Census: Blean, Kent. RG10/973 4 38
6. Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught: Wikipedia
7. Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught
8. The Ewell Family Bible and inscription: The Ewell Family at The Family History of Alexander Curtis
9. The Canning Family Bible and inscription: The Canning Family at The Family History of Alexander Curtis

Added: March 20th 2006
Updated: April 20th 2012

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