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So What Next ?
Our first investigation around 1975.

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So this was the tale related to us by Grandma during her final months.  It must have sounded vaguely convincing as I well remember a weekend soon after, Mum Dad and myself went to visit the village of Turvey to see what we could find out.


Grandma's maiden name had been Purser and her father had indeed come from the village of Turvey. We just assumed that the wealthy family would have been Pursers too. We went to poke around the village Church.  As the great pile of Turvey House was easily in sight of the village it seemed logical that whatever family owned Turvey House would be well represented in the local church, we hunted high and low inside the Church and out but there was not even one purser to be found, just  wall to wall members of the Higgins family who were clearly the local Big-Shots.  Somewhat disappointed we next visited the church in Pavenham, there were a few Pursers there but we knew who they were, related to us yes but nothing to do with  " T'Big Owse ". So clearly Grandma was indeed losing her marbles. To be fair, after a year or two cooped up with a ward full of drooling old ladies, who wouldn't!!  


So that was the end of that, or so we thought. No lost fortune to be found and sadly, no, his lordship did not repent on his deathbed .


There was however a little post-script to this tale. After we had been to look around Turvey and found an excess of Higgins with a total absence of Pursers, we all pretty much forgot about it.  


However a while later whilst visiting, Dad got Grandma onto the subject again and asked her about the wealthy family saying presumably they would have been Pursers like her. Its Grandma's reply that I always remember. "No" she said " Purser came from the Groom not the rich family. They were called Higgins " she sat back looking thoughtful " Yes, Your Aunt Jane told me all about it years and years ago.  According to her, there was a church stuffed to the rafters with Higgins, and us related to them all. She always was a daft old bat, no doubt dreamed the whole thing up"

Through my life there are very few occasions when I can remember either Mum or Dad being lost for words, never mind both of them at the same time. If I was to say Mum's lower jaw was on the floor doing pushups you might get the idea. There truly was a stunned silence, Mum Dad and I just looked at each other whilst poor Grandma looked at all of us and just wondered what had she done or said to produce this effect.

There then followed a conversation / interrogation when Dad went for each and every detail Grandma could remember that had anything to do with Higgins' or Turvey.  Sadly apart from the tale already related she could add little.


Mum however in true form rose to the occasion, taking our deliberations into the realms of the truly surreal.  This all, she announced fitted in perfectly, she had of course always suspected that there was some family link to the rich and titled. How had she come to form this amazing opinion ? the reply was Great Aunt Jane's hands. On the two occasions over the previous 30 years when Mum had met Great Aunt Jane, she had been struck, unmistakably by the fact that Jane had very aristocratic looking hands !!

What can one say?  in the face of such penetrating insight as this, all thoughts of family trees, tracing relatives, heir-hunters and suchlike were deemed unnecessary, Great Aunt Jane had aristocratic looking hands, so that was it, case proven, slam dunk !  All that we had to do now was produce the legal documentation to prove that whichever Lord of Turvey it was who disinherited his daughter had revoked the disinheritance and we too could own half a brick of Turvey House.

Needless to say reality was soon returned to, disinherited or not, even if Grandmas tale had enough of a kernel of fact, such that we could prove a connection, this all happened 200 years ago and was predicated around the misdeeds of a younger daughter.We were not going to find ourselves suddenly being the owners of an estate !! To be fair not even Mother in her most spectacular flights of fancy, had supposed that we would be. This was a fascinating bit of family legend that had most unexpectedly turned out to possibly have some factual basis. However it did get us all interested in exploring and tracing family history and 40 years later, here I am writing this.

The first thing to do was to contact Dad's cousin Steve Hall  to see if he or his wife knew anything about it all. It seemed that Grandma's sister , Aunt Em had told Gwen and Steve a similar story years ago but that they had dismissed it as " the sort of rubbish that was Em's stock in trade", so they too were intrigued like us.

We visited Turvey again and noted down or photographed as many as possible of the Higgins memorials in and around the church. This produced a bewildering mass of names and dates that was not going to be easy to unravel.  Help arrived in the shape of the Vicar. He had spotted us in the church and was curious as to what we were doing ( or were we nicking the silver ). When we explained, he too was interested. He had been Vicar of All Saints Turvey for over 20 years and was a mine of information. He took us on a tour of the memorials and helped put them together.

So we had two family lines but not a sniff of any connection. Dad wrote to Mr Hanbury at Turvey House, he being the current incumbent and descended from the Higgins. He shared our intrigue and was most helpful. He gave Dad a copy of his family tree and looked in the family archives but could find no mention of such an event.


The more we thought about it, the more unlikely it seemed that we could be a branch of the Higgins family. We were convinced that there was a grain of truth in Grandma's story but which bits are true  and what is not ?

There are numerous inconsistencies in the story but this is only to be expected, true or not as a family story got told, retold but never recorded.

If our ancestors had contact with Turvey House it must be more likely that this would have been as staff rather than family.

One of the maids becoming infatuated with one of the grooms would not have been a particularly unusual thing. However if she became pregnant then once it was found out, his lordship would not be pleased. Any scandal or poor behaviour by his employees, he would consider to reflect on himself, unless it was dealt with quickly and without sentiment. 

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