My husband was told, about 10 years ago, that his great grandfather John, on his male line, came down from Scotland to Maidenhead in Berkshire to build Brunel’s famous Sounding Arch bridge over the River Thames, which carries the once Great Western Railway on its way from Paddington to Bristol.
He carried out some research at the time and discovered that the bridge was actually built in 1839, before John was even born! Although he could well have worked on the later widening in the 1880’s. It wasn’t until I started researching the family nearly 3 years ago, that the story continued to disintegrate.
I discovered that John was not born in Scotland as we were told, but in Bisham, a farming community just a few miles away. I was able to take his family back another 3 generations there to a marriage in 1776.
Subsequently I started researching the various branches of this family and I made contact with my husband’s third cousin once removed through Genes Reunited.
She was in possession of a family Bible which recorded that the family had moved down from Scotland to Gloucester in 1732. She had also discovered that John’s father’s farm went in bankruptcy in the 1890s.
So it does appear that it was his father’s bankruptcy and subsequent death which forced John and his family to move into Maidenhead and to work as a labourer. It must have been the shame of the bankruptcy which made them want to wipe out over 150 years of family history and to reinvent themselves.
However I have yet to confirm whether John actually did work on Brunel’s famous bridge!
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the brick arches are the widest and flattest in the world, each having a span of 128 feet, with a rise of only 24 feet. His critics at the time were convinced that the structure would collapse.
© Velma Dinkley 2007