Walter Penny of Wiltshire, shepherd

One of Ari’s 3x great-grandfathers was Walter Penny, the son of gamekeeper Henry Penny. Walter was born on 19 September 1860 at Fonthill Bishop, in Wiltshire.

Grazing ponies near Fonthill Bishop

He was christened on 21 October 1860.

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Wiltshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1916

In 1871, the family were living at Woodbine Cottage, and Walter was attending school. By the next census in 1881, he was working as an agricultural labourer.

On 23 February 1884 he married Lydia Monica Beckett at All Saints Church, Fonthill Bishop. The couple had thirteen children. By 1901 Walter was working as a shepherd, and in 1907 he appeared in a newspaper account of prizewinners at the Gillingham Agricultural Society’s Annual Show, where “a drizzling rain fell during the morning, and though the weather cleared up for a time several very heavy showers fell in the afternoon, driving the spectators to the tents and the shelter of the trees”.

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Salisbury and Winchester Journal

In 1911 the family were at 9 Zeals Road, Zeals.

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1911 census
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Photo of Walter, courtesy of Claire Hewlett

Walter died in 1925.


Ari, this is how you are related to Walter:

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James Penny of Fonthill Bishop

One of Ari’s 6x great-grandfathers was James Penny. He was born in 1772 in Chilmark, Wiltshire, and baptised on 26 July of that year.

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Wiltshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812

(It looks like Parry, but there is another entry further down the page that convinced me that it says Penny.) James’s parents were Robert and Ann.

The second record we have for James is his marriage, which took place on 19 March 1795 at the church in Fonthill Bishop. His bride was Judith Strong,

All Saints Church
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Wiltshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1916

James and Judith had six children. Fortunately, they were still alive in 1841 for the first national census, so we can find out his occupation, which is ‘agricultural labourer’. James and Judith are both listed as 65. They are living in Fonthill Bishop with daughter Mary (40). Mary didn’t marry, and after her parents’ death she went to live with her brother Robert, a timber sawyer.

In 1851 James was a widower, living with daughter Mary and a grandson, Henry. They are listed as paupers.

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(This Henry is Ari’s 4x great-grandfather, the son of Mary Anne Ballard and John Penny.)

James died on 30 July 1856, aged 84. Occupation was given as agricultural labourer, and the cause of death was chronic bronchitis. Charlotte Penny was present at his death. This is likely to be his granddaughter, the younger sister of Henry. His burial took place in Fonthill Bishop on 2 August. We visited the churchyard and found some possible relations, but not James.


Ari, this is how you are related to James:

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Mary Anne Ballard of Chicklade

Mary Anne was one of Ari’s 5x great-grandmothers, the mother of Henry Penny. She was born in 1804 in Chicklade, Wiltshire, the daughter of Benjamin Ballard and Elizabeth, and baptised on 12 August.


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The Wiltshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538–1812 registers tell a very sad story for 1805, when Mary Anne was still a baby:

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On 25 Jan 1826, Mary Anne married an agricultural labourer called John Penny at the church in Fonthill Bishop.


Mary Anne and John had six children: Henry, Elizabeth (Betsy), Jane, Charlotte, Ellen and William. We can see them in the 1841 census:

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Mary Anne died two years later, at the age of 38, and John remarried in 1848. The cause of death was “constipation of the bowels” and the death was registered by her daughter Jane.

These llamas live in a field in Fonthill Bishop and wanted to be part of the story.


Ari, this is how you are related to Mary Anne:

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Henry Penny, gamekeeper

Another of Ari’s ancestors (his 4x great-grandfather) was Henry Penny, who lived all his life in Fonthill Bishop, Wiltshire. British History Online tells us this about the Manor of Fonthill:

“Athelwulf’s morning-gift to his wife Athelthryth was a 5-hide estate at Fonthill which in the late 9th century she sold to Oswulf. Helmstan later acquired it but, when accused of the theft of a belt, his right was disputed by Athelhelm. Helmstan proved his right but for help in doing so and for a life-lease granted the land to Ordlaf. In exchange for land elsewhere Ordlaf in 900 granted Fonthill, then said to be 10 hides, to Denewulf, bishop of Winchester.”*

Henry was born on 28 Sep 1826, christened at All Saints Church on 28 Dec, married there on 5 Nov 1853, and was buried there on 27 Jan 1909.

At the age of 14, he was an agricultural labourer. We can get a flavour of his life from this report in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of 5 Feb 1853 (from Findmypast):

henry penny salisb and winch jnl 5 feb 1853

He is mentioned in another account from the same newspaper on 15 Oct 1870:

henry penny salisb and winch jnl 15 oct 1870

By April 1871 was living with his wife Mary Ann and four of his six children at Woodbine Cottage, working as a farm labourer. In 1891, his son Walter is living next door with his own family.

In 1901, the last census before his death, he is shown as a game keeper and widower, still in Woodbine Cottage (the last house in the parish), with his daughter Bessie, son-in-law Frederick, and two grandchildren, Thomas and Elsie.


*A P Baggs, Elizabeth Crittall, Jane Freeman and Janet H Stevenson, ‘Parishes: Fonthill Bishop’, in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 11, Downton Hundred; Elstub and Everleigh Hundred, ed. D A Crowley (London, 1980), pp. 77-82. British History Online [accessed 22 July 2017].

Ari, this shows how you are related to Henry:

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