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Somerset & Dorset
Family History Society

The Whittle Box

IMG_3270The questions that kept popping into my head all began when I saw a green box with a name painted on it in an antique shop in Sherborne. Who had owned the box? Who had painted the name? What was the script used and what did it say? The script turns out to be ‘Blackletter’, identified for me by a friend who enjoys calligraphy, and the name – C T R Whittle. Some rudimentary research led to one Charlie Thomas Whittle (b.1877 in Yetminster) who went off to board at Kingston school in Yeovil around 1890. Could this green wooden trunk have transported all that he needed to take to school with him? We will probably never know. Further research would also be necessary to show if C T R Whittle was related to the local brewer, Abel Whittle, whose family chest tomb stands outside the south door of Sherborne Abbey.

Whittle tomb cropped

The Whittle family tomb on the south side of Sherborne Abbey. Photograph: Barry Brock


With Barbara Adcock (left) in Sherborne.

The names of Abel Whittle, his wife Ann and five of their sons can be found carved on the chest tomb, which first brought me together with Barbara Adcock. She was visiting Sherborne from Australia, as she had seen the tomb on a previous visit, and wondered if there was a connection to her great grandmother, Emily Whittle, who was born in 1853 in Sherborne. Emily’s father, George, worked with his uncle, Abel Whittle, in the brewery in Trendle Street. She married James Pearce and they had four children, all born in Sherborne, before they left in the 1880s for South Australia where six more children were born. Barbara made contact with the SDFHS Family History Centre in Sherborne where we met, and with the help of Barry Brock, who has a soft spot for Abel Whittle having researched him extensively while looking into Sherborne’s brewing past, we found that Abel Whittle was Emily’s great uncle. The brewery connection surprised Barbara greatly as the Australian branch of the family was originally strictly teetotal. Barbara had a wonderful couple of days in Sherborne soaking up the atmosphere and following in the footsteps of her great grandmother who would have left the little town nearly a century and a half ago. It is quite amazing how peering into the old buildings in Trendle Street Barbara was able to be transported back to the time when her great grandmother was growing up there. Around Sherborne by Nicola Darling-Finan and Katherine Barker’s Sherborne Camera were purchased in Chapter House Books to be taken back to Australia to evoke Emily’s time in some memorable old photos.

On a previous trip to England, Barbara had visited North Cornwall where the family of her father, Jack Ede, had originated and she purchased an old Methodist church clock made by a member of the Ede family in about 1875. She was so delighted to have this tangible link back to her father’s past and it was with this knowledge in my mind, that, when I saw the Whittle box for sale, I was prompted to email Barbara with a photo of the box. The reply came quickly back as, urged on by her children, she was eager to purchase the box and have it transported to Australia in order to have this link back to her mother’s side of the family. I went to the shop and brought it home with me and I think I suspected that this was the easy part and that actually getting it to Australia might be a lot more difficult!


The box packaged for its long journey to Australia.

However, we will gloss over all of that, plus the fact that the box cost a fair amount at the other end as it had to go into quarantine in Australia and be ‘fumigated’. Barbara and her children think that everything has been so worthwhile as they have this very solid link back to the name Whittle that had turned up in an antique shop in the town of their ancestor’s birth, now sitting in their home in Australia.

Box in Aus cropped

C T R Whittle’s box in its new home.

Barbara Elsmore

29 August 2016

Member and Guest Blogs Welcome

We welcome guest and member blog posts on any topic with a family history connection and invite you to send your contributions, which should include photo/photos, to the editor Barbara Elsmore