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Newsletter – 31st May 2022



Prime Minister at illegal gathering                                                         

Free newspapers at Findmypast for the Jubilee

Save 25% at British Newspaper Archive EXCLUSIVE

Call my agent

Findmypast add York directories

Eau de vie

Gardeners Corner

Peters Tips

Stop Press UPDATED


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 26th May) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!



Prime Minister at illegal gathering

Not only was the Prime Minister there, so were the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge – yes, the wedding of Archibald Primrose and Hannah, his bride, was the talk of the town. But it shouldn’t have taken place when it did, and they most certainly shouldn’t have allowed it to be officially recorded!


© City of Westminster Archives Centre, Ancestry.com – used by kind permission of Ancestry


The groom was the Earl of Rosebery, the bride was the sole heir of Meyer (or Mayer) de Rothschild, a member of the banking family. Though a hereditary peer, and a member of the House of Lords, Rosebery was to serve as Prime Minister from March 1894 to June 1895, whilst the witnesses at the wedding included the then Prime Minister (Lord Beaconsfield, better known as Benjamin Disraeli), who escorted the bride to the altar, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and Queen Victoria's cousin George, the Duke of Cambridge.


Why was the marriage illegal? Because they were both already married. However, whilst they were committing perjury, they weren’t committing bigamy!


The wedding at Christ Church, in London’s fashionable Mayfair district, had been preceded by a civil ceremony at the register office in Mount Street, Grosvenor Square. Whilst it would have been perfectly legal to have a religious ceremony after the civil proceedings, it ought not to have been a marriage ceremony and it certainly shouldn’t have been registered. However it was, and as a result there are two entries in the GRO marriage index for the quarter, and two entries in the GRO’s copy registers:



According to a report in the Manchester Times of 6th April 1878, the Registrar General contended that because the church wedding was ‘by licence’ and the licence stated that they were bachelor and spinster, no offence had been committed. However there were many who disagreed, though they came from a range of different viewpoints – as you will see when you read Chapter 5 of Professor Rebecca Probert’s excellent Tying the Knot.



Free newspapers at Findmypast for the Jubilee

If you don’t have access to Tying the Knot through your local library or family history society, you can always look through the newspapers of the period for articles about this controversial ‘wedding’ – and until 6th June you can search them free at Findmypast:







Alternatively, take advantage of the EXCLUSIVE opportunity that I’ve arranged at the dedicated British Newspaper Archive website, which offers a much more powerful search…..



Save 25% at British Newspaper Archive EXCLUSIVE

British Newspaper Archive are offering a 25% discount on 12 month subscriptions, but only on 1st June (the offer ends at midnight, London time). However as a reader of the LostCousins newsletter you have exclusive early access to the offer – for you it starts RIGHT NOW!


You don’t need an offer code, just use the link below and it’ll be added automatically:




What makes British Newspaper Archive special – apart from more than 53 million pages from historic newspapers (the biggest online collection of British newspapers in the world)? In a word, it’s the search. For a start, you can not only search for articles that include specific words or phrases, you also specify words that you want to exclude.


Suppose I wanted to search for articles in which I’m mentioned – the results would be dominated by mentions of my name-sake and near contemporary who was a racehorse trainer. So here’s what I would search for:


+"peter calver" -horse -trainer -race -furlong -handicap


This search returns just 12 results from the 1990s, rather than the 67 I’d get at Findmypast – so it’s much easier to look through for the 4 results that actually relate to me, rather than someone else with same name. 67 results might not seem very daunting, but bear in mind that mine’s a pretty rare name, and that there are far more pages in the archive from the 19th century than the 20th – if I had been looking for my great-grandfathers John Wells and John Bright at Findmypast I’d have been deluged with results (over 50,000 and over 250,000 respectively).   


The other brilliant feature is being able to search only pages added to the archive after a particular date (or between a range of dates) – it means you don’t have to keep ploughing through the same unwanted results in order to find the few relevant results that might have been added. Indeed, it’s such a useful feature I wish that all sites offered it (there’s only one other site I can think of that makes repeated searches so simple, and that’s LostCousins!).


Tip: the newspaper collection is continually expanding – millions of new pages are added each year, so being able to restrict your search to the new additions is incredibly useful.  



Call my agent

If you search the British Newspaper Archive for references to rock musician Aynsley Dunbar you won’t find any articles from 1966 (nor are there any at Newspapers.com). Dunbar was a drummer who played with the Mojos, John Mayall, Frank Zappa, John Lennon, Jefferson Starship, Jeff Beck, and David Bowie to name but a few – but you might be forgiven for thinking that in 1966 he’d disappeared off the face of the earth. Of course, they do say that if you remember the ‘60s you weren’t there…..


During the summer of 1966 a couple of new faces appeared amongst the congregation at the church I attended (and where I had been baptised a few years earlier). Most of the attendees were regulars, so anyone new would have been noticeable, but this young man with his long dark hair, velvet suit, and blonde girlfriend really stood out from the assembled throng. Whispers went round that he was a famous rock star, and though the name Aynsley Dunbar didn’t mean much to me, I’d certainly heard of the Mojos. I’d have been even more impressed if I’d known that he was going to join John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, as they were the most popular band amongst my schoolfriends (so it would have done a lot for my ‘street cred’).


In those days couples who wanted to get married in church were expected to demonstrate that they understood the commitment they were entering into, and at our church this meant turning up for Sunday service and attending a series of private sessions with the minister. So for 6 Sundays during that summer I was sat a few rows behind Aynsley Dunbar from Liverpool, and his fiancée Wendy Walters, who I now know from the GRO birth indexes was born just a few miles away from me in Romford.


Sadly, like so many rock marriages, it didn’t last – though I didn’t discover that until this week, when the name ‘Aynsley Dunbar’ suddenly popped into my head, inspiring me to take what little I could remember and see what I could find out using family history resources and other Internet searches.


It turned out that by 1972 Wendy was married to guitarist Ricardo Gaxiola, and also acted as his manager; unfortunately that marriage didn’t last either, and in 1978 she married heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio (né Padavona). The following year Dio took over as lead singer of Black Sabbath from Ozzy Osbourne, probably best known to readers of this newsletter as the husband of Sharon Osborne. Wendy’s third marriage lasted until Dio’s death in 2010.


It’s usually easier to trace people who are ‘personalities’ of one kind or another, but I still find it intriguing how much I was able to discover starting from just a name and a vague memory. The reason I haven’t said much about Aynsley Dunbar himself is because he has his own website and – in any case – tracing men is easier because they don’t usually change their surname when they marry.


But one thing on his website was rather unexpected – it turns out that if I wanted to book Aynsley Dunbar for a gig or an interview I’d have to speak to his agent…… Wendy Dio! I obviously don’t know the circumstances, but I do find it touching that, half a century after their divorce, they’ve still got a connection of some kind. Till death us do part?



Findmypast add York directories

I wouldn’t normally mention trade directories, as many of them have been available online or on CD ROM for donkey’s years, so it’s hardly news. However, I was struck by the coincidence that just two weeks after my review of Rowntrees – the Early History appeared, Findmypast added an extensive collection of directories for the City of York, ancestral home of the sweet manufacturer, and inspiration for the infamous Yorkie Bar. As you can imagine, the first thing I did was look up the Rowntree family, and if you follow this link you can look them up too!


[Image courtesy of Explore York Libraries and Archives; used by permission of Findmypast]


Note: the Rowntree family also popped up when I was reading Tying the Knot  John Stephenson Rowntree’s ‘Quakerism Past and Present’, written when he was just 24, identified the rules against ‘marrying out’ as being primarily responsible for the decline in membership of the Quaker movement, and directly led to the Marriage (Society of Friends) Act 1860.



Eau de vie

These days most households in the developed world can get water just by turning on a tap – but it hasn’t always been so easy. My wife spotted an excellent article from the Spring 2011 issue of the Saffron Walden Historical Journal which has been reproduced as a PDF that you can download free when you follow this link. Water Wells and Handpumps of Uttlesford by Sybil Thomas covers the history of wells from prehistoric times up to the 20th century, with examples from the Uttlesford area, though I suspect it would be equally applicable to other areas of the country.



Gardeners Corner

I’m delighted that I’ve been able to persuade my wife to write about her latest horticultural exploits…..


On Friday I arranged to meet a fellow gardening friend at RHS Hyde Hall gardens near Chelmsford, Essex directly after visiting my elderly mother in her care home. Arriving 30 minutes late and with rumbling bellies, we found the main entrance closed for resurfacing without any warning, and with no RHS staff present to deal with a steady stream of angry visitors (this unenviable task was left to an unhappy man working for the contractor). The diversion took 25 scenic minutes, and the last turning wasn’t even signposted – thankfully I saw a newly gravelled farm track next to a BP garage and went for it.


It wasn’t if I hadn’t prepared for the journey – I had visited the website the previous evening and checked the “plan your journey” page, but there was no warning despite the presumably long-planned work to resurface all the major roadways a week before the Jubilee bank holiday. I’m glad now that I decided not to renew my RHS subscription when it fell due! The £18.10 bill for two soup de jour, bread, and filter coffee was also expensive enough for my friend and I to regret not trying one of the many picturesque pubs we passed en route (but then we might have abandoned the garden idea altogether, which would have been a pity).


There is nothing like a walk around beautiful parkland and gardens to compensate for a long, hot and hungry drive. I carried my mother’s Steiff bear on my hip, Brideshead style (she had insisted  that the bear was annoying her, so she didn’t want him to live in the care home with her any longer). It seemed churlish to leave him in the car on such a lovely day.


Last time I visited these gardens it was late October and before the pre-winter tidy up, so there was little of interest. But in sunny late May, the gardens were alive with colour and texture. Large crescents of vibrant blue irises surrounded by low growing evergreens looked outstanding. There was a massive grevillea juniperena bordering the Australian garden, not especially hardy in the UK but happy facing directly south; it has shaggy Christmas tree foliage tipped with bright red flowers like bergamot heads (I have since discovered that grevillea rosmarinus is hardier, and am tempted to try it as an undemanding evergreen which flowers throughout the warmer months).


I also enjoyed the combination of smart topiary evergreens and dozens of six-foot tall allium “Forelock” dancing in a light breeze. Other very tall varieties include the dramatically burgundy “Red Mohican” and “Summer Drummer”, although investing in sufficient plants to make a similar impact could be expensive. In the same formal cottage garden stood a stunning pair of pyrus salicifolia pendula - weeping silver leaved pear trees, shaped into tight standard drumheads which although attractive seemed not to suit their usual shaggy, pendulous nature. I initially mistook them for clipped olive or Swiss Willow, the latter being arguably better suited to silver-leaved topiary creations. From a gardener’s perspective, the number of missing or broken labels was irritating; I had to look up many of the plants online, and decided not to make any plant purchases at the shop if they had not been clearly labelled in the gardens.


As with the cafe, the plant and gift shops are on the expensive side, though spacious and well-stocked. On a rainy day it would be difficult not to splash out. And the combination of vast open areas to walk, combined with several different types of gardens, does make for a healthy and interesting day out. I left feeling less grumpy and much more uplifted - and George the bear had a grrreat time too. Not sure we will visit again for a while, though.


On Saturday morning, an article on the BBC News site about the horticulturist Ellen Wilmott caught my attention because I had slipped uninvited into an overgrown corner of her gardens many years ago while living in Brentwood, Essex. At that time, the Warley estate was undergoing a second transformation from a large mental hospital campus to a luxury apartment estate. Walking near the quietest end, I noticed the most beautiful daffodils that I’d ever seen – and stepped inside a magical abandoned garden of ruins, spring plants and overgrown shrubs. The memory receded until reading the article some 30 years later – back then I had no time or affinity for gardening, so it is interesting to reflect on the hidden clues of that experience. The gardens are now open to the public, if somewhat tidied up.


Back in my own garden I have enjoyed potting up blueberries, three beautiful tree peonies and half a dozen bare root shrub roses – all bought very cheaply – so that I can grow them on and monitor their health before finding them permanent homes. Sometimes, buying younger shrubs can save a lot of money and they often settle better than planting out much larger specimens. However, I have learned to resist most bargains that are sold “bare root” in late spring because they may fail. Eastern England is comparatively dry, making summer gardening taxing enough without having to nurture plants with underdeveloped root systems. There have been too many years when “I have tried and they have died”. It is enough effort to keep potted plants comfortable because their roots are too shallow to reach the cool, damp earth lower down; bare root plants need overnight soaking before planting, and then regular watering even to encourage basic leaf production. So do check carefully before whether a summer bargain plant is potted or bare root!


As Monty Don often reminds us, given all the effort invested, we should make time to properly enjoy our gardens. This is when I notice the interesting things that are missed when hard at work (as  with family history research). For example, we have wild purple foxgloves in the garden. But last night I spotted a white foxglove emerging from a young philadelphus in pure white bloom, and a pale salmon foxglove emerging from the centre of a wayward shrub rose with blush salmon blooms. A professional landscaper friend thought I should claim all the credit, but nature’s design is way ahead of my capabilities.


Most gardens need the grass to be short enough to walk on. Last year we experimented with fashionably longer “wildlife friendly” grass, but it became a soggy breeding ground for slugs and snails. Wave after wave of enormous gastropods (the clue is clearly in the name) emerged every evening from the long grass to devour anything and everything palatable to them – including our cat’s dinner. Ahead of Peter’s cataract surgery on Tuesday, he has been mowing the grass to minimise the chance of another infestation – and also so that we can walk on the grass and admire the beauty of the shrubs providing food for insects and birds. There is a balance to be struck between ecology, beauty and practicality, but it’s worth remembering that the birds can pick off slugs and snails more easily when they can reach them.


My gardening efforts will be more limited while Peter recuperates. However, an hour or two outdoors each day is a balm for the soul – and it is the only way to keep the supplies of home-grown fruit and veg coming. Wishing everyone an enjoyable Platinum Jubilee weekend, wherever you happen to live – but before I go, here are links to some of the bargains I’ve picked up recently:


3 tree peonies for under £50

Other offers at Gardening Express

50% off blueberries

Special offers page at Crocus



Peters Tips

After watching 26 episodes of The Pallisers my wife and I were left wishing that there could have been more – and perhaps if Trollope hadn’t died in 1882, just 3 years after the initial publication of The Duke’s Children (it was published in book form in 1880), there might have been more books in the series. Maybe his distant relative, the novelist Joanna Trollope, could be persuaded to oblige? And who knows, perhaps Susan Hampshire, Jeremy Irons, and Anthony Andrews could all be persuaded to appear in a television adaptation?

As I mentioned recently we do have 7 series of The Brothers to watch – but I suspect that first we’ll have some light relief in the form of Marriage Lines, the TV series from the early 1960s that introduced me to Prunella Scales, and confirmed Richard Briers as one of my favourite actors (Brothers in Law was another favourite of mine, but sadly only one episode survives in the BBC archives, though there is a later radio adaptation).


Staying with TV series, I was interested to read an article on the BBC News site about the real-life vicar who has played numerous roles in the ITV series Midsomer Murders (and it always does seem to be midsummer – I’m sure at least half the episodes feature a village fete or similar event). But personally I’m more interested in the real-life vicars who are researching their family history, because they’re frequently sources of useful information for this newsletter.


Going back to The Pallisers, one of themes running through the books is Plantagenet Palliser’s desire to simplify the currency by having 10 pence in a shilling rather than 12 – something that he couldn’t achieve despite serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and later as Prime Minister. I was reminded of this when I read of the British government’s plans to review the possible reintroduction of imperial measures such as pounds and ounces, a step which would be more symbolic than retrograde. At least we’ve always been to buy a pint of beer in a pub, though whether one can afford it these days is a different matter entirely!



Stop Press UPDATED

I'm glad to say that my cataract operation seems to have gone well, and as using my computer is one of the few things the consultant will allow me to do, I will aim to reply to emails received, though perhaps not as promptly as usual.


Ancestry have just launched a DNA offer for Father's Day in the UK you can save £20 per test when you follow the link below (if it doesn't take you straight to the offer page, log-out from your Ancestry account and click the link again).


AncestryDNA® on sale for £59 + shipping. Ends July 12


There's also a very attractive offer for those of you in Australia and New Zealand you can save $40 per test when you follow the link below (again, if it doesn't take you straight to the offer page, log-out from your Ancestry account and click the link again).


AncestryDNA® Sale: Save up to $54 on offers. Ends June 8


That’s all for now – and it’s quite possible that by the time you read this I’ll be doing an imitation of Pudsey! I hope that  I’ll be able to respond to some emails over the next few days, but please forgive me if I circumstances prevent this.



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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2022 Peter Calver


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