Flag Fen.

Today... I managed my first visit to the Flag Fen "archaeology park", for maybe nine or ten years. This park was inspired by a number of finds here, lead by Francis Pryor. Pryor and his team excavated prior to cable and pipework laying for a new gas fired power station at Peterborough. They found a large number of well preserved (in the moist peat soils) felled and cut timbers, that using dendrochronological methods, they dated to between 1400 BC and 900 BC, during the mid to late British Bronze Age.

They created this wetland, or recreated it, in order to conserve and preserve the archaeology that the excavation revealed. To keep it wet. The Fens are an area of Wetlands that have been increasingly drained over the centuries. The concern is that timber archaeology like that found on this site, is quickly perishing now.

These shears were found with their preserved wooden case here. Flag Fen was a timber palisade, that crossed a flooded area, with a wooden platform in the middle of the new lake. This platform was surrounded with lots of deposits, many in bronze - swords, axes, blades, etc. Many of these tools had been snapped or damaged. The excavator suggested that this was ritual. Removing sacrifices from the world, to that mirror world below the water. It revokes the Arthurian tale of the Lady and the Sword.

Yamna theorists should love this one. As far as I know, the earliest dated actual wheel found in the British Isles. Okay, we know they were around longer - but this wooden wheel dates to 3,000 years ago.

A reconstructed, and aged ... Bronze Age British roundhouse. I'm not sure though if roundhouses have been dated to the Bronze Age. Certainly a feature of the Iron Age - the roundhouse was strong enough to resist British weather. The lower photo shows it in it's wetland Fennish environment.

Some of the preserved (using constant water sprays) timbers of the palisade leading onto the platform. The opposite wall displays an artist's impression of the timbers above water level. Pryor suggested that with rising sea levels threatening the rich pastures, that Bronze Age farmers here constructed this platform in order to make scarifices and to perform rituals, to try to control the flooding, to turn back the rise in water levels, and maybe at the same time, to celebrate that life above water, and life below water - as in life and death, a mirror.

Artists impression.

Some of the artifact finds.

More artifacts, including bronze axe handles.

A reconstructed Bronze Age axe composite.

Anyone that has ever read archaeologist Francis Pryor's reports, will know that he is very keen to relate prehistoric archaeology to farming. Here, a soay lamb rests in the Sun. They keep a flock here as closest-to-period sheep that the Bronze Age farmers most likely bred here.

When I visited this park many years ago, they were busy trying to preserve the timbers of the Sea Henge, excavated on the North Norfolk Coast. Those timbers have successfully been preserved, and are now locally in Kings Lynn Museum:

Photo taken by myself at Kings Lynn in 2008.

Currently though, they are hosting the preserved timbers of a number of finds from another Cambridgeshire wetland excavation - from Must Hill Farm. The above photos were taken during the excavation that recovered a number of log boats dated to the Bronze Age (from 1,500 BC) through to the Iron Age. These log boats were clearly made using bronze axes like those above. A large number of well preserved eel nets were also excavated, suggesting that fishing was important to this Bronze Age community.

I hope that some of you enjoy sharing my photo tour from today, especially those that share ancestors here, but live far away today.

A new Ancestral Parish - Maxey, near Peterborough

By Rodney Burton [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

This line descends to me via my paternal grandmother, Doris Brooker nee Smith.  Her paternal grandmother was Ann Smith nee Peach. She lived during the 19th Century in Attleborough, Norfolk, but her origins baffled me for years before online genealogical research enabled me to crack it.

I published how I cracked it, and her father's story here.  In brief, her mother, Sarah, was born Sarah Riches near to Attleborough in Norfolk at Great Hockham in 1812.  Then ... somehow, she met a David Peach, from the East Midlands.  He was a shepherd and drover, and I'm best guessing that his vocation brought him into contact with a Norfolk bride.  He may have been droving livestock to Norfolk pastures or markets.  She returned to his home, in Etton.  Etton, is a village on East Midland county borders that has fluctuated in history between Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, and the modern district of Peterborough.  It was this fuzziness that hid his roots from me for a little longer.  They married in Etton in 1835.  Their daughter, and my ancestor, Ann Peach, was born later that year at Etton.

In 1837, her father David Peach was convicted at Lincoln Assize Courts of stealing two cattle.  He was sentenced to Life Transportation to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).  He went on to be transferred to a particularly tough penal colony in Tasmania.  He was eventually pardoned, but not granted licence to return to England.  Meanwhile, his wife Sarah, and her young daughter, Ann, somehow managed to return to Norfolk, where she found refuge with her parents, now living in the market town of Attleborough.  For a while they went to live on as servants.  For years, Sarah remained in Attleborough, never remarrying, although she had at least two more children.  She worked to support herself and her children as a charwoman or washer woman, working a laundry.

But ... where were the roots of her East Midland Shepherd husband, David Peach?  I suspected that he was local to the Etton area.  Inquiries at various FHS stands at the 2016 Who do you think you are? event in Birmingham had lead me to this position.  Peach's seemed to be local, but the county boundaries kept changing.  I suspected the Stamford area.

Then a fresh search today.  I've recently taken out a month worth of subscription to Ancestry.co.uk.  They appear to have had a lot of Northamptonshire County Council archive records, indexes, and digitalised images added.  There, I found his family!

The ancestors via David Peach that I discovered today (see the above direct tree) were entirely from the parish next to Etton, the parish of Maxey.  This village today belongs to the District of Peterborough, and has been associated with Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire - but back then, fell within the County of Northampton.

The Peach family seem to have been shepherds and drovers for a few generations at Maxey.  David was baptised at Maxey in early 1807, the son of John and Ann Peach of that village.  His father had taken the name of an elder brother that had died as an infant, while their mother was carrying him.  The elder John had been the twin brother of Joseph Peach.  Joseph turns up as a witness at so many 18th Century Maxey weddings that I'm guessing that he had some sort of local office in the parish, or was a particularly popular man!  Our John (the 2nd), was relatively quiet on record, and unfortunately my search didn't reveal his marriage, nor the surname of his own wife Ann.  He did witness his elder brother's Joseph wedding alongside an Ann Mason.  Who knows?

Our ancestor John Peach's parents were a Maxey couple, that married there in 1762 - Peter Peach and Mary Rippon.  I can then trace Mary's baptism and parents in Maxey - she was baptised there in 1734.  Her father was Robert Rippon, a Maxey tailor.  He married our ancestor Alice Saunderson at Maxey in 1710.  Her parents in turn were Christopher and Alice Saunderson of Maxey.

And so ends today's family history lesson.  I now have 243 direct ancestors named in the tree.  I did add new siblings where I could find them by trawling the online digitalised images of the parish records and bishop's transcripts.

Photo of St Peter's Church, Maxey, Cambridgeshire under Creative Commons by Meg Nicol on Flickr

Updated direct Ancestry stats:

Generation 1 has 1 individual. (100.00%)

Generation 2 has 2 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 3 has 4 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 4 has 8 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 5 has 16 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 6 has 31 individuals. (96.88%)

Generation 7 has 57 individuals. (89.06%)

Generation 8 has 55 individuals. (42.97%)

Generation 9 has 46 individuals. (18.75%)

Generation 10 has 18 individuals. (3.91%)

Generation 11 has 6 individuals. (0.59%)

Total ancestors in generations 2 to 11 is 243. (12.07%)