The Greenacre family

In this article, Jane Boyles from Winchester describes the fortunes of one Runcton family.

You can email Jane at: ejb[insert "at" symbol]

Although the name Greenacre suggests something very English, the parish records of North Runcton rather indicate that the name was originally Dutch. We have one Elizabeth Groonacros dying in the parish in 1823 aged 95, even now a considerable age, and you can see how the name develops by studying the Registers. My great great grandfather, William, was born in 1799 and in 1823 married Amy Gore, whose family farmed nearby. They had the usual large family, all but one of whom survived into adulthood, but were dealt a huge blow in 1848 when William died suddenly. His widow took over the running of the farm, but by all accounts she was no business-woman and I think disaster was never very far away. However, a saviour called Thomas Nurse stepped in and took the family under his wing. It is said he admired the way Amy tried to hold the family together and keep the farm going. Tommy Nurse was a jeweller in Lynn, unmarried and with considerable lands at Runcton, and around Heacham and Snettisham, and he did what he could to give the family support and assistance.

Tommy Nurse

Amy died in 1872 and Henry took over the farm but nothing in the archives indicates which particular farm they had at any time, although I have always understood we were tenants of the Gurneys, and at various stages had Manor, Primrose, Church and Meadow Farms. The Inventory of all the stock on the farm at the time of her death mentions one brown mare "Derby", one chestnut horse "Boxer", another brown mare "Diamond", and a roan horse "Prince", a donkey, a red and brown cow and a calf, a bull, chickens and pigs and lists all the harness, farm implements and the contents of the dairy, all valued at £217/4/10.

Amy Greenacre and her daughter Betsy

The eldest child, Elizabeth, or Betsy, was born very deaf and turned down many offers of marriage on the grounds that she "would be a burden to no man". She went to live with her brother and his family in what is now Berwick Cottage, in Rectory Lane, then called Cock Lane. Like all the family she had been left a sizeable legacy by Tommy Nurse and on this she lived very carefully. However, she lost something like £300 when Jarvis's Bank was declared insolvent, lost her faith in the whole banking business, and took to pushing her money and valuables, including chickens that she thought the neighbours would try and pinch, about the countryside in an old pram. Not surprisingly, she became very well known in the Lynn area, and tales have been handed down of the racket made by this eccentric old lady counting out her money in a dark, candle-lit room, and of the farm labourers on a Friday night who, having had too much to drink at the Cock Inn, would try and frighten her in her rather isolated cottage.

Betsy adored the Gurneys, and when her niece Amy married Alfred Vare, she said the hat Amy had chosen was not grand enough, and gave her money to "get one like the Gurney girls". She died in Lynn in 1910 and we have a very abrupt letter from the Rector to her sister Maria in which he simply says "Our churchyard is so full that it is not possible for your sister to be buried near the other Greenacres. I have consulted Sir Somerville Gurney, my churchwarden, and we think that as she cannot be buried near them it will be best to have the funeral in Lynn. She cannot of course be buried as a resident of North Runcton ­ and double fees are charged for non-parishioners." I don't know what changed the Rector's mind but the funeral went ahead and although her grave is unmarked we believe she is beneath the yew tree by the path.

Maria and her sister Georgina were eventually sent out to work. Maria went into service at Runcton Hall, and I believe was Laura Troubridge's lady's maid for a time. Maria was considered to be "delicate" and was always referred to by her daughters as "Poor dear little mother". "Pinch your cheeks, Marie, you look so pale!" During her time at the Hall she visited France and Germany, but she found it all a terrible strain, and came back looking paler than ever! Soon after Daniel's death Maria left the Gurneys and in 1881 married William Kirby, and started a new life in Lynn. She was 45 years old, and yet within a few years she had produced three children, one of whom was my grandmother.

Georgina Farrow

Georgina we think went straight to Tommy Nurse in Lynn as his housekeeper. We do not know for certain who his family were, although there are quantities of Nurses mentioned in the Registers. In his will dated May 1874 he directs "that my body may be buried in the vault at North Runcton wherein my uncle Thomas Oldmeadow Nurse is buried and that my name and date of death be cut on the stone or slate covering of the said vault and that an iron palisading be erected round the said vault." Tommy died aged 90 in 1880 and his grave can be found just inside the churchyard gate. Georgina became quite a wealthy woman on his death, and shortly afterwards married John Farrow, a tea and coffee importer in Lynn. Unfortunately he got through a quantity of money, a fair amount of it his wife's, by backing losing horses, and by 1905 the Farrow shop had closed, and both Georgina and her husband were dead.

The only other member of the family we have any record of is Henry, who took on the running of the farm on his mother's death. In 1886 he took on a larger farm as a tenant of Sir Somerville Gurney, paying a rent of £72 a year but from the beginning the farm was in difficulties and he eventually filed a petition for bankruptcy. We have a newspaper cutting outlining the details of the Court hearing and saying he had sold his wagon, horse-rake, mare, cart and harness for £12. We have nothing further in the archives about Henry or William, but entered in the registers is the burial of Henry Greenacre in June 1903 aged 70.

Out of the seven surviving children of William and Amy neither Betsy nor Georgina had children, Mary Ann and Sarah we know nothing about, and although we know William and Henry married and presumably had children we have never traced any descendants. As it stands at the moment, my brother and myself are the last of the line, and if this article strikes a chord with any possible "cousins", I would be delighted to hear from you.

You can email Jane at: ejb[insert "at" symbol]


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