And the Search for Purkisses
In AD77 a Roman writer by the name of Pliny the Elder described the location of the Isle
of Anglesey as being 'about 200 miles from Camulodunum, a town in Britain'. This was the
Roman name for Colchester and is the earliest known reference to a fixed settlement in
Britain, hence the claim to be Britain's oldest recorded town.
|Colchester - Britain's Oldest Recorded Town
Colchester Borough Arms. A green cross representing the True
Cross which legend says was found by St Helena, Patron Saint of
Colchester. The cross is pierced by 3 nails each with a crown
surrounding it to depict the 3 Wise Men or Kings. The red background
represents the blood of Christ. The Arms first appeared in 1413 on a
charter granted to Colchester borough by King Henry V.
Colchester is Britain's oldest
recorded town, and the Rose
& Crown Hotel is one of
Colchester's oldest Inns,
dating back to about 1400. I
think our mattress dated back
almost that far. Colchester is
where the earliest Purkisses in
my line are recorded. The
Rose & Crown was our base
for visiting this area.
The town of Colchester and the
Castle played a significant role
in the English Civil War in 1648
between the Royalists
(supporting King Charles I) and
the Parliamentarians. The
Royalists, led by Captains Sir
Charles Lucas and Sir George
Lisle were defeated after a long
siege and forced to surrender to
Sir Thomas Fairfax,
Commander-in-Chief of the Parliamentarian Army. After the surrender,
Fairfax ordered the soldiers released, but had Lucas and Lisle executed.
Although not readable in this picture to the right, the Obelisk marks the
spot on the Castle grounds where they were shot. After the execution, the
bodies of Lucas and Lisle were taken to
the St. Giles Church and buried (left).
Coincidentally, the St. Giles Church is where most of my ancestors were
baptised and buried. Pixie and I went to the church, only to find that was
converted to a Masonic Hall and a parking lot now covers where the
cemetery was. Nobody seems to know what happened to the bodies that
were buried there.
The two above pictures show the stained glass windows at the front of
headstones to the
left are all that
remains from the
cornerstone to the
right was sitting at
the back of the
The following day, we set out to find Donyland Hall, the mansion where my family lived between about 1846 and
1850. We knew about where it was, but in the absence of any signs, good fortune led us to it. We turned up a
driveway hoping to find someone we could ask, and there it was. While snapping a few pictures, the owner Mr.
Peter Thistlewayte came out to see what we were doing. I told him the story about the Emma Purkiss letter and
that I had copies of "Land Tax Assessments" that validated her story. He said that he had owned the Hall for 50
years and described the changes that had taken place over the last 150 years. I finished taking pictures and we
headed back to Colchester.
By the time we entered our hotel room probably about 45 minutes, the phone was ringing. Mrs. Thistlewayte told
me that she was compiling a history of Donyland Hall and was not aware of anyone named Purkiss living there. I
offered to e-mail her the documentation I had.
On our last day in England, we drove about 7 miles to
the Peldon Rose for lunch with Mr. Peter Nutt, his
daughter Diane, and son-in-law Tom. Peter is a
professional genealogist who specialized in Essex
research. He is responsible for getting me on the
right track when I wandered off in a wrong direction.
He also was the person who dug up the Donyland
Land Tax Assessments that proved Emma's
contention that our family lived in the Hall.
I had one slight, but expensive mishap in England. In
the US, a green handle at a filling station means
diesel. Not so in England. I filled up my diesel rental
car with petrol. I made it back to the car return
before it died. We keep getting "lessons learned".