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John & Frances West Family Group

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Group History


The John & Frances West Family Group was started by Stella Bond with Linda Moore and Valerie Ayres when they all met in Linda's sitting room in Andover in October, 1985. Linda's husband had been trying to keep a family tree going on a roll of wallpaper, and it was getting out of hand! It was decided to look into forming a group of those who had West pedigrees, so that the information could be shared, thus cutting out the need for everyone to try tracing the same history.

From that beginning, Stella Bond began approaching individuals whose names had come to notice as having a West pedigree. Not everyone was interested, but pedigrees began to come in and a file was started. Only one old gent absolutely refused to join us, saying he wasn't going to give his life's work away, but the irony is that when he died his executors sent two large files to the Society of Genealogists, where we may now all see it!

The message began to get around in places like Andover, where there are many descendants. Stella began to think about getting everyone together. In the course of seeking what information there was about John and Frances, it came to light that their remains, buried where the Bank of England now stands in the City of London, had been removed to Nunhead in 1867 so the next step was to find out where Nunhead is (Peckham, South London) and then to go and have a look. It turned out to be a Victorian cemetery in the process of being revitalized by a group of Friends, who were only too pleased to help.

On 13th June, 1987, the Group met for the first time, at Nunhead Cemetery for its "Picnic & Pilgrimage". We ate our sandwiches, went on guided tours of the cemetery, and even walked in procession with a wreath to the ledger stone commemorating those whose remains were transferred from St.Christopher-le- Stocks, where we had a service of remembrance. Thus, the pattern for our annual Gathering was set.

By the early '90s the numbers had grown enough for Stella to start thinking about sharing the work. For several years she had been calling on a few members to attend an autumn policy meeting in order to keep things ticking over and the time had come to put this arrangement on a more formal footing. John Heather made the appropriate enquiries and it was decided that the Group should best be run by a number of Executive Members forming a self-perpetuating oligarchy and everyone else as Associate Members. Accordingly, in 1993 a Constitution was put together by John Heather, Stella, Derek Baker, Jeanie Balch, Geoff Kimber and Mike Barnes, who became the first Executive Members. Our Constitution allowed for up to ten, but we have never achieved that number. (Until 2002! - ed.)

The Group has, however, achieved much over the years:

1. producing a brochure to send out to enquirers, in which we are assisted by Christ's Hospital and the Clothworkers Company.

2. liaising with Christ's Hospital to produce a badge for West Gift scholars to wear. The badge was designed by the Group and depicts -

- the setting sun, an allusion to the West family name.

-  a bolt of cloth reminding us of John West's appointment as Master Of The Clothworker's Company.

-  a quill and parchment associated with his profession as a scrivener.

-  intertwined with the rays of the sun is a heraldic representation of the rivers Thames and Kennet on which are situated the             four towns with which John and Frances West are associated, namely, London, Twickenham, Reading and Newbury.

3. planning and providing a memorial stone at last to John and Frances at the school.

4. introducing a newsletter which has gone on to include illustrations and colour-printing.

5. producing the Group's own publications for sale to members at the Gatherings.

6. creating an online presence for John and Frances West with this very website!

All the money we need has to come from the members. The enrolment fee really only covers enrolment so most of the cash comes from attendance at the Gathering. A small charge is made for a very good day; we have a sales stall for our publications; refreshments also bring in a bit more. From this we are able to produce the newsletter and cover the Secretary's expenses for recruitment and advertising.

The Group now has well over 200 members worldwide.


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