Incredible churches and 2000 year old grave stones

It is a glorious autumn day again, we can see for miles and the trees are turning. Off in a south westerly direction today to visit the homes of early generations of the Hogg family. Some of these are not yet confirmed as my ancestors but I thought I’d better get to these places while I have the chance, in anticipation of being able to add them to the tree at a later date. We begin by visiting Chesters Roman Fort, situated on the River Tyne alongside Hadrian’s wall. At last I get my first glimpse of a fragment of the wall itself. The bath house, close to the river is particularly well preserved. There is a museum of various artefacts including Roman gravestones. I should stress that I am not anticipating being able to add any Roman legionaries to the family tree. it seems that these artefacts were collected by a chap who probably dug them up in his garden. I can’t even dig up a Victorian pipe or bottle. There has been a very heavy dew and today I haven’t brought any spare socks so I am destined to spend the day with damp socks drying on the dashboard.

Chollerton church is two miles away from the Roman Fort. This is the place where two generations of potential Hogg ancestors married, perhaps the home of the brides. I wonder if they were aware of the significance, or even the existence, of the Roman remains on their doorstep? Sadly, the church was virtually rebuilt in the C19th so would not be as the Hoggs would have known it. The porch has various fragments built in to it including a carving of some shears. This is described in the guide book as a grave cover and apparently the shears indicate a female grave but I am not convinced of this, surely a shepherd would be more likely? Inside an inverted Roman alter has been converted for use as a font.

After a brief visit to Hallington and Kirkheaton, both essentially a few cottages a farm and not much else, we head to Thockrington. This is truly something else and everyone should come here at some point in their lives. The church is on top of a hill and accessed by a farm track. Apart from a single farm there is nothing in sight but sheep. The 360 degree views are spectacular and we can see for miles in all directions. This just has to be where three generations of my ancestors were baptised and buried. Apart from my potential Hogg ancestors, who have unmarked graves, the graveyard is the last resting place of William Beveridge, father of the NHS. The village of Thockrington disappeared after 1847 when a cholera epidemic, reputedly brought to the village by a returning sailor, wiped out the inhabitants. The ‘road’ and I use the word advisedly, to and from Thockrington is barred by several farm gates, which it is my job to open and close. Working out how to open some of them requires an engineering degree. I am able to sneak in the odd swing on a gate, solely in the interests of keeping out of the mud of course.

The View from Thockington Church

Great Bavington, another middle of nowhere hamlet, is next on the itinerary. This is one of several locations that great great grandfather, John Hogg, listed as his place of birth. Great Bavington contains some fascinating C17th cottages, a well hidden Victorian postbox, which is apparently still emptied and the 3rd oldest Presbyterian Church in the country, dating from 1725. Two more quick stops at ancestral churches and we head home having felt that all this Hogg hunting has certainly taken us to places other tourists do not reach.

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