Our summer outing to see the Victorian schoolroom at Sevington and the Church of St Margaret of Antioch at Leigh Delamere, was in itself a wonderful experience, with Dinah Starkey, one of the Trustees, acting as schoolmistress, bringing to life the days of Victorian schoolchildren.
The church, however, added a family connection to the Civic Society as a bonus. The nave and south aisle contained many memorials of the Browning family, my descendents. The Brownings were yeoman farmers at Leigh Delamere.
An entry in the parish register notes that during the time the church was without a vicar the register was kept by the “farmers Browning at the Manor Farm House”.
The family tree shown here (click image to make it bigger) is not a complete tree, but it shows those family members (in colour) who have a memorial in the church. It covers an astonishing five generations of the family. I have colour-linked those who appear on the same memorial. Other members of the family are also buried at Leigh Delamere, but do not have such grand memorials.
The oldest generation is James and Elizabeth, my 7th great grandparents. They married at Nettleton in 1671. Prior to this it appears from parish registers the Brownings lived in the Castle Combe area.
James and Elizabeth’s son John married Alice, daughter of Chippenham clothier Walter Scott, in 1711 at Heddington. In 1742 John, together with Francis Child leased Weavern Mill, an “ancient fulling mill, a corn or grist mill” from the Duke of Somerset, a continuation of an indenture of lease of 1728 which mentioned John Browning and John Scott.
It is touching to note that these monuments were saved and re-erected when the current church was rebuilt in 1854, some 40 years after the last date that occur on these memorials.
Canon J.E. Jackson (1805 – 1891) was rector of Leigh Delamere with Sevington from 1845 until 1891. He was a leading antiquary and the first secretary of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. His very wide interests included local history, heraldry and genealogy; he had a life-long interest in the Hungerford family. Perhaps it is due to these interests that we are indebted to him for an insight into his parishioners: he kept notes about almost all the parishioners whose funeral services he conducted.
On 22nd August 1851 he buried Elizabeth Browning, aged 76, “the only surviving sister of Richard Browning” “Last of the Brownings at Sevington, a respectable old person of rather higher tone of feeling and education than her brother” He tells us that she sold her house at Sevington to Mr. Neeld about a year before her death.
The last Browning the Rev. Jackson buried was Mary, aged 62 from Cricklade, on 15 October 1872, whose parents had lived at Leigh Delamere. She was the sixth generation to be buried there, 166 years after James, her 3rd great grandfather, was buried in 1706.
Source: Leigh Delamere and Sevington People. Wiltshire Parish Records No 4 published by the Wiltshire Family History Society.