Crookham lad’s tale makes it into print

Back row: Heather Pentland, Valerie Glass (TillVAS) Front row: Dennis and Vivien Wilcock

Back row: Heather Pentland, Valerie Glass (TillVAS) Front row: Dennis and Vivien Wilcock

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The descendant of a family from 19th century Crookham has published a fascinating biography of one of her relatives.

Andrew Todd, born in 1844, became a pupil teacher at Crookham Presbytery School at the age of just 13.

He went on to be a maths teacher at an independent boys’ school in Berkshire - but that was only the beginning.

Last June, Vivien Wilcock and husband Dennis were visiting Ford Church when they bumped into Heather Pentland, chair of Till Valley Archaeological Society (TillVAS), and got chatting to her about Vivien’s Todd ancestors.

With them was Joe Barta, another descendant of the Todd family, visiting the UK from California.

Heather was flabbergasted as she knew that another member of TillVAS, Valerie Glass, happened, by an amazing coincidence, to be researching the life of Andrew Todd from his beginnings as a pupil teacher.

Disappointingly, the trail had gone cold after 1871 and nothing more about his life had been discovered after he left the Berkshire school. It was thought he may have died young or possibly emigrated.

Heather whisked the party along to Heatherslaw Mill where TillVAS was hosting its first exhibition of local history and archaeology. Vivien and family were astonished to see a display about their ancestor!

They were able to provide full details of his later life. It turned out Andrew had travelled to New Zealand for health reasons in 1874. During his voyage he kept a diary which Vivien had a copy of.

He worked as a surveyor but, in 1883, Andrew, his wife Blanche and four children emigrated to America to farm in Oregon. They threw themselves into pioneer life, built their own house and had four more children.

Vivien had known nothing of this until she found an old cutting from an Oregon newspaper amongst her mother’s effects after her death. Puzzled by the obituary of this unknown person, she contacted a genealogist who discovered the whereabouts of present day descendants in Oregon who Vivien and Dennis later met.

Vivien was inspired to put pen to paper over the winter and the splendid result is a book of over 60 pages telling Andrew’s life story.

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