In the Steps of the Ancestors

In the Steps of the Ancestors

Joseph Waterfield (1858-1933)                                Margaret Prichard (1849-1890)

Last month I checked into a quarryman (and woman’s) cottage in Trefor, Gwynedd on the Llŷn Peninsula where three generations of my family lived and worked at the foot of three mountains known as the Yr Eifl. The link tells you how to pronounce it.

We were staying at 18 Lime Street, the same street in which my ancestors lived. I had located them through the 1889, 1899 and 1901 censuses. But also through my Pink Granite research. Also the persistence of my now deceased 104 year old Aunt’s relentless pursuit of the Waterfield family history has motivated me to this current detailed research since my cousin, her eldest son had gifted our generation copies of it along with her short novel based on that research.  I get archive fever when walking in the steps of the ancestors.  It hit me hard in 2014 when I revisited my mum’s ancestry for The House and it has hit me again these past three years. I am struck by my Aunt’s story, her sons’ stories, her ‘adopted’ parents’ stories and her  diligent pursuit of a meaning to her identity. It is as she often said to me, not unlike my mum’s history. Being the first child in my grandparents’ family, I learned that my Aunt was ‘given’ away to a childless aunt and uncle, the same Aunt who had lived at no 13 Lime Street. The family moved back to Leicestershire in the early 1900s. This kind of practice is not unusual I guess but it plays havoc with feelings of belonging,  identity and self doubt as  beautifully illustrated in Anne with an E  I have been watching on Netflix recently.

But it’s the quarrying life in this village in Trefor that has caught my interest mostly and that I realise is driving my story Pink Granite.

(Above) Great Great Grandmother Emma Waterfield né Cheatle (1839 – 1938), Great Great Grandfather Thomas Waterfield (1838 – deceased), Great Uncle Charlie Franks (1833-1937) in the doorway.

Three generations lived in three streets in Trefor, having moved there from Mountsorrel in Leicestershire. We stayed at the third address a few doors down from where the Waterfields lived. The woman who greeted us lives in the exact cottage my Grandfather, his siblings Ellen, Sarah and William, and their father Great Grandfather Joseph lived after their mum died of TB in 1890.  On further research I discovered that my Great Great Aunt Ellen had actually lived in the cottage we had booked.  This discovery urged me to find out more concerning the other Great Greats and their connections with Trefor.

The three streets – Eifl Road could have been Farren Road in 1878.

Great Aunt Ellen Franks né Waterfield (1880-1951) and Great Aunt Sarah Jane Waterfield (1883-1966) and their father Great Grandfather Joseph Waterfield (widowed) (1858-1933) 18 Lime Street, Trefor with Yr Eifl quarried mountain range in background.

Front of 18 Lime Street today

Back of 18 Lime Street today

I went back to the census and cross-referenced with google maps as you do, only to discover the numbers and the road names must have changed over time.  Walking out one morning along the main road (Eifl Road), still looking for the disappeared number in Green Terrace and the number in the disappeared Farren Street, I discovered the answer may lie in the kerb stones, those quarried and those manufactured at a later date from concrete when road names like Farren Street (obviously named after George Farren, the managing director of the Welsh Granite Company who you can see from the obituary below was responsible for much of the engineering development in Trefor), must have been renamed more recently.

accessed from

The kerb stones change at a certain point along the Eifl Road – the road had obviously been rebuilt, of course it had!

Setts or concrete

Place is such a great driver for creative work – the sense of the field of space of which  Antony Gormley speaks when describing his work including his Iron Men installation on the Sefton Coast where I now live. For me it has always been walking in the footsteps of ancestors, seeing with their eyes the same vista they have looked upon, peeling back the layers of memory and history and hearing their voices of the past speaking in the now that have led me to finding a frame for creative expression.  That and personal memory that the ancestors trigger like:

Remember Wales, don’t forget Wales:
Rhyl holidays and the Co-op Campsite 1967 and 1969
Plas Y Nant with YP Christian Endeavour in  1970
Mary Jones Bible Research Trip for Greater than Gold Bala in 1980
The Pollard Trail research trail Nefyn in  2006
 Pink Granite research trail  2024 incorporating Leicester in 2023.

I think this is the first of a number of North Wales inspired recollections, judging from the list above but let’s just stick with the granite and the ancestors for now.

Granite Wall West End, near Trefor


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