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The Tong Family

The 1777 Enclosure Map shows a Homestead and Close of 3 acres 1 rood and 15 perches as part of the estate of a Mrs Raworth in Beckingham, belonging to the Chapter at Southwell. Sometime later part of the estate was purchased by a Mr Thomas Tong.  There are Tongs shown in the Church registers in Beckingham from the early 1700’s with several Thomas’s! Thomas Tong also purchased some land from Robert Cross, landed gentry in Beckingham.  The Villa (now the Spinney), Admiral Rodney Farm and Inn were believed to have been built just before the end of the 18th century by Robert and/or Thomas Tong..

The Villa is thought to have become the landlord’s residence, with the farmland divided between Admiral Rodney Farm (since demolished and new houses built) on the corner of Low Street and Church Street, and Home Farm on High Street (part of which is now Drovers End).  The Tong family did not continuously occupy the Villa.  They also owned a small holding off Bar Road along with other pieces of land and cottages in Beckingham.  Tongs Wood an area of land between Wheatley and Woods Farm Beckingham still exists today, believed to be up for sale.

The Tongs were educated middle class landed gentry and it was probably in the 19th century that they changed the name of the property from The Villa to “The Spinney”.  The last Mr Tong to occupy the house was another Thomas born c1796 born in Gainsborough.   A record was found to show Thomas Tong aged 21yrs born in 1809.  This does not match his age on the 1851 census showing he was born c.1796 which makes him 34yrs in 1809. He married Ann Haselwood Blaides in September 1830 in Hatfield, Doncaster, Yorks.  Ann was also born in Gainsborough in 1816 which makes her just 14yrs when she married!  In those days girls could marry at 13 with parents consent!  This appears to be the only record so far to be found of their marriage and is presumed to be correct. They had a son and four daughters all born in Gainsborough.

1851 Census shows Thomas and Ann living in Morton Terrace Gainsborough along with their four daughters.  Mary Elizabeth aged 19, Jane Emma aged 18 Annie Haselwood aged 10, Frances Blaides 6yrs old and Julia Sarah 2yrs old.  By 1861 they had moved to Beckingham along with some of their family including their son William Charles Haselwood then aged 26yrs.

It was quite common in those days for children to be given part or all of their mother’s maiden name.  Thomas Tong died 17 November 1867 at the age of 72 in Beckingham.  Probate went to Ann Haselwood Tong in March 1868 with effects of under £3,000.  In 1891 Ann was living in the Villa with her daughters Jane and Julia along with a servant. Ann died 1892 aged 75 and was buried in Beckingham. Probate in February 1893 went to her son William Charles Tong with effects of £283.6s.5d.

Thomas and Anns’ daughter Mary Elizabeth was born in 1832.  She married a Thomas Shelley (mispelt as Shekey on the record) on 14th September 1860.  Thomas was a widower and a Captain in 33 Regiment Bengal Kakoe Infantry. There appears to be no record of them on 1861/71/81 Censuses and it is presumed that they may have been abroad due to Thomas’s role in the Infantry.  1891 shows Mary Elizabeth and Thomas living in Croydon Surrey.  Thomas was then a Major General in Infantry with Indian Army.  By 1901 they had moved to Withycombe Raleigh in Devon, where Mary died on 25th November 1902. Probate went to her husband with effects of £4,159.6s.5d.

Mary and Thomas had a two sons. Archibald Douglas Graham who married a Hilda Mary Hutchins.  He became a Major in the Royal Engineers.  He was commissioned in 1881 served in India retired in England in1905. He died in 1942. Their second son was Bertram Graham Arthur.  He also served in the armed forces becoming a Colonel with the Royal Engineers in India. He married Beryl Hubbard White.  He died in 1947.  A third son was born in1867 in Gainsborough.  He became a Surgeon with HM Service, with Devonshire Regiment, serving in Canada and Bermuda.  He married a Margaret Davidson Loosemore who was born in Canada.

Thomas and Anns’ second daughter Jane Emma was born in 1833.  She never married and lived with her sister Julia in Beckingham until her death on 5th September 1917. Probate on 1st September 1921 went to Julia with effects of £3,090.9s.7d.

William Charles Haselwood was born in 1835 in Morton Gainsborough.  He became a farmer and married Elizabeth Watson from Londonthorpe, Newark in 1863.  They lived in Moated House, Kirton Lyndsey where they had a son Harold Charles Haselwood born in 1866.  Harold became a Land Agent and married a Minnie Cross.  William died in 1908, probate went to his son Harold with effects of £6,351.1s.10d.

Annie Haselwood was born in 1840 in Gainsborough. She married a Howard Fletcher a wine Merchant in 1870.  They had a daughter Constance born in 1871 in Walsall, Staffs.  They moved to London.  Annie passed away a widow on 3 December 1917 in Bushnell Road, Upper Tooting, Surrey.  Probate went to her daughter Constance Haselwood Fletcher, spinster, on 13 June 1918 with effects of £1,034.16s.9d.

Frances Blaides was born in 1844 in Morton, Gainsborough.  The 1861 Census shows her as a boarder age 17yrs in Victoria Place, St. Mary’s Abbotts, Kensington, along with her sister Julia, thought to be at a finishing school.  At some stage Frances must have married and her husband presumably died, because by 1913 as Frances B Marley Tong and at the age of 69yrs she married a James Gordon Saunders in Paddington London.  Then becoming Frances Blaides Saunders.  Sadly, she passed away one year later in Beckingham in August 1914, possibly whilst visiting.  She was registered at living at St Lukes Road, Westbourne Park, Middlesex.  Probate went to her sister Julia Sarah Tong with effects of £5,015.12s.9d.

Julia Sarah was born in 1849 in Morton Gainsborough.  As already mentioned, the 1861 census shows Julia 13yrs as a boarder in St Mary’s Abbotts, Kensington along with sister Frances possibly at finishing school.  Julia never married.  She was a keen photographer taking many pictures around the village and of her family and servants, in circa 1900, several of which are shown on this page.  She often appeared as part of the scenery on her photographs so she must have had a friend to release the camera shutter, or an elaborate camera with time release mechanism.

It was Julia who raised much of the money for All Saint’s Church clock and for the rebuilding of the churchyard wall. A brass plate on the wall in the base of the tower records that the clock was erected by the Tongs and reads: –


The sister referred to “in memory of” is believed to be Mary Elizabeth who died in 1902.  The EMMA referred to on the plate is believed to be sister Jane Emma.  After falling into disrepair, it was refurbished and set to work again in 1978 by the residents of Rectory Gardens.

Julia died in November 1938 with effects of £5,269. 14s. 4d. to her nephew Harold Charles Haselwood Tong Estate Agent. The property was sold to a Mr Roy Alston Wilkinson, a solicitor from Gainsborough who moved there with his new wife.  It consisted of the house, yard, barn, stables and spinney.  The contents were sold at auction by Drewery & Wheeldon in May 1939.

The east window of the south aisle of Beckingham All Saint’s Church is dedicated to Thomas Tong and his wife Ann Haselwood.

Two farms owned by the Tong family were sold by auction in 1962.  Home Farm on the High Street with 68 acres of land was bought by Herbert Proudley.   Rodney Farm with 103 acres was bought by a William Proudley of Bole. It is believed that the Proudleys of Bole still farm part of this land  Also auctioned were two small fields and a cottage.  The vendor was Charles Richard Arthur Tong Esq. of Leicester.

Peter Mason

Peter Mason (1918-2003) was born in Misterton. He was from a farming family, his grandfather owned the local butcher’s. From Misterton primary school he moved to the Grammar School in Retford from where he went on to study at the Agricultural College in Loughborough. He became a land drainage officer at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire.

It was in Leicestershire where he met and married his wife, Margaret, and they lived in Hinckley before moving back to Gringley, to Rose Cottage. In 1958 they moved to Beckingham where Peter worked with his brother and nephews – mostly in arable farming.

Peter Mason was well known as a local historian who had a keen interest in Beckingham and its former residents. He had a particular interest in architecture and knew so much about the buildings that stood in Beckingham in times past, and the people who inhabited them.

Peter amassed a large collection over the years of photographs and documents on the village history and on his death most of these were donated to the Beckingham and Saundby History Group where they have been computerised and catalogued.

Herbert Gale

For information on Herbert Gale and family please click here.

The Watson Family

The Watson family, owners of Beckingham Shipyard, were generous benefactors to the village with the community continuing to benefit from their philanthropy to this day. Joseph Spencer Compton Watson was born in Westbury, Wilts., the son of a Congregational Minister.

He was educated at the City of London School and afterwards at Clevedon, Reading. He began his business career at Reading Ironworks moving to Samuda’s Shipyard, Isle of Dogs, where he got his first experience of ship building before going on to the Thames Ironworks in Bow Creek. After some engineering experience he began building barges at his own yard on Hercules Wharf, Poplar in 1869.

By the end of the 19th century, shipbuilding had shifted from timber to iron, London’s naval yards were in decline, but private yards, of which there had always been many, were prospering. Before the financial Crash of 1866, from which London’s shipbuilding industry never recovered, there were about 15,000 men and boys employed in shipbuilding on the Isle of Dogs alone. The social effects of the Crash worsened when the naval dockyards closed in 1869. Parts of the industry endured through the 20th century in more modest form, principally through ship repair and barge building.

For reasons which are unclear he decided to bring his business to the Trent, possibly influenced by the decline in shipbuilding on the Thames. Mr Watson’s sister lived in Willingham which may also have influenced his move. He was unsuccessful in finding suitable land on the Gainsborough side of the river and eventually purchased a small area of land in Beckingham Parish. He moved his yard here in 1889, bringing both equipment and some of his workforce from Blackwall and possibly from Fulham. Joseph or “Spen” as he was popularly known, lived with his wife Cornelia Jessie, whom he married in 1871, in The Chestnuts, Low Street for a short while before moving into Orchard House.

As well as the shipyard and offices Mr Watson built several houses for his workers, four near the yard, one on the yard, two on Trent bank next to the Crown Farm (once the Crown public house) opposite Lord Street, Gainsborough, all now demolished. He also built four houses on the High Street on land adjoining Orchard House and six on Trent Road past the Railway crossing.

He was deeply concerned with Education and Housing matters and he, along with other members of his family, took an active and keen interest in the life of the village. As well as donating land for a village school to be built in 1901 for 150 children, they built the Village Institute and houses in 1908, which provided Library, Reading Room and café. Billiard tables were added later. There was a bowling green and quoits pitch at the rear of the garden, these have since been converted to allotments which are rented out. The village still benefits from the Institute although there is no longer a café and the facilities have changed.

Mr Watson was a Justice of the Peace for the county of Notts, and was for some time a member of the Gainsborough Board of Guardians. He was a staunch Congregationalist and took a very active part in the building of the Robinson Memorial Church, but his generosity was by no means confined to one section of the church.

He took a special interest in missionary enterprise abroad. He was a good master and never regarded his employees as mere “hands” but interested himself in their personal welfare as the many letters which were received by his widow testified on his death at the age of 72 years on 30th August 1917. He was interred in Willingham cemetery, his funeral being attended by many of his employees who had been at the shipyard for over twenty years, some from the start. Much reference was made to his kindness and generosity. It may be of interest that Mr Watson’s maternal Grandfather gave the first donation towards the establishment of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Mrs Cornelia Jessie Watson also came from London and is described as being a very charitable and gracious lady, with her benevolence and devotion to the interests of the suffering and needy on land and sea and her charities extending to all neighbouring churches at the time, though she was chiefly concerned with the John Robinson Memorial Congregational Church in Gainsborough of which she and her husband were involved in the building of. She, together with her husband greatly enriched the lives of the people of Beckingham, the shipyard and others. Many attended her funeral when she died at the age of 89 years on 14th March 1934. She was interred in Willingham where she resided for many years.

Their nephew William Spencer Watson joined his uncle at the shipyard, moving from Fulham shortly after his uncle’s move to the area. He took over the running of the shipyard after his Uncle’s retirement until his own death in 1956/57. The shipyard was then run by his wife Amy and two daughters Kathleen and Nora, until its closure in 1962.

Nora remained unmarried and was a rather formidable lady not afraid to speak her mind. She was well known in the village for her eccentric ways, travelling around on her moped, always wearing her woollen hat no matter what the weather was like. She loved her plants spending many hours tending them in her greenhouse staying up until 4am, not rising until late morning. An international flower arranger, a subject on which she wrote books, Nora spent a lot of time preparing for competition at the Chelsea Flower Show and was a judge of flower shows with connections to Kew Gardens.

Responsible for acquiring a Village Hall and Playing Field for the benefit of the village residents in 1948, she organised much fundraising for equipment. She was also responsible for the acquisition of the Recreation Room in 1970’s. Her generosity was felt by the village every Christmas Eve when she would go round the village leaving presents on doorsteps. Nora died in May 1973 and was outlived by her mother who died in 1979 at the age of 102.

Kathleen was married to Arthur Bloomer and they had two children, Robin and Shirley. Shirley grew up to become Women’s Doubles Finalist at Wimbledon and winner of the French Open tennis championship. She married Chris Brasher the 3000m steeplechase Olympic medallist runner who was also Roger Bannister’s pace setter for the 4 minute mile record breaking run. They had three children. In 2007 the village was pleased to welcome Mrs Brasher to open the newly renovated and extended Village Hall.