A relative of mine (Gladys Woodgate) started researching the 'Woodgate' family tree on 28th August, 1969. This work began with a visit to the Sudbury Registrar in the County of West Suffolk. It was a project that would continue for a further six years. Mr Dudley George Butcher, the Deputy Superintendent Registrar informed Gladys that the name of 'Woodgate' was an old one in Suffolk, and that he was brought up not far from where Gladys' search was to commence. Later on in the 1990's, my Grandmother (Joan Woodgate) continued on with Gladys research, including a visit to Suffolk with husband Chas in 1997.

Much like many other family histories, some parts have been easier to research, compared with others! For example, there's been instances where children have died at a very early age and parents have subsequently named other sons and daughters after the deceased. This can make for a pretty bewildering state of affairs when you're holding the marriage certificate of someone who had previously died thirty years earlier! And of course there's the normal problems with spelling mistakes of names, incorrect dates, misspelt place names and lost records which can further add to confusion. Although a fair amount of work has already been done, there are undoubtedly gaps and inaccuracies that need fixing over time.

We can actually start the Woodgate journey all the way back in the 1500's, with a family by the surname 'Basse'. A couple named John Basse and Ales Basse had a child named Edward Basse. We don't know much about the family, other than the father (John Basse) died in 1571. There is mention of John Basse in 'The Suffolk Subsidy Tax of 1568' where a substantial figure of £10 was shown.

Their son, Edward Basse, was married twice, his first wife was named Alice Simonds (who he married in Rougham in 1568) and his second wife was named Katherine Barker (27th August 1607). Edward Basse was recorded as being a Yeoman of Rougham, after decease of his father John Basse in 1571. He held freehold and copyhold tenements in the town of Rougham and at South Grove. Edward Basse died and was buried at Rougham on 25th January 1624. There was again mention in the will (dated 1st May 1616) of Edward Basse holding free and copyhold tenements, lands, meadow and pasture.

Edward Basse had two children with his first wife, Alice Simonds named Mary Basse (born in 1575) and Ann Basse (born in 1577). Records suggest he had four children with his second widowed wife he married, Katherine Barker. These children were named Margaret Basse (baptised at Rougham on 22nd May 1608), Deborah Basse (baptised at Rougham on 28th March 1609), Martha Basse (baptised at Rougham on 1st January 1612), and Kathleen Basse (baptised at Rougham on 21st December 1615). The residue from the sales of certain properties of their father Edward Basse was to be divided between Katherine's children when they attained the age of 21.

Edward Basse had a baby daughter named Mary Basse, with his first wife Alice Simonds. Mary was baptised at Rougham on 19th January 1575. On 14 September 1600, she married a gentleman by the name of Thomas Woodgate. And this is the first 'Woodgate' we have record of. We're not entirely sure of what age Mary and Thomas Woodgate lived to. Records suggest that the great plague occurred in this area during 1666 and no further entries could be located for this segment of the Basse or Woodgate families.

What we do know is that Mary and Thomas Woodgate had five children; named Robert Woodgate (baptised at Rougham 30th August 1601 and died 30th January 1676), Thomas Woodgate (baptised at Rougham on 30th January 1602), Margaret Woodgate (baptised at Rougham on 1st September 1605), Richard Woodgate (baptised on 28th May 1608 at Rougham) and John Woodgate (baptised at Rougham on 30th December 1610) Sadly it appears John Woodgate was buried two years later at Rougham on 16th May 1612.

Before his death in 1675, the son named Richard Woodgate married a lady named Elizabeth. We don't know much about Elizabeth or who she was descended from. However we know that they both survived the great plague, and were recorded as both being over the age of sixty years in Wattisham Manorial Records in 1667. These same Wattisham Manorial Records in 1667 state Richard and Elizabeth and as being from Rougham, and owning 12 acres of land, tenements and land referred to as 'freemans'. The Hearth Tax of 1674 gave Mr Woodgate of Wattisham five hearths. Earliest Wattisham records for 1667 give Richard Woodgate and his wife when Mr William Munnings sold them a tenement and 12 acres of land at the westend of Battisford Tye. No record of burial or a will were found, relating to Richard Woodgate. However Wattisham Manorial Records had an entry for April 1675, when Richard Woodgate surrendered 'by his last will and testament'.

This is where things start to get a little confusing! Richard and Elizabeth (discussed above) had a son. We don't know his birth date, but we do know the son was named Richard. And to complicate matters even further, the son, Richard, married a woman named Elizabeth at some point! So the parents and descendants shared the same names. No record of baptism has been found for this 'latest' Richard Woodgate. However it appears that Richard Woodgate was the church warden for Ringshall after 1672. At the view of frankpledge with general Court Barron held at Wattisham on 9th April 1675:

  1. A Richard Woodgate was sworn as a chief Pledge
  2. A Richard Woodgate was sworn as a member of the Homage
  3. A Richard Woodgate, copyhold tenant of the manor surrendered into the hands of the Lord of the Manor all his copy holdings for the use and on behalf of his testament and last will.
He payed homage at Wattisham in 1690. Richard Woodgate made a will dated 2nd August 1692, and this was proved January 1693. His occupation was stated as a Yeoman of Wattisham. Witnesses were George Hall, Helen Hall. Executor was his son Jonathan Woodgate. It was mentioned that his well beloved friend George Hall to have 5/- and all bequests to be payed at the South Porch at Ringshall Parish Church (Church of St Catherine).

Although no record of Richard's wife was found, a good deal of information of his children and descendants was uncovered. He had two sons named James and Jonathan. The three daughters married into the Parr, Frost and Burling families. Susan became Susan Parr. Mary married John Burling. Margret married into the Frost family. His wife, Elizabeth, died and she was buried at Rinshall on 6th August 1691.

The latest Richard and Elizabeth descendants had a son named Jonathan Woodgate. Jonathan Woodgate was baptised at Rougham on 4th September 1653. Like his father Richard, Jonathan was also a Yeoman of Wattisham. At some point before his death in 1727, he married a women named Margaret. We don't have a marriage certificate for the couple or know much about Margaret. However they had a total of nine children, named Jonathan, James, Margaret, Susan, Andrew, Richard, Thomas and Hannah. Two 'Hannah's' were identified in records, possibly indicating one died in infancy and another offspring received the same name.

The son named Jonathan Woodgate was baptised at Hitcham, Suffolk on 16th September 1679. Jonathan was a farmer of Naughton, among other occupations. Jonathan married Isabella Winroll at St Mary's church, Bury St Edmunds on 25th July 1709. Isabella died in 1740 and was buried at Wattisham. Jonathan died and was buried at Naughton on 3rd December 1763. Jonathan and Isabella had two sons named Richard and Jonathan. Jonathan was born in 1710 and was baptised on 17th December 1710 at Great Bricett.

The son named Jonathan married Mary Lambert, on 28th September 1732 at Naughton. Mary was the daughter of William and Anne Boulder and was baptised at Naughton on 12th June 1700. Jonathan died fairly young (aged 34) in 1744 (he was buried on 22nd April) and Mary died some years later in 1774, and she was buried on 18th July 1774. Before his early death, Jonathan and Mary had a single son named Jonathan.

This latest 'Jonathan Woodgate', the only child of Jonathan and Mary, was baptised at Naughton on 10th October 1736. It appears at this stage that there was quite a lot of wealth in the family, but unfortunately records show that he surrendered Naughton Hall and associated land, plus another parcel of land referred to as 'Eyers' near Wattisham on 8th November 1785. The reasons for this surrender are not clear. Naughton Hall still exists today as a substantial, listed country manor house. Jonathan married Mary Simmonds of Aldham. Their marriage license was dated 14th February 1767. Jonathan and Mary had a total of eleven children, but sadly many of their children died in infancy.

One son who survived was also named Jonathan Woodgate. We know that he was born in 1773 and was baptised by the Reverend J B Leake at Naughton on 12th November 1773. Sadly his first wife and baby son died (more information is still to be gathered about them). His second wife was named Sarah Emmeny. Sarah was born at Polsted, Suffolk in 1782 and married Jonathan in St Mary's Church, Stoke-by-Nayland on 26th July 1808. Sarah lived to the remarkable age of 77. She died on 20th April 1860 and was buried at Stoke-by-Naland a few days later on 28th April 1860. Jonathan is listed on at least three census' under various occupations, including a blacksmith of Kersey, as a farmer in 1841 and as an agricultural labourer in 1851. Jonathan died on 10th January 1855 and was buried 17th January 1855 at Stoke-by-Nayland.

Jonathan Woodgate and Sarah Emmeny had quite a large family, consisting of children Jonathan, Sarah, John, Ann, William, Elsie, Elizabeth and Henry. John Woodgate was born in 1813 and was baptised at Kersey on 27th June 1813. He lived at Doctors Farm, Stoke-by-Nayland and worked most of his life as an agricultural labourer. He died on 16th September 1980, at the same respectable age of 77 (the same age as his mother Sarah). The usual searches in Record Offices produced information that Jonathan Woodgate lived at Doctors Farm, Leavenheath, a hamlet of Stoke-by-Nayland. Joan was pleased to visit it in 1997, although apparently it's since been renamed Pear Tree Farm.

John Woodgate married a lady called Mary-Ann Sage at St Mary's church, Stoke-by-Nayland on 18th June 1840. Mary-Ann was baptised at Boxford on 22nd July 1816 by Reverend William M Plume, of Boxford, Suffolk. The marriage was conducted by Rev. Charles Martin Torlesse. Records show that Mary-Ann was aged 24 when she married John Woodgate and was the daughter of James Sage, an agricultural labourer at Stoke-by-Nayland. Witnesses to the marriage were William Woodgate and Anne Munson, who all made their marks. Mary-Ann's mother was formally Elizabeth Rothenback. Mary-Ann died aged 82 at her daughters home, 19 Orsett Road, Greys, Essex on 11th April 1899 of 'senile decay'. John had died 9 years previously on 16th September 1890, aged 77. Mary-Ann was reputed to be of French descent.

John Woodgate and Mary-Ann had a number of children, including Henry, Francis, Elizabeth, Mary, Jonathan, Arthur, James, William, John and Mary. The son named Jonathan Woodgate was born 23rd January 1855 and was baptised on 29th April 1855 in Stoke-by-Nayland. Jonathan is recorded as being an agricultural labourer in Stoke-by-Nayland, during the 1871 census. When Jonathan was 17, he left home around 1872, following serious crop failures over three consecutive years (1872 is the wettest year ever recorded for England and Wales and there were widespread floods). Jonathan Woodgate followed his older brother John Woodgate to Birmingham and became a clerk, taking lodgings in the home of James and Sara Wheildon. Later Jonathan married their granddaughter, Gertrude Wheildon. Gertrude was born on 28th February 1857. Jonathan and Gertrude married at Bishop Ryder church (demolished in 1960), Birmingham on 23rd April 1877. Jonathan died in Birmingham on 14th February 1940 and was buried at Yardley Cemetery. Gertrude died at Leicester in 1946 and was buried in Birmingham. Jonathan informed his children the Woodgate's had farmed for generations, giving John Woodgate (his father) as a 'Farmer' on his marriage certificate.

Jonathan and Gertrude had nine children in Birmingham, these being Joseph, Arthur, Elizabeth, Gertrude, Henry, Mary, Albert, Dora, Violet and Olive. Arthur William Woodgate was born on 20th March 1881 at 134 Sandy Lane, Birmingham. Arthur married Elizabeth Clarke in Birmingham in 1908. Between them, they had five children named Sydney, Arthur, Maud, Henry and Charles (Chas Woodgate). Arthur died 8th September 1953 at 72 Partridge Road, Yardley, Birmingham.

Charles Clarence Woodgate (Chas) was born in Birmingham in 1920. He was engaged at Christmas 1941, and married Joan Showell on 18th July 1942, a descendant of Walter Showell. Walter was a school master of Yardley, Birmingham. World War 2 had begun on 3rd September 1939. Chas served in the Home Guard with BSA Tools. In January 1942, Chas joined the Army - Royal Armoured Corps, Catterick - number 7949434. After 10 weeks, he had 5 days leave. After a further 10 weeks he had 4 days Embarkmentation leave and was married to Joan on 18th July 1942 at Yardley Old Church. Chas was posted abroad and he served with the Eighth Army 'The Desert Rats'; under Lt. General Sir Bernard Montgomery (Monty).

Chas took part in campaigns in the Middle east and North Africa, against Erwin Rommel. Then in Italy during 1943, northwards from 'the toe' through Monte Cassino and the Gothic Line. Chas never talked about his war experiences; and so very few stories ever came out. He always said that he'd "left too many good comrades in Italy" and refused to go there on holiday in later years. He did speak of the shelling of the monastery at Cassino, and said he could hear the bells as they came down. Also they were once billeted at a farm, and the local pregnant peasant girl needed help at delivery time. And he had high praise for the Gurkha's, said how clever, kind and efficient they were, the best mates to be 'on guard' with; they would creep up on you silently and say "Alright Jonny?".

War in Europe ended 7th May 1945. Shortly afterwards Chas took a troop of men and a steam train loaded with pit props, across the mountains into Germany, through Klagenfort to Graz in the Ruhr and the coal mines. On another occasion he actually drove a tank transporter over a high pass. 50 years later while Chas and Joan were on a coach holiday in Austria, coincidently one of the other passengers was relating to how a soldier in wartime had driven a transporter over this pass - an impossibility - and was delighted to meet Chas!

In August 1945 Chas flew back to the UK from Foggia in Italy. Aged 24 at this time, he had 7 days leave before intending to re-train for war in the Far East. However the Japanese capitulated on 14th August 1945, as a direct consequence of the American atom bombs. So following a change of plans, in September 1945, Chas returned to Austria to a reformed Royal Tank Regiment. After a brief time serving in Palestine, Chas sailed from Alexandria to Marseille, across France by train and across the channel to Wokingham. On 29th September 1946 (aged nearly 26) Chas was demobbed at Aldershot. He returned back to work with BSA machine tooling and became a sales representative in southern England. At this point Chas and Joan moved from Yardley in Birmingham, to Ivy Cottage, on Boxhill in Wiltshire.

Chas and Joan had five children; Elaine, Hillary, John, Richard and Peter. I am a descendant of Richard Woodgate.