This is the second of six blogs, written and published in six consecutive days, each one focussing on a particular family gravestone which my wife and I visited on our recent 40th Wedding Anniversary road trip. You can read Part 1 here.
Today, we’re in the quintessentially English picture book village of Lacock, in Wiltshire…
While my Port ancestors were busy in Oxfordshire, working as innkeepers and yeomen farmers, another branch of my family, the Trumans, were doing similar things in Wiltshire. Most of my direct Truman ancestors seem to have been butchers, but there were also bakers, and quite possibly, for all I know, the odd candlestick maker in amongst them too.
Elizabeth Truman, my 4x great grandmother, who was later to marry Samuel Port in London just after he’d completed his apprenticeship, was born in Lacock, and baptised at the wonderfully-dedicated parish church of St Cyriac in March 1754.
Her father, Joseph Truman, died when Elizabeth was just a few years old and by the early 1770s, the family were in London: or, at least, some of them were. Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, remained in Lacock where his life is commemorated on a very impressive tomb.
Thanks to the extensive archive of the Talbot family of Lacock (catalogued by the Wiltshire & Swindon Archives) we get occassional glimpses of Benjamin and we learn that he was a butcher: at least we learn that in a bundle of ‘Bills for John Talbot for Lacock household and estate’ dating from 1739 to 1744, there’s a ‘Receipted bill from Benjamin Truman for meat.’ And the Talbot archive includes several similar bills, the latest dating from 1761.
Another bundle of bills, with a range of dates from 1745 to 1767, includes a ‘Receipted bill from Benjamin Truman for beef and powder.’ The Oxford English Dictionary includes the following definition of ‘powder’:
b. A preparation used in food or cooking as a seasoning, flavouring, colouring, preservative, etc.; formerly spec. powdered salt, spice, or other condiment, for seasoning or preserving food (also figurative) (obsolete).Oxford English Dictionary online. Accessed 2 May 2022
There’s also a defintion of ‘powder beef’ which seems to be relevant:
Benjamin’s gravestone provides us with a one-stop Truman family tree.
The text on the main panel reads:
Lieth Interred the Body
of BENJAMIN TRUMAN
who died August the 24th 1777
Aged 69 Years
Also SARAH his wife who died April
the 4th 1762 Aged 46 Years
Also MARY TRUMAN Spinster
died March the 30th 1792
Aged 54 Years
Recorded on the other panels (some of which are not quite so legible) are Benjamin’s son, James Truman (c.1755-1796) and his wife Ann (c.1755-1804), and their son William (c.1779-1837) and his wife Mary (c.1768-1833). Three generations of the family all recorded on one stone covering 128 years!
As far as I’m aware, Benjamin is the only relative of mine commemorated on a (surviving) chest tomb and my reaction when I first saw an image of the memorial online was to assume that Benjamin was a man of real importance – I even discovered that the mounment itself is a Grade II listed building! – but standing in the churchyard at Lacock last week and looking around, it soon became clear that chest tombs were two-a-penny at St Cyriac’s.
So perhaps Benjamin wasn’t so important after all. As always in these matters, context is everything…
© David Annal, Lifelines Research, 3 May 2022