My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Eli and Ellen Flitney

See previous post here

My great grandparents Eli and Ellen Flitney had eight sons born between 1876 and 1898. When the first of their sons was born the family were living at Chalkshire a hamlet in the parish of Ellesborough in Buckinghamshire. Later, they moved to Hill End, Ellesborough, and it was there that Ellen continued to live after the death of Eli in 1899.

Hill End

Ellesborough lies on the northern slope of the Chiltern Hills, with the highest point being Combe Hill, at 852 ft. The Upper Icknield Way wanders from the main road, running from Little Kimble Church to Wendover, through Ellesborough village and the hamlet of Butlers Cross... (Read more at British History Online.)  At the time of the First World War, the principal occupation of the male inhabitants was almost entirely agricultural, while the women were more likely to be lace makers or in domestic service. By 1911, six of Ellen’s eight sons would be working on the land. Of the other two sons, Leonard was a rural postman and Fred at the age of thirteen was a telegraph messenger.

Hard work was a way of life for many families at the beginning of the 20th century. Wages were low and working hours long. Away from work family life often revolved around the church, with its choir and Sunday school. In Ellesborough and surrounding villages the big event of the year was the Annual Flower Show organised by the Velvet Lawn Cottage Garden Association. A varied programme of events was on offer each year and in 1912 the main attraction was an Old World Fair with swing boats a coconut shy and a variety of stalls. The inclement weather didn't diminish the fun, and much merriment accompanied the contestants in the spar boxing competition as they attempted to spar while sitting astride a damp pole raised some way from the ground. Elsewhere in the show Mr. T Walker of Thame was responsible for judging the horticultural section. He awarded Mrs. Flitney a first prize for her display of geraniums. The report in the local paper doesn't include a Christian name, so I don't know if this was Ellen or another member of the family.

In 1913 the Ellesborough Brass Band, the Athletics and the ‘bowling for a pig game’ presented by Sir Lancelot Aubrey Fletcher with prizes awarded by Lady Fletcher were the most keenly attended attractions.  Mrs. Flitney again won a prize but this time it was for needlework.

Ellesborough Brass Band (year unknown) 

In 1914 war intervened and the show was abandoned; 

The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on the 28th June 1914 set off a chain of events that would change the lives of millions of ordinary people.  Austria-Hungary (supported by Germany) declared war on Serbia on the 28th July. This was followed by Germany declaring war on Russia and France. On the 4th August, German troops marched on France, taking a route through Belgium. Britain had agreed to guarantee Belgium’s neutrality, and immediately declared war on Germany and life would never be the same. 

Many of the menfolk of the village volunteered for active service and when conscription began in January 1916 more would follow.  

A recruiting depot August, 1914.
By August 1917, three of Ellen's sons, Sidney, Abel and Arthur would be dead and all but one of her other five sons would be serving their country.

To be continued...

Source documents;
The Bucks Herald
Census returns


  1. Is this the farm dad had thought he was going to inherit? Well done for a lovely interesting post. x

  2. I'm not sure Sue, but I thought that farm belonged to one of his uncles which could be one of Eli and Ellen's sons. Lots more research to do before I can get even close to finding out (if I ever do). Thanks for your kind words. xx

  3. Barbara yet again you excel! With another very informative piece about our forebears. So beautifully written too, a joy to read.

    1. Thank you so much John. This praise will go to my head! xx

  4. Very interesting loving the family names Eli! and Sydney!!! XXXX

    1. Hi Paula, glad you found it interesting. Eli is a great name and I also like Ellen, it would be nice to see them back in fashion! xxxx

  5. I have the flitney family in my tree, I have a Ruth Flitney marrying a George Ward. It stems from my mums Talmer side of the family who all come from the buckinghamshire area.

    1. Thanks very much for the information Glen and for your email. It certainly sounds as though we could be related somewhere along the line.
      I’m very happy to meet you and hope we get to ‘chat’ again in the future. Barbara.

  6. Very interesting and moving. The Flitneys are my family too.

    1. Hello Sue, thanks so much for your kind words. Do you happen to know how we are related? I’m the daughter of Denis Flitney and his father was Arthur Denis (Jack) Flitney.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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