When a young carpenter by the name of Jack scrawled some cheeky graffiti on a bitterly cold day in 1830, up in the roof of the stately home of Woodhouse Wentworth, Rotherham, he could have had no idea that almost two hundred years later, he would have sparked a hunt to uncover the stories of the four men and to track their descendants.
Jack Wragg, the youngest of the group, and probably our graffiti writer, was a 24 year old joiner from Masbrough, Rotherham; Jack Vickers was a 27 year old carpenter from Thorpe; and William Peck, the butt of the unfinished rhyme, was a 46 year old carpenter from Haugh. William Peck died without children but the descendants of Jack Wragg and Jack Vickers are still in the area.
Tracing Jack Fallding proved to be the most difficult; our researcher found two second cousins- a joiner and a carpenter- living in Wentworth in 1830. The final piece of the puzzle was solved when Master Builder Paul Furniss, an expert in historic building renovation, who has worked extensively on Wentworth Woodhouse, and is himself a distant relative, shared a photograph of one of Jack Fallding’s many signatory marks found on the portico from the same period.
One of our volunteer researchers from the History Research Group at Wentworth Woodhouse was finally able to solve Jack Fallding’s identity using handwriting analysis: Jack’s distinctive and elongated J is also clearly visible on his marriage records.
Jack Fallding, the foreman of the 1830 group, was 42 years old and lived at the Earl’s Carpentry Yard with his family. Although he left no male heirs, he left a host of far-flung extended family and distant cousins.
Linda Beckett Chapman, pictured here with cousins, from Australia contacted us after reading the press appeal for descendants. “Unfortunately I have not been able to visit Wentworth House. I live thousands of miles away on an Island, Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean”.
She is related to Jack Fallding by marriage: her great-grandfather, John Kenworthy Beckett, a mechanic on the Wentworth Estate, married Jack’s daughter, which makes Sarah her step-great grandmother.
Other relatives to come forward have been much closer to home. Sean Fallding, of Bramley, Rotherham, is a distant relative: his grandfather Thomas Fallding was a joiner who worked at Cortonwood Colliery, furnishing almost his entire home with furniture he made himself. As a child, Sean referred to a first cousin of his as being a carpenter, only to be swiftly and roundly rebuked that he was in actual fact a joiner- a highly skilled professional who had served a full apprenticeship and not to be confused with being a lowly carpenter. “Seethee, any foil can hack away arra lump o’ timber, wor I does takes skill!”
Sean wished us success in locating the other Jacks: ”It’s certainly exciting to know our family had a direct link to such a historical building. But I must say on behalf of all Falldings, we accept no responsibility and are not liable for any damage caused by our hooligan ancestor!”
These signatory marks, left by craftsmen like Jack, are a record of work done on the house, covering hundreds of years. They also show a sense of pride, recording work done, by whom, and when. As building work continues at Wentworth Woodhouse, new marks are constantly being discovered. If you’d like to find out more, follow the link to our video “G is for Grafitti” here.
And if you have stories to tell or photographs to share about your ancestors, working at Wentworth Woodhouse or the Estates, we’d love to hear from you!