Little Waldingfield History Society
Visit by French Historical Association Members
It was with great pleasure that trustees / members of LWHS and members of St Lawrence PCC welcomed 35 French visitors from Lyon, comprising members of their local history society and descendants from the Appletons of Holbrook Hall, Little Waldingfield.
Sylvie Monin-Badey, trip organiser and lecturer at the Jean Moulin University in Lyon, first contacted the LW parish council in August 2015 with a series of questions about a potential trip to visit the church and the ‘Appleton Manor’. Queries were passed onto LWHS and so began an interesting period of putting together a foreign trip from long distance; sadly Holbrook Hall could not be visited as it was converted into a care home some time ago, changing its name to Brookwood Manor in the process.
Society trustees rose early and preparations were thankfully just about finished, including the gay French flag bunting inside and out, when their coach driver, who clearly performed a sterling job on busy UK roads, arrived early; on the flip side this then gave the 35 person group more time to explore the church and its contents.
After welcoming the group, trustees and members were on hand to hopefully answer the many questions that naturally arose from our visitors; this stretched the limited French language skills of many locals to the limit, though happily one or two were pretty good, whilst Sylvie herself put the rest of us to shame - see later.
Many photographs were taken, books / postcards purchased and gifts exchanged between both sides when Janine, whilst looking closely and longingly at the lovely listed organ in the church, mentioned that she had previously been a church organist - luckily a key to the vestry was found, from where a key to the organ was sourced and the machine itself switched on. We were then treated to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which sounded fantastic in the beautiful church with its superb acoustics, followed by Amazing Grace, which was a lovely conclusion to their church visit.
But all was not over as we all then trooped the few yards up Church Road to the Parish Room where celebratory refreshments had been laid on. This seemed to go down well with new found friends and villagers alike, happily tucking into sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, cucumber sandwiches (with the crusts cut off - very English) and cakes too plentiful to mention - lovely. At this point it seemed appropriate for Sylvie to give her short speech, which she did, twice, firstly in English and then in French, to rapturous applause from all present. The speech follows, with my further explanation (in brackets):
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, we thank you very much for your friendly welcome. Today’s visit, on Tuesday 25th July 2017, has been organised to consider the church of Little Waldingfield (St Lawrence), containing the Appleton’s coats or arms, tombs etc. Indeed, this visit has a very special meaning for Mr Frank Testart, Mrs Marcelle Appleton’s grandson, representing the French family of the Appletons.
In the past, this family originated from Little Waldingfield, Suffolk. Mrs Marcelle Appleton was born in 1895, in Oberbruck, Bas-Rhin (a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est, north-eastern France), and deceased in 1964 in Bourg-en-Bresse (a commune in Eastern France). She was Jean Appleton’s single daughter - his wife was Gabrielle Zellez. Jean Appleton taught law at university level and was also a barrister. He was born in 1868 in Charolles (a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department, Bourgogne region in eastern France) and he deceased in 1942, in Paris. His father was Charles Louis Appleton, who taught Roman Law in Berne, Switzerland and in Lyon (the capital city of France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region). He was born in Rennes, in Brittany, circa 1835.
Then there is John James Appleton, his grandson. He was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He arrived in France during the early years of the nineteenth century as a businessman, working for the American Embassy, owing to assistance of Mr Talley and Mr Bernadotte (of the House of the current Royal family of Sweden). The latter was ‘King of Sweden’ and Mr Talley was Napoleon 1st’s great friend.
John James is the first American born Appleton to have French offspring. In the current French family it is still said that the Appleton’s belong to William the Conqueror’s offspring via his fourth son Henry Beauclerc (Henry 1st of England). According to the family researches, the Appleton’s have both English and Norman roots.
I express our appreciation and sincere thanks to the Reverend Judith Sweetman, all the members of the church council, Mr Andy Sheppard, all members of the (Little Waldingfield) History Society and the ladies who prepared the refreshments for this special party.
Today’s visit symbolises our friendship with your community, giving us such a warm welcome.
Thank you to all.
Maître de Conférences d’Anglais
Faculté des Langues
UNIVERSITÉ LYON 3 JEAN MOULIN
No one could have said anything better, and we then continued tucking into the refreshments, coincident with many real time phone conversations back home to other members of their group - we hope they will be more such trips in the future, albeit probably on a much smaller scale. After this, with some sadness but happy memories, the English contingent lined up on the pavement outside the Parish Room to wave to the passing coach taking our new best friends off to their next destination, all of whom were equally waving furiously. If they enjoyed themselves half as much as we did, they will have had a good time in Little Waldingfield and we heartily thank them for making an excuse for a party. We also thank Sylvie for the generous donation towards decorating the church Christmas tree, found on a table in a lovely card as we were putting everything away - not necessary but a very nice gesture.
Andy Sheppard 25th July 2017