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You will have to forgive me this personal indulgence - but I wanted to put here just a little bit about my connections with Stoke Damerel.
Why am I, Hugh Wallis, the OPC for Stoke Damerel? A good question and one that I sometimes wonder about myself.
My interest in genealogy really started in August 2000 when my wife posted a message to a bulletin board about my great-grandfather, Thomas Henry WALLIS, and, within a day, had more information about him than I had ever dreamed possible. In fact it was only an 1881 census entry from Newington, Surrey which showed his father, William WALLIS, as being from "Stoke, Devon", and an 1851 census entry from Stoke Damerel showing his father as being Thomas WALLIS, Shipwright. But that was enough to get me going. I had never known any relatives on my father's side of the family and had had no idea that there was any connection to Devon, all known relatives up to then being from South London/Surrey area.
To add to all this, my parents had both been stationed in Devonport during World War II, my father being RNVR and my mother a Wren. This was where they met. Another twist of fate had caused Stoke Damerel to play a pivotal role in my very existence! Little did Mum and Dad know that during all their courting days they were walking the same streets of Stoke Damerel that my father's great grandfather and his father before him presumably had known so well. This maybe also helps to explain the mystery of why my father and his father both served in the Navy in the two Word Wars. It was just "what the Wallises did" - that race memory of the maritime connection maybe.
Finding out about all this led me to wonder about The Axe. A ceremonial wooden axe had been passed through the family along with the story that it was a wheelwright's axe that had been carried by one of my ancestors in the coronation parade of King William IV. Naturally we had assumed that this was in London somewhere, not having any idea that there was a Devon connection to our family at all. Now - having got back as far as pre William IV times I had not found any WALLIS wheelwrights but - we had shipwrights. Maybe this was a replica of a shipwright's axe and the parade was in Devonport, not London. Still thinking there was a London connection I contacted the Shipwrights' Guild of the City of London who confirmed that the axe looked very much like a shipwright's axe and suggested that I contact the Devonport museum. A quick check on Google brought me to the Plymouth Naval Base Museum whence I contacted Michael Phillips who, after some considerable kind searching, found a book containing the following:
"Form of the Dock-Yard Grand Coronation Procession,
This fit perfectly with the story (except for the slight wheelwright/shipwright wrinkle - but that could easily be explained by over 170 years of story telling) and with the description of the axe itself. I conclude that my great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas WALLIS, Shipwright in H.M.Dockyard, Devonport, was probably one of those "Six men with axes". How could I NOT take on the Stoke Damerel OPC job once it had been suggested to me. I wonder what 3g-gf Thomas would think about all this....
2002 - an addendum - I have now discovered that 3g-gf Thomas's father, also called Thomas, was a shipwright in the Devonport Dockyard as well and so maybe he was also involved in this parade, perhaps being one of the ones to carry "the Axe". Incidentally I have also discovered that John Mudge, the publisher of the commemorative book, married 3g-gf's sister, Jemima and so it all comes together...
The following are a few pictures of the Axe itself (you can click on the thumbnail images to see them full-size)