So who do you think you are?
  • 06 10 2015

So who do you think you are?

Source: Steve Loader

It was a moment to bring a tingle to the spine.

Proof that there is much more to your family history than you ever realised – a moment like those from TV’s popular ‘ancestor hunt’ Who Do You Think You Are?

Hugh Peters grew up believing his family were Midlands stock, until sons Mark and Tim stumbled across connections with the Medway-based Peters family, the dynasty behind the huge Peters Lime & Cement Works on the river’s east bank – site of the new Peters Village community - and once owners of the long since demolished Wouldham Hall.

So Hugh and wife Felicity, and Mark and Tim, visited the area seeking graves that might prove this connection.

“We arrived at Halling Church, not really expecting to find much,” said Hugh. “Only to be faced with this massive headstone – it belonged to Thomas Peters, my great-great grandfather.

“I felt this huge rush of emotion; Mark and Tim had worked it all out beforehand, of course, but I suddenly realised there really was this connection with our wider family, once quite well-known in this part of Kent and including Thomas' older brother, William, who began the cement dynasty.”

The disconnection had occurred two generations earlier in London: Hugh’s grandmother Nina Thatcher travelled from her Shropshire home to work in the then well-known Kensington dairy Welford & Sons, later marrying one of the company managers, Ernest Peters – a member of the Kent family.

Within two years though, tragedy struck: whether through stress or depression, Ernest took his own life, leaving his young wife pregnant with a son, Ernest junior – Hugh’s father.

“But what had thrown us previously was that my dad had been born in Shropshire,” said Hugh, 76. “Until we realised my poor widowed grandmother must have returned to the bosom of her family to help bring up her baby.

“She later moved near Warwick where she bought a village shop, ran it single-handedly and raised my dad. I  was then born in the brewing town of Burton-on-Trent, with no idea of the Kent connection.”

Now living in south London, Hugh – a semi-retired director of a motor trade group – wants to know more about his lost family, with help from Mark and Tim, both equally fascinated.

“We have become hooked by the whole Peters Works story,” admitted Mark, who recently visited the Peters Village site as a guest of Trenport, along with his three-year-old daughter Emily, and dad (see picture above).

“So we would love to hear more about this operation, in its heyday the largest of its kind in the world with a workforce of 1,000 men and a fleet of 80 barges, which rose so quickly in the late 1800s, before declining almost as fast.”

■ If you can help Mark and Hugh’s ancestral search or simply pass on information about your own family’s connection with Peters Works, please tell us via Trenport’s Peters Village community liaison manager Shirley Boards: shirley.boards@trenport.co.uk or 01233 224981.