House and Brunton families

The name House means exactly what it appears to, and derives from the Old English hus (= house, or dwelling). Adoption of the word as a name was probably due to connections (either as owner or worker) to a large house, e.g. a manor.

The House's appear to have been a solid Dorset family. The greatest concentration in the 1881 census was in the Dorchester registration district. My lot came from a delightful part of the county around Tincleton in the Frome Valley. There's not much to Tincleton now, and even in 1881 the census returns show only 146 inhabitants. Houses were agricultural labourers, dairymen or watermen (i.e. boat for hire), mostly, or the girls went into service.

St John's, Tincleton

My adopted grandfather Alfred Henry House was an engineer's draughtsman by profession   he designed and drew the machines that made other machines until his eyesight failed and he was forced to retire. He became a tobacconist (a dying breed!) in Derby before retiring finally (blindness had set in) to the hills above Wirksworth.

My adopted father, Paul, would have joined the railways (various uncles had done the same) if it hadn't been for the Second World War. At 19 (just) he enlisted with the Royal Navy Reserve and trained as a flying observer. He served on various ships and shore stations with the Fleet Air Arm, flying in Walrus and Swordfish aircraft, and survived two reasonably well known incidents, both the result of what could be called  friendly fire.

The first occurred when he was aboard HMS Sheffield, one of the ships chasing the Bismarck in the North Atlantic in May 1941. On the 26th, Swordfish aircraft from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal mistook her (in bad weather it must be said) for the Bismarck itself. Luckily their torpedoes missed, traveling down each side of the Sheffield. Defective exploders, sensitive to heavy seas, may have played a part in avoiding disaster. Paul had been on the bridge at the time and so had a very good view of a very close shave! Read more about this episode here.

The Stringbag - Fairey Swordfish1

HMS Sheffield2

The second incident happened on the Arctic Convoy to Murmansk, where he was aboard HMS Trinidad, in March 1942. This ship had deck-mounted torpedo launchers, and, under attack by German U-boats, these were employed. Unfortunately, the sea temperature was so low that the new guidance mechanisms fitted to the torpedoes jammed, and one described a perfect arc to hit its own ship amidships, killing 30 of the crew. The survivors were rescued by Matchless and other ships. This incident is described in the book The ship that torpedoed itself by Frank Pearce (also a survivor) and published by Baron Jay Publishers (1975). Paul was rescued in his greatcoat and underwear and lost most of his belongings, including his uniform (I seem to recall he was resting below when the torpedo hit and had no time to gather stuff together). This was a problem, as he was due to get married in May, and of course there was a shortage of uniforms. The only one he could find was in the window of Gieves Outfitters in Portsmouth, but this was an Admiral's uniform with far too much gold piping and braid. The shop simply stripped it all off and let him have it, and that's what he's wearing in the wedding photo.

HMS Trinidad2

Paul & Billie House, 26 May 1942, St Mary's, Alverstoke

After the war Paul convalesced (from what I m not sure) in Malta, and travelled to the Far East and Australia. He served in the Korean War as a liaison officer, before being posted to Washington DC for 3 years, also doing liaison work. A stint at the Admiralty was followed by 3 glorious years in Cyprus as the only Royal Navy officer, as liaison officer (again!) working with the Commander-in-Chief Air Vice Marshall Sir Thomas Prickett, from whom he received the Order of the British Empire in 1966 (we also lived down the road from Air Marshall Sir Harold  "Micky"  Martin, one of the Dam Busters pilots). He ended his Naval career where he started it - at HMS Daedalus in Lee-on-Solent, in charge of the Royal Navy microfilm unit. Paul's service history and decorations are listed here.

The Bruntons in my tree are Yorkshiremen, although they may have originated from further north - either Northumberland or southern Scotland. The name could be derived from old English for stream (burna) and settlement (tun).

Bruntons were most commonly found in southern Scotland in the 1881 census, mainly in the Edinburgh, Galashiels and Kirkcaldy districts. In England, the name was concentrated around Darlington and Harrogate, with another centre in the Norwich region. By 1998 the name had spread to more regions in both countries, but the main centres were still in Scotland. I can t recall anyone talking of a Scottish connection in the family - and the most distant Bruntons I can find all came from the North York Moors (Glaisdale, Danby, Lealholm and other villages in the area, my favorite being Fryup). Other connected families (Pennock, Newton, Moon, Agar, Winspear) are also all solidly North Yorkshire.

Prospect House, Fryup

William Lister Brunton and family circa 1896

Back row (standing): William Lister, Mary (Edith), Elsie. Middle row: Annie Lister, William Newton, Frederick, Ann, Lena May (on Ann's knee), Frank. Front row (sitting): Arnold, John

Alfred House & Lena Brunton marriage, 1919. Bridesmaids Aileen Boole (left) and Vera (Blanche) Brunton

Bruntons later in life (circa 1950)

Standing left to right: Brian House, Wynn, Maurice (holding Pamela), William, Alfred House, Ethel?, Frederick. Sitting: Blanche, Myrtle?, Annie, Lena, Jack or Frank

1 Flemming Fogh

2 Imperial War Museum