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England

 

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For as far back as I know — middle 19th century — my family is entirely English on both sides. They come from the West Midlands and the Northwest. My father was born in Lancashire (pink on the attached map) but grew up in Shropshire (blue). My mother was born and raised in Staffordshire (purple), though her father's family came from north Worcestershire (yellow). Before I was born, my parents moved to Northamptonshire (green), and I was born and raised there.

The black dots on the map show my father's birthplace at Westhoughton in pink Lancashire, his childhood home in Oakengates, blue Shropshire, and my mother's home in Hednesford, purple Staffordshire. The black dot in green Northamptonshire is Northampton, my own home town. The gray blob in the Southeast is London, which Northampton people refer to synecdochically as "The Smoke."

Eight miles west of Oakengates lie the ruins of the old Roman town of Viroconium Cornoviorum. Oakengates itself lies on the great old Roman road through the Midlands from London to Viroconium, the road called "Watling Street" by the Saxons (and by Northamptonshire locals at least as late as the 1960s), and which in modern times became the A5 trunk road. By coincidence, my mother's home town and mine are both a few miles from the Watling Street. It passes three miles south of Hednesford, and it also passes through Towcester, eight miles south-southwest of Northampton. The spidery black line on the map is the Watling Street.

The precise geometrical center of England is at Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire, 34 miles NW of Northampton. The folk at Meriden, Warwickshire, 35 miles WNW of Northampton, claim to be as far from the sea as it is possible to get in England.

The downward links give details on:

  • Oakengates, which my father considered his home town.
  • Hednesford, my mother's home town (village, really).
  • Northampton, to where they moved during WW2, and where my sister and I grew up.