Annex 7

A Death from Diphtheria

This is a reply to an essay by a pupil now at Toppesfield School on the Stambourne pupil whose gravestone of 1899 still stands here.

26 July 1989

from Tinkers
Ridgewell (044 085) 316

Thank you for letting us see your project of Mary Ellen Ashard – we are very impressed by it.

In my first laboratory in 1945 we were even then still diagnosing a case every week or so but they stopped soon after. We had a method for distinguishing the mild (called mitis) from the severe gravis bacteria. Your excellent account of the disease leaves little doubt that the poor child had the misfortune to be infected with Corynebacterium diptheriae gravis and in the days before antisera probably would not have survived anyway.

I suppose your Ruth Ashard was one of my predecessors as Churchwarden even though she was living in Toppesfield. The Congregational minister was John Wesley Houchin.

The Ashards are a new family in Stambourne! Our records go back to 1559 and they don’t appear by 1811. Since then we have only looked at the marriage registers but from them can make up most of your family. I think George the grandfather must have been the immigrant for he was not married here.

The Ashard Family Tree
The Ashard Family Tree

Much depends on inference but the only doubtful one is Edith Lucy whose father is not given. This is usually carelessness because if he is really not known the Rector seems to delight in saying so. The only Ashards in the congregational records are between 1865 and 1871 where there are seven – mostly Old Testament Christian names – none is James or George. I have still to do our Victorian birth and death records (yr photocopy is the first I’ve seen) but will watch for the missing persons when I do.
[They were later analysed and I did not find the names missing.]

Return to Chapter 6 – Lay governance and buildings