In the 1790s, three brothers were born in Braintree, Essex – William Browne in 1793, Michael Browne in 1796 and James Browne about 1799 – and they all came to Ashwellthorpe to live, work and marry by 1815 to 1818. Two of the brothers married two Ashwellthorpe sisters and two were weavers, when the weaving industry was still important in Norwich with many outworkers in the local villages and small towns.
They were probably the sons of Peter Browne who was born in Ashwellthorpe about 1754 and lived here until he was apprenticed at 13 by his father to a Shoemaker in Carleton Forehoe for five years. After his apprenticeship was completed, Peter worked in different places, married Mary, lived in Braintree for several years and returned to Ashwellthorpe.
One of the brothers, Michael, who was a weaver and also an agricultural worker, married Elizabeth Howes in 1816 and they had 13 children in Ashwellthorpe between 1817 and 1842. One of their sons, Peter, married Maria, the daughter of one of the Ashwellthorpe blacksmiths Thomas Austin, in 1844, and Peter and Maria lived in Fundenhall for a few years, with him working as a woodman. By 1860, Peter browne had become the Innkeeper at The Mariners Arms, a Lacons Brewery public house, along the Ashwellthorpe Road in Silfield where the family stayed for a few years. They subsequently moved on to Wymondham and then Woodrising, where Peer died in 1907 and Maria in 1914.
Moving rapidly through two more generations – teir son Peter Thomas Austin Browne and his son Walter James Browne – we come to Dorothy, the daughter of Walter. She was born in Wymondham in 1929 and married Leonard Torbuck in Norwich in 1951. The Torbuck family emigrated to Adelaide, South Australia, in 1963 and on 28 April 2013, Dorothy returned to Ashwellthorpe for the first time in many decades. She and her daughter and son-in-law were able to see Dorothy’s great-great-grandparents Michael and Elizabeth’s gravestone in All Saints’ churchyard, the blacksmith Austin’s chimney (with his initials carved into a brick) and bellows, the old Mariners’ public house and the gravestones of her great-grandparents Peter and Maria in Woodrising.
So that brief account covering 200 years of family history in just four paragraphs leads on to the photograph of Dorothy, her daughter Linda and son-in-law Tom, at All Saints Church, Ashwellthorpe, on 28 April 2013.
Jennifer Robbie October 2013