🦶My Pilgrimage to Walberton

As I write this, I’ve been in the United Kingdom and Ireland since late March, 2023.  I’m sitting here on a couch next to a window with a view of the English Channel in Southsea, Great Britain.  You may ask why I’m in a relatively small town on the English seaside when there are hundreds of other more compelling places to visit in Great Britain. 

What has brought me here is the work my late father did some 30 years ago on my family surname of Noice. He painstakingly documented his findings using various pre-Google and pre-ancestry.com resources. This involved obtaining info from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as Census and library records to find out where the Noices came from. In his introduction to his book about the 11 generations of Noices he says that he was spurred to write the book to answer his daughter, Cathy’s question, “Where do we come from?”  I’m mortified to report that I finally read the book from cover to cover about four months ago. I’ve dragged that book through at least five moves (even one cross country), and I finally prioritized reading it.

The road to Walberton

In reading the book, I was compelled to make a pilgrimage to Walberton, GB, where at least 4 generations of Noices made their home.  In fact, getting to Walberton was the entire underlying reason for coming to the United Kingdom although the trip grew as I learned more about other off shoots of my family including Dunfermline, SC, Armagh NI, Tipperary, IR and Wallingford, GB. The one thing I have learned in my genealogical research is that the best records are found in Anglican Churches in England.  Unfortunately for research, branches of my family were practicing non-Anglicans, who at some point fell out of favor such as Presbyterians in Scotland and, later, Northern Ireland and poor, famine-stricken Catholics, in the country side of Tipperary, Ireland. I found a lot of dead ends. But, at least I was there to find them! 

The first Edward Noice Sr. and my 7th Great Grandfather moved from Abbotts Ann, Hampshire, England, and married Elizabeth Risbridger in 1705. She had three children, including my 6th Great Grandfather Edward Noice Jr. but died shortly later in Walberton, Sussex, England.  My father was unable to trace back further than Edward Sr. but I have since found roots back to Hampshire England to 1596 and three generations of Richard Noyes.  This lines up with the majority of the Noice (Noyes, Noyce) surname to be located in Hampshire England in the 1850’s.  

The sheep along the road to Walberton

Edward Noice Jr. was born in Walberton, married his wife, Mary Stubbs, there on May 4th, 1736 at St. Mary’s Church and their son, Edward Noice III, was baptized in the same church in 1737.  Walberton was then home to Edward IV who was born there and baptized at St. Mary’s in 1771. Edward Noice V was born in Walberton in 1813 and he was the Noice who traveled to the United States with his wife Elizabeth. She gave birth to Edward Harrington Noice in 1839 in Princeton, NJ. Four generations of Noices and they all lived in the tiny village of Walberton, Sussex, England (population 2,174). I researched and found that St. Mary’s Church (founded in the 11th century) is still there.  I had to go.

The reality of traveling to Walberton was a bit more difficult than I realized.  I booked a flat in Southsea that had transit connections, places to visit, the ocean close by, convenient shopping and restaurants. Southsea had taxis, trains and buses.  Walberton did not except for a daily bus from Arundel (the opposite direction).  I found a train that took me to Barnham but I had no idea if I could walk (did it have safe walkways) from Barnham to St. Mary’s in Walberton although it was only 2 miles. I was dead set against renting a car as, even after three weeks of watching, walking and riding

A European Robin on one of the many graves at St. Mary’s Church in Walberton

 left side of the road driving in the United Kingdom, I just didn’t have the guts to get behind the wheel of what would likely be a stick shift car and drive on the left-hand side.  I really started to panic on Sunday when I couldn’t find Ubers in Barnham to take me to St. Mary’s.  I delayed my trip to Monday, hoping a regular workday would produce more Uber drivers. It did not.  I decided that Monday was the last day since I had ample time to walk.  I also was able to map the trip on Google maps and it showed me that there was a sidewalk/walkway for what looked like the entire trip.  Off I went on Monday at around 11 AM to catch the train to Barnham.

Arriving at the Barnham train station at about 11:30 and I was glad to see a taxi there but I just felt like that would be too short a ride and that I wouldn’t truly experience the walk to Walberton. I wanted my “boots on the ground”.  I decided to walk.  I have to say that I was glad to see several folks on bikes, moms with strollers and some joggers on my walk to Walberton.  The walk itself was bucolic. I walked on a separate bike path through several fields full of sheep and wild flowers.  Passersby were friendly and there wasn’t a single moment when I thought I was in danger of being run over by a car. The town of Walberton is lovely with several thatched roof homes , many of them having names like Dairy Lane Cottage and Chamomile Cottage. The main drag of Walberton is called The Street and the church is on Church Lane.  I enjoyed the walk so much as it really felt like a pilgrimage to my ancestral home and a way to honor them 

Myself in front of the St. Mary’s Church where 4 generations of Noices lived, baptized and married in the 18th and 19th century

St. Mary’s Church is surrounded by graves and headstones.  My first inclination was to walk to find some gravestone with Noice on it.  I realized this was probably foolhardy as most of the stones were unreadable.  I probably searched about 70 percent of the stones that were in the older section of the cemetery but most of the grave markings that I could read were from the late 1800’s, so I’m not sure how long they have been burying folks there. I was able to enter the front section of the church but the main church’s doors were locked.  It didn’t matter.  I could feel my ancestors there.  Here in this tiny village in southern England where 4 generations of Noices loved, lived and raised families.  I made it there and left a piece of my father’s ashes there.  He, too, has been brought home. My lesson in all of this is to seize the day, walk it if you can and lean into the unknown. I will always have that memory of a beautiful walk to Walberton and taking my father with me. 

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