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15 Feb 2016

Arundel and Alexander: grand names on Somerset soil

My great-grandfather Bert Creed was a boy of very fair complexion, requiring much washing to keep it clean, who grew up on a smallholding in West Pennard, Somerset.

I first came across many of the names in his family tree as a young boy, and thought nothing of them.  I had always thought that Arundel was an unusual name for my Bert's aunt, a farmer's wife in rural Somerset, but didn't get too enervated about it.

Bert had a great-uncle Alexander Creed, a ponderous-looking farmer of three-cornered Steart Farm at Babcary.  I thought nothing of his name either - except this time one of his large tribe of single female descendants said he was named after one of the Hoods of Butleigh, presumably Admiral Alexander, who died eleven years before our Alexander's birth.  During Hood's long retirement he likely returned to his childhood home (2 miles from the Creeds) and sufficiently impressed our forebear to take on the name.
Back to Arundel, I was looking at the 1940 wills registers, a century after the birth of my gt-gt-gt-aunt, and noticed that the Napier family not only had Arundels within it but also had a connection with West Pennard, Somerset.

After some investigation, I found that Julia Arundel Napier (1821-1847) had lived at East Pennard House in the 1820s.  She was an unmarried lady known as Arundel born a few months after her high-rolling father fell off a horse at 25.  Then in her teens her mother left East Pennard and came to 217-218 The Strand, London with a husband (and likely cousin) Sir John Dean Paul, a wealthy banker.

It was here that Arundel Napier was living in 1841, not entirely happily, having lost her sister and close companion Lettice two years earlier, in the calming climes of Weston-super-Mare.  You can see the property still houses a bank.  Arundel's mother died the next year, and she returned to Somerset, being buried at East Pennard church in 1847.

My theory is that Elizabeth Creed, sister of Alexander, and thus no stranger to grabbing names from the ether, had a personal connection with either Arundel Napier or her sister Lettice, perhaps being in service at Pennard House; and after her marriage, 1840, gave that distinctive name Arundel to her eldest child, a girl (whose family finally died out in 2004).

Just a word of the wild Napiers and Pennard House courtesy of Priscilla Napier (1908-98), author and chronicler.  She writes: "East Pennard House, a solid Georgian mansion looking westward across the vale of Avalon.  Here, rooted like comfortable oaks in this smiling country that seems forever bathed in autumnal light ...the Napier parents dearly hoped that the Napiers would solidly remain.  But sons do not stay quiet on rich acres, in snug little businesses, or with safe hereditary manual skills, they go to Australia or Arkanas, open boutiques in the Seychelles or restaurants in the Andes... Sometimes, aware that life is short, they live it up while the going is good, especially in times of piping peace."

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