Some years ago, Ian Whittington came to visit Shalfleet Church. This is his story…

“Unless we research a family history we may walk past a headstone in a churchyard and never know the interesting circumstances that often come before and after the burial of the person below.

The double headstone above is that of William Whittington and his wife Eleanor Rashley also known as Betty. William came from an old Isle of Wight family and was born in 1710 and died in 1777. Betty was born in 1708 and died in 1784.

The single headstone to the left of the double stone (shown above) is that of James Whittington. James was one of ten children of William and Betty Whittington. James was born in 1746 and died in 1814.

William and Betty and their family were dairy farmers and had the lease on Ningwood Dairy Farm in Station Road, Ningwood. The old farmhouse that they lived in back then is still standing as a residence today and is a white, low, two story building known as “Hunters Moon”.

After William and Betty died their son James took over the lease of Ningwood Dairy Farm.

There are hundreds of descendants from William and Betty both in The Isle of Wight and also around the world. There are hundreds in particular in Australia and New Zealand.

Some years ago one of William and Bettys’ descendants came back to visit. His name is Ian Whittington and he comes from Tasmania, a state of Australia where he was born. Ian is now seventy four.

How did William and Bettys’ family get to Tasmania? It is a long story but I will break it down into easy steps.

William and Betty Whittington of Ningwood Dairy Farm had a large family. One of their sons was James Whittington and James also had a large family.

James had a son, George Whittington who was born at Ningwood Dairy Farm in 1799. Young George Whittington left the farm and went to work with his brother who was a baker at Portsmouth. After a while he married a girl from Portsea and they went to live in London where George became a Customs Officer.

George had a large family but sadly his wife and two of his daughters passed away from diseases that were sweeping London.

George has told his remaining four sons and one daughter to find a safer and better life in Australia.  George junior, Walter, William and Kezia went to Australia and George Whittington has since remarried and returned to The Isle of Wight.

The brothers and sister travelled to the new colony, Australia and settled in the island state of Tasmania. All three brothers found work as officers at the convict settlement of Port Arthur. Kezia married and went to New Zealand to live. The three brothers all married and had families of their own.

After the convict settlement closed the brothers moved to other work and soon retired.

One of the brothers, William Whittington had his own large family in Hobart, Tasmania and one of his sons Henry Edmund Whittington went to the West Coast of Tasmania to live and had his own large family.

Henry Edmund Whittington had a son named John Henry Whittington who was always known as “Jack”. Jack Whittington went to war in the Second World War and fortunately survived fighting in the jungles of Timor against the Japanese. Jack was an extremely brave man but sadly died from cancer. Jack and his wife Vera had eight children and Vera was left to raise the children in an isolated mining town in a wet and cold climate on the West Coast of Tasmania.

Their eldest son Ian joined the Navy and experienced war service in Vietnam and had his own family of boys. It was Ian, the great, great, great, great, grandson of William and Betty Whittington who came to visit at Shalfleet and stand before his ancestors’ headstones in St. Michaels Churchyard.

There is something that is very significant about these headstones, particularly those of William and Betty. For when Ian came to visit his ancestors and stood before the headstones he realized something very significant. William and Betty had lived their lives and were buried and the headstones erected before Captain Cook, the English seaman, had sailed from England to the continent that is now known as Australia. The First Fleet didn’t arrive in the new colony until 1788, eleven years after William was buried and four years after Betty was buried.

So when we walk through a graveyard and pass a headstone that may appear to be insignificant, we can wonder what amazing stories flow from before and after the erection of the stone. They all have stories to tell. Stories that may travel to all parts of the World.”