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Stuck again - John Cracknell


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I have the following information and want to find a birth certificate for thois man before we put him on our war memorial in Mendham, Suffolk.

John Cracknell was born in Mendham in c1895 son of Arthur W Cracknell and Hannah Dorkins who married in 1882 and latterly moved to Palgrave Hill, Diss. In 1911 age 16 John was an errand boy in a shop. He enlisted as a Private with the Suffolk Regiment then later at Bury St. Edmund's as a Private in the 10th Battalion Essex Regiment later joining the 6th Battalion. He was ‘killed in action’ on Friday 26th April 1918 and is commemorated at the Pozieres Memorial in France. He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

However, I cant seem to find birth information. The 1911 census confirms Mendham birth and estimated birth date but that's all. I am used to searching in Ancestry but this one just doesn't seem to work! Any help appreciated.


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The family seemed to have lived in Pulham market for a while but his name is not on that memorial and its not on the Diss memorial (both are visible on the web).

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There's an Albert John Cracknell registered in Depwade RD in March 1895 http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=LBwY8Zb2310CG7gc6tyMCw&scan=1 - this registration district contained what was once the part of Mendham parish that actually lay in Norfolk. Alternatively, William John Cracknell, registerd Guiltcross RD, June 1895, http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=gf9%2B2E779whhXRcjJqQFCA&scan=1

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Do you mind accepting help from North of the Border :thumbsup:

Although technically it appears John is from Norfolk, it looks like he has a Suffolk soul so we’ll give you this one :hypocrite:

So the information we know from the Commonwealh War Graves Commission website is that he was the son of Mrs. Hannah Cracknell, of Palgrave Hill, Diss, Norfolk, and that he was aged 23 when he died in 1918.

CWGC: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1579373/CRACKNELL,%20J

From Soldiers Died in the Great War that he was born Mendham, Suffolk and that he served with 10th Battalion Essex Regiment when he died as Private 277360, previously 27141 Suffolk Regiment.

The 1911 Census adds that the 16 year old John, born Mendham and working as a Shop Errand Boy, was recorded in a dwelling at The Green, Stuston, Diss. This was the household of his parents, Arthur, aged 50 and a Farm Labourer from Wetheringsett, Suffolk, and Hannah, aged 52 and from Stradbrooke, Suffolk.

The couple have been married 29 years and have had four children, all then still alive.

Still at home as well as John are:-

Walter……………....aged 23…………..born Wingfield, Suffolk………..Farm Labourer

James………………aged 19………….born Mendham, Suffolk……….Farm Labourer

Ada………………….aged 12………….born Pulham Market, Norfolk

As you’re probably aware, the 1911 census was the first completed by the householders themselves. With many rural people of his parents age, literacy and official paper keeping would not have been the order of the day, so they would probably have worked from memory. This shows when we go back to the 1901 census.

On the 1901 census father Arthur is recorded living in a Shepherds Hut on The Street, Pulham St Mary, Norfolk. Aged 40 and married, he is working as a Shepherd on Farm. Hannah and the rest of the children were living in a separate dwelling. Hannah describes herself as a Shepherds wife. Contrary to what they stated on the 1911 census, they actually have other children – a daughter Kate, (16), from Wingfield, Suffolk, who worked as a Domestic Servant and Harry, (11), born Weybread, Suffolk.

Of the children on the 1911 census:-

Walter, aged 13 and an Errand Boy, is born Weybread, Suffolk, not Wingfield.

James, aged 9, is born at Redenhall with Harleston, Norfolk, not Mendham.

John, aged 7, is born at Redenhall with Harleston, Norfolk, not Mendham.

Ada, aged 2, is born Pulham Market.

If we check out the register of births for the Depwade District which included Redendall with Harleston, (but not Mendham!), we come up with:-

The birth of a James Claxton was recorded in the Depwade District of Norfolk in the April to June 1892 quarter.

We then have Albert John in the January to March quarter of 1895, and an Ada in the July to September quarter of 1898.

I then tried another approach – seeing if the older children from the 1901 census had moved to Mendham and that was the link, as I couldn’t find a likely death for either Kate or Harry in England and Wales in the intervening years between the two censuses. However, I could find no Kate, (not even a marriage), and the most likely match for Harry had been committed to Norfolk County Asylum by the time of the 1911 census.

And that’s probably where the search for a connection would normally end – the parish records for Redenhall, Harleston or Mendham for the relevant period are not on line as far as I’m aware. Redenhall and Harleston puts him close to Mendham, but as they say no cigar. I could try and track down his mother’s family to see if there is a Mendham connection, but it can get a bit tortuous at that point

However, there are many advantages to coming from Norfolk, not least of which is the large number of documents for the County which the Church of the Latter Day Saints have scanned and made freely available on their Family Search site. Some that I’m finding particularly useful are the Electoral Registers for the various Districts that make up the county – particularly when somone lives in a District after one census and moves on before the next one takes place, or post 1911. Its hit and miss, but some districts have almost complete records from the 1880’s through to about 1915 and possibly later.

Searching for father Arthur, I first identified an entry in the 1893 register for the electoral district of Redenhall with Harleston. Arthur Cracknell is entitled to vote as he is the householder of the dwelling house known as Clapper farm, Low Road. He has been there for more than a year as he has satisfied the 12 month residency conditions for Parliamentary elections. This condition would be modified if he was moving from another address where he had already satisfied the residency condition, in which case the address would be marked as “successive” – and Arthur’s entry isn’t although you'll see it against other names on the same page.


Through 1894 to 1898 he is shown with variations around that address – Clapper Farm or The Clapper.











On the Electoral Register for 1899 for Pulham St Mary, Arthur is now the occupier of a dwelling at “Street”. This is marked as “successive” having qualified as a result of his residency at Redenhall.














So the next port of call was to try and find Clapper Farm.

I had several potential matches but they all turned out to be from on-line versions of the same book on the flora and fauna of the Harleston area.

I then found a cached version of a web-page from the Suffolk County Archive which has a sales brochure for the sale of the Shotford Hall Estate which took place on the 31st July 1935. Lot 11 consisted of Shotford Hall Farm, Redenhall – dairy farm, farmhouse, cottage (tenant G Chandler), outbuildings, cow houses, silo, double cottage known as Clapper Farm, double cottage near Shotford bridge, (tenants W R Pearce, J Barnes, L Hunter, A Ambrose), The Top Barn and 268a 1r 10p.


Shotford Hall Farm is still trading and from the map on their web-site its at the Harleston end of Low Road.


According to this source, Shotford was a village from pre-Domesday to the Medieval times, until becoming abandoned. Residents were traditionally associated with Mendham for church-going. Possibly this tradition carried on even when the Cracknell’s were living at Clapper Farm.


As well as the other places mentioned John is not remembered on the Redenhall & Harleston War Memorial either.


Therefore I think you have every right to claim him for Mendham, (and Suffolk).

Hope that helps,



Edited by PRC
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I feel very humble and I accept help from anyone willing to give it ;-)

Never before have I seen such a methodical and thorough approach to research. Its what I aspire to and sometimes achieve but I got nowhere near in this case. I will look through every lead yoiu have given and come to a conclusion with our parish council. I am so grateful it's difficult to find the words. I hope 'thank you' is sufficient. Our community will appreciate it.

Colin :poppy:

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OK, I have trawled through the information and I know Clapper Farm and the people who farm there. More of that later! Is there a way to access Johns birth certificate to be sure of his initials. I just see John everywhere but would love to get his certificate to confirm. I still cant identify the individual directly. I guess that's where we are though?


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Glad I could help - this forum has provided so much information for me over the last few years so its nice to be able to give something back, plus practically on my door step. If it hadn't been raining so hard yesterday I might have been tempted to hop in the car and go look for Clapper Farm myself !

The most likely candidate has to be Albert John, but to confirm or eliminate it then you probably need that birth certificate.

Copies can be ordered on-line from the General Register Office, cost £9.25.


The FreeBMD links in Post 3 should give you the details you need, but just in case they don't work, the information I think they ask for is:

Depwade District of Norfolk

January to March quarter of 1895

Volume 4B

Page 241

Line 315



(PS - I assume you don't have access to the Parish Records at All Saints - a baptismal record there would give you confirmation of forename(s) and also provide another tangible connection with Mendham).

Edited by PRC
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  • 5 weeks later...

Many thanks Peter. I appreciate this so much. Sorry for the delay, I have been finishing a local history book in preparation for an open day at the local mill.

Thanks again.


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  • 9 months later...
Guest schnortles



Just to clarify the whole Harleston/ Mendham issue.


Harleston is a Norfolk market town lying in the very furthest Southern corner of the Parish of Redenhall, Norfolk.  The Suffolk parish of Mendham extended across the River Waveney into the County of Norfolk and right up to the market place in Harleston - in fact one of the biggest pubs in the Town of Harleston, the Magpie, lay in the Parish of Mendham.


The young gentlemen in question, could easily have been born in Norfolk, in the town of Harleston but if he was born on the Western side of London Road, the southern side of the Market place or the Eastern side of Mendham Lane he would have been in the parish of Mendham.


i.e It is very possible for a  lad to be born and raised in the heart of Harleston Norfolk, never step into the county of Suffolk but belong to the Suffolk parish of Mendham!



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