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Dry Drayton Family History Bell, Metcalfe and Webster Families


Rita Townsend writes from Feltham in Middlesex to share information about some of her ancestors who lived in Dry Drayton. She would be delighted to hear from others related in any way to the families shown here. Contact Rita via webmaster@drydrayton.net.


Church Farm Dry Drayton


Around 1850 James Blackmore and his daughter Anne moved by rail and with their livestock from Crediton, Devonshire, to Church Farm Dry Drayton.


Anne Webster, 1836-1923

    Anne Webster 1836-1923


In 1857 Anne married James Robert Webster, son of James Webster of the Queen's Head, Fowlmere, who was described in the 1851 census as "innkeeper, butcher and farmer" A few years after the marriage Anne and James Robert Webster returned to Church Farm where they farmed until the death of James on 16/2/1885, when Anne sold the farm and moved to Alma Cottage in Great Chesterford. They had eight children.


When James Blackmore bought Church Farm he had been married twice and Anne had a half sister and two half brothers, James and Charles, who may have moved to the farm with them.




Thomas Metcalfe (1833-1915) was the village blacksmith in Dry Drayton.


Thomas Metcalfe 1833-1915

     Thomas Metcalfe 1833-1915


He married Mary Bell of Dry Drayton (1830-1903). Their daughter Zillah (1863-1916) was married on 28/4/1885 to William Robert Webster (1861-1942) who was the second son of Anne and James Robert (above).


The first son of Anne and James died of fever on the North West Frontier in India in 1888. William and Zillah Webster moved from the area c.1892 to London where he became a driver of horse drawn trams. This move was due to the fact that he had gambled away his half built house and his business on Newmarket Racecourse. He also spent a considerable amount of time in the Five Bells at Madingley. They had eight children, but only the eldest, Alice, was born in Cambridgeshire. Zillah had a hard life in reduced circumstances.


Zillah Webster 1863-1916    Zillah Webster 1863-1916

Two images of Zillah Webster 1863-1916


Here are photographs of four of the children of James and Anne Webster. Edmund is photographed aged 16 in 1876 when he joined the Royal Artillery, The three sisters, Elizabeth Emma, Alice Jane and Florence Anne all lived at Church Farm Dry Drayton until 1885.


Edmund Webster 1860-1888     Elizabeth Emma Webster, 1862-1950 third child of James and Anne

    Edmund Webster 1860-1888                         Alice Jane Webster 1869-1950

Alice Jane Webster 1869-1950, 6th child of James and Anne     Florence Anne Webster 1873 - 1933 youngest child of James and Anne Webster

    Alice Jane Webster 1869-1950                     Florence Anne Webster 1873-1933


The Webster family can be traced back to 1617 and the Metcalfe family to 1777.


Mary Metcalfe, nee Bell, was known as a "white witch" because of her knowledge of local plants and their medicinal uses. She preserved the petals of Easter Lillies in a little brandy for use on cuts and abrasions. Mouldy cheese was kept on the beams in the smithy - early penicillin? Mary also did washing for "the young gentlemen" at one of the Cambridge colleges and in her pony and trap would return this in the early morning. Mary had four siblings, one of whom Alexander, emigrated to New Zealand. If anyone knows anything of the Bell family then Rita Townsend would welcome any further information)


This link will take you to a family tree for Zillah Metcalfe. Rita Townsend is the great great granddaughter of James Blackmore and the great granddaughter of Thomas and Mary Metcalfe.