Thomas Venice and Elizabeth Card 

The earliest generation of our Veness line that I believe can be traced with certainty is Thomas Venice who married Elizabeth Card of Brightling at Wartling Parish Church on 14 January 1752.

Before 1752 the church and legal dating method meant that the year began on Lady Day (25 March): then the calendar was reverted to beginning each year on 1 January. As a result of this change, the period 1 January to 24 March was shown that year as 1751 (old style) and 1752 (new style). Throughout I have quoted the dates as shown in the parish records, but those events occurring before 25 March 1752 may have taken place in what would now be the subsequent year to that stated.

As no age or fathers name is included in the marriage register, and because of the dominance of an otherwise unusual surname in the Battle/Brightling area I cannot be certain when our Thomas was born or who his parents were.

There are three possible options:

1) Thomas Venice, son of Richard and Mary

Thomas was baptised on 11 June 1717 at Brightling Parish Church. His parents were Richard Venice (1) and Mary Muggridge who had married on 20 January 1701 at Burwash Parish Church.

His siblings were:

  • Elizabeth Venice baptised 25 October 1702 at Brightling. Married John Venes
  • Mary Venice, baptised 30 April 1704 at Brightling.
  • Isaac Veness, baptised 17 February 1705/06 at Brightling. Married Mary Russell on 5 May 1728 at Hooe, Sussex.
  • John Venice, baptised 24 September 1710 at Brightling
  • Katherine Venice, baptised 17 August 1712 at Brightling
  • Ann Venice, baptised 15 August 1714 at Brightling
  • Sarah Venice. baptised 9 August 1719 at Brightling. Died 19 July 1721 at Brightling;
  • Samuel Venice. baptised 6 February 1725/26 at Brightling. Married Mary Durrant on 11 September 1748 at Brightling. Died 12 February 1801 at Brightling.

Richard Venice (1) is thought to be the son of Richard Venis (2) and Elizabeth Lullham who married on 22 June 1674 at Brightling.

Richard Venis (2) was baptised on 16 September 1657 at Sandhurst, Kent, the son of Richard Venis (3) and Ann.

Richard Venis (3) was baptised on 23 December 1621 at Burwash, Sussex, the son of James Venis and Ann Burrill.

James Venis was baptised on 3 November 1594 at Brightling. He is thought to have been the son of Nicholas Venis. He married Ann Burrill on 16 September 1615 at Sandhurst Kent. .

Some researchers have suggested that Nicholas Venis was born in France in 1562 but I have seen nothing to support this.

I have corresponded with people both in England and abroad who are descended from this family.

2) Thomas Venice, son of James and Abigail

Thomas was baptised on 15 September 1722 at Brightling Parish Church, son of James and Abigail Venice.

James and Abigail had three sons, James Venice, baptised 1720 at Brightling, Thomas Venice, baptised 15 September 1722 at Brightling and John Venice, baptised 1724 at Brightling and a daughter Anne Venice. Son John went on to have three sons, John Venice, Edward Venice and Isaac Venice and again I have corresponded with people descended from the family.

Abigail was buried on 4 January 1726 at Brightling Parish Church.

I have been told that tax records indicate that James and Abigail (prior to her death) owned the farm 'Griggs' which straddles the Brightling/Dallington boundary from 1721 to 1739. Prior to that, in 1721, it was assessed in the name of 'Widow Venice'.

'Widow Veness' was thought to be the spouse of Thomas Venus who owned the farm from 1706 to 1719. She may have been Susanna Christmas who married Thomas Venise in June 1703. ' Christmas ' Farm appears on current maps quite close to the site of 'Griggs'.

However, there is a marriage in 1696 between Thomas Venice, a widower, and Ann Withen, possibly an earlier marriage. Tax records show the 'Widow Venice' occupied a house and orchard in Dallington after the death of Thomas in 1719.

Susanna Venes was buried in Dallington on 13 September 1721.

3) Thomas Venice son of Isaac and Mary

In addition on 22 September 1734, Thomas Venice son of Isaac Venice (Son of Richard and Mary) and Mary Russell was baptised at Brightling Parish Church. He died in the parish of St Paul, Deptford in May 1813 he left a will (made on 13 April of that same year) which seem to indicate that he died without issue and had probably never married (11/1544 cc 1918). This it seems to me should discount him, but other researchers seem convinced that 'our' Thomas was Isaac and Mary's son.

Regardless of his parentage, Thomas originates from Brightling, a small parish six miles to the north of Battle in the Netherfield Hundred within the Rape of Hastings. The village was built soon after the Norman Conquest and is recorded in the Domesday book of 1086 as being held by two brothers in the name of Edward The Confessor.

"Hundreds" emerged in the tenth century as an important unit of local administration and were so named as the area in question was supposed to maintain 100 families, although their origins are obscure. Even though by Tudor times, parishes had taken over as the fundamental unit in the pattern of local government and administration, the divisions were maintained.

"Rapes" were created soon after the Battle of Hastings, certainly by 1086 and probably by 1067, when William the Conqueror subdivided Sussex into five administrative divisions, running from North to South of the county, each based on a port and controlling one of the highways to the North and gave one to each of his most trusted barons, the Rape of Hastings being given to the Earl of Eu. This was to protect communication routes to Normandy in the face of sporadic resistance to the conquering Norman's, but also served to keep the Barons too busy for them themselves to think of revolt.

Brightling's most famous resident was perhaps "Mad Jack" Fuller who was born in 1757, just 5 years after Thomas and Elizabeth had married. His family was one of the iron-founding families, who owned the mansion adjoining the Church. The family became known for its iron furnace at Heathfield which produced guns and cannons for the navy, and the forge at Burwash Weald which produced a wide range of implements. Mad Jack was one of the great English eccentrics, a famous politician and patron of science and the arts, who enjoyed building follies.

The following follies built by Mad Jack:

  • Brightling Needle - a 40 ft high obelisk built on the top of the hill at Brightling, used as a beacon point during the Napoleonic Wars, and now by the ordinance survey as the second highest point in Sussex.
  • The Sugar Loaf - This was known as Fullers Point, and was built to win a wager made by Mad Jack , that he could see the Spire of Dallington Church from his house, which he could not.
  • The Temple - This is a small temple/Summer House, in the grounds of Brightling Park, built to resemble a Greek Temple.
  • The Observatory - This is built on the top of the hill at Brightling, and for many years famous for its instruments. This area is also believed to be the place that Turner, the landscape painter, did many of his paintings.
  • The Watch Tower - Again built by Mad Jack, it was believed that it was built so that he could watch the restoration of Bodiam castle, which he had previously bought.

Finally there is the Pyramid. This 25th foot high structure was built in the churchyard to be Mad Jack Fullers mausoleum. Legend has it that this was only allowed to be built by the Rector if a new Public House, replacing the one opposite the church, was to be built 1/2 mile away. This new public house was known until recently as the "Jack Fullers". Also it is suggested that Jack Fuller was buried inside, sitting at an iron table, a full meal before him, a bottle of claret at arms length, dressed for dinner and wearing a top hat, the floor strewn with broken glass in order to keep the devil out.

This latter suggestion was disproved when the rotting wooden door was removed and the entrance was bricked up. Jack Fuller is buried in the conventional position beneath the floor of the tomb.

An entry in the parish register at the time the Rector granted permission for the pyramid to be built also casts doubt on the theory about the village pub, for an entry in the parish records dated 15 November 1810 (some 24 years before his death in 1834) reads

"Be it remembered that John Fuller Esq of Rose Hill at the beginning of the present year applied for permission to erect a mausoleum inn Brightling Churchyard and to lay open the south side of the said churchyard by removing the old post and rail fence and erecting a stonewall and when he had fixed upon the site for erecting his edifice he inquired of me as Incumbent of the Living what would satisfy me fir the ground it was to stand on: my reply was that as he would be at a considerable expense in erecting the wall which would be a good improvement I should not demand any fee for the other building. This wall is now finished and John Fuller, Esq had added thereto a couple of substantial stone pillars and an iron gate way. The testor J.B. Hayley, Rector"

However had such an agreement existed I doubt that it would be recorded.

Returning to our ancestors, as stated, the earliest generation I believe can be traced with certainty is Thomas Venice who married Elizabeth Card of Brightling at Wartling Parish Church on 14 January 1752.

Elizabeth Card was baptised on 29 March 1730 at Warbleton Parish Church, the daughter of John Card and Susan Hover (Appendix A).

On 15 October 1739, a Thomas Venice married Mary Grant at Brightling Parish Church. Both the bride and bridegroom were from Brightling and went on to have three children baptised in the parish, 

  • Mary Venice on 15 October 1742
  • Thomas Venes on 7 March 1744 and 
  • John Venice on 13 July 1750

I had originally thought that, had "our" Thomas been the son of Richard and Mary, he may have been the same Thomas who later married Elizabeth Card, particularly as there is a burial of a 'Mary Venice' in Brightling in 1750. But I have also been told that Thomas and Mary had a son Samuel baptised in 1753 which would make this impossible. Other researchers have attributed the marriage of Thomas Venice and Mary Grant to the son of Richard and Mary and if this is correct then again we would not be descended through that route.

Anyway, having married at Wartling Parish Church on 14 January 1752, Thomas and Elizabeth went on to have six children, all baptised at Brightling Parish Church;

  • Elizabeth Venice baptised 12 April 1752.
  • Thomas Venice baptised 18 November 1753.
  • Benjamin Venice baptised 6 November 1755.
  • John Venice baptised 17 August 1757.
  • Joseph Venice baptised 18 March 1761 (Chapter 3).
  • Hannah Venice baptised 6 January 1763. Buried 10 January 1763 at Brightling Parish Church.
  • Samuel Venice baptised 16 January 1764

In 1763, the administration of the goods of Thomas Vennis of Brightling, who died intestate, was granted to his wife Elizabeth Vennis, his widow, of Brightling. If this was our Thomas then he would have only been either 46 or 41, which was not unusual. It would also mean he died before the birth of his last son. No other trace of either Thomas or Elizabeth's burial's has been traced so far.

Our line continues through Thomas and Elizabeth's son Joseph Venice. This is covered in Chapter 3. 

Nothing more is known about their children John Venice or Samuel Venice, but first a little may be known about their other children

Elizabeth Pearce nee Venice

It may have been Thomas and Elizabeth's daughter Elizabeth Venice who married James Pearce at Wartling Parish Church by banns on 16 April 1781.

Nothing more is known. 

Thomas Venice & Mercy York

It also may have been Thomas and Elizabeth's son Thomas Venice of Brightling who married Mercy York of Wartling at Wartling Parish Church on 5 November 1787. Brother Joseph may have signed the register as a witness although Thomas was only able to make his mark. 

Thomas and Mercy appear to have had at least eight children all baptised at Brightling;

  • James Venes, 19 February 1790. James Veness of Brightling may have married Barbara Mepham, a widow on 21 April 1824 in Brightling. In 1861 they were living at Battle Road, Brightling and James (aged 68) was an agricultural labourer, understating his age by 3 years. 
  • Ann Venes, 27 October 1791,
  • Richard Venes, 8 January 1793. Richard Venes was buried on 11 February 1793, son of Thomas and Mary!
  • Isaac Venes, 23 February 1794. Isaac Veness may have married Barbara Baker on 22 March 1819 in Dallington. Later censuses show Isaac was an agricultural labourer, born Brightling, although he says he is 3 years older than he should be!!
  • Thomas Venes, 20 March 1796. 
  • Sarah Venes, 28 October 1798,
  • Joseph Venes, 12 January 1800, and
  • Henry Venes, 18 October 1801. Henry Veness may have married Sarah Haiselden on 22 March 1819 at Dallington. They had two children. Later censuses confirm Henry, an agricultural labourer, was born in Brightling.  

In addition the burial of a son, William Venes is recorded on 14 February 1799.

Thomas Venes died on 10 March 1808 in Brightling. 

Mercy Venes died aged 88 and was buried on 28 February 1830 in Brightling. 

Benjamin Venice & Abigail Venice

Other researchers suggest that Thomas and Elizabeth's son Benjamin "Venus" married Abigail Venice in St Giles in the Field, Camden on 13 November 1786. 

Abigail Venice may have been baptised on 27 July 1758 in Brightling, daughter of James and Elizabeth.  It seems likely that her ancestry also leads back to one of the families referred to above. It is possible that her father was James Venice, baptised in 1720 in Brightling, son of James and Abigail meaning he was the brother of one of the possible Thomas's who married Elizabeth Card (see above), making this a marriage of first cousins, which makes the different spelling of the surname a bit odd!!  

When their children are baptised (see below), Benjamin and Abigail are described as "of Pembury, Kent". Benjamin died leaving an extensive will, administration of which was granted to his wife on 7 July 1827. His will leaves everything to wife Abigail, but also mentions three sons and five daughters

  • Benjamin Veness. Born 1788 in Heathfield. Benjamin married Sarah Baker on 31 October 1834 in Pembury. Benjamin Veness, yeoman of Pembury died on 8 May 1868 in Pembury. Probate was granted to his widow Sarah, John Baker, of Pembury, farmer and Thomas Stevenson of Pembury, wheelwright. His effects were worth less than £100.00. Sarah Veness of Pembury, Kent died on 28 November 1892. Probate was granted to Catherine Sarah Pook (wife of William Pook). Her effects were worth £79.15s.
  • Thomas Venes. Born 26 July 1789. Baptised 5 August 1789 at Heathfield Independent Chapel. Benjamin and Abigail are described as "of Pembury, Kent". Thomas died in 1832 and was buried in Pembury, Kent with his brother John next to his parents grave.
  • Mary Veness. Born 18 November 1791. Baptised 17 February 1794 at Heathfield Independent Chapel. Benjamin and Abigail are described as "of Pembury, Kent". Mary may have married Stephen Sawyer on 10 March 1815 in Pembury, Kent. They do not appear to have had children. Mary was widowed in 1849 and by 1851 and was described as a "house proprietor". Mary Sawyer, late of 1, Cumberland Gardens, Tunbridge Wells died on 20 March 1869 at 1, Cumberland Gardens. Probate was granted to Frederick Forster Wimhurst, of Penshurst, farmer and Thomas Wishurst, of Brenchley, farmers and nephews and Edward Marchant Hunter of Tunbridge Wells, gentleman.
  • Ann Veness. Born 17 May 1793. Baptised 17 February 1794 at Heathfield Independent Chapel. Benjamin and Abigail are described as "of Pembury, Kent". Ann may have married Benjamin Austen on 9 June 1828 in Pembury, Kent. They too do not appear to have had children. Benjamin Austen died in 1859. Ann Austen died in 1874 in Pembury, Kent
  • John Venes. Born 1 March 1796. Baptised 13 April 1796 at Heathfield Independent Chapel. Benjamin and Abigail are described as "of Pembury, Kent". John Veness died in 1840. He is buried in Pembury with his brother Thomas next to his parents grave.
  • Elizabeth Veness. Born 19 November 1797. Baptised 18 April 1798 Elizabeth married her sister's widower Adam Wimshurst on 28 November 1839 at St Leonards, Shoreditch. They were both of full age. Adam was a grocer, son of Alex Wimhurst (deceased). Elizabeth was the daughter of "Veness", deceased wheelwright!! Adam Wimshurst died in 1855. He was buried in Brenchley on 16 May 1855. Elizabeth Wimshurst died on 12 September 1874 and was buried in All Saints Churchyard, Brenchley on 17 September 1874. Probate was granted to Thomas Wimshurst, yeoman, the nephew and Thomas Guest the Younger, grocer, both of Brenchley.
  • Harriett Veness. Born 1801 in Pembury. Harriett married Adam Wimshurst on 15 August 1822 at St Sepulchre. They had four sons (see above). Harriett died in 1832.
  • Sarah Veness. Born 1804 in Pembury. Sarah married John Baker on 2 January 1844 in Brenchley. John Baker was a farmer at Downingbury Farm. John Baker died on 9 March 1870. By 1881 Sarah had been widowed and was living at Henwoods, Green Road, Lower Green. Sarah Baker died on 23 June 1885. Probate was granted to Frederick Wimshurst of Rochester. Her estate was valued at £2,982. 12s. 11d.

Also mentioned was son-in-law Stephen Sawyer (see above). Benjamin Veness had been buried in the Old Churchyard of St Peters, Pembury on 31 January 1827.

Already it can be seen that there was considerable movement between the parishes of Brightling and Wartling, although the villages are about seven miles apart as the crow flies. It is a misconceptions that people used not to move, although their movement was more localised, with people rarely moving more than 10 miles. Even in Tudor/Stuart times, most people moved at least once in their lifetime, but in an area bounded by their local market town. 

Click here to go to "Chapter 3 - Joseph Venes and Sarah Burchett"

To find out more about the Card family, click here to go to "Appendix A - Card"

Click here to go back to "Chapter 1 - Veness - the origin of the surname"