The ROWBERRY Family Gathering
This event was held over the weekend of
Friday 7th - Sunday 9th April 2000
at The Hundred House Hotel, Great Witley, Worcestershire
Over 160 people booked to attend the event and they came from the USA, Canada, Australia, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and of course England, Scotland and Wales!
Besides those who booked many more people turned up on the day, making the total attendance somewhere in the region of 200 people.
Besides filling all the available accommodation at the Hundred House Hotel itself, we also took over Home Farm, a local B&B and several of the cottages at Old Yates Farm. Many other participants made their own accommodation arrangements.
The Hundred House Hotel indeed stood up to its claims to offer the very highest standards of accommodation and conference facilities, and to serve a fine choice of locally produced food. Everyone was unanimous in their praise! They also deserve very special thanks for all their help and patience both during the planning stages and throughout the weekend.
Not only the facilities but the situation was superb and the final touch was the brilliant sunshine and warm weather that we were lucky enough to enjoy all weekend. The only downside of the sunshine was having to avoid screwing up ones eyes in the many photographs that were taken! The picture here shows just a few of the family groups meeting up outside The Hundred House Hotel.
The Hundred House has a very interesting history of its own. To read about this follow this link:
The final countdown to the weekend began for me on the Tuesday evening. I collected the minibus that I had hired and drove down to Newbury to spend the night with a friend. This was so that I could be at Gatwick to meet Linda Ames and her daughter Carrie and Sharron Grover, who landed on a flight from the USA at 9am. We drove back to Herefordshire, picking up Darrell Rowbury and his wife Judy from Worcester Shrub Hill Station. They had also landed at 9am from the USA, but at Birmingham International!
We then went to my house where some of us ate lunch and others fell asleep! In the evening we took Darrell and Judy to their B&B at The Barneby Arms at nearby Bredenbury, taking in some of the local sights en route. An early night was welcomed by all.
Thursday saw a hive of activity at my home as we packed information folders and made up colour-coded name badges for all those who had booked to come. Besides those staying with me, Colin Wood came to meet his cousin Sharron for the first time, but found himself constructing badges! In the evening we collected Darrell and Judy, who had spent the day walking around their ancestral homes of Bilfield and Grendon Bishop. Taking in more local sights we once again made our way went to Worcester Shrub Hill Station to collect Joyce Otterstrom (Darrell's cousin who had already been over from the USA for a week researching her family), Linda Hansen (my cousin) and the Withington family from Tasmania.
As there was no way I was cooking supper for those many, we stopped in Worcester for that traditional English take-away meal - Fish and Chips!
Friday morning arrived bright and early and I took several of my houseguests to spend the day researching at the Worcester County Record Office. Whilst I made good my escape Nicky Rowberry, together with Linda and Carrie Ames were left at my house to greet the arrival of the film crew from ABC News, an American TV company. They went to the nearby church of Thornbury where Nicky and Linda can both trace their ROWBERRY ancestors back to a marriage in 1575!
Returning home we loaded up the display material etc, and awaited the return of the film crew and the "stars". We arrived at the Hundred House Hotel in time to unload the minibus and have lunch. Several early arrivals for the weekend were able to join us, before we left for the first item on the programme.
This was a visit to Worcestershire County Record Office at Shire Hall, Spetchley Hall, Worcester. The TV crew, who had permission to film inside the Record Office, also joined us. The visit was arranged by the Assistant Archivist, Robin Whittaker whose enthusiasm was infectious and who said later "The film crew was probably a first for the CRO!" As we waited outside for the first group to assemble, a reporter and photographer from the Worcester Evening News turned up and so were able to take a picture of us being filmed!
Once the first group was safely inside I went, yet again, to Worcester Shrub Hill to collect some more arrivals, including Ryan Rowberry who is a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. We made up a second group to tour behind the scenes at the CRO. Amongst the things that we were shown were the original parish registers for Tenbury. Although these date from 1653 they were badly damaged by flooding towards the end of the eighteenth century, and therefore much of the earliest parts are illegible. After all the accounting for the weekend was done we were able to make a donation of £75 to the CRO in order for them to conserve documents such as these.
After dropping Ryan off at his B&B, we returned to the Hundred House were the hard work of organising the layout for the display was carried out with superb efficiency by the hotel staff, ably frustrated by myself, as I kept changing my mind! By dinnertime, most of the participants for the weekend had arrived and the meal was a buzz of excited chatter, as long lost cousins meet. This air of excitement was to carry on throughout the weekend. Later in the evening the display was finally finished with lots of hands making light work of it!
After breakfast on Saturday morning, I was ready for Registration to begin at 9am. The queue of people collecting their name badges and information packs seemed never ending and in fact it was not to come to a complete finish until far into the afternoon.
At 10am I gave a Welcome and introductory session owning up to the fact that this was really a form of 50th birthday party for myself and a few of the others attending! At 10.30am to the relief of all (including myself!) I declared the "Get- together" open to a crowded room.
Besides printouts of all the RONS Trees (not to mention the GOMERY ones) the RONS research files and indexes were available for searching, and a poster display showed the content of my web site. There were also stands manned by the Herefordshire Family History Society, Bill and Diane Adams (Worcestershire Family History Research), Pat and John of Picture Past (postcards) and Sue Eaton Books. The colour-coded name badges enabled people not only to identify their own Tree but also unknown cousins attending the Gathering. And all the while the TV cameras rolled, and the newspaper reporters interviewed. Hereford Local Radio even interviewed me, but wisely they did not use the tape!
It was difficult to get everyone out of the room for a photograph of the whole group, but by calling "Lunch is ready" I managed it! The trouble was that a few only made it as far as the dining room. However we managed to get 136 people into the group photograph which appeared in several newspapers and on the ABC News website and programme. So it gives some idea of those attending. If I know whom the person is, placing your mouse cursor on their face will give you their name. If this is not true in your case PLEASE let me know who you are! Although we did also ask everyone to bring a small passport-sized photograph of themselves to be added to the trees on display, these sadly did not materialise.
The ABC News website mentioned above has a link to the short video that they produced for their programme. It is amazing how they managed to condense two days of filming into two minutes! You will see that they did so very well, showing Linda, Carrie and Nicky at Thornbury Church, Sharon and Linda at the Worcestershire CRO and views of the Family Gathering.
After a superb buffet lunch there was an optional coach trip which set out, with every seat full, to visit some of the homes of the family in the past. Although it was not possible to visit all the locations at which ROWBERRY/RUBERYs have been found over the last seven centuries, the route passed through some of the more important ones. These included Bodenham (the original source of the name), Bishops Frome (the birthplace of Bishop John ROWBERRY of the USA) and Leigh (the root of the second largest tree). Although a visit to and a stop at Rowberry Court, Bodenham had not been scheduled, the coach driver had other ideas! Much was the surprise of the owner Bill Linton to have 57 unexpected visitors descend on him! Luckily he has spoken to me since and is very interested in my research.
The coach then made a planned stop at Bromyard, where the Heritage Centre in Rowberry Street had opened especially for us. Here the interesting Hop Display included a Tally book with a Mrs Rowberry in it. In the Leisure Centre a very interesting display had been laid out by the Bromyard and District Local History Society, which included a picture painted by local artist Ros Rowberry of their new Research Centre (top right in photo).
The Leisure Centre provided a cream tea and I arrived in time to blow out the candles on, and cut, the cake with Nicky Rowberry. Whilst the others completed the coach trip, I went back to the Hotel and packed up all the Displays and managed to get them home.
In the evening we all sat down to a Banquet of mouth-watering local food. Everyone was enjoying themselves so much I had trouble clearing the room so as the Hotel staff could get cleared up and go home! Discussions went on until late in the night in the bar however!
On the Sunday morning we set out for Tenbury (the original home of the family). Here some of us attended the church service, where the Family Gathering was mentioned in the sermon and prayers. Others went to the Tenbury Museum that was opened especially for us. Sadly due to some misunderstanding this had shut before the churchgoers reached it. Afterwards we returned to the Hotel via the hamlet of Berrington, where Roger de Rubury had lived in 1324.
After a delicious traditional roast Sunday lunch at The Hundred House we set off for our visit to the Black Country Museum. Here John Rubery and his family joined us. They had been unable to attend on the Saturday as his son had chosen that date for his marriage. Great amusement and interest was caused by the fact that we now had two John Ruberys in the party! They are at either and of the group in the photograph. The visit was very interesting and showed the contrast in the way of life and occupations in the industries and mines of the Black Country - very different to the farming life of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The party was also treated to a typical lesson in the infant school. This brought a full and lively weekend to a suitable close.
Judging from the many letters, cards and emails of appreciation that I received the weekend was enjoyed by all who attended, and many asked when the next one would be - so:
We hope to have another Family Gathering soon!
For further details, costs etc or to receive a booking form please contact
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Last revised: 10th November 2000
© Polly Rubery 2000