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The Percys are an old English family.  It is impossible for me to separate the various branches of the family with the information to hand and so I shall deal with them as a group.  There are not many dates available, but there are a number of anecdotes and a rough hierarchy.  The Bevis family come of village stock, while the Percy and Martin families were mainly seafarers.  The first known ancestor is a Mr Bevis, a rich miller from March in Cambridgeshire.  He had seven children, Reuben, Sarah, Emma, Elizabeth, Edward, Mary and Eliza.  When his first wife died he remarried and it is said that his new wife was a bad step-mother.  She kept the children short of food and on one occasion she shut Elizabeth in a drawer when she was a baby.

REUBEN BEVIS was the eldest of the seven siblings.  He was a postmaster and baker in Lincolnshire. He became wealthy and was married three times.  His last wife was a governess.

EMMA BEVIS never married.  She was a housekeeper to several business people at Sheerness in Kent.  She moved to Burham between Maidstone and Rochester, where she took in boarders.

EDWARD BEVIS went to America.  He worked in the railways there and then acquired shares in a silver mine.  He returned to England after thirty years and stayed with his niece, Gertrude, for a time.  He returned to America, but kept in touch with the family during the war.  His wife was called POLLY and he had one son, John Edward Bevis.  Edward gave all his nieces a silver spoon, presumably the product of the silver mine.  He visited Burham with Polly when Ruby Eliza Elizabeth Percy was three years old.

ELIZABETH BEVIS Emma’s sister, was very unhappy with her stepmother.  When she was a young girl, she got out of her window at 4am and walked all the way from Cambridge to her brother, Reuben’s house in Lincolnshire.  Eventually she moved in with her married sister, Mary, who also lived in Burham.  She married WILLIAM MARTIN, a sailor, in Maidstone and they had twelve children, Elizabeth, Clara, Albert, William, Agnes, Frank, Frederick, Ernest, Percy, Gertrude, Alice Ruby and Roland. Elizabeth Bevis died in 1923.

WILLIAM MARTIN was the son of Jane Best and her husband, whose surname was Martin but whose forename is unknown.  Jane was the daughter of Major Best.  Major Best was a very tall man who invariably wore grey.  He was probably a soldier in the Napoleonic wars. Gertrude, his great-granddaughter remembered meeting him in 1884 when he was 90, so he would have been born around 1794.  William was a sailor, in the old square riggers, as a young man.  While at sea he used to amuse himself by making needlepoint pictures of sailing ships.  Unfortunately there appear to be none of these pictures left in the family.  Herbert George Percy had one, but it is thought that his second wife, Ethel, who probably had no understanding of the real or sentimental value of such a piece, gave the picture to a neighbour who had been kind to her. William also made a sea chest that used to stand on the landing at the Balean family home in Chatham. 

ALICE RUBY MARTIN daughter of William and Elizabeth Martin was born in 1886.  She was always called Ruby.  She worked in her parent’s village shop in Burham, at the top of Church Street.  In 1912, she married HERBERT GEORGE PERCY.  They had three children.  Ruby Eliza Elizabeth Percy  was the eldest. Alice Ruby died in 1936.

FREDERIC(K) W. PERCY was the brother of Herbert.  He was the black sheep of the family.  In appearance he was ill favoured, short, swarthy and dark and didn’t resemble any of the other family members.  In former times he might have been considered a ‘changeling’.  He had a terrible stutter and on one occasion, while playing, he pointed a stick at a playmate shouting; “This is a p-p-p-p-pistol.”  Thereafter he was known as ‘Pistol’.  He never seemed to have a job and was considered a bludger by the adult members of the family although he got on well with the children.  He would disappear for long periods and then mysteriously resurface when there was a family get-together.  On these occasions he would look to his relatives for financial aid to ‘tide him over’, which was usually forthcoming.  It is not known what became of him.

ALBERT MARTIN brother to Alice, went gold prospecting in Australia.  While still a young man he moved on to New Zealand, where he lived in Picton and had a sheep farm.  He married and had six children and died in his eighties.

WILLIAM MARTIN brother to Alice, was a chef on the P&O liner ‘Montrose’.  He was on the ship in which Dr Crippen, the famous murderer, was arrested.  This was the first time that radio was used on board, and it was radioed back that Amy le Neve, Crippen’s accomplice, was on board disguised as a boy.  William was happiest at sea and was ships cook for most of his working life.  He married three times and had a daughter by his third wife, Dorothy.  William was blind and deaf when he died in 1960.  Dorothy died of cancer.

AGNES MARTIN was the twin sister of FRANK MARTIN.  She married WILLIAM WOOLLEY (Bill), who was in the navy and was drowned in WW1.  They had seven children. 

FRANK WOOLLEY was one of the seven children of Agnes and William.  Apparently the Woolley boys’ pranks were a legend in Burham.  According to family sources, their crowning achievement was the affair of the ‘monster of the woods’.  Between the villages of Burham and Eccles the road passed through a thick wood.  Passengers on the bus one dark night were startled to see a large pair of very bright eyes staring out at them through the trees.  Several appearances were reported over the next couple of weeks to general alarm amongst the villagers, some of whom were obliged to walk home through the woods after dark.  Several searches were organised, but nothing was found as Frank Wooley laid low with his flashlight and illuminated eyes whenever the hunt was on.  The mystery was reported in the local paper and people came from miles around to see the monster.  Eventually someone gave the game away and the ‘monster’ returned to the Wooley’s garden shed.  Frank got a beating from his mother in front of witnesses despite the fact that she was highly amused by the whole episode!
As an adult, Frank joined the RAF rather than stay in the village and work at the mill.  Possibly he needed more excitement!  He qualified as a telegraphist’s air gunner.  Prior to WW2 he served in Ismalia, Egypt and northern India.  He had some wonderful tales to tell when he came home on leave.  He had a distinguished service in the RAF throughout WW2 and after the war he joined BOAC as an airline pilot.

WILLIAM WOOLLEY had a wife named MARJORIE BUTCHER (Madge) and her aunt and uncle were the matron and master of a children’s home.  In 1932 the children went to Withensey, Yorkshire, and Will and Madge went camping with them.  Will was caught in quicksand and died of a heart attack in his panic.

FREDERICK WOOLLEY went into the army.  Between the two world wars he served in India.  He met a Swiss nurse there, whom he subsequently married.  When he left India he left the army and became a foreman at Aylesford Paper Mills.  It was a good job and they had a nice house there.  Marie, was somewhat unstable and committed suicide by gassing herself.  Fred served in the army again in WW2.  He remarried and they lived in Derbyshire.  He died of tuberculosis in about 1951.

ALBERT WOOLLEY was in the Royal Navy.  He used to be called ‘Calley’, which was derived from ‘Kelly’ from the song ‘Kelly from the Isle of Dogs’.  It is thought this was given to him because he was at the Royal Naval School at Greenwich.  He married and had children, although no details are to hand.  He drowned at sea in WW2.

ARTHUR WOOLLEY  was, for some reason, always known as ‘Woolley’ even among the family.  He worked for a time in the greengrocery owned by Herbert Percy, and cycled there each day from Burham in all weathers.  Woolley had a sweet tooth and was always dipping into any sweets or chocolates that might be around.  One day, Herbert’s daughter, Ruby (Babs), carefully cut a hole in the bottom of several chocolates and extracted the cream, replacing it with hot mustard.  She then left the chocolates on a dish in the kitchen.  Predictably, Woolley came in and took one, popping the whole thing into his mouth as usual before biting into it.  His yell brought everyone running and it was quite a while before he could get his breath back.  Ruby’s brother tells this tale and says that what made it all the more amusing was the fact that Babs was the most unlikely perpetrator of such a stunt.  It seems that her chocolates were safe from Woolley from that time on!
Woolley married a Burham girl, Winnie Watts, whom he had dated for years.  Many years later, when Bill Percy visited the old Norman parish church, St Mary's, while on a nostalgic trip to Burham, he met Woolley, who was the churchwarden and had never left Burham.

GERTRUDE MARTIN sister of Alice, was born on 18th December 1879.  She was known as Gerty.  She became a trained cook.  She married JOHN BENJAMIN BALCHIN (Jack), who came from Pettworth, Sussex.  They had two children, Arthur and Betty.  Arthur had birth injuries which rendered him spastic.  He was born in 1905 and died in 1940.  Betty was born in 1911.  She was educated at Gillingham Grammar School and became a teacher.  She married Leslie Seviour, an aircraft designer, who managed a firm called Aircraft and Engineering Projects.  They had two children.
John Balchin was drowned at sea in WW1.  Gerty had to go back to work as a cook, and took a position with a doctor in Surrey.  Later she worked as a cook at Hill Place Preparatory School in Maidstone.  She lived in both Gillingham and Maidstone over the years and owned a bungalow at Bluebell Hill.  When Betty married Gertrude moved to Felton to live near her daughter.  She died on 16th March 1976 at the Hampton Court Home in Middlesex.  She was 96.

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