Richard W. Masters

Of Misterton-Walcote, Leicestershire, England

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Visit to Walcote, Leicestershire, 2007

By 2007, I had gathered much of the material I needed for my book.  Most of my research had been done online, but I needed to get some photographs, and I really wanted to visit Walcote and the areas in which the families of Richard's parents had lived. I had already gained much of my information from UK Government sources, and although it cost quite a lot to access this information, in the long run it was certainly worth it. Through my investigations I made many friends, and even more special, many of these friends are also family. 

One of the first people I made contact with was England-based family historian, Bev Digger, who conscientiously checked up on leads I provided plus looked up others that might be helpful. Through her family history network links, she located Valerie Howard who is descended from Richard's uncle, Joseph Masters - the youngest of his fathers brothers. 

With Val Howard, Bev Digger at the Cavalier Arms, Lutterworth; With Kath Green at the Tavern Inn, Walcote

During my visit in March 2007, I was able to meet both Bev and Val, and another relative, Des Masters who was descended from both William (through his mother) and Joseph Masters (through his father). Together we were able to share little bits of what we knew, although both Des and Val found the material that Bev and I had gathered quite new to them. They were pleased to have a document which could tell them a little more about their past. Des took me for a tour of the old sites in Walcote, and then to the churchyard where he had located the headstone of young Joel Masters who had died in 1853.

Des and Mary Masters; and Des locating Joel's headstone at St Leonards Church

Walcote is still a rural area and is surrounded by farms. Very few of the old families still remain in the village although I did make contact with Barbara Wilson. Her cousin Des gave me a copy of their mothers' family photograph. I also got to meet Kath Green whose family had lived in Walcote since the 1800s and had donated several photographs of old Walcote to the local inn.

With Kath Green in the Tavern Inn, Walcote  One of the oldest buildings in Walcote, the Tavern Inn

While in England, I based myself in Walcote, nowadays a small village situated on the road between Lutterworth and Market Harborough. I stayed at High House which is one of the oldest buildings in Walcote. It would have been standing when Richard was a young boy. It was no doubt given this name because it was three stories high and could be seen from all around the Walcote-Misterton area. There are other old buildings that still exist from the 1800s but many have been demolished to make way for more modern houses.

The grounds of High House in Walcote, Leicestershire

High House is a beautifully reconstructed building now owned by the King family who run a very welcoming bed and breakfast business. I can recommend that you stay at High House when you visit Walcote. It is situated half way between where the Red Lion  Inn would have stood in his time, and the fish markets which were probably held in the centre of the village in the 1800s.  The Red Lion was demolished in the late 1990s. It is interesting that older family members recall that William Marsters mentioned that he lived between these two significant features in his village (the Red Lion Inn and the fish markets).

Lounge of High House, Walcote, Leicestershire        Lounge of High House (2), Walcote, Leicestershire

Of my visit to England, two of my favourite memories was waking up to the sight of a light cover of snow over the garden and on the fields over the wall, and a couple of days later, daffodils along the roadside. 

Morning Snow outside High House, Walcote  Daffodils outside High House, Walcote (March 2007)

But this is what Richard Masters would have experienced as he was growing up in this very village. I often wonder if he ever missed it, and if he ever considered returning to England, to visit the son and daughter he left behind. He obviously thought of them a lot because their names crop up several times in the family tree. 

Although Walcote and Misterton are not mentioned in any of the names Marsters gave to sites on the island of Palmerston he did name one of the islets that surround the atoll's lagoon "Leicester".

It must have been a major family crisis that drove him to venture to the other side of the world from those significant people of his earlier life. I believe his father was the catalyst for his move from England, and the reason he never returned. 

By the time his father John died in Walcote in 1880, Richard-William was settled firmly  on his island with his wives and John's many grand-children.