THE Garling family name may be familiar to many living in West Bergholt and beyond.

And the significance of the family was made apparent in the fact a memorial plaque bearing their name was among those in the village's Methodist Chapel, which closed after 150 years service last year.

The parishioners now meet elsewhere but the chapel itself is no longer in use.

Colchester historian Heather Johnson says George Garling, whose plaque was in the chapel, was actually one of eleven children born to Primitive Methodist Walter Isaac Garling, whose history she has researched, and his wife Mary.

The couple had six sons and five daughters although one son and a daughter both died young.

Walter, Mary and all their surviving children were staunch Methodists, says Heather.

She explains Walter was born in 1836 in Suffolk, when the name was actually spelt "Girling", but eventually, probably due to the dialect morphed into what it is today.

"When Walter was baptised, his father Abraham’s occupation was noted as a baker.

"Walter was brought up less than three miles from where the Orwell and Stour rivers meet the North Sea.

"Before his 15th birthday Walter was a baker lodging in Harwich, on the opposite shore," she says.

heather says family lore tells of Walter nxt working at Wivenhoe Park.

"This rings true because, in the summer of 1860, Walter married Miss Mary Ann Smith of Wivenhoe Heath – they married at Wivenhoe’s Independent Chapel.


"Walter was already established as the West Bergholt baker."

Mary and Walter added to their family every two or three years, with their youngest arriving almost 21 years after their oldest.

In 1863, Walter became Superintendent of the West Bergholt Primitive Methodist Sunday School and in 1909 presented with a long service silver medal for his 46 years’ commitment to the post.

"He was Bergholt’s representative at conventions in this regard.

"At some point, Walter became a Lay Preacher on the Hadleigh Methodist Circuit."

Heather says it is believed all of the Garling family signed the Temperance Pledge, abstaining from alcohol, even their son Albert when he was just six.


"This was probably influenced by the ‘Band of Hope and Temperance Society’ branches already established nearby in Colchester and environs.

"The objectives of the ‘Band of Hope and Temperance Society’ were to promote abstinence and teetotalism, amongst working-class children. "Logically, this would come easy to the Garlings – given that Methodism advised either abstinence or sensible drinking," says Heather.

West Bergholt set up its own such society branch in October 1891.

Heather says In 1888, one of Walter’s sisters died soon after giving birth to a daughter and he and Mary brought her, Lily Edith Bayles, up as their own daughter.

Walter also owned two ships or barges captained out of Wivenhoe by his brother-in-laws John Smith and George Harvey. It is said the vessels traded between the Hythe and Holland.


He also put his money into property, in West Bergholt and Colchester, and tendered for baking related business.

"The Garlings’ lives were inter-woven with the West Bergholt Methodist Chapel.

"All Garling baptisms; marriages; burials; and funerals took place there.

"The Chapel experienced the Garling family’s joy, and its sadness.

Walter and Mary saw their children and grandchildren follow in their footsteps – immersed in Chapel life too – both in West Bergholt and beyond.


Sons Edgar and Albert married and made their homes in London Road, Lexden.

The families became part of Lexden’s Methodist Chapel’s congregation but West Bergholt’s Chapel kept pulling them back for the baptisms of their children, marriages and other ceremonies.

Chapel organist George, who name is on the commemorative stone, was the only son to remain in the village. He and his wife Gertrude had one daughter, Gwendoline and the family lived in one of the Ebenezer Villas next door to the Chapel.

Heather says : "When Gwendoline married in 1930, it was to the West Bergholt Methodist minister at the time, the Rev John Robert Davies."

In 1887, Walter and Mary's son Edgar married Martha Harris, the step-daughter of one of the West Bergholt Methodist Chapel Trustees, blacksmith and wheelwright James King Seaborn.

Edgar was a baker and with Martha ran Lexden Heath’s Post Office and Bakery.


Brother Albert would soon live close by, after he married Edgar’s neighbour’s daughter Annie Major.

As George was organist at the West Bergholt Chapel, so was brother Albert at the Lexden Chapel.

Their father Walter was known for his generosity and Mary even had to hide money from him to prevent him giving too much away, explains Heather.

"That said, by 1891, Walter and Mary’s savings were £2,088, which is around £185,000 today, so Mary did succeed in preventing Walter from giving it all away, didn’t she?

"Unfortunately, Walter and Mary’s money was held in the bank of Mills, Bawtree & Co. and, in 1891, the bank failed.

"But all was not lost.

"Three banks made a part-rescue so they only lost half their money."

Their daughter Eunice Garling married James Pirie, a school master from West Bergholt, in 1913 and tbey lived at Granville House, just along from the Chapel.

"The House had a large garden and that, together with an adjoining large field formed the land that the Brosley housing development was built on.

"The Garling family link lives on in ‘Garling Walk, Pirie Road and Granville Close," she adds.

The Bake Office eventually took the name the Hollies.

Completing the history of Walter and his children, Laura and Blanch were his oldest daughters and remained spinsters, helping in the bakery business which their brother George took over.

They shared their brother Edgar’s home in Lexden when he became a widower, and kept house for him and died died within ten days of each other.

Walter Isaac Garling died on 16 February 1919, at West Bergholt, aged 83.