Thurlby Hall

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NB. There are three places called 'Thurlby' in Lincolnshire; this one is in south west Lincolnshire, near Newark, Nottinghamshire; the other two being near Bourne in south Lincolnshire, and near Alford in The Lincolnshire Wolds.

Thurlby Hall was the second home of John Thomas Drakes (1851-1908) and his wife, Alice Martha Wildsmith (1852-1920); it was where their three younger children were born between 1883 and 1889.

Frank Drakes was born at Thurlby Hall, Thurlby, Lincolnshire in 1889. This house was formerly the family home of Admiral Bromhead the father of Gonville Bromhead VC, whose part in the film Zulu was played by Michael Caine. The Bromhead family later moved to their London home and I understood that they leased Thurlby Hall to Frank's father John Thomas Drakes. However, my recent Lincolnshire Directory research shows someone else living in the Hall at about this time; it is possible that, as a tenant farmer, John Thomas Drakes and his family actually lived in the adjoining cottage, which was built against the rear left of the Hall and is not part of the main building? It is still confusing, since the family GRO birth certificates show their children as born at 'Thurlby Hall' and there is a photo of Thurlby Hall among the family photos, but not one of this cottage; this may be the 'stuff' of family myths and legends!

                                                                                                                                       photo by Chris Drakes

By coincidence, Frank Drakes' great grandson Tim was born exactly 100 years after the battle at Rourke's Drift. The Zulu warriors were first spotted approaching Rourke’s Drift at 4.30pm, and their attack began shortly after; by 6pm the soldiers were ordered to fall back to the defences around the store building, abandoning the hospital and its occupants. Tim was born was 5.17pm, which would have been during the height of the battle 100 years earlier. This is nothing more than coincidence; still, it is a bit of fun and adds to the general interest of a family history.


The real Lt. Gonville Bromhead VC, whose family home was Thurlby Hall, Thurlby, Lincolnshire. He won his Victoria Cross at the battle of Rourke's Drift on 22nd January 1879. He died in 1892 while serving in India. There is a brilliant website about him, with a later photograph:

The eldest child of John Thomas Drakes and Alice Martha Wildsmith was Eleanor Drakes (1879-1960); she was born at Morton Grange, Swinderby, Lincolnshire. Their three younger children were Annie Margaret Drakes (1883-1926), Sidney Drakes (1885-1957) & Frank Drakes (1889-1957), who were all born at Thurlby Hall, Thurlby, Lincolnshire.

                                                                                                                                       photos by Chris Drakes

The side of Thurlby Hall, Lincolnshire, and the adjoining cottages at the rear.