Celebrity Ancestry - Jayne Torvill

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The ancestry of Olympic athlete Jayne Torvill

Jayne Torvill
DOB: October 1957
Nationality: British
Sport: Ice Dancing
Olympic medals: 1 gold, 1 bronze

Jayne Torvill OBE is a British ice dancer, best known for being one half of Torvill and Dean, from the TV show Dancing on Ice. With her skating partner Christopher Dean, Jayne has won two Olympic medals. Anthony Adolf tells us about the Torvill roots.

'Torvill' might conjure up images of hammer-wielding Thor, and of Vikings rampaging over eastern England in the Dark Ages. So it comes as quite a surprise to learn that Jayne Torvill's ancestors were once called either Turvey or Turville, and that their ancestral roots lie either in Saxon England, or Normandy.

Turvey in Buckinghamshire takes its name from the Saxon turf and eg and means 'grassy island'. Turville is another place in Buckinghamshire, but this place did not give rise to the surname Turvile, because until the 19th century it was called Turfield. The surname Turvile is much more likely to be from one of ten seignories called Tourville ('tower town') in Normandy.

In Burke's History of the Commoners (1833-7) we read that 'the family of Tourville or Turvile is of Norman extraction, and the name may be found on the roll of Battle Abbey', the Conqueror's companion concerned being William de Tourville. That may be fantasy rather than fact, but Burke is on surer ground when he continues that 'soon after the conquest of England', continues Burke, 'the Tourvilles became extensive proprietors in the counties of Warwick and Leicester: being lords, in the former, of the manors of Pailington, Herberberwe, Bedworth Chelmescote, Fulbrooke, and Nuneaton; and giving, in the latter, their name to the manor of Normanton-Turvile, the original seat of the family'.

The main line of Turvile is found in Leicestershire, and was long seated at Normanton Turvile, but this became extinct in 1776. A junior branch flourished at Aston Flamville: this estate was sold in the early 1700s, and later this same line settled at Husbands Bosworth, having inherited an estate there under the will of Maria-Alathea Fortescue in 1763. The family were described in William Burton's history of Leicestershire in 1622 as 'one of the ancientest families in the whole shire'.

Leicestershire remained the epicentre of the Turviles into the 19th century, with some overlap into the surrounding counties, including Lincolnshire. Those who went may well have been from younger branches of the great landowning family of Turvile: under the English system of inheritance, the eldest son got everything, and younger sons of younger sons either worked hard, or starved: it was not at all unusual for great landowners to be quite closely related to the labourers in their neighbours' fields.

We may have an example of migration from Leicestershire to Lincolnshire in the form of John Turville, who was baptised in 1772 in Garthorpe, Leicestershire, son of John and Elizabeth Turville. He seems to have moved about eight miles north east to marry as John Torvel in Harlaxton, Lincolnshire in 1799, to Mary Marrison, and was buried as John Turvey in Harlaxton in 1834, aged 62.

Related to him may have been Francis Turvill or Turney who was a labourer of South Stoke, Stoke Rochford, Lincolnshire, about three miles south of Harlaxton in 1799. That year, on 15 May, he married Mary Brooks at Honington, which is about 14 miles to the north, on the other side of the market town of Grantham. Indeed, they had probably met at the market there. The witnesses were Richard Foot and John Turvil - perhaps the very John who came from Leicestershire.

Francis, incidentally, may have brought his mother with him, for a female Torvill or Turvey was buried in Honington in 1828. Her name, as it so happens, was Jane.

Francis and Mary had a daughter Elizabeth baptised at Honington in 1800. They were also almost certainly the parents of Jayne's earliest proven ancestor, who was also called John Torvill. According to the censuses he was born in Honington about 1802/4: there is no baptism for him there, but we are dealing here with a labouring family who probably moved about quite a bit to seek work - or he may not have been baptised at all. The fact that John called two of his own children Francis and Mary is a strong indicator that Frances and Mary who married in 1799 were indeed his parents!

Mary was buried in Honington in 1812. Francis may have been buried not far from the Grantham area in Hose, Leicestershire in 1843, aged 65.

Jayne's great great great grandfather John Torvill, who was born about 1802/4 in Honington, Lincolnshire, married Sarah, who was born about 1806 in Sedgebrook or Holbeck Marsh, Lincolnshire. They had children William, (born in 1826 in Great Gonersby); Mary (born about 1828 in Sleaford); John (baptised in 1830 in New Sleaford); Francis (baptised in 1834 in New Sleaford); Jayne's ancestor George (born in 1836); Susan (born in 1840); Jane (born in 1843 in Sleaford) and Elizabeth (born in 1845 in Sleaford).

John Torvill was a labourer all his life. In the 1841 census, John and his family in Charles Street, New Sleaford. In 1851 they were at Providence Square, New Sleaford and in 1861 they were in West Street, Sleaford: in that census they had two extra children in the house, a grandson John Torvill and a granddaughter Fanny Brackenbury.

They remained in Sleaford. John's wife Sarah died there in 1868 aged 63 and he died the following year aged 67.
As we can see, Jayne's ancestor George had a sister Jane Torvill. How did the namesake of the famous skater fare in 19th century Lincolnshire? Born in 1843, she was still living at home in 1871, working as a milliner, making ladies' hats. But in 1872 she married in Sleaford, to Thomas Cartwright.

So often in 19th century history, and in sharp contrast to Jayne's own career, women's fates were determined by the sobriety and industry of their husbands. In Jane's case, all was set fair. By the 1881 census they were living at Elven Road, East Dereham with two children, Walter G. and Mary J. and Thomas was working as an insurance agent. By the 1891 census, they had moved to 11 London Terrace, Rotherham: they had six children by now, and Jane even had a servant to assist her. Not bad for the daughter of a Sleaford labourer.

Returning now to George Torvill, who was Jayne's great great grandfather: he was baptised at New Sleaford on 9 June 1836 (his mother was recorded as 'Mary' but that was a mistake). In 1851 he was listed as George 'Turvey', an errand boy living in South Street, Sleaford. In 1860, he was a baker of Sleaford, when he married on 25 March 1860 at New Sleaford parish church, before witnesses James Etty, and William Payne the parish clerk.

His bride was the attractively named Sarah Sallerbank. Her surname was also spelled Sallabank and Sallavank. She was an illiterate girl from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, where she had been baptised in 1834. Her parents were John Sallerbank, a journeyman carpenter - a journeyman was an unapprenticed tradesman - who had been born in Wisbech about 1794, and his wife Mary (born about 1796 in Wisbech).

George and Sarah had children George (born in Sleaford about 1860, who died young); John (born about 1863); Sarah (born about 1867); Mary Ann (born about 1868 in Clementhorpe); Jayne's ancestor George (born in 1870); Frank (born about 1874 in West Huntingdon) and Walter (born about 1876).

George's wife Sarah died and he remarried to Susan from Broomhill, Co. Durham, by whom he had four more children, Eliza, Susan, Ella and William Albert.

The 1861 census shows George with his first, young bride Sarah at West Street, New Sleaford, where he was working as a baker and flour dealer. By 1871 he had become a market gardener at York Road, Haxby, just north of York itself, a situation that remained unchanged in 1881 and 1891. By 1901, however, he was listed as a shop keeper and newsagent running the village shop in Haxby.

The son George Torvill was Jayne's great grandfather. He was born on 12 September 1870 at Huntingdon, Yorkshire. He became a railway platelayer (or track-layer). He married on 1 July 1899 in Hucknall parish church, where the great poet Lord Byron lies beneath a slab of stone set into the altar floor, to Florence Helena King, who was born about 1878 in Ibstock, Leicestershire. Her parents were William King, a collier who had been born about 1853 in Carlton, Leicestershire and his wife Sarah, born about 1851 in Ibstock, Leicestershire, who had clearly moved up into Nottinghamshire to find work in the area's numerous coal mines.

George's work as a platelayer took him far from Hucknall. In the 1901 census we find him lodging at 53 Southam Street, Kensington, London (and mistakenly listed as single, though one cannot help but wonder whether he said that for the benefit of his landlady's 23 year old daughter, Annie Turner!). His wife, meanwhile, was living back with her parents in Nottingham, with her baby son George.

But father George returned, and by 1911 he was living with her in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, he working now as a railway shunter. Their children were Jayne's ancestor George (born 1899); Gertrude and Walter who were twins (born in Nottingham in 1903); Cyril (born in Nottingham in 1904); Doris May (born in 1906 in Dunkirk, Nottinghamshire); and a child who died, whose existence is revealed by the 1911 census.

Their son George Torvill was born on 8 October 1899 at 19 Linby Terrace, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. He married Caroline Annie Parkinson on 19 April 1914 at New Redford. Her father was William Henry Parkinson, a lace hand. George worked as a miner (1914), and later as a turf layer (1925) and a labourer (1946).

They had children including George Henry Torvill, who was born on 13 February 1925 at 3 Florence Place, Ilkeston Road, Nottingham. He was a bricklayer of 174 Ilkeston Road, Nottingham in 1946 when, on 2 November, he married Betty Smart of 194 Woodfield Road, Broxtowe, at All Souls Church, Radford. Her father was Joseph William Smart, a miner.

George Henry worked for Raleigh bicycles, and Betty worked at the Players' cigarette factory. Later, they ran a newsagents shop together. Their daughter Jayne was born at Clifton, Nottingham on 7 October 1957. She attended the local grammar school, leaving at 16 to start work as
a clerk at a Nottingham insurance company - a curious and coincidental echo of her great great great aunt Jane Torvill, who married the insurance agent Thomas Cartwright back in 1872. But in her spare time, ever since her first school visit to an ice rink at the age of eight, Jane had been skating, taking lessons after school and continuing after work - until she and Christopher Dean won their gold medal in the Winter Olympics of 1984. She is married to Phil Christensen and has two children, Kieran and Jessica: she lives in East Sussex. 

Anthony Adolph, 2011