10 December, 2000
Dear Eardley Family Member,
I am writing this special Christmas letter from distant exotic Hawaii, gazing over a sunrise which is enveloping Waikiki Beach in a soft mystical Pacific morning light Yet even here my memories slide back to that wonderful day in the summer on 15 July 2000 in Audley, England, when so many of us were able to come together to celebrate our common heritage in a unique and wonderful manner at the Church of St. James. We came from all five continents and many countries. BBC TV featured the event on the evening news on Friday, 14th July 2000 and the national newspaper 'The Daily Mail' splashed us in full colour on Monday 17th July 2000. Sam Plank of BBC Radio, Stoke gave us excellent coverage and the Sentinel newspaper covered the days events. In addition, we received a congratulatory message from Buckingham Palace! It was indeed a wonderful event. Audley will never forget us and I know we can never forget Audley! There may have been as many as 1500 people present that day. It is entirely possible that St. James Church has never seen the like of this in its 1000 years of history. There was not even standing room available in the church.
I know from your messages that hundreds of you made new friends from 'old' relatives and that these new relationships are set to continue. The Eardleys everywhere are telling me we can't let it 'end here'. I agree. As a result of the great day of celebration a 'grass roots' movement has already begun to take shape. Of course it is entirely appropriate that the focus of the action is set to take place in Audley itself. David Eardley, an Audley resident and member of the choir which did us all so proud on that day, has invited Eardleys to come down to the 'Butchers Arms' opposite St. James Church, Audley of every month for a chat. In February the meeting will be held at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday on the 7th. Starting in March it will be held the first Tuesday of every month at the Butchers Arms at 7:45 p.m. The format will evolve according to the wishes of those attending. Also, David Eardley and Cyril Eardley are editing eight video tapes of the 15th July 2000 church service to make a two hour tape for distribution.
Please read my previous letter regarding Sir George Yeardley,. It is my understanding there will be a quadricentennial in 2007 in Virginia. Perhaps we all might have an interest in this relating to the Audley, England and Virginia, USA connection. One of the more exciting developments to come to light recently has been the discovery of what we now call 'The Yeardley Connection'. For a full description of this issue check the bulletin board messages regarding Sir George Yeardley. Sir George Yeardley, apparently London born, but descended from the Audley Yeardleys (that is how our name appears in the early 1600s) sailed to Virginia on the 'Deliverance' in 1609, married Temperance West, obviously a Puritan, and rapidly established himself as leader of the infant colony. He was a noted Indian fighter and was three times governor of Virginia before his untimely death. Most interestingly he established the first 'Independent Legislature' in North American which remained free from British control for two years. James I, fearing the consequences, abolished it and re-established direct rule. History can only speculate as t how the colonies would have developed had Sir George's governmental model been allowed to continue.
Sir George's descendants married into the Custis family, one of whom, widow Martha Custis, became the wife of none other than George Washington. One of Martha's daughters was directly related to the wife of General Robert E. Lee, the great leader of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. There is a further connection to James Fennmore Cooper, author of 'The Last of the Mohicans'. There is a Stafford County and a Staffordville in Virginia. Most compelling of all is the existence of Audley Farm, now a noted horse breeding establishment, but for two hundred years the possession of George Washington's family. In addition, I am told that at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, on the kitchen wall is a Yeardley family tree. Much needs to be done to complete this exciting research. The Daughters of the American Revolution and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association are likely to be helpful in this regard. Early in the last century they erected a house dedicated to the achievements of Sir George Yeardley near Jamestown, on the very site of that historic 'Independent Legislature'.
2007 will be the quadracentennial of the first settlers' arrival in Virginia. Who knows how far we will have travelled with the Yeardley saga by that time. We will keep you informed as events unfold. Any Eardley 'out there' who can provide additional information on this topic is invited to contact me in the usual manner.
There is one issue in which we can all take an active interest and I am of course referring to the Eardley Window Project. The complete restoration of the East Window is set to cost less than 30,000 pounds. About 6000 pounds has already been achieved by your generosity. When the sum of 10,000 pounds has been raised, Vicar Peter Davies will signal that the 'point of no return' has been reached and will set in place arrangements for the work to commence. Now, before moving forward further on this issue I wish to share something of a personal nature with you. You may wish to be party to my thinking as to why I am so enthusiastic about the Window Restoration Project. Let me explain. I feel we have demonstrated over and over again during our joint researches that wherever in the world we may now reside, if we peel back the folds of history for several generations, then all roads lead to Audley, England. This place is our ancestral home, our special place on this earth from which we all sprung. Many of you told me on 15 July 2000 that you felt an unmistakable feeling of 'affinity' for this beautiful area.
Wonderful as 15th July 2000 was, and it is still fresh in our memory, time will erode what we achieved. One solution in my view, would rest in the concept of all of us jointly involving ourselves in a permanent memorial, not only of our coming together on 15th July 2000, but also of our traditional and enduring support for the Parish of St. James, Audley. The Window Restoration Project would be that 'ideal' solution. The Project is ours. This is to be something in which we all share, so that in generations to come, your grandchildren and their grandchildren can make a pilgrimage to Audley and feel part of it. This wonderful project will link us all together for generations to come, even though geographically we may be worlds apart. May I suggest that a small amount from each Eardley Family, of say five or ten pounds would be sufficient to complete the painstaking restoration work. A plaque in the entrance foyer is in the process of being designed which will serve as a testament to our ongoing support for St. James Parish. Those of you who read the existing plaque on the right side of the entrance porch will be already aware that Eardleys have been traditional supporters of St. James for centuries.
The restoration work will be undertaken by Mr. Graham Chaplin. The launch dedication will commence July 2001 and will be completed July 2002 on which date the Dedication of the Restored East Window will be celebrated. In July 2001, Mr. Graham Chaplin and Vicar Peter Davies will be available on that particular date to be announced to answer all your questions regarding the window. You will be informed of the particular day and date. Of course, you are all invited to attend. It will be an important and well publicized event similar to our 15th July 2000 get-together in some aspects. As events unfold you will be kept fully informed. On Wednesday, 7th February 2001 at 7:45 p.m. at the Butchers Arms Pub in Audley, England, Vicar Peter Davies and David Eardley will be available to answer any questions at the monthly Eardley Family get-together
When a member of your family obtains a computer, tell them about the Eardley.org website. Please spread the word! Encourage them to use the Message Board. A frequently updated graph will keep everyone informed as to how the funds are coming. In the United States, Joane Eardley Janega and Marjorie Solan are undertaking the organizing of the funding on the other side of the 'pond'. I'm sure the project is in safe hands.
At long last Robert Jack Eardley has been able to take his family tree back to Audley. His more distant ancestors are John and Elizabeth Stringer Eardley of Whitmore. From John he traced his family back to the William and Margaret Audley Eardley and to the 'Eardleys' of the 'Pool' and Eardley Hall. It has taken him six years to return 'home' to Audley but it was well worth the effort.
Everything we have done for the past six years has been meaningful. Peoples lives have been changed. We all have a strong sense of identity. We know who we are and where we came from and in addition we have a binding sense of kinship with thousands of Eardleys worldwide. Long may it continue. If you wish to contact me, please leave your telephone number. Some in the past have forgotten to do this. If you have any suggestions on any Eardley related topic, please let us know. All ideas are welcome. Yours may be the one which enables us to move forward more meaningfully. Well, we've had a wonderfully, productive six years. Let us now continue our efforts and together we can complete our task.
Marriage lists are now complete (1837 - 1998) and will be found shortly on the website. Your own Eardley Family Ancestors must be there. Check them out and start your own family tree for your children and grandchildren if you have not already done so. Finally, please give earnest consideration to the Window Fund Project. Should we bring it about in the manner suggested here then all our 'Eardley Families Worldwide' can say with pride, we did our bit to restore the East Window and continue the Eardley name.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
God Bless You
Robert Francis Eardley
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