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FEATURE: What's in a Name? Discovering Donington's explorer son

The statue of Matthew Flinders in Donington's Market Place.
The statue of Matthew Flinders in Donington's Market Place.

In the second of our ‘What’s in a Name?’ features, this week we are going to Donington.

If you are from the village or have driven through, you will have seen the name ‘Matthew Flinders' referred to.

A fish and chip shop takes his surname, the St Mary and the Holy Rood Church has a stained glass window dedicated to him and a small ‘museum’ area; - and there is a statue of him in the Market Place.

There is also a blue plaque on the house in which he was born in the village and the Flinders Founders community youth group takes his name.

Born in Donington in 1774, Flinders is famous for charting much of the Australian coastline, including the discovery that Tasmania was an island.

In Australia, there are references to him everywhere, but unless you are from Lincolnshire, you may not have heard of him.

Matthew Flinders is name-checked in several places in Donington.
Matthew Flinders is name-checked in several places in Donington.

Alan James (84), who taught Geography at the Thomas Cowley High School, until he retired in 1989, has a great interest in the explorer.

“I am not from the area originally,” he said, “but Flinders played a great part in the school and one of the houses in the school took the name Flinders. So that was my initial interest.”

Today,Alan looks after the little museum in the church, which tells the story of Flinders’ life with photographs of other memorials to him in Australia, Britain and Mauritius.

The explorer had called at the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean in 1803, then a French possession, during a voyage home from Australia. It was in the hope of obtaining a replacement ship.

Despite France and Britain being at war, he thought the scientific nature of his work would ensure safe passage.

Instead, he was accused of being a spy, and detained for six and a half years on the island.

Matthew Flinders was a pupil of the Thomas Cowley High School, then named the Cowley Grammar School.

The son of Matthew Flinders, a surgeon, and his wife Susannah, he apparently said he was “induced to go to sea against the wishes of my friends from reading Robinson Crusoe”.

He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15.

A fish and chip shop in the village takes the explorer's name.
A fish and chip shop in the village takes the explorer's name.

“He was a local boy made good,” Alan said. “He had a short life but it was full.

“He also has an association with Captain Bligh and the Bounty and connections to other Lincolnshire ‘worthies’.

“He made three main voyages to the southern hemisphere and was captured by the French (in Mauritius). He was also around in the same time as Nelson.”

Flinders died in London at the age of 40 and was buried at St James in Hampstead Road.

For a long time, there was little recognition of note to the famous explorer in his home town.

“He was a local boy made good. He had a short life but it was full."

“The statue in Donington was put up in 2006,” Alan said. This also features Trim, his cat, who travelled on voyages to Australia with him but disappeared in Mauritius.

“In 2015 a statue was put up in London, at Euston Station,” Alan added.

“The reason it is there is that in the 1840s, or somewhere around that time, Euston Station was being enlarged and there was a burial ground at theadjacent church.

“It is not sure if the remains (of Flinders) were moved or just built over so the press in Australia seemed to get that he is under platform 16 or somewhere like that.”

Virgin Trains also named a train in his honour

Each year, around the date of his death, the Lincolnshire branch of the Britain-Australia Society hosts a memorial service at Donington’s St Mary and the Holy Rood Church and at the Ruby Hunt Centre.

Can you add to the Matthew Flinders story? Email: zoe.myall@iliffepublishing.co.uk


Our last ‘What’s in a Name?’ article, looking at the Peele family from Long Sutton, generated a lot of interest.

Reader Wendy Jeffries and Pat Graham both got in touch. As did Len Crockford and Julie Clarke.

Pat has written a book called ‘The Late Hatch’ about farming and the Peele family. She still has copies of the book at £10 plus postage.

She said: “I was a Miss Patricia Peele before I married and have the family details and family tree of the Peele family going back centuries.”

“I also know about the Peele School and have a small trowel that was in my grandfather’s possessions which I can only think might have been from laying the first bricks of the Peele School.”

She added that Thomas Peele’s eldest son ran a chemist and wine shop in Long Sutton, before moving to Norfolk around 1880.

The Peele Chemist and Wine shop in Long Sutton. Image provided by Pat Graham. (3658382)
The Peele Chemist and Wine shop in Long Sutton. Image provided by Pat Graham. (3658382)

“My grandfather, Ernest Edwin Peele and his brother George, sons of Edwin Peele, started rearing turkeys and farming, selling the turkeys locally anddown to London at Christmas from Stanfield Hall Farm.

“My father Frank Edwin Peele carried on the turkey business and was instrumental in saving the Norfolk Black Turkey from extinction in the 1930s - as the Bronze breed had become more popular, being a larger bird.”

You can purchase copies of Pat's book by emailing her at: lentfarm@googlemail.com or lentfarm@gmail.com

Julie said: “I think the Richard Peele, buried with seven daughters in the nave of Long Sutton church, is my 2nd cousin, five times removed.

"My 3rd great grandmother Clarissa Elizabeth Peele Belton was born in Long Sutton in 1814.Her mother was Mary Peele born in 1772 in Grayingham, Lincolnshire.There is a stained glass window in St. Radegunda Church in Grayingham dedicated to the Peele family in 1881.

"Mary's father Richard Peele was born in Scothern, Lincs and married an Ann Spencer and his brother William married an Elizabeth Spencer. All their children were born in Grayingham.I think that this is why quite a few of the Peeles have Spencer as Christian names in later generations."

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