The Dance Families of the Forest of Dean

 family Origins













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Ocle Pychard, eight miles north-east of Hereford, was the home of Thomas Dance when he was baptised in 1775 and its where he and Catherine Evans were married in 1795.

If we have the correct lineage, his father was James Dance who came from Eggleton, Stretton Grandison, and had married Elizabeth Morgan at nearby Ledbury in October 1761.

James was baptised in February 1730 at Stretton Grandison, and his parents were John & Anne Dance.

The marriage entry for his son in the Ocle Pychard register reads “Thomas Dance of the parish of Canon Frome and Catherine Evans of this parish were married in this church by banns this 31st day of December 1795 by Wm Davey. This marriage was solemnized between us Tho. Dance , Catherine Evans. Witness:  Joseph Garston and  Sarah Garston.” 











With links to three of their sons


Edward Dance 1806-1882


Joseph Dance 1812-1885


James Dance 1806-1881



Catherine Dance (nee Evans) was born at Burghill, just north-west of Hereford and baptised there on 16th May 1773, youngest child of John Evans and Margaret Poole. In the 1851 census she gives her birthplace as Tarrington, but on the 1861 census she seems to have changed her mind and gives her place of birth as Canon Frome. She and Thomas moved to the Ganarew-Whitchurch area in the early 1800s. Their second son James was born there around 1806.

Elizabeth (1796) their first child, who was to marry John Saunders (1793) at Llangarron near Monmouth in 1820, was born at Tarrington near Hereford and baptised at Ocle Pychard (see bottom of page).  Her brother Thomas Dance (1799) was also  baptised at Ocle Pychard, a village six miles from Hereford, in 1799, and his younger siblings at Ganarew and around nearby Whitchurch, on the south-western side of Herefordshire, close to the Welsh border town of Monmouth.

The earliest baptismal records indicate that Thomas and Catherine first lived and worked at Lewstone, in the parish of Ganarew near Whitchurch. He was a farm labourer in the early part of the 19th century. By the time of the 1841 census the family were listed as farmers at St Wulstans in nearby Welsh Newton.

GANAREW is a small parish and village delightfully situated at the base of Doward hill, on the borders of Monmouthshire. The parish contains several handsome residences, and the main road between Ross and Monmouth runs through it. It is distant 3 miles N.E. of Monmouth, 8 S.W. of Ross, and 18 S. of Hereford; in Wormelow hundred, Monmouth union and county court district, Whitchurch polling district, and Harewood End petty sessional division. The population in 1861 was 116; in 1871, 181; inhabited houses, 36; families or separate occupiers, 36; area of parish, 835 acres; annual rateable value, £1,082. Mrs. Marriott, who is lady of the manor, James Murray Bannerman, Esq., William Brown, Esq., and Miss Griffin (of Newton court), are the principal landowners. The soil is loamy; subsoil, chiefly rock; produce, wheat, barley, roots, &c.  Ganarew is in the diocese and archdeaconry of Hereford and rural deanery of Archenfield; living, a rectory; value, £102, with 15 acres of glebe; patroness, Mrs. Marriott; rector, Rev. Thomas Laugley, B.A., of St. John's College, Cambridge, who was instituted in 1853. The church, dedicated to St. Swithin, is a small but handsome structure, with tower containing two bells. It was rebuilt in 1850 at the sole expense of Mrs. Marriott, and has nave, chancel, porch, font, organ, and about 120 sittings, 40 of which are free. The earliest register is dated 1589. There is a parochial school for boys and girls supported by subscription; it has about 25 scholars. Sellarsbrooke is the seat of Mrs. Marriott. Wyastone Leys, the seat of James Murray Bannerman, Esq., stands in a deer park, and commands a splendid view of the river Wye. There is a private chapel in the grounds. Near the mansion is a school supported by Miss Bannerman.  Littlebury's Directory and Gazetteer of Herefordshire, 1876-7

WHITCHURCH is a picturesque village and parish, delightfully situated on the west bank of the river Wye, and on the main road leading from Ross to Monmouth. It is distant 4 miles N.E. of Monmouth, 7 S.W. of Ross, and 16 S. of Hereford; is in Wormelow hundred, Monmouth union and county court district, Harewood End petty sessional division, and is a polling place for county elections. The population in 1861 was 857; in 1871, 802; inhabited houses, 201; families or separate occupiers, 207; area of parish, 1,956 acres; annual rateable value, £3,437. Mrs. Marriott, of Sellarsbrooke, who is lady of the manor, Captain J. K. Simcoe, R.N., William Brown, Esq., of Lewson, and George Woodhall Lloyd, Esq., of White house, Sellack, are the principal landowners. The soil is sandy and loamy; subsoil, chiefly rock and limestone; products, wheat, barley, roots, &c. The geology of this district is very interesting. In this parish is the Great Deward hill; on its N.W. side are the celebrated King Arthur's and other caves, in which the fossil remains of hyena, elephant, stag, &c., of the antediluvian period have been recently discovered.  

At a short distance to the West is the Little Doward hill, and on the summit of this are vestiges of an old Roman encampment. The village of Whitchurch is surrounded by scenery of the most romantic and picturesque description, and the neighbourhood is exceedingly pleasant, abounding with numerous gentlemen's seats and villas. The rivers Wye and Garron afford excellent fishing for salmon, trout, grayling, sewen, flounders, &c.; and the otter hounds meet at Marstow bridge in the season. Amongst the chief objects of interest in the vicinity is "Symonds' Yat", or Rock, the summit of which is a romantic green floor, walled in, without any formality, by copsewood, and commands a fine panorama of the Wye and adjacent country. At Symonds' Yat is a station on the Ross and Monmouth branch of the Great Western railway. Whitchurch is in the diocese and archdeaconry of Hereford and rural deanery of Archenfield; living, a rectory; value, £290, with residence and 6 acres of glebe; patron and rector, the Rev. William Dry, M.A., of Brasenose College, Oxford, who was instituted in 1862.        Littlebury's Directory and Gazetteer of Herefordshire, 1876-7




Records available at present show Thomas Dance (1765) and Catherine (1774) had seven sons in all. They were Thomas (1799), James (1806), Edward (1807), John (1809), Joseph (1812), George (1814), and William (1817) and three daughters, Elizabeth (1796)Caroline (1798) and  Ann (1811).  

Some of these dates of birth may not be historically accurate. I am aware of a few of their baptismal records but unfortunately a number of the children were not christened as infants and I have had to make possibly unreliable estimates from census and burial records when the recorded years differed.


Lewstone, the first area the family settled locally in the early 1800s, is situated in a secluded rural location along a little-used country lane approximately 1 mile from the village of Whitchurch and midway between the market towns of Ross on Wye and Monmouth.

Thomas was first employed there as a farm labourer, ('of  Lewson' is mentioned in a couple of early records).  Lewson (Lewstone) is given as their residence in 1818 when youngest son William was baptised at Whitchurch. 

They went on to farm at St Wulstan's, Welsh Newton and were well established there when Thomas died in 1840. 

This area is part of our family history again in 1862 when their grandchild, Joseph's daughter Eliza Dance (1840)  a servant at New Court, Whitchurch, married her upper-crust employer Paul Creed Gwyllim Simcoe (1836) whose family owned  large chunks of Herefordshire including around 70 plots in the Whitchurch area. (see Joseph)












Marked by an asterisk the Doward plot where their son Thomas Dance's (1799-1892) 1840's home was built.


This aerial view does reveal some crop and field markings from those times when this area was much more intensively worked than it is today.


Yewtree Cottage



Their eldest son Thomas Dance (1799-1892) who was born at Ocle Pychard, married Sarah Turner (1799-1839) at Whitchurch in 1824. They had six children, Thomas (1826), Ann (1830), James (1833), Elizabeth (1835) and William (1838) all born at Little Doward, Ganarew, (see birds-eye view above) before Sarah died in 1839. In 1841 he married Elizabeth Jones who was 20 years younger. Thomas, the only one from our Dance family who is listed as a Herefordshire land-owner, was a farm labourer who appears to have spent most of his life in the Ganarew area. 


In 1891 the 93 year old's  address was Yew Tree Cottage, Little Doward. He moved to Yewtree Cottage in the 1870s . When Thomas died in May 1892 his effects inherited by his wife Elizabeth were totaled at £27.

His youngest son William Dance (1838) married Goodrich born Elizabeth Austins (1842) in 1864 and settled in  Newport, Monmouthshire around 1872. They had eight children, Louisa (1864), William (1866), Catherine (1869), Elizabeth (1871), John (1874), Blanche (1878), Mary Ann (1884), and James (1885).







It is well-hidden and took a while to find. The 1890s map above shows Yewtree Cottage with its patch of land on the right. The aerial map reveals the tree covered location today and I certainly got the impression that the forest is trying to take it back. Now inhabited by the two Hancocks brothers, it was built in 1836. The owner in 1844, and probably its builder in 1836, was 55 year old farm-worker Richard Williams who lived there with his wife Christiana. 

Thomas Dance is listed as a land-owner at Little Doward in 1842. He had a house, garden and a 'patch'.





A rear and front view of Yewtree Cottage in 2012

From Annette Morgan  (11th July 2013)  I am researching my husband's family tree and believe I have found a connection to the family of Thomas Dance (1799-1892),  via his son James (1833-1880) whom I believe married Emma Aspey (1832-?1902) in 1860 at Ledbury.

They had 4 children William, Emma's son, pre marriage, who for a while took the name Dance, (1855-1935) Mary Jane/Jane Dance ( 1862- ? )  Susannah (1865-1930) and Walter ( 1868-1942 )

Susannah is my husband's great grandmother, she married James Wood of a Forest of Dean family and moved to South Wales in the late 1890's for her husband to work in the coal-mines.

I'm sorry I don't have much more information but I am waiting for James and Emma's marriage certificate to glean more information but got very excited when I realised that James' year of birth matched that of the son of Thomas Dance (1799-1892)

Here are pictures of Susannah Dance. The first with her husband James Wood (bn 1855) from Cinderford (they were married there in 1884), the third she is seated, with her daughter, grand-daughter and great-granddaughter.

Sorry Annette but I have just found that James Dance is not one of our immediate family. The Forest of Dean Family History site - - has some transcripts of Ledbury births, deaths and marriages. I looked for that marriage record that you are waiting for and it was there.

I am attaching a copy that shows his father was John Dance. Another shows his first marriage and there is also his first wife Jane's burial record. That might give you an indication of his age as she was 32 when she died in 1853, 11 years younger than Emma.

I am leaving this item on our site intact as I sincerely believe that someone, one day, will successfully link the Ledbury and Wye Valley families.   Tom


March 2014 - You may remember that I wrote to you back in July 2013 about my possible link with your Dance family from the Wye Valley.

Well, just to update you, I got a copy of James Dance and Emma Aspey's marriage certificate which, as you told me, named his father as one John Dance.

Through more sifting I have made a link to a John Dance (b.1793) of Queenshill in Herefordshire. His line has halted but his wife's line, Mary Sheen (1793-1870) has been very productive.

Also, through Ancestry I have traced a living relative of Susannah Dance, another great grand-daughter, we have met and swapped info. etc.

Best wishes with your research and website and hope you are keeping well, Annette Morgan.

St Wulstan's Farm

Although Thomas died in 1840, Catherine was still farming at St Wulstan's Farm, Welsh Newton, with the aid of her sons George and William, and probably James who lived nearby, until her death in 1864. She is buried with her husband at Ganarew churchyard.

Another view of the farm. On the right is a view from nearby Welsh Newton Common the area where Thomas & Catherine's son farm worker James Dance (1806-1881) spent most of his life. James Dance (1806- 1881), who lived in this village with his wife Druscilla, was listed as a farmer of 5 acres at Common Gate in 1851.

George Dance (1814) and his wife Susanah were farmers. He had helped his mother Catherine run St Wulstans Farm at Welsh Newton together with his brother William and was there in 1851 and probably till Catherine's death in 1864. 

By 1871 he was running Reddings Farm at Tintern near Chepstow in partnership with his unmarried brother William. George married later in life (1866), after the death of his mother, and had no children.


When he retired around 1890 they moved to Kyrle Cottage, Whitchurch. George and Susanah were both buried at nearby Ganarew.

His brother William (1816) also married late in life. His marriage was to  Sarah from nearby Trellech around 1873. She was 31 years younger and they had two children, William Charles Dance (1874) and Catherine (1880). After retiring from Reddings Farm he settled at Woolaston, St Briavels in the Forest of Dean. 


Another brother, John Dance (1812) only lived to the age of 25 and is buried with his parents at Ganarew.

Their sister Ann Dance (1811-1886) did not marry. She appears to have stayed with her mother at St. Wulstan's Farm and moved to Upper Redbrook after Catherine's death. She is listed there in 1881 living on an annuity.

When she died at the Scowles in 1886 the beneficiaries listed in her will were her deceased brother Edward and his son, stone mason John Dance.


George's older sister Elizabeth Dance (1796) who was born at Ocle Pychard, married John Saunders (1793) at his home church of Llangarron in 1820. They settled at Llangarron and had eight children. 

Their son James Saunders who was born on 5 November, 1826 at Old Pound Farm migrated to Wellington, New Zealand in !856 where he married Scottish born Janet McHardie in 1865. She was eleven years younger than her husband and they went on to add seven children to New Zealand's early pioneers.


Another son William Saunders (1821) married Elizabeth from Radnorshire when he worked as a servant at Camberwell in Surrey. Their first child Elizabeth (1851) was born at Camberwell. For the following 4 years they lived at nearby Clapham where William (1852), Mary Ann (1854), Joseph Tom (1856) were born. The census returns from 1861 shows the family now living at Hove in Sussex where Emily Jane was born in 1858.


William's occupation was now recorded as "fly proprietor", the equivalent of a taxi driver today.

Thomas Saunders who was born at Llangarron in 1833 married Elizabeth Cook (1841) at Welsh Newton in 1860. They had at least six children and spent most of their lives at Welsh Newton. One of their sons, George (1880-1948) married Welsh girl Mary Edwards (1884-1979) at Pontypool in 1907 and was employed as a miner at nearby Hafodyrynys Colliery.


The carriageway highlighted in green is the A40 between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye.   Scale : 1 km squares.