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My roots are in the West Country. I and my older brother, Kenneth were born in Wellington, Somerset above our father’s family grocery shop, Maxwell’s Stores, and my mother was a head teacher, in village schools, and later moved into secondary and private schools, where she taught History and English. I qualified as a teacher in London, in the early 60’s and after two years teaching in an Infant School in London, went to the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign in 1968 with my husband Ray Rice, where he studied and gained a Master’s degree and PhD. in Food Technology. I was able to work and obtained the position of head teacher of the Orchard Down’s Co-operative Nursery School, followed by a period at the University’s Children’s Research Centre and then had an advisory role in the Washington Elementary School. Here I was tasked with helping teachers to develop a curriculum close to that of the British Infant school and develop a Teacher’s Centre. I was awarded a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois, in 1971, before returning to the UK with our son Andrew, born in 1970.

  I became the head teacher of a large Nursery School in Hull, working with disadvantaged families and developed the North Hull Neighbourhood Centre to support families and children. In 1986, my husband and I, with our two children, Andrew and Nicola, moved to Devon, where I became the County Advisory Teacher for Under Fives for Devon County Council. Following this I moved into Registration and Inspection Service for Under Eights, with Devon Social Services. My last position was a lecturer and Programme Manager for Early Years at our local college and was responsible for the on-site Child Care Centre. In Hull, Humberside and Devon I developed Local Groups for the National Children’s Bureau, which brought together people working in Social Services, Health and Education and organised conferences and seminars. I was a member of the NCB board for several years. In Devon I was the founder member of a voluntary group, Mid Devon Alliance for Special Needs, to support parents and children with holiday clubs and activities and established a Centre for those activities. My final involvement with the voluntary sector was Chairperson of Mid Devon Age UK.

When I retired, I was able to explore the research papers of  Victor Maxwell, an uncle, who had started his work in the 1960’s on various members of our family, and in particular the Chapple/ Chappell family of Exeter. My grandmother was Mary Ann Hearn Chapple (1874- 1966) whose father was Robert Chapple, a pipe manufacturer in Newton Abbot, South Devon. To my amazement, Victor’s notes and papers, which he did before access to computers and web-sites produced the evidence of the Exeter Chapple family and had traced our family line to a Thomas Chappell, Mayor of Exeter in 1588.  This was the beginning of my journey into Family History and my original intention was to research the Chapple family, merchants, aldermen and mayors of Exeter, during the Tudor period.  


Discoveries at the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter, with original wills, inventories and church records, led me to a marriage of a David Bagwell to Johane Chappell, the oldest daughter of Thomas and Thomazine Chappell. David and Johane Bagwell had seven children, and their third child was Henry Bagwell. This in turn led me into an unexpected, exciting and a different personal journey as I traced Henry’s journey from Exeter, a voyage on the Sea Venture, marooned in Bermuda, and eventually to Jamestown and the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Twelve years later and my first book, ‘The Henry Bagwell Story’ is ready to be shared and shows the tenacity and courage of those first colonists in the pioneer country of early Virginia. They came with few resources and survived. Henry’s story from the Old World to the New is unique, not least because it is supported by the evidence of historical documents both in Devon and Virginia but aided by the interest and dedication of family researchers and the early historians of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.historians of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Image: The House that Moved Exeter 

Courtesy of Maria Onley

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