The Coy and Bray families of Muston

Old family photographs from the 1860s to the 1960s.

By Iain Coy

I found the Bottesford Living History website in 2013 at the same time as I was reading a book about the 9th Duke of Rutland which mentioned William Henry Coy’s name on the World War I memorial in Muston churchyard. I had always been aware of William’s name on the war memorial as he was one of my grandfather Walter Coy’s brothers and was killed during the Great War whilst serving as a Gunner with the Royal Field Artillery in Belgium. I did some research on the internet and found his burial place in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Artillery Wood, Boezinge which prompted me to wonder if there were any family photographs of him. I borrowed my grandparents’ photograph albums from my father (Gerald Coy) to see what I could find. I eventually found one photo of William in R.F.A. uniform together with a large number of photographs of the Bray and Coy families of Muston, mostly from about 1900 onwards (although a couple are from the 1860s). The Bray family are my grandmother Winifred (Winnie) Coy nee Bray’s side of the family and she was born together with her brother and sisters at a large house on Main Street marked as number 146 (Elizabeth Bray) close to the Duke’s Cottages on the 1851 Muston census. My grandmother often referred to this house as “the farmhouse” and it remained in the Bray family until recently. My grandfather Walter Coy was born at Breeder Hills Farm on the Belvoir Estate, part way between Sedgebrook and Muston but the family moved to Muston Gorse (property 255 on the 1851 census) in the early 1900’s. The farm has since been demolished but Breeder Hills Farm is still there.

The Coy family were my great grandfather Henry (born at Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir, 1861-1941), my great grandmother Sarah (nee Smith, born at Colston Lodge, Leicestershire,1862-1926) and their children John Smith (1880-1913), Arthur (1885-1950), Mary Ann (1888-?), Harriet (1890-1969), Susan (1892-1956), William Henry (1894-1917), Lizzie (1896-1979), Cyril (1899-1940), Walter (my grandfather, 1901-1969), Albert Edward (known as Joe, 1903-1971) and Cecil (known as Bob, 1906-1967). Henry Coy and Sarah Smith were married in 1884 and both Henry and his son Walter worked on local farms.

The Bray family were my great grandfather Francis William (born at Muston, 1861-1939), my great grandmother Annie (nee Hammond, born at Old Somerby, Grantham, 1880-1955) and their children Winifred Mary (my grandmother, 1901-1985), Barbara Sarah (b. 1903), Florence Susan (known as Susan, 1905-1930), Annie Elizabeth (b. 1907), Clarice Mabel (1908-1984) and Francis William (known as Bill, 1911-2003). Francis Bray and Annie Hammond were married in 1900. My great grandfather’s brother John (known as Jack) also lived with the family and both John and his brother Francis worked in the ironstone quarries around Belvoir.

My grandparents Walter and Winnie were married at Muston church on November 20th 1926 and they lived on Main Street halfway between the church and the Bray’s house, on the right hand side as you go from the church. Winnie worked for the Rutland family on the Belvoir estate for a while, mainly for the Dowager Duchess – their son Gerald Walter was born on August 19th 1931.

To go back to William Coy’s commemoration on the war memorial in Muston church yard, he was killed on Wednesday 8th August 1917 just after the Battle of Pilckem Ridge near Boezinge. Boezinge was on the front line in the opening moves of the drawn out 3rd Battle of Ypres. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to trace any further details other than his medal index card which shows that he joined up on 22nd July 1915 (up until then he was working on George Goodson’s farm at Bottesford). It is likely that William’s service record was one of the many World War I records lost in the London Blitz of 1940. He was awarded the 1914/15 Star together with the British War Medal and the Victory Medal (posthumously).

Unfortunately there are few gravestones in the churchyard to mark the Coys or the Brays although one of the churchwardens did point out a small marker for Arthur and Mary Coy to the right of the main church door (the Coy burials are mostly to the right of the main door and the Brays mostly adjacent but on the other side of the path leading to Church Field). There is a book inside the church recording the dates of burials but I’ve been told that a former vicar of Muston destroyed the actual burial records showing their locations.

The photographs are arranged mainly with the Brays first and the Coys following as there are fewer photographs of the Coy family. All of the dates quoted on the photograph captions are as accurate as possible (the original photographs mostly have a description on the reverse) and hopefully the captions should put the photographs in context from the 1860’s up to the mid 1960’s.

This page was added on 30/07/2013.

Comments about this page

  • Many thanks for compiling this superb collection of Bray and Coy family photographs and providing such comprehensive details. We hope to organise exhibitions as part of activities marking the centenary of the First World War. The material from your family’s photograph album provides a unique insight into the life of those living in Muston during the early part of the 1900s.

    By David Middleton (04/09/2013)
  • Dear Iain, like David I am really impressed by your excellent and enormous webpage. Thank you so much. Your pictures are unusual in that they go back to 1900 and a bit earlier, and they are so good and informative. You must have spent ages over it. Wow! Neil Fortey

    By Neil Fortey (05/09/2013)
  • Thanks David and Neil for the very positive comments. Joe Coy’s grandaughter Carol Gilbert had compiled the Coy family tree and I have to thank her for finding a lot of their birth and death dates together with some marriage information.

    By Iain Coy (07/09/2013)
  • I’ve been thrilled to see these extra family photographs as William (Bill) Francis Bray was my grandfather. Other family members are keen to see them too. Thank you.

    By Clare Harrison (22/09/2013)
  • Hi Clare, glad you liked the photographs – they took a lot of sorting out but it was very enjoyable! After the page was uploaded I noticed a slight typo on the 3rd photo down showing our great grandparents holding my grandma Winnie – great grandfather’s name was Francis William and not the other way around. I’ve got a second article drafted with about 30 more photos and there’s a couple more of Uncle Bill – I’ll get it uploaded in the next week or so. Please let other members of the family know about the website and the new page in progress. Nice to hear from you.

    By Iain Coy (22/09/2013)
  • Ian, thank you so very much for putting these wonderful collections together, I have shared them with my family, of course and my sister Anne. They have stirred some very warm memories of our childhood, aunts, uncles and grandparents we knew but for a short time. To see photographs of our ancestors is such a privilege. The photo of family members at Clarice and Ken silver wedding outside hospital cottages I can supply the missing names to …on the left is Albert and Nellie Topps and the lady twix Ian and Clarice is my mum Barbara Gibbons (nee Bray). Many thanks again. David Gibbons

    By David Clifford Gibbons (07/10/2013)
  • David, it’s very nice to hear from you. Thanks for supplying the missing names for the silver wedding photo – I thought one of them was probably Albert Topps. Dad had a look and I’m surprised he didn’t recognise your mum as she looks very much like my grandma! The WW1 photograph of William Henry Coy (RFA) was a lucky find as the tiny original was in a small envelope with just one other tiny photo of Cyril, Walter and Joe Coy playing football and even dad didn’t know we had them. Luckily I can remember most of the family, even my granddad who died when I was 6 – although I can’t quite remember my dad’s uncle Bob who lived with the Flowers’ next door. We have a photograph showing auntie Nellie and in the foreground there’s a dog – I’m not sure if it’s Judy but I remember auntie Nellie having to send her under the kitchen table every time you went in the back door! I also remember uncle Ken telling me I should be a Parson and auntie Clarice telling me to get a job “with a bit of carpet under your feet” (I managed that!). Sadly there aren’t many family gravestones in Muston churchyard (I think you rang my dad about that a few years ago) which is a shame. Dad isn’t even sure if his grandparents Henry and Sarah Coy are buried there or at Woolsthorpe. I’m aiming to find out if I could have a look through the dated burial register inside the glass case in Muston church but I think that’s a project for 2014! Kind regards, Iain Coy.

    By Iain Coy (09/10/2013)
  • Mr Peter Topps has just confirmed that the two people on the left of the photograph of the silver wedding party of Clarice and Kenneth Topps are Albert and Helen Topps. He also tells us that the best man at the wedding of Clarice Bray to Kenneth Topps is not Albert Topps but Herbert Mason, late of Burton Coggles and Nottingham. Mr. Mason ran The Meadows Boys’ Club.

    By Editor (04/11/2013)
  • Many thanks for the clarification. I thought when looking again that there wasn’t much likeness between the gentleman in the wedding photo and the anniversary photo. Another mystery solved!

    By Iain Coy (07/11/2013)
  • The picture of tractor and binder brought back many memories. I spent many hours with Bill Bray and Walter Coy when they were working at Leavsley’s farm in Muston. The Fordson Major tractor nearly always carried a couple of passengers when Bill was driving, being Bess and Judy his two colly dogs one on either side of him, their tails hanging down behind the axle.
    Once when we were hay making down near the canal Bill pointed out a stoat to me which was doing a dance in the grass. We went closer and found a rabbit which was mesmerised by this action and l caught it by hand easily. When using the binder, it was exciting when just about finishing a field as all the rabbits would be hiding in what’s left of the crop and these would brake for the hedgerows with the dogs in hot pursuit. Sometimes there would be a shotgun also, and many times l went home with a rabbit or two.
    Another time us lads waited for was the autumn thrashing when the Drum would arrive in the village. The contractors were Ablewhites of Aslockton. I learned an important lesson during one of these operations. The men would take turns feeding the sheaves into the drum and working the stacks. Bill and Walter among them always tied the bottom of their trouser legs with binder twine, a strange custom l thought until one day l found out why. A large rat broke from the stack with a terrier giving chase. It ran straight towards me and proceeded to climb up the inside of one of my trouser legs me terrifyingly bashing it with my hands before it arrived at the top. Of course it caused much amusement to the audience and needless to say l then tied my trouser legs with twine for ever after when thrashing.

    By Tony Gammage (21/12/2018)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.