My Bull Family

First Generation

Robert Bull was born in Hitcham, Suffolk, England on October 8, 1825 and was baptised at All Saints' Church in Hitcham, Suffolk, England on November 13, 1825. He married twice. First he married Sarah Eunice Green at All Saints' Church in Hitcham, Suffolk, England on October 21, 1851. Sarah was born on April 8, 1834 in Hitcham, Suffolk, England and was baptised at All Saints' Church in Hitcham, Suffolk, England on August 16, 1834. She died in Bildeston, Suffolk, England on April 18, 1875 and was buried on April 21, 1875 in Bildeston, Suffolk, England. Robert Bull then married Miss Seager.

Robert was a rat-catcher in Bildeston, Suffolk, England in 1870. His other occupations included being a blacksmith, a labourer and later in life, a gardener.

In an article by David Cufley, published in the North Middlesex Family History Society Journal (Vol 7, No. 2, Winter 1984/85) he explains that there was a good living to be earned from rat-catching:

The farmers had to pay 2d a head for all rats caught on their land, and the catchers got 3d each by taking the rats into the towns for the rat pits. Eventually the farmers caught on to the business and merely gave permission for the rats to be caught on their land.

The rat-matches consisted of a pit six feet (2 metres) in diameter which had a wooden or wire mesh barrier around it, to approximately elbow height. The rats were put in the pit and a dog, usually a terrier, was put among them. The contest was to see how quickly the rats could be killed.

The rat-matches were usually held at sporting public houses and records are held of dogs which were capable of killing 200 rats in less than an hour. There was therefore a demand for live rats.

However, the job of catching rats was hazardous. Rats and disease are synonymous. Bites would have been frequent and would have turned black and putrid. Probably some immunity would have built up, to be able to endure the bites repeatedly.

Robert Bull and Sarah Eunice Green had the following children:

Second Generation

Sarah Ann Bull (father: Robert) was born in Wix, Essex, England on May 19, 1855. Sarah married Frederick Girt at Saint Mary the Virgin in Kettlebaston, Suffolk, England on December 25, 1876. Sarah died in Manor Park, Essex, England on November 28, 1935 and was buried in the Waltham Abbey Cemetery in Waltham Abbey, Essex, England.

Frederick Girt was baptised on August 8, 1858 in Kettlebaston, Suffolk, England. He was the son of Jeremiah Girt and Martha Mary Fosker. Frederick Girt was buried on March 30, 1886 at The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Bildeston, Suffolk, England. (See Frederick Girt for the continuation of this line.)

After Sarah became a widow in late March 1886, she became the partner of Walter Girt (Frederick's brother). The family were unaware that Sarah had not married Walter Girt before they had their seven children. (See Walter Girt for the continuation of this line.) After the death of Walter and Sarah's daughter, Louisa Jane (Jenny) in 1978, relatives were informed by solicitors administering her estate, that Sarah and Walter had never been married, and that even if they had gone through a ceremony of marriage, such marriage would have been void, as under the law at the time it was not lawful for a man to marry his dead brother's widow.

It appears that this law originated from the time of Henry VIII. Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, bore him a daughter, but failed to produce a male heir. In the 16th century this was considered to be a serious failure as the people were convinced that only a man could rule successfully. Henry tried to have his marriage annulled on the grounds that Katherine had been his deceased brother's wife, but the Pope refused; so Henry rejected the Pope's authority and had himself declared supreme head of the English church, thus creating the Church of England, and freeing himself to marry the next of his total six wives.

This law was actually revoked retrospectively in 1908, so that all marriages of this type became legal and the children were legitimated, but no evidence of any subsequent marriage has been found.

As a child, I remember being told that Sarah Ann Bull had been brought up at Borley Rectory, the famous haunted house which was occupied by the Bull family. She had lowered herself by marrying a farmer and she had only been accepted back into the family when her mother fell off a horse and Sarah went back home to look after her. I also remember being told that I was related to Anne Boleyn, one of the many wives of Henry VIII.

Grandma (Grace Setford, nee Perrey) denies telling me these tales, so I suspect that Maiser told me (Eva Clara Perrey, nee Girt - my great-grandmother who died when I was ten years of age). Early in 1995, Pauline Young (nee Girt) sent me a video of Michael Parkinson's television show Strange, but True which had a segment on Borley Rectory on it. Grandma was at our house when I played it and she excitedly declared 'That's where my Grandmother was born!'.

Her comment encouraged me to buy Sarah's birth certificate, which showed that she was born in Wix, Essex. This is about fifty miles from Borley. Bridgett Steel (another cousin who loves family history) had a look at the baptism registers for Borley, but did not find any baptism for Sarah there. The rectory at Borley was said to be 'The Most Haunted House in England' and was inhabited by two generations of the Bull family from 1863 until 1927, but the names of the Bull family in residence do not match the names of Sarah's parents, siblings or cousins.

Borley Rectory was built in 1863 by the Reverend Henry Bull. The first paranormal activity was reported in 1885, although there were rumours of strange activity in the area before the large brick building was erected. By 1927 Harry Bull, who succeeded his father as rector in 1892, died and the rectory became the home of Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife. The paranormal activity which had been reported periodically over the years increased, and the Smith's contacted the Daily Mirror asking for help. Psychic investigator Harry Price was approached, and thus began a very public period in the rectory's history.

From 1929 until its destructive fire in 1939, the unexplained at Borley was witnessed by many experts. During the period when Reverend Lionel Foyster and his wife Marianne lived there (1930-1935) over 2,000 Poltergeist phenomena were experienced. Harry Price wrote two books on Borley Rectory, and the research into the activity was reported in many newspapers and journals, particularly during the period around 1940 when Price's first book The Most Haunted House in England: Ten Years' Investigation of Borley Rectory was released.

What was interesting was the references to Anne Boleyn. When Vince O'Neil made contact with me in August 1996, his notes made comment of the Bull family being related to Anne Boleyn.

Vincent O'Neil is the adopted son of Marianne Foyster. In her life in America after 1946 she never mentioned her experiences at Borley to him and Vince has now devoted his life to gathering every fact about his late mother and Borley that is available. For further details on his extensive research (and a fascinating read), have a look at

Vince kindly checked his references to the Bull family's relationship with Anne Boleyn and reported the following:

At this stage, a connection with the Bull family of Borley Rectory seems unlikely. Perhaps there is some truth in the story somewhere, but it is more probable that somewhere along the line conclusions were jumped to and someone (in error) associated Sarah's Bull ancestry with the Bull's of Borley Rectory. Sarah's ancestry is traced directly back to John Bull who married Lettice Orvis in Wattisham, Suffolk on February 25, 1685. Maybe there is a link further back, this hasn't been proven or disproved at this stage.

As for the link with Anne Boleyn, was this a story reported in the Borley newspaper articles of the time and associated with Sarah in error, or was this a story that has been handed down through the Bull family for several hundred years?

Sarah Ann Bull had the following children:

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© 1997-2003 Lauren Thomson, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
Last revised: April 17, 2003
Email: Lauren