by Carol Pickett - granddaughter of Ada Louisa Handcock
The Han(d)cock Family of Coldridge,
I would never have believed that researching our family
history would prove to be so exciting. We were on
holiday in Somerset in 2003 and decided to visit Coldridge
in Devon where my father’s mother’s family
originated. At that time I had no idea that the village
spawned so many pioneers within my own family. Sadly
my father died in September 2004, before the ‘pioneering’
information came to light.
Excitingly we found several gravestones
of our ancestors in the beautiful churchyard of St
Matthew’s – even my Great Great Grandfather,
Samuel Handcock, landlord of the Stags Head Inn….a
gravestone almost hidden beneath spreading trees to
the left of the church.
The death certificate for Samuel Handcock
(William & Ann’s son) shows that he died
on 25th October 1865 aged 38 years, Innkeeper, of
Apoplexy with the informant being his wife, Mary Handcock,
present at the death……one wonders why
he died at such a young age of a stroke……something
we’ll never know I suppose..….
This led us along the road to wanting
to know even more about our ancestors. As there are
now at least 6 decades of UK census information available
on the internet it was possible to follow through
with a huge part of this family’s history from
the comfort of our own home.
However, there is always a point in
time where you realise that there may be many other
living relatives ‘out there’ who can put
more meat on the bones and maybe have valuable photographs
of our colourful kin of yesteryear that we can share.
Luck plays a big part in research,
alongside dogged perseverance. We have now discovered
that Coldridge gave birth to several pioneers to the
We can trace the Han(d)cock line back
to at least 1683 to John Hancock (christened 20th
May 1683 in Coldridge) who married a Margaret Bragg.
There followed several generations with the eldest
son of each family being named John.
We come to John Handcock christened
27th September 1775 who married Grace Eldridge also
born in Coldridge in 1775 – they married on
4th August 1802 in Coldridge and were blessed with
at least 6 children, all born in Coldridge. This amazing
couple’s decision to leave their home in England
to take up a new life in Australia in the Swan River
Colony was to have a profound effect on the later
development of the State of Western Australia.*
*This information and much much more has been researched
by H L (Mick) Kilpatrick in his booked entitled “The
Hancock Story” (detail below) – although
the book terminates at the end of the third West Australian
There is another book entitled “Hancock
and Wright” by John F Moyes which gives a colourful
account of this John Handcock sailing north from Fremantle
in the three-masted schooner “Sea Ripple”
with his sister Emma Withnell & her family and
another sister, Fanny Hancock, their destination being
Cossack (then called Port Tietsin), near Roebourne
and 1000 miles north of Perth. They encountered a
storm and the schooner ran aground on a small reef.
This is a tale of courage in the face of adversity
– a website with a synopsis of this story can
be found at:
In following my research through to the current day,
it was surprising to discover that my grandmother
Ada Louisa Handcock** was a 3rd cousin of Langley
Hancock**. Langley Hancock became one of the richest
men in Australia and was the 3rd great grandson of
John Hancock & his wife Ann Leach through their
eldest son, John. Our line of descent is through their
youngest son, William who remained in England.
**It appears that the earlier spelling
of Handcock was used mostly by our earlier English
ancestors – with the ‘d’ being dropped
at some stage by the Australian lineage, although
the exact timing and reasons for this are not known.
Lang Hancock (1909-1992) was famous
in the Southern Hemisphere for discovering iron ore
on 22nd November 1952 when he and his wife, Hope,
were flying in a tiny Auster aircraft – storm
clouds were gathering and they were forced to fly
below the clouds through a gorge route, knowing that
was the only escape for them. The prospector in Lang
could see what appeared to be iron ore in the wet
walls of the gorge.***
The rest is history as they say. Lang
was the first person to observe and realise that Australia
could supply the total World consumption of iron ore
for probably thousands of years. His discovery led
to the early development of the giant Pilbara iron
ore province in West Australia.
***The story of Langley Hancock is
well documented on the internet.
Several websites give a fascinating
insight to the discoveries – here are just a
few of them:
There have been several books written about (or including)
the pioneering Hancock family – as follows:
The Hancock Story, ISBN 0646 03577
By K L Kilpatrick. 1991 Action Press.
YEERA-MUK-A-DOO, ISBN 085905 307 5
A Social History of the Settlement of North-West Australia
Told through the Withnell and Hancock families 1861
to 1890 by Taylor, Nancy E Withnell .
There is also a biography of Lang
Hancock by John McRobert that we’ve yet to obtain,
but will make fascinating reading I’m sure.
We believe this was the only biography to have been
authorised by Lang Hancock’s family and the
author was afforded complete access to all records
held by Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd. The biography
was published to mark the 50 year anniversary of HPPL,
the parent company founded by Lang himself.
Research is not undertaken in isolation
so we owe a debt of gratitude to all those family
historians we have met along the way including family
and old & new-found friends…………and
the search goes on and on and on……….