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24 September 2014

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Who Do You Think You Are?

You are in: Suffolk > History > Who Do You Think You Are? > Carry On Constable

Barbara Windsor

Carry On Constable

Actress Barbara Windsor has always considered herself a Cockney so was surprised to learn about her roots, which include Suffolk.

Barbara, who was born Barbara Ann Deeks in Shoreditch in August 1937, started tracing her ancestors with little knowledge of her family tree beyond her grandparents.

A true East Ender herself, she's always felt somehow cut off from it as her mother Rose was rather a snob about it and, early on, moved the family away to Stoke Newington in North London.

Barbara knows more about her mother’s side of the family than her father’s.

Barbara Windsor and Christianne Olivera in the Vic

Although her parents were second cousins, her mother (née Ellis) always looked down on the Deeks branch of the family, though she did allow herself to be seduced by Barbara's dad's barrow-boy charm. However, the marriage didn't last; they were divorced when Barbara's father, John Deeks, started becoming violent against Rose.

A pub singer

Barbara's maternal grandfather was Charlie Ellis, a docker who liked his drink – "and when he was tipsy I always knew he was good for a few pennies for a jam doughnut" – and entertained in the local pubs as a singer.

"I loved Grandad Charlie," Barbara said. "He was a real gent, always well turned out. He never swore, a bit of a local celebrity, and I'm sure that's where I got my entertaining gene from."

But Barbara still wanted to know why her mum looked down so much on her dad's side of the family, the Deeks.

To follow that line of enquiry, Barbara went to meet Gloria with whom she shares a great-grandfather, John Deeks. It emerged that the Deeks men were very handsome and charming, but rather given to drinking. This didn't go down well with parents who wanted their daughters to better themselves.

Radical roots

Was Barbara's mother's family as poor as her father's? Barbara found out that her great-grandmother, Mary Ann Ellis was a matchbox-maker, probably at the Bryant & May factory in Bow in the early 1880s.

She worked from home, on piecework, with her children helping out. Her home was in Old Nichol Street, in one of the worst slums in London. It’s more than likely that Mary Ann was involved in one of the first significant strikes in English industrial history – the matchgirls' strike of 1888.

Barbara went to Cork and found out that Mary Ann's parents emigrated from Ireland to the East End of London at some point between 1846 and 1850 – a period of mass emigration from Ireland on account of the notorious potato famine.

Stour gazing

Barbara uncovered that her great-great-great-grandfather Golding Deeks, a bricklayer, was born in Bures, Suffolk, in 1806.

Interestingly it turned out that the name Golding was his mother’s maiden name, and that it was a family tradition to give a boy his mother’s surname as his Christian name.

Flatford Mill

Flatford Mill today. Pic by Paul Sherman

Three days of research by staff at the Suffolk Public Records Office in Bury St Edmunds revealed that the Goldings were distantly related to one of Britain's most famous painters, John Constable.

The connection to the creator of The Haywain and Flatford Mill was found in documents from the 1650s.

Barbara ended her journey on Who Do You Think You Are? feeling proud of her roots, and proud of the fact that her ancestors were all grafters, which explains where she gets her hard-working gene from!

Further info

The Ipswich, Bury and Lowestoft offices of the Suffolk Records Office all hold walks and talks throughout the year.  For more details, visit the Suffolk Records Office website using the link on the right-hand side of this page>>

last updated: 23/06/2008 at 15:23
created: 29/08/2006

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

im intriged and amazed at the movment of people i thought familys stayed together but needs must have made us like today moving to the best job stil and homes
frances bonney

OMGI saw this and almost fainted my mums maiden name is deeks i could be related to her lol :O
Kirstie Officer

We are related to Barbra Windsor!!! And Winsor is the Queens maiden name :)
Oliver Constable

Hello,Love barbra she is the best actress ever. please please please put on her family tree eposide again i had missed it last year! from katie

toni michelle langley

My Grandmother was bab's Grandmothers best friend, My mother moved to stoke newington and was rose's friend( bab's mum). It is really coincidential that our name is Golding hich of course is my father's name. possibly another connection there also.
Victor Golding

Unfortunately we lost all our records in Katrina in Mississippi in 2005. Our branch comes from Ilford Essex by way of my Grandfather Frederick/George Deeks and Florence Gaymer - we will be getting the assistance of the familytree website shortly to rebuild our records but like Barbara have traced us back to the Golding connexion -Enjoyed the TV Documentary and would like to obtain and buy a copy??? Can you assist???

Great series-thought "Babs" come across as a caring lovely lady. I was born in SE London & have a cousin Danny Deeks in the USA - small world!! more programmes like this please.
Stella Deeks

Interesting stories -My ancestor Thomas Goodchild eventually of Clare,Suffolk born Hundon,Suffolk married Sally Deeks 11/10/1798 in Hundon. Lots of Deek(e)s and Goldings in Hundon if you search Hundon Births and marriages on-line
Joscelyn Murphy

I was equally amazed when the Golding line was revealed. My great great grandfather married an Elizabeth Golding too! Not the same one but they are related through the line of 3 Mark Goldings I found Barbara's voyage of discovery really exciting and I hope you can find more
Margaret Cook

Well Babs !!! Looks like your Great Grandfather is my great great grandfather !! Which makes us 3rd cousins I guess !! Great documentry. I watched it with a sense of pride. I could relate ( quite literally ! ) to aspects of the Deeks family in my own life !
Danny Deeks

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