Comic uncovers his Sussex roots

6:30pm Wednesday 5th December 2012

A comedian has traced his performing roots back to a great-great-grandfather in Chichester who gave up life in the Army to sing in churches.

The Sussex roots of TV funnyman John Bishop are set to be revealed tonight on BBC show Who Do You Think You Are.

The Scouse comedian was helped by West Sussex County Council archivists to trace his family tree back 150 years to uncover the colourful life of Charles Bishop.

The programme, which features scenes filmed in the county’s record office in Chichester, traces Charles Bishop’s early life.

He enlisted in the British Army as a boy soldier aged 14 in 1838 and rose to become sergeant of his regimental band in just 15 years.

Despite his military success and being just six years away from receiving a pension, Charles chose to leave the Army to pursue his passion for music as a lay vicar, or Cathedral singer, in Chichester Cathedral.

He spent more than ten years living in Chichester as a member of the Cathedral community and also a performer in concerts and events at the Assembly Rooms, which laid the foundations for a musical career that spanned decades and took him across the world.

Historic records

Producers have said that research in Chichester produced a major revelation for the 21st century comedian but readers will have to tune in to find out what was uncovered.

Nichola Court, searchroom archivist at West Sussex’s record office, was involved in helping the 46-year-old comedian to find out more about his Sussex family.

She said: “It was an interesting story and John was really keen to find out about his family background. He asked lots of questions about the relative who brought him to Chichester.

"We were only able to do a very narrow bit of research on this particular ancestor but it’s a quirky story.”

Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council deputy leader responsible for the record office, said: “We were delighted to be able to help John Bishop to discover more about his ancestry.

"It sounds like some fascinating discoveries were made and I’m looking forward to seeing how the tale unfolds.”

For more information contact the Record Office on 01243 753602 or visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/recordoffice.

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