Craig Revel Horwood has been a keen performer all his life. “I would love to know if there is an entertainer or something like that in my past,” says the Strictly Come Dancing judge. But Craig also hopes to learn more about his late father’s roots: “My father’s side of the family intrigue me the most because I think I get a few more traits from them.”
Craig begins his Who Do You Think You Are? journey in his home city of Ballarat, Southeastern Australia. With help from his mother and sister, Craig discovers that his great great grandfather was a man named Moses Horwood – an English criminal who was transported for petty theft in 1841. Moses and his wife went on to have several children including Craig’s great grandfather, Charles Horwood, who married a woman named Lizzie Tinworth.
To learn more about the Tinworth dynasty, Craig meets up with genealogist Helen Mollison, who reveals that Lizzie’s grandparents – Charles and Elizabeth Tinworth – originally hailed from Elmdon in Essex. But how did they end up thousands of miles away in Australia?
Though passenger lists, Craig discovers that his 3x great grandparents left Britain in 1854. Their voyage was made easier thanks to financial support from the Australian government, which actively sought to boost the population of the fledgling country.
However, the couple’s main motivation for starting a new life Down Under was the recent discovery of gold in Ballarat. Like many other British emigrants of the period, Charles found work as a miner, hoping make a fortune.
But it was not all plain sailing. Living in tents, the town’s early residents faced harsh living conditions and poor sanitation. Dr Clare Wright reveals that Elizabeth was admitted to hospital for 37 days after suffering heavy menstrual bleeding – probably from a miscarriage. To make matters worse, Charles was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1865.
“You think of people striking it lucky and everyone celebrating,” says Craig. “But you forget the hardships that they actually went through.”
Thankfully, Charles managed to work his way out of bankruptcy and build a successful mining business with his two brothers. With gold becoming increasingly more difficult to extract, the trio used new technology to dig deeper underground and tap into new reserves.
However, the Tinworths’ biggest breakthrough came when they managed to uncover a huge gold nugget worth a staggering £250,000 in today’s money. Despite his early struggles, Charles became an incredibly wealthy man.
Upon his death in 1905, Charles bequeathed generous sums of money to his children and grandchildren in his will. Unfortunately, nothing was left to Craig’s great grandmother Lizzie, explaining why the Horwood branch of the family never bore great riches.
Even with this disappointing final twist, Craig is glad that his 3x great grandfather managed to achieve his dream. “I think my dad would be so proud of his forefathers too… I just wish he was here now to see all of this.”
For the second part of his journey, Craig travels to Perth to visit his 100-year-old grandmother Phyllis. Reminiscing about her early life, Phyllis reveals that she spent much of her childhood in an orphanage following the tragic death of her mother. Sadly Phyllis’s father had been unable to cope with raising the couple’s children on his own.
As Phyllis shows Craig her collection of family photographs, she points out a man named Harry Macklin Shaw – her paternal grandfather. She reveals that Harry was a sheep farmer who originally came from Ashton-under-Lyne near Manchester.
As Craig delves deeper, he is delighted to learn that his great great grandfather was a champion clog dancer – an early form of tap-dancing that became popular in late-19th century Australia.
Travelling across New South Wales, Craig traces Harry’s roots from the small towns of Glen Innes and Emmaville, to the bustling city of Sydney where he later performed. He then meets music and dance expert Heather Clarke, who teaches Craig his ancestor’s art. Remarkably, she also shows him a medal that Harry won for his dancing prowess.
In the shadow of Sydney Harbour Bridge, Craig reflects on his Who Do You Think You Are? journey and what he has learned along the way.
“[Growing up] I wanted to follow my heart, my passion, my dreams of dancing and it’s just amazing to know that actually runs in the family and in the blood,” he muses. “It really has put a new twist on who I think I am.”