The return of the cult television series Doctor Who to our screens last year brought critical acclaim at the
recent Bafta awards. A large part of the success was the casting of Billie Piper as the Doctor's assistant, Rose Tyler, and
the chemistry she forged with first Christopher Eccleston and now David Tennant.
Although she has acted before, most notably in the BBC's modern reworking of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, her
career began as a singer. She really hit the headlines after her four-year marriage to, and subsequent divorce from, Chris
Evans, the television and radio presenter.
As she continues to travel backwards and forwards in time on screen, we can visit the past too, and investigate
Billie's ancestors over the past couple of centuries. WHO IS SHE RELATED TO?
Leian Paul Piper was born in Swindon on September 22, 1982. On April 25, 1983, her name was officially changed
to Billie Paul Piper by her parents, Paul Victor Piper and Mandy Kane Kent. The area of her birth gives an important clue
to the occupation of members of her paternal family through the ages - Swindon was one of the most important locations for
the Great Western Railway, the network that was the grand vision of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He believed that it was essential
to provide rail links between Britain's manufacturing bases in the north-west and the Midlands with the ports of the south-west,
which primarily served the great markets in North America.
Begun in 1835, the Great Western Railway played an important role well into the 20th century, even after nationalisation
Billie's grandfather, Norman George Victor Piper, found employment there in the 1950s as a works fitter.
Norman's father, Norman Victor Piper, did not live long enough to see his son get married in 1953 to Margaret
Theresa Frederickson, a factory machine operator who, at 18, was half her husband's age when they wed.
Norman Victor Piper was born in Yorkshire in 1892, the son of an ironworker named William Henry Piper and
his wife, Eliza.
He married Sarah Jane Berry in 1916 in Swindon, where - somewhat implausibly - he stated he was employed as
a jockey. Before that date, he had also found work as a steelworker.
Regardless of his actual occupation at the time of his wedding, it did not save him from the horrors of the
First World War. He enlisted into the Second Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment, and was eventually posted to France.
He lived long enough to see the Armistice signed on November 11, 1918, an event that should have allowed him to return home
to his young family in safety; but, in a cruel twist of fate, he was killed while clearing mines from a field four days after
the German surrender.
Norman Victor's connection to Staffordshire can be traced to his father, William Henry Piper. He was born
in Silverdale in 1866, and worked for most of his life in an iron foundry. He relocated from Staffordshire to Thornaby, near
Middlesbrough, with his wife Eliza Watkins, whom he married in Durham in 1887. William's father, yet another William, had
originally brought the family to Staffordshire via Worcestershire in his search for work during the 1860s, but his is also
a tragic story.
His wife appears as a widow on the 1881 census, living with her six children. She had no occupation, and nor
did her eldest two children, Thomas and William Henry, so times must have been hard for the family without a breadwinner in
the days before the welfare state.
The cause? William senior had died in 1868, aged only 43. Perhaps this is one piece of time travel that Billie
Piper might not want to pursue.
Source: The Daily Telegraph