With the ship now turning for home it seemed like a good time to go and see the things we’d missed out of our earlier walk around. First on the list was the bridge. This is where all the exciting things like navigation happen and, normally, it’s somewhere passengers don’t get to go.
Finding houses on Portswood Road was never going to be easy. For a start, quite a few are shops and don’t have house numbers. There are also many gaps where houses used to be but have disappeared, either through modernisation, bombing or a combination of the two. To compound the issue we soon realised that if 368 was opposite 535 we were going to have to concentrate hard. We had four houses to find but it was clear from the outset we would be lucky to find any still standing.
This morning we finally set out to find the last of the Portswood Titanic crew houses. It was yet another stupidly hot muggy day, not a cloud in the sky or a hint of wind, probably not the best for walking the streets looking for houses. We only had eleven to find though and a fairly small area to cover. Roadworks on the corner near Bitterne Park Triangle meant a short detour and a walk on the park side of the bridge rather than the railway side. It made no real difference to distance but gave us different views to admire. The little houseboats moored on the bank seemed especially appealing in the searing heat of the morning.
In the end, after much dithering and discussion, we decided to find the last of the houses in the southern half of Portswood before finding somewhere to have a coffee and a rest. There were just seven of them and three were in one street so it didn’t seem like it would take too long or mean too much walking in the baking sun.
The plan for today was to try to find at least some of the Titanic crew houses in Portswood. As there are a lot of them, covering a large area, and the weather was incredibly hot and humid, I was resigned to the fact that we might not be up to the job of finding all of them. When CJ and I set off the mood was hopeful and doubtful in equal parts. Originally I’d hoped to tick of the handful of houses in Highfield on this walk too but I already knew that was a step too far.
Very few of the crew members aboard Titanic came from Sholing. Back in 1912, it was a rather isolated, largely rural area. Surrounded by the toll gates, at Northam Bridge, Lances Hill, Hedge End and Bursledon Bridge, the only toll free exit was the floating bridge, or a long, roundabout journey to Cobden Bridge. The one and a half thousand or so people who lived in Sholing were mostly involved in strawberry growing, market gardening or brick making, so there was probably less need to go to sea to earn a living.
There were just six Sholing men working on Titanic and, of those, two did not give full addresses when they signed on to the ship. This made our task of finding crew houses more difficult than usual. The first of these was the aptly named Henry William Sparkman, a fireman, who lived somewhere along the mile and a quarter long Spring Road. Kelley’s directory told me there was a Jane Sparkman living at 282 Spring Road, and, as Henry’s mother was called Jane I guessed this was probably his address.
Unfortunately, when we found the house it was obvious it was built long after 1912. Perhaps the original was bombed? There were other houses nearby more in keeping with the date so I took a couple of photos, wondering what Henry’s house would have looked like?
Henry was born in St Mary’s in 1876. His father, also called Henry, was a mariner and he and his wife Jane had ten children, although only eight survived infancy. Henry was their second born son. When he was still a child the family moved to Hound and, by the time he was fifteen, he’d left school and was working as a telegraph messenger. Within a year he’d joined the Royal Navy. He served aboard the St Vincent, Australia, Grafton, Resolution, and Victory I.
He was a small man, just five foot one and a half inches tall, but, despite being invalided out of the navy in April 1897, obviously quite strong and fit. He later joined the merchant service as a fireman. Shovelling coal in hot, dirty boiler rooms was not a job for the weak and feeble. By 1901, Henry and his family had moved to Sholing and were living in Firgrove Road. They later moved to Spring Road and this was the address he gave when he signed on to Titanic as a fireman, earning £6 per month. He had previously been working aboard Olympic.
Two days after he signed on to Titanic Henry married Londoner Ida Lilian Chambers in Christ Church, Norwood, London. He sailed just two days after the ceremony. Poor Ida must have been devastated when she heard news of the sinking. Thankfully, Henry was one of the lucky few to survive, although the details of how or in which lifeboat he was rescued are not clear. He must have been off duty at the time, as, once the ship began to list, getting up the steep ladder out of the boiler rooms would have been impossible. The chances are his muscles saved him. Like most of the firemen who survived, he was probably ordered into a lifeboat to help row.
Undeterred by his experience, Henry continued to work at sea throughout World War I and beyond. In 1913, he and Ida had a son, Edwin. Tragically, three years later Ida died giving birth to their second child, a daughter called Lilian and little Lilian died aged just two. Henry remarried in 1927. He and his new wife, a New Forest girl called Olive Ward, went on to have a son, William, the following year. Poor Olive died when the child was just a few months old and Henry never remarried. He died in October 1947, after a long illness. He was 71.
The next house on our list posed a bit of a puzzle too. We had two conflicting addresses and no idea which was correct. Some sources had George Edward Kearl living at 37 Botany Bay Road, while others had him living at 27 Bay Road and Kelly’s Directories had been no help. Luckily both roads are close together and near Millers Pond. CJ and I made our way to the end of Spring Road and sat by the Pond for a while peering at Google Maps and wondering if we’d be able to work out which was the right house just by looking at them. It seemed unlikely but all we could do was try.
We crossed the nature reserve, emerging on the leafy part of Botany Bay Road. It’s quite an odd road in some ways, with one side filled with large expensive houses and the other with small mobile homes. The first people to live in this area, back in the 1790’s, were poor Romany families. They used bricks from the nearby brickworks to build little brick bungalows and kept their caravans in the gardens. In winter they lived in the houses and in summer they’d use the caravans to go fruit or hop picking. Things have changed a bit since those days but the descendants of those Romanies still live here. Sadly, the mobile homes are not quite as pretty as their old painted caravans.
It was clear fairly soon that number 37 was going to be at the far end of the road so we turned off onto Bay Road to check out the house there first. It was a pretty little bungalow with a very tall chimney and a well kept garden. Whether it had been standing since 1912 wasn’t clear but it was certainly possible.
The second possible house, 37 Botany Bay Road, was amongst the 1930’s built properties overlooking Sholing Common. The old maps told us there had been houses there back in 1912, just not these houses. My gut told me the house we were looking for was probably the first one we’d seen on Bay Road but there was no way of telling for sure.
Either way, one of these houses was once George Edward Kearl’s home. His parents, Courtney William and Isabella Maria Kearl, were both Hampshire born and were married in East Boldre in 1883. George was the second of their four children, born in Southampton in August 1886. The family lived in Kent Road, Freemantle, and Courtney was a coal porter. By the time George was 14 he’d left school and was working as a boiler sealer.
When he first went to sea isn’t clear but he was absent for the 1911 census and was probably working aboard Olympic. This was certainly the ship he left to join Titanic as a trimmer. His monthly wages were £5 10s and the work would have been hard. The trimmers worked in the boiling hot coal bunkers, shovelling coal down to the boiler rooms. They also had to make sure the weight of the coal was evenly distributed or the ship would begin to list and to put out any fires caused by the unbearable heat of the boilers. They kept working even as the ship was sinking and only 20 of the 73 trimmers aboard survived. Poor George was not one of the lucky ones. His body was never identified.
George was unmarried, so the only ones to mourn his loss were his parents and siblings. It seems so sad that we couldn’t even find out for sure where he lived but at least we could tell his story.
We were now almost in the middle of South East Road, where our next house was. South East Road is three quarters of a mile long and includes the calf busting Bunny Hill. Luckily for us, a quick look at the house numbers told us we were quite close to it. Counting the numbers as we climbed the hill we soon discovered number 140 was another 1930’s built house, close to the junction with Kathleen Road. This may have been the spot where George Henry Cavell once lived but it certainly wasn’t the same house. There are plenty of others nearby dating for earlier times though so I took a photo to give an idea what the house might have looked like.
George was born in December 1889 in Southampton. His parents, George Henry and Alice had only been married a year but at least one of their five daughters was born long before their wedding. George was the first of their two sons. By the time of the 1901 census the family were living in Chantry Road in the town centre and George Senior was working as a general labourer. Ten years later the family had moved to Russell Street and George was already at sea. When he signed onto Titanic he’d already worked on Adriatic, Oceanic, and Olympic and, while not at sea, was living with his family in South East Road. Like George Kearl, George was a trimmer and like Henry Sparkman, he was not a tall man, standing at just five foot one.
On 14 April 1912 he was on the 8 to 12 watch and alone in the coal bunker by boiler room 4. He felt the shock of the iceberg hitting the ship, then the coal collapsed on top of him. Somehow he managed to dig himself out and emerged into the stokehold just as the lights went out. Not knowing what had happened but aware something was badly amiss, he climbed up to the port alleyway on E Deck, known as Scotland Road, and found the lights there still burning. Some third class passengers heading aft told him the ship had hit an iceberg. A lesser man might have joined them and tried to save himself but George did not. He found some lamps and returned to the stokehold, where, it transpired, the lights had already come back on. For some time he helped the firemen keep the boilers alight, although water was soon coming over the floor plates.
When the water was about a foot deep he finally climbed the steep escape ladder. Had he left it any longer he’d almost certainly have been trapped there as, once the ship began to list, the ladder would have become virtually unclimbable. He eventually emerged on the boat deck on the starboard side where he found two lifeboats, one, probably number 13, in the process of being launched. He was ordered into the other, lifeboat 15, by an officer, along with three other trimmers and a fireman, Frank Dymond, who took charge.
The boat was lowered to A deck and, according to George, they called out for women and children to board but only five got into the boat. The boat then descended to B deck where there were crowds of people, mostly from third class. George later testified that around sixty people got into the boat and all were women and children, mostly third class and Irish. He said there were men on the deck but they stood back and did not try to board, despite there being no one to stop them. Records show this was not the case. The majority in the boat seem to have actually been men, although the testimonies from other crew members mostly overestimate the number of women aboard and underestimate the number of men. Whether this is down to the darkness and confusion or the crew telling the enquiry what that wanted to hear isn’t clear. The one crew member who testified that the boat was mainly filled with men was called back the next day and more or less forced to change his story. By all accounts, lifeboat fifteen was one of the few to be filled more or less to capacity.
The boat was the eighth lowered from the starboard side and almost landed on top of lifeboat 13, which had become entangled and was unable to get away from the ship. Luckily, someone in lifeboat thirteen managed to cut the falls, the ropes used to lower the boat, at the last moment and disaster was averted. Sitting in lifeboat 15, George seems to have been unaware of the drama and didn’t mention it in his testimony. Once on the water the crewmen, including George, rowed as fast as they could. It took them between fifteen and twenty minutes to get away from Titanic and they did not go back or pick anyone up from the water. They were the tenth or eleventh boat to be rescued by Carpathia.
After testifying at the British Inquiry into the sinking, George went back to sea, later serving on Olympic, Braemar Castle, Carnarvon Castle, Armadale, Warwick Castle and Rothesay Castle. In 1919 he married local girl Kate Barber. As far as I’ve been able to tell they did not have any children and George died in Winchester in 1966. His wife died a year later.
Our next three houses were all somewhere on the almost mile long Middle Road. We had numbers for two but not for the third and, as both with numbers were on the southern part of the road, nearest Millers Pond, we turned into Kathleen Road and began to head in that direction. As we walked we wondered if any of the Middle Road houses would still be standing. Kathleen Road merges seamlessly with St Monica Road. Here we passed St Monica School and St Mary’s Church, both places we’d have liked to explore further if we’d had the time.
On Station Road a house with a beautifully graffitied front wall and an interesting garden sculpture lifted our spirits a little but it still felt as if our mission was doomed. My senior school was on Middle Road so it’s an area I know fairly well. The houses are a mixture of pre World War I and post World War II with a few modern ones thrown in for good measure. We took photos of some of the older ones at the beginning of the road just in case. Perhaps one of them was once home to Henry Dorey Stocker, the Middle Road crew member who didn’t give a house number when he joined the ship?
Henry was born in Highfield in 1892. His father George and mother Mary, were both Hampshire natives and had at least eight children. By 1901 the family had moved to Commercial Street in Bitterne and George was working as a gardener. George died in 1904 and Mary became a live in domestic servant in Battenberg House, St Georges Place. The younger children seem to have all gone off to live with different relatives. Before Long Henry had gone to sea. He left Olympic to join Titanic as a trimmer. Exactly what happened to him on the night of the sinking isn’t clear but he was lost with the ship and his body was never identified. His poor, heartbroken mother continued to live in Southampton until her death in 1921.
The next house on the list was number 19 and, true to form, it turned out to be one of the post war houses. Even so, this was the spot, if not the house, where Thomas Moore Teuton once lived. Thomas was born in Blackburn Lancashire in February 1877, the son of Irish immigrant parents William Teuton and Mary Jane Moore, both from Belfast. The couple married in around 1870 and came to England six or so years later, probably so William could get work as a driller and general labourer. They had at least five children. For a while the family lived in Barrow in Furness but soon moved back to Blackburn and it was there that Thomas had his first job as a cotton weaver at the tender age of fourteen. He later joined the British Army with the First Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He was at the relief of Ladysmith during the Boer War and in China during the Boxer Uprising. He left the army as a colour sergeant. Back in England he was presented with the Royal South African medal.
In October 1910, Thomas married Ada Mary Swain, a Sholing girl, and they set up home in North East Road, Sholing. For a while he worked as a dock labourer and later went to sea on Oceanic. A year after their marriage the couple had a son, William John. By the time Thomas signed on to Titanic as a second class steward the little family had moved to 19 Middle Road. His monthly wages would have been £3 15s, but he could easily have doubled this with tips from grateful passengers.
Tragically, Thomas died in the sinking. His body was recovered by the Mackay Bennett and numbered 226. Records describe his remains as having light hair, a moustache and two tattoos, a Japanese woman on his left arm and a snake on his right. He was wearing a steward’s coat, singlet and flannel shirt and had an army discharge book, papers, a corkscrew, razor, keys, knife, brush and soap about his person. The presence of the papers seem to indicate he knew he might not survive and put them in his pocket so his body would be identified. He was buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 10 May 1912.
Ada and her son William benefitted from the Titanic Relief Fund as did Thomas’ parents. When Ada gave birth to a daughter over a year after the disaster though, the fund administrators, the Mansion House Committee, suspended her claim. The child, Elizabeth, died within the year and it isn’t clear who her father was. In 1918 Ada married George C Bryant and had two more children, Norman and Ruby. She died in Southampton in 1972, aged 90. Thomas’ son, William married and had a family but nothing further is known about them. He died in Plymouth in 1983.
We carried on up Middle Road, past Sholing Baptist Church, looking at the house numbers and searching for the last house on our list. After a whole morning without finding a single original crew house we finally struck lucky with our very last one. Number 81 Middle Road was an older style house and, although it looked to have had a lot of work done to it, had almost certainly been standing in 1912. This was where Thomas Ranger, the last of our Sholing crew, once lived.
Thomas was born in Northam in December 1882. His parents, George and Ann, were originally from Salisbury and had nine children. George was a general labourer. At some time in the first ten years of Thomas’ life the family moved to Whites Road in Sholing and George got a job as a coal Porter at Southampton Docks. By 1901 the family had moved to Church Road in Sholing and Thomas had joined the Royal Navy as a stoker. He served aboard the Duke of Wellington, Formidable, Caesar, Vivid II and Firequeen II. He was discharged in 1994 when he was described as being five foot three and a half, with brown hair and of very good conduct. He then worked as a bricklayer building houses before going back to sea in the merchant service.
In 1906 he married Isabel Pendry, a domestic servant and moved to 81 Middle Road. This was where he was living when he left Oceanic to join Titanic as a greaser, earning £6 10s a month. Greasers were very skilled men, basically mechanics, who maintained and ran the ship’ machinery supervised by the engineering officers. Most stayed below with the engineers when the ship was sinking and, of the 35 aboard, only 4 were saved.
When Titanic collided with the iceberg Thomas was working with Chief Electrician, Peter Sloan, in the electrical store room repairing the electric fans. The men felt a slight jar that briefly lifted them off their feet and both knew the ship must have hit something. Even so, they carried on working but, a couple of minutes later, noticed the turbine engine had stopped. Sloan ordered Thomas to stop all the electric fans and went down to look at the main lighting engines. There were 45 fans and the process took Thomas about three quarters of an hour. The last four fans were in the dummy funnel, used for ventilation. Thomas then went onto the boat deck and down to the second class section of B deck where he found a group of around twenty firemen standing and chatting. They told him all the lifeboats had left.
Although all the crew must have known something was badly wrong there seems to have been little panic. Thomas left the firemen and made his way to the port side of the boat deck. Here he met up with another greaser, Frederick Scott. By this time the ship was beginning to list to the port and was badly down at the head. It must have been obvious it was sinking but the deck was empty apart from the two greasers. When they looked down into the water they saw a lifeboat below and, with very little thought for the consequences, both men climbed the davit and slid down the falls towards it. Thomas landed in the boat but poor Frederick ended up in the icy water. Thomas hauled him into the ship, undoubtedly saving his life.
The lifeboat was lifeboat 4. It had been the eighth boat lowered from the port side but, when it reached A deck, there was a delay. Those waiting to board were some of the most important and influential passengers aboard, including the Astors, the Carters, and the Thayers. John Jacob Astor pleaded to join his pregnant wife in the boat. Second Officer Lightoller, who took the order ‘women and children first’ to the extreme, refused. Lightoller even tried to stop 13 year old John Ryerson from joining his mother in the boat, although he did eventually relent. The boat finally left with about thirty female passengers aboard, mostly from first class. There were just two, or possibly three crew members aboard, with Quartermaster Walter Perkins in charge.
According to Thomas’ testimony to the British Inquiry, there were not enough men to successfully row the boat and it had either returned to the ship, or been unable to get away from it. With Thomas and Frederick now onboard manning the oars the lifeboat finally moved away from the sinking ship. They made it in the nick of time. Thomas described watching the forward section of the ship sink beneath the water then break off from the stern. He remembered hearing the band playing. The stern then seemed to right itself momentarily before the propellers slowly rose into the air as it slipped beneath the water. The stern gradually sank with the lights going out one by one as the water got into their wiring.
They managed to pull seven more crew members from the sea, Alfred White, Thomas Dillon, Samuel Hemming, Frank Prentice, Andrew Cunningham, William Lyons and Sidney Siebert. The frozen men were semi conscious and had to be rubbed and warmed to bring them round. Sadly, William Lyons and Sidney Siebert were too far gone and died shortly after being rescued. They later took around five or six people from lifeboat 14, which then left in search of survivors in the water. Then, along with lifeboat 12, they went to rescue the handful of people from the overturned collapsible lifeboat B. They reached Carpathia with around 55 survivors aboard. This was in no small part due to the courage of the two greasers who’d slid down the falls at the last moment.
When Thomas was called to testify at the British Inquiry on 9 May 1912, he and the other crew members were given quarters to stay in throughout the inquiry. They were so rat infested and filthy that Thomas chose to sleep rough instead. He carried on working at sea until the 1920’s and then found work as a plumbers assistant.
After Isabel died, in 1947, he married Emma Elizabeth Prince Elderfield, a Southampton born widow. He died in Southamptin in July 1964, aged 81 and is buried in South Stoneham Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Emma died in 1972
All in all our search for crew houses in Sholing had been pretty unsuccessful. Conflicting information and modern houses meant we only found one house still standing that we could be certain of. Even so, we’d uncovered some interesting stories of the men who worked aboard Titanic and gained an insight into what it must have been like on that fateful night.
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When we set out this morning we’d planned to find all the Titanic crew houses in St Denys but we’d kept on going. Now we’d found all but four of the Bevois Valley houses and one in Mount Pleasant too. The last houses on my list were all more or less on our way home but, whether any had survived the last century remained to be seen.
Back on Bevois Valley Road, near the Gurdwara Nanaksar, it was immediately clear that the first houses on this part of the list were long gone. There was nothing left of any real age on the odd side of the road where our houses would have been. All we could do was take a photo and tell the stories of the men who lived in them.
Number 45 Bevois Valley Road was once the home of Lorenzo Horace Mitchell. Known as Lawrence, he was born in Southampton in 1893. He was one of ten children born to Herbert, a joiner, and Sentina, also natives of Southampton, although Sentina had Italian ancestry, which could explain his rather exotic name. At the beginning of the twentieth century the family were living at 71 Mount Pleasant Road but, by 1911, they’d moved to 193 Northam Road and Lawrence was working as a hairdresser.
What made him decide to go to sea is a mystery but, at some time in the next year he was working as a trimmer on Oceanic. It seems a giant leap from hairdresser to trimmer but the work obviously suited him because, in April 1912, he joined the crew of Titanic. As a trimmer his wages would have been £5 10s a month. When he signed on he gave his address as 45 Bevois Valley Road.
The trimmers worked in the dark dusty coal bunkers beside and above the boilers. It was hard work, shovelling tons of coal down the chutes to the firemen and moving it about in wheelbarrows to keep the weight evenly distributed. It was also unbearably hot, so much so, the coal often ignited and part of a trimmer’s job involved putting out these fires and shovelling already burning coal down to the boiler rooms. When the ship was sinking, the trimmers on duty kept shovelling coal to keep the generators running for the water pumps and lights. Of the 73 trimmers aboard, only 20 survived. Sadly, Lawrence was among those lost and his body was never identified.
His family must have been heartbroken and the money they received from the Titanic relief fund was scant consolation. Their grief was compounded when, just two years later, his elder brother Percival died, aged just 22. His mother died in 1917 and his father in 1950. What became of his other siblings isn’t clear, although his brother Norman continued to live in Southampton and died in 1981.
The next house, number 69, was home to two crew members, father and son George Henry and Archibald George Chitty. George was born in Reigate, Surrey in 1862, the son of Thomas, a gardener and Ellen, both Surrey natives. He had seven known siblings. Before his tenth birthday the family had moved to Twickenham, Middlesex and later to Isleworth. At some point George joined the Army Service Corps and ended up in Hampshire. In 1890 he married Julia Walden from Southampton in Hound Parish church. They had three children, Jessie Selina, born in 1882 in Netley, Archibald George born in 1883 in Aldershot and Eliza May born in 1890 in Southampton.
By 1891, the family were settled in Southampton living in the All Saints area of the town centre and George was working as a baker. Sadly, little Eliza died in 1899, aged just nine and, by 1901 they had moved to 66 Earls Road. Jessie was working as a domestic and Archibald had gone to sea so they had the house to themselves.
In about 1909, Jessie married George Ernest Carpenter, a ship’s baker working for the American Mail Steam Ship Company. At around the same time Julia died and George and Archibald moved in with the newlyweds at Clovelly, Newton Road, Bitterne Park for a while. Archibald was working for White Star as a steward aboard Adriatic and it wasn’t long before George had also gone to sea. As George was already working as a baker, his son and son in law’s adventures at sea may have been the catalyst that led him to follow suit.
Exactly when George and Archibald moved to 69 Bevois Valley Road isn’t clear but they were both living there when they joined Titanic. George left the Oceanic to become Titanic’s assistant baker, earning £4 10s a month and Archibald left Olympic to become a third class steward, earning £3 15s a month.
As assistant baker, George would have been kept very busy. Titanic’s kitchens, with their coal fuelled ovens, cooking tops, ranges and roasters were hot, noisy and bustling places. The kitchen staff prepared more than six thousand meals every day. Bread and other baked goods would have almost certainly featured in every single one.
Archibald would have been just as busy serving the third class passengers. The third class dining saloon was one hundred feet long and could accommodate four hundred and seventy three diners at every sitting. The Saloon was actually two rooms separated by a bulkhead and diners were segregated. The forward room was for families and single women, while the aft room was for single men. Unlike the first and second class stewards, it’s unlikely Archibald would have made much money from tips as most third class passengers had very little to spare.
Exactly what happened to George and Archibald on that fateful night is unknown but it would be nice to think they found each other somehow amongst all the mayhem. Both died when the ship sank and their bodies were never identified. They are remembered on a family grave in the Old Cemetery, oddly, one I stumbled upon very recently. Jessie and her husband continued to live in Newton Road until their deaths in the 1940’s.
The next house, number 80, was on the even side of the road and, after a great deal of peering at the fronts of shops, we found it. This was where Andrew Simmons once lived. Not a lot is known about him. When he joined Titanic he gave his birth date as 13 June 1880 but later records give it as 1873. Perhaps he simply lied about his age for fear he wouldn’t get the job if they knew he was approaching forty? It was certainly easier to do such things in days before computers where records could not easily be checked. As far as anyone can tell he was born in Oxford but when he came to Southampton is a mystery, as is his early life. He had probably been working at sea for some time as he left the Philadelphia to join Titanic as a scullion.
Scallions were basically the dogs bodies of the kitchen. They fetched and carried, cleaned pots and pans, dishes, chopping blocks and work stations. It was demanding work and the pay of £3 10s a month, with no chance of tips, was scant reward.
Like almost all of his life, the details of Andrew’s escape are hazy. Unlike so many others he was saved but how and on which lifeboat is not known. It’s probable he was on either lifeboat 8 or lifeboat 11, but no one knows for sure. His life after the sinking is almost as much of a mystery. He continued to live in Southampton but whether he went back to sea or not isn’t clear. In 1915 he married Leah Barnard but, like so much else, whether they had any children isn’t known. He died in Southampton on the 36th anniversary of the disaster 15 April 1948 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Hollybrook Cemetery, as anonymous in death as he had been in life.
From the outset we knew our next house 5 Marine Terrace no longer existed. In fact, when I was researching these crew members, I’d had a hard time even finding out where Marine Terrace was. It wasn’t on the modern map or on the 1910 version. It took a few pointers from the kind people on the Hampshire Heritage and Southampton and Hampshire Over The Years Facebook Pages and the 1869 map before I worked it out. Originally the little terrace would have had enviable views across the Itchen but, as more and more houses were built in the area, it became hidden behind them and was demolished in around 1940, after being bombed.
The terrace was situated roughly behind the modern day Hobbit pub so CJ and I took a couple of photos of the pub as there was nothing else left to see. Once 5 Marine Terrace was home to William Long. He was born in Southampton in 1876. His father, George, a general labourer, was born in Wiltshire and his mother, Fanny came from Eling, Hampshire. They had six children and lived in Queen Street, St Mary’s, then later in Hill Street.
William married Ethel Eunice Abbott in 1897 and they had six children, five of whom survived infancy, Ethel, Edith, William, George and Jack. Exactly when William joined the Royal Navy isn’t certain but, by 1901, he was at sea and Ethel was working as a domestic servant. By 1911 the family were living at 5 Marine Terrace, although William was at Thames Berth 7 at the time of the census, working as a coal trimmer, probably for the Royal Navy.
Both William and his brother Frank joined Titanic as coal trimmers. Frank had previously been working on Olympic but it isn’t clear whether William joined straight from the navy or if he’d been in the merchant service. Neither survived the sinking. In all probability they were both shovelling coal to the bitter end. Neither of their bodies were ever identified. Ethel never remarried and died in Winchester in 1940. What became of their children isn’t known.
And so our adventures in St Denys, Mount Pleasant and Bevois Valley finally came to an end. We’d had some successes and some disappointments but we’d found all the houses there were still to be found and remembered the lost and the saved. Much has been written about the passengers who lived and died on Titanic but the crew are often forgotten. Southampton lost so many on that fateful night and it’s good to be able to tell their stories.
We were close to the railway crossing at Mount Pleasant, just a stone’s throw away from Northam Bridge. Tempting as it was to head for home and leave the rest of the Bevois Valley houses for another day, we decided to head back towards Bevois Valley and keep searching, at least for a while. Our next house was on Rockstone Lane.
The terraced houses of Rockstone Lane look as if they haven’t changed much since Titanic sailed so I was confident we would find the house where the unimaginatively named Humphrey Humphries once lived. Humphrey was born in Southampton in 1880, the second son of Henry and Emma Humphries. Henry, was a gardener, originally from Devon and Emma was from Herefordshire. They married in Worcestershire in 1879 and moved to St Mary’s in Southampton shortly afterwards. By 1891 Emma had been widowed and the family were living in the St Michael’s area of the town centre. Emma was working as a charwoman to support her family, but, in 1892, she married widower, John Toms, who was an ironmonger and coppersmith.
By the turn of the century Humphrey was working as a night porter at the South Western Hotel, where so many of Titanic’s wealthy passengers would spend their last night on land. It isn’t clear when he first went to sea but the hotel was popular with steamer passengers so perhaps this was where the idea came from.
Poor Emma didn’t have much luck with husbands. By 1906, she’d been widowed again and by 1911, was living at 10 Rockstone Lane with Humphrey’s widowed brother Harry and his two young children, Harry and Stanley. Humphrey was already working at sea but 10 Rockstone Lane was the address he gave when he signed onto Titanic so it’s likely he was living there between voyages. He’d previously been working as a steward on Oceanic.
As a second class steward, Humphrey would have earned £3 15s a month and supplemented this with tips from passengers. A good steward could do very well from tips, although the stewards in first class obviously got the lion’s share as their passengers were often extremely wealthy. Poor Humphrey never got to spend his wages or his tips though. He was lost with the ship and his body was never identified. His heartbroken mother posted an announcement in an unidentifiable newspaper.
HUMPHREYS–April 15th, at sea, on s.s. Titanic, Humphrey Humphreys, the beloved son of Emma Toms, of 10 Rockstone Lane, Southampton, aged 31 years. May his dear soul be at rest. “Nearer my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.”
She died in Southampton in 1928 and Humprhey’s brother, Harry, died in 1932. What became of Harry’s sons isn’t known.
The next house on our list was in Cedar Road, which meant retracing our steps back to Bevois Valley Road. We stopped for a moment to admire the golden dome of the Gurdwara Nanaksar on the triangle of land between Bevois Valley Road and Peterborough Road. This was once the Bevois Town Methodist Chapel, built in 1861 and enlarged in 1906. After the church was damaged by wartime bombing it remained empty for many years and was even used as a furniture store at one point. In around 1970, the Sikh community purchased the building and turned it into a temple.
Now we were in for a bit of a climb. Peterborough Road led us up the hill towards Cedar Road. This was where Thomas Holman Kemp once lived. Thomas’ father, John, was from Southampton and his mother, Sarah was born in County Cavan, Ireland. John was a master mariner and he met and married Sarah, who had emigrated to Australia, in Brisbane in 1865. Their first child, Matilda, was born in Australia but, shortly afterwards, they returned to Southampton and this was where Thomas was born in 1869.
The family settled in the St Mary’s area and, when he left school, Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps and went to sea as a marine engineer. In 1893, he married Southampton girl Kate Feilder and they set up home in Forster Road Bevois Valley. Their daughter Kate Evelyn was born the next year. By 1911, the little family had moved to 11 Cedar Road and young Kate was working as an apprentice milliner. This was where Thomas was living when he left the White Lady to join Titanic as Extra Assistant 4th Engineer. His wages were £10 10s a month.
We climbed the hill feeling fairly sure we’d easily be able to find Thomas’s house but, of all the old terraced houses in the street, the terrace including numbers 9 to 11 were obviously modern houses, probably the result of wartime bombing. We took a photo anyway and, for good measure, took another of the older houses a few doors away to give an idea what Thomas’s house would have looked like.
The engineers on Titanic took turns to keep watch in the engine and boiler rooms and supervise the firemen, greasers and trimmers. The Extra 4th Engineer was also known as the Refrigeration Engineer. Titanic had a huge self-sustaining brine refrigeration system throughout the ship, to keep the provision rooms cool. There were separate cold rooms for mutton, beef, cheese, mineral water, fish, game, poultry, flowers, wines, spirits and champagne. Each was maintained at the optimum temperature for the goods stored there. There was also a chilled compartment at the aft of the ship on the starboard side to store perishable freight. Thomas wold have been involved in making sure the refrigeration system kept working and, if anything was to go wrong, to fix it.
Exactly what his role was when the ship was sinking isn’t clear but, none of the engineers survived and Thomas’ body was never identified. Kate never remarried and died in Southampton in 1951. Kate Evelyn married William Claud Stent in 1918. She had two daughters, Joyce and Beryl and died in Winchester in 1985.
Our next houses were on Forster Road and Earls Road. Rather than go back to the bottom of the hill and climb it again one street further along, we decided to climb to the top and work our way back down. It was a sensible plan, although it didn’t seem like it when we were trudging upwards. From the top of Earls Road we were rewarded with a wonderful view across Northam, including the huge gasometers next to the football stadium.
Number 20 Forster Road was the highest house on our list today. It was where Thomas Henry Edom Veal once lived. Henry was born in Sholing in 1874. His father, John, was a carter and his mother, Ann, was a laundress. They had five children. John would later open his own grocer’s business but, whether he was related to Alan Veal who opened the very popular cash and carry superstore in Sholing in the 1980’s, isn’t clear.
Thomas was brought up in Botany Bay, Sholing and appears to have gone to sea in the 1890’s. In 1902, he married Agnes Leonora Veal, the daughter of Ernest Veal, a joiner, and Sarah Hibberd. They had one son, Leonard, born in 1903.
In 1911 the family were living in Hartington Road and Thomas was working as a steward on Olympic. By the time he joined Titanic as a first class saloon steward, they had moved to 20 Forster Road. We were pleased to find the house still standing, just before the junction with Clausentum Road. Apart from the row of wheelie bins outside, a satellite dish and a parking sign, it looked much as it must have done in 1912. We could almost imagine Thomas walking out of the front door and heading off towards the ship.
As a saloon steward, he’d have been responsible for serving food and, between meal sittings, clearing the tables, changing the linen, dealing with spillages (a common event on a moving ship) and preparing the tables for the next meal. It would have been a busy job but there were plenty of opportunities to earn tips from the rich and famous passengers and boost his £3 15s wages.
Tragically, Thomas did not survive the sinking and his body was never identified. Agnes remarried in late 1913. She and her new husband, Wynhall Richards, did not have any children and died within weeks of each other in 1942. Thomas’ son Leonard never married and died in Southampton in 1985.
Slowly we retraced our steps back to Earls Road where we hoped to find our next three houses. A look at the house numbers told us we had quite a bit of walking before we found number 49. At least it was all downhill.
We last walked this way on CJ’s birthday a couple of years back so we were in fairly familiar territory. That day we’d been looking for graffiti and we’d stumbled upon an interesting building on Ancasta Road. What we thought might have once been a church, turned out to be St Faith’s Mission Hall, now used as the Southampton Chinese Christian Church Centre. Just after we passed it today we found the house we were looking for, or where it once stood.
Although many of the houses in Earls Road are much as they would have been a hundred years ago, the area did suffer during the Southampton Blitz. During the climax of the bombing on 30 November and 1 December 1940, three bombs fell on Earls Road. Sadly it seems they destroyed our next three houses as all three were modern buildings standing amid the old.
Isaac Hiram Maynard lived at 31 Earls Road. He was born in Shoreham, Sussex in 1880. His father, Hiram, was a master mariner, once coxwain of the Shoreham Lifeboat and a pilot at Shoreham Harbour. He and his wife, Catherine, had ten children. When Isaac was eight his mother died, aged just 44, and, within three years, his father had remarried. He and his new wife, Eliza, went on to have two more children.
Isaac followed in his seafaring father’s footsteps and joined the merchant service. By 1901, he was living with his married sister, Catherine, in Portswood Road. A year later he was working for White Star as a ship’s cook. Three years later he married Southampton girl, Ethel Louise Gookey, the daughter of a house painter. They had no children.
Isaac was no stranger to disaster at sea, he’d been working on Olympic when she collided with Hawke. Perhaps he thought lightning wouldn’t strike twice when he transferred to Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast or maybe he just fancied a change? At the time he was living at 31 Earls Road. As a cook he would have earned £7 10s a month.
Isaac was still aboard Titanic as she sank. He later recalled seeing Captain Smith standing on the bridge, fully dressed with his cap on. He saw the water rush over the top deck and the unlaunched collapsible lifeboats A and B swept away. The next rush of water washed him overboard and, by chance, he managed to catch hold of one of the upturned boats and cling on. There were around six other men clinging to the boat in the freezing water. Later they said they saw Captain Smith washed from the bridge into the sea. Somehow he managed to keep his cap on his head and the men saw him swimming. One man reached out his hand and tried to save him but the captain refused to be rescued. He swam away calling to the men ‘look after yourselves boys.’ Isaac soon lost sight of him. There have been several different accounts of how Captain Smith met his end so this story, while interesting, may be apocryphal. He certainly later saw the chief baker Charles Joughin, from Shirley, swimming around the upturned boat. He put out his hand and held onto him. This was corroborated by Joughins testimony at the later inquiry. The men continued to cling to the collapsible lifeboat while some twenty or so men stood on top. Amongst them was Second Officer Charles Lightoller.
When it began to get light Frederick Clench in lifeboat 12 realised that the floating debris he’d initially thought was one of the ship’s funnels was actually collapsible lifeboat B, upside down and slowly sinking with about 28 men standing on or desperately clinging to it. The men, who must have been half dead from the cold, were transferred into lifeboats 12 and 4. Issac was amongst those taken into lifeboat 12. It was severely overloaded by this time, with about 69 people aboard, and was the last to reach Carpathia, some time after eight in the morning.
Despite his ordeal, Isaac carried on working at sea into the 1920’s. His wife Ethel died in 1933 and, after he married Mary Annie Henry in 1941 they moved to Portswood Road. Isaac died in the Borough Hospital Southampton in January 1948. He is buried in South Stoneham Cemetery.
Another crew member lived two doors away at 29 Earls Road, very close to one of the graffiti murals we’d been looking for on our last visit. Lewis Owen was born in Llandudno, Wales in 1862. His parents, Richard and Ann, were natives of Caernarvonshire and Denbighshire, respectively and Richard was a plasterer. They had five children. Lewis was brought up in Wales but, by 1881, the family had moved to Tranmere, Cheshire and Lewis was working as a plasterer like his father. It isn’t clear how long the family stayed in England but, by 1891, Lewis’ parents and siblings were back in Wales. Lewis was, it seems, at sea. He’d been a general servant aboard Liguria since at least 1888, earning £1, 10s per month, but where he was living when on land isn’t clear.
By 1903 he was in Southampton, where he married Maud Louise Young, the Southampton born daughter of another seaman. They had no children and, by 1911, were living at 29 Earls Road. Lewis left Oceanic to join Titanic as a second class steward. His brother in law, Francis Young, was also aboard as a fireman. Both were lost when the ship sank and neither was identified.
Poor Maud, who’d lost both a brother and a husband, remarried in 1913. She and her second husband, Herbert J. Slatter, a ship’s chef from Kent, went on to have children, although how many isn’t known, they moved to Kent where Herbert died in 1964. Maud went on to reach her 103rd birthday. She died in 1985.
John Stewart was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1883. Little is known about his parentage or childhood but, by the first decade of the twentieth century, he was living in Southampton and working as a ship’s steward for White Star. Living with him was Mabel Annie Blyth, a tobacconist Assistant and their daughter Gwendoline Ethel, who’d been born in 1909. The couple finally married in 1911.
When John left Olympic to join Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast Mabel was probably already pregnant with their second child, Florence Mary, known as Mollie, who was born in late 1912. When he signed on again on 4 April, he gave his address as 7 Earls Road. He was a first class verandah steward, earning £3 15s a month, which he could likely double with tips from the wealthy passengers.
John waited on passengers in the Verandah cafe, one of two separate rooms on either side of the ship on A Deck behind the First Class smoke room. The Verandah and Palm Court were beautifully light and airy rooms with a trellised decor and cane furniture. The large windows looked out to sea. The Palm Court, on the port side, had a revolving door leading to the smoke room and was very popular. The Veranda was quieter, often empty, or used as a play room for the first class children. It may not have been the best area as far as tips were concerned but it sounds like it was a very pleasant place to work, serving drinks and light refreshments to the occasional first class passenger and looking out over the sea.
Exactly what happened on the fateful night of the collision isn’t clear but, somehow, John managed to get onto lifeboat fifteen, the last large lifeboat to be launched. The boat was at the far end of the boat deck on the starboard side and, by all accounts, was the only one launched full. It’s occupants were a mixture of women and children, many from third class, some third class men and several members of the crew. There were certainly between 60 and 80 people aboard and fireman, Frank Dymond, appears to have been in charge.
Lifeboat 15 was lowered shortly after lifeboat 13, which had become entangled after being caught up in a huge amount of water pouring out of a condenser exhaust. The occupants of both boats shouted out for the lowering to stop but no one above heard. Luckily, someone managed to cut the falls of lifeboat 13 at the last moment and disaster was averted.
It took them some time to get away from the sinking ship, perhaps because the lifeboat was so heavily laden. It was the tenth or eleventh to reach Carpathia and was the only wooden boat left behind when Carpathia left for New York. Later John discovered that, in all the mayhem of the sinking, he’d inadvertently put the Verandah cafe keys in his pocket. What became of them is a mystery but I imagine they’d fetch a pretty penny today as a small key which opened a life-jacket locker on the Titanic was sold for £85,000 in 2016.
John continued to work for White Star for a short while after the disaster but, unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before he left the sea for good and found work as a driver. During World War I he enlisted in the Army Medical Corps and he and Mabel later ran the Richmond Inn in Portswood Road. John died, after a long illness, in 1946 and was cremated at Southampton Crematorium. His ashes were scattered in the garden of rest at South Stoneham Cemetery. Mabel died in 1978. His daughters Gwen and Mollie both married and remained in Hampshire until their deaths.
Our last Bevois Valley houses were on Bevois Valley Road, which, coincidentally, would take us back towards home. Whether we’d find any of them still standing was another matter altogether though…
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There were fourteen Titanic Crew houses in Bevois Valley and, as far as I could tell, many of them were still standing. When we set out this morning, 107 years to the day after Titanic set sail, the plan had been to find the houses in St Denys. Even so, I’d brought the Bevois Valley addresses with me because some of them were so close to where we’d be walking it seemed silly not to tick them off the list. The first few were in Empress Road, once a little terraced street overlooking the railway line and the river. In my imagination, they were much like the houses we’d already seen in Priory Road and an old photo I found later proved me correct. Sadly, they are all gone now. Many were lost to bombing and the last three terraced houses were demolished a couple of years ago.
Today the area is an industrial estate with a giant bus depot, lots of modern shed like units, a supermarket and a few small businesses. There was no chance of finding any of our crew houses but we walked along the road anyway, thinking about the men who once lived here.
One was George Walter Nettleton. He was born in St Denys in 1882 and his mother, Caroline, was a Hampshire lass. His father, Frederick, a tram driver, was originally from London. Frederick and Caroline had seven children.
George spent his early life in Portswood. When he first went to sea is unclear but he had previously worked for some time as a labourer. When he left Oceanic and joined Titanic as a fireman he was living at 23 Empress Road, presumably with his parents. He was unmarried.
Outside of the officers, Titanic’s firemen were paid some of the best wages on the ship, and rightly so. It was their muscle and sweat that kept the ship running. Unlike the stewards, in their starched white jackets, the firemen were hidden away in the bowels of the ship. They had no chance to supplement their £6 a month with tips from rich and grateful passengers and it’s doubtful any of those above decks gave them a single thought. When Titanic sank the majority of the firemen sank with her, shovelling coal to the bitter end in a desperate attempt to give others the best chance of escape. George was probably among them. He did not survive and his body was never identified.
The aptly named Joseph Henry Bevis was born in 1890 in Hastings, the youngest of Albert and Julia’s two children. The family moved from Hastings to 70 Empress Road in about 1911 and Joseph was soon working as a labourer. When he signed on to Titanic as a trimmer he gave his address as 171 Empress Road. He’d never worked at sea before but the wages of £5 10s a month were probably an enticing prospect, especially as the city had been hit badly by strikes and unemployment was rife.
A trimmers job was physically hard, hot and dirty work. They loaded all the coal onto the ship and then worked inside the bunkers with shovels and wheelbarrows moving coal around to keep it level and stop the ship listing. They also shovelled coal down the cute to the firemen in the boiler rooms. Because of the heat, the coal would often spontaneously combust and trimmers were also responsible for putting out any fires in the bunkers. When the ship left Belfast there was a fire burning in one of her bunkers. It continued to burn for most of the journey and Jospeh may have been one of the trimmers trying to fight it.
Sadly, wherever he was and whatever he was doing when Titanic hit the iceberg, Joseph never lived to tell the tale. Like so many of the engineering crew, he was lost with the ship and his body was never identified. His family remained in Southampton. His mother died in 1931 and his father in 1935.
The next house on our list wasn’t actually in Bevois Valley but it didn’t really fit into any other area and was so close by it seemed silly not to try to find it. Empress Road leads to Imperial Road and, at the bottom corner, there is a leafy cutaway leading to Mount Pleasant Road, this was once the home of George Terrill Thresher.
A Southampton native born in 1886, George was one of at least ten children born to George and Catherine Thresher. His father was an engine fitter and the large family lived in Mount Pleasant Road. In the final decade of the nineteenth century the family moved from number 50 Mount Pleasant Road to number 36 and, by 1901, young George was working as an errand boy. A decade later George was working at sea for White Star. He was unmarried and still living with his, now widowed, mother at 36 Mount Pleasant Road.
CJ and I left the cutway with high hopes of finding at least one of the houses George had called home. Unfortunately, although we walked all the way to the railway crossing, we had no luck. The house numbers were more than a little erratic, mainly because many of the houses seem to have disappeared and been replaced by a row of ramshackle garages. Whether this is the result of war time bombing or something else we couldn’t tell. In the end, all we could do was take photographs of the houses that were still standing and try to imagine them as they had been back in 1912.
When Titanic hit the iceberg luck was on George’s side. Due to the terrific heat in the boiler rooms and the physically exhausting job of shovelling tons of coal, the firemen worked four hour shifts with eight hours off duty to recover. George must have been off duty when the collision happened. Exactly how he managed to get on a lifeboat and which one isn’t clear but the chances are his muscles were what got him a place. Each boat needed strong men to row and an officer or able seaman to take command and navigate. In all probability, George was just in the right place at the right time and he survived.
Despite his narrow escape, George continued to work at sea. At some time in the 1930’s he relocated to Gateshead and it was there, in 1937, that he finally married. He was 51 and had his wife, Jane Fawcett, was just two years his junior. Marriage didn’t change him. He carried on working at sea in the Merchant Navy. On 18 November 1939 his luck finally ran out. He was working as a fireman aboard the cargo ship SS Parkhill when she was torpedoed off the coast of Aberdeen. The U-boat, U-18, had already fired one torpedo but the Parkhill had managed to avoid it and steamed on. Less than an hour later they were hit by the second attack and George was one of nine seamen killed. Poor Jane, who had waited so long to become a wife, was widowed within two years. She never remarried and remained in Gateshead until her death in 1964.
The first of our Bevois Valley houses were long gone and our detour to Mount Pleasant had proved to be fruitless. Now we had to decide whether to head for home or continue our Bevois Valley search.
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Many years ago I lived in Portswood in a little flat a minute’s walk or so from St Denys Station. In 1989, the Portswood bypass was built and cut a swathe through the area I knew so well. The new road was named Thomas Lewis Way after Tommy Lewis, a St Mary’s lad and son of a dock labourer, who became a prominent trade unionist, local councillor and, in 1929, Southampton’s first Labour MP. The streets I knew so well were soon unrecognisable and many houses disappeared. The last five St Denys crew members all lived on Dukes Road, one of those swallowed up. We might not have been able to find their houses but we could still find what little is left of Dukes Road and tell their stories.
The walk from Priory Road to the remains of Dukes Road was once part of my walk to work but, even in the short time since my Bus Mine days, things have changed. One of the highlights of my walks used to be the path behind the Millennium Flats where boats were tied to little jetties and swans and ducks made me smile each day. The path led to some steep steps and Horseshoe Bridge. The gate at the top of the steps is now locked. The people living in the flats don’t like unsavoury characters like me walking near their nice homes, even though there is a steep bank and a high metal fence between the path and their property.
So we walked the long way round. Both of us feeling quite miffed. A train going under Horseshoe Bridge did cheer us up a little and I was even more cheered knowing I didn’t have to go inside the bus depot and spend ten hours being moaned at by angry passengers.
Almost opposite the bus depot, squashed between the big metal units of the industrial estate and the new road, is a tiny stretch of service road. This was once Dukes Road. In fact it’s still called Dukes Road even though there is no longer a single house on it. Still, we went to what was left of it and took some photos of the road sign.
The first of the Dukes Road Titanic crew was John Bertie Ellis, born in Southampton in 1883. His father, also called John, was a naval seaman from Manchester and his mother, Emma, was from Cornwall. John and Emma had nine children and moved to Southampton just before John was born. John began his working life as a cellarman. In 1905 he married Ethel Amelia Brooks. Ethel was also born in Southampton but was of exotic heritage. Her father, Addison Taylor Brooks, was born in Washington DC, of mixed African-American and European heritage. He’d seen service in the US Military before moving to England. John and Ethel had three children, Mabel Ethel, Bertie Alec and Frank.
When John joined Titanic as a vegetable cook the family were living at 30 Dukes Road. He’d previously been working on Oceanic as assistant vegetable cook so the job on Titanic was something of a promotion and his wages of £5 a month were probably very welcome. John escaped the sinking ship in emergency lifeboat 2, the seventh boat loaded from the port side. Fourth Officer Boxhall was in charge of the boat and took Steward James Johnstone, able seaman Frank Osman and John to assist with rowing. The boat had only eighteen or so people in it, mostly women and children. It was lowered, half empty, to A Deck to pick up more passengers but found nobody there. It was the first boat to reach Carpathia.
John was not called upon to give evidence at any of the Titanic inquiries and returned to Southampton. In October 1912, his fourth child, Archie, was born. John went back to sea but, a few months later, jumped ship in America and was never heard of by his English family again. Ethel and the children carried on as best they could. Mabel became a cook and live in domestic to a sales executive in Enfield, Middlesex. She never married. Bertie married Annie Maria Corbishley and settled in Staffordshire to raise a family. He served as a Royal Artillery gunner in WWII and was killed in 1945 in Burma. Frank moved to Biloela, Queensland and died in 1991. Archie served in the Merchant Marine and Royal Navy Reserve as a quartermaster. He married Robbia Stewart and moved to Staffordshire to raise a family. He died in 1964. Poor deserted Ethel, with her family scattered, remained in Hampshire where she died in 1931. She never heard from John again.
Having left his family in England, seemingly without a second thought, John he moved to New South Wales and began a new life. He bigamously married Isabella Towers in 1914. The couple had two sons, John and William and set up home in Sidney. It is unlikely that Isabella ever knew of John’s previous life. In 1916, John enlisted with the Australian 19th Infantary Battalion. He ended his days in Sidney as a war pensioner. He died in Sidney in 1932 and is buried in the Randwick Cemetery.
Charles Augustus Coombs was born in Wimborne Dorset in 1867. He was the second of two sons born to Mary Jane and George Edwin, a master butcher. Charles, better known as Augustus, was brought up in Wimborne and when or why he ended up in Southampton is a mystery but it’s probable he moved to get work at sea. He was certainly living in Southampton when he married Annie Amelia West in 1891. They had three children, Elsie Annie, Gladys Kathleen and Norah Georgina. On the 1901 census Augustus was working as a ship’s baker and living with his family, including his father, George, at 9 Ivy Road, Itchen.
George died in 1902 and at some time after this, the family moved to 78 Dukes Road. By 1911, Augustus was working as a cook for the White Star Line. He left Olympic to join Titanic as assistant cook, earning £4 10s a month.
It was not the good career move he’d hoped for though. Augustus died when Titanic sank and his body was never recovered. What became of Annie isn’t clear but neither Elsie or Norah ever married and both died in 1970. Gladys married Robert Dyer and continued to live in Southampton until her death in 1976.
John Henry Jackopson was born in Liverpool in 1881. His father, Charles Ludwig Jackopson was probably Norwegian, although this is not certain. His mother, Sarah Ann, was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland. The couple married in Liverpool and had five children. Very little is known about John’s early life, mainly because his surname was frequently misspelled so records are hard to identify with any certainty.
When John’s father died, in 1896, his mother went to live with her married daughter, Mary Thalia Gibson in Kirkdale, Lancashire. John probably also lived with her but, by this time, he was already working at sea so doesn’t show on any census. In 1903, John married Catherine McCabe in Liverpool and, in 1907, moved to Southampton. They had four children, the first two, Charles and Thomas, born in Liverpool and Cornelia and Catherine born in Southampton. Tragically, Catherine died within a few weeks of her birth.
The move to Southampton was most likely prompted by John’s work as a ship’s fireman. His last ship before joining Titanic was the merchant steamer Highland Brae, a far smaller ship than Titanic, carrying around sixty or so passengers. When John signed onto Titanic the family were living at 97 Dukes Road. His wages would have been £6 a month.
The firemen on Titanic had a relentless job. The ship had twenty-four double-ended boilers and five single-ended boilers. They consumed around eight hundred and fifty tons of coal every day and all this coal had to be shovelled from the coal bunkers into the boilers. Every two minutes the boilers needed a ton of coal to keep working. Each boiler had a team of ten firemen and four trimmers, working in four hours shifts. Four hours was the maximum time a man could deal with the exertion and the incredible heat. Even while the ship was sinking, the men on duty kept shovelling coal to keep the pumps working and the lights shining. Of the 176 firemen on board just 48 survived.
For the firemen, survival was a matter of luck. Those on duty stood no chance. As soon as the ship began to list they would have been trapped in the boiler room, unable to climb the steep ladder out. Those off duty lived or died depending on whether or not they were ordered to man the lifeboats and use their muscles to row passengers to safety. John was not one of the lucky ones. His body was never identified.
Catherine must have been devastated by the news. She was pregnant at the time and gave birth to a son, named John after his father, just a few weeks after the sinking. Baby John only lived a few months, adding to the tragedy. In late 1913, Catherine married Charles George Hatcher and went on to have two more children. She lived in Southampton until her death in 1951. John’s children also remained in Southampton. Thomas married Florence Spencer in 1946 but had no children. He died in 1974. Charles married Doris Glasspool Plummer and had five children. He died in 1942. Cornelia married Robert Fuller and had four children. She died in 1991.
Robert Frederick William Couper was one of eight children born to engraver Robert and his wife Stirling in Southampton in 1883. The family lived in Kingsfield Road, All Saints. Robert was just ten when his mother died and, by the time he was eighteen, he and his younger brother Leopald were boarding in a house in York Street, St Mary’s working as boilermakers. What became of the rest of the family is unclear.
In 1910 Robert married Emily Alice Westbury and the couple soon moved to 101 Dukes Road with Emily’s mother, Alice. At some time in 1911 they had a child but it died soon after birth and there is no record of a name or even if it was a boy or a girl. As Robert was almost certainly working at sea aboard Olympic by this time, it must have been a difficult time for poor Emily. They would have no more children.
Robert signed onto Titanic as a fireman. When Titanic sank luck was on his side, unlike so many of his colleagues, he survived. Few exact details are known but he was almost certainly in lifeboat 3, the third to be lowered on the starboard side. Officer Murdoch directed the procedure and when all the passengers had boarded and there were still empty seats, he directed nearby crew members into the boat. There were several other firemen aboard the little lifeboat and their muscles were undoubtedly welcomed when it came to rowing. Lifeboat 3 was the fifth or sixth to reach Carpathia.
Despite his experience, Robert continued to work at sea. He died on 31 December 1941 at Southampton Docks. Exactly how isn’t clear but it may well have been during a bombing raid. He was buried in Hollybrook Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Emily survived him and continued to live in Southampton. She died in 1963.
Sidney Humphries was born in Wimborne, Dorset in 1859 to William, a publican, and Elizabeth. He had one sister, born the year before him. By 1861 the small family had moved to French Street, Southampton and William was working as a ship’s steward.
Sidney followed in his father’s footsteps and went to sea at an early age then, in 1874, he joined the Royal Navy. His first ship was the St Vincent. He went on to serve on Excellent, Rover, Euphrates and Duke of Wellington but was invalided out of the service in 1882. For the next ten years it isn’t clear what he did but it’s probable that he joined the merchant service. In 1892, he rejoined the navy, serving as an able seaman on Trincomalee.
Sidney left the navy and married Annie Rosetta Snead in 1895. They already had two children, Catherine born in 1892 and Frederick, born in 1894, and went on to have six more, Sidney, Horace, Leslie, Hetty, Arthur and Joan. They lived at various addresses in Shirley and Sidney is described on the 1901 and 1911 census as being a seaman so it is likely he’d rejoined the merchant service.
In 1886 Sidney witnessed a young woman, Minnie Whitehorn, throwing herself into Shirley Pond. Poor Minnie, a domestic servant, was trying to kill herself but Sidney intervened. Without a thought for himself, he dived in and saved her. His efforts were recognised by a medal from the Royal Humane Society.
Annie had just given birth to their youngest daughter when Sidney signed onto Titanic as Quartermaster. He and his family were living at 113 Dukes Road. His previous ship had been Olympic. Titanic had six quartermasters, each acting as helmsman, in charge of navigating the ship, when on duty.
Stanley wasn’t on duty when the ship hit the iceberg. Whether he’d have done anything differently if he had been is anyone’s guess. He was on A deck though, helping to load the lifeboats. He watched the youngest crew members, the bellboys, being taken to their posts in the main cabin entry by their captain, a steward. The fifty lads, some as young as fourteen, were told to stay in the cabin and not get in the way. It’s hard to imagine what the poor boys must have been thinking but they all sat quietly on their benches and did as they were told. When it was clear the ship really was going to sink and the order was given that every man was free to save himself so long as he kept away from the lifeboats, these lads scattered to all parts of the ship. Sidney saw several of them standing around smoking cigarettes and joking with the passengers, as if they didn’t have a care in the world. In fact they seemed quite gleeful to be breaking the rule against smoking while on duty. Not one of them tried to get in a lifeboat and not one was saved.
Sidney took command of lifeboat 11, the sixth to be lowered from the starboard side. Several stewards were ordered into the boat to help the passengers over the railing. It was one of the most heavily loaded lifeboats, with between sixty and eighty people aboard, mostly women and children. Miss Edith Rosenbaum brought a toy, a musical pig with her and entertained the frightened children with it. Several people later said a baby was thrown in at the last moment without its mother.
There was some difficulty when the boat was launched as the crew were unable to release her from the falls, the ropes and blocks used with davits for lowering the boats. When the boat finally reached the water it was discovered there was no lamp aboard and a sailor lit a piece of rope to use as a signal. The boat was so heavily loaded those manning the oars had difficulty actually rowing. Even so, lifeboat 11 was the sixth or eighth to reach Carpathia.
Sidney returned to England and was not called to give evidence at either the American or British inquiries into the sinking. He carried on working at sea, even throughout World War I. Later, as his health began to fail with age and he developed a heart condition, he worked as a stevedore in Southampton Docks. He died in 1919, aged 60, and was buried in Hollybrook Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Annie died in 1936.
We might not have found a single house still standing on the second half our our St Denys search but we had at least accounted for all the St Denys crew members. Now we had a descision to make. We were more or less in Bevois Valley and I’d brought the list of Bevois Valley crew and their addresses with me just in case. Time was getting on though. It was almost midday and we were both getting a bit hungry and thirsty. Should we cut our losses and head for home or carry on searching?
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