Titanic tales from Portswood part 2

The wreckage of the Titanic lying From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

11 July 2019

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.

Of course, things are never as simple as they seem, especially with us. The sun was so bright it was hard to see the list or the map on my phone and I think we were both suffering with dehydration because all our water was gone. We started walking in what we thought was the right direction, looking for shade so I could see the map better. Then we came upon the most interesting building. With its fish-scale tiled roof, flint walls topped by yellow brick and timber framing, it seemed out of place. Although I lived in Portswood for a couple of years I had never spotted it before.

Of course I had to stop and take a photograph, much to CJ’s annoyance. Later I discovered the building is called Swiss Cottage and is grade II listed. It was built in the late nineteenth century so isn’t as old as it looks but it is lovely nonetheless. CJ was grumbling in my ear as we walked on. When we reached the next bit of shade I discovered we should actually have turned down Portswood Avenue when we found the cottage rather than heading along Portswood Road. We were now walking away from our next houses rather than towards them.

With a lot of accusatory grumping, we turned back and eventually made it to Shakespeare Avenue where our next house was. It didn’t take us long to find. Two crew members lived in the pretty red brick terraced house, almost certainly as lodgers.

20 Shakespeare Avenue

One was Charles George Chandler Crumplin, the son of Portsmouth native, John Henry Crumplin, a sea steward, and his wife Elizabeth Chandler from London. Charles was born in Southsea in February 1877. He had six siblings but only four survived infancy.

In 1899 Charles married a local girl, Ada Frances Harriett Sparks and they had two children over the next two years, Frances Madge Irene and Charles George Cecil. They lived over a pub in Cromwell Road, Portsmouth. Charles was the publican and several employees also lived in the property. By 1911, though, Charles had followed his father’s example and had gone to sea as a steward. The family then moved to New Road, Portsmouth. 

Charles left Olympic to join Titanic for her delivery from Belfast. He gave his address as 20 Shakespeare Avenue, Portswood, but he was almost certainly just lodging there as a convenience while Titanic was sailing in and out of Southampton. As a first class bedroom steward, he’d have earned £3 15s a month and supplemented this with tips from the rich passengers he looked after. He was almost certainly among the bedroom stewards Henry Etches of Gordon Avenue told to get their passengers onto the boat deck and stand by. Unlike Henry though, he was not ordered to man an oar in a lifeboat and probably went down with the ship. His body was never identified but he seems to have been sorely missed.

A death notice was posted in the Portsmouth evening news on 29 April 1912. 

CRUMPLIN–Missing with other brave ones on the ill-fated Titanic, Charles, the dearly-loved husband of Frances Crumplin, 20 Shakespeare Avenue, Portswood; and youngest son of John and Elizabeth Crumplin, late of the “Richmond” Hotel, aged 35.

A year after the tragedy two more memorials were posted in the same newspaper. 

In loving memory of our dear brother Charlie, who lost his life on the ill-fated Titanic, April 15th, 1912–From his affectionate sisters Gert, Ivy and Moss.
Had we seen him at the last
Or watched by his dying bed,
Or heard the last sighs of his heart,
Or held his drooping head,
Our hearts, I think, would not have felt
This bitterness of grief.
But God hath ordered otherwise,
And now he rests in peace.

CRUMPLIN–In loving memory of our dear Charles, husband of Frances Crumplin, who with all the other brave men who perished, gave his life to save the women and children in that awful catastrophe, the sinking of the s.s. Titanic, on April 15th, 1912. Thus again has been lost a good son, a faithful husband, and a loving father.

He is mentioned on a family grave in Southampton Old Cemetery and on his wife’s grave in Kingston Cemetery Portsmouth. Ada seemed destined to be a widow, she married Tom Jones in 1921 but was widowed again five years later. In 1932, she married Archibald Luff and was widowed yet again in 1943. She died in April 1953. 

Charles’ daughter, Francis, married Wilfred Vernon Carter in 1923. They had one son, Peter Crumplin, who died in 2013. Frances died in Chichester in 1973. 

Charles’ son, Charles George Cecil, married Florrie May Beech in 1927. They had one daughter, Patricia. Charles was widowed in 1939 and married Marjorie Gertrude Bickford the following year. He was widowed again in 1973 and died in Bedhampton in 1978. 

The other crew member living at 20 Shakespeare Avenue was James Arthur Paintin, known to his family as Arthur. He was born in December 1882 at Clay Cross Wharf, St Ebbe’s, Oxford. His parents were William Frederick Henry, a carpenter, and Eliza Mary. They had ten children. As a child Arthur sang in the choir at All Saints Church, Oxford. After he left school he worked in the service of Justice North. 

In around 1907, Arthur left Oxford to join the White Star Line as a steward. He was obviously good at his job because he eventually became captain’s steward to Edward John Smith, serving with him on the Adriatic and Olympic then joining him on Titanic.

James Arthur Paintin From Encyclopaedia Titanica

Arthur married quite late in life. His wife, Alice Bunce, the daughter of a retired Oxford College servant, was thirty one and Arthur was twenty eight when they exchanged vows in Holy Trinity Church in November 1911. Within a few short months Arthur had joined Titanic. He gave his address as 20 Shakespeare Avenue, but it is not clear whether Alice was also living there or if Arthur was lodging there alone. As Captain’s steward he would have earned just £3 15s a month and would probably not have received the tips other stewards relied on to boost their earnings. 

When Titanic docked in Queenstown he sent a long, chatty letter to his parents. 

April 11 1912
My Dear Mother and Father
Many thanks for your nice long letter this morning received before leaving. I intended writing before we left, but there did not seem time for anything. I cannot realise that I had ten days at home, and am very sorry I could not get to Oxford, for we have now commenced the quick voyages all the summer (bar accidents).
I say that because the Olympic’s bad luck seems to have followed us, for as we came out of dock this morning we passed quite close to the ‘Oceanic’ and ‘New York’ which were tied up in the ‘Adriatic’s’ old berth, and whether it was suction or what it was I don’t know, but the ‘New York’s’ ropes snapped like a piece of cotton and she drifted against us. There was great excitement for some time, but I don’t think there was any damage done bar one or two people knocked over by the ropes…
…My cold is still pretty bad, but nothing like it was last week…
…Bai jove what a fine ship this is, much better than the Olympic as far as passengers are concerned, but my room is nothing near so nice, no daylight, electric light on all day, but I suppose it’s no use grumbling. I hope to make up a bit for last voyage I saved nothing to think of…
Now I think I must say au revoir once again.
With best love to all from
Your ever loving son

Exactly what became of Arthur during the night of the disaster isn’t clear but his fate was inextricably linked with that of Captain Smith. Usually Arthur would have brought the Captain his meals in his cabin or attended him while he ate at a small table in the dining saloon. On the night of 14 April though, Captain Smith was attending a dinner party held in his honour by George Widener and his family. The party included the cream of society. Whether Arthur attended Captain Smith there or was given the night off is not clear. The Captain certainly left the party early and went to the bridge, concerned about the ice zone the ship was entering. 

When the news of the disaster reached Arthur’s wife, Alice, she was visiting her family in Oxford. She rushed to Southampton, hoping for news. Sadly, she learned Arthur had perished. His body was never identified. Poor Alice returned to Oxford to live with her brother. On 31 July 1912, she gave birth to Arthur’s son. She named him Arthur James Paintin. 

Alice and Arthur Junior From Encyclopaedia Titanica

Our next house was just around the corner on Tennyson Road. We found it with relative ease, another version of the same Victorian terraces we’d been looking at all morning but rendered rather than plain brick and with an interesting molded frieze running through the middle.

54 Tennyson Road

The house was once home to James Fraser. Not much is known about his early life except that he was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1882. He served an apprenticeship with Barry, Henry & Co. of Aberdeen and, with a first class engineer’s certificate, went on to work on Langland & Sons ships for two years. 

In around 1906 he married Florence Jane Stephen from Newcastle. Not long after this he joined White Star as a sixth engineer, working on the Adriatic. James and Florence had two children, Florence, born in 1909 and James born in 1912. At some point, probably when James began working for White Star, they moved to Southampton. When James left Adriatic to join Titanic as Junior Assistant third engineer he gave his address as 54 Tennyson Road. His wages would have been £11 10s a month. 

None of the engineers on the ship survived the sinking. James was almost certainly below decks desperately trying to keep the ship afloat and the lights burning so passengers had the best chance of escape. His body was never identified. 

Poor Florence, left with two young children, remained in Southampton and never remarried. She died in 1933. Their daughter Florence did not marry and died in Southampton in 2002. James junior became a clerk. During World War II he served in the Royal Navy. He trained at HMS Collingwood and was stationed on HMS Belmont. Sadly, the destroyer was torpedoed off the coast of Newfoundland on 31 January 1942.  The entire crew of 138 were lost. It was a bizarre coincidence. He was twenty nine, the same age, his father had been when Titanic sank in almost the same place. 

James Fraser From Encyclopaedia Titanica

From Tennyson Road we turned into Woodside Road where our next crew member, Edward Henry Bagley, lived. Once again we found the house quite easily, another little terrace, quite similar to the last but a little smaller. It felt as if we were on a roll, which was a blessing as, by now, we were so hot and thirsty we just wanted to tick the houses off as quickly as possible.

Sadly, the story was all too familiar and very tragic. Edward was born in West Ham, Essex, in March 1878, the only child of Edward and Lucy Bagley. Edward Senior was a general labourer at a soap works from Birmingham. Lucy was from Monmouthshire, Wales. The couple had married the year before in Woolwich, London. Poor Lucy died aged twenty three, in 1884, when Edward was just six, possibly in childbirth, although there is no mention of another child. Edward and his father went to live with his paternal grandmother, Mary Bagley. By 1898, Edward senior had also died. 

It is likely that Edward went to sea after his father’s death. In 1909 he married Edith Lily Inward and, just over a year later, they had a son, Edward Henry. By the time of the 1911 census the couple were living at 105 Oxford Avenue, Southampton, close to Edward’s cousin, Edward James William Rogers. Both men were working for White Star and this is probably why they moved to Southampton.

By the time Edward left Oceanic to join Titanic as a first class steward he and his family had moved to 11 Woodside Road. His cousin had also signed onto Titanic as a storekeeper. Both men died in the tragedy. Edward’s body was never identified. Poor Edith went to work as a nanny for P&O. She never remarried. Edward’s son, Edward, married Winnie Irene Burgess in Romford in 1939. They had one, son, David.

11 Woodside Road

The cousins are remembered on a family headstone in St Mary Magdalene Church, East Ham.

Also Edward James William
son of the Above
aged 31 years
Also Edward Henry Bagley
Nephew of the above, aged 33 years,
who lost their lives in the Titanic Disaster
April 15th 1912.

Edward Bagley from the Barking Chronicle

Thackeray Road loops off of Woodside Road and then back onto it again a little further along. There were three Titanic crew houses somewhere on it. We had high hopes of finding them all fairly quickly. As it happened, we found the first, 41 Thackeray Road, almost at once. This little terrace with its bay windows and painted render was where Edward Joseph White once lived.

Edward, or Joseph as he was known to most, was born just across the Solent in Ryde, Isle of Wight, in December 1884. His parents were both Isle of Wight natives. His father, Richard, was a coachman who’d married Bessie in 1878. Joseph was one of their ten children, nine of whom survived infancy.  

By the time Joseph was sixteen he was working as a stationer’s errand boy. How long this job lasted isn’t clear but,  by the time of the 1911 census, he was working as a ship’s steward and staying with an aunt at 146 High Street Southampton. His fiancée, Emily Attrill, also from Ryde, was also living there. 

In early 1912 Joseph and Emily married and, shortly afterwards, they set up home at 41 Thackeray Road. Joseph left Olympic to join Titanic as a glory hole steward, otherwise known as a steward to the other stewards. His job was to look after the steward’s quarters or ‘glory hole.’ He would have maintained the crew spaces such as their dining rooms, living areas, lavatories, bathing areas and passageways. His wages were the same as all the other stewards £3 15s a month, but he would be highly unlikely to have earned any tips. 

Sadly, Joseph died in the disaster. His body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett, numbered 272 and buried at Fairview cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 8 May 1912. He was wearing a blue suit and white jacket with the name J White on it. He also had a pipe and six shillings about his person. Poor Emily had hardly had time to get used to being married before she was widowed. It is thought she did remarry but what became of her isn’t known. 

41 Thackeray Road

The next house was on the opposite side of the road and was even easier to find because it had a black plaque above the bay window. It was another small terrace, much like the last but in red brick instead of painted render. Percy Rice, born in Southampton in 1893, once called it home. He was one of eight children born to Hampshire natives Robert and Rose Rice. Sadly two of his siblings died in infancy. Robert was a printer journeyman and the family originally lived at 39 Thackeray Road. By the time of the 1911 census they had moved across the road to number 40 and Percy was working as a butcher. 

40 Thackeray Road

At some time in 1911 or early 1912, Percy went to sea. He left Olympic to join Titanic as a third class steward. It was not a good move. Poor Percy, aged just nineteen, died when Titanic sank and his body was never identified. A death notice was posted in the Hampshire Independent

RICE– April 15th, 1912, at sea, on s.s. Titanic, Percy Rice, aged 19, the beloved son of Robert and Rose Rice, 40, Thackeray Road, Southampton.

His father died in 1917 and his mother followed in 1933. Percy is remembered on the family headstone in Southampton Old Cemetery. It is a grave I pass regularly.

The Rice family grave in Southampton Old Cemetery

The last of the Thackeray Road Houses, number 2, also had a black plaque, this one above the front door. CJ and I both agreed things would be a whole lot easier if all the houses had them but, I suppose, not all home owners agree to display them. William Simon C Simmons lived in this little end of terrace on the corner of the street. 

2 Thackeray Road

William was not a Southampton native, having been born in Litton, East Harptree, Somerset in 1875. His parents Matthew and Martha were also from Somerset. Matthew, was a blacksmith and innkeeper of the White Lion on the High Street in Shepton Mallet. The couple had five more children together and Martha also had a daughter from a previous relationship. 

The family appear to have moved around quite a bit during William’s youth, leaving Somerset for Odstock, Wiltshire, then Colgate, Sussex. By 1891, William was lodging in Blandford, Dorset and working as an upholsterer, although he was just fifteen. By 1900, he was living in Southampton and probably working at sea. That autumn he married Laura Theresa Augusta Ereaut, the daughter of a French born grocer. Laura was born in St Helier, Jersey but she and her widowed father were living in Albert Street, St Mary’s, Southampton at the time of the marriage.  

By 1911 the couple had two children, Leslie Matthew and Cecilia Edna, and were living at 2 Thackeray Road. William was working as a ship’s cook. He left Olympic to join Titanic as a ‘passage cook,’ earning £7 a month. William died in the disaster and his body was never identified. Laura was pregnant with their third child at the time and gave birth to a daughter, Theresa later in the year. She never remarried and died in Southampton in 1970, aged ninety. Leslie married Violet Pegrum in 1930. It isn’t known if the couple had any children. He died in 1984. Cecilia married Thomas Surtees, also in 1930, it is believed she had children but nothing further is known about them. She died in 1999. What became of Theresa is unclear. 

The next house on our list would take us back towards the High Street, although it was quite a convoluted journey. The house was somewhere on Westridge Road, a road I walked up and down regularly when I lived in Portswood.

Robert Charles Bristow once lived at number 49, more or less in the middle of the more than quarter mile long road. Robert was probably born in Belfast in 1873, although some records say he was born in Southampton. He parents were certainly English. His father Charles, a carpenter was from Warminster, Wiltshire and his mother Harriet, was born in Southampton. The couple were living in Crookham, Hampshire a year or so prior to Robert’s birth and were living in Southampton in 1876, so why he would have been born in Belfast is a mystery. Robert had five siblings. 

Robert appears to have spent at least part of his childhood in Princes Street, St Mary’s. By 1891, the family had moved to Marine Terrace in the town centre but Robert was already at sea by this time. The 1991 census shows Robert and his fiancée, Lily Anne Sophia Garrett, visiting a Mr Henry Goding, in Spring Road, St Denys. Robert and Lily were married later that year and went on to have five children. Sadly, only two, William and Arthur, survived infancy. By 1911 the family were living at 49 Westridge Road and Robert was working as a ship’s steward. He left Olympic to join Titanic as a third class steward. 

49 Westridge Road

Robert died when the ship sank. His body was later recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and numbered 290. He was wearing a plain blue serge suit, a steward’s white coat marked Bristow, and a cholera belt (a strip of red flannel or knitted wool about six feet long and six inches wide, twisted around the abdomen, supposedly, a preventive measure against cholera). Amongst his effects was a letter addressed to R C Bristow, 49 Westridge Road, Portswood, and ships keys marked steward’s department. Perhaps, knowing he might drown, he had picked up the letter in the hope it would would help identify his body? He was buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 6 May 1912. Lily lived in Westridge Road until her death in 1939. What became of the two boys isn’t known. 

Robert Charles Bristow

CJ and I plodded up to Portswood Road and headed for the nearest cafe. We’d been walking in the hot sun all morning, covering over six miles, and were both suffering for it. There were ten more crew members on our list and a whole lot of ground still to cover. Neither of us had the stomach for it today though. As we sipped our coffee gratefully, we both decided the second half of the Portswood Houses would have to wait for another day.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

6 thoughts on “Titanic tales from Portswood part 2”

  1. Marie, I’m a native of Portswood, having been born at 84 Tennyson Road in 1946 so this post was of particular interest to me. Despite having left there at around 22 for London, Swindon, Northamton, Glasgow, Bristol & finally Toronto, I know the area and all the streets mentioned extremely well and still have friends in Westridge Road. I could tell you much about some of the properties pictured, in particular the so called ‘Swiss Cottage’. Circa 1967/69 the Walker family lived there. Sadly their son Rob, whom I knew vaguely, had a falling out with a girl and took his own life over it. I can’t be sure it was on the premises but, car, garage & hosepipe was the word at the time. Very sad. The ‘Woodside Road’ sign you posted was almost directly opposite my house and was attached to what we knew as “Rose May’s” shop, our local corner store, the large sign on the wall above reading, “E.R. May, Cash Stores”, the E.R. being either Rose’s parents or grand parents. Most of our family’s small groceries (& my sweets!) came from there. My good pal Bill Barr, the son of Alderman Barr, bought a house in Shakespeare Avenue for GBP3000 (go figure!) and there were many parties there! A very close buddy bought 15 Woodside Road and lived there for some years before he died. I have so many good memories of the area, many of which you’ve brought back for me with this post. Thanks for doing so. Enjoy yer next ‘cawfee’!

    1. Thank you for your stories about Portswood. I had a flat in Belmont Road, just around the corner from Westridge Road, for a couple of years so I know bits of the area but I didn’t explore as much back then.

  2. So many sad and tragic tales of loss but I think you are doing a worthwhile project in tracking down the homes of the men and telling their stories. It would great if you could put all your Titanic posts into a pamphlet or short book – I would certainly buy it. I am particularly drawn to the photo of Robert Bristow – what a gentle expression he has. The photo of the Titanic on the sea bed is dramatic but sobering.

    1. This has been such an interesting project. I might try to publish something once it’s finished as the crew seem to often be forgotten. Some of the photos I’ve found of the crew really speak to me. It does feel like I know these men.

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