Titanic Tales from Woolston

Waiting for news outside the White Star offices Southampton

16 January 2019

CJ was eager to look for more Titanic Crew houses so, last night, I spent a few hours mapping the ones in Woolston and Itchen and planning a route. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t play nicely. It was a dismal, drizzly day, the kind that fogs my glasses and makes me grumpy. If it was down to me I’d probably have postponed the walk until the weather was better but CJ was having none of it. The one consolation was that there would be no real hills. The first house on our list was going to be easy to find too. It was in Poole Road, where Commando was born.

Back in 1912, Poole Road was called Brook Road and it’s really more Itchen than Woolston. On the Titanic crew list it was down as Woolston though, so we counted it as our first Woolston crew house. Number 16 was a little end of terrace cottage, not unlike the house Commando was brought up in, although his was semi detached. Once it was the home of George Frank Bailey.

16 Brook Road, now called Poole Road

George was born in 1866 in Newport, Wales, the son of James, a labourer, and his wife Annie. The couple had nine children. Little is known about George’s early life but, by 1886, he had moved to Gosport and married Eliza Martha Turnbull. At the time they already had one child, George, and went on to have eight more. Seven survived to adulthood, George, Thomas, Eliza, Ellen, Sarah, Frank and Frederick. The family lived in Alverstoke and Gosport for some years and, in 1895, after a spell in the Royal Monmouthshire Militia, George joined the Royal Navy as a stoker. He served aboard many ships including Victory II, Victory III, Porpoise, Australia, Revenge, Apollo and Firequeen II. In 1905, he left the navy, sporting a number of tattoos, light brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. 

When he signed on to Titanic on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as 16 Brook Road. It isn’t clear if his family were also living there. Titanic had one hundred and sixty three firemen, or stokers, earning £6 a month. George was one of them. Each was assigned to one of the ship’s twenty nine boilers and three of its one hundred and fifty nine furnaces. Next to each boiler was a coal chute leading from the overhead bunkers. The fireman’s job was to shovel this coal into his three furnaces. It was hard, dirty, hot work. The firemen worked shifts of four hours on and eight hours off because the boiler rooms were so hot and the work so hard. Most worked in just their undershirts and shorts. Several of the forty five or so firemen who survived the sinking got into lifeboats dressed this way, although it was an extremely cold night. Sadly, George was not one of them. 

When the ship struck the iceberg all off duty engineering and boiler room crew were called to help with the pumping operations or to keep the boilers running to power the ship’s lights. Their actions saved many lives and George was probably among them. There was little chance of escape for these brave men, as the ladders out of the boiler room were steep and, with the ship listing, probably impossible to climb. Most did not drown, but were either crushed by the huge boilers as the ship listed ever further or killed by the escaping steam as the pipes ruptured. 

George’s body was never identified. His wife, Eliza, remarried in 1919. She lived in Gosport until her death in 1933. George’s last surviving child, Sarah Ann, died in Portsmouth in 1987 aged 91.

The next house on our list was also more in Itchen than Woolston but, as it was on our Woolston list, we crossed Bridge Road and went in search of it. It was soon clear that Shamrock Road had just one house on it, it was modern and it wasn’t number 17. This was hardly a surprise as this whole area was once part of Itchen Ferry Village, which was more or less wiped out during the Southampton Blitz.

The house may not have been there any more but 17 Shamrock Road was where John Conner once lived. John was born in Portsmouth in 1871, or 1872, the youngest of three children. His father, William Henry, a general labourer, was from Chichester and his mother, Mary Ann, a dressmaker, was from Portsmouth. They had three children and lived at various addresses in Portsmouth.

John went to sea at an early age and joined the Royal Navy in 1890. He served aboard the Asia, Victory I, Victory II, Excellent, Gibraltar, Duke of Wellington II and, finally, Australia. He left the navy in 1902, after a less than perfect career with several spells in the cells. He was five foot four inches tall, with dark hair, blue eyes and tattoos on his left arm. 

John, who was unmarried, joined Titanic as a fireman. As he’d served on some of the same ships as George Bailey, it’s possible the two knew each other. Like George, he did not survive the sinking and his body was never identified.  

We took a couple of photos of Shamrock Road to show we’d been there, including one of some rather nice, but puzzling graffiti., then we headed for the real Woolston.

Anyone local will tell you Woolston proper doesn’t begin until you’ve passed under the railway bridge on Bridge Road. There is even a small sign right in front of it telling you you will be in Woolston once you’ve passed through the long, tile clad tunnel. Since the building of the Itchen Bridge there are actually two bridges to pass under.

We stopped at the Millenium Garden for a moment or two to photograph the soldier shilouette there. It was now raining steadily and I was beginning to wish we’d stayed at home in the dry where I could actually see where I was going.

The next houses on our list were in Woodley Road, the road running between the shops on the high street and the modern houses facing the river. These days it’s a one way road and most of it is taken up with a car park. To say I wasn’t confident of finding any of the houses still standing would be an understatement. It turned out I was right. The three crew members houses on this short stretch of road either had no house number or had even numbers. The only houses still standing were odd numbers. With the rain and the Shamrock Road disappointment, it was an inauspicious start.

John Barnes did not give a house number when he joined Titanic so one of these remaining houses could have been his. He was born in 1872 in Boscombe, the son of Henry, a Railway platelayer, and Annie. John was the eldest of seven children. In 1890, John married Amelia “Minnie” Beale. The family were now living in Christchurch and both John and his father Henry were working as brick makers. John and Minnie had nine children, only Thomas, Alice, Rose and William survived to adulthood. By 1901, the family had moved to Netley Green in Hound and, from there, to Woodley Road. John was either working at sea or as a labourer. He left Oceanic to join Titanic as a fireman. Sadly, he did not survive and his body was never identified. 

Woodley Road

Amelia and her children were left to survive on money from the Titanic relief fund and there are several entries in the Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund minutes about money given to her. In 1913 an allowance of 3/6d per week was paid for her youngest son, William, to be treated for St Vitus dance, caused by rheumatic fever, and she continued to receive money from the fund for groceries until at least 1924. She eventually remarried and died in the 1930’s. John’s daughter, Alice, married Reginald Baker and died in Portsmouth in 1991. His Daughter Rose married William Miles and died in Southampton in 1983. What became of his surviving sons is unknown. There is, however, a memorial brick in the Woolston Millenium Garden in John’s name. Maybe one day I will find it?

The Woodley Road car park

James Kelly lived at 12 Woodley Road, somewhere above what is now the car park. He was born in County Meath, Ireland in around 1868. He left Ireland when quite young and went to sea. He served on several ships including Teutonic, Lucania, Oceanic, Cedric, and Campania. In around 1897 he married Mary Conlan, an Irish girl from County Monaghan. Whether they met and married in Southampton is not clear but their first son, James, was born there in 1900. Two more sons, Francis and John, were born between 1902 and 1908 in Liverpool. James was working as a fireman for White Star during this time and it seems the family moved between the cities depending on which port the ship he was on departed from. By 1911 the family were living at Woodley Road and James regularly attended mass at St Patrick’s Church in Woolston. 

He left the St Paul to join the crew of Titanic as a greaser, earning £6 10s a month. There were thirty three greasers on Titanic, working in the turbine and engine rooms to oil and lubricate the mechanical equipment. It was, perhaps, a less demanding job than that of a fireman, but would have been equally dirty and dangerous. It was also slightly better paid. Poor James did not survive and his body was never identified. 

James’ widow, Mary, returned to County Monaghan, Ireland with their children, probably to be nearer her family there. She died in the early 1920’s. His son, Francis,  became a member of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence. In 1923, he emigrated to America where he married and had four children. During the Depression he returned to Ireland and, for a while, worked in Cork at an automobile plant. He later returned to America and worked in the printing plant of the Courier Express in Buffalo. He died in 1997. His brother John also settled in Buffalo and worked for a newspaper printer. He married an American woman, Violet Stebbins. John died in 1987. James, the eldest son, went to Ontario but it isn’t known what happened to him. 

Frank Bendell lived at 26 Woodley Road, also where the car park is now. He was born in Christchurh in 1888. His father, William Thomas, was a labourer and his mother, Charlotte, came from Portland in Dorset. They had nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. At some time in the late 1890’s the family moved to Sholing, Southampton and, by 1911, were living at Woodley Road. By then Frank was working at sea as a fireman. He left the Kildonan Castle to join the Titanic. It was a move he would regret.

Like most of the firemen aboard Titanic, Frank went down with the ship and his body was never recovered. He was not the last of his siblings to be lost at sea. His brother Bertie was among the lost when the SS Galway Castle was torpedoed during World War I. Another brother, Frederick Charles, was aboard HMHS Britannia in November 1916 when she struck a mine in the Aegean. He was luckier than his two brothers and survived.

Woodley Road led us to Keswick Road where our next house should have been. The only houses on Keswick Road these days are new builds though so I knew from the outset we would not find William James Pitfield’s house. All we could do was take a photograph of the street sign and head up the hill towards the High Street. At least the rain had eased off a little.

William lived at 13 Keswick Road, although, back then, it was called Albert Road. He was born in Woolston in December 1886 to William Henry, a shipyard labourer, and Louisa. He had five siblings. The family lived at various Woolston addresses and, by the time he was 14, William was working as an errand boy. In 1908 he married Haidee Ethel Diaper, a member of a well known Itchen family, and moved to 13 Johns Road, at the end of the terrace where I once lived. William was, by now, working as a greaser, probably on Oceanic. Two years after their marriage they had a son, William Frederick.

The end terrace is 13 Johns Road, where William and Haidee began their married life

When William left Oceanic to join Titanic as a greaser he and his family were living at 13 Albert Road. When the ship sank just four of the thirty three greasers survived. William was not one of them and his body was never identified. Poor Haidee was pregnant at the time and, tragically, her daughter, Haidee Doris, died before her first birthday. In 1919 she married Edward Wells and had two more children. She died in Southampton in 1950. William’s son, William Frederick, lived in Southampton all his life. He married Dorothy Victoria Thorp. The couple had children but it isn’t known what became of them. William Frederick died in 1973.

Our hunt for Woolston crew houses was, so far, proving almost as dismal as the weather. Given how badly the area was bombed during World War II in an effort to destroy the Spitfire factory, this was hardly surprising. Our spirts were raised a little when we turned onto Victoria Road and discovered the next house on our list was still standing. This section of Victoria Road acts as Woolston’s high street and the house in question, 34 Victoria Road, was actually a shop.

Whether it was a shop when Ewart Sydenham Burr lived there is unclear. Ewart was born in Gloucester in the summer of 1883, the second of six children for Francis Henry, an oil and coal man, and Catherine Anne Maria. Around the turn of the century the family moved from Gloucester to Scotland and Francis Henry became a branch manger in the photography industry. Ewart got a job as a hosier’s assistant. By around 1903 the whole family had relocated again and were living in Southampton. Ewart married Ethel Alice Amelia Burr in 1910 and set up home in Milbrook Road with Ethel’s uncle and his family. In December that year, their son, Cecil Ewart, was born and Ewart got a job as an assurance agent.  Before long though he was working aboard Oceanic, presumably as a steward.

When he signed on to Titanic as a first class steward, Ewart gave his address as 48 Above Bar. This was his parents address but it is believed he was actually living at 34 Victoria Road with his wife and child. His wages were £3 10s a month and he seemed to enjoy his work. He posted a letter to Ethel in Queenstown, filled with tales of working in the first class Saloon and of serving at the Countess of Rothes’ table. When the ship sank, the countess was rescued in lifeboat 8. Ewart was not so lucky, he went down with the ship and his body was never identified. 

Poor Ethel learned of his death on 19 April. The telegram she received said simply Much Regret Burr not Saved. She never remarried and died in 1983. Cecil, Ewart and Ethel’s son, married Gwendoline Sandy and raised a family in Hampshire. He died in 1996.

From Victoria Road we looped round to Inkerman Road. The next house on our list, number 70, was nearer the top of the road than I’d expected. It once belonged to Horace Leopold Ross. In the 1860’s, Horace’s father, Charles Henry, left London and moved to the south coast to pursue a career working aboard private yachts. In Portsmouth he met local girl, Mary Ann Hinks. They married in 1861 and, four years later, moved to Southampton . Horace, born in 1874, was the sixth of their seven children. 

When Mary Ann died, in 1877, Charles and the children set up home in Milton Road, Millbrook with Mary Ann Russell. Mary was married but her husband had left her and she had several children. She and Charles had four more children together. In 1895, Mary Ann’s estranged husband died and she and Charles could finally marry. By this time Horace was married himself, to Florence Cross, living in Naseby Road, Shirley and working as a baker and then a slater. 

Horace Leopold Ross From Encyclopedia Titanica

Horace and Florence had four children but only two survived infancy, Florence and Clifford. By 1911 they were living at 57 Johns Road. A year later, when Horace signed on to Titanic, they had moved to 70 Inkerman Road. It was the first time he’d been to sea but he may have been influenced by his seafaring father, or by the wages of £3 10s a month he earned as a scullion. His job would have been mainly dish washing and other menial kitchen tasks. 

70 Inkerman Road

When the ship was sinking, lifeboats 13 and 15 were lowered from the starboard side and reached A deck at almost the same time. Once all the women nearby had boarded, the boat was still quite empty so the men nearby were told to get in, amongst them was Horace. Getting into the boat did not mean he was safe though. First it was caught up in water being pumped out of the sinking ship, then lifeboat 15 was almost lowered directly on top of it. At the last moment someone found a knife and cut the ropes, allowing it to float away to safety. It was the seventh or eighth boat to reach Carpathia. 

So Horace returned to his family in Woolston and, undaunted by his experience, continued to work at sea until the 1920’s. His wife died in 1936 and Horace followed her on 4 November 1940. By coincidence the notice of his death appeared in the Hampshire Advertiser directly above that of Arthur Henry Rostron, the captain of the ship that had saved him all those years before.  He is buried in Southampton Old Cemetery, but I have yet to stumble across his grave. His daughter, Florence, married Mario Occleppo and died in London in 1998. Clifford, his son, never married and remained in Southampton until his death in 1990.

From Inkerman Road we turned right into West Road and headed for Obelisk Road where two more crew members once lived. It wasn’t long before we found 73 Obelisk Road, once the home of Frank Allsop. If there was any doubt we had the right address it was quickly dispelled when we spotted one of the black plaques that are slowly being put up on crew members houses. It was the first such plaque we had seen on our travels. The wheels of the council grind exceeding slow on these matters and I presume not all house owners agree to have a plaque put up when their turn comes.  

73 Obelisk Road

Frank was born in Torquay, Devon on 28 November 1868 to James and Eliza. James worked as a butler and, during his career, boasted several important employers, including Lord Digty of Misterne Magna, Dorchester, F.G.W. Augustus and Lord Politmore of Politmore Park. Eliza was a housekeeper for a retired army captain and later a cook for James P. Currie, a distiller and director of the Bank of England. Their work meant the couple did not live together and had just one other child, Ellen, born in 1886. The children seem to have moved a great deal, living with one parent or another, or with a paternal aunt and uncle, which must have been quite disruptive. Late in his working life James ran a lodging house in London. As the turn of the century approached he retired and returned to his birthplace in Tissington Derbyshire without his wife and children, telling everyone he was widowed. Eliza actually lived with her daughter in Poole until her death in 1911.

Perhaps influenced by his father, Frank left school and began to work for various wealthy families.  He worked in Mayfair, London as a footman for Katherine de Barreto, a rich widow, and later as her butler. By 1901 he was a servant to Lord and Lady Adeline Butler at Willesey House in Kent. He married Elizabeth Purdie in 1904. Their daughter, Ellen, was born the next year but whether they ever lived together is unclear. 

For a while he owned a business of some kind in Hertfordshire but what kind of business is a mystery. By 1911, Frank and his daughter were lodging at 83 Alma Road, Southampton. Frank was working as a wholesale grocer but his wife, Elizabeth, seems to have disappeared. Given the lack of stability during his early life it’s not surprising that Frank appeared to flit from place to place and career to career. Going to sea might have satisfied his capricious nature. His first ship was Oceanic and then he joined Titanic as a steward, earning £3 10s a month. By now he was living at 73 Obelisk Road.

His wanderings came to an end when Titanic sank. He was lost with the ship and his remains were never identified. He is remembered on his father’s grave in Tissington. Also of Frank Richard, Son of the above, James Allsop who was drownded (sic) on the Titanic, April 15th 1912 aged 43 years. Nearer my God to Thee. 

We carried on down Obelisk Road towards the river and, near the junction with Church Road, we found our next black plaque on 49 Obelisk Road. The large, double fronted house of ochre bricks was once the home of Herbert Gifford Harvey.  Herbert was born in Belfast in 1878, the sixth of James Thompson and Elizabeth Garson Harvey’s children. James was a partner of Belfast ship owners, Lawther and Harvey and Herbert seems to have had a fairly privileged upbringing, studying at at the Belfast Royal and Portora Royal School. He then served an apprenticeship in the locomotive works of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. In 1899, during the Boer War, he was one of the first volunteers to join the 46th Company Imperial Yeomanry.  He was involved in several engagements and was awarded the Queen’s Medal with three clasps and the King’s medal with one clasp.

49 Obelisk Road

When he returned to Belfast he worked with the shore staff of Harland & Wolff, then Lowther, Latta & Co, owners of a steamship company, before joining the White Star Line in 1907. On Teutonic he was appointed Assistant Third Engineer and later promoted to Assistant Second Engineer. He then transferred to Olympic and finally to Titanic as Assistant Second Engineer. He was on board for her trip from Belfast to Southampton. He gave his Southampton address as 49 Obelisk Road but it is possible he was just lodging there as his mother, now widowed, was living in an affluent area of Belfast with several of his siblings. Herbert was, however, engaged to be married. Although the identity of his bride to be is not known he may have bought the house for them to live in permanently as Southampton was Titanic’s home port and his wages of £12 10s a month were very good. 

At the time of the collision Herbert was on duty in the engine room. John Henry Hesketh, the Second Engineer and therefore his immediate superior, was in Boiler Room 6 with Leading Fireman Frederick Barrett inspecting the coal bunker to see if the fire that had been raging since the ship left Belfast was finally out. The iceberg ripped into this part of the ship but both men escaped through a connecting tunnel to Boiler Room 5 and closed the bulkhead doors. All twenty five engineers stayed below decks. Some were operating the pumps trying desperately to keep the ship afloat, others were keeping the steam up to stop the boilers exploding or keeping the generators running so passengers had light to find their way to lifeboats. These brave men almost certainly understood the sacrifice they were making. Not one engineer survived. Herbert’s body was never recovered. 

Herbert Gifford Harvey

The rain was getting heavier again and the closer we got to the water the more the cold wind blew it in our faces. It was a good two hours since we left home and, for more than an hour, we’d been wandering the streets of Woolston searching for houses. Our success rate had been variable to say the least and there were eight more still to find in Woolston alone. By now we were close to Centenary Quay and coffee so we decided to stop, have a warming drink and decide whether to call it a day or carry on…

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Titanic tales from Bitterne Park

8 January 2019

Ned Parfett, the “Titanic paperboy,”outside the White Star Line offices in London, April 16, 1912. From Wikimedia Commons

It was one of those bright, crisp days, perfect weather for the first real walk of the year, one that wasn’t about shopping, or parkrun, or errands. CJ was eager to hunt down more of the Titanic crew houses. Looking for the ones in Bitterne last September had been an interesting exercise, as had researching the crew members who lived in them. Searching for more seemed like a good excuse for a walk.

It might not have been the longest walk we’d ever taken but, what it lacked in distance, it made up for in hills. We began with a march up Lances Hill, stopping briefly near the top to take a photograph of the shadow soldier by the benches. We’ve both passed him many times since November when these rememberance silhouettes appeared but, until now, neither of us had taken a picture of this one.

Lances Hill is a bit of a climb. It certainly warmed us up. It wouldn’t be our last, or our steepest climb of the day though. At the top we wound our way slowly back down to the dip at the bottom of Mousehole Lane and then began to climb once more, gaining around 36 metres of elevation in less than a third of a mile. We ended up at the Castle, once a pub, now a Tesco Express, one of the highest points on the east side of the city. We were both puffing a bit.

All this climbing was worth it, not just for the spectacular views but also because it took us to the site of our first Titanic crew house on Castle Road. Sadly, Athol Frederick Broome’s House, White Lodge**, was either eaten up by the building of Bitterne Park School, or has been renamed but we found a house called Mar Lodge which is probably very similar to the one he lived in. We stopped, caught our breath and took a photograph.

Athol Frederick Broome was born in Wood Green, Harringey, Middlesex in 1881 to Harry, a commercial traveller, and Rosa Ellen. Both Harry and Rosa were originally from Hampshire. Harry died in 1896 and, within a short time, Athol went to sea to work as a steward.

Mar Lodge

When Athol moved to Southampton isn’t clear, but he was certainly living here in 1910 when he married Alice Schipper. They set up home with Alice’s mother in White Lodge. On 4 April 1912, he left the Oceanic and signed on to the crew of the Titanic as a first class verandah steward. His monthly wages were £3 15s.

Athol’s job involved serving passengers in the Verandah Café. It had the feel of a sidewalk cafe, with large windows and sliding doors looking out onto the ocean. It was elegantly furnished with wicker tables and chairs, a checkerboard floor in brown and beige tiles and potted Kentia palms.

Unfortunately, Athol did not survive the sinking of the ship and his body was never identified. Alice remarried in 1914 and moved to Kidderminster where she had three children. She died in 1974. During the salvage operation on the wreck of the Titanic in the late 1980’s a stewards jacket with the name Broome sewn into it was recovered. In all probability it belonged to poor Athol.

From the Castle the only way is down but it was a fairly short descent from Castle Road to Hillside Avenue. On the corner of Dimond Road we came upon one of the ghost signs that always make me smile. The house must once have been a grocers shop. Perhaps some of the six Titanic crew members who lived around the corner in Hillside Avenue shopped there?

This long curving road would take us down towards the river. As every one of the crew addresses was a house name rather than a number we strolled slowly downwards peering at the fronts of the houses searching for the names on our list.

Our first success was Haiwatha, the home of Gordon Raleigh Davies. Gordon was born in Liverpool in 1879, one of Robert Henry and Sarah Jane Davies’ nine children. Robert Henry was a ship’s steward, as was Gordon’s elder brother Robert. Gordon followed the family tradition and also became a steward.

In 1904 Gordon married Elizabeth Alice Derbyshire of Bootle and, over the next seven years, they had three children, Gordon, Charles and Bessie. By 1911, when Bessie was born, they were living in Southampton. Like Athol Frederick Broome, Gordon left Oceanic to join the crew of Titanic. He became a bedroom steward in first class and would have earned £3 15s a month. For this he would have been responsible for five first class rooms. His jobs included cleaning rooms, making beds, serving passengers food in their rooms and helping them get dressed. When the ship sank he was lost and his body was never identified. His widow, Elizabeth, along with his children, returned to Liverpool and Elizabeth died in 1940.

Hiawatha

The next house we found was Linden, the home of Arthur Henry Derrett. Arthur was born in Wooten-under-Edge, Gloucestershire in 1883 the second of Thomas Henry and Louisa Derrett’s four children. Thomas was a labourer who later became a newsagent. When Arthur left school he became a servant at Boxwell Court in Leighterton, Gloucestershire. Before long though, he’d moved to London where he joined P&O and went to sea. From P&O he moved to White Star and signed on to the crew of Olympic. His first brush with death came when Olympic collided with HMS Hawke in the Solent in 1911. The ship was holed and her watertight compartments flooded but she limped back to Southampton with no loss of life.

This incident didn’t put Arthur off returning to sea and he signed on to Titanic in Belfast for her delivery voyage to Southampton. Once in Southampton he found a home in Hillside Avenue and signed on to Titanic again as a first class Saloon Steward, with wages of £3 15s a month. Sadly, he died in the sinking and his body was never identified.

Linden

A little further along the road we found Nestleton, the home of Walter James Brown. Walter was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire in 1871. His father, William Whittle Brown was a chemist and he and his wife Jane had four sons. Walter was the youngest. William died just a year after Walter was born and his mother started a grocery store. When Jane died, in 1896, Walter and his brother William took over the business. He also painted ceramics and porcelain for Royal Doulton and was an accomplished musician.

When he became a ship’s steward in around 1902, his intention seems to have been to work his passage to America and set up home there. Ten years later though, he was still working at sea and, on 1 April 1912, he left Olympic and joined Titanic in Belfast to sail with her to Southampton. He found a house in Hillside Avenue and signed on to Titanic again for her maiden voyage. Like Athol, his job was bedroom steward.

Walter was lost when Titanic sank. Like so many others, his body was never identified. He never married but his family still have a Royal Doulton vase he painted as a christening present and a notice of his death was posted in the Hampshire Independent. BROWN–April 15th, on s.s. Titanic, Walter Brown, aged 36. Gone, but not forgotten.

Nestleton

Our next find was Allandale, the home of Frederick Toms. Fred was born in Southampton in 1882, the fourth child of John and Mathilda Ann. His elder sister, Fanny, died the same year he was born, aged just two, and he was followed by two more sisters and a brother. In April 1912 Fred was working on the Olympic but signed on to the Titanic as a first class steward in Belfast and signed on again in Southampton for the maiden voyage.

Fred was one of the lucky ones, he was rescued in lifeboat 15, along with his friend, Saloon Steward, Benjamin Thomas. This was the eighth lifeboat lowered from Titanic’s starboard side, partly filled from the boat deck and partly from A deck. Although reports say everything was calm an orderly as the boat was filled there is some confusion about how many people were aboard. From eyewitness accounts there may have been as few as sixty eight or as many as eighty two, what is certain though, is that the majority were men, quite a few were crew and many were from third class.

When the boat was launched it almost landed on top of lifeboat 13 but the disaster was narrowly avoided and they rowed away as fast as they could. Lifeboat 15 was the tenth or eleventh to reach the Carpathia.

Back in Southampton, Fred soon went back to work. On 12 July, he signed on to Oceanic. Sadly, his health had been damaged by his experience on Titanic and he soon returned to Southampton where he married Nora Louisa Phillips. Soon after they married the couple emigrated to Los Angeles where Fred found work as a railway clerk for the Southern Pacific Railway. Fred never forgot his hometown and regularly wrote to his family in Southampton.

In 1937 Fred died of heart disease. He was cremated and his remains buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery Los Angeles. Norah continued to live in America but she later had Fred’s ashes returned to Southampton where they were buried in Hollybrook Cemetery.

Allandale

On we walked, peering at the fronts of the houses we passed looking for names and probably looking fairly suspicious. Our job wasn’t easy. Not all of the houses have names above the doors and some names have been covered over or are weathered beyond reading. Some of the older houses have been replaced by more modern ones, possibly as a result of wartime bombing.

One of the Hillside Avenue crew members houses eluded us. Seftonmount, belonged to Thomas Benjamin Kirkaldy. He was born in St James, London in 1876, the son of Robert Alexander and Sarah Kirkaldy. He had a younger sister Catherine Emily and the family were quite well off with at least two servants.

Thomas started his working life as a bar tender at the Savage Club in London but soon moved to Liverpool and signed on as crew of Majestic. Oddly he gave his name as Thomas Clark. In 1899 he married local girl Martha Ann Price. In 1904, when their son Frank Alexander was born, they were living in Southampton at Seftonmount on Hillside Avenue and Thomas was working aboard Olympic. He signed on to Titanic as a first class bedroom steward on 4 April 1912. Curiously, he again gave his name as Thomas Clark.

Thomas was lost with the ship and poor Martha never remarried. She died in Trowbridge, Wiltshire in 1961. Their son, Frank, married Elizabeth Sarah Adams in 1933. He died in 1986 also in Trowbridge.

We very nearly missed the last house on our Hillside Avenue list. Hillside was close to the end of the road and the name etched on a stone square above the door was so worn we could barely make it out. It was once the home of William Henry James Slight.

Hillside

William was born in Southampton in August 1875, one of at least seven children born to William Henry and Mary Slight. After William senior, a house decorator, died in 1880, the family continued to live at 3 Browns cottages in South Stoneham until Mary died. WIlliam and two of his siblings, Harry and Mary then moved to Bevois Valley Road to live with their married sister, Clara Poynter. William and his brother worked as errand boys, no doubt to earn their keep.

In 1897, William married local girl Catherine Lawes. The couple lived at Gordon Avenue in Portswood and had one son, Henry William in 1898. By this time it is likely that William was already working at sea. Sadly Catherine died in early 1912 and, at the beginning of April, William left Olympic and joined Titanic in Belfast. When he signed on again on 4 April, he gave his address as Hillside, Hillside Avenue. His brother Harry also signed on as a third class steward.

William was a larder cook on Titanic, earning a fairly princely sum of £7 a month. Neither brother survived the sinking and neither of their bodies were ever identified. Whether they managed to find each other in all the turmoil is a mystery but I’d like to think they did. William’s son, Henry, married Emily Elizabeth Painter in 1924. They had one daughter. Henry died in Southampton in 1977, what became of his daughter, William’s granddaughter, is unknown.

Hillside

Hillside Avenue led us to Bond Road where another member of the victualling crew once lived. William Harold Welch was born in Southampton in December 1890. His father, Charles William, owned a grocers shop in St Mary’s and was originally from Weymouth. His mother, Mary Jane, was a Southampton lass. William had one younger brother, Charles Leslie.

By 1911 William was working aboard the Edinburgh Castle and the family had moved from St Mary’s and were living in St Catherine’s Road Bitterne Park. Perhaps the grocers store on the corner of Dimond Road belonged to them? William was living around the corner from his parents in North Haven, Bond Road when he signed onto Titanic as an assistant cook. He would have earned £4 10s a month, quite a sum for an unmarried man in his early twenties.

CJ and I walked up and down Bond Road looking desperately for house names. We found a few but, like in Hillside Avenue, many of the houses no longer had readable names or had no names at all. Despite going twice up and down the road we never managed to find North Haven and I had to content myself with photographs of other houses that may or may not have been similar to William’s. Sadly, William did not survive the sinking of Titanic and his body was never identified. His parents lived in Southampton until their deaths.

From Bond Road CJ and I turned right onto St Catherine’s Road and then right again onto Newton Road. Now we were going uphill again. Luckily, before we’d climbed too far, we found Egremont, the home of second class steward Alan Vincent Franklin.

Alan Vincent Franklin fro Encyclopedia Titanica

Alan was born in Long Compton, Warwickshire, in 1883. His mother, Mary Ann, was just twenty three, unmarried and already the mother two year old Rupert, which, in those days, must have caused quite a scandal. Mary Ann evetunally married William Joseph Fessey in 1893 and went on to have two more children, Elizabeth and Elsie. Within four years she was widowed and it seems Rupert and Alan were brought up by their grandparents, Sam and Hannah Franklin. Sam was an agricultural labourer in Long Compton and he and Hannah had already raised nine children of their own.

By the turn of the century Alan was working as a coachman and still living with his grandparents. At some point in the next ten years he went to sea and, by March 1911, was living in London and had married Ada Blanch Couzens. Their first child, also called Alan Vincent, was born just three months after their wedding.

In 1912 Alan was working on Olympic but, on 4 April, he signed onto Titanic as a saloon steward earning £3 15s a month. He gave is address as Egremont, Newton Road, Bitterne Park but it is likely he was just lodging there as the house the belonged to Joseph Boles.

Egremont

Ada was pregnant again when Alan set sail on Titanic. Whether she was also lodging in Newton Road isn’t clear but Alan never saw his daughter, also named Ada. He went down with the ship and his body was recovered by the MacKay Bennett.

Alan’s body was numbered 262. He was described as aged around 30, with light hair and was wearing a steward’s coat, vest, pants and a green overcoat. He was identified because his shirt bore the name A Franklin. He also had a corkscrew, no doubt part of his steward’s kit, a metal belt, keys, a nickel watch and chain, knife, rubber and purse.

Sadly White Star did little to help repatriate the bodies of lost crew members and poor Ada was in no position to pay to have her husband returned to her. Alain was buried in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax Nova Scotia. His grave remained unmarked for many years.

What became the of Ada Blanche is unclear, although it’s thought she remarried within the year. Alan junior married Ada Rice in Norfolk and had at least one child. He died in Cambridge in 1991. Ada, the daughter who was born after Alan senior died, married Frederick Collier in Norwich in 1934, she also had at least one child but, like her mother, seems to have simply disappeared.

The next house was surprisingly easy to find. Harry James Smither lived at 1 Ash Tree Road, at its junction with St Catherine’s Road and directly opposite the flat Commando used to own when he was young and single. Better still, it didn’t involve any hills.


Harry was born in November 1888 in Kilburn, Middlesex. His father, also called Harry, was a policeman from Hampshire and his mother, Louisa, was from Paddington, London. They married in 1882 in Hampshire. Harry was the fourth of their seven children.

Harry James Smither from Encyclopedia Titanica

Harry was brought up in London and educated at Netherwood Street School. By the time he left school the family had relocated to 1 Ash Tree Road, Southampton. Harry became a stoker at a stationary engine, quite was this involved or where he worked isn’t clear.

In late 1911 Harry married Daisy Farmer from Eastleigh and, shortly afterwards, they had a daughter, Louisa Mary. At the time he was working as a fireman on Olympic but, on 6 April 1912, he signed on to Titanic. As a fireman he could expect to earn £6 a month but he and his small family were still living with his parents in Ash Tree Road. Luckily, it’s quite a big house.

1 Ash Tree Road

Harry didn’t survive the sinking of Titanic and his body was never identified. Poor Daisy remarried two years later and she and her new husband, Edmond George Whitlock, went on to have three more children. She died, aged just 23, in 1917 and no one knows what became of Harry’s daughter, Louisa. A little while ago though, I stumbled upon the grave of Harry’s parents in the Old Cemetery. It was cracked and broken but their memorial to Harry was still visible.

The next house on our list was close by on Oak Tree Road, the road that runs parallel with Ash Tree Road. Like so many on the list it had a name rather than a number so we went back to walking along peering at houses looking for names. Surprisingly no one called the police to report us as would be burglars.

About half way up the road, up being the operative word, we found two semi detached houses called Myrtle Bank. Albert Edward Coleman lived at number 2, which appeared to be having some building work done because there was a giant skip outside. This made it difficult to take a decent photo but I did my best.

Myrtle Bank

Albert was born in Hampstead, London in December 1883. His father, Joseph, a coachman and groom, was from Rutland and his mother, Fanny, was from Boston Lancashire. They had five children and might have had more but Albert’s mother died in around 1896 and his father remarried soon after. Albert and his younger brother George moved to Rutland to live with his paternal aunt and uncle, where George became a pageboy (basically an apprentice footman). The life of a pageboy obviously didn’t suit him because, by 1897, aged just 13, he joined the Royal Navy, having lied about his age. He served aboard Impregnable, Lion, Agincourt, Magnificent, Pembroke I, Wildfire, Encounter and, finally, Dido. He was discharged from the navy in 1908.

Albert married Harriet Seagrove Heather in London two years later and within the year they were living in Myrtle Bank in Southampton where their son, Albert junior, was born. At the time Albert senior was working as a ship’s steward aboard Oceanic and, on 4 April 1912, he signed on to Titanic as Saloon Steward.

Myrtle Bank

When Albert set sail Harriet was expecting their second child. Albert would never see his son George. He was lost with the ship and his remains were never identified. Poor Harriet never remarried and continued to live in Myrtle Bank until she died in 1929. She left more than £239 to her two unmarried sisters. What became of Albert’s two sons isn’t known but Albert himself has a memorial on a family grave in Hollybrook Cemetery.

Our penultimate house had both a name and a number so we strolled back down towards the river feeling fairly confident of finding it. The house was on Manor Farm Road, the long, long road, curving from Bitterne Park Triangle along the edge of Riverside Park to Woodmill Lane. We were both hoping number 47 was closer to the Triangle, and therefore us, than to Woodmill. As luck would have it, it was, but having a number made discovering this much easier.

Bulkeley House 47 Manor Farm Road

Bulkeley House, 47 Manor Farm Road, was home to George Bulkeley Ede, born in Southampton in 1889. Both his parents, Arthur George and Ruth, were from Southampton and George was the first of their seven children. Arthur was a man of means, the son of the councillor for the St Denys Ward who came from a privileged West Indies plantation background. Around the turn of the century the family moved from Cambridge Road, St Mary’s, to Baulkeley House in Bitterne Park.

George Bulkeley Ede From Encyclopedia Titanica

Like many other Titanic crew members, George left Olympic to Join the Titanic crew as a third class steward. He did not survive the sinking and his body was never identified but his parents lived in Manor Farm Road until they died and their beloved son is commemorated on their headstone in the Old Cemetery. Oddly, I discovered it on the same day I found Harry Smithers grave.


We now had just one house to find but we’d been walking for around an hour and a half and the hills had taken their toll. When we got back to the Triangle we both agreed we needed a coffee before we continued. Luckily the Songbird Cafe was open.

Fifteen minutes or so later, fortified by coffee, we were heading upwards again. This time our aim was Cobden Gardens, a short cul de sac rising up from the Triangle end of St Catherine’s Road. We quickly found number 14, once the home of Joseph Thomas Wheat.

14 Cobden Gardens

Joseph was born in Rock Ferry, Cheshire, the first of William and Mary Jane Wheat’s three children. William was a seaman and this may well have influenced Joseph’s choice of career. When and why Joseph came to Southampton is unclear but, in 1911, he married Ellen Gertrude Whitley on the Isle of Wight. Shortly afterwards the couple moved to a boarding house in Queens Park Terrace, Southampton.

Joseph Thomas Wheat from Encyclopedia Titanica

By 1912 Joseph and Ellen had moved to Cobden Gardens and Joseph was at sea on Olympic. He signed on to Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast and then again for her maiden voyage. He was Assistant Second Steward, earning £8 a month.

Our last Titanic tale of the day has a happy ending. Joseph was rescued in lifeboat 11. This was the sixth starboard lifeboat lowered. When it was lowered onto A deck several stewards were ordered to board it to help the passengers over the railing and into the boat. Most of these passengers were ladies who would have been severely hampered by their long skirts. This almost certainly saved Joseph’s life. There were between 58 and 80 people in lifeboat 11 when it was lowered into the sea. There were claims that the boat was lowered at a dangerous angle and several reports of a baby, without its mother, being thrown in at the last moment.  Once they were in the water it was discovered there was no lamp in the boat but a sailor lit a piece of rope to use instead. It was the sixth or eighth boat to reach Carpathia.

Despite his experience Jospeh continued working at sea until the 1920’s. He and Ellen had one son, John Joseph William, born in November 1912. They later resettled in Bromley, Kent where Joseph died in 1961 aged 79. Ellen died eighteen years later in Worthing, Sussex, aged 95. Their son, John, married Doris Townley in Southampton in 1938. He died in 1976 but it’s unclear whether he had any children.

As for us, we had one final hill to climb to get back home. Thankfully it wasn’t too steep. Maybe our next Titanic mission should be somewhere a little flatter.

** Addemdum thank you to Mark Painter for telling me a little more about White Lodge and pointing me in the right direction to find photographs. The house was, he believes, burned down in the 1970’s and flats built on the site. The photograph is below.

White Lodge
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Dismal day

5 January 2019

The second parkrun of 2019 began with a first. Young Cameron Sommerville-Hewitt, aged just 16, was trying his hand at Run Directing for the first time. This fine young man has somehow notched up more than one hundred runs and has a PB most people would envy (Commando certainly does). He’s been learning the ropes for a few weeks now and today, under the watchful eye of Event Director Rob, he donned the RD jacket and did a great job of organising things. When he turns eighteen he will be able to officially Run Direct on his own and will probably set the record for the youngest RD ever.

Despite all the brightly dressed runners, the morning was a dark, dismal affair but it quite suited my mood. The last few weeks seem to have been filled with losses. The first was my lovely neighbour of almost thirty years, then came a mother from my days waiting in the playground for my boys. They say these things come in threes and this was proved when we learned of the death of our martial arts instructor and friend, George. The first two deaths were not unexpected, both lovely ladies had been ill for some time. George’s death, however, was quite sudden and, although he was 83, it was a shock. His funeral was yesterday and today we planned to take some flowers to put on his grave. First though there was a parkrun to get through and some other graves to visit.

A walk in the Old Cemetery under a leaden, drizzle laden sky in the biting cold felt like a fittingly melancholy way to start a mournful day. While the runners were racing round with joyful abandon, I slowly wandered among the graves. Some, like that of William and Zillah Gear, felt like old friends. How many times have I passed by, smiled at the unusual name and wondered about the woman who once bore it?

The narrow path I chose turned out to be muddier than I’d expected but it led me to another familiar grave, that of Rebecca Arabella Dimmock and her husband, Charles. This grave first caught my eye because the name reminded me of TV gardener Charlie Dimmock and Rebecca Arabella seemed like a name that ought to be in a novel. Perhaps one day I will write it?

With no real aim I wandered this way and that, surprised to find Christmas baubles still clinging to some of the trees. Then I came across the grave of George Staur Madge, a wonderful name and an intriguing story. George was born in Southampton in 1834 but, at some point, emigrated to South Africa. Why is a mystery but he lived in Port Elizabeth, probably amongst the four thousand British settlers who’d set up home there in 1820 to strengthen the border region between the Cape Colony and the Xhosa people. How long he stayed there is unclear but, in 1881, when he died, he was living back in Southampton.

Close by I stumbled upon the grave of Ethel Bertha and Hector Young. Hector was mayor of Southampton between 1929 and 1930. He accompanied Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) when he laid the foundation stone for the Civic Centre and was involved in the planning of the Sports Centre in the early 1930’s. Poor Ethel Bertha was killed in the Southampton Blitz on 24 September 1940 and Hector never forgot her. In 1962 he donated a window to St Michael and All Angels Church in Bassett in her memory. The window, showing the Archangel Michael defeating Satan, was designed by Francis Skeat. He also formed a charitable trust, The Berta And Hector Young Trust for the relief of hardship for members of the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

My meanderings were taking me towards the oldest part of the cemetery and, as I approached the chapels, I came upon a bench overshadowed by a tree whose branches were positively weighed down by festive baubles and trinkets.

This is not a part of the cemetery I visit often so there were a few interesting graves I hadn’t spotted before. One belonged to Hubert Napoleon Dupont. Born, Alphonse August Dupont, in France in 1805, he studied in the College de Valogues and the theological school in Coutances and was ordained as a catholic priest in 1854 but later abandoned Catholicism and became an Anglican minister. Whether this decision and his marriage to Suzanne Charley in 1857 were connected is unclear. Between 1856 and his death in 1876 he was minister of St Julien’s, the French church on Winkle Street. The inscription on his grave shows he was held in high regard.

The next belonged to Andrew Lamb, although the decorative script made this difficult to fathom. Born in 1803, he was Chief Engineer of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, later better known as P&O. Lamb was an innovator. He introduced, among other things, a boiler system to stop the build up of salts, patent life boats, a boiler with flat sided flues, a steam superheating device and an improved method of feed water heating for boilers. All these things would probably be of great interest to Commando Senior, who would understand them far better than I.

Lamb didn’t confine himself to engineering feats. In 1861 he became the first chair of the amalgamated Isle of Wight Steam Packet Co and Red Funnel Steamers. Ten years later he became the chair of the publishing company producing the Southampton Times and he was a JP and alderman. He built St Andrew’s Villa off Brunswick Place, and raised funds to build St Andrew’s Church on the lane near his house. Lamb was, undoubtedly, a very clever and philanthropic man and his death in 1881 must have been a loss to the engineering world and the town. Beside his grave is the grave of his son, Andrew Simon Lamb.

The grave beside these two was intriguing. It is a simple wooden cross surrounded by a kind of low wooden fence. The cross is engraved with the name Hugo P Hickman. The really curious thing is a painting of a house leant up against the cross. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a painting on a grave and I couldn’t help wondering if this was Hugo’s house or if Hugo was an artist. Sadly Googling didn’t satisfy my curiosity. All I discovered was that the grave belonged to Hugo Pendennis Hickman, born 23 June 1925, who died on 30 July 2003. Still wondering I headed back towards the cemetery gates and parkrun.

As if the day hadn’t been filled enough with graves, after a coffee and a bite of lunch, we headed out again to visit George’s grave in Shedfield. The drive there was a sad reminder of so many other, happier, drives to George’s gym on Black Horse Lane. This one ended with a pretty Church and a lych gate, beyond which was a graveyard.

The grave was already heaped with flowers but CJ bent to add ours to them all the same. George was a very popular man. So popular it had been standing room only in the church the day before. He was a real character. In his youth he joined the Royal Marine Commandos and became an instructor in unarmed combat. In later life he turned to teaching martial arts and this was where he met Commando, CJ and, much later, me.

Commando and CJ were rather good at martial arts. Commando learned Kung Fu before CJ was born and, under George’s tutelage, along with CJ added jujitsu, Karate and mixed martial arts to his repertoire. Fighting has never been my thing but George insisted on teaching me self defence. He found it amusing that I could only bear to train with Commando, as he was the only person at the gym I wasn’t scared to hurt. I can still hear him saying, “I’m going to teach you a naughty little trick now, in case someone comes out at you one dark night.”

George was a tiny man, not much taller than me and slightly built. Looks can be deceptive though. Even in old age he was more than a match for even the youngest and strongest of men. He was also full of interesting stories. The little grave seemed far too small to contain such a giant personality.

We couldn’t linger too long in Shedfield because, predictably, Commando had a race at Fairthorn Manor in nearby Curdridge. It was his last race as a Spitfire and my last stint as Spitfire photographer. We went. He ran. I took photos. There is little else I want to say about it except that a chapter has ended and our integrity is intact. So far this year seems to be all about endings.

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