Titanic tales from Itchen ferry

27 February 2019

We’d been walking for a good two hours. It was surprisingly warm for a February day so we went into Woolston, got some drinks and sat for a while on the feather benches in the Millennium garden. On my phone was a screenshot of the 1910 map of Itchen Ferry Village and we pored over it trying to reconcile the old streets with the new. None of the next crew houses would still be standing but the stories of those who lived in them still deserved to be told.

The lost village of Itchen Ferry has a history as long as that of the city, maybe longer. It came to an end on 26 September 1940. The Luftwaffe, trying to hit the Supermarine factory and halt Spitfire production, bombed the little community out of existence. In that one raid there were over one hundred casualties. Barely a house survived.

Bridge Road from Oak Bank Road 1940

The first of our Itchen Ferry crew lived in Oak Bank Road, right beside the Millennium Garden. There are no houses there today. Everything not destroyed by wartime bombing was demolished when the Itchen Bridge was built. It’s now a car park in the shadow of that bridge. Back in 1912 though, Joseph Alexis Bochatay lived at number 28. 

Oak Bank Road today

Joseph was born in Les Granges, Switzerland in 1881. His father, Alexis Bochatay-Coquoz, was a joiner and farmer, but Joseph didn’t want to pursue either of these careers. After an apprenticeship in the Gay-Balmaz Hotel in his home town, he went to England where he worked his way up to chef in the kitchens of various hotels. He then went to sea, working in the first class galley on Olympic, then as Assistant Chef on Titanic. His wages were £10 a month. He was probably living in Oak Bank Road as a lodger.

An old postcard of Oak Bank Road

The food on Titanic was sumptuous and plentiful. First class passengers enjoyed a continental style menu, mostly French. When the collision happened most kitchen staff would have been in their quarters. For them the day started early with breakfast preparations so it’s doubtful many were awake. Any awoken by the scraping of ice against metal were probably not too alarmed until the call came to put on lifebelts and go to the boat deck. Even then, most wouldn’t have believed the ship would really sink. Some kitchen staff helped with the evacuation or fetched provisions for the lifeboats but few got onto the boats. Of the sixty two kitchen and galley staff on board, just thirteen survived. Joseph was not one of them and his body was never identified.

Oak Bank Road car park

Joseph’s parents were given £120 compensation  by White Star, along with outstanding wages of £2. They also received £85 from the Titanic Relief Fund. There is a memorial to him in Salvan, Switzerland.

The next house on our list was 16 Ivy Road. In 1912 Ivy Road ran from the bottom of Oak Bank Road, up towards the railway line roughly between the pillars of the bridge today. Ivy Road is no longer there but the old maps told us it roughly corresponded with the top of modern day Laurel Close. So we crossed the car park, walked under the bridge and headed towards it.

Unlike Ivy Road, Laurel Close curves up from Hazel Road, so we climbed the hill until we were on the part of the new road that follows the line of the old. The modern houses were nothing like the originals would have been and the whole area was dominated by the bridge but it was the best we could do. Things would have been very different when Charles Hodge lived there. 

Laurel Road, once Ivy Road

Charles, or Charley as he was known, was born in Devonport, Devon in 1883, the only child of Charles Cornwall Hodge and his wife Esther. Charles Senior, a paintworks salesman, was from Cornwall and Esther was a Devon native. Charley served an apprenticeship as a fitter with Davey, Sleep and Company of Plymouth and joined White Star after his mother’s death in 1907. He moved to Southampton, along with his father at around this time, probably because it was White Star’s main port. He was obviously ambitious and was soon appointed sixth engineer on Teutonic then worked his way up the ranks to Assistant Second Engineer. 

In 1909, Charley married Mabel Holloway in Wiltshire. Mabel’s father was in the British Army and she was born in Lucknow, India. The couple had two daughters, Ester, born in 1910, at around the time Charley’s father died, and another whose name and date of birth is not known. For a while they lived in Foundry Lane, Shirley but, by the time Charley signed on to Titanic they’d moved to 16 Ivy Road in Itchen. He was Senior Assistant Third Engineer earning £12 a month. 

Charley Hodge

None of the engineers survived the sinking and nothing is known of Charley’s final moments. He was almost certainly below decks working to keep the engines running as long as possible and well aware of his imminent demise. His body was never identified. What became of Mabel and his daughters isn’t known. 

The next houses on our list were in what was once the top part of Itchen Ferry Village but, before we climbed the hill, we paused for a moment to remember the people of this lost village. The slipway where the little ferry boats were once launched is still there, or maybe it’s a modern version of it. Either way we stood and looked across the Itchen and thought about the Itchen Ferrymen rowing back and forth.

A handful of houses on the waterfront here are the only surviving remnants of the village and the closest thing to the houses our crew members would have called home. Once there were pubs, streets, shops and a thriving industry revolving around the ferry boats, plus a little smuggling if the stories are to be believed.

So, we climbed the hill, walking under the railway bridge where the air raid shelter for Supermarine once was. Nothing beyond the bridge now existed in 1912, apart, perhaps, for the green to our left but even that has changed enormously. Our next three houses were all in Cliff Road, now called Wharncliffe Road. We climbed the steps just above the bridge knowing full well we were not going to find them

Today there are modern terraces and flats built after the terrible bombing destroyed everything in 1940. The houses that were once there were probably similar to the ones we’d just photographed on the waterside though.

Itchen Frey Village, Wharncliffe Road Posted on the Southampton Heritage Facebook Page by Rod Andrews

Whatever they looked like, Edward John Buley once lived at number 10. Edward was one of fourteen children born to John and Mary Ann Buley in Portsmouth in 1885. Five of his siblings died in infancy. His early life was spent living at the coastguard station in Bexhill, Sussex, where his father was a boatman for H.M. customs. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the family were living in Sholing, Southampton and Edward was at sea with the Royal Navy. He had previously been working as a messenger. He served on ships including Agincourt, Exmouth, Excellent, Crescent, Orion I and Dreadnaught and rose from seaman, to able seaman, then gunner.

Wharncliffe Road today

Edward was a slight man, standing just five foot four and a half inches tall, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He had bought his discharge in order to “better help” his mother, who was by now living in Britannia Road, Northam. To this end he joined White Star as an able seaman, with wages of £5 a month. His first merchant ship was Titanic and he gave his address as 10 Cliff Road, Peartree Green, Itchen. 

Edward John Buley

When Titanic struck the iceberg, Buley was in the mess reading. He felt a slight jar, as if something was rubbing along the hull. Concerned, he put on a coat and went out on deck to investigate. There he met some off duty firemen who said they’d seen an iceberg. He could hear water rushing from the hatchways on the forescatle and their covers were inflating under the pressure of air being forced out by the water. 

When Officer Murdoch ordered the lifeboats prepared, Edward went to the starboard side and helped swing them all out. This took around twenty minutes. He then went to the port side to do the same. While he was preparing lifeboat 10  Officer Murdoch (who in the darkness and confusion he mistook for the chief steward) told him to jump in as the boat had no seaman to take charge. He took seaman Frank Evans with him. This act saved both their lives.

Later Buley described the chaos and terror of the evacuation. In the cold and darkness he recalled physically pushing and even throwing frightened, reluctant women into the lifeboats. With the ship listing, there was a steep drop from the deck to the water, maybe sixty five feet, so many were afraid to get into the boats. Believing the the risk was less if they stayed on the ship, many refused outright. One young woman slipped and fell between the ship and the boat, as she tried to get in. She was later identified as Mrs Hakkarainen, a third class passenger. Bully describes her being grabbed by the ankle and saved, although she later said she was grabbed by the arm and pulled into a seat. 

Edward thought there were between sixty and seventy people in the boat when it was launched. Other estimates are more conservative and suggest just forty people were aboard. Amongst those definitely in lifeboat ten, was Millvina Dean, the youngest survivor, she was with her mother and brother, who was being taken care of by Mrs Thorneycroft. There were seven or eight ladies from first class, fifteen or more passengers from second class, including a man, Mr Hosono who had jumped aboard at the last moment, ten or twelve third class passengers and four crew members.

Lifeboat ten was probably the last boat on the port side to leave the ship, just twenty five minutes before she sank. It stopped briefly to pick a lady up from a lower deck and then they rowed away, getting just two hundred and fifty yards, according to Edward, before Titanic sank. When lifeboat fourteen came alongside them Officer Lowe ordered Edward and Frank Evans to transfer to his boat and between ten and twelve passengers were transferred in the other direction. Lowe’s intention was to return to the scene of the wreck. 

Later Edward described rowing through the wreckage. There were hundreds of bodies floating in the icy water. As they came to each one, the crew of lifeboat fourteen turned them over to check whether they were alive. Many were floating upright, held aloft by their life jackets, their heads laid back or their faces hanging in the water. Edward believed they had not drowned, rather they’d been frozen to death by the cold water. They managed to save just four people from the sea. 

They also rescued survivors who had clambered aboard Collapsable A, one of four collapsable boats that had been on the starboard side. As Titanic went down the crew had been trying to fasten Collapsible A to the davits but it was washed over the side of the ship, empty. Many of those who ended up in the water climbed aboard it. The canvas sides had not been put up and the little boat was half submerged and filled with icy seawater. Around twenty people managed to climb aboard but many died from hypothermia or slipped back into the sea. Thirteen were rescued, just one of them a woman, third class passenger, Rhoda Abbott. Edward describes them as being barely able to walk as their legs and feet were so cramped and frozen. Three bodies were left in the collapsable which drifted away. Lifeboat ten was the last boat to be rescued by Carpathia. 

Both the American and British enquiries into the disaster called Edward to testify.  His horrific experience didn’t put him off going back to sea. When World War I broke out he returned to the Navy. In 1916 he joined the destroyer HMS Partridge. On 12 December 1917, while they were protecting a convoy in the North Sea, HMS Partridge was torpedoed by German destroyers, She sank and Edward, aged just 32, was lost. His body was never recovered but he is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.  

Edward Buley’s next door neighbour was also a crew member and it’s likely the two knew each other. Arthur Albert Howell was one of seven children born in Croydon in 1880, to John and Sarah Howell. Arthur went to sea at some time around the turn of the century. In 1907, he married Annie Jessie Wall from Kent. For the first year of their marriage they lived in London and it was here their son Arthur was born. By 1909 the little family had relocated to Southampton and were living at 12 Cliff Road where their daughter Edith was born. Arthur was now working as a steward for White Star. 

Arthur sailed with Titanic from her launch in Belfast, having transferred from Olympic. Sadly, he did not survive but his body was recovered by the Montmagny and buried at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 10 May 1912. Arthur has a memorial brick in the Millennium Garden in Woolston. 

Annie never remarried and she and her family benefited from several grants from the Titanic Relief Fund charity. She and her daughter Edith, who also never married, moved to Lancing in Sussex. Annie died in 1962 and Edith in 1966. Arthur’s son, Arthur, also died in Sussex in 1988. It isn’t clear whether he married or had children. 

Living across the road from Edward and Arthur, was Bentley Harold Neal, known as Henry. It seems likely the three men knew each other. Henry was born in Portsea Island, Hampshire in 1886, the son of Bentley and Alice Neal. Bentley senior was a warehouseman who later turned to selling bibles and religious texts. Later still he became an evangelical minister and pastor at the East End Congregational Church near Lymington. Henry was one of seven surviving children. The nature of Bentley senior’s job meant the family moved around a lot, living in Norfolk, Burley in the New Forest and then settling in Southampton in around 1900 at the Soldier and Sailor Institute, Albert Road, St Mary’s.

Henry began his working life as a shop assistant but joined the Royal Navy in 1905. He served aboard just two ships, Duncan and Victory I, and left the navy at his own request in the same year. Why he chose to leave the navy so quickly is unclear but, he joined the merchant service shortly afterwards. In 1911 he married Louisa Ellen White in Southampton. 

Henry left the New York to join Titanic as an assistant baker. His wages were £4 10s. It isn’t clear what Henry was doing when the ship struck the iceberg but it is likely he managed to get into lifeboat 13, the lifeboat that was almost crushed by lifeboat 15 when it became entangled. Thankfully, someone found a knife and the ropes were cut.

Bentley Harold Neale in later life from Encyclopedia Titanica

Henry had more reason than most to want to be saved. Louisa was pregnant and, no doubt the thought of never seeing his first child was in his mind on that cold dark sea. His daughter, Kathleen Ellen, was born on 28 May 1912. Two years later, Dorothy Nellie was born. Henry did return to work for White Star for a while but an incident while he was onboard the Olympic, spooked him enough to make him retire from the sea. What that incident was is unknown but he went on to work for more than thirty years at Jose’s Bakery in New Milton. The family lived in the New Forest until Henry died, aged sixty four, in 1950. Ten years later Louis followed. Kathleen, the daughter who was about to be born when Titanic sank, married Leonard Clark and died in the New Forest in 2002, Dorothy married Victor Doe and died in Poole in 2004. 

From Wharncliffe Road we turned onto Defender Road which roughly corresponds to Highlands Road where our next crew member, John Lovel, lived at number 21. The only reminder of the old road is a block of flats called Highlands House. John had an inauspicious start, born in 1875 in the South Stoneham workhouse, which later became Moorgreen Hospital. His mother Louisa Diaper, from the well known Itchen Ferry family, was not married to his father Benjamin Lovell, which in those days was frowned upon. The couple had three more children, one born in Southampton and the other two in Lancashire. When Benjamin died, aged just twenty nine, Louisa moved back to her family in Itchen and finally, in 1885, married. Her husband was James Sellar. They went on to have two more children. 

Highlands House

John began his working life as a clerk for the Clyde Ship Company and later joined White Star as a cook. He left Olympic to join Titanic as a grill cook, earning £6 10s a month. Anyone who has worked in a kitchen knows it’s hot, hard work but, with Titanic’s exacting standards, it must have been even more so. Most of the kitchen staff would have been asleep at the time of the collision and may well have been bewildered when called to don their lifejackets and get on deck. Some helped provision the lifeboats but very few got on them. Just thirteen survived and John was not among them. His body was never identified. **

Titanic kitchen from Pintrest

Running from Defender Road to Bridge Road is Tankerville Road. This roughly corresponds to Itchen Ferry’s Britannia Road, where W Hodges lived at number 6. His is amongst the saddest crew stories, but not because of what happened when the ship sank. It’s the lack of information about Hodges I find lamentable. There isn’t even a record of his first name. He was twenty six years old and single. He worked as a fireman and his body was never recovered. 

Tankerville Road

The firemen, otherwise known as stokers, worked in hot, dark conditions at the best of times, shovelling coal to feed the ship’s boilers. After the collision they tried to keep the furnaces burning. If they didn’t, they knew the pumps and lights wouldn’t work, Titanic would go down faster and fewer passengers would be able to escape. They also knew, if the cold sea water met the hot boilers, they would explode. Of the 163 firemen aboard, just 43 survived and all who were saved owe them a debt of gratitude. W Hodges remains almost anonymous and it breaks my heart to think there was no one at home to miss him, shed a tear for his passing or remember him.

The final story from Itchen Ferry is of Henry Noss, who lived at 12 Back Lane Itchen. Unfortunately, as Itchen and Itchen Ferry are riddled with little back lanes, none of which are named on old maps, there is no way of knowing where his house was but I believe it was probably in Itchen Ferry. While all the stories I’ve uncovered during my research are interesting, some of the crew members really capture my imagination. Henry is one of these. As soon as I found his photograph on Encyclopaedia Titanica, I felt I knew him. He had such a sad but kind face, like someone you’d want to chat to in the pub. 

Trimmers delivering coal to stokers, Royal Navy official photograph
Henry Noss from Encyclopedia Titanica

He was born in Southampton on 29 December 1881, the youngest of Henry and Ellen’s eight children. Ellen was from Southampton while Henry Senior was from London and worked at various jobs, including trunk maker, printer and general dealer. 

By 1901, Henry had gone to sea as a fireman and in 1908, he married Annie Elizabeth Collins, also from Southampton. Between 1908 and 1911 they had three children, Henry, William and Winifred. When he signed on to Titanic he gave his address as 12 Back Lane Itchen. He also got a fireman’s job for his nephew, Bertram Arthur Noss, son of his brother William. 

Annie Elizabeth Collins thanks to Cheryl Jensen

When the ship struck the iceberg the firemen did all they could to keep the boilers running but not all of them could be in the boiler rooms at once. In normal circumstances they worked shifts of four hours as this was the longest anyone could be expected to work in the hot dusty conditions. When the imminent disaster became apparent, off duty firemen may have tried to get into the boiler rooms to help but, with the ship listing, getting up or down the ladders, no easy task at the best of times, would have been nearly impossible. Luck played a huge part in who lived and who died.

Henry Noss from Encyclopedia Titanica

Henry, who must have been off duty and may even have been one of the firemen who spoke to Edward Buley, was lucky enough to be on the boat deck at just the right time. He was ordered to man lifeboat fifteen with another fireman, Frank Dymond, from Kingsland Southampton. This was the lifeboat that was almost lowered onto lifeboat thirteen. As it was lowered it struck the side of the ship and was damaged. Consequently, it leaked. It was also very heavily laden and difficult to row. It took them quite some time to get away from Titanic and the occupants were wet and very cold, especially the firemen who were dressed for the hot boiler room not the cold sea. Henry and Frank took turns on the tiller. They were about three hundred yards from the ship when the boilers exploded and the ship split in two. They watched as the lights went out and Titanic slowly plunged into the blackness. The boat had been the eighth to be launched and was the tenth or eleventh to reach Carpathia. 

Henry returned to Southampton and his pregnant wife. Their son, Herbert James, was born on 29 September 1912. They had thirteen children in total, although, sadly, two died. They later moved to a three bedroom house in Merryoak.

The experience didn’t put Henry off going back to sea where he worked on many more ships including Caronia, Orbita, Vestris and Berengaria. He never got over the shame of surviving though, as his granddaughter, Cheryl Jensen told me when she contacted me after my post about the Woolston crew. Many of the crew who survived felt the same and were often branded cowards. Some kept their stories secret for this reason. Harry also felt terribly guilty about getting his nephew Bertram a job on the ship as Bertram did not survive. In a cruel twist of fate, when the names were posted outside the White Star office a mistake was made and Bertram was posted as saved while Henry was posted as lost. Annie didn’t believe it though, after a dream she was convinced her husband was safe. This was confirmed when a telegram arrived the next day. 

Annie and Henry in later life thanks to Cheryl Jensen

The shame and guilt of Henry’s survival was felt so strongly in the family that, when he died in 1961, his daughters burnt all the Titanic memorabilia he had kept. Henry was buried in St Mary’s Extra Cemetery, Annie died two years later. 

The Itchen Ferryman sculpture

We may not have found many surviving houses in Itchen but we had certainly uncovered some wonderful stories. Before we left Itchen Ferry we paused for a moment to admire the Itchen Ferryman sculpture in the little park off Tankerville Road. Close by is a climbing frame in the shape of a sinking ship. It seemed quite apt. Now all we had to do was walk across the green towards home. As we did we talked about where we would go hunting for crew next…

** more can be found about the Diaper family and the history of a Itchen Ferry on the Diaper Heritage Website

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More Titanic tales from Itchen

27 February 2019

In 1912, the road running beside Ludlow Road was Itchen’s High Street. It ran from Sholing Lane (now Sholing Road) to the houses beside the railway line on Avenue Road (now Radstock Road). These days it’s called Bishops Road and our next three Titanic crew houses were on it somewhere. Once we got our bearings it was a matter of counting down the house numbers until we came to number 53, about half way between Wodehouse Road and Peveril Road.

53 Bishops Road

This was far grander than the houses we’d found so far. The large semi detached house with bay windows and a side entrance was where George Alexander Chisnall once lived. George was born in Greenwich, London in 1875. Although his parents, Joseph and Janet, were English, they had married in Dumbarton, Scotland and settled in Govan near Glasgow where Joseph was working in the local shipyards as a ship’s carpenter. Quite why George was born in London is a mystery as his four siblings were all born in Scotland between 1869 and 1886.

George began his working life serving an apprenticeship with Napier Brothers in Glasgow. He then joined White Star as a boilermaker aboard the Canopic. After a year at sea he got a land based job with the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company and then with Caird & Company in Greenock. After Joseph passed away in 1891, followed by Janet in 1903, George moved to Liverpool where he got a job with Elder Dempster & Company. Here he married Alice Hardy Day, a Hampshire girl, in 1904. The couple had two children Dorothy and William.

In 1908, shortly after William was born, George returned to White Star as a boilermaker on board Majestic and the family moved to Southampton, setting up home at 53 High Street, Itchen. When George signed on to Titanic as senior boilermaker his wages would have been £12 a month. 

There were two boilermakers on board Titanic and, as she was sinking they would both have been down in the boiler room working hard with the other engineers to pump out the rising water and keep the boilers running as long as they could. They did not survive. George’s body was recovered, although it’s not clear by which ship. He was wearing a blue serge boiler suit and had a knife, razor, pipe, rule, shaving brush, pocket book and silver watch with him, along with £1 10s 1/2d. He was buried at sea.

Alice and her children were assisted by the Titanic Relief Fund. She returned to Liverpool, never remarried and died in 1946. Their son, William, became an insurance clerk and married Everild Robena Patten Thomas in 1936, but what eventually became of him and his sister Dorothy is not known. There is a memorial to George on the family grave in Toxteth Park Cemetery. 

A little further down the road 43 Bishops Road was not quite as grand as George Chisnal’s house. It was a smaller red brick semi, with square bay windows and a tiled path leading to the front door. It belonged to able seaman Frank Osman. 

43 Bishops Road

Frank was born in Gosport in 1885. His mother, Emma, and father, William, were both from Romsey and William was a brewery worker, later a publican.  Frank was the youngest of their six children and joined the navy at fourteen. He remained in the navy for eleven years, during which time his family were living in Alverstoke. In 1907 he married tailoress, Clara Kate Sherwin in Alverstoke and, at around this time, joined White Star as an able seaman. 

Over the next four years the couple had two children, Percy and Frank. Sadly, Frank died before his first birthday. Shortly after this the family appear to have moved to Southampton and were certainly living in Bishops Road when Frank transferred from Oceanic to Titanic. 

Frank Osman from Encyclopedia Titanica

As an able seaman Frank would have earned £5 a month. Able seamen were senior members of the deck crew, responsible for the day to day running of the ship and for operating the lifeboat davits in the event of an emergency. Each was also assigned a lifeboat to take charge of if no officers were available and, as each of the boats needed several strong, capable men aboard to row, navigate and take control, this meant the majority of the 29 able seamen aboard Titanic survived. 

When Titanic collided with the iceberg Frank was outside the seaman’s mess on C Deck. He heard the ice scraping along the hull and rushed to the Forward Well Deck where he found chunks of ice and noticed the ship was beginning to list. Although he didn’t believe the ship would sink, he was soon helping to load lifeboats on the port side. 

After he’d loaded four lifeboats and seen them launched, he was ordered into emergency lifeboat 2 by Fourth Officer Boxhall. There were three other crew members in the lifeboat, Boxhall, a cook and a steward. The rest of the boat was filled with women, eight from first class, six from third and one third class man. After they’d pushed off from the ship they tried to get to the starboard side to see if they could squeeze in another passenger or two but, by then, the ship was listing too much and they turned around. 

When the ship went down they were around a hundred yards from it. Frank did not notice any suction but he heard explosions which he believed were when the cold water met the hot boilers causing them to explode. He then saw smoke and lumps of what he thought was coal coming from the funnels. After the explosions the ship broke in two and the engines slid from the aft into the forward of the ship. The aft then rose, before slowly sinking again. 

By chance a box of flares had been put into emergency lifeboat two mistaken for a tin of biscuits. As Carpathia was approaching, Boxhall fired the flares and, consequently, they were the first boat to be picked up by her at around four in the morning. 

Frank was called to testify at the U.S. inquiry into the sinking and later returned to England and continued to work at sea, serving on various ships for the White Star and Cunard Lines, including Olympic, Homeric and Mauritania. He and Clara went on to have five more children, Maud, William, Emily, Grace and George. Frank died in Southampton in 1938 and is buried in St Mary’s Extra Cemetery. Clara died in 1964. 

The last Bishops Road house turned out to be a bit of a conundrum. We found number 16 easily enough but it looked like a modern house, perhaps 1930’s or 40’s, so this is probably not the actual house Walter Alexander Bishop lived in. *Encyclopaedia Titanica has him living at 248 Romsey Road. This is, I believe, a mistake as another crew member, Leonard White, was living there with his wife and her widowed mother and other records show Walter living in Bishops Road. This is the first such anomaly I have found but I will use the address, given on the crew list. Despite the confused information, I took a photograph.

16 Bishops Road

Walter was born in Southampton in around 1878. His mother, Maria, was from the Isle of Wight and his father, James, was a local lad and a ship’s cook. They had eight children. The family lived in the Chapel area of the town centre and then moved to Millbrook.  Walter went to sea himself around the turn of the century. In 1903, he married Mabel Mary Cox and, in the same year, their son, Walter James was born. Tragically, Mabel died early in 1904 aged just twenty three.

For a man working at sea the loss of his young wife must have been difficult to bear, especially with such a small baby to care for. By 1907, he had remarried. His new wife, Martha Dabell, née Castelman, was a widow with two young children, Winifred, who was seven and Percy who was just two when she and Walter married. In 1911 the couple were living in Shirley, perhaps in Martha’s house? When he left the St Louis and signed on to Titanic for her delivery journey from Belfast he gave his address as 16 High Street, Itchen.*

Walter was a first class bedroom steward, earning £3 15s a month and looking after between three and five rooms. Steward’s wages were not especially good but the tips often were, especially from first class passengers. Second and third class bedroom stewards had more rooms to look after, up to twenty five for third class, but the tips would have been much less, or non existent. A first class bedroom steward, if he ingratiated himself enough, could double his wages from tips. 

Sadly, Walter did not live to enjoy the fruits of his labours, both he and his brother in law, greaser Edward Castleman, perished and neither of their bodies were identified. One of Walter’s passengers, Mrs Emily Maria Borie Ryerson  did survive and, afterwards, remembered speaking to Walter after the collision. She asked him why the engines had stopped and he explained that there had been talk of an iceberg and the ship had stopped to avoid it. Whether  he believed this to be true or was trying to keep her calm isn’t known but she was one of the last people to see him. 

Mrs Emily Maria Borie Ryerson  From Encyclopedia Titanica

Martha and Walter’s widowed mother benefitted from the Titanic Relief Fund and he is remembered on the St Augustine’s Church Memorial in Southampton. Martha, having been twice widowed, did not marry again and, some years later, moved to Chichester to be close to her married daughter, Winifred. Walter’s son, Walter James, married Elsie Hardy in Southampton in 1926. They had at least one son and Walter junior died in Norfolk in 1975. 

From Bishops Road we turned onto Radstock Road where there were three more crew houses. Before we went looking for them though, there was one more house to find, on Millais Road. Unfortunately we had no number, just a house name, Cawdor. Millais Road runs parallel to Bishops Road from Wodehouse Road to Radstock Road, CJ and I were both hoping we’d find the house at the Radstock Road end because we’d both had enough of walking up and down by now. As we slowly made our way up the road though, we could see no names on any of the houses.  We walked the whole way back to Wodehouse Road but never did find a house with a name so I took some general pictures of the road to give an idea of the area.

Millais Road

We may not have found Cawdor but it was once the home of James Mull Smith. James was born in 1873, the youngest of Peter and Catherine Smith’s four children. Little is known about his childhood, except that he lived with his grandparents for part of it. Later he served an engineering apprenticeship with J. S. Souter of Elgin, a foundry and engineering works. He then moved to Liverpool and went to sea with the Anchor Line of Glasgow, Union Castle and Red Star, finally joining White Star in 1906. 

James Mull Smith From Encyclopedia Titanica

James’ move to Southampton probably coincided with White Star’s move to the town. He was certainly living in Southampton when he married Hannah Davidson in 1908. Two years later their son, Ian James, was born. James was now working on Majestic and ‘standing by’ for Titanic, still being built in Belfast. His little family were probably living at Cawdor in Millais Road by then, as this is the address he gave when he finally signed in to Titanic as Junior 4th Engineer. His wages would have been £13 10s so I imagine Cawdor was one of the grander houses in the street. 

None of the engineers survived the sinking. No doubt James was in the bowels of the ship, bravely trying to keep the pumps running when Titanic went down. His body was never identified but Hannah and Ian benefitted from the  Titanic Relief Fund and remained in Southampton. Tragedy was never far away though. Ian died in 1919, aged just nine. Poor Hannah never remarried and died in Southampton in 1953. 

Millais Road

Our little detour to Millais Road hadn’t been very successful and, as we retraced our steps back to Radstock Road, I had the feeling we wouldn’t have much more luck there. Back in 1912, this was called Avenue Road. It follows the railway line from Cranbury Road, near Sholing Station, all the way to Bridge Road. The houses we were now looking for were all at the Bridge Road end, an area that was badly bombed and is mostly new streets and houses now. As it happened, the first of our three houses was still standing, just below the junction with Bishops Road, before the modern houses of Norton and Cheddar Close start. The neat little semi detached house, 49 Avenue Road, was where Francis Albert Webber lived. 

49 Radstock Road, then Avenue Road

Francis was born in Melbourne Street Southampton in 1881 to Mary and William, a gas inspector who later owned an off licence. Mary and William had seven children and all but one survived infancy. Francis appears to have gone to sea at an early age and, by 1911, the family were living in Portsmouth. In all likelihood this was because William had been admitted to Portsmouth Borough Lunatic Asylum. He had been a “lunatic” for two or three years but, given the definition of madness at the time, may simply have had dementia, epilepsy, depression or something similar. Whatever his actual condition was, he died in May 1911. Francis was, in all likelihood, on Olympic by then but it must have been a difficult time for the whole family. 

Francis left Olympic and signed on to Titanic as leading fireman earning £6 10s a month. Like the majority of the firemen aboard, Francis perished when the ship sank. It is likely he was in one of Titanic’s boiler rooms shovelling coal to the very end. His body was never identified. His poor mother remained in Southampton and died in 1929. His last surviving sibling was his sister Kate, who died in Winchester in 1966. 

As I suspected, the next house, number 28, had been eaten up by the modern terraces. This was where George Fox Hosking once lived. George was the eldest child of Thomas, a master mariner, and Mary, both from Devon. The couple had five children. George was born in Shaldon, Devon in 1875. He attended Teignmouth Grammar School and was then an apprentice at A W Robertson & Company, engineers and shipbuilders of Royal Albert Dock, London, where he earned a first class certificate of competency. He served on several ships, including the Flintshire, Trelask and Georgia. Later he joined White Star and served on Athenic, Teutonic, Bovic, Republic and Olympic. 

The modern houses in Radstock Road

In 1904 he married Ada Alice Shapland from Ramshate. Between 1905 and 1909 they had three children Iris, George and William. Until 1908, the family lived in Bootle but then relocated to Southampton, almost certainly because White Star had transferred its main New York sailing there. The family set up home at Glen Villa, 28 Avenue Road, Itchen. George transferred from Olympic to Titanic as Senior Third Engineer with a monthly wage of £16 10s. 

George Fox Hosking from Encyclopedia Titanica

What part George played on that fateful night is not clear but, like all twenty five engineers aboard Titanic, he remained below decks to the last. These brave men operated the pumps, kept the steam up, or kept the generators running  to give passengers time and light to make an escape. Without them many more would have died. None of them survived and George’s body was never identified. 

His grieving family were helped by the Titanic Relief Fund charity and Ada eventually returned to Essex where she married Mr Henry Alonzo Moore in 1921. She died in 1944. 

Before we went in search of our last Radstock Road House we stopped to look along the modern cut way that more or less follows the line of what was once Drummond Road. The road and the houses no longer exist but John Pearce once lived at 14 Drummond Road. John was the son of Emily Pearce, née Osman, a charwoman from Southampton. There are no details about his father but he had, presumably, died as John spent his early years living with his mother and her parents, William and Mary Ann Osman, in St Mary’s. It is possible, but not certhain, that Emily was related to Bishops Road crew member Frank Osman. 

The cut way that was once Drummond Road

John lied about his age and joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1895 but nothing is known about his career with them. By 1911, he was working as a fireman on merchant ships, including Oratrava and Danube. When he signed on to a Titanic he gave his address as 14 Drummond Road. Census records show this was the home of Samuel Mortimer and his family, so it’s likely John was just lodging there. 

Drummond Road on the 1910 map

Somehow John survived the sinking of Titanic, although it is not clear how or in which lifeboat he ended up. He did return to sea after the disaster, working as a fireman on Arcadian and as a greaser on Wellpark. What became of him after this is unknown. 

Titanic survivors aboard Carpathia from Encyclopedia Titanica

Despite my misgivings, our final Radstock Road house, number 7, was still standing, close to the junction with Bridge Road. This lovely little semi detached house with weathered mouldings around the door and above the bay window, was where Edgar Michael Kiernan, known to his friends as Michael, once lived. Michael was born in Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Ireland in 1872. Today the little village is actually in Northern Ireland. His father, James was an inland revenue officer and his mother, Mary, was from Dublin. Michael had eight siblings, most, like him, born in Ireland. At some time in the first half of the 1880’s the family moved to Liverpool, where the final two or three children were born. Mary died in 1891, possibly in childbirth. 

7 Radstock Road, then Avenue Road

Michael’s first job was as a tramway conductor. In 1898 he married Ann Davies in Everton and between 1899 and 1911, had four children, Annie, Gladys, George and James. At some time in the early 1900’s Michael went to sea with White Star. When the company moved its main terminal from Liverpool to Southampton the family moved too, although the eldest three children remained in Everton with their maternal grandmother. Michael, his wife and the youngest child found lodgings in Lower Bridge Road, St Mary’s. By the time he left Olympic and signed onto Titanic as storekeeper they had moved to 7 Avenue Road. This was probably also a boarding house or lodgings. His wages would have been £3 15s. 

When the collision happened the three storekeepers, Michael, Frank Prentice and Cyril Ricks, knew nothing of it until they were ordered onto the deck. They certainly didn’t think there was any danger and stood around chatting and smoking cigarettes. After a while though, it was clear there was a major problem and, as their position became more and more precarious they climbed onto the poop deck and clung to the rail. By now it was obvious the ship was sinking and, at the final moment, all three men jumped into the sea. Only Frank Prentice lived to tell the tale. 

Michael’s body was never identified and his widow, Ann, returned to Liverpool where she later married William Peck. Michael’s youngest daughter, Gladys, emigrated to America in 1919. A year later Her sister Annie followed her. 

Our Final house in this part of Itchen was in Garton Road, close to Woolston train station. To my mind this is actually Woolston, not Itchen, but staying true to the crew list, we counted it with our Itchen houses and walked under the railway bridge. Garton Road runs along the Woolston side of the railway line towards Porchester Road. It didn’t take us long to find the house, number 11, clad these days in modern stone. This was where William Luke Duffy lived. 

Woolston Station, Garton Road

William was born in Castlebar, County Mayo in 1875 the middle of three children born to, John, an engineer and Ellen. When William left St. Jarlath’s College, County Galway, he became a clerk in Shackleton’s Flour Milling Company in Dublin and then joined James Walker and company, a Dublin printing works. At this time he and his brother Patrick lived in Dublin with a maternal aunt, Mary Ward. 

In 1910, William married an English nurse, Ethel Frazier, from Leeds and soon the couple moved to Southampton. They set up home in Dean House, Millais Road where their daughter, Mary, was born in early 1911. William was now working as a commercial traveller in the colour printing business. 

11 Garton Road

What led William to go to sea is not clear but the national Coal Strike of 1912 saw many men out of work and he may have been one of them. Titanic was his first ship and, by the time he joined it as an engineers writer, he and his family had moved to 11 Garton Road. He was aboard for the delivery from Belfast. His exact duties are not clear but he was probably a clerk, filling out paperwork for the engineering crew. His wages were £6 a month. Sadly, he did not survive and his body was never identified. Ethel and little Mary, along with William’s aunt Mary in Dublin, who he had presumably been supporting, benefitted from the Titanic Relief Fund but what became of them isn’t known. 

As we walked back down Garton Road we had a wonderful view of the Itchen Bridge rising up between the houses. Of course, the bridge wasn’t there in 1912. Back then, crossing the Itchen involved the floating bridge or one of the little Itchen ferryboats. The next crew houses on our list were all in what was once Itchen Ferry Village, where the ferrymen lived. There was no chance of finding any of them still standing but we were determined to find their locations if we could and tell their stories. First though, we needed a rest and a drink…

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Titanic tales from Itchen

Titanic’s lifeboats unloaded from Carpathia into New York Harbour

27 February 2019

This morning CJ and I took advantage of the second warm day in a row to search for the Itchen Titanic crew houses. This was not going to be an easy task. The area was a prime target during World War II, due to the waterside Spitfire factory, Supermarine. By the end of the war much of Itchen was gone and despite hours spent staring at old maps of the area, there were some houses and even streets I couldn’t find. The first house on our list was one example.

Peartree Green

When Richard Royston Proudfoot signed onto Titanic, he gave his address as 2 Peartree Green. There is a Peartree Avenue, a Peartree Road and a Peartree Close. Peartree Green though is a grassy area with a church, Jesus Church or Peartree Church, at its centre. Where exactly Richard lived was a mystery so we took a few photo of the green, the church (including the grave of another unfortunate sailor called Richard) and the sorrounding roads and left it at that.

Itchen map 1911

Richard was born in Plymouth in 1890, the eldest of Royston and Jane Proudfoot’s five children. Royston was a seaman and, after living in Devonport with Jane’s parents for some time, the family moved to Southampton, living in Firgrove Road, Sholing and, later, Peartree Green. Just before his fifteenth birthday, Richard joined the Royal Navy, having lied about his age. He served aboard Boscawen III, Hawke and Caesar. When he was discharged in 1906, he appears to have gone straight into the merchant service.

Peartree Church

Richard was unmarried and living with his parents and siblings when he signed on to Titanic as a coal trimmer. His wages were £5 10s a month. His job would have began with loading the coal onto the ship. The trimmers then worked inside the coal bunkers above and between the boilers. With shovels and wheelbarrows they moved the coal around the bunkers, both to keep it level and stop the ship listing and to move it down the coal chute to the firemen who shovelled it into the furnaces. They often had to put out fires caused by the heat from the boilers and furnaces. As there was a fire raging in Titanic’s bunkers for the whole of the voyage, the trimmers were probably kept very busy.

Peartree Road

The trimmers were the most poorly paid of all the engineering crew. They worked in dim light, sweltering heat and air thick with coal dust. Titanic had 73 trimmers. While the ship was sinking they stayed below deck and kept shovelling coal to keep the generators running for the lights and pumps. Just 20 survived. Richard was not among them and his body was never identified. His mother, Jane, died in Southampton in 1932. His father died in Florida in 1927. His last surviving sibling was his sister Helen who died in Portsmouth in 1961. 

Peartree Close

Still none the wiser about where Richard lived, we left the green and walked along Poole Road to Mortimer Road where our next two crew members had lived. The first, John Coleman lived at number 7 and I knew from the outset we wouldn’t find his house. The bottom half of Mortimer Road from Poole Road to Bridge Road is now a series of small streets of modern houses, presumably due to war time bombing, and the only older houses existing on the remains of Lower Mortimer Road are even numbers. 

The modern houses where Mortimer Road once was

John was born in Queenstown, County Cork in 1854. His father, also called John, was a farmer and his mother was called Mary. At an early age John joined the Royal Navy as a shipwright and carpenter, serving on Thunderer, Duke of Wellington, Asia, Excellent, Humber, Euphrates, Republic and Champion. When he was not at sea, he lived in Liverpool and it was here, in 1979, that he married an Irish girl called Rose Ann Campbell. Tragically, their only child died in infancy.

John left the navy in 1886 and, some time afterwards, joined the merchant service. By 1911, John and Rose were living at 7 Mortimer Road and John was working as a steward for White Star on Majestic. Their move south almost certainly coincided with White Star’s move from Liverpool to Southampton. 

John signed on to Titanic as a mess steward. His wages, according to Encyclopaedia Titanica, were £6 a month. This is far more than the normal mess steward’s wage of £3 10s  a month so this may be a mistake. There were six mess hall stewards, four serving the engineering crew and two serving the deck crew. Only one mess steward, from engineering, survived. It was not poor John. He died in the sinking and his body was never identified. His widow, Rose, returned to Ireland and died just a year later. Perhaps her heart was broken?

Upper Mortimer Road from Poole Road

The next house on our list was easier to find. Number 172 Mortimer Road was a mid terrace, close to the junction with Wodehouse Road. It also had a black plaque remembering Charles Painter, its former resident. Charles was born in Southampton in 1880, the eldest son of Frederick, a seaman and Caroline, both from Southampton. The couple had five children and lived in Golden Grove and then Cumberland Street. Exactly what happened to Frederick isn’t clear but, when Caroline died, in 1894, Charles and his siblings had no alternative but to find work, despite their youth. Charles seems to have chosen a life at sea.

172 Mortimer Road

By 1903 Charles married a local girl, Mary Ann Edith Houghton. The couple had four children, Lillian, Charles, Frederick and Dorothy and set up home in North East Road, Sholing. Towards the end of 2011 their youngest son, Frederick died, aged just three, Charles was working as a fireman, possibly aboard Olympic at this time. Exactly when they moved to 172 Mortimer Road isn’t known but it’s possible the loss of their child may have precipitated the move and they were living at this address when Charles signed on as one of Titanic’s firemen, earning £6 a month.

Charles Painter, from Encyclopedia Titanica

Within a very short space of time poor Mary had to deal, not only with the death of her child but also the death of her husband. Like the majority of the firemen aboard Titanic, Charles was probably down in the boiler room frantically shovelling coal to keep the boilers running when the ship went down. He was lost when Titanic sank and his body was never identified. Mary remarried in 1914. She and her new husband,William H Turner, had several more children but, sadly, tragedy never seemed far away. In 1915, little Dorothy, her last child with Charles, died, aged just four. Mary herself died in Hampshire in 1956 and it is not known what became of Charles’ other son and daughter. 

Next, CJ and I turned right onto Wodehouse Road and, on the corner of Manor Road North, stopped to check the house numbers and decide which way we needed to turn next. As it happened, we discovered we were standing right in front of number 163, where William Barnet Bedford once lived. This time there was no plaque, but we were fairly sure we had the right house. 

163 Manor Road North

William was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire in 1880. His father, Hector, was born in St Helena and his mother, Susan Ann, was from Aldershot in Hampshire. The couple married in Alverstoke and had ten children, eight of which survived infancy. Hector was a sergeant in West Yorkshire Militia so the family moved around a great deal, living in Rotherham, Aldershot, Gosport and Pontefract. By 1881, Hector had left the army and was working as an inspector of telegraph messages in Alverstoke. 

At some time around the turn of the century, William went to sea. His family, seemingly unable to settle in one place, were living in London. They later moved to 163 Manor Road and this was where William was living when he signed on to Titanic as assistant cook. His wages were 4 10s a month. He had previously worked for the American Line as a cook and left Olympic to join Titanic. For William, it was the final of his many moves. He died when the ship sank and his remains were never identified. Hector and Susan stayed in Hampshire, moving to Gosport in their later years. Susan died in 1924 and Hector in 1935. William is remembered on their headstone in Ann’s Hill Cemetery Gosport. 

Kitchen staff aboard Titanic Fromm Pinterest

Now we had to head back towards Poole Road, keeping an eye on the house numbers as we walked. Not long after we’d crossed the Peveril Road junction and passed the unusual arched frontage of the Woolston Methodist Church, we found our next house.

Woolston Methodist Church

Number 94 Manor Road is another narrow fronted mid terraced house. It was once home to J Taylor, one of Titanic’s brave firemen. We may have found his house with relative ease but finding anything else about him was next to impossible. After a long and fruitless search I discovered he was approximately 42 and married when he joined the ship. He embarked in Southampton and was lost with the ship. Unsurprisingly, his body was never identified and there isn’t even a record of his first name. 

94 Manor Road North

All this seems incredibly sad. As a fireman, the chances are he would have been working to the very last to keep the boilers running so the pumps and lights would keep working. It was a hot, dirty and dangerous job at the best of times but, when the ship was sinking, they must have known there was no escape for them, yet they still kept working to the end. Their sacrifice gave others time to escape and saved many lives that would otherwise have been lost. 

Firemen on Titanic from Pintrest

By the time we found our final Manor Road house, we were almost back on Poole Road again. Number 61 was another mid terraced house, much like the last but on the sunny side of the street at this time of morning. This was where John Edward Puzey and his family once lived. John, known to his friends as Jack, was born in London in 1868. His parents, Nathaniel and Rosetta were both from Middlesex and Nathaniel was a marine fireman. When Nathaniel died, in 1884, Rosetta was expecting her eighth child. She remarried in 1890 and moved to Windsor with her new husband, William Henry Gregory, a bricklayer who was eleven years her junior. By this time John had already joined the British Army Serving with the Dragoon Guards. 

61 Manor Road

In 1896 John married Rose Stone in Wiltshire. They already had one son, Frank, and their second son, William, was born in 1901 in St Denys, Southampton. By this time John had followed in his father’s footsteps and was working at sea, although as a steward rather than a fireman. This may explain why the family moved to Southampton. By 1911 they had moved to 61 Manor Road. 

Before John joined Titanic  he had been working aboard the White Star ship RMS Majestic. Walter Boothby, one of John’s in-laws (Rose’s brother’s wife’s brother) was also signed on as a steward. Sadly neither man survived the disaster. A memorial to them both was posted in the Portsmouth Evening News – BOOTHBY AND PUZEY–In loving memory of our dear brothers, Walter and Jack, who was drowned in the terrible Titanic disaster, April 14th, 1912. Sadly missed by Ada and Will.

Rose went on to marry twice more and died in Southampton in 1938. John’s son William died in the New Forest in 1979. Frank, who had served an apprenticeship as a billiard maker, followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and joined the merchant navy but it’s not known what eventually became of him. 

Ludlow Road

Back on Poole Road once more, we turned left towards Ludlow Road. There were no less than five crew houses to find here. Unfortunately, the bottom end of Ludlow Road, around the school, was destroyed during World War II and our first two houses, 45 and 60, have been replaced by modern terraces.

New houses in Ludlow Road

George Knight lived at 45 Ludlow Road, opposite the school. Little is known about his early life except that he was born in 1865 in Brighton and his mother was called Mary. His later life is well documented as, after a spell working as a cobbler, he joined the army aged eighteen. He was soon transferred to the Army Medical Corps, perhaps because his eyesight was very poor and own health was blighted by catarrh, dyspepsia and gonorrhoea.

Despite his health issues, he married Clara Amy Hopkins, a seaman’s daughter, in Chatham in 1888. Two years later their only child, Olive Blanche was born. In 1891 he was posted to Egypt where he served until 1896. His next posting was to South Africa in late 1899. Clara and Olive remained in England, living at the Royal Victoria Hospital. By the time he returned to England in 1902, he’d become a staff sergeant and been awarded the King and Queen’s South African Medal. 

George was discharged from the army in 1904 and the family moved to 45 Ludlow Road. Tragically, within a year Olive had died, just before her fifteenth birthday. Before very long poor Clara was all alone again and George had gone to sea, perhaps to assuage his grief? He left Olympic to join Titanic as a saloon steward, serving the rich and famous in the first class dining saloon. The wages of £3 15s plus tips would supplement his army pension so Clara, while lonely, was relatively well off. 

Titanic’s sister ship Olympic’s First Class Dining Saloon

George was saved on lifeboat thirteen, the seventh boat to be launched at around quarter past one. The boat was filled with around sixty five people, mainly second and third class women and children. It was first filled from the boat deck and then lowered to A deck to take on more people. When no more women and children could be found the nearby men were told to get in. George was probably amongst them. It was very nearly his undoing. As the lifeboat hit the sea it got caught up in a stream of water being pumped from the ship. The ropes became jammed and lifeboat fifteen, launched at almost the same time, was fast coming down on top of it. At the last moment someone cut the ropes and the lifeboat moved away just in time. Lifeboat thirteen was the seventh or eighth to reach Carpathia. 

In late 1914, George re-enlisted in the army. The family were still living at 45 Ludlow Road at this time and George was soon back with them. By April 1915 he’d been discharged due to a nervous condition, which, given his generally poor health and his experiences on Titanic, was hardly surprising. During the Second World War George worked as a night watchman for H.M. Customs. He seems to have been the master of lucky escapes because, when the bombs dropped and destroyed 45 Ludlow Road both he and Clara survived. Clara died in Winchester in 1944 and George followed her in 1945. 

The unfortunately named Florence, Thomas Donoghue lived at the second missing house, 60 Ludlow Road.  Florence, known as Frank for obvious reasons, was born in County Kerry In 1882. Quite why his parents Margaret and Timothy, a tram conductor, decided to give him a girl’s name is a mystery but I’m sure it must have been a burden to him. A couple of years after ‘Frank’ was born the family moved to Liverpool and had six more children with more conventional names. 

Around the turn of the century, ‘Frank’ seems to have gone to sea and, in 1900, he married Annie Furlong. Their son, Frankie was born in around 1906 and, in 1910 Annie and her son emigrated to America, settling in New York. At this time it’s likely ‘Frank’ was working for White Star on Olympic regularly travelling between Southampton and New York so the move was not as surprising as it seems. 

When ‘Frank’ joined Titanic he was probably lodging at 60 Ludlow Road when he was in Southampton and living with his family when he was in New York. As a first class bedroom steward he would have been responsible for cleaning up to five rooms and making the beds. He’d also have had to keep the rooms well stocked, help passengers with dressing and serve them food if they decided to eat in their rooms. 

A first class stateroom by Robert John Welch (1859-1936), official photographer for Harland & Wolff

Sadly, Titanic’s maiden voyage would be ‘Frank’s’ final trip between his two homes. He was lost in the sinking and his body was never recovered. A memorial was posted in the Liverpool Echo, DONOGHUE–In loving memory of my dear husband Frank Donoghue, a Titanic victim. R.I.P. Annie and Frankie returned to England briefly, possibly aided by the Red Cross, to claim compensation from the British Workmen’s Compensation Act. She was awarded £300 and returned almost immediately to New York, where she believed there were more opportunities for her and her son. In America she worked as a domestic and is thought to have later found work as a stewardess. There is certainly a census record of an Annie Donoghue, retired stewardess, living in Southampton in 1939. What became of Frankie is not known. 

Our next Ludlow Road crew member’s house was easier to find. Number 97 Ludlow Road was opposite the Junior School, close to the junction with Peveril Road. This little terraced house, with its slightly overgrown garden, was once home to William Alfred Cross. When he was born, in 1868, his parents Cornelius, a brick maker and Mary, were living in Portswood, Southampton. The couple had seven children. 

97 Ludlow Road

In 1890, at around the time Cornelius died, William appears to have gone to sea. In 1907, he married local girl Annie Webb and they set up home in Sholing, moving later to Ludlow Road. They had no children. William left the Oceanic to join Titanic as a fireman. Like so many of the firemen on Titanic, William was lost when the ship sank and his body was never identified. What became of Annie isn’t known, although she did benefit from the Titanic Relief fund, 

The last two Ludlow Road houses took us back towards Wodehouse Road once more. We found the first, number 114, just before the junction. It was home to William Chapman Peters, the youngest son of Joel and Eliza, born in 1886 in London. When they married, the year before William was born, they already had four children. William grew up in London where his father died in 1898 and his mother in 1909. 

Just after the turn of the century, William began his working life as a bricklayer, possibly working with his brother, Joel. During the first decade of the 1900’s, he joined the Royal Navy. Not much is known about his naval career but he was an able seaman aboard the Jupiter and left HMS Hercules to join Titanic. He gave his address as 114 Ludlow Road, but this may have just been lodgings. As an able seaman his wages were £5 a month and he would have had seniority over other deck crew. Able seamen carried out the day to day deck duties and were trained to operate lifeboat davits and man the lifeboats. Each able seaman was assigned a lifeboat to take charge of if no officer was present. For this reason 21 of the 29 able seamen aboard survived. 

114 Ludlow Road

William was amongst the crew in charge of lifeboat nine. This was the fifth boat, lowered from the aft end of the starboard side. Purser McElroy and First Officer Murdoch supervised the loading. It was lowered with around forty people aboard, many second class female passengers. Several stewards were also aboard, ordered into the boat to help the ladies, some reluctant, others half hysterical, get in. One woman became so afraid she refused to get in and ran back inside the ship. It’s likely she perished.

When no more women, at least willing ones, could be found, Purser McElroy allowed some nearby men to get into the boat. Boatswain’s mate, Albert Haines was placed in command of the boat. At first it stayed closed to the ship, possibly because everyone believed they’d soon be called back onboard. When it became clear the ship was sinking, they rowed away, fearful of being sucked down with Titanic. Once the ship had gone down, Haines asked the other seamen if they should go back to try to rescue people from the sea. It was decided that this would be too dangerous, as those in the sea could swamp the lifeboat and everyone would be drowned.

William Chapman Peters from Encyclopedia Titanica

Undeterred by his experience William continued to work at sea. He married Mary Ann Niblock in Southampton in 1913 and the couple settled in the town and had three children, Florence, Norah and Robert. William went on to serve aboard Lusitania, the Duchess of Richmond and Queen Elizabeth on which he was master at arms. He died in 1950 in Liverpool. What became of his children isn’t known. 

Our last Ludlow Road house, number 122, was just above the Wodehouse Road junction. This was where Arthur Ernest Jones once lived and we found a black plaque above the door confirming this. Arthur was born in Shorncliffe, Kent in 1874, one of Julia and Edward Jones’ ten children. Edward was a governmental clerk and the family moved around a great deal. Before the family settled in England in 1889, they’d lived in such exotic places as Sierra Leone and Barbados. They then lived for several years in various parts of Portsmouth and, around the turn of the century, Arthur was working as a labourer for a Portsmouth wine and spirit merchant. 

122 Ludlow Road

The family finally settled in Southampton at some time in the first decade of the 1900’s and, when Albert left Olympic and joined Titanic as a second class plate steward, they were living at 122 Ludlow Road. As far as I can tell a plate steward’s job involved cleaning and polishing all the silver plate dishes, napkin rings and cutlery used in the dining rooms. Plate stewards earned £3 15s a month, 

Arthur was still unmarried when he joined Titanic and, sadly, did not survive, nor was his body identified. His parents placed a death notice in the Southern Daily Echo – JONES–April 15, at sea, on board the S.S. Titanic, Arthur Ernest, the dearly loved second son of Robert and Jane Jones, of 122 Ludlow Road, Woolston, Southampton. May his dear soul rest in peace. His parents remained in Southampton until their deaths in the 1930’s. 

We had been zig zagging up and down the grid of streets between Poole Road and Wodehouse Road for almost an hour searching for houses. All the ups and downs and turns were slightly disorienting so we were glad to finally say goodbye to Wodehouse Road one last time and turn onto Bishops Road. There were still seventeen more Itchen houses to find but now there would be less going back and forth. There would also be less chance of finding any surviving houses…

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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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Titanic tales from Bitterne Village

4 September 2018

When RMS Titanic sank hardly any area of Southampton was untouched by the tragedy. Earlier CJ and I explored the streets of Bitterne where some of the crew of the ship once lived. Now, we were at the top of the hill in Bitterne Village, looking for three more houses. A lot has changed since 1912. Many houses were lost in the 1980’s when  Bitterne bypass was built, others were demolished to build the Bitterne Leisure Centre, the Bitterne Library a Health Centre and a large doctor’s practice. Whether we would find any of the houses we were looking for intact remained to be seen.  Continue reading Titanic tales from Bitterne Village

Titanic tales from the Bitterne crew

4 September 2018

When the world’s most luxurious liner began recruiting crew on 6 April 1912, it seemed like a dream come true for the people of Southampton. After the national coal strike, unemployment in the city was high and families were living hand to mouth on charity handouts. The dream turned to a nightmare on 15 April when, five days into its maiden voyage, Titanic, the unsinkable ship, sank. Over five hundred households in the town lost at least one family member. Today, armed with details from a crew list published in the Daily Echo, CJ and I decided to explore some of their stories. Continue reading Titanic tales from the Bitterne crew