The WOODCOCK family – Corporal WOODCOCK, Arthur Nixon (1885-1929)

Arthur Nixon Woodcock (PG)
Arthur Nixon Woodcock

Arthur Nixon Woodcock (1853- 1925 born in Leicester) and Eliza Butler (c1856-1927) had four children, all born in Dunbar, East Lothian.  They were Arthur Nixon (c1886-1929); Martha Elizabeth (1889-1978); Sarah Dunbar (1893-1969) and Elizabeth (1895-).  Arthur was a soldier who served in the Afghan war of 1878-79 and for several years in India, rising to the rank of Brigade Sergeant Major in the Royal Artillery.  The family remained in Dunbar until shortly before Arthur senior retired from the army in 1900.  He was appointed recruiting Sergeant-Major in Leicester.

In February of that year Arthur became clerk at St Martin’s, living with his family at 21 Asylum Street until at least the end of 1901.  He also became a lieutenant of the 1st Leicester Company Boys Brigade (St Martin’s) in 1901, serving as drill officer.  In 1906 he took on the role of verger, and the family lived in five rooms at 1 Bruce Street.

Arthur and Eliza’s son Arthur Nixon Woodhouse had blue eyes and brown hair.  He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in November 1899 at Leicester aged 14 and just 5 feet tall, weighing 93lbs. He served as a musician, playing in the Royal Artillery band at Woolwich.  During this time Arthur gained a 3rd class certificate in education and two tattooed dots between the left thumb and wrist.  He paid £25 to discharge himself in September 1907 (£9 of which was later repaid to him, in 1916).  He returned to Leicester to live with his parents at Bruce Street.

Arthur married Lizzie Grace Cave (1883-1971), a cap sewing machinist, on 26th May 1912 at the Church of the Martyrs.  Arthur described himself as ‘musician’.  In October of that year he played at a concert held at North Evington Infirmary.  Together Arthur and Lizzie Grace they had children Arthur Nixon (21st May 1913-1985 born in Leicester) and Eric Francis (7th June 1914-1939 born in Brighton), both baptised by Norman Macleod Lang, Bishop Suffragan (not at St Martin’s).  On the outbreak of war Arthur senior offered himself for military service but was turned away as he was not in good health.  He retired as clerk and verger to St Martin’s shortly afterwards, in September 1915.

Arthur re-enlisted at Brighton on 24th August 1914, initially for three years or duration of war, as a gunner.  By now he was 5’10” tall and weighed 175lbs.  Lizzie Grace returned to Leicester.  Arthur was promoted to bombardier a month later, then corporal in January 1917.  He served with the British Expeditionary Force in France from 21st May 1915, embarking from Southampton, to March 1919.  It’s not clear which regiment he was with. By 1919 Arthur had suffered 40% disablement due to a crushed limb.  A temporary pension was awarded while he recovered. Arthur transferred to the Yorkshire regiment and joined a Prisoner of War camp at Ripon by 15th November 1920.  He was promoted to Sergeant and appointed Bandmaster in the 4th East Yorkshire Regiment, remaining until 1922.  In 1920 his wife and children were then living at 5 Cradock Road, where they remained for only a few months.  Eventually Arthur left the service altogether and returned to civilian life to work as a musician, playing the cello in Mr Roland Rogers’ orchestra in Bridlington.  His parents also came to Bridlington, living at Hermitage Road until Arthur senior’s death in January 1925.  He was buried at Bridlington Cemetery.  Mother Eliza returned to Leicestershire and died at Hinckley in 1927.

Life was not going well for Arthur.  He had been drinking heavily since before his marriage and although he tried to curb the amount he drank, the craving increased year upon year.  Money became a problem and his work was affected.  He and his family lived in a down at heel flat in Fort Terrace, Bridlington.  On Maundy Thursday 1929 Arthur lost his job at Bridlington Grand Pavillion.  He was told that this was due to non-attendance, caused by his drinking.  On Good Friday morning 29th March 1929, following several days in which Arthur drank constantly and did not go to work, Eliza woke up to find Arthur under his bed and almost dead, the room full of gas.  He had buried himself in bedclothes next to the gas tap.  The coroner’s verdict was suicide whilst of unsound mind.  When he expressed sympathy with Eliza she said “Thank you sir.  It is a great pity.  He would have had another chance.”

After Arthur’s death Lizzie Grace returned to Leicester.   Son Arthur became a police constable of the Leicester City Police.  Eric Francis – who was described as having a magnificent physique – became a photo-lithographic artist and worked and lodged in Birmingham whilst living with his mother at 392 Narborough Road.  He was killed in a motorcycle accident at Atherstone on 11th March 1939, when he was 24.  A tyre had burst, throwing him off the motorbike and fracturing his skull.

Lizzie Grace remained in Leicester where she died in 1971.  She did not remarry.

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