The WHITE family – Private WHITE, Frank Ernest (1897-1915)

John White (1870-1954) and Ellen Maria Lewis (c1878-1955) married in 1895.  They had five surviving children:  Daughter Winifred Susan (1895-1962) and four sons; Frank Ernest (1897-1915); George William (1900-1983); John Lewis (1903-1974) and Herbert Francis (1906-1981).  John had been a footman to the Bishop of Oxford in 1891 and lived at the Bishop’s Palace.  Winifred was born in Oxfordshire in 1895 but by the time Frank was born the family lived at Great Cransley, near Kettering and his father was butler at Cransley Hall, which since 1890 had been occupied by the Watson family.  Frank was almost certainly born in servants’ quarters in the house or grounds.  He was baptised at St Andrew’s, Cransley, on 9th May 1897.  In March of that year John intervened in a fracas that took place whilst wages were being paid, between an estate employee and the elderly coachman who was handing out the payments.

Sometime between April of 1900 and April of 1901 the Whites moved to Rockingham Castle, also occupied by the Watson family, and John White continued working as a butler – unusually not living in the home of his employer, at least in 1911.  In September 1900 John met with an accident, which was reported in the Leicester Chronicle:

FALL FROM A BICYCLE – An accident occurred to Mr White, butler of Rockingham Castle, while cycling one day last week.  When descending a hill near Great Easton brickyard his foot slipped from the pedal, and he was thrown from the machine, severely cutting his head and face and injuring his knee.  He was taken on to Great Easton to have his wounds dressed by Dr Duke.

Rockingham Castle
Rockingham Castle

When war came the Reverend Wentworth Watson (1848-1925), owner of Rockingham Castle, offered Rockingham Castle as a hospital for injured soldiers in August 1914 and was accepted by the War Office.  So, as with many country houses, life at Rockingham Castle changed substantially.  Rooms and even whole wings were closed off and grand parties and entertaining came to an end.  Male servants signed up for active service in droves and many female servants looked for war work in factories or as nurses, so there was no longer a need for a butler at Rockingham.

Mr Wentworth Watson seems to have known Canon Nugee.  They were both curates at St German’s, Cardiff – Watson predating Nugee by just a few months.  They both attended the requiem for Nugee’s brother in law Bishop Smythies in 1894 (Wentworth Watson sang in the choir), so it may have been John’s employer at Rockingham who found or encouraged John to apply for his new role at St Martin’s Church, Leicester.  However it came about, early in 1915 John became parish clerk – and shortly after clerk and verger (following the retirement of John Woodcock) – of St Martin’s.  The rest of the family were very active in the church as you might expect.  Herbert Francis and John Lewis were sidesmen during the 1920s and 30s and both later married at St Martin’s.  As well as being Verger, John served on the PCC.

The only member of the family of eligible age, Frank joined the Northants Regiment 5th battalion (Pioneers) on reaching 18 in 1915.  During training he was based in Aldershot, then on 31st May he mobilised with his battalion to France.  Frank survived for less than six weeks before being killed in action in Flanders on 4th July 1915, aged 18.  The Grantham Journal printed the following on 31st July 1915:


Pte Frank White, the son of a former butler at Rockingham Castle, has been killed at the front. He was employed by Mr H Jones, butcher and baker, Rockingham, at the time he volunteered and he was only visiting here a few weeks before the report came of his early end. He was about twenty years old.

White 173 Western Road
173 Western Road

He left effects of £2 15s 6d, which were paid to his mother.  A war gratuity of £3 was also paid to her in 1919.  Frank was buried at Talena Farm Cemetery, Flanders.  St Martin’s parish magazine does not record the death but does mention that at that time Mr John White had a temporary address of 33 Green Lane Road, Humberstone.  Later on that year the address was 173 Western Road.

John and Ellen Maria lived at 37 Noble Street from October 1915.  In 1920 the vicar, Macnutt, gave £1 6s 6d to John White “re Herbert’s illness” and a further £1 5s as a Christmas present.  John served as verger at St Martin’s for 35 years, retiring in 1951.  He lived on at Noble Street until his death in 1954.  Ellen Maria died there the following year.

The WILLIAMS family – Captain WILLIAMS, Montagu William (1859-1924) and VAD WILLIAMS, Gladys Marie (1889-1956)

Henry Denton Montagu Williams (c1827-1914) and Mary Elizabeth Beane (c1836-1919) who had children: Montagu William (1859-1924); Ella Mary (1860-1925); Claude (1861-1862); Edith (1863-1916); Constance (1864-1903); Isabella Mary (1866-1870); Ethel Maude (1869-1941); Catherine (1870-); Francis Beane (1872-1954); Ada Penelope (1874-1932).

Montagu William Williams was baptised at Saham Toney, Norfolk, on 15th May 1859.  Montagu and his family lived at Saham Toney until around 1868, when the family moved to Tunbridge Wells.  Father Henry was a coal, corn, seed and ‘artificial manure’ merchant in a series of short lived partnerships.  He later became a schoolmaster, following bankruptcy in 1888.

After school Montagu went up to Exeter College Oxford.  He began training for the medical profession at Middlesex Hospital, in Windmill Street, London, passing his primary examination in anatomy in 1880.  He became a licensed apothecary in London in 1882 and achieved his medical registration in February 1885.

Exeter College Oxford
Exeter College, Oxford

On 21 July 1886 Montagu married Ida Maria Nichols (1857-1946), daughter of an architect, at St Pancras Parish Church.  Montagu and Ida moved to 61½ High Cross Street, Leicester. Their only son Montagu Denton Cubitt (1887-1888) was born in Leicester the following year and baptised in Camden.  He died soon after.  Three daughters followed – Gladys Marie (1889-1956), Enid Maude (1890-1974) and Doreen Ida Mary (1897-1994), all of whom were baptised at St Martin’s.  Montagu and his family attended St Martin’s from at least 1887.  Montagu was sidesman from 1889 to 1896 and churchwarden for the years 1908-1910.  He was a member of the PCC and a deputy churchwarden from 1921 until his death.  He was the medical attendant of the Reverend Dr David James Vaughan, vicar of St Martin’s until 1893, until his death in 1905.

By 1891 the family had settled at 45 London Road, where Montagu also ran his medical practice.  In 1900 the practice extended to number 43 London Road.  They remained at 43-45 London Road until 1920.  As well as his general practice, Montagu served on various local medical committees, including that of the Leicester Maternity Hospital.  He supported improvements for the care of women and also of children.  As well as medical charity, Montagu also contributed financially to the new Vaughan Working Mens College which opened in 1906.  In 1905 Montagu’s sister Catherine appeared in scandalous newspaper reports of her divorce and illegitimate child, which may have caused him some embarrassment. He hunted with the Fernie Hunt in 1913.

Montagu became a Captain in the RAMC on 5th July 1915 and worked at the 5th Northern General Hospital (Leicester).  In June 1918 Montagu became very ill and spent time as a patient at the base hospital (now the Fielding Johnson buildings, University of Leicester).  This was the last of both his war and civilian work.

5th Northern Hospital
5th Northern General Hospital Ward A2 (Verandah)

In 1920 Montagu and Ida purchased “Glenholm” on the corner of West Walk and New Walk, described as “a very handsome and attractive family residence, exceedingly well fitted up and heated throughout, erected a few years ago in the soundest manner.”  They lived at Glenholm for just four years, until Montagu’s death on 7th August 1924.  He was buried at Welford Road Cemetery.  Amongst other legacies, Montagu left his Italian cabinet to daughter Doreen.  Ida Maria died in 1946 and was buried with her husband at Welford Road.

Gladys Marie Williams was born on 6th April 1889 and baptised at St Martin’s on 3rd June 1889.  There are no surviving records to show which school she attended and she doesn’t appear to have had a job.  Between April 1917 and August 1918 she was a full-time Red Cross VAD, with expenses paid, at Cottesbrooke Auxilliary Hospital, Northamptonshire.  Cottesbrooke Hall had been converted to a hospital in 1914 by the owner Mrs Brassey who took personal charge of fifty beds and was one of many hospitals where soldiers were often less seriously wounded and were mainly in need of convalescence.  Isabel Brightland was also there between June and August 1917.

Cottesbrooke Hall
Cottesbrooke Hall

On 19th July 1922 Gladys married Noel Arthur Johnston Ewen (1896-1952) at St Martins giving 5 St Martins East as her address.  Noel was six years her junior and lived in Oadby.  He had served as a second lieutenant in the Leicestershire Regiment, joining the 8th Battalion in September 1914.  Noel’s father, Arthur John Ewen, owned Ewen & Son Ltd, yarn merchant and agents at 2-3 de Montfort Chambers, 6 Horsefair Street. He was sidesman at St Martin’s in 1915.  Noel worked for his father and later took on the business.

Gladys and Noel moved to Ashover, 86 Knighton Road.  They had children Guy Montagu Johnston Ewen (1923-2010) and Rosamond M (1926-), but it was not a successful marriage.  Gladys divorced Noel in 1936 due to his adultery with Joyce Ella Abell, a married woman who lived in Oadby.  Noel and Joyce married in 1937.

Gladys lived on with the children at Knighton Road.  During the second world war she worked in a canteen supporting civil defence as part of the WVS (later WRVS).  She died at Leicester Royal Infirmary on 26th February 1956 aged 67.

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.

The WOODHOUSE family – Lieutenant WOODHOUSE, Cecil Herbert Mackay (1891-1918)

Cecil Mackay Woodhouse
Cecil Mackay Woodhouse

Cecil Herbert Mackay Woodhouse was born in Leicester on 18th May 1891, the only son of Vivian Mackay Woodhouse (c1867-1948), solicitor and Helen Maria Looseman (c1864-1939), who was the daughter of a minor canon of Canterbury Cathedral.  They married in Canterbury Cathedral in 1888.  Vivian had become a solicitor after a career in the navy.  Together they had three children:  Vivienne (1889-1942); Cecil (1891-1918) and Helen Mary “Nell” (1893-1976).

Woodhouse 96 New Walk 3
96 New Walk

Cecil was born at 55 Sparkenhoe Street in the parish of St Peter’s.  Vivian took on the leasehold of a villa at The Fosse, Syston in 1896, which had six bedrooms, a billiards room, dining room decorated in “finest Italian style”, garden with croquet lawn and rockeries, a tennis court and a mushroom house.  It was described in 1899 as being “decorated in a most artistic manner.”  By 1904 the family had moved to 96 New Walk where they remained until around 1909.  After this time they moved out of the city, living at Queniborough Hall where they would remain until after the war.  Vivian Mackay Woodhouse practiced law at Salusbury & Woodhouse solicitors, which from 1908-72 had its office at 3 Wycliffe Street in the parish of St Martin’s.

Kings School
The Kings School, Canterbury

Cecil attended Stoneygate School and then The King’s School, Canterbury from 1904 until 1909 (where he was a member of the Officers Training Corp).  Afterwards he studied architecture, passing RIBA exams in 1912 whilst working as a trainee architect with Messrs Stockdale Harrison and Sons.  No doubt he was acquainted with Everard Harrison.

Cecil applied for a commission in the Leicestershire Regiment on 13th October 1914 but was turned down.  He then applied to the Sheffield City Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment – this time successfully.  He was commissioned 2nd lieutenant in the 12th Battalion on 1st November 1914 and promoted to Lieutenant shortly afterwards in March 1915.  Cecil served in Egypt during late 1915 and then from 15th March 1916 in France. On 9th April 1916 he was wounded but returned to service a month later, only to be hurt again a few weeks later, this time more seriously with wounds to his scalp, leg and chest.  He was treated at Number 2 Southern General Hospital in Bristol and eventually returned to the front.

Cecil died in Flanders on 5th June 1918.  Three officers including Cecil, plus 68 men from other ranks had effected a raid on Lankhoff Farm, which was unsuccessful.  Cecil’s body was not recovered.  His father was sent a telegram ten days later, which read “Regret to inform you that Lieut. C. H. Woodhouse York and Lancaster Regt missing fifth June.  Further news if received.”  The death was reported by the Germans to the Red Cross in September 1918.  He is remembered at Tyne Cot Memorial.

After the war Helen Maria and Vivian moved to “Knighton Close”, Ratcliffe Road.  Between 1928 and 1941 they lived at 94 Regent Road.  Helen Maria died living at 94 Regent Road in 1939 and Vivian at 19 Lower Hastings Street in 1948 where he was living from at least 1946.  Vivian was still practising as a solicitor as late as 1939.  They were buried in Queniborough and their grave also remembered Cecil:


Cecil’s sister Vivienne and her husband Sir John Harold Corah lived on at Queniborough Hall.  In 1933 Sir John was High Sheriff of Leicestershire.

The WRIGHT family – Company Sergeant Major WRIGHT, John Thomas (1884-1917)

John Thomas Wright was born in Leicester on 5th May 1884.  His parents were John Wright (1855-1932) and Emma (c1850-1903).  He had three sisters – Mary Ann (c1887-), Margaret Ellen “Marjorie” (1886-1974) and Elizabeth (1894-1984) and a brother, George (1888-1891).  In 1890-1891 they lived at 5 Leopold Road in Clarendon Park.  John and Emma had all their children baptised at the still new church of St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park, on 2nd February 1891.  During April the family moved to Preston Street where younger brother George died, aged two.  He was buried at Welford Road Cemetery on 6th May.

By 1901 the Wright family had moved to 8 Ash Street.  John continued working as a bricklayer and John Thomas joined him in this trade.  Not much is known about him except that he was 5’11” tall, had brown hair and eyes and a dark complexion, and described his religion as “congregationalist.”

John Thomas’s mother Emma died around 1903.  Sometime between then and 1907, he emigrated to Canada.  In 1909 his father remarried, to Maria Nattrass, but John Thomas cannot have known her well if at all because he remained in Canada.  By 1907 he had joined the Canadian army.  He served in the 13th Royal Highlanders for 6 years and the 91st Canadian Highlanders for 18 months.  It is not clear whether he had a break in service, but John attested on 1st September 1915, joining the 15th Canadian Infantry.

The 15th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment)- took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, on 9th April 1917.  The Canadian assault on the German line began at 5.30am. The weather was cold with snow and sleet, but the attack went well from the Canadian perspective and after three days the battle was a success and the Canadian corps in control of Vimy Ridge.  However, 3,598 Canadian men died in those days.  John Thomas was one of these.  He died on 9th April 1917 and was buried with 22 of his comrades at Neuville St Vaast.  His body was moved after the armistice, to Nine Elms Military Cemetery, Thelus (Pas de Calais).

In 1911 John and Maria lived at 76 Great Holme Street.  From 1914 until at least 1928 John Wright’s address was 27 Welford Road, and then at 12 South Albion Street where Maria remained for several years after John’s death.  John was buried at Welford Road Cemetery, as was Maria, but none of the Wright family were buried together – nor are there any grave stones or memorials.  The Wright family were not sufficiently well off.

Welcome! And wait..

The life stories of the 98 men and women from the community of St Martin’s Church, Leicester, who ‘went to war’ between 1914 and 1918 will be published here on Tuesday, 9th October 2018.

The author will be telling these stories and the story of St Martin’s during this time, at Leicester Cathedral starting at 7pm on 9th October 2018. A mini exhibition will also tell the story, opening at 6.30pm.  Entry to both is free.