27 Nov 2011

Part 15: The end of an eventful life

William and Elizabeth Swinfield, my great-grandparents, married in Aldershot church, Hampshire, just before the end of his lengthy service of nearly 20 years in the 60th Rifles. He had now to settled down to life as a civilian which must have been a very different experience to that as an active soldier.
          1881 census of the Staff Hotel

By 1881, we find them at the Staff Hotel, Camberley, Surrey. They lived in a cottage adjacent to his place of work. He described himself as a gentleman’s servant and pensioner of 40. His wife was recorded as “Edith”. By then, she had produced two sons. The elder, William Thomas, was then 2. The second, Joseph, was born and died in 1880. Was this occasioned by the diseases contracted by the father during his army career?
From "The Story of Camberley 1798-1992" by Gordon Wellard  
1891 census of Camberley
On 27th March 1883, their last child, my grandfather Arthur was born at Barossa Common, Frimley, not far from the Staff Hotel. William was still earning his living as a servant. They were still in that area on the night of the 1891 census living on the London Road, what is now the A30, that very old coaching road which runs through Camberley from the West Country. William was 50 and a domestic servant and Elizabeth worked as a dressmaker. There two surviving sons were with them.

By the time of the 1901 enumeration, a double tragedy had befallen William! Firstly, his oldest son, William Thomas, then aged about 20, was severely wounded at the Battle of Glencoe, Natal, on 20th October 1899 during the Boer War, whilst serving with the 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He died two days later. He was one of the many casualties suffered during that engagement.

Secondly, just over a year later, on 21st November 1900, his wife died in the Farnham Union Workhouse in Surrey . She was just 55 and died of “morbus cordis”. William was then a gardener of Frimley. It appears that this double loss had a profound effect on William.

By the time of the 1901 census, William and his sole surviving son had moved back to Earl Shilton in Leicestershire where they were lodging with his married sister, Sarah Raven. However, shortly afterwards he was on his own as Arthur left home.

In 1905, William had returned to Camberley where he had spent most of his married life. In very early January, he was found homeless by an acquaintance, Albert Smith, who took him back to spend the night at his home at 55 Park Street.  Albert's mother was awakened in the night by a noise and found William lying dead at the foot of the stairs. The report of the inquest in the Camberley News describes how William had fallen and broken his neck.
So ended the very dramatic and sad life of my favourite ancestor.      

1 comment:

  1. That's really sad. We were hoping there might be more we could find in the local newspaper as http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ has put so much stuff online this week but sadly there's nothing yet for this title.