Category Archives: Merstham

Joseph Abbott (25 July 1874–27 September 1915†)

Joseph Abbott (see also his page on Lives of the First World War) was the son of Alfred Abbott and Amy nee Gibbs – their marriage was registered in the East Grinstead registration district in the second quarter 1874, and Joseph was born in Merstham on 25 July 1874, and baptised at St Katharine’s on 4 October 1874. By the 1881 census the family were living at 6 Orchard Road, Merstham, Alfred (28, from High Wycombe) was a general labourer, Amy, now 29, was originally from Worth in Sussex. By 1891 Joseph was a 16-year-old shop porter, and the family were now living at Monson Road, Redhill. By 1896 he may have returned to Merstham as there is a Joseph Abbott listed in the 1896 electoral rolls for the Reigate constituency living in Merstham.

Joseph married Lizzie Peers on Christmas Day 1899, and a son Alfred Joseph was born just four months later, on 26 April 1900 (it seems they had rather anticipated their marriage!). He was baptised on 27 May at which time the family were living at Bourne Road, South Merstham. By 1901 the couple and their son were living at Park Stile, Merstham. Joseph was now a labourer in the lime works. A daughter, Clara, was born on 5 November 1902 and baptised on 24 November 1902, their address was recorded as 6 Park Stile Cottages. Sadly Clara Abbott was just 8 months old when she died and was buried on 13 July 1903 in the churchyard of Merstham, St Katharine. Her address is given as 4 Quarry Cottages, Limeworks, Merstham. Another son, Jack, followed on 18 June 1904 (baptised 26 June 1904). He was followed by a daughter, Ivy May, on 29 April 1906 (baptised 24 June 1906), then two more sons, Albert Edward and James on 5 May 1908 (baptised 28 June 1908) and 21 February 1910 (baptised 24 April 1910) respectively. By 1911 Joseph was a lime burner, and the family were still living at 4 Quarry Cottages, Merstham (the same address is given for all the later children’s baptisms too, and in electoral register entries from 1905 to 915). The census details also tell us that the couple had had two other children who had died before the census was taken, one of these was Clara, the second still ahs not been identified, possibly she died before she could be baptised, and so was not buried in consecrated ground either (or the transcription of the records is such I have not tracked it down).

Joseph did not immediately rush to the colours immediately on the outbreak of war. It was around November 1914 that he enlisted in Redhill. 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards had been formed at Marlow around September, it’s not clear whether he was posted to that battalion immediately, or trained at a depot first. The battalion was posted to France on 15 August 1915, joining Third Guards Brigade, Guards Division on 19 August. Joseph’s medal card indicates he was with the battalion on arrival. Just over a month later they were in action. Joseph was killed on 27 September one of 342 casualties in the battalion’s attack on Hill 70 during the Battle of Loos. He made a soldier’s will, leaving everything to Lizzie. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry shows that she remarried quite quickly, and registration data shows that this was on 4 February 1918. She married a man named Arthur Wood, quite possibly the man who was living with his parents, 3 brothers and a nephew at 1 Quarry Cottages in 1911: his age and occupation in 1911 are consistent with the details in the marriage register.

While a small pension would have been paid to her while she remained a widow, such remarriages were not uncommon when women still had young children to provide for. There is no mention of Abbott’s ringing activities in the ringing newspapers before the war.

A year after his father had gone to France, Alfred Joseph Abbott entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class (he would have needed Lizzie’s permission to join up). He continued serving into the 1930s, and returned to service in the Second World War.

The present Merstham ringers rang a quarter peal on 25 September 2015 to commemorate the centenary of Joseph Abbott’s death.

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Missed from Merstham

I originally described Merstham as “the unluckiest tower” as it appeared that only two members had served, and both had been killed. However, looking again at the Roll as published in the annual report a few days ago, I suddenly realised that that version named four more men from Merstham who had all survived the war. Two of these were the elder brothers of Ernest Morley, one of the two men from Merstham who were killed, Alfred and Horace Morley. All three brothers were living together in 1911 in the household of the eldest, Alfred, and his wife Elizabeth, at 89 Albury Road, South Merstham. Alfred (26) was a gardener domestic, Horace (17) was also a gardener, Ernest (14) a baker’s assistant. Alfred served in the Suffolk Regiment. Horace, joined the cavalry, serving with the 3rd Hussars for most of the war. After the war he joined the Tank Corps, and continued serving until 1926, when he returned to South Merstham.

Alex Frederick Cheasley served in the Royal Navy, finishing the war aboard the destroyer HMS Tower. He was born in Merstham on 9 December 1896, he’d been working as a postman until he joined up on 16 March 1916. William Henry Etherington was a chauffeur in 1911, according to the roll he served in the Royal Army Service Corps, but so far official records have not found for certain. There are several William Etherington’s to be found in the Army Service Corps, but nothing to tie any one of them to Merstham. There is even one William H Etherington, but his service number suggests he served in the Horse Transport section, rather than the Motor Transport section as would be expected for a chauffeur.

Soldiers’ Effects Registers

Another new First World War source has recently been released on Ancestry. These are the Soldiers’ Effects Registers held by the National Army Museum, Chelsea. Until this digitisation partnership, the registers could only be accessed via a paid search through the museum.

They detail amounts paid out by the War Office following a soldier’s death. The registers show the soldier’s name, the unit with which they were serving at time of death, place of death, amounts paid out, and to whom. They can be very useful when the CWGC details are scant as the relationship to the payee is also shown. They also complement the probate records released previously, as they show the actual size of the estate. A recent free weekend on Ancestry gave a good chance to get to grips with these records (though I couldn’t get through all the records for association members killed in the war).

Looking through those on the roll who were killed we find the following additional or confirmatory details. For Sydney Reddick, his death is recorded as being at 136 Field Ambulance, using war diaries it should be possible to find a more exact location for this on the date of his death, it also shows that as indicated on his will, his mother was his sole legatee. John Webb’s entry offers nothing new, but confirms that all monies were paid out to his wife. For Sidney Frank Rayner we get the additional detail that he died in Preston Hall Hospital, Aylesford, Kent. This hospital specialised in men who had been gassed, or who were suffering with TB or other lung complaints. For Albert Arthur Stoner of Burstow there is no new detail, just confirmation that the payments were made to his father, Arthur. Similarly for Walter Eric Markey, the only new detail is of the payments to his father and mother. For Frank Pickering of Carshalton again we learn that all payments went to his parents as joint legatees (though no will has been traced). C H Schooling of St John’s, Croydon is the first officer to appear in the registers, the payees here are less clear, it seems they may be passed through his agents rather than directly to next-of-kin.

Next, Arthur Frederick Roberts of Godstone, the register shows payments to his mother as sole legatee of £10 19s 1d. For George Basil Edser of Hersham payments of £7 6s to his widow, Edna. Similarly for Joseph Abbott of Merstham entry shows payments to his widow, Lizzie, of £10 1s 10d, while that for fellow Merstham ringer, Ernest Morley shows £25 17s to his father, Henry.

For the Mitcham trio, starting with Douglas Walter Drewett, for whom there were payments of £20 15s 5d to his widow, Margaret. Then for Benjamin Arthur Morris, £28 5s 7d to his father Arthur. Finally, Stanley Smith, £5 5s 1d to his father William S Smith.

This was all I had time to look at. In the majority of cases so far, there was not a huge amount new, but the very first record for Sydney Reddick gave additional information on where he died which can be followed up in the war diaries.

St Katharine’s, Merstham – the unluckiest tower

St Katharine’s, Merstham, sent just two ringers to war, but neither returned. Neither has a known grave, with Guardsman Joseph Abbott dying in the disastrous Battle of Loos on 27 September 1915 and Private Ernest Morley being killed in the German Spring Offensive on 27 March 1918.