4 April 2010

A man of Kent

A trawl through the database brought forward a few anniversaries on 4th April but the one that caught my eye was a newspaper report from the Oxford Journal (I think, it came via someone else and I may not have transcribed that bit perfectly). Before I launch into it, let me introduce you to one of those mentioned:

My g-g-g-uncle William Staden was born in Sundridge, in Kent, in 1813, the eighth of nine children of Thomas & Sarah (nee Dodd) and joined the army as a young man. But not for long . . . . thanks to the Manchester & Lancs FHS, I was able to find that his name came up in the Army Deserters (1828-1840) database.

It appears that he was in the 11th Light Dragoons and, presumably, decided he didn't like it. His trade is listed as "Coachman" so I presume that was his civvie job (altho', as ever, I'm open to opinions).

Then William disappears for a few years - although I might have found in 1841 but I have no point of reference and the info is not enough to claim him - and reappears at the Cavalry Barracks, in Norwich, in the 1851 census. Back in the Army?? I suppose it's regular work. In 1864 he married Eliza Searle in Windlesham, Surrey, and together they bring up Eliza's daughter Clara. A farm labourer in Lewisham in 1871, he's moved . . . er . . . up in the world by 1881 when he's become the valet to Colonel Peel, an army pensioner.

But then, we come to that 4th April anniversary and the newspaper: under the heading "Suicide of Colonel Peel", it transpires that the said Colonel, formerly of the 11th Hussars, shot himself whilst severely depressed. William, his valet and servant, had the misfortune to be the one to find him. If you're eating, I'd look away now . . .

"Wm Staden, servant and valet to the deceased, stated that Colonel Peel seemed nervous and spoke but little on Wednesday morning. He rose shortly after eleven o'clock, and did not go out for a walk at one o'clock as was his usual custom. Just before four o'clock in the afternoon witness entered his room and found him dead, with a pistol-wound in his forehead. He was reclining against a chair, and near his body was en open despatch-box containing his will and other papers. The box was bespattered with blood. His right hand grasped a double-barrelled pistol, and his finger was on the trigger. One chamber of the weapon had been discharged and the other was still loaded."

Don't you just love "bespattered" - they didn't mince their words, did they!

Anyway, after that bit of excitement, William and his wife Eliza removed themselves away from the posh bits of London (Westminster) back to West Ham/Poplar and remained there until William's death in 1894. Eliza, together with granddaughter Minnie, moved even further out of London, back to her old stomping ground of Frimley, in Surrey, and she died in the Farnham area in 1925. I've just discovered that Minnie married Samuel Abbott, a fireman, in 1902 and was living in Shepherd's Bush in 1911.

Minnie is, of course, no relation to me whatsoever, being William's wife's granddaughter, but I still like to know what happened to her.

More soon.

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