The following two biographies were written by Victoria Doran. Stephen Roberts made some small additions. The two men were not related, but have been grouped together because they were both associated with West Kirby and their names are close to each other on the Grange Hill War Memorial.
JOHN HENRY DICKINSON
According to newspaper reports John Henry Dickinson was known as Jack to his family and friends, so that is how he will be referred to. Jack was born on 13 July 1894 at Back Sea View, Hoylake the youngest of the five children to survive infancy of John Dickinson (1852-1927) and Mary Ann Leather (1864-1900). On 28 October of that year he was baptised at Holy Trinity, Hoylake.
John Dickinson Senior was born in Great Crosby, Lancashire and worked all his life in various forms of labouring, latterly as a brick setter. Mary Ann Leather was the daughter of an agricultural labourer and her family lived at various times around Hoylake, Meols and West Kirby. Before her marriage on 16 April 1883 at St Bridget, West Kirby, she had worked as a domestic servant but lived with her parents at Lang Terrace (now called Birkett Road), West Kirby.
Sometime after Jack was born, the family moved to West Kirby. His mother died in the summer of 1900, when Jack was about seven years old. By 1901 John Dickinson and his 4 youngest children were living in a small terrace house at 41 Birkett Road, West Kirby, together with his elderly in-laws James and Martha Leather. 41 Birkett Road was a narrow two up two down terrace house, which must have been very crowded.
James Leather died in 1902, and by 1911 John Dickinson, sons William and Jack, and Martha Leather were living as boarders at 2 Kinver Terrace, Milton Road, West Kirby. They were boarding with George Davies, his wife and 4 children aged 6 and under. Including the kitchen the house only had 4 rooms, so it was even more crowded than they experienced in 1901. Jack aged 16 was working as a grocer’s errand boy. Clearly the family was struggling financially.
According to the Deeside Advertiser of 6 November 1914, both eldest brother Alfred Laurence Dickinson (1888 – 1956) and William Dickinson (1890-1941) were both already in the army. Jack joined up before the end of 1914. His military record has not survived, but we know he served in the Cheshire Regiment. The Deeside Advertiser of 3 December 1915 printed the following article about the three brothers:
From this we know that Jack served in the 9th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. It is believed he served in this battalion for his entire service. If so he will have done the early part of his training at Basingstoke, moving to Salisbury Plain in March 1915. He landed at Boulogne in France on 19 Jul 1915 as part of the 58th Brigade of the 19th (Western) Division.
Unfortunately, neither Arthur Crookenden in his History of the Cheshire Regiment in the Great War nor the excellent Long Long Trail contain any information about where the 9th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment was situated or what it was doing at the time of Jack’s death on 21st February 1916. Further work will have to be done in battalion war diaries. He is buried in Merville Communal Cemetery, so he probably died in a medical facility nearby. Merville was in Allied hands from October 1914 until 1918, so was ‘behind the lines’.
Eldest brother Alfred served in the Royal Field Artillery in France and brother William served in the 8th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment in the Dardanelles, contracting dysentery and being hospitalised in Malta. Both survived the war, but nothing else has been found about their service.
Note that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have recorded Jack’s date of death as 21 February, whilst the Book of Remembrance held at West Kirby Library gives it as 22 February.
Birth: 13 Jul 1894 at Back Sea View, Hoylake
Death: 21 Feb 1916 in France; died from wounds
Addresses: 41 Birkett Road, West Kirby (01); 2 Kinver Terrace, Milton Road, West Kirby
Occupation: Grocer’s Errand Boy
Units: 9th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 12910, Private
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: France: Merville Communal Cemetery VI L 6
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, DA, BR, PR, Census: 01, 11
REGINALD CHARLES DREAPER
Dreaper is a very unusual surname. I have not been able to find it either in The Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames or on the online British Surname Profiler, which did not have any data for the name at all. It seems probable that it is a variation of Draper and therefore is of Anglo-Saxon origin and means “a purveyor of cloth”. Bearers of that name settled in Ulster in the 17th century. As will be seen below, Reginald did have Irish ancestry, so this interpretation would make sense. (Stephen Roberts)
Reginald Charles Dreaper is the only man with a West Kirby connection who served in the New Zealand Armed Forces. He was born in the spring of 1885 in Freshfield, Lancashire, the third child and second son of George Hotham Dreaper (1839-1894) and Louisa Mary Ann Plank (1858-1943). His siblings were Clarissa Hotham Dreaper (1881-1960), George Porter Dreaper (1883-1913) and Gladys Henriette Dreaper (1887-1961). His story really starts with the arrival in Liverpool of his grandfather William Porter Dreaper (1804-1882) from Waterford in Ireland.
William Dreaper Porter was a very successful man who usually called himself a music seller, but in reality made and sold pianofortes, harmoniums etc. His workshop was in Bold Street, Liverpool. According to the Hereford Times of 30 May 1846 he had a showroom above some workshops on the corner of Shaw Street and Wood Street, with about 60 pianos on display. In that month one of the premises below caught fire, the building was destroyed and only 5 pianos were rescued. He was believed not to be fully insured. At the time he was in Paris, so presumably his business was international. This major setback did not defeat him, and on 21 May 1861 he was granted a patent for an improvement to pianofortes.
William Porter Dreaper had 3 sons all of whom joined him in the business. The middle son John Shaw Dreaper (1834-1899) left to became a commission agent in Lambeth, London. The eldest William Henry Dreaper (1833-1895) and youngest George Hotham Dreaper, Reginald Charles’ father, took over the business in the 1870s as William Porter Dreaper had become insane and was committed to an asylum. However the sons evidently did not have the abilities of their father. When William Porter Dreaper died in 1882 he left over £14,000. All three sons died between 1894 and 1899 and none of them left more than about £1500, George Hotham Dreaper leaving the least. We know from the following:
that all William Porter Dreaper’s money went to his widow with reversion to his sons. His widow Henrietta Catherina Pinch (1812-1893) died before any of her sons and left less than £1000. So William and George seem to have run the business at a loss.
By the time Reginald Charles Dreaper was 7 years old, the family had moved to 31 Westbourne Road, West Kirby and his father and paternal grandparents were dead. Both his paternal uncles died by the time he was 14. Up to this time George Hotham Dreaper always employed at least one servant. His maternal grandparents were John George Ward Plank (1826-1871) and Clarissa Pickford (1832-1900). Both were Londoners and J G W Plank worked as a clerk for HM Customs. Although they had a very large family and always employed a household servant, John George Ward Plank did not leave enough for probate. By 1901 his mother had moved the family to 12 North Road, West Kirby, and Reginald Charles was working as an insurance clerk.
In 1908 he decided that office life was not for him and emigrated to New Zealand. He travelled first class from Liverpool to Wellington on the SS Fifeshire, leaving on 2 May. By 1911 he was a farmer living at Erepeti, Upper Ruakuturi Valley, Wairoa, Hawkes Bay in North Island, New Zealand. Presumably he was farming sheep. It seems to have been many generations since any member of either side of his family worked on the land in any capacity, so it would be interesting to know how he managed to acquire the necessary knowledge.Today there is no settlement at Erepeti, and the upper part of the Ruakuturi Valley is known for trout fishing and scenery. In 1913 his brother George died, having been reasonably successful as a timber merchant as he left over £1600 and was only aged 30.
Reginald Charles Dreaper joined up quite early once war was declared as he was part of the second draft of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force which left New Zealand on 14 December 1914. He was a trooper in the Wellington Mounted Rifles.
He was part of the ANZAC force at Gallipoli where he was severely wounded by shrapnel, dying on 11 July on board a hospital ship at the age of 30. He was buried at sea. He is reported as being ‘a man of very splendid physique and a very genial disposition’.
He seems to have had no-one in New Zealand to look after his affairs as the attorney of the Public Trustee of New Zealand was granted administration of his probate in England in 1921. He left £312 in England. He is commemorated on panel 72 of the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, Turkey.
And also on the family grave at St Bridget, West Kirby, which is somewhat neglected.
Birth: Apr 1885 at Freshfield, Lancashire
Death: 11 Jul 1915 at sea of wounds received at Gallipoli
Addresses: 2 Mount Pleasant Road, Liscard (91); 12 North Road, West Kirby (01); Erepeti, Upper Ruakuturi Valley, Wairoa , Hawkes Bay, New Zealand (11) (14)
Occupations: Insurance Clerk, Farmer
Unit: Wellington Mounted Rifles, New Zealand
Number and Rank: 11/757; Trooper
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War (all assumed)
Commemorated: Turkey : Lone Pine Memorial, panel 72; St Bridget’s Church Yard, West Kirby
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, DA, Census: 91, 01, NZ Army Rolls, Probate, NZ Electoral Rolls and New Zealand History Website