This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
The name Dodimead is one of the more unusual ones to appear on the Grange Hill Memorial. According to the online surname Profiler It is currently very rare indeed throughout the country and in 1881 was found only in Somerset. Hertfordshire and South East London. It is believed to be the name of a lost settlement, which is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words duda, meaning “round or rotund “and mead, meaning “meadow”. The duda element is also the root of the surname Dodd.
On both sides of his family, Tom Dodimead came from generations of skilled artisans. In several instances they were starting to move into the middle classes. Despite their skills they could always struggle financially whenever the breadwinner died unwontedly young.
Tom was born on 29 October 1886 in West Kirby, and baptised at St Bridget’s church on Christmas Day. He was the elder son of John Dodimead (1850-1888) and Elizabeth Rowland (1857-1943). He had an older sister Annie Elizabeth (1885-1893) and a younger brother John (1889-1966). Tom was only two years old when his father died, and his brother was born posthumously. John Dodimead and Elizabeth Rowland had married on 16 May 1883 at St Bridget.
His father was a carpenter born in Corton Denham, Somerset, and came from several generations of carpenters and builders. His brother Samuel had a successful building and contracting company in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, which Tom’s cousins, John and Hedley Dodimead, succeeded to. Presumably John Dodimead came to Cheshire to work in the house building boom once the railway reached West Kirby. He did not leave his widow with any money to bring up three children when he died.
Elizabeth Rowland was born in West Kirby to a long established local family of stone masons. Her father Thomas Rowland (1829-1887) married twice. Her mother Elizabeth Williams (1823-1872) was from Denbighshire, but had moved to West Kirby with her parents before her marriage on 13 May 1856 at St Bridget, and had worked as a dressmaker. Elizabeth Williams’ father Henry was a coachman. The Rowland family, including Elizabeth’s only sibling Thomas (1860-???), lived at Mill Cottage throughout her childhood. On 7 April 1875, Thomas Rowland remarried, this time to Emma Williams (1838-1893) from Shropshire. There is no known connection between the families of Thomas Rowland’s 2 wives.
When Emma was widowed in 1887 and left with a young son John Rowland (1876-1953), Thomas Rowland had left her just over £200. Emma set up a boarding house at Kirby View, Beacon Road, West Kirby. What was then known as Beacon Road, is now that part of Caldy Road between Village Road and Mount Road, so in the heart of ‘old’ West Kirby. When Tom’s mother was herself widowed the following year, she followed her step mother’s example and set up a boarding house in Eaton Road, West Kirby.
She had further agonies to endure as at the 1891 census Tom’s younger brother John was a patient in the Childrens Infirmary in Myrtle Street, Liverpool. Then within about six months in 1893, she lost both her only daughter Annie Elizabeth, and her stepmother. She moved her family to Kirby View, Beacon Road and took over her stepmother’s boarding house, which was presumably more profitable than her own one in Eaton Road. Emma’s son John Rowland remained in the house as part of the family. In 1901 John Rowland was a litho artist working from home, but he subsequently became a jobbing gardener.
Tom attended Calday Grange Grammar School for his secondary education. Tom’s mother was remarried this time to Joseph Royden (1861-1944), who was a farmer. The family moved to Rose Farm, Little Neston, and now included Joseph’s daughter’s, one from each of his two previous marriages. Joseph Royden was born in Bidston, and had earlier been a publican. He was financially more secure than Elizabeth and her closer relations.
It is likely that Elizabeth and Joseph met each other through their mutual family friend of James Sherratt, farm bailiff at Caldy. James Sherratt was a witness at Thomas Rowland’s marriage to Emma Williams, and his daughter Jane Westland Sherratt (1865-1903) was Joseph Royden’s second wife. James would have been keen to know that his granddaughter had a stepmother he trusted. At the 1911 census the Roydens and John Dodimead were living at Rose Farm, Little Neston. John was working as a shipping clerk. Tom has not been found in Britain at the 1911 census. At some date between 1901 and 1916 Tom moved to Singapore.
Between 1911 and 1916 Joseph Royden, Elizabeth and Dorothy Marguerite Royden (b.1903) his young daughter by Jane Sherratt, moved to Hill Top Farm, Staunton Harold near Ashby de la Zouche , Leicestershire. This move is a complete mystery as none of them seems to have had any connection to Leicestershire.
On 26 Jul 1916 Tom landed at London having travelled from Singapore on the Alfred Holt Line vessel ‘Oanfa’ as the only British passenger. There were 5 ‘alien’ passengers as well, 4 adults and a child. Tom returned to England 1st Class and was a shipping clerk. As he is recorded as a permanent resident of Singapore, he must have lived there at least a year. He is also recorded as returning to join HM Forces. However it was five months before he enlisted in the Army Service Corps as Private 255420 at Coalville, Leicestershire on 28 December. This was probably the nearest recruitment place to Staunton Harold.
Tom’s military record no longer exists, so we have no information on what he did before he landed on 11 March 1918 in Egypt, en route to Palestine. By this time he was a member of 921 Company of the 54th Divisional Train of the ASC. Their job was to ensure that the troops fighting the Turks in Palestine were kept supplied with all the necessaries of life.
At some stage whilst doing this task, Tom contracted malaria. He was moved to General Hospital 21 in Alexandria, Egypt where he died on 2 November 1918 aged 32. He is buried in grave E116 of the Hadra Military Cemetery at Alexandria.
Tom is also commemorated on the grave of his father and sister at St Bridget, West Kirby; on the Honours Board of Calday Grange Grammar School, and the plaques at St Bridget and St Andrew churches. He must have done reasonably well in Singapore as he left nearly £600. His brother John, by then a farmer, handled his affairs.
Birth: 29 Oct 1886 at West Kirby
Death: 2 Nov 1918 at Alexandria, Egypt; in hospital from malaria
Addresses:, Eaton Road, West Kirby (91), Kirby View, Beacon Road, West Kirby (96), Caldy Road, West Kirby (01), Rose Farm, Little Neston (11);
Occupation: shipping clerk
Unit: 921 Company, 54th Division Train, Army Service Corps
Number and Rank: 255420; Private
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Hadra Military Cemetery, Alexandria, Egypt E116; St Bridget churchyard, Calday Grange Grammar School, St Bridget & St Andrew churches, all West Kirby
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, SDGW, Census: 91, 01, 11, BR, PR, Probate, Kelly’s Directory, Calday RoH, De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, passenger list