ROBERT HAROLD WILLIAMS
This post was written by Victoria Doran
Robert came from a family of mainly Welsh ancestry. He was probably brought up to family myths of some grandeur, which are not entirely accurate. He was almost certainly conscripted into the army when he reached the age of 18 in 1916.
Robert Harold Williams
Robert was born on 22 March 1896 at Jacob Street in Liverpool, the 4th child and 3rd son with 5 siblings surviving infancy. His parents were William Williams (1851-???) and Mary Emily Price (1863-???). With such surnames it is no surprise to find that much of his ancestry originated in North Wales.
William Williams had a range of jobs in his life, but seems to have mainly worked as an assistant in either grocery or chemist shops. He was born in Ruthin, Denbighshire, Wales the 3rd child in the family of 7 of Robert Williams (1821-???) and Ellen Hughes (1822-1896). Ellen was Robert’s second wife, and it is not known if he had any children by his earlier wife.
Robert Williams was a master shoemaker with a business in Prior Street, Ruthin. In 1851 he employed 2 men, but he does not seem to have left any money. He was upwardly mobile as his own father William Williams was a labourer, while Ellen’s father Thomas Hughes was a farmer. He probably retired to Tan y Nant, Llandudno by 1874 as the following laundry bill has been found in the family Bible.
Robert’s parents were married by licence at St Mary, Chester on 22 June 1881. He was aged 30 and she just 19. Neither of them had any previous known connection with Chester. It looks as though she ran away to marry him. None of her family were witnesses, whilst William’s youngest brother Simon Williams (1860-1918) was a witness.
Mary Emily Price was born in January 1863 in Malpas, Cheshire. She was the 2nd of the 4 children of William Price (1822-1883) and Sarah Ann Maddocks (1830-???).
Robert’s grandfather, William Price, joined the UK Medical Register in 1845 when he qualified as a surgeon. He was Welsh, being born at Berse by Wrexham, Denbighshire, the son of Jonathan Price (1796-1829) and Mary Briscoe (1794-1869). Jonathan was a farmer, but as he died when William was just 7 years old, he cannot have figured largely in William’s life. Mary was remarried 3 years later in 1832 to a John Humphreys who described himself as a farmer and a widower. She had 2 more sons, and by 1852 Mary was the farmer of over 160 acres at Lower Berse, with her new husband absent. Possibly she was actually running the farm from the time Jonathan Price died until her own death in 1869. No probate record has been found for her, so possibly she made the farm over to one of her sons well before she died.
William Price worked as a surgeon and general practitioner in Malpas from the late 1840s to the late 1860s. He married Alice Bloor (1829-1851) on 5 November 1850 in Malpas, but she and her baby probably died in childbirth almost exactly 9 months later. He then married Sarah Ann Maddocks by licence on 17 March 1853 at St Mary, Chester. His half brother Henry Humphreys (1834-1892) and a Mary Briscoe were witnesses. Their first 3 children were born in Malpas, but by 1869 the family had moved to Marchwiel a couple of miles outside Wrexham, where William served as the Medical Officer for the 5th District of the Wrexham Union. Sarah Ann died in the 1870s, and William retired early and moved with his family to Rhyl, Denbighshire. However he moved back to the Wrexham area before he died in 1883. He was not wealthy leaving only £61.
Sarah Ann Maddocks is almost certainly the original source of Mary Emily’s family stories of gracious living.
This scrap of paper was found pinned in Mary Emily’s Bible. Sarah Ann and her sister Jane (1825-1880) came from an area that is quite difficult to research being on the borders of England and Wales, and on the borders of 3 counties, Cheshire, Flintshire and Denbighshire. Some of the parishes span counties and even countries. However none of the places that are involved are more than a few miles apart.
Sarah Ann’s parents were Thomas Maddocks (1785-???) and Sarah Briscoe (1795-???). Note the surname Briscoe. It seems very likely that Sarah Ann’s mother and William Price’s mother were related in some way, probably they were cousins, in which case, Sarah Ann and William would have been second cousins. Thomas Maddocks was a farmer born in Willington, Flintshire, Wales. He farmed nearly 200 acres at Penley, Flintshire which is in the parish of Ellesmere, Shropshire. Sarah was born at Penley, so possibly they inherited a farm from her father. When he retired he moved to Tushingham in the parish of Malpas, Cheshire. However no probate record has been found for him. There is no great wealth apparent in this part of the family.
However Jane Maddocks was married on 1st May 1845 to John Vernon (1813-1878) of Tushingham House, Tushingham, Cheshire. The Vernon family had lived in the Malpas area for several generations and by 1764 John’s grandfather Thomas Vernon was living at Tushingham House described as a yeoman. John’s mother was Elizabeth Murhall (1774-1849) from Whitchurch, Shropshire where her father Thomas Murhall was a wheelwright. St Chad’s Chapel at Tushingham was a Chapel of Ease for the parish of Malpas. The Vernon and Murhall families seem to have regarded it as their family chapel, an earlier Vernon having married into the Dod family, whose ancestor founded St Chad.
Tushingham House is still a listed building according to Historic England, and can be seen on Google Earth to be a substantial brick gentleman’s house, now a large working farm.
From family sources, it would seem that Emily Jane regaled her family with tales of the Vernon’s as if they were from her own direct line, rather than that of her great aunt Jane (Maddocks) Vernon.
William & Mary Emily Williams lived with their family at various addresses in Liverpool until at least 1904 when their youngest child Harry Weaver Williams (1904-???) was born.
However in 1911 Mary Emily and the children were living at 57 Lee Road, Hoylake and William Williams has disappeared (Mary is recorded as ‘head of household). No further trace of him has been found. The enumerator’s red ink through the marriage and number of children details certainly suggests he was no longer considered a part of the household. Mary Emily claimed to be of ‘private means’ but it is difficult to see where such means could have come from. The family seems to have been supported by Arthur Losford Williams (1890-1963) who worked for a grocer and Robert who worked as a shop boy. They later moved to 18 Newton Road, Hoylake, not far away.
At the time he enlisted Robert was working at New Farm, Hoylake for farmer John Smith. Robert’s military record has not survived, so we know little of his army service. He was Private 41794 in the 12th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment.
King’s Liverpool cap badge
The 12th Battalion was formed in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s 2nd New Army. It became part of the 61st Brigade of the 20th (Light) Division).
Robert was killed in action during the Battle of Langemarck on 17 August 1917 aged 21. This battle was an attack by the British on the German Lines. The 61st Brigade was one of 2 Brigades in the Front Line of the attack, which had the objective of capturing the village of Langemarck, Belgium. The attack started at 4.45 am and overall was successful, but Robert was killed and his body never recovered.
He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and was awarded the Victory and British War medals.
Tyne Cot Memorial, Ypres, Belgium
Robert is also commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial and the Hoylake Roll of Honour from Holy Trinity Church (now in St Hildeburgh).
Robert’s eldest brother, William Glynn Williams (1884-1955), enlisted in the 21st Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment on 23 October 1915 as Private 2432. Due to aggravating lumbago incurred whilst working as a dock labourer in 1912, he was medically discharged on 28 July 1916. He never served overseas so was not awarded medals.
Robert’s 2nd brother, Arthur Losford Williams (1890 – 1963), enlisted as Private 364 in the Cheshire Regiment on 3 September 1914 and was demobbed on 6 September 1919. He served in France and was awarded the 15 Star, Victory and British War medals.
Youngest brother, Harry Weaver Williams, was too young to serve in the war.
Thanks are due to descendants of his brother Arthur Losford Williams for access to family documents.
Birth: 22 Mar 1896 at Jacob Street, Liverpool
Death: 17 Aug 1917 killed in action at Langemarck, Belgium
Addresses: Jacob Street, Liverpool (96); 26 Hawdon Street, Liverpool (01); 57 Lee Road, Hoylake (11); 18 Newton Road, Hoylake (17)
Occupation: shop boy; worked on New Farm, Hoylake
Unit: 12th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 41794; Private
Medals: Victory & British War
Commemorated: Tyne Cot Memorial, Ypres, Belgium; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; Holy Trinity Church, Hoylake (now at St Hildeburgh)
Sources: CWGC, MC, BN, DA, Census: 01, 11, BR, PR, family, Prob, GH, H