Unrelated but absorbing

Following on from my last post about tracing the history of your house, I decided to look a bit into the history of the man who had owned our house before us. The only information I knew his name and that he was in his early 90s.

Kenneth Sidney Merrett was born in Swindon in 1925, he never married and had no children that I know of. While I don’t know much about him, I know he had lived in our house for at least 28 years – going by information from 192.com. According to the Electoral Roll he lived with a lady for at least 2 years before her death in 2004, and that she too had never married. It is unclear whether they were in a relationship, just friends or if she lodged with him.

According to the 1939 Register, taken some months into the start of WWII, Kenneth lived with his parents Sidney Robert and Louise Merrett at 117 Edinburgh Street, Swindon – he was at school, his father worked for the Great Western Railway as a Carriage Fitter. Looking at their neighbours, the railway was the major employer with a retired railway clerk and a carriage painter living in the same street.

Old Map swindon 1942

Map of the Gorse Hill area of Swindon from 1942 from http://www.oldmapsonline.org

Sidney and Louise had six children, Kenneth being their second child, their first child had died in infancy. I went backwards to look at when they married and was surprised to see that they had married in 1924 up in Little Bowden, Northamptonshire almost 100 miles away from Swindon. Louise was a widower when they married, her previous married name being Jennings and her maiden name being Moss. I found her marriage to Charles Ernest Jennings in 1914 in nearby Market Harborough, Leicestershire. He was a Hosiery Hand residing in Luton, Bedfordshire – some 50 odd miles away from Market Harborough, however he was from Great Bowden near Market Harborough.

I had a feeling that WWI would be a factor in why Louise was a widow when she married Sidney, and I was right. I found Charles Jennings’ army service record on Ancestry which proved to be interesting.

Charles joined up to the Leicester Regiment when he was 19 in 1912, two years before WWI began. He had his initial training with them and then presumably on reserve until war broke out. He was at home until June 1915 and then went to France. Sadly he was there for two short months before his untimely death on 8th August at the No. 2 Canadian Hospital in Le Tréport near Dieppe of Appendicitis. His record contained a letter explaining the circumstances around his death.

8th Oct 1915

From: O.C. No. 2 Canadian General Hospital

To: Officer in Charge Territorial Force Records Litchfield

No. 1285 L/Cpl. Jennings, C.E.

5th Leicestershire Regt.

Deceased

Sir:

With reference to your No. 9834, of the 4th instant, on the subject named in the margin, I have the honour to state as follows:

Lance Corporal Jennings came to this Hospital with a convoy of wounded on the night of August the 7th.

He gave the following history, which with notes, is recorded on his Medical Case Sheet:

Was operated on three months before at Leicester for what was described as evidently a localized Abscess of the Appendix.

This was opened and drained, a tube being left in for two weeks, but patient says the appendix was not removed at the time of the operation.

He has been at the front for two months. About 3 days ago he got dizzy and had vomiting, this was followed by pain in the region of the appendix which came in spasms.

Examination showed tenderness under the old cicatrix, with a mass which was probably pus.

Diagnosis – Appendicitis or Abscess of the Appendix.

As he had been travelling for some time, he was given a few hours rest and brought forward for operation.

He died in the Operation Room.

The Surgeon was our Senior Surgeon, Major C. B. Keenan, D.S.O, Lecturer in Surgery at McGill University, with Lieut. Colonel R. D. Rudolf, a Professor at Toronto University, in attendance.

The Anaesthetist was Captain J. P. Walsh, permanent Anaesthetist and on the Staff of the Jeffrey Hall Hospital, Quebec City, and who has anaesthetized many a thousand patients here for this unit.

Lance Corporal Jennings just collapsed, and in spite of the efforts of all these eminent men, he died.

Strychnine was given, Atropine and artificial respiration continued for nearly an hour but without success.

The men are well-known professional men in Canada, and most careful practitioners.

I have the honour to be,

Sir

Your obedient servant

L W Bridges

Colonel O.C. No. 2 Canadian General Hospital

It made for sad reading, they fought hard to save him from something that should have been dealt with months before. He was just 22.

I was also struck with a deep sadness reading the simple list of his personal effects which were sent home to his widow Louise.

Effects

Extract from Charles Jennings’ service record from Ancestry

French prayer book, pouch, writing pad, letters, 2 pamphlets, box tobacco, knife, pipe, ornamental glass, cap, purse, 2 rings, badge, 2 buttons, note book, housewife scissors, disc, drill field book, musketry regulations, belt, match box, handkerchief.

There are also receipts to confirm Louise had received his medals, I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for her to have received the news of his death, their only child Doris was just six months old.

I have no details about her life between his death and marrying Sidney Merrett nine years later. She passed away in 1968 aged 77. Sidney never remarried and died in the same house 117 Edinburgh Street, in 1980 aged 82. Kenneth ended up living just two miles away. From old maps I can see that the street we live in used to be railway lines going into the GWR works. We live within walking distance of the McArthur Glen Outlet Village which was built inside the old works.

117 Edinburgh St

117 Edinburgh Street from Google Maps

 

1889 Map

The area that Ken moved to in the late 1980s seen here in a map of 1889 (surveyed in 1885) from http://www.oldmapsonline.org

The road called William Street was then named Marner Street in 1888 before it became Manton Street in 1917. It originally had 10 houses, six on one side and four on the other plus the Wessex Guild Works. The original houses on Manton Street were demolished in 1969 to make way for social housing – Alfred Bown Court. Over time the road parallel to it – Charles Street, was also built over with Manton Street expanding into this road in the 1970s.

In 1986 the GWR works closed so after that the area behind Manton Street was developed on with more houses and flats.

Current Map

The area today from GoogleMaps

We know Kenneth lived in the house from at least 1988, so there may have been a previous owner. Paul moved in towards the end of 2016 and I joined him there in February the following year. We have done a lot of work to the house and it is still ongoing. We will probably move in a couple of years, but it is nice to know how the area developed over that time and in some ways, although we weren’t related to Kenneth, finding out a little about his family has been quite absorbing.

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