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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

William Henry Edwards - Waterman of Maidenhead

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries.

Anchor monument to William Henry Edwards, All Saints Cemetery, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

"In loving memory of William Henry Edwards who departed this life June 2? 1902 aged 48 years"

William Henry Edwards was born in 1853 in Maidenhead Berkshire to Charles Edwards, a railway labourer, and his wife Elizabeth Scrafield.

William first appears on the 1861 Census, listed as W Edwards, aged 8, living with his parents and siblings in North Town, Maidenhead Berkshire.

In 1871 William is serving as a Private in the Coldstream Guards in Essex.

In 1879 William marries Emma Gomm in Maidenhead Berkshire and their first child, a son William Frank is born a year later in 1880.  The family can be found on the 1881 Census living at North Town Court where William trade is a waterman. Watermen of the Thames were boat or barge men who offered their services for hire to transport goods or passengers along the river. 

The Company of Watermen and Lighterman was established by Act of Parliament in 1555 to control the Watermen on the River Thames responsible for the movement of goods and passengers. Indeed it remains the only ancient City Guild to he formed and controlled by Act of Parliament.

Even today it still licences the Watermen and Lighterman working on the River Thames, the former being concerned with passenger transport and the latter with the carriage of goods. The young Freemen of the Company are eligible to participate in the Doggett's Coat and Badge Race, which has been held annually since 1715. This gruelling boat race is held each July and goes along the river from London Bridge to Chelsea. The winner has the honour of
wearing the scarlet coat, breeches and silver arm badge that are based on the original costume of an eighteenth century Watermen"  - Watermens Hall

1891 finds William and his family still living in North Town Court, joining the family are Henry Charles aged 9, Beatrice Mary aged 7, Rhoda aged 5, James (Stephen James) aged 3 and 1 year old Mary.  Living a few doors away are William's brother Ernest J and his family.  Ernest is also a waterman by trade.

By 1901, just a year before William's death, the family has moved to 9 Rose Cottage, Summerleaze Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire.  Also at this time William Frank is currently residing as a patient at the Royal Naval Hospital in Alverstoke, Hampshire.  William Frank was listed as an Able Seaman.  Sadly William Frederick was to pass away at the end of 1901 in Bury St Edmunds aged only 21 years.

1901 was to be a sad year for the Edwards family as 13 year old Rhoda passed away in Windsor, Berkshire.

Maybe the marriage of Henry Charles to Louisa Georgina Goddard in 1904 and the marriage of Beatrice Mary to Frederick Charles in 1906 brought back some happiness to the family

William died in the June of 1902 aged only 48 years old.  I wondered if his death could be related to his occupation, as being a waterman on the river Thames had it's hazards.  I came across several reports of drowned watermen being dragged from the river Thames, but not one of those accounts matched up with William's time of death.  Of course he simply could have died of natural causes.

In 1911 the widowed Emma is still living in Rose Cottage with her son James aged 18 and now a jobbing gardener and her daughter Beatrice.  Living in Emma's household at the time is Beatrice's husband Frederick Andrews, an electrical engineer and their two sons, Frederick aged 3 years and Cecil aged 2.

Henry Charles, now a police constable, and his wife Louisa have moved to 27 Pinnacle Hill, Bexley Heath in Kent by 1911.  Their two daughters Rhoda Lily, (possibly named after Henry's sister) aged 5 and Hilda Margarite aged 2 years are living with them.

Mary is a parlour maid for the Plumby family at 34, The Pryors, East Heath Road, Hampstead.

Emma Edwards eventually followed William to the grave in 1927.

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