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WINFIELD, Ethel Mildred (1898-1962) – Wickhamford Bride from South Africa

The marriage took place in Wickhamford, on 24th December 1919, between Ethel Mildred Winfield and Francis Harry Halford.  He was a Wickhamford market gardener and her home parish was St Lawrence, Evesham.  Her father’s name was given as Walter Sylvanus Winfield, occupation ‘Soldier’.  Ethel had been born in Cape Colony, South Africa.

Winfield family background

Ethel’s father, Walter Sylvanus Winfield was born in 1871 in Witney, Oxfordshire.  He was the third child of fourteen, born to a tanner, George W. Winfield and his wife Elizabeth.  In 1901, George Winfield was recorded in the census as a patient in St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, in Hammersmith, so his work had affected his health.  He died just before the 1911 census and Elizabeth died in 1914.

A ‘Mr Winfield’ was on a ship from Southampton which left on 14th April 1892 for East London, South Africa.   With no further details, it is uncertain if this was Walter Sylvanus, but he married Matilda Elizabeth Kyte in Cape Colony on 8th November 1894.   The 1911 census recorded the couple living back in England, in Foleshill, Coventry, with four children.  He was a labourer and his wife a dressmaker; the elder two children had been born in Grahamstown, South Africa and the younger two in Southam and Foleshill.  They were Rosa Susannah (15), Ethel Mildred (13), Edith Maude (8) and Richard George Sylvanus (3). Their ages show that the family returned from South Africa at some time between 1898 and 1903.   (They were not recorded in the 1901 census, so their return to England would appear to be after 1901.)  The census enumerator deleted the line of information concerning Walter Sylvanus Winfield.  The form had been completed by Matilda, but she should not have entered her husband’s details as he was not at their home on census night.

He was also recorded as living in Halifax, Yorkshire, staying with an aunt and uncle, and his occupation was given as ‘Stone Quarry Man’.

A disturbing court case in Leeds

On 29th November 1913, the trial took place at the Autumn Assizes at the Town Hall, Leeds, of Walter Sylvanus Winfield, 41, a fitter.  He had been accused of incest with his daughter, Ethel Mildred, at Denholme (Bradford) on 4th August 1913.   He had been remanded at Wakefield Prison until his trial by jury and he was found ‘Not Guilty’ and discharged.  His daughter was 15 years old at the time of the alleged offence.  He would have been tried in Camera under the Punishment of Incest Act of 1908, which for the first time made it illegal for a man to engage in sexual intercourse with any female he knew to be his grand-daughter, daughter, sister, half-sister or mother.  (In a similar case in 1913 a man was found guilty of incest and sentenced to 5 years penal servitude.)

In the Autumn of 1913, Walter’s wife, Matilda Elizabeth, was expecting their 5th child and something occurred that led to his arrest and the charge against him.  His son, Stanley Robert Kinear Winfield, was born at this time.

Ethel’s marriage in Wickhamford

At Ethel’s marriage, her father did not sign the register as a witness, but Arthur Winfield did sign; he was probably her uncle, a younger brother of Walter Sylvanus.  As Ethel’s father would have been aged about 48 at this time, his description as a ‘soldier’ appears strange and was perhaps an excuse for his absence at the ceremony?  Ethel and ‘Harry’ Halford lived in Wickhamford, but did not have any children.  In the 1939 Register, taken at the outbreak of the Second World War, Francis ‘Henry’ and Mildred Halford were living at 17 Pitchers Hill (now No. 44).  The record shows that Ethel was born on 9th March 1898.

Another Winfield marriage in Wickhamford

In 1940, Stanley Robert Kinear Winfield married Clarice Phipps in Wickhamford on 7th December.   A group photograph taken outside of the Church of St John the Baptist shows that the groom’s mother, Matilda was present, but not with her husband, Walter Sylvanus.  The parish register states that he was a ‘Gas Labourer’, but he was not there to act as a witness.  Stanley Winfield was in the Army in 1939 and he was killed in Italy in 1944.  His widow, Clarice, later married Leslie Holder, in 1947; she died in 2008. 

Ethel’s father

 ‘Silvanus W. Winfield’, born on 6th February 1871, was living in Liverpool for the 1939 Register, and his occupation was entered as ‘Foreman Slate Layer retired’.   It was also recorded that he was divorced.  The events of 1913 may have led to a break-up of the Winfield family and, possibly, he may have been absent from the two Wickhamford weddings. This might have been explained away – a ‘soldier’ in 1919 and some other excuse in 1940. The date of his divorce from Matilda has not been found.

Matilda Elizabeth Winfield died not long after her son’s wedding and was buried in Broadway in 1941.  Walter Sylvanus Winfield died in Liverpool in 1951.   Ethel Mildred Halford died in 1962, Francis Harry Halford died in 1965 and Clarice Holder died in 2008.

Tom Locke - June 2020