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Soldiers in the Victorian Era

This article is about the lives of men who lived in Wickhamford at some point in their lives and who enlisted as soldiers in the Victorian period. (Since this article was produced in 2014, a separate article has been written on Alfred Halford (1874-1944) of the Worcestershire Regiment (see 'People' section).

William Knight

Family background

William Knight (senior) married Eliza Crane in Wickhamford church on 16th August 1868 and, soon afterwards, Eliza gave birth to a son. He was baptised in the same church on 25th October and named after his father, William. At the 1871 census the Knight family, now with another young son, George, were living in an old cottage near Wickhamford Manor. William senior was a farm labourer and Eliza was a gloveress. George Knight was baptised in Badsey Church on 3rd March 1870 and another son, Charles Ernest, was baptised in Wickhamford on 4th February 1872. By 1881 the Knights had moved to Badsey and had five children – Sarah (bapt. Badsey, 7th June 1874) and Thomas Henry (b. 9th December 1878).

Army service

William Knight junior enlisted in the Rifle Brigade at Worcester on 14th November 1884, claiming an age of 18 years and two months, although he was still only just sixteen. He was sent to Winchester for his Attestation on the 17th and became a Private (No 7321) in the Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own). He gave his occupation as gardener and other records give his father as William Knight of Badsey. His Army record gave his description – 5ft 4¾ in. tall, weighing 123 lb and with a chest measurement of 33 in. His complexion was ‘fresh’, his eyes hazel and hair light brown. It was also noted that he had a group of moles between his shoulder blades. It is disconcerting that these details were recorded in case his body needed identification at some stage.

William Knight enlisted for 12 years and joined the 3rd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. The Army records show where he was posted. He served in the U.K from 14th November 1884 until 20th February 1885 (99 days) and landed at Gibraltar on the 21st February – presumably his ‘Home’ posting continued aboard ship. He remained on the Rock or travelling back to England until 10th June 1886 (1 year, 110 days). His next period of Home posting was officially from 11th June 1886 until 18th October 1887 (130 days) when he arrived in Egypt. This posting was from 19th October 1887 until 1st August 1888 (287 days) when he disembarked in South Africa. He was to spend from 2nd August 1888 until 1st February 1889 (287 days) there and in transit to his next posting in India. He stayed in India from 2nd February 1889 until arriving back in England on 21st February 1892 (3 years, 20 days). The only record found of where the Battalion was based in India gives the location in Knight’s time there as Jullunder (1889-1892).

William Knight was awarded a Good Conduct badge on 21st January 1891, whilst in India. He never left the U.K. again, serving out his time from 22nd February 1892 until being discharged on 13th November 1896 (4 years, 265 days). Once in England he was transferred to the Army Reserve on 1st March 1892. Thus his service period came to exactly 12 years and he had seen many parts of the world that few from Wickhamford would see until the Great War. The only other snippet of information on his Army record sheets is mention of his level of education, noted on 7th January 1885. He was recorded as having a Certificate of Education 4th Class.

Corporal W.E. Glover (left); Lt Col The Honourable M. Curzon (right)
Corporal W.E. Glover of the 3rd Battalion, Rifle Brigade, whose Army service during the period from 1884 until 1892 was identical to that of Private William Knight.  He is shown here alongside Lt Col The Honourable M. Curzon of the 4th Battalion.  Glover was 4ft 9 in. and Curzon was 6ft 4 in.

Marriage and later life

William Knight married Rosa Jane Jinks (b. 1870) on 13th July 1893 and by the 1901 census they were living in South View Terrace, Badsey, and he was working as a market gardener. The couple had no children and by 1911 had moved to 97 Port Street, Bengeworth and William was still a market gardener. A man of his name was market gardening in Aldington on a little under two acres of land at Horsebridge Hill at the Valuation Survey of 1912. His address was given as ‘Hazelville, Bengeworth and this may be same man.

No photographs of William or Rosa Jane Knight have been found, so far, but photographs of William Knight senior (1846-1934) and his son George do exist and are reproduced below.

William Knight senior (1846-1934)
William Knight senior (1846-1934).

In 1911 he lived at Asparago House, 31 Brewers Lane, Badsey and was a worker in market gardening.
George Knight (1870-1948)
George Knight (1870-1948).

In 1901 he lived Silk Mill Cottages, Badsey and was a market gardener’s labourer.

Both William Knight and his wife Rosa Jane are interred in Bengeworth cemetery in Plot E37, but there is no monument. William's ashes were interred there 6th December 1954; he was aged 85. Rosa Jane Knight was buried on 29th June 1961 and she was aged 90. Rosa died in a hospital in Wells, Somerset and her home address was 28 Swiss Road, Weston-Super-Mare. William died in White Chimneys Hospital, Powick, but no home address was given in the records. This was then a hospital for the treatment of chronic depression and schizophrenia and it was closed in 1989.

Charles Porter

Family Background

Charles Porter was baptised in Wickhamford Church on 22nd March 1874. He was the son of labourer John Porter and his wife, Eileen, nee Tustin, and by the 1881 census the family were living at Lower Murcott Farm. In 1891, seventeen-year-old Charles was a farm servant at Oldwell Farm, Murcott, but the following year he enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment.

Army service

Charles Porter was initially rejected for military service when he tried to enlist on 14th March 1892 because he was under weight. During the Summer he must have gained some weight – although he was still only just over 8stones - for he successfully passed his medical and enlisted (No 3307) on 18th August in the Worcestershire Regiment. He was only 5’4” tall, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair and he initially signed up for a six-year engagement. He started his service with a Home posting that lasted until 15th February 1894 (1 year, 184 days). This was with the 2nd Battalion, who were based at the Curragh, Co. Kildare in Ireland. His next period of service is described as an East Indies posting. The length of time for this was counted from when he disembarked on 16th February 1894 until he arrived at his next posting on 14th November 1895 (1 year, 282 days). His whereabouts in the East are not recorded apart from his being in Rangoon, Burma on 31st October 1895.   Whilst there must have been with the 1st Battalion, who were in India at this time.

Private Charles Porter then served in Malta, again with the 2nd Battalion, from 15th November 1895 until 3rd October 1897 (3 years, 314 days). This posting period ended as he arrived in Bermuda, where he was to stay for nearly two years, until he landed back in the U.K. on 29th August 1899 (1 year 330 days). He was then transferred to the 1st Class Army Reserve (4 years 352 days) before being discharged from the Army on 15th August 1904, having served for almost exactly 12 years.

It seems unlikely that Charles Porter saw any action during his time in the Army, as Malta and Bermuda were quiet postings and Burma had been conquered by the British some years before his service there. The only other details on his Army record are that he received Good Conduct pay of one penny a day from 16th August 1894, lost it on 29th November 1895 and had the penny restored on 29th May 1896. On 16th August 1898 it was raised to tuppence!

Later life

Meanwhile, the Porter family back in the Evesham area had moved to ‘The Leys’, Badsey, by the 1901 census. John was still an agricultural labourer and their other son, Alfred (19) was living at home. He later joined the Army in the Great War and his service record is related in the article “Wickhamford Goes To War”.

Charles Porter’s parents were still in Badsey in 1911, at “T.Cull’s Cottages” on the Bretforton Road. The census form states that they had had two children and that both were still alive at that time. John and Eileen Porter were both on the Badsey Electoral Roll in 1924, back living at ‘The Leys’.

Charles had emigrated to Bermuda before the Great War and, on 21st September 1917, he applied to the American Consul in Hamilton, for a permit to travel through the USA to Canada to enlist in the Canadian Armed Services. This was granted on 8th October 1917.

The photograph of Charles Porter on his application form for admittance to the United States in 1917.
The photograph of Charles Porter on his application form for admittance to the United States in 1917.

On 16th May 1918 he enlisted in the Canadian Army, aged 44 years and five months. Although he volunteered for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force (No. 2011058), it is unlikely that he was sent to Europe that late in the War. On his Attestation Paper he stated that he had spent 12 years in the 36th Regiment and 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He was employed as a labourer, living in Montreal, and his wife was Sarah Jane Porter. His date of birth was given as 13th February 1874 (see also the article “Wickhamford Goes To War”).

Sarah Jane Porter (nee Greig) and her daughters, Catherine (12) and Elsie (10), arrived in St John, Canada on 4th August 1919 and the family were reunited.

Sarah Jane died before Charles and he remarried at the Salvation Army Church in Montreal on 3rd December 1948. He new wife was a widowed schoolteacher, Jessie Smyth, aged 64, who had been born in Glasgow, and Charles was 74 at the time. Charles Porter died on 7th May 1959, in Montreal.

Thomas Smart Phillipps

Family background

Thomas Smart Phillipps was baptised in Wickhamford on17th August 1877. He was a son of John and Annie Miriam Phillipps, who briefly rented Wickhamford Manor in the mid-1870s. John Phillipps farmed around 200 acres of land around the Manor and the crops would have included fruit and possibly hops. He died in Wickhamford on 16th November 1878 and was buried in Buckland churchyard; his wife, Annie, then moved out of the Manor. In 1881 the family was living in Buckland

Army service

Thomas Smart Phillipps twice enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment. He first joined up on 12th June 1893 (No 3759), stating that he was eighteen, but was actually only sixteen. He was living in Birmingham at the time, working as a grocer. His young age must have been discovered and he was discharged soon afterwards. He was still working as a grocer in Birmingham when he re-enlisted on 13th March 1895 (No 4221), in the 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regt (a home-based Militia battalion), but was again discharged, after just over a year, on 29th July 1896, receiving a payment of £1 upon leaving. On both enlistment forms he was described as around 5’6” tall with a dark complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He probably had no overseas postings.

Later life

Thomas Smart Phillipps is recorded in the 1911 census as married with one child, 11-month-old Evelyn, and living in Aston, Birmingham where he worked as a shop assistant and grocer. He had married Annie Margaret Turner in Guildford in 1904 and the couple later had twins in 1917, Nancy and Thomas but the boy died very soon afterwards. Thomas Smart Phillipps died in Birmingham in 1960, aged 83.

Thomas Smart Phillipps in later life
Thomas Smart Phillipps in later life.

Decimus Agg

Family background

Decimus Agg was born in Aston Somerville in about 1865, but his birth does not appear to have been registered. He was the eldest son of Decimus and Mary Agg and spent most of his childhood in Wickhamford and was working as a groom in 1881.

Military service

Decimus Agg enlisted in the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards (No. 8114) and probably served in the period 1884-1886. During that time the battalion was sent to the Sudan to participate in the war against the Mahdi. It landed at Suakin, on the Red Sea coast of the country, in March 1884 as part of the Guards Brigade. The Grenadiers were awarded a battle honour for Suakin, but it was a short campaign rather than an individual battle. The Guards Brigade, consisting of three battalions (3rd Grenadiers, 1st Coldstream and 2nd Scots Guards) were commanded by Maj-General Lyon Freemantle and also included some Australian troops. They were ordered to continue the task of constructing a railway from Suakin to Berber, on the Nile, and they were continually harassed by tribesmen. The force was withdrawn in May 1885. Private Agg was awarded a clasp for his service in Suakin.

He was back in England by late 1885 and home on leave when he was involved in a brawl in the Old Angel Inn, Port Street, Bengeworth, on 21st November. He and a fellow Grenadier had a fight with the landlord, Thomas Callow, and a window was broken, but paid for. Although summoned, the case was dismissed, as reported in the Worcestershire Chronicle of 5th December.

Later life

Decimus Agg married Alice Banning in Badsey on 4th April 1891 and they were recorded in the census of that year as living in Badsey where he was working as a market gardener. By 1911 the couple had four sons and two daughters, aged between 2 and 18. It was recorded that a seventh child had already died. They eventually had ten children. In 1912 Decimus occupied over 3 acres of land at Pear Tree Corner. Alice died in 1915 and Decimus continued to market garden and lived in Sands Lane until he died in 1954, aged 88. He was buried in Badsey, on 21st June, and there is an inscription to him carved on the Hymn Board in the Church.

 "In loving memory of Decimus Agg" (hymn board inscription)

Edmund Thomas Ladbrook Huxley

Family background

Edmund Huxley was born on 12th January 1873, a son of Edmund and Mary Huxley (nee Sharp) ; his birth was registered in the Winchcombe Division of Gloucestershire. In later censuses, he gave his place of birth as ‘Didcot, Evesham’, but this does not exist. The village of Didbrook is in the Winchcombe District, so he may have been born here. In 1881, aged 9, he was living at Old Well Cottage, Childswickham with his parents and three younger siblings. His father was an agricultural labourer.

Army Service

Edmund Huxley enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment as a Private (No 2611) on 3rd December 1889, giving his age as 18 years 11 months and occupation as a labourer. He was actually only seventeen. The surviving Army record for Edmund Huxley mentions that he attended, during his service period, the Royal Military Asylum, London and the Royal Hibernian Military School, Dublin.

Initially in the 2nd Battalion, he was transferred to the 1st Battalion on 21st February 1891 after arriving in India. He served there until 13th November 1896. The 1st Battalion was based in Poona from 1890 to 1892, then in Kamptee until 1894. It was then based in Rangoon, Burma, in 1895 and Aden in 1896, returning to England in 1897.

1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - 'B' Company men Kamptee, India (June 1893).
1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - 'B' Company men

Kamptee, India (June 1893).

There are no records of any military actions on his record but a full medical record does survive. In the climate of India, he was recorded as being treated for ague (fever) in 1895 and 1896, a sore throat in 1892, palpitations in 1894 and disability in 1896. He was also treated for primary syphilis in 1892 and 1895, gonorrhoea twice in 1893 and an ulcer of the penis in 1893 !

He was transferred to the Reserves on 1st December 1896 after seven years’ service.

Later life

His Army record shows that on 2nd December 1897 the pay he was receiving for being in the Reserves was forfeited as he had been taken into custody by the police. He had been charged with stealing six fowl from farmer John Smith, (who was at Pitchers Hill Farm) and sentenced to a month’s hard labour. The case was reported in the Gloucestershire Echo of 7th December. His brother, James Huxley, Henry Brooks and Charles Staite, all of Wickhamford, were convicted, their only excuse was that they were drunk at the time. As a result of the felony Edmund Huxley was discharged from the Army Reserves on 23rd December 1897.

In 1901, Edmund and James Huxley were boarders with the Brooks family at 6 Longdon Hill, opposite the Sandys Arms. They were agricultural labourers. Later in 1901, Edmund Thomas Huxley married Rose Ellen Bradley and by 1911 they were living at ‘Fleece Yard’, Evesham, with four sons and a daughter. Edmund was working as a general labourer and his eldest son, Edmund, aged 9, had been born in Wickhhamford.  Five more daughters and another son were born to the couple between 1911 and 1925.

Edmund Huxley died in Evesham on 14th June 1929, aged 56, and his wife, Rose, in 1962, aged 83.

No photograph of Edmund has been located, but below are pictures of his wife, Rose, taken in 1956, his four youngest daughters (left to right) Margery Edna, Rose Ellen, Barbara Beryl and Kathleen Mary and son, also Edmund Thomas Ladbrook.

Rose, taken in 1956Four youngest daughters of Edmund Huxley (left to right) Margery Edna, Rose Ellen, Barbara Beryl and Kathleen MaryEdmund Thomas Ladbrook son of Edmund Huxley

William Sidney Carter

Family background

William Sidney Carter was born on 20th June 1873 in Fiddington, Somerset. He was the third son of dairy farmer Benjamin Carter and his wife Jane, nee Tilley. Jane died after giving birth to her 5th child in 1878 and Benjamin then married Emily Ann Hayman. The family soon moved to farm in Aston Somerville, Gloucestershire, but only remained there for about three years. They then moved to Field Farm in Wickhamford, where Benjamin and Emily lived until they both died in 1926.

William Sidney Carter was always known by his second name and it was as ‘Sidney Carter’ that he joined the Army.

Military service

Sidney Carter enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry (No. 333) on 2nd January 1900 for one year’s service. His occupation was given as ‘farmer’ and he was aged 25 years and 6 months. He joined the 5th Company of the 2nd Battalion and embarked for South Africa, to participate in the Second Boer War, on 30th January 1900. Sidney Carter’s service record gives two campaigns in which he was involved – ‘Hammond’s Kraal’ (‘Hammanskraal’ in Afrikaans) and ‘Warm Baths’ (now called ‘Bela bela’).

Sidney Carter was discharged from further service after his one year’s service had expired, his record adding that this was at his own request. He was ‘discharged from further service in connection with War in S. Africa’. He had been promoted to sergeant while in S. Africa and had not been wounded. His discharge took effect on 31st March 1900, after he had arrived back in England on 5th January.

He re-enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry on 28th January 1902, requesting attachment to Col. Younghusband’s 26th Battalion. He had reverted to Private and was posted again to S. Africa on 8th February 1902. After 178 days, he was again discharged at his own request, on 24th March.

During his two spells in S. Africa he had served in Cape Colony, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. He was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal.

There is a newspaper account, given by Sidney Carter to the Leamington Spa Courier (23rd August 1901), of how Lt. Richard Fordham Flower met his death at Hammond’s Kraal. Coming under fire from the Boers, 4th Troop dismounted and, with Lt Flower at the head of his men, advanced in rushes. When kneeling get a better view, he was hit by a bullet and died soon afterwards, while being taken by ambulance to hospital. He was buried in S. Africa but a memorial plaque to Lt Flower is in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Later life

Sidney Carter remained in S. Africa after his discharge from the Army. He farmed in S. Africa, marrying Juliette Hannah Rettie on 13th April 1908 and having five children – Leonard, Reginald, Sheilagh, Rhona and Patricia. (On his marriage certificate his name is given as ‘Sidney William Carter.) He visited his parents in Wickhamford in 1923, but died at the age of 51 on 8th March 1925. His home was Leeuwkuil Farm at Vereeniging. (This town is where the peace treaty was agreed that ended the Second Boer War – The Treaty of Vereeniging.)

William Sidney Carter (1873-1925)
William Sidney Carter (1873-1925)

Photographed at the time of his visit to his parents in Wickhamford in 1923.
The Queen’s South Africa Medal.
The Queen’s South Africa Medal

This medal, with its clasps for the recipient’s service in Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony, is typical of the one that would have been awarded to Sidney Carter.


Thanks are due to Peter Stewart for the information on the burials of William and Rosa Jane Knight.   Information on Charles Porter’s later life in Canada was kindly supplied by Jacques Cyr of Quebec.

Tom Locke – November 2014 (amended February 2017)