First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

William George HIGGINS (1888–1916)

William Higgins

William George Higgins was born in Headington in 1888, the son of George William Higgins (born in Kidlington in 1863) and Rachel Wilson (born in Ireland in 1862).

His parents were married at St Andrew’s Church on 16 January 1886. At the time of their marriage William's father (who had grown up in New Headington with his parents, the shepherd Henry Higgins and his wife Hannah) was a stoker at Oxford gas works, and his mother Rachel was working as a servant. They had nine children:

  • Margaret Florence Higgins (born in Headington in early 1887);
    died aged four months and buried at Headington Cemetery on 6 June 1887
  • William George Higgins (born in Headington on 18 February 1888 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 29 April)
  • John Charles Higgins (born in Headington on 28 August 1889 and privately baptised by St Andrew’s Church on 2 October)
  • Edwin Francis Higgins (born in Headington on 18 August 1890 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 26 October); died aged two and buried at Headington Cemetery on 27 August 1892)
  • James Henry Higgins (born in Headington on 22 July 1893 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 29 August); died aged five weeks and buried at Headington Cemetery on 2 September 1893
  • Joseph Wilson Higgins (born in Headington on 16 February 1895 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 19 May)
  • Gladys Violet Higgins (born at Highfield on 22 March 1898 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 15 May)
  • George W. Higgins (born at Highfield in March 1900 and survived only 20 minutes);
    buried at Headington Cemetery on 24 March 1900 (neither birth nor death registered)
  • James Henry Higgins (born at  Lime Walk on 18 May 1901 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 18 May);
    died aged nineteen days and buried at Headington Cemetery on 24 May).

At the time of the 1891 census William (3) was spending the night at 111 Lime Walk (“Daisymede”) with his grandparents, Henry Higgins (who had been described in 1881 as an “imbecile”) and Hannah. His parents George (28), who was a gas stoker, and Rachel (29) were at home at 64 Lime Walk (then numbered 59) with his younger brothers John (1) and Edwin (seven months).

William’s father George Higgins continued to work as a stoker at Oxford Gas Works from at least 1886 to 1895, but in May 1898 he described himself as a coal merchant, and by 1901 as a steam engine fitter or engineer

At the time of the 1901 census William (13) was home at 64 Lime Walk with his father George (37), a steam engine fitter, his mother Rachel (39), and his three surviving siblings: John (11), Joseph (6), and Gladys (3). His mother was also looking after another child, Mary Jones (7), who was described as a boarder.

William’s father George William Higgins died at Lime Walk at the age of 44 in 1909 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 6 May.

At the time of the 1911 census William (23) was working as an assistant grocer and was once again living with his grandparents, who were now living at Charlbury Cottage in Stapleton Road (probably No. 36). William’s grandfather Henry Higgins (78) was a pensioner, but his grandmother Hannah was still working as a laundress, even though she too was 78. Just a few weeks after the census Hannah Higgins died at the age of 78, and she was buried at Headington Cemetery on 19 April 1911.

Meanwhile in 1911 William’s widowed mother Rachel Higgins (49) was living at 20 Holyoake Road (then called Western Road), the west side of which was in the new Highfield parish. Three of her children were still living with her: John (21), who was a draper’s shop assistant; Joseph (16), who was a gardener; and Gladys (13), who was at school. Mary Jones (17), now described as a visitor, was still living with the family, and working as a housemaid.

In 1911 William’s future wife Selina Douglas (born in Headington Quarry in 1885/6) was living with her brother Albert Douglas and his wife Julia at Bateman Street (probably No. 3); she and her sister-in-law worked together at home as laundresses, and William would have passed her house on the journey between his grandparents and parents.

♥ In the third quarter of 1911 in the Headington registration district, William George Higgins married Selina Douglas, who appears to have been a Methodist. They remained at Stapleton Road in Highfield (probably with William’s grandfather), and do not appear to have had any children.

Poppy In the First World War William George Higgins served as a Private in the 1st/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No. 6225). He was killed in action at the Somme in France at the age of 28 on 7 November 1916.

He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial and the Roll of Honour of All Saints’ Church, Highfield.

A memorial service for William George Higgins took place on the evening of 19 November 1916 at New Headington Wesleyan Chapel in New High Street (shown below).

Methodist Chapel


All Saints' board

William’s widow
  • Selina Higgins married Albert Cross in the Headington registration district in the third quarter of 1927.
William’s grandfather
  • Henry Higgins died at the Nazareth Home in Oxford at the age of 84 in 1916 (just a month after his grandson was killed), and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 29 December.
William’s mother
  • Mrs Rachel Higgins died in 1937 at the age of 80 at 8 Ash Grove, Headington and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 4 September.
William’s siblings
  • John Charles Higgins (born 1889), who was a motor cleaner, was living at 13 Bateman Street when he married Margaret Gibbs at St Andrew's Church on 22 October 1927. He died at Littlemore Mental Hospital at the age of 45 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 21 July 1933.
  • Joseph Wilson Higgins (born 1895) married Edith Horwood in the Headington registration district in the second quarter of 1926. Their daughter Barbara J. Higgins was born in the Headington registration district in 1930.
  • Gladys Violet Higgins (born 1898) never married. She died at 13 Bateman Street in 1924 at the age of 26 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 20 May.

See also

Back to All Saints’ Church, Highfield roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website