First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Charles Tomar HARTWELL (1885–1914)

Charles Tomar Hartwell was born in Headington on 28 May 1885. His mother was a single woman, Elizabeth Ann Hartwell (born in Wantage in 1863).

At the time of the 1881 census Charles’s mother Elizabeth (18) was a servant to the family of Edwin Couldrey, a miller, in St Helen's parish, Abingdon. She then appears to have moved to Oxford, and in 1885 gave birth to Charles in Headington (possibly at the union workhouse there). It seems likely that Charles’s father’s surname was Tomar (a variant of Toomer).

The 1891 census shows Charles (5) and his mother Elizabeth Hartwell (26) lodging at 17 Sidney Street in east Oxford, the house of a widowed charwoman, Eliza Hainge. Both Elizabeth and the other lodger were then working as laundrymaids.

Elizabeth Hartwell was living at 95 Magdalen Road in east Oxford when on 18 April 1892 at Cowley St John Church she married John Merry (born in Horton-cum-Studley in c.1864). John, who was a bricklayer, lived nearby at 86 Magdalen Road. They had nine children:

  • Florence Ethel Merry (born in Oxford in 1893 and baptised at SS Mary & John Church on 28 April)
  • Elizabeth Gertrude Merry (born at 86 Magdalen Road, Oxford on 13 Mary 1894 and baptised at SS Mary & John Church on 1 June)
  • Emily Amelia Merry (born at 99 Charles Street, Oxford on 8 July 1895 and baptised at SS Mary & John Church on 2 August)
  • Edith Bertha Merry (born at 18 Donnington Lane, Oxford on 20 November 1896 and baptised at SS Mary & John Church on 5 February 1897)
  • Reginald John Merry (born at 75a Magdalen Road on 2 November 1898 and privately baptised by SS Mary & John Church on 14 November; died aged twenty days and buried in that churchyard on 7 December 1898)
  • Rose Alice Merry (born at 18 Dover’s Row, Oxford on 18 December 1899 and baptised at SS Mary & John Church on 24 December; died aged seven  days and buried in that churchyard on 28 December 1899)
  • Twin: Arthur Edwin Merry (born in Oxford on 2 November 1900 and baptised at SS Mary & John Church on 7 November)
  • Twin: John Herbert Merry (born in Oxford on 2 November 1900 and baptised at SS Mary & John Church on 7 November)
  • Rose Alice Merry (born in Oxford in 1903/4, reg. Headington district first quarter of 1904).

Charles's mother and her second husband began their married life at John Merry’s home at 86 Magdalen Road. They moved around in the next four years: they were at 99 Charles Street by 1895; 18 Donnington Lane by 1896; 75a Magdalen Road by 1898; and 18 Dover’s Row in Cross Street by 1899.

At the time of the 1901 census Charles (15) was an “inmate … being trained for the sea” on the training ship HMS Formidable which was anchored off Portishead in the Bristol Channel. Meanwhile his mother was with her husband and five of their six children (Elizabeth, Emily, Edith, and the twins) at 18 Dover’s Row in Cross Street. (Their eldest daughter, Florence (8) was staying with Fanny Merry (63), a widowed charwoman who was probably her paternal grandmother, at 4 Weirs Lane, Oxford.)

Charles (25) is hard to find in the 1911 census, and is likely to have been at sea. Meanwhile his mother and the rest of the Merry family were living at Edgeway Road, New Marston. Their eldest daughter, Florence (18) had left home and was working as a servant in Croydon.

Hartwell on Plymouth war memorial

Poppy In the First World War Charles Tomar Hartwell (mistakenly recorded as Charles Thomas Hartwell) served as a Stoker in the Royal Naval Reserve (Service No. 2919T, Devonport).

He died at the age of 29 on 1 November 1914 when his ship, the HMS Monmouth (along with H.M.S. Good Hope) was sunk by the German armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau under Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee, with the loss of her entire complement of hands, in the Battle of Coronel, off the Chilean coast. (Two Headington men died in the same sea battle: Frank Bateman on the same ship, and Joseph Rushton on the HMS Monmouth.)

Charles’s body was not recovered from the sea for burial, but he is remembered on Panel 5 of the Plymouth Naval Memorial (right) and on the New Marston War Memorial on the Marston Road, Oxford.

His next of kin was his sister (presumably stepsister, Mrs Wall, of 20 Ruperra Street, Newport, Monmouthshire.

New Marston War Memorial


Charles’s mother

Mrs Elizabeth Ann Merry (born 1863) died at the age of 63 in 1926/7 (death reg. in Headington district first quarter of 1927).

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