Poppy

First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Percy James SMITH (1887–1914)

Percy Smith

Percy James Smith was born in Headington in 1887, the son of James Smith (born c.1862, date and birthplace uncertain) and Emily Walker (born in Headington in 1856 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 2 November).

Percy’s father James Smith came to Old Marston as a child to live in Church Lane with his uncle and aunt, Samuel & Sarah Hornsby, and can be seen with them in the 1871 census, when his age is given as ten (but his age varies, as does his place of birth, which in different censuses is given as Marston, Uxbridge, and London). By 1881 Percy's father (now stated to be 18) was still living with his uncle and aunt in Marston and working as an agricultural labourer.

Percy’s mother Emily Walker had two illegitimate children before her marriage, and initially both took her surname:

  • James William Walker (born in Headington on 6 March 1874 and privately baptised by St Andrew’s Church on 12 June 1876).
  • Ethel Walker (born in Headington in 1882 and baptised privately by St Andrew’s Church on 26 June).

On 30 January 1875 in a bastardy case at Bullingdon Petty Sessions Miss Emily Walker was granted an Order of Affiliation against the groom Amos Hunt for her elder son James. In 1881 Percy's mother Emily (24) was living in New Headington with her widowed mother (both were laundresses), her two sisters, and young James William (5). Soon after this census Miss Emily Walker (24) gave birth to her second illegitimate child, Ethel, but there was no order of affiliation this time.

Percy's parents were married in the Headington district in the fourth quarter of 1884. They began their married life in Headington, but had settled in Marston by early 1890. They had at least four children after their marriage (they declared in the 1911 census that there were six children of the marriage, but these may have included Emily’s two earlier children):

  • Annie Alicia Elizabeth Smith (born in Headington on 26 September 1885 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 28 February 1886)
  • Percy James Smith (born in Headington in 1887 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church, Old Marston on 6 April 1890, at the same time as his younger sister)
  • Florence Emily Smith (born in Marston in 1890 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church, Old Marston on 6 April)
  • Mabel Eugenie Adelaide Smith (born in Marston in 1893 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church, Old Marston on 8 July).

At the time of the 1891 census Percy (3) was living in Old Marston with his father James (29), who was a general labourer, his mother Emily (32), his sisters Annie (5) and Florence (four months), and his half-sister Ethel Walker (9).

By 1901 the family had moved to New Marston, which was then in the civil parish of Headington and the ecclesiastical parish of St Andrew. Percy (13), who had no occupation and had probably just left school, was living at Tilehurst Cottages on the Marston Road with his father James (39), who was still a general labourer, his mother Emily (43), and his sisters Florence (10) and Mabel (7). His sister or half-sister Ethel (19), who was now calling herself Ethel Smith rather than Ethel Walker, was still at home and was working as a housemaid.

By the time of the 1911 census Percy James Smith (23) was a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment stationed at barracks in India. Meanwhile Percy’s father was working as a labourer, and his mother was a laundress, and they were living in Ferry Road, New Marston with their youngest daughter Mabel (17) and their adopted son Freddy Winkworth (6). (Frederick Horace Winkworth and his twin brother Horace Frederick Winkworth had been born to a single woman in New Marston, Lily Louise Winkworth, on 12 September 1904 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church on 26 September 1904, but Horace died before the end of the year.)

Poppy In the First World War Percy James Smith continued to serve as a Private in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment (Service No. 8068). He was killed in action in Belgium at the age of 26 on 1 November 1914.

 

He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 45) and on the New Marston War Memorial on the Marston Road, Oxford.

 

 

Left: Percy James Smith’s name on the Ypres (Menin Gate) War Memorial, kindly supplied by British War Graves.


Postscript

New Marston War Memorial

Percy’s parents
  • James and Emily Smith lived at 27 London Place, St Clement’s, Oxford after the war. An Emily Smith of the right age (71) died in the Headington registration district in the first quarter of 1928.

See also
  • CWGC: Smith, Percy James
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 23 December 1914 , “Heroes of the War”: Photograph of Pte Smith of Marston of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, published seven weeks after his death (shown above with kind permission of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre)
  • Wikipedia: Royal Berkshire Regiment

Back to New Marston War Memorial

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website