First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Ernest Victor BIOVOIS (1886–1916)

Victor Biovois

Ernest Victor Biovois, known as Victor, was born in Staines, Middlesex in 1886, the son of Victor Celestin Biovois (born in Oxford in 1862, reg. Headington district third quarter) and Emma Bustin (born in Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford on 7 August 1858).

His parents were both living at Fisher Row when they were married on 22 April 1883 at St Thomas’s Church in Oxford. They had had four children:

  • Hannah Theresa Biovois (known as Hannah, born at Guildford Street, Staines, Middlesex in 1884, reg. second quarter)
  • (Ernest) Victor Biovois (born at Guildford Street, Staines, Middlesex on 14 October 1886)
  • Percy John Celestin Biovois (born at Guildford Street, Staines, Middlesex on 30 December 1887)
  • Adèle Constance Fanny Biovois (born at Parrock Cottage, Stroud Road, Staines, Middlesex on 13 January 1890).

Victor Biovois

Victor Biovois had French blood: his grandfather, also Victor Biovois, was born in Aire sur la Lys in France. Back at the time of the 1861 census his grandfather (38) was living at Banbury Road Villa, employed as the servant of Mrs Flavia Dayman, a clergyman’s widow who herself had been born in France. Victor’s future grandmother, Hannah Prew (37), who was born in Steventon, was also Mrs Dayman’s servant and lived in the villa’s lodge.

In the first quarter of 1862 Victor’s grandfather Victor Biovois senior, described a butler, married Hannah Prew in the Headington registration district (which included north Oxford and Summertown), and their first son, Victor Celestin Biovois, was born at Banbury Road on 3 July 1862.

Victor’s grandfather initially continued working as Mrs Dayman’s servant after his marriage, and lived in Dayman’s Lodge with his wife. They can be seen there at the time of the 1871 census. Victor (48) was then described as a butler and valet, and they had two children.

By 1875 Victor’s grandfather had moved with his family to Old Marston, and the 1881 census shows him as the publican at the Victoria Arms pub (then known as the Ferry Inn). He also looked after the ferry, which became known as Frenchman’s Ferry.

Victor’s father, Victor Celestin Biovois, became a boatbuilder. He originally worked for Salter’s in Oxford, but soon after marrying Victor’s mother Emma Bustin in 1883, he moved to Staines, Middlesex, where their four children were born.

In about 1890 Victor's father came back to Marston to take over his father’s pub and ferry.

Marston Ferry

Victor's father working the Marston Ferry



Above: Postcard showing the Victoria Arms and the ferry (postmarked 1904)


Right: Victor’s father, Victor Celestin Biovois, on the Marston ferry. The hawser remained in place until 1960

Victor and his three siblings


The family can be found living at the pub in the 1891 census, when Victor was a four-year-old schoolboy, and the photograph (right) of Victor with his three siblings behind was taken around this time. Meanwhile by 1891 his grandparents had retired to 49 Plantation Road in north Oxford.

By the time of the 1901 census, when Victor (14) was still at school, his father had renamed the pub after Queen Victoria.

Victor’s French grandfather died at the age of 83 on 17 September 1907 and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery. His grandmother, Hannah Biovois, came to live with them.

In 1911 Victor  (24), now a carpenter and joiner, still lived at the pub. His grandmother Hannah died at the age of 92 in the fourth quarter of 1914.

By 1915 Victor’s parents had retired, and a William Jennings had taken over the pub. Victor and his parents were now living at Fern Cottage, Old Marston, according to Kelly’s Directory for that year.

Poppy In the First World War Victor Biovois joined the 11th Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment as a Private on 15 April 1916, and was transferred to the 8th Battalion on leaving for the Front (Service No. 27809).

He was severely wounded in the leg and was brought from France to the 2nd Southern General Hospital at Westbury-on-Trym near Bristol. After initially making good progress he died there at the age of 30 on 2 December 1916. He was engaged to be married at the time of his death.

Grave of Ernest Victor Biovois


His body was brought back to Old Marston to be buried in St Nicholas’s churchyard. The stone cross has broken off his grave (left) , and is propped up behind the grave. The inscription reads:




Victor Biovois is remembered on the Roll of Honour of St Nicholas’s Church, Old Marston.


Old Marston memorial

Victor’s parents
  • Mrs Emma Biovois died at 33 Islip Road, Oxford on 9 April 1935 at the age of 76.
  • Victor Celestin Biovois was described as a boat-builder in 1920 when his daughter was married from 33 Islip Road. He died at the home of his daughter in Henley-on-Thames at the age of 74 on 28 October 1936.
Victor’s siblings
  • Hannah Theresa Biovois, known as Theresa (born 1886) married Herbert Edward Ward at St Nicholas’s Church, Old Marston on 27 April 1911, and their daughter Adèle Theresa Ward was born at Old Marston on 30 May 1912. Theresa died at 413 Marston Road at the age of 56 on 21 February 1941 and was buried in Victor’s grave; her husband was also buried there when he died at the age of 86 on 12 October 1966.
  • Percy John Celestin Biovois (born 1887) became a photographer. On 27 December 1913 at St Barnabas's Church in Oxford he married Ada Lucy Rawlins. They lived at 33 Islip Road, Sunnymead when their son Victor Percival Celestin Biovois was born on 2 March 1915 and baptised at Marston on 4 April 1915; he was living at 17 Cranham Street and working as a milling machinist when he married the glovemaker Winifred M. Hall on 4 May 1940 at St Paul’s Church. Percy died in about 1964.
  • Adèle Constance Fanny Biovois (born 1890) married William Ewart Brain, a policeman, on 17 April 1920 at Summertown Church. She died at “Cranmer”, Elsfield Road, Old Marston on 7 February 1963. Their daughter Theresa Constance Biovois Brain, Mrs Prickett (1921–2015) supplied the photographs shown on this page of her grandfather Victor Celestin Biovois and of her uncle (Ernest) Victor Biovois.

See also

Back to Roll of Honour of St Nicholas’s Church, Old Marston

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website