Poppy

First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Harry SMITH (1892–1916)

Some of this information is repeated under the entry for Harry’s brother William Smith, who also died in the war

Harry Smith

Harry Smith was born in Headington Quarry in 1892, the son of Wisdom Smith junior (born at Brailes in Warwickshire in 1854 and baptised at Charlton-on-Otmoor, Oxfordshire on 24 December) and Harriet Tolley (born in Headington in 1854 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 14 May).

His parents were married on 30 October 1875 at Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry (each signing the register with a cross). They had the following children:

  • Charles Ernest Smith (born in Headington Quarry in January 1879 and privately baptised at age of seven weeks on 8 February, died aged three months, buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 2 April 1879)
  • Charles Frederick Smith (born in Headington Quarry in 1881 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 25 December)
  • Samuel Smith (born in Headington Quarry in 1884 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 22 May)
  • Harriet Ellen Smith (born in Headington Quarry in 1887 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 31 July)
  • William Smith (born in Headington Quarry in 1889 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 29 September)
  • Harry Smith (born in Headington Quarry in 1892 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 24 April)
  • Ernest James Smith (born in Headington Quarry in 1895 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 24 February).

Harry's father was the son of Romany people who had settled in Headington Quarry. In 1854 Harry's grandfather Wisdom Smith senior was described as a camp-travelling chair-seat flagger, but In 1857, a few years after the birth of Harry's father Wisdom Smith junior, Wisdom senior and his common-law wife Priscilla Bagley (also from a Romany family) settled in Headington Quarry, where (after having about ten children together) they eventually married in 1860. William's father Wisdom Smith junior grew up in Quarry, and joined the army, serving in the 4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry for eight years; but by the time of his marriage in 1875 to a Quarry girl, Harriet Tolley, he was engaged in more typical Romany work: he was described as a “chairmender” at the baptism of his first child in 1879.

By the time of the 1881 census Harry’s father Wisdom Smith junior was a bricklayer’s labourer (working for Mr Goodgame) and his wife Harriet was a laundress, and they were then living alone at South View in Quarry, their first baby having died in 1879. On 21 December the next year Harry’s father committed himself to another four years in the army, signing his name with a cross.

By 1886 Harry’s father  was back in Quarry and on 4 June 1890 he rejoined the army for the militia only. The 1891 census shows him again working as a bricklayer’s labourer. He and Harriet now had four children: Samuel (7), Charles (9), Harriet (4), and William (1). Harry’s maternal grandmother, Mrs Ellen Tolley, was also living with them.

Harry Smith himself was born in 1892, and his brother Ernest in 1895.

Harry’s father Wisdom Smith junior was dismissed permanently from the militia as unfit for service on 7 May 1894, and he died at the age of 40 in 1896. His death was registered in the Headington district in the second quarter of that year, but no one called Wisdom Smith was buried in either of the Headington churchyards or in Headington Cemetery.

At the time of the 1901 census Harry (9) was still at school (almost certainly Headington Quarry National School) and living at Stiles Alley in Quarry with his widowed mother Harriet (47), who was working for someone else as a washerwoman, and his five surviving siblings: Charles (19) and Samuel (17) were working as brick merchant’s labourers; Harriet (14) doubtless helped her mother; and William (11) and Ernest (6) were at school,

The 1901 census shows Harry’s mother Harriet as a widow, working for someone else as a washerwoman and living in Stiles Alley in Quarry with her six surviving children: Charles (19) and Samuel (17) were working as brick merchant’s labourers; Harriet (14) doubtless helped her mother; and William (11), Harry (9), and Ernest (6) were at school,

In 1911 Harry (19) and his older brother William (21) were builder's labourers, living in Quarry High Street with their mother Harriet (57), who was still a laundry worker, and their youngest brother Ernest (16), who was a carter. Their siblings Charles (29), Samuel (26) and Harriet (24) were married and had left home.

Poppy In the First World War Harry Smith first served in the Royal Berkshire Regiment (Service No. 20694) and then as a Private in the 12th Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (Service No. 26849). He was killed in action at the Somme in France at the age of 24 on 26 September 1916.

He is buried at the Peronne Road Cemetery in Maricourt, and is listed on the stone plaque in the porch of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry.

Harry’s brother William Smith was also killed in the First World War and is listed just before his brother on the Quarry plaque. Three of his second cousins were also killed in the war: John Tolley of Quarry, and George Tolley and his cousin Arthur Tolley of St Andrew’s parish. They were all descended from Samuel Tolley, who married Sarah Turner at St Andrew’s Church on 12 October 1812.


Postscript

Quarry memorial

Harry’s mother
  • Mrs Harriet Smith died at the age of 68 at Hill House (a home for the elderly at Sandhills) and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 28 November 1923.
Harry’s siblings
  • Charles Frederick Smith (born 1881), a labourer living in New High Street, married Emily Louisa Matthews at St Nicholas's Church, Old Marston on 14 May 1910. At the time of the 1911 census they were staying with Emily’s mother and brother at Cromwell Castle, Old Marston. The birth of their daughter Gwendoline W. Smith was registered in the Headington district in the third quarter of 1911.
  • Samuel Smith (born 1884) married Eliza Webb in the Headington registration district in the fourth quarter of 1907. At the time of the 1911 census they were living at Green Edge Lane with their first two children. They had nine children baptised at Holy Trinity Church: Thomas William Smith (born 10 June 1908, bapt. 26 July 1908); Vina Smith (born 23 February 1910, bapt. 29 May 1910); Muriel Smith (born 16 January 1912, bapt. 7 April 1912); Mabel Charlotte Smith (born 5 January 1914, bapt. 31 May 1914); Ernest Smith (born 4 May 1916, bapt. 30 July 1916); Harriett May Smith (born 12 May 1919, bapt. 15 June 1919); Basil Smith (born 23 February 1925, bapt. 3 May 1925); Sheila Barbara Smith (born 10 April 1928, bapt. 20 May 1928); Harry Smith (born 4 January 1923, bapt. 4 March 1923).
  • Harriet Ellen Smith (born 1887) married Jesse Hooper in the Headington registration district in the first quarter of 1908, and at the time of the 1911 census they were living in Quarry High Street with their first three children, but by 1923 they had moved to 23 Pitts Road. They had eleven children baptised at Holy Trinity Church: Winifred May Hooper (born 4 November 1908, bapt. 27 December); Charles Thomas Edward Hooper (born 22 November 1909, bapt. 30 January 1910; Stanley Francis Hooper (born 17 March 1912, bapt. 26 May); Thomas William Hooper (born 15 August 1913, bapt. 26 October); William James Hooper (born 10 August 1915, bapt. 31 October); Jesse Hooper (born 24 March 1918, bapt. 19 May); Frederick Harry Hooper (born 10 June 1919, bapt. 17 August); Frank John Hooper (born 14 May 1921, bapt. 10 July); Betty Annie Hooper (born 26 January 1923, bapt. 1 April); Jean Edith Hooper (born 23 September 1924, bapt. 18 January 1925); and Eric Norman Hooper (bapt. 10 November 1926).
  • William Smith (born 1889) also died in the First World War: see separate entry

See also
  • CWGC: Smith, H (confirmed by “FindMyPast” as a man named Harry Smith who was born in, and resided at, Headington)
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 11 October 1916, “Heroes of the War”: photograph of H. Smith of Headington, who had died the previous month (shown above with kind permission of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre)
  • Harry’s first cousin, John Tolley
  • Wikipedia: Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry

Back to Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website