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Oxford War Memorials: St Frideswide’s Church, Oxford

Ernest Albert ELTHAM (1879–1916)

Eltham, OJI 26 July 1916
Oxford Journal Illustrated, 26 July 1916
Reproduced by kind permission of Oxfordshire
County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre

Eltham on memorial

Parents and sister (or half-sister)
  • Father: UNKNOWN
  • Mother: Miss Jane ELTHAM: born in Chaddleworth, Berkshire in 1858/9; later Mrs Jane ROSE, died in Wantage in 1939 aged 81

Jane Eltham gave birth to two children before her marriage:

  • Ernest Albert Eltham: born in 1879 at Grove Street in Wantage and baptised privately at SS Peter & Paul Church there on 23 December;
  • Lily Lucy Amelia Eltham: born on 16 April 1885 at Thatcher’s Row in Wantage and baptised at SS Peter & Paul Church there on 25 July.

Jane left her illegitimate children behind with her parents when she married William Rose in 1890, and went on to start afresh with a new family.

Jane’s two sisters also had illegitimate children: Mary (born 1852/3) gave birth to Catherine (Kate) in 1874, Frederick James in 1877, and George in 1881; and Esther Elizabeth (born 1865/6) gave birth to Annie Elizabeth in 1882. All were baptised at SS Peter & Paul Church, Wantage.



Ernest was brought up by his grandparents, who were married in the Wantage district in the third quarter of 1847:

  • Thomas ELTHAM (born in Challow, Berkshire in 1818/19; died in Wantage in 1890)
  • Elizabeth WOODLEY (born in Chaddleworth, Berkshire in 1821/2; died in Wantage in 1905)


At the time of the 1871 census, Ernest’s mother Jane (12) was still at school and living with her parents, five of her siblings, and a lodger at Stirling’s Lane, Wantage: her father Thomas was aged 52 and a sawyer, and her mother Elizabeth was 45.

Jane became an unmarried mother at the age of 20 when she gave birth to Ernest near the end of 1879 at Grove Street in Wantage. He was baptised privately at SS Peter & Paul Church there on 23 December 1879.

At the time of the 1881 census Ernest’s mother Jane (21) was working as a domestic servant and still living with her parents and three of her siblings at Stirling’s Lane, Wantage. As well as Ernest (1), Jane’s parents were also caring for Kate (6) and Frederick (3) while their mother Mary (27) also worked as a domestic servant.

Jane’s sister Mary was married to Stephen Wilkins in the third quarter of 1888 and took Frederick and George with her, leaving her eldest daughter Kate with her grandparents.

Ernest’s grandfather, Thomas Eltham, died at Thatcher’s Row in Wantage in early 1890 at the age of 74 and was buried at SS Peter & Paul Church on 4 February

Ernest’s mother Jane had another illegitimate child, Arthur Eltham, in 1890 (registered third quarter). This time, however, the father, William Rose, married her (in Wantage in the same quarter), and Arthur took the surname Rose. The family lived in Little Lane, Wantage (with Jane’s earlier mistakes, Ernest and Lily, remaining with her widowed mother). Jane had another five children with William Rose: Arthur, Edith, Frederick, May Ellen, Alice, and Gladys Mary.

At the time of the 1891 census, Ernest’s grandmother Elizabeth (69) was working as a laundress. She was living in Grove Street Wantage with her unmarried son Frederick (40) and three grandchildren: Mary’s daughter Kate (17), who was now herself working as a general servant, and Jane’s son Ernest (11) and daughter Lily (6). She described the trio on the census form as her nieces and nephew, presumably to hide their illegitimate status, implying that Jane’s husband may not have known whose children Ernest and Lily were.

In 1901 Ernest’s grandmother Elizabeth (79) was living in Stirlings Road, Wantage with her son Frederick (50) and Ernest’s sister Lily, who was 16 and working as a general servant. Ernest himself and his future wife, however, are both hard to find.

In the third quarter of 1904 in the Wantage district, Ernest Albert ELTHAM married Ethel Mary GOFF. Ethel was born at Partridge Yard, Wantage on 15 July 1885, the daughter of the labourer Aaron Goff, and baptised at SS Peter & Paul Church there on 16 August.

They had three children:

  • Edna Mary Eltham (born at Priory Road, Wantage on 10 September 1906 and baptised at SS Peter & Paul, Wantage on 14 October 1906)
  • Ernest William Leslie Eltham (born in Oxford on 3 February 1909 and baptised at SS Peter & Paul, Wantage, on 11 April 1909)
  • Edward Albert Eltham (born at 97 Bridge Street, Osney on 31 January 1915 and baptised at St Frideswide’s Church on 7 March 1915).

Ernest’s grandmother Elizabeth Eltham died at Stirlings Road, Wantage at the age of 84 and was buried at SS Peter & Paul Church on 19 June 1905.

Ernest and his wife evidently began their married life in Wantage (possibly with his grandmother), but by 1909 they had moved to Osney, where Ernest worked as a porter for the Great Western Railway. The 1911 census shows Ernest (32) with his wife and first two children, Edna (4) and Ernest (2), at 97 Bridge Street. Their daughter Edna died there three years later when she was seven, and her funeral was at St Frideswide’s Church on 27 July 1914.

At the time his third child was baptised on 7 March 1915, Ernest was already a sergeant in the 1st Royal Berkshire Regiment, showing that he had volunteered to serve in the war (conscription for married men did not start until May 1916).

Poppy In the First World War Ernest Eltham enlisted at Reading by March 1915 and later served as a Lance Serjeant in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment (Service No.5694) He was killed in action in Belgium at the age of 36 on 25 September 1915.

He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium (Panel 7 & 8).


Ernest Eltham’s mother

  • Mrs Jane ROSE (born 1858/9) remained in Wantage for the rest of her life. Her husband William Rose died there at the age of 81 in 1936/7, and she also died there at the age of 81 in 1939.

Ernest Eltham’s widow

  • Mrs Ethel Mary ELTHAM (born 1885) appears to have returned to Wantage after her husband’s death.

Ernest Eltham’s two surviving children

  • Ernest William L. ELTHAM (born 1908/9) married Grace A. MILSOM in the Wantage district in the first quarter of 1947.
  • Edward Albert ELTHAM (born 1915) married Ellen L. EVANS in the Wantage district in the first quarter of 1940. The Barry Eltham born in the Wantage area in 1947 is likely to be their son.

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© Stephanie Jenkins

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