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Walton Street Methodist Chapel: Thomas Bodsworth BIRTCHNELL (1889–1916)

Thomas Bodsworth BIRTCHNELL was born in Aylesbury in 1889, the youngest child of the stonemason George Birtchnell (born in Woburn, Bedfordshire in 1845) and Betsy Boyce (born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire in 1842). His father was a stonemason, and a photograph of him in 1888 is available at the Oxfordshire History Centre (POX0133441)

His parents were married at Dunstable, Bedfordshire on 6 August 1866: his father could sign his name, but his mother, who was a servant, could not. They had the following children:

  • Minnie Elizabeth Birtchnell (born in Luton in 1868)
  • George William Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1869, reg. fourth quarter)
  • Emily Jane Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1871/2)
  • Sarah Louise Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1873/4, died aged two)
  • Beatrice Lilian Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in c.1876)
  • James Boyce Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1876/7)
  • Wilfred Lawson Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1878, reg. third quarter)
  • Winifred Louise Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1880, reg. third quarter)
  • Thomas Edward P. Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1882, died the same year)
  • Ethel May Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1883/4)
  • Bessie Boyce Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury in 1885, reg. fourth quarter)
  • Thomas Bodsworth Birtchnell (born in Aylesbury on 28 October 1889).

At the time of the 1891 census Thomas (1) was living at 57 New Zealand [sic], Aylesbury with his mother Betsy (48) and seven of his siblings: Minnie (23) and George (21), who were printer compositors; Beatrice (15), who was a dressmaker's apprentice; and Wilfred (12), Winifred (10), Ethel (7), and Bessie (5), who were all at school. Thomas's brother James (14) was a general servant of a coal merchant at 28 New Road, Aylesbury, but his father and his sister Emily are hard to find.

In 1901 Thomas (11) was living at 2 Althorp Villas, Eastern Street, Aylesbury with his father George (55), who was still working as a stonemason, and his siblings Beatrice (25), who was a dressmaker; Wilfrid (22), who was a printing machine minder; and Winifred (20), Ethel (17), and Bessie (15), who were bookbinders. In this census, it is his mother who is hard to locate.

Thomas's father died at 17 Mill Street, Aylesbury at the age of 64 on 25 October 1910 and was buried there.

In 1911 Thomas (21) was a printer's machine minder, living at 17 Mill Street with his widowed mother Betsey (68) and three of his sisters: Beatrice (35) was still a dressmaker, and Winifred (30) and Bessie (25) bookbinders.

Thomas appears to have moved to Oxford with some of her children at some point between 1911 and 1916.

Two photographs of Thomas, as a civilian and as a soldier, can be seen here at “Buckinghamshire Remembers”.

Poppy In the First World War Thomas Bodsworth Birtchnell served as a Sapper in the 1st/3rd Kent Field Company of the Royal Engineers (Service No. 2558). He was killed in action in France on 8 July 1916, aged 26.

He was buried at the Englebelmer Communal Cemetery (Grave Ref. I.B.7), and his family paid for the additional words THOUGH GONE FROM OUR SIGHT NEVER ABSENT FROM OUR THOUGHTS to be added to his headstone.

He is remembered on the brass plaque in Walton Street Methodist Chapel.

The following words were added to his father's grave (pictured here) in Tring Road Cemetery, Aylesbury:

ALSO OF SAPPER
TOM BOSWORTH BIRTCHNELL
(ROYAL ENGINEERS),
DEARLY LOVED SON OF THE ABOVE
WHO WAS KILLED IN ACTION AT BEAUMONT FRANCE JULY 8TH 1916
AGED 26 YEARS.

O FOR THE TOUCH OF A VANISHED HAND
AND THE SOUND OF A VOICE THAT IS STILL

The quotation at the end is from the poem Break, Break, Break by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

After the war

In the early 1920s Thomas's mother Betsey Birtchnell was described as a widow of 121 Kingston Road, Oxford. She then appears to have returned to Aylesbury, where she died at the age of 84 on 28 June 1926. She was buried in the grave of her husband.


See also

© Stephanie Jenkins

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