St.Alban's is a living church which serves the community and on this blog and its attached pages you will find details of the church both past and present and how to contact us. Some pages are still under construction so please bear with us for a while.

When you click a link on this page it will take you to another page with the same heading. You will need to scroll down to find the information you require.

Another purpose of this blog is to provide a genealogical guide to the church of St.Alban the Martyr which is situated in St.John's Road, Westcliff on Sea, Essex. Like many churches it contains a wealth of material of interest to people studying local history and family history. It is our intention to provide, as best we can, information about the many people who are commemorated in this beautiful church. Obviously this is a work in progress and the project has only just begun so we ask for your patience. If you have, or think you might have, historical connections with the church, we'd love to hear from you.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Archdeacon Mina with Fr.Phil during her recent visit to St.Alban's.

Click the link above to watch the Archdeacon's video.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


The funeral of Frances Pearce will be held at St. Alban's Church, St. John's Road, Westcliff on Sea at 11.00 am on Friday 1st of November.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Lord of gifts, share with us a hunger for the bread of your kingdom; give us a yearning impatience with injustice; free us from clinging to debts gone bad; teach us to pray with honesty in words filled with earth and lit by Christ, our jubilee.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


George Maitland Stapley

Laurence D'Arcy Stapley was born in Darnley Road, Tottenham, London in 1892 and baptised on 27th November of that year. His father, George Maitland Stapley (1853-1929) was born in Holloway, Islington, North London.  George was married to Lucy Jane (nee' Strangeways) and their children were Cecil (b.1886), Edward (1887-1976), Laurence (1892), Lucie, John (1895-1970) and Raymond (b.1905).

Lucy Jane Stapley

 George was a clerk with an East India Merchants and the family moved around a lot - from Darnley Road they went to Reighton Road, Hackney, then to 21 Valentines Road, Ilford and by 1914 they were at 18 Coventry Road, also in Ilford. Sometime early in the war they moved to 37 Preston Road, Westcliff on Sea, where they became members of the the congregation of St.Alban's Church.
George's son, Laurence D'Arcy, who worked as a bank clerk but whose ambition was to train as a missionary, volunteered for the Rifle Brigade and was later commisioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in The Suffolk Regiment and served in the 7th (Volunteer) Battalion.  He was killed at The Somme on 12 October 1916. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument.

Laurence D'Arcy Stapley

Monday, 24 June 2013

R.I.P. JASON BETTS 1969-2013

Jason is pictured above with Bishop Laurie Green on the occasion of his confirmation in 2008.

It is with great sadness we report the recent death of Jason Austin Betts, a good man and a much valued member of the congregation of St.Alban the Martyr, Westcliff. Our sincerest condolences go out his wife Tina and the boys as well as to Derek and Marilyn at this difficult time.

Jason will be much missed by everybody for the kind person and good friend he was and for the countless things he did both in and around the church and for the Scouts.

Jason's funeral will be at St.Alban's 10.30, Tuesday July 2nd.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

JAMES JOHN THAKE (1876 - 1918)

James John Thake was the son of Richard Thake, a farmworker from Radwinter, Essex and his wife Ellen. He moved to Westcliff to live with his married brother, Cornelius at 77 Avenue Road and later at  "Radwinter" 11 Northview Road. Cornelius was a tram driver for Southend Borough Council and a member of the congregation of St.Alban the Martyr Westcliff.  James went into the army  during the Great War and served as a Private with 10th Battalion Essex Regiment. He was killed in action on 28 April 1918 and is buried at Crouy British Cemetery at Crouy-sur-Somme, France. His name was added to the St.Alban's War Memorial at the request of  his brother. Cornelius continued to attend St.Alban's until his death in 1954. A table in the church bears a plaque in his memory.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

REGINALD TOON (1885 - 1916)

Reginald Toon was the son of Thomas George Toon and his wife Elizabeth Mary Toon and was born in Nunhead, Surrey (now South London) on 7 January 1885 and baptised at St. Saviour's Southwark (now Southwark Cathedral) on 25 March 1885. Thomas, a Shipping Clerk, and his wife also had a daughter, Elsie. The family moved to Westcliff on Sea, living originally at 30 Genesta Road and later moving to 31 Cranley Rd.  Reginald enlisted in the 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment at St. Paul's Churchyard, London. He was killed in action 30 June 1916 and is buried in plot III.S.2 at St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'Avoe, France. He left £162 8s 7d to his father.

St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Herbert Alfred Hope was born at 173 Adelaide Road, Hampstead, London on 6 December 1890 to Alfred T. Hope and his wife Emma. Alfred was working as a "printer's traveller". In 1901 the family moved to 142 West Green Road in Tottenham. Alfred started his own printing business at 15-16 Friar Street, London and by April 1911 he and Emma had moved to "Endsleigh" at 8 Manor Road, Westcliff on Sea with their four children, William, Herbert, Leonard and May.  During the Great War Herbert, who was working as a clerk/cashier,  joined the Army and was commisioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corp. He was sent to the Military school at Thetford for pilot training. He was trained on a Maurice Farnum biplane and received his pilot's wings on 14 March 1917 and was assigned to 25 Squadron on the Western Front.
The life expectancy for a new pilot was very short and so it would be for Herbert. He died on 28 June 1917 from injuries resulting from an accident while landing. He is buried in plot V.A.11 at Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, France. Oddly, the records of The Royal Aero Club give his date of death as 8 August 1917.

Herbert Hope was trained on a Maurice Farnum biplane.
Herbert left £421 15s 5d to his mother in his will. Emma later moved to 108 Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff. She died in 1930.

Sunday, 9 June 2013


Clement Thomas Groombridge was born in Bishop Storford in 1895. His father (also Clement) was a coachman and seemed to have moved around quite a bit. In 1901 the family which consisted of Clement. his parents and two sisters, Florence and Annie, were living in Weymouth Mews, Marylebone, London.

Weymouth Mews, where the Groombridge Family lived in 1901

By 1911 the family were living at 99 St.Helen's Road, Westcliff on Sea and were attending St.Alban's Church in St.John's Road. The elder Clement's profession is listed on the April census as "Jobs Master".

99 St.Helen's Road today.

 When war was declared in 1914 Clement was one of the earliest volunteers and rose to the rank of Lieutenant, 4th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment.  He died in England and is buried in the Groombridge family grave in plot E4219 in Southend Cemetery, Sutton Road. He is also remembered on The Royal Leicestershire website which now includes updated information from this page and our photograph of the family grave.

The Groombridge Family Grave

To visit the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Website entry on Clement Groombridge click the regiment name.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

HAROLD BASIL ALDER (1893 - 1915)

Born in Leytonstone, Harold Basil Alder lived with his parents and two sisters, Muriel and Lilian at "Roslea" 33 Anerly Road, Westcliff on Sea. His father, Francis Alder was a printer and secretary of the Southend Choral Society. Harold was educated at Southend High School and later worked as an advertising clerk at his father's London firm. He enlisted in the army in August 1914 and served with The London Regiment Queen Victoria's Rifles rising to the rank of Acting Sergeant.  He saw action at Ypres and Hill 60. On Whit Monday 1915 he was returning from a trench digging party when he was hit by enemy fire and wounded in the head and neck. He was taken to a base hospital in Boulogne and died on 25th May 1915.

The Alder Family home "Roslea" today.


Ernest Adamson was born in 1895, in Haringey, North London, the son of William and Amy Adamson. When Ernest was about eleven the family moved to Southend, first to Boscombe Road and then to "Innsbruck" 37 Burdett Avenue. Ernest's first job was as a clerk working for H. Garon in Southend but he soon joined the Merchant Navy with the P&O Line. According to his parents he also saw service on HMS Leonides  and HMS Kale. While at home at Christmas 1915 he enlisted in The Royal Fusiliers under the name Ernest Gramholt and served as a Private until his death. He was fatally wounded on the first day of the Battle of The Somme on 1 July 1916 and died eight days later. He also commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

HMS Leonides

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

ARTHUR WARNER HUNT (1887 - 1918)

Arthur Warner Hunt was born at "St.Hilda" Grove Hill, Woodford, Essex in 1887, the son of  George Hunt a paper merchant and his wife Kathleen (nee Warner). By April 1911 the family (which included Arthur's younger brother, George) had moved to 39 St.Helen's Road, Westcliff on Sea. In late 1915 Arthur, who was working as a stockbrokers clerk, married Dorothy Marguerite Bond and they set up home at 185 Hamlet Court Road. On 3 December, shortly after his marriage, Arthur enlisted in The London Regiment (Artists Rifles) at Southend. The following October he was given an acting commision (later confirmed) as a 2nd Lieutenant in 11th Battalion, Esssex Regiment. He was killed in action on 28th April 1918 and is buried at Esquelbecq Military Cemetery (grave 1.A.29) in France.

Esquelbecq Military Cemetery

Saturday, 25 May 2013


Reginald William John Shears was born 2 September 1887 in Etheldon Road, Shepherd's Bush, London.  He was baptised at St. Stephen's Hammersmith on 20 August 1891. His parents were William Henry Simmons Shears and his wife Dora Harriet. In 1901 the family were living at 57 Cambridge Road, Willsden with Reginald and his sister Norah Renee Alicia. By 1911 the family had moved again, this time to 38 Anerley Road, Westcliff, by which time Reginald was working, like his father, as an architect's assistant. He volunteered for the army when war broke out in 1914 and was posted as a Rifleman to 1/9 Battalion Queen Victoria Rifles. He was killed in action on 1 July 1916. Soon after his death the family moved to "Oban" Blackness, Crowbridge, Surrey. He is also commemorated on the Thiepval Monument in France.

Friday, 24 May 2013

GATHORNE HARDY (1898 - 1918)

Gathorne Hardy deserves an apology. His name appears on the St.Alban's war memorial and in the book of remembrance as "Gaythorne".  Gathorne was born in Wood Green in London in 1898. He was the son of successful businessman William Hardy (1838-1907) and his second wife Geraldine.The couple were married at St.Mary Abbots, Kensington in 1896 and their son Gathorne was baptised at St. Michael at Bowes, Bowes Park, Southgate on 24 July 1898.In the baptism book William is described simply as a "Gentleman" but on the later 1901 census we learn that he was a "retired contractor". Soon after this the family, which included William's daugher, Laura, by his first marriage, moved to Westcliff where they took up residence at White Lodge, 38 St.Vincent's Road, Westcliff where the employed one Ada Barker as a servant and Eliza Freakley as a nurse for young Gathorne.

The historic King Alfred School where Gathorne was a pupil

       William Hardy died on 28 May, 1907 leaving a phenomenal (for the time) £32089  11s  8d and Gathorne was sent to be educated at King Alfred's Grammar School at Wantage and Mrs. Hardy moved to "San Remo" 45 Canewdon Road. War broke out in 1914 and as soon as he was old enough Gathorne joined the army and, like so many of his class, was soon commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and served with The Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was seriously wounded in action on 12 April 1918 at Wulverdhem   Nr Midland Farm, taken prisoner by the Germans,  and died of his wounds in captivity  on 30 April 1918 in Flanders and is buried there in the Kortrijk Communal Cemetery, plot 23, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. In his will he left £57 to his mother (her address is now given as 49 Canewdon Road). Geraldine Hardy returned to London where she died at Kensington, age 83, in 1943.

As I finished writing the above I decided to visit St.Vincent's Road to photograh "White Lodge", the Hardy home at No.38. Sadly the house no longer exists, having been destroyed by a German bomb on 10 December 1943. The same bomb also destroyed Nos 36  and 34 St.Vincents Road. Frederick Robert Sapey and his wife Lily May lived at 34 - both were killed and both were members of the St.Alban's congregation, their names appearing on the World War Two memorial plaque.

38 St.Vincent's Road after the bomb (Essex Records Office)

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


John "Jack" Ormond Smellie was born in Georgetown, British Guiana on 12 May 1896. His parents were William George Smellie (1865-1946) and his wife Anne Jane Pinkerton McCowan (1866-1941). Young Jack  and his elder brother, William (known by his middle name "Archie"), born 2 September 1894,  were sent England to be educated at Cranleigh School in Surrey and during the holidays they lived with their uncle Dr. John Clementson Smellie at 273 London Road, Westcliff, Essex. Dr. Smellie was a member of the St. Alban's congregation. Jack excelled in sports and represented his school at Aldershot in both foil and sabre events.

When war broke out both Jack and his brother joined the army. Jack was commisioned as a Lieutenant in The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment and later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. He fought in two engagements on the Somme and wrote of his experiences to his cousin Geoffrey :

 "Since I last wrote, we've been through it. The push has begun and I was in at the start. My God, it was bloody hell let loose. We had the whole Division cut up and how I got through, God only knows. It was certain death to anyone going over the parapet and 10 to 1 in the trench. The fellows fell like flies. It was ghastly to say the least. I had half a team knocked out before we had gone ten yards leaving me six men for two guns. I can't give out full details and really I don't want to. We will be in again and though it is a pretty good ordeal, I am longing to have another go at the -----. Archie [his brother] was on my left and came through: he is in again, as apparently his Division did not suffer so badly as ours. He's acting company commander of 'C' Coy. It was very interesting and we managed to get some good work done with the M.G.'s on the Hun counterattacking - stopped him before he got through his own wire even. I had everything torn during our tour of 36 hours fighting, even my boots. I got hung up with a tripod on our own barbed wire. I really had cold feet for a moment then, as it was there that half the team went down. Not only the Hun's first two lines, but our front line was absolutely flattened and it was impossible to walk along, both for dead, wounded and bashed in dugouts. The British have taken 10,000 prisoners up to date along our front."

It was in his third engagement, at Le Sars on the Somme on 1 October 1916, that John was hit in the neck and paralysed while advancing with his men.  He was repatriated to England and spent some time at Netley Military Hosptal near Southampton before being moved to Sir John Ellerman Hospital at  Regent's Park. John's parents made the perilous wartime sea voyage to England to see their son. William Smellie had to return home in May 1917 but his wife Anne stayed on with her son whose condition worsened until he died on 8 August 1917. He was buried in Sutton Road Cemetery in Southend with full military honours.

 Despite having been wounded on two occasions, including six gunshot wounds, while serving with the Dorsetshire Regiment, Jack's brother, Archie, survived the war and remained in the army, serving with his regiment in India, Malta, Egypt, Sudan and Palestine. Although in his mid-forties he was recalled to the army in  1939 and posted to Dover. He was ship's adjutant on the Isle of Man ferry Mona's Queen when it made its last crossing to Dunkirk on 29 May 1940, hit a mine and sank within two minutes. Archie was  rescued by H.M.S. Vanquisher but later fatally injured by a shell burst on the ship and died 1 June 1940.  He is buried at Malo-les-Bains Cemetery, Dunkirk. Archie's son, Herbert John "Larry" Orpen-Smellie, continued the famiily military tradition and had a distinguished military career, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel and becoming a champion rifle marksman, representing his country on many occasions. He also celebrated his 70th birthday by doing a bunjay jump in New Zealand! He passed away in 2002. His son is Lt.Colonel Giles Rackley Orpen-Smellie  formerly of The Parachute Regiment, now of The Sandhurst Foundation.

Archie Smellie was Ship's Adjutant on the Mona's Queen when it struck a mine

Dr. John Clementson Smellie, Jack and Archie's uncle, was born in Georgetown, British Guiana on 12 June 1870. He studied medicine in London. He set up his practice as doctor and surgeon in Westcliff on Sea, living in a 12 room house at 39 Leigh Road, Westcliff (Leigh Road was renamed London Road - the original street name can still be seen on the side of the nearby Cricketeers Public house - and the house number became 273). Dr. Smellie married his wife Lilian in 1900 and they had two children, both born in Westcliff, Rachel (born 1903) and James (born 1904). In 1911 the family employed two servants, Daisy Clarissa Chapman and Alice Matilda Norman. After his retirement Dr. Smellie moved to "Hillsboro" 39 Fernside Road, Poole, Dorset. He died on 12 Sept 1943 (his wife died the previous year) leaving £8820 to a fellow doctor. The house at 273 London Road was boarded up for many years but has now been restored and is occupied again.

273 London Road

I am heavily indebted to the website of the Thomas Austin Family for much of the information in the above article. 

In a letter to me, Giles Brackley Orpen-Smellie, Jack Smellie's grand-nephew and Archie Smellie's grandson, added : 

"I have identified that Jack served in 70 Machine Gun Company, which was part of 70 Infantry Brigade.  

On 1 July 1916, 70 Brigade was serving as part of 8 Division in III Corps.  They were the left brigade of the left division of the Corps with X Corps on their left.  Archie served in 1 DORSETs, which was part of 14 Infantry Brigade of 32 Division in X Corps.  They were the right brigade of the right division of X Corps.  Thus the brigades in which the two brothers fought on 1 July 1916 were adjacent, which explains how they were able to meet in the aftermath, as described in Jack's letter.

70 Brigade returned from 8 Division to 23 Division on 17 July 1916.  The divisional history of the 23 Division reports Jack being wounded while describing the Division's attack on Flers on 1 October 1916.  It seems that he was hit in the neck and was paralyzed.  It was as a result of this wound that he died on 8 August 1917."
Lt.Colonel Giles Brackley Orpen Smellie

Saturday, 18 May 2013


It is only recently that we discovered that two of the windows in our church have connections, indirectly, with both Charles Dickens and the poet William Wordsworth. The connection comes through Katharine Talfourd who is commemorated on a window in the north aisle. Although we know that Katharine regularly attended the church and learn from the window that she was an early benefactress, the window, surprisingly gives us more information about her father than it does about her.

Dedication on St.Katharine Window

St. Katharine. North aisle

Katharine Talfourd was born in 1833 in Bloomsbury, London. She never married and lived most of her life either with her parents or her younger brother William. In 1861 she was living in Margate, Kent with her mother, Rachel at "Retreat" St.Peter's Road. After her mother's death in 1875 she went to live with her brother, William Wordsworth Talfourd at the Rectory in Winceby, Lincolnshire where William was the Rector.

The Rectory at Thundersley where Katharine lived with her brother.

 When her brother became rector of St.Peter's in Thundersley, Essex they continued to live together until William's death in 1900. Katharine then moved to 29 Valkyrie Road in Westcliff on Sea where she lived with two female servants. She attended St.Alban's Church until she died on 17 April 1915.  The St.Katharine window in the north aisle of the church bears a dedication in her memory. Opposite in the south aisle under another window, depicting St.Augustine and St.Alphegue, there is a brass plaque in memory of her brother, William Wordsworth Talfourd.

The young Sir Thomas
Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd,  (26 May 1795 – 13 March 1854), was an English judge and author.  The son of a well-to-do brewer, he was born at Reading, Berkshire. He received his early education at Hendon and at the Reading Grammar school. At the age of eighteen he was sent to London to study law.  Early in 1821 he joined the Oxford circuit, having been called to the bar earlier in the year. Fourteen years later, when he was created a sergeant-at-law, and when again he in 1849 succeeded Mr. Justice Coltman as judge of the Court of Common Pleas, he earned these distinctions more by his laborious care in the conduct of cases than for his brilliance in court.

At the general election in 1835 he was elected MP for the Parliamentary Borough of Reading, a result repeated in the general election of 1837. He chose not to run in the general election of 1841, but ran again in the general election of 1847 and was elected again. In the House of Commons he introduced a Copyright Bill in 1837; his speech on this subject was considered the most telling made in the House during that session. However, the dissolution of Parliament in 1837 following the death of William IV meant that the Bill had to be reintroduced in the new Parliament in 1838. By that time, the bill met with strong opposition and did not pass that year. Talfourd re-introduced the Bill again in 1839, 1840 and 1841, the Bill failing to pass in each of those years. It finally became law in 1842, albeit in a greatly modified form, and at a time when Talfourd was not in Parliament. Charles Dickens dedicated The Pickwick Papers to Talfourd. Sir Thomas was also a respected literary figure and the author of both plays and literary criticism. He was an early champion of the works of the poet William Wordsworth and named his own son after him. Another of his sons was Francis (Frank) Talfourd (1828-1862) a successful dramatist famous for his burlesques of Shakespeare and classical subjects.

Sir Thomas Noon Talford
Talfourd died in 1854 in Stafford after having an "apoplectic seizure" in court while addressing the jury from his judge's seat at the Shire Hall, where he is commemorated by a bust, sculpted by John Graham Lough. Charles Dickens attended his funeral at West Norwood Cemetery.

South Aisle window dedicated to William Wordsworth Talfourd


The Leatherdale Brothers have no obvious connection with St.Alban's Church or Westcliff. The most likely explanation for their inclusion on the St.Alban's War Memorial is that a relative, name unknown, was a member of the congregation.

Alan Richard Leatherdale was born in Catford, South London 8 May 1897 and baptised on 12 September at St.Jude's East Brixton. The parent's names are given as George Fenning Leatherdale and Mabel Gertrude Leatherdale (nee' Parsons) who also had a daughter, Phyllis, and lived at 12 Norfolk Road, Catford. Later the family moved to 22 Westholm Green, Letchworth. Alan was educated  at St. Anne's, Redhill and by private tutor at Dunton Waylett Rectory, Essex. He was employed at the London County and Westminster Bank in Andover.When war broke out Alan joined the volunteer force and offered himself for Officer Training College. When he was rejected on grounds of health he joined The Royal Fusiliers and reached the rank of Corporal. He was killed in action on 18 September 1916 at Flers on The Somme. In his will he left £200 to his mother who was by then living in Andover, Hants. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument.

Alan Richard Leatherdale

Like his younger brother, Donald Ryan Leatherdale was born in Catford, South London (1896) and educated at Christ's Hospital. He was employed by The Royal Exchange  Insurance Company. At the outbreak of the war he joined the Artist's Rifles and volunteered for foreign service and served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in 1st Battn (50th Foot) Queen's Own West Kent Regiment in June 1915. On 22 July 1916 he was seen to be wounded while leading his men into action at High Wood and was later presumed to have died that day. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument. A comrade wrote "He went into action like a brave Britisher and a gentleman with not the slightest fear of death."

Donald Ryan Leatherdale

Thursday, 9 May 2013

THE TWO ECCLES CARTERS (1854 - 1930) and (1892 - 1914)

Eccles Carter was born in 1854 in Taunton Somerset. He came Southend in the 1890's with his wife, Emily, and two daughters. Eccles was a Stock Exchange agent and lived at 3 Clifton Terrace, Southend. He was one of the earliest choirmasters at St.Alban's Church. In the Memorial Chapel (The Holy Name Chapel) there is a metal cross which, within its hollow base, has the inscription "Gift of the Choirmen in gratitude for the services of their choirmaster Eccles Carter, Christmas 1901"  It is possible that this gift to the church was made at the time of Carter leaving the church and retiring to his native West Country where he died 24 February 1930.

Eccles Carter lived in Clifton Terrace Southend

Some confusion has been caused by the fact that the name Eccles Carter also appears on the First World War Memorial plaque. After some research I can state categorically that this is not the same Eccles Carter who was choirmaster at the church.  This is how I believe the mistake was made: In The Southend Standard of 9 October 1914 their appeared a report of the death of Royal Naval Lieutenant Eccles Carter (b. Kensington 1892) who was lost on H.M.S. Pathfinder on 5 September of that year. I believe that somebody at the newspaper recognised the distinctive name and wrote in the paper that he was "late of Westcliff", not realising that they were two different people. Because of this his name was added to the War Memorial while Eccles the choirmaster enjoyed his retirement elsewhere!

As Lt. Carter appears on the memorial plaque (even if by mistake) it is worth saying something about the circumstances of his death.  Pathfinder was sunk off St. Abbs Head, Berwickshire,Scotland on Saturday 5 September 1914 by the German U-21, commanded by Lieutnant zur See Otto Hersing. Typical of the scout cruisers' poor endurance, she was so short of coal whilst on patrol that she could only manage a speed of 5 knots, making her an easy target. The ship was struck in a magazine, which exploded causing the ship to sink within minutes with the loss of 259 men. The explosion was actually seen by Aldous Huxley who was staying at Abbs House at the time. He wrote about it in a letter to his father dated 14 September : "I dare say Julian told you that we actually saw the Pathfinder explosion — a great white cloud with its foot in sea. The St. Abbs' lifeboat came in with the most appalling accounts of the scene. There was not a piece of wood, they said, big enough to float a man—and over acres the sea was covered with fragments—human and otherwise. They brought back a sailor's cap with half a man's head inside it. The explosion must have been frightful. It is thought to be a German submarine that did it, or, possibly, a torpedo fired from one of the refitted German trawlers, which cruise all round painted with British port letters and flying the British flag."

H.M.S. Pathfinder


The great West Window of St.Alban's church is dedicated in memory of Eliza Barney and her daughter Ida Maria Sophia. Eliza Snowden was born in Georgetown, Demerara in British Guyana, South America in 1849. In the 1870's she married William Barney a textile agent and Yorkshire Dress and Goods merchant and they lived in Camberwell, Surrey. Their daughter, Ida Mary Sophia was born in 1875. Sometime after 1891 The Barney's moved to Southend in Essex where they lived at 23 Park Road.  Eliza died in 1926 leaving £684 8s 9d. She was followed three years later by William who left £11107 9s 11d to the public trustee.

This house, formerly 23 Park Road, Southend was The Barney family home.

Their daughter Ida married Arthur S. Underwood (b.1878) in the summer of 1915. Their son, Flying Officer Edward Underwood was killed on active service in Norway in 1944 age 21. He is buried in the Aseral Churchyard in Norway. He is commemorated on the St.Alban's World War Two memorial. Ida continued attending St.Alban's Church for many years and died in 1958.

The Great West Window 

Designed and Executed by A. H. Nicholson.

The subject which the design illustrates are the words of Our Lord "Ego Sum Vitis Vos Dalmites."
The tree rises up from behind a picture of the Nativity, or rather of the Epiphany, with the figure of the Blessed Virgin and Child, the three Kings and Joseph. In the background will be seen the camels on which the Magi have travelled and the City of Bethlehem. The Star shines over the cot in which the young Child lies. On either side are censing Angels kneeling in worship.

The Tree on which the figures of the Apostles stand or kneel ia a conventional type suggestive of the vine, and each of the Apostles bears the special attributes and emblems and holds in his hand the portion of the Creed with which tradition has associated him. At the top of the window is the emblem of the Holy Spirit surrounded by rays.

UPPER TIER : Mattheus, Petrus, Andreas, Jacobus Major, Johannes and Simon
Second Tier Matthias, Phillip, Jacobus Frater Domini, Thomas, Bartolomeus and Thaddeus.

SECOND TIER :  Matthias, Phillip, Jacobus Frater Domini, Thomas, Bartolomeus and Thaddeus.  

Note: The Great West Window is probably the most outstanding feature in the church it needs to be seen to appreciate its true beauty, no photograph will ever be able to do it justice.

(Inserted in 1927 at a cost of £1000 given by an anonymous benefactor in memory of Eliza Barney and her daughter).

(Description of the window by Bill Sanders, former Sacristan of St.Alban's based on an old document.)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Frank Barkham was born in Hackney in 1888. He was a baker by trade, employed at the Broadway Bakery and later in Prittlewell. He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in October 1917 and went to France in February the following year.  He was taken ill in June and died on 29 June 1918 of pneumonia. He was married with four children and had lived at 152 Salisbury Avenue, Westcliff.


Cecil Stuart Brunsden was born in London and came to Westcliff when his parents moved here in 1894. He lived with his parents at 47 Milton Road, where they ran a linoleum store, until his marriage at which time he moved to "Redcot" in Silverdale Avenue. He enlisted in the Army in October 1914 and served with the Royal Flying Corp where he was promoted to Corporal (2nd airman) and continued to serve when the corp became the Royal Air Force in 1918. He came home on leave for the first time in October 1918 but on his return to France he developed pneumonia and died on November 18 - just seven days after the end of the war.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

HAROLD FRANCIS BOX (1895 - 1918)

St.Mary's South Benfleet where Harold's father was Vicar
Harold Francis Box was born in Orsett, Essex, in 1895. He was one of five children born to The Rev. Charles Francis Box the Vicar of St.Mary's South Benfleet, Essex and his wife Emily. Harold attended Keble College, Oxford and it was his intention to follow his father into the priesthood. He was killed in France on 29 October 1918, a few days before the Armistice. At the time of his death he was a lieutenant serving with 5th Battalion Essex Regiment attached to The Royal Engineers. He is listed on the church war memorial

Harold is buried in France at Crucifix Cemetery, Vendegies-Sur-Ecallion. He is also listed on the South Benfleet War Memorial which was erected in 1920.

                                                           South Benfleet War Memorial
                                                       (picture from Southend Standard)


Arthur Etheridge Bergernie was the youngest son of Mr. W. Bergernie of 40 Grovernor Road, Southend. He attended both Southend High School and Clarke's College. He enlisted in November 1915 and was shipped to France the following August. He was killed in action on 19 September 1916, just three days before his twentieth birthday.


Frederick Percival Beard 1895-1916

In 1901 Walter James Beard was a tobacconist in Burdett Road, Mile End. Walter, who was born in The Strand, London and his wife Bessie must have been fairly prosperous as not only did they have a servant but also a nursemaid for their youngest child. The children included sons James and Walter and a daughter, Beatrice. Another son was Frederick Percival who had been born in 1895 and who was baptised at St.Paul's Bow Common on 19th October 1898. Sometime after 1900 the family moved to Westcliff on Sea, to the house "Trevons" at 35 Preston Road. By 1911 Walter is no longer listed as a tobacconist but rather as the director of a contracting company where his two elder sons work as clerks.

The younger son, Frederick,  seems to have developed an interest in matters masonic as he certainly attended lodge meetings at The Middleton Hotel in Southend. He was nineteen when the Great War broke out and like so many of his generation he volunteered for the army. He served as a Rifleman in the 5th Battalion London Rifle Brigade. He was killed in action on 1 July 1916 - the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the very same day as Percival George Clappen who is also remembered in this church. Frederick is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument Addenda Panel Five, front terrace

The Beard Family home at 35 Preston Road

Monday, 6 May 2013


The Clappen Family Home in Wickford Road where Percival Clappen was born in 1898

Percival George Clappen was born in Wickford Road, Westcliff in 1898. His father was Edward Smith Clappen, an Ironmonger who traded from Milton House in Southend High Street. Edward and his wife Florence May (ne' Berry) lived at "Corinium" which still stands today on the corner of Wickford Road and Hadleigh Road in Westcliff. The house, which backs onto the railway, was formerly a splendid building which like many in the area had stables at the rear but today is divided into rented flats and is rather rundown and sad.  On the 1901 Census Edward is listed as "living on his own finances" and by 1911 he is "Retired".  Their first child was named Edward Smith Clappen after his father but he tragically died in an accident in 1900 just before his eighth birthday.

 More children followed, Donald William in 1895, Percival George in 1898 and Archibald John in 1901. Curiously, the 1901 census also lists a daughter, Eleanor, although so far I have been unable to find a registration of her birth. It is, however, certain that she did exist as she later married one Thomas G. Southy.

The third child of the family, Percival George Clappen was the first of the family to be born in Westcliff, the birth of his two elder siblings being registered in West Ham. The family regularly attended St. Alban's church and, presumably, it was there that Percival was baptised. When war broke out in 1914 young Percival enlisted and served in 1st Battalion, London Scottish Regiment. Like so many of his generation Percival George Clappen was mortally wounded at Gommecourt Wood in France on 1 July 1916 - the first day of The Battle of the Somme. In his memory his family had a window dedicated to him in the church and it can be seen in the South Aisle. The window features St.Edmund and next to it, featuring St.Martin, is a window dedicated to his brother.

Percival George Clappen is also commemorated n The Thiepval Monument Pier and Face 9c and 13c (Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France)

Sunday, 5 May 2013

HILARY KENNY (1895 - 1918)

Hilary Alexander Henry Symonds Kenny is one of many of those who died in The Great War who are commemorated in this church. Hilary was born in Bromley, Kent on 11 January 1895. His parents were Dr. Alexander Symonds Kenny and his wife Mary Grace Kenny (ne' Nicolas). Dr. Kenny was a native of New Zealand who came to London to study medicine in the 1880's. The couple had two other children, daughters, Elfreda, born in 1896 and Magdeline, born in 1897. On 18 June 1898, Mary Kenny and her three children took passage on the ship Loch Garry for Melbourne, Australia with their ultimate destination being Auckland, New Zealand. Dr. Kenny, who had preceded his wife, died in New Zealand and the family returned to England where Hilary was enrolled as a pupil in Epsom College.

While Hilary was at Epsom College his mother moved to Westcliff on Sea in Essex and took up residence at 11 Avenue Terrace.  The family were regular members of the congregation at St.Alban's Church and Hilary was both a member of the altar serving team and a much valued Sunday School teacher.   In 1914 war broke out with German and on 4 December Hilary volenteered for The Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, initially for the Public Schools Battalion but later being transferred to Anson Battalion.

Hilary served with an ant-aircraft gun battery at Mudros on the Greek Island of Lemnos and later took part in the landings by British and Anzac troops at Gallipoli. It was there, while serving in the allied trenches that tragedy struck. At about 6.35 on the evening of 11 September 1915 at Cape Helles, Hilary was cleaning his rifle when it went off, killing one of his comrades who was sleeping nearby. The unfortunate man was twenty-five year old Welshman Able Seaman David James Phillips, who in civilian life had been the Assistant County Surveyor of Suffolk. Hilary blamed the shooting on a mechanical malfunction of his rifle.

On 29 August 1917, back in England, Hilary was commissioned as Temporary Sub-Lieutenant in the RNVR and in December the same year he was drafted to the British Expeditionary Force in France as a member of Anson Battalion, Royal Naval Division. Although a unit of the Royal Navy the Division served as infantry. Hilary Kenny was killed in action on 26 March 1918. He is listed among the dead on The Arras Monument in France.

Hilary left £153 12s. to his mother. In later years Mrs. Kenny moved to 7 Inverness Avenue, Westcliff.  She died in 1933 age 71.

Hilary Kenny is commemorated in three places in the church, most prominently in a stained glass window in the vestibule of the south porch. The window (paid for my his mother) depicts St.Hilary who was the 43rd Pope but the face (see above) is the face of Hilary Kenny. He is also remembered on the left hand altar rail in the Lady Chapel and again on the Great War War Memorial Plaques near the High Altar.

Hilary is also commemorated on The Arras Monument (Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France)

Special thanks to : Jack Clegg's Memorial Database of Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War.

Hilary Kenny's home in Avenue Terrace, Westcliff.