Monday, August 4, 2014

Benjamin Aldridge 1884--1918

Today seems like a suitable day to write about my great-grandfather, Benjamin Aldridge, who died in the first world war, aged 32, leaving a widow and four small children.  The eldest of these was my grandmother, Amy Evelyn Aldridge.

I don't actually know when he was recruited into the army.  He was a grocer's porter, a job which probably didn't pay very much, and which can't have been very much of a preparation for the horrors of trench warfare at the beginning of the 20th century.  He seems to have been a quiet man, and a loving father, and worried about his children in his absence.

He had good reason to worry; my great grandmother was apparently so horrible a mother that her children still had nightmares about her into their 80s.  My grandmother bore the scars of some of the things which were done to her - she had boiling porridge thrown over her and various things including knives thrown at her. 

I can't tell if my great grandmother was a horrible child who became a horrible woman and then a horrible mother, I don't know.  She had already lost a brother in the war before her husband died, and maybe the uncertainty and the difficulty of managing a family without her husband changed her for the worse.  

So...my great grandfather Benjamin Aldridge was called up and was in the Royal Garrison Artillery.  He didn't win any medals, and he has no known grave, just his name inscribed upon the Thiepval memorial in France.  My grandmother knew his army number off by heart, and also a far number of poems, including the one by Rupert Brooke which summed up her father's fate, The Soldier:

IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less,
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.



She could recite the poem, and it spoke to her of her father.  He wrote to her to keep herself quiet and then never came home.  Shortly after her tenth birthday he was killed.  Like so many others in that brutal conflict, I don't expect he knew what he was fighting for or against, nor why he had to die.  It's not something I can understand either.

At 10pm we will shut off our lights, light candles and remember him.  They hoped they were fighting the war to end all wars.  It's still my hope that Man can learn to stop fighting.  The evidence doesn't look good at the moment.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

John Joseph Bramah and family

The name of Bramah is famous among engineers.  Joseph Bramah (1748-1814) was an inventor, engineer and lock maker who was born into a farming family in Yorkshire, but made his way to London, where he founded a company which still bears his name today.  He invented a virtually unpickable lock, an unfreezable lavatory, the beer pump and various hydraulic systems.

His nephew, John Joseph Bramah (1798 to 1846) followed in his uncle's footsteps and became renowned for the engineering works and venture in partnership with George and Robert Stephenson, famous in railway history.

In the census for 1841, John Joseph Bramah and his wife Martha have two visitors staying with them on the night of the census:  Marianne Sannemann and Laetitia Robey.  Both are interesting to me because of their links with the Dickins family.  Marianne Sannemann went on to marry Robert Archibald Dickins, my five greats uncle, and later they named their only son Bramah.  Laetitia Robey was the sister of my four greats grandmother, Charlotte Eleanor Robey, who married my four greats grandfather nine years later.

I noted the friendship between the Robeys and Bramahs, and wondered if there might have been a closer relationship between the families (given the use of Bramah as a first name for her only son) but filed it away in my family history as an oddity when I first came across it.  I continued to look in a casual way for some link between the Robeys and the Bramahs, and later came across the strange case of two infants fostered by John Joseph and Martha.  Thomas Bramah Diplock and Samuel Robey Diplock were very small when their father and mother died in 1831.  The children were then looked after by their uncle and aunt.

It is fairly common in English genealogy to find children with surnames as middle names.  In Scotland this practice is formalized to the extent that the first grandson is given the first and last names of one grandfather as first and second names, and the next grandson the first and last names of the other grandfather and so on.

Thus, I felt sure that there must be a link between the Bramahs, Robeys, and Diplocks... and I just needed to investigate the family tree of Thomas Bramah and Samual Robey Diplock to find it.

It was fairly easy to find the information that their father and mother had been William Diplock and Esther Frances Diplock, nee Bramah.  A number of obituaries for Thomas Bramah Diplock, who became a doctor and latterly a coroner, mentioned that his mother had been a sister of John Joseph Bramah, who was himself a nephew of Joseph Bramah.  However, looking at the ancestry family trees for John Joseph Bramah, most of them ascribed him to Thomas Bramah, son of Joseph Bramma of Yorkshire, and I could find no mention of Esther Frances at all.

Then I stumbled across a blog by David O'Flaherty, in which he mentioned an article in Ripperologist magazine, which included some family history for Thomas Bramah Diplock, who is interesting to Ripperologists because he acted as coroner in some of the Ripper murders.  After some false starts, I was able to see a copy of the article, which is very detailed and gives a lot of information, but disappointingly little about the ancestors of Esther Frances Bramah.

David mentioned in his covering email that his co-author Robert Linford had found a birth for Esther Frances Bramah in the registers of St George's, Hanover Square, a church that has featured heavily in my family history in the past.  He said that the birth of Esther Frances Bramah was in 1796, to Edward and Wilhelmina Bramah, and I found it: 13 March 1796.

I soon found the relevant baptism, and two years later, on 18 May, 1798, the record for John Joseph Bramah, also son of Edward and Wilhelmina Bramah.  It was the work of some hours to trudge through the marriage records for St George's, only because there was quite a gap between the marriage and the birth of Esther... but there, in 1790, it was.  Edward Bramah marrying Wilhelmina Sayers (1768-1808) on 3 January 1790.  I found other births for the family, an Edward in 1792 and 1802 (which probably means the earlier child died), and a Richard in 1794.

This means that nearly all the family trees I have seen online for John Joseph Bramah are wrong.  They are right to say that he was the nephew of Joseph Bramah, but his father is Edward Bramah, born 1751, brother of Joseph Bramah (1748-1814) not the brother he is normally ascribed to (usually Thomas, born 1754).

There is more to do on the Diplock side, but I am very happy to have sorted out the genealogy for John Joseph Bramah.  For those interested in his work in engineering, there is information here about it.  For those wishing to read the obituary for Thomas Bramah Diplock, it can be found here.  For those who wish to know more about the uncle, Joseph Bramah, information is here, and the company which still makes his locks can be found here.