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WESTON, William

b.1865 – d.1909

William Edward Weston was born on 15th December 1865, in St. Pancras, London.

In the 1871 census William was living with his mother Elizabeth age 23 and his father William age 25 in James Street, Marylebone, St. Pancras. His siblings were Joseph Edward age 3 months, Mary Ann age 2 and Elizabeth Harriet age 3. William senior worked as a “Cord Wainer” or Shoemaker or Boot Maker.

Soon after the 1871 Census Elizabeth Weston dies at the age of 4, a sad loss for the family. In record she is named as Elizabeth Mary, though in the Census she had been recorded as Elizabeth Harriet.

And in 1880 further tragedy for the family, Elizabeth senior dies aged 32, so young. A terrible blow to the whole family. What did these family members die from?

The 1881 census shows the family at a new address, 21 Little Camden Street (which today is Mandela Street, about 400 metres from Camden Town tube station. A 2 bed mews house here in 2020 sells for in excess of £1 million!). William senior as a Widower at 30 (though in the 1871 Census he was listed as 23), William aged 15 is employed as a Labourer in an Iron Works. He now has a new brother, Edward 6 alongside Joseph 10 and his remaining sister Mary 12, these children are all at school. But also a boarder, John Hedges 28, a Hatter, William senior’s brother Gilbert 32, a Shoemaker (did William senior and Gilbert work at the same place), his wife Sophia 31 and their daughters Mary 4 and Kate 3. How crowded was the house with 5 adults (including our William) and 5 children? Did Gilbert and Sophia move in to help William senior with child care? Certainly having another skilled worker such as his brother Gilbert must have helped a lot with the rent

Suddenly, later in November 1881 William joined the Navy in Portsmouth as a Boy Sailor 2nd Class. He was 16 when he entered training on HMS Impregnable and on completing training in June 1883 signed on for 10 years. His service number was 117770. His first ship was HMS Impregnable, a Training Ship which he joined 23/11/1881 to 7/6/1883

HMS Impregnable was the original School Ship, between 1861 to 1888

HMS Monarch was the first seagoing British warship to carry her guns in turrets, and the first British warship to carry guns of 12-inch (300 mm) calibre.

HMS Temeraire (Twice)

HMS Temeraire was an ironclad battleship of the Victorian Royal Navy which was unique in that she carried her main armament partly in the traditional broadside battery, and partly in barbettes on the upper deck. Temeraire’s predecessor, that fought so valiantly at the Battle of Trafalgar. was the ship immortalised on her last voyage by JMW Turner in his painting “The Fighting Temeraire”.

HMS Sultan was a broadside ironclad of the Royal Navy of the Victorian era, who carried her main armament in a central box battery. She was named for Sultan Abdülâziz of the Ottoman Empire, who was visiting England when she was laid down. Abdülâziz cultivated good relations with the Second French Empire and the British. In 1867 he was the first Ottoman sultan to visit Western Europe; his trip included a visit to England, where he was made a Knight of the Garter by Queen Victoria and shown a Royal Navy Fleet Review, with Isma’il Pasha of Egypt.

HMS Edinburgh was an ironclad battleship of the Colossus class which served in the Royal Navy of the Victorian era. She was the sister ship of HMS Colossus, being started before her but being completed after.

HMS Vernon was a shore establishment or “stone frigate” of the Royal Navy. Vernon was established on 26 April 1876 as the Royal Navy’s Torpedo Branch also known as the Torpedo School, named after the ship HMS Vernon which served as part of its floating base. HMS Vernon was also a base for training Divers.

HMS Victory 1

HMS Victory I was the accounting and holding Barracks for the Fleet sailing out of Portsmouth, and was re-named later as HMS NELSON to avoid confusion with the HMS VICTORY which is now in dry-dock in the Naval Dockyard of Portsmouth and the Flag Ship of CINCFLEET.

HMS Royal Sovereign was originally laid down as a 121-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She would have mounted sixteen 8 in (200 mm) cannon.

HMS Skipjack was a Sharpshooter-class torpedo gunboat of the British Royal Navy. She was built at Chatham Dockyard from 1888–1891. She was converted to a minesweeper in 1908–1909 and continued these duties during the First World War. Skipjack survived the war and was sold for scrap in 1920.

HMS Australia was one of seven Orlando-class armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1880s. She was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1889 and remained there until 1893 when she returned home. The ship was assigned to the Coast Guard Squadron for the next decade before she was placed in reserve in 1903 and sold for scrap in 1905.

HMS Rodney was a battleship of the Victorian Royal Navy, a member of the Admiral class of warships designed by Nathaniel Barnaby. The ship was the last British battleship to carry a figurehead although smaller ships continued to carry them.

HMS Duke of Wellington

An 1852 print from the Illustrated London News of HMS Windsor Castle on the slipway on the day of her launch that year. The ship later was renamed HMS Duke of Wellington.

HMS Europa

HMS Blake, named in honour of Admiral Robert Blake, was the lead ship of her class of protected cruiser that served in the Royal Navy from 1889–1922.

These are pictures of most of the ships that William served on, 17 ships in all, including twice on HMS Temeraire, five times on HMS Excellent, twice at HMS Vernon, almost certainly as a Diver, one of the roles he had on several ships, four times on HMS Victory I, and twice on the Duke of Wellington. William’s last ship was HMS Excellent the RN Gunnery School shore base, on Whale Island, Portsmouth, perhaps he was training Gunners.

According to Naval records William was 5 feet 3.25 inches tall when he signed for 10 years after his training on HMS Impregnable in 1883 and 5 feet 5 inches by 1893. He had dark brown hair blue eyes and had a tattoo of a sailor on his right arm.

In the 1891 census William is listed in the Royal Navy as Petty Officer, he is single aged 25.

William joins the Royal Fleet Reserve 19th September1904.

In 1905, aged 40 William’s records says “refuses application to re-engage for a further 5 years”. He was pensioned out of the Navy.

William’s last service date was 16th September 1906.

His Royal Navy record had him rated as “Good” or “Very Good” throughout his service (although, probably like most sailors in those days when discipline was harsh, he was in the “Cells“ a couple of times). Within 11 months of leaving the Royal Navy William was admitted to Long Grove Hospital, Epsom on 30th August 1907. What had happened? Had he been suffering from an ailment that didn’t confine him in the Royal Navy but that was deemed serious enough to commit him to an asylum within a year of leaving the service?

He died age 44, still a young man, in January 1909, his grave plot number is 293 b. According to his Royal Nay record he was “Discharged Dead” on 21/1/1909. What did William die from at so young an age?


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