Local history has always interested me, so having bought 1 – 3 Ock Street it was inevitable that I would want to know some thing about its past.
The history of the building is interesting enough, the way the gardens have shrunk as they have been lost to development, whilst the building itself has grown with the addition of Victorian and more modern extensions. But the history of the people who have lived in the building is far more interesting.
So my first stop was the 1911 census, the most recent of census’ to be published. Now, unfortunately, you cannot search the census records by address, only by surname. Since I did not have a surname I started by searching for well-known Abingdon names, until I found one living in Ock St. Then I simply had to trawl through the pages for Ock St until I reached 1 – 3.
The first name I used, Wiblin, came up trumps straightaway.
For those of you not familiar with census records, they are a mine of wonderful information. The names, ages and relationships of the buildings occupants, where they were born, their occupations, whether they could read/write, and whether they were lunatics or not!
The record for 1911 described 1 – 3 Ock St as a House & Office occupied by Mr D’Almaine, along with 2 other females. I assumed his wife and daughter.
It transpires that Harry George William D’Almaine, aged 50, was a widower, and he in fact shared his home with Ellen Kent (42), his domestic cook, and Margaret Emily May Dunn (22), his domestic housemaid. His occupation is listed as solicitor. Presumably he worked from home. The section headed Infirmity, totally deaf, or deaf and dumb, totally blind, lunatic, imbecile or feeble-minded” has been cut out for some reason but I think it is safe to say that it applied to none of the above.
What is interesting though is the lack of any children. The column headed “children born alive” has 3 crossed out. In the column “children still living” it again has 3 crossed out. Under “children who have died” it states none! So a little mystery there that needs further investigation.
Harry was born in Abingdon in 1860, but for some reason was christened in September of that year in Brighton. After schooling he moved to London and the 1881 census records him living as a lodger in Kenmont Terrace, Hammersmith, London employed as a 20 year old articled clerk to a solicitor. He married in 1889, and died, in Abingdon, at the age of 72, in 1933.
I have also been able to establish that the D’Almaine name has probable Canadian roots. On July 28th 1927, Harry sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the “Newfoundland” from Liverpool. Six weeks later, he sailed back, from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, arriving at Liverpool on 12th September 1927 on the “Nova Scotia”. Some flying visit at the age of 67, and I am intrigued to understand why, a funeral, family business maybe, but whatever the reason it must have been important to have made such a long distance trip, for so short a period and at his age. Another trail to follow in due course.
Harry’s father was Henry D’Almaine and his mother Mary. In the Kelly’s Directory of Berkshire for 1887, Henry is listed as the manager of the London and County Bank in the Market Place (now the Nat West Bank), the Hon. Treasurer to the Cottage Hospital in Bath St, and the Treasurer to the Corporation and Urban Sanitary Authority. He is also listed as living at Mill House, Sutton Courtenay, Abingdon. So Harry came from a well-respected family.
The final twist in this story is a sad one. Harry had a son, Roy, who joined the 9th Canadians, 49th Battalion in October 1914, part of the Canadian Infantry Expeditionary Force (Alberta Regiment). He was killed in action on the 4th Nov 1916, in France, and is buried in the military cemetery at Ecoivres, Arras. He was 20 years old, and a former Abingdon School pupil.
Fittingly, his name is engraved on the war memorial, in the Square, opposite the very house he would have been raised in. Less fittingly, his loss is attributed to not only the wrong war, but the wrong service.
I feel a campaign coming on.