by John Goldsbrough

William Fletcher (1889 - 1931)

William Fletcher was born on 27th December 1889 in the Union Workhouse in Helmsley. Only his mother, Hannah Fletcher, a domestic servant, was listed on his birth certificate, and her residence was also the Union Workhouse in Helmsley.

It appears that William didn’t stay in the Workhouse long because by the time of the 1891 census (15 months after his birth) he was living with John and Alice Thompson in Langdale Square which was located at the back of the High Street not far from the Workhouse. His mother was not listed at the Workhouse in the census but she was working as a Domestic Servant at the Black Swan in Helmsley.

Two vital pieces of information were not recorded against her, age and place of birth. Interestingly there was also a John Fletcher, aged 11 boarding with the Thompson family, John Fletcher had been born in Stokesley in 1880, his birth certificate shows that he was born in Stokesley Workhouse, and his mother was listed as Hannah Fletcher, a domestic servant. It seems likely that this was also William’s mother. John Fletcher was listed as a nurse child living with the Jackson family in Church Street, Helmsley in the 1881 census. There is also a Hannah Fletcher, aged 17, working as a domestic servant with the Chapman family in Hawnby. On this evidence it seems that Hannah Fletcher with her son John, moved to the Helmsley area soon after he was born. It is possible that verification of her movements could be obtained from the Helmsley Board of Guardians’ Records held by North Yorkshire County Council Library Archives, document ref BG/HEL.  It seems highly likely that this was William’s mother, there was only one Hannah Fletcher listed in the 1881 census in Helmsley and from this we know she was born in 1864 in Bilsdale, North Yorkshire, midway between Helmsley and Stokesley.

Following the publication of the Admissions register for the Lady Feversham’s School in Helmsley, William was admission number 844 and that he started the school on 12th April 1896 and he left on 1st July 1898 to go to Helmlsey High School.  His parent was listed as Hannah Fletcher and his address Smith’s Yard, Helmlsey.

In 1901 William was still living with the Thompson family in Langdale Square in Helmsley, by then John Fletcher had left Helmsley.   William’s mother Hannah Fletcher had also moved from Helmsley but only as far as the nearby village of Harome.  Hannah had another child in the Workhouse in Helmsley in 1893, Sarah Elizabeth Fletcher.  Sarah was living with James and Ann Simpson as a Nurse Child on Rygate in Helmsley.  It appears from the census that the Simpson's looked after a number of children, Louisa Yates, 15,  was adopted and Ellen Hall, 7, another Nurse Child.
In 1911 William was still living with the Thompson family, though the address was now Smith’s Yard, Church Street, Helmsley.  His occupation was a Tailor, Journeyman.  It also appears that Hannah Fletcher had another child, Harold born in Bilsdale in 1902.  By the time of the 1911 census Hannah had married and was living in Hartlepool.

After William left school he became an apprentice Tailor and by the time of the 1911 census he had finished his apprenticeship as he was now a Journeyman Tailor.  He also  played football for the Duncombe Park Football Club and was a member of the team which won the Scarborough & District Cup in 1911 and the Beckett Cup in 1912 and 1913.  He appears in a couple of team photographs and we also have his Cup Winners medals from the 1910-11, 1911-12 and 1912-13 seasons’.

There are a number of other photographs of William from the period after he left school and prior to the First World War.  These can be dated by the chain he is wearing.  The chain also included a Silver Vesta case and a Silver shilling. A photograph of the chain , minus the 1910-11 medal, is shown in the photo album section later.  The fact that William had a Vesta case on his chain means that he must have been a smoker, as these cases were used for carrying matches.  The name ‘match’ was only used after the Nineteenth century, upto then they were called vestas taking their name from ‘Vesta’, the Roman Goddess of the hearth and home.  It was essential to carry the vesta in a case because they were highly flammable and needed to be kept dry. The inside of the case was often gilded to protect the silver from the sulphur head of the match, which would otherwise tarnish the silver.  The majority of Vesta cases were made and assayed in Birmingham, which was the case with William’s Vesta case, it has an assay date of 1911, also it was gilded on the inside.  The most common design includes a jump link to attach an Albert’ chain, a sprung lid and a strike on its base.  This chain is a useful means of dating the photographs of William.  In other photographs from this period, William appears to be quite well dressed probably displaying his tailoring abilities.  

William married Adelaide Smith at All Saints Church, Helmsley on April 19th 1914 with Henry Edward Newton officiating.  The wedding was witnessed by John Smith, Adelaide’s father, Jenny Smith (Adelaide’s sister) and William Albert Beecroft.  William Beecroft lived quite close to William in Church Street, Helmsley as shown in both the 1891 and 1901 census record.  They must have been school friends because there was only a year between them, in fact we shall see other connections with the Beecroft family later  The First War was looming as William and Adelaide got married, their first child, John, was born on 3rd September 1914 at 16 Castlegate, Pickering, the home of Adelaides parents, perhaps William was already away in the Army.