Garner family history

Written by Adrienne Garner in 1998

My grandfather, Francis George Garner, was born at 57 Elmore Street , Islington on 23rd March 1883 , the third child of William and Lucy Garner. He was given the names of his grandfathers, Francis being the name of his mother's father and George that of his father's father. His father was a goldsmith.

I can just remember him as a thin elderly man with large glasses and a bony forehead. He was a quiet man with a dry sense of humour and he was always ready to play games with my brother, Peter, and me. They would be quiet games, puzzles, board games or model making. He died in December 1953, when I was 10 nearly 11 and Peter would have been only 6. He would always visit at Christmas and his second wife, Aunty Ida, took over the task of doing presents for our Christmas stockings.

When he was about three the family moved to Walthamstow to live at 53 Springfield Road . I found them in the 1891 census at that address. By then there were six children at home. The eldest child Lucy Helena, by then only 12, had apparently already left home and four further children had been born after Francis George. Lucy Helena was born in 1879, William Herbert in 1880, Francis George in 1883, Margaret Amy in 1885, Arthur in 1887, Frederick Charles in 1889, Walter John in 1890. There were two further children, Percy Albert born in 1892 and the youngest Alice Mary born on 10th September 1894 who died in infancy.

The children went to St. Saviour's school and then my grandfather and Uncle Walter both gained scholarships to the local Grammar School, the Sir George Monoux School, which was the in the centre of Walthamstow and of ancient foundation. The school records show that Francis George Garner, son of William Garner, goldsmith, entered the school on Dec 4 1893 age 10 and left in July 1897 and that Walter John Garner, son of William Garner, goldsmith, entered the school on Dec 3 1900 age 10 and left at Christmas 1904. On leaving school grandfather worked for a firm selling chemicals in Bishopsgate and earned 10 shillings (50p) a week of which he gave his mother 5 shillings and spent 3 shillings on his fares. There was a regular train service to central London from Walthamstow At the age of 18 he got a job working at Walthamstow Town Hall ; this made a great difference because he was paid 15 shillings week and had no train fare. He worked there until his retirement in 1943 having become Town Clerk in 1931.

On 14 August 1912 Francis George Garner married Mary Grace Dunstan at the Parish Church in Walthamstow.  His address is by then shown as 59 Grosvenor Park Road , Walthamstow and his bride came from 3 Clarendon Road ; both roads are in the same part of central Walthamstow. I understand that they had been engaged for some five or so years having had to save up to marry, because Grace was a schoolteacher and in those days married women were not permitted to continue working. It is therefore particularly tragic that she had so little of her life left. My father told me at different times that they had their honeymoon at Chamonix and in Cornwall ; there is a photo of a group of people at a place that might well be Chamonix and it also seems very likely that they might have visited her family in Cornwall at some time.

My father, John Francis Garner, was born at 26 Castleton Road Walthamstow on 6th May 1914 . Castleton Road is to the north of Walthamstow and in 1914 was on the edge of Epping Forest . It is in the parish of St. Peters in the Forest , where the family were regular attenders.  His grandparents, William and Lucy, the parents of Francis George, also moved to Castleton Road and lived at number 16. Uncle Walter was still living with them in 1921 when William died.

1921 was a sad year for the family. My grandmother had been ill for some time with tuberculosis and she died in October 1921 followed in December - on the 28th - by William. I understand that my grandfather was particularly close to his father, a mild gentle man, and it must have been devastating to lose both his wife and father in such a short space of time. He remained a widower for some 16 years only remarrying in 1938.

During the twenties and thirties a number of relatives helped housekeep for the widower and his son. I think that for much of the twenties it was Aunty Maggie, Margaret Amy Garner, who filled this role. Indeed in the family photos taken at that time she frequently appears. However Grandpa fell out with his sister. On 28th November 1927 Ethel Maude Thomerson died; she had been the wife of Charles Thomerson, Grandpa's fellow churchwarden at St. Peter's in the Forest . I had always understood that Aunty Maggie shocked her brother by marrying Charles Thamerson very soon after Ethel Thomerson's death, but I myself was shocked to find on searching the Registers that far from marrying soon afterwards, they waited a full two years, marrying in early 1930. I understand he even accused the couple of "carrying on" during the wife's lifetime. The result, very sadly, was a rift between a brother and sister who previously had been very close to each other, a rift that was never repaired.

Grandpa's second wife Ida Ellen Emily Brock, whom we called "Aunty Ida", was the daughter of George Edward Brock, a commercial clerk, and a school teacher like his first wife. They married in a quiet ceremony at Roxeth Harrow an 19th January 1938 and quickly took up normal married life. The day after the wedding Aunty Ida attended, with her new husband, a Chamber of Trade Banquet in Walthamstow and responded to the toast of "the ladies". Reading of this in the local Walthamstow, Leyton and Chingford Guardian caused me to see Ida in something of a new light. She was an early woman graduate from Newnham College Cambridge in the days when women could attend and take exams but were not awarded their degrees. She was 30 when she married; the newspaper report says that the honeymoon was to be spent in Cornwall and I know from a Cornish relative that she was liked by the first wife's family. Yet my father never liked her; it was perhaps difficult when his mother had always been spoken of in hushed voices. I remember visits to Higher Ashton where they lived in retirement and I was aware, even as a child, of some tension. I gather there was an unfortunate occasion when my brother weeded on the carpet and allegations that she tied the drawers up with black cotton to see whether they were opened.

Grandpa Garner retired from his post of Town Clerk of Walthamstow in April 1943, shortly after his 60th birthday. He took up the post of Clerk to the Seaton Urban District Council in Devon for the duration of the war and later moved inland to live at Coombe House, Higher Ashton where he died of a heart attack on 4th December I953. He was a conscientious churchgoer and is buried in the churchyard at Higher Ashton.

My father was always proud that, although starting from "humble origins", all his father's siblings made something of their lives, The youngest boy, Percy, became a librarian and was in the Birmingham Library service when the First World War broke out. He volunteered early on and served in the 14th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was killed in the Battle of the Somme on 23rd July 1916 . He was the godfather of Uncle Ron (Ronald Sawkins, son of Lucy née Garner) who had his bible and I understand from Uncle Ron that he was rather religious, and certainly was remembered with affection.

My brother Peter and I remember the next sibling, Walter John Garner, with much love. We knew him best of all my grandfather's generation and as children we frequently stayed with him and his wife, Auntie Nell, at their home, Pinora, Lower Wokingham Road, Crowthorne in Berkshire. At the time of writing (1998) I have not found their marriage in the Registers but I believe they must have married latish in life and they never had children. They had a marvellous garden and Aunty was a very good cook. I mentioned earlier that Walter went to the Monoux Grammar School ; he subsequently went into the Post Office Service. During the First World War he served in the Army in the Fifteenth Battalion of the London Regiment (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles) and was awarded the Military Medal. Uncle was a modest, quiet man with a lovely sense of humour; short in stature and quite hen-pecked by dear Auntie Nell. He never spoke of his war service; we have his medal and I understand it was awarded for saving an injured comrade.

Uncle Fred, Frederick Charles Garner, married Maud. They had no children and lived at Omskirk. I think Uncle was in insurance.

Uncle Arthur we met only once or twice at family gatherings. He was married to Mabel and I think they had an adopted son, John, who had two sons.

Auntie Maggie I have mentioned already. She brought up her stepdaughter, Beryl Thomerson who became almost an honorary Garner and often came to our annual Garner Family Parties. Beryl had three children, Myra , John and Christopher. Of more recent years Christopher was living in Nottingham and was very supportive of my father during the last years of his life.

I never met William Herbert Garner, the eldest boy, as he died the year I was born. However his daughter, Auntie Elsie was a frequent visitor with her husband Will. As a child, I saw her as something of a role model; she, like me, was tall and I admired her confidence and self-assurance. She and Uncle Will were musical and sang; she had a lovely contralto voice. Now, sadly she is in a retirement home and her memory is impaired. Her brother Walter had two daughters, Janet and Margaret. Janet, when I last heard was a Deaconess in the Church of England. Her first husband the Rev. Roderick Brownbridge was killed in a climbing accident in 1972 and she subsequently married another parson. Margaret is married with two daughters.

Aunty Lucy the eldest sibling married Charles Sawkins in 1900. Their Golden Wedding in 1950 was the occasion for the first Garner Family Party. They had three sons, Frank, Ed and Ron. Ron was very close in age to my father and they were childhood companions. My grandfather found him his first job - with Municipal Mutual Insurance, the local government insurers - and he worked for them for all his working life. At the time of writing I am saddened to think that another link with the past has gone with Uncle Ron's death just a few days ago. He served in the Second World War and was awarded the Military Cross for putting out of action an enemy gun emplacement.

Returning to the previous generation, William Garner was born on the 17th September 1851 at 85 Red Cross Street , Southwark, the third son of George and Sarah Garner. At the time of his birth his father was a biscuit baker employing one man and the family also had a female houseservant and an errand boy. Living with them in 1851 was George's widowed mother and Sarah's brother then aged 23 and described as a journeyman (which meant he had completed a trade apprenticeship).

Produced by Roger Sawkins, or PO Box 57, Cannon Hill, Queensland 4170, Australia (61 7 3398 4222).
Last updated September 2004