A Tale of Two Grandfathers – Part Two : John Jones

John Jones was my maternal Grandfather and unlike my paternal one who I have no memories of at all, Grandad Jones is an entirely different kettle of fish. I grew up adoring my Grandad. He was a true gentleman, kind, loving and a big part of my childhood and teenage years. Here is his story along with some of my memories of him.

My Grandad – John Jones


John was born on 21 April 1893 (this also happens to be my birthday some 60+ years later) in Much Park Street, Coventry. Due to industrialisation, by the beginning of the 19th century cities like Coventry were growing rapidly. For most of the 1800’s and into the 20th century, back to back court housing was the home to many of the cities inhabitants. These houses were cheap to build, overcrowded with very poor sanitation. Just a thin wall would divide each house. There would be a privy shared with numerous neighbours in the courtyard. These would have originally been no more than ‘earth closets’ as it would be the early 20th century before flushing toilets and mains drainage would be connected. Much Park Street would have been such a community and it was into this that John was born.

The 1901 census gives us a little bit of insight into this world. My grandfather was just 7 years old and living in one of these courts in Much Park Street. The census tells me that the family occupied three rooms. So Grandad was almost certainly sharing a bed with one if not more of his four brothers. His father William was working as a Cycle Driller and his two older brothers, William 21 years old and Henry 18, were also working in the cycle industry as a cycle fork builder and cycle brazier. The census unfortunately doesn’t tell me if the younger boys Arthur, 12, Oliver, 10, and my grandfather were at school. The brothers also had a sister Annie Selina but the last I can find of her is on the 1891 census. As yet I have found no marriage or death for her and one possible record on the 1901 census of a 20-year-old servant but nothing to prove it could be her.

The following year after this census, the boys lost their mother, Sarah Ann. She was aged just 42 and according to her death certificate died of Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver, Bronchitis and Exhaustion. What had driven her to drink so heavily we can only speculate but living in such conditions certainly was a possible factor. Read her story at Sarah Ann Davis.

So at the age of just 9 my grandfather was motherless and I wonder what his early childhood had been like with an alcoholic mother. By the 1911 census all the brother’s are living in different parts of the city, however, although he is still alive, I cannot find their father. William the oldest brother, is married with three children, as is Henry, also with three children. It is with Henry, his wife and children that my grandfather is living. Henry is still employed as a Brazier in the cycle industry and John is a Bottler. Oliver I found living with and working for a carting contractor. Arthur, also a bottler by trade, was a boarder with a family called Barnacle, Frank and Esther and their seven children. It is one of their daughters Clara that my grandfather would marry in 1918.

Unfortunately I have been unable to find my grandfather’s military history for World War One. His oldest brother William was killed in France in 1916, see his story here. I have also found Arthur and Oliver’s service records but nothing for Henry or grandad.

I wonder if it was Arthur who introduced my grandparents when he was lodging with the Barnacle’s? John Jones and Clara Barnacle were married at Holy Trinity Church, Coventry on 21 December 1918. They were to have four children, three boys and their youngest child a girl is my mother.

My Grandparents

On the 1939 register which was complied just before the outbreak of World War Two, John and Clara are living at 55 Gordon Street, Coventry. This is the house they spent the rest of their lives in and one I remember very well. A little terrace house with a cosy front room which was never used, along with the best china in a glass fronted cabinet. On the fireplace stood every one of their children’s wedding photos. One of my uncle’s sadly got divorced and Grandma, to our horror, took his wedding photo and cut my aunty out of the picture before replacing just my uncle into the frame. Mind you photos would not be taken with such regularity as they are today, so I suppose it was just the logical and cheapest thing to do. My grandparents spent their time in the back room which was dominated by a large table in the middle. Grandad had his comfy chair in front of the telly. On a winter’s day the fire would be lit. I will always remember the ticking of grandad’s clock on the wall. No one was allowed to touch that clock, he wound it up meticulously each week. Down a step and you were in a small kitchen with a pantry off. A gas cooker stood in one corner and a table in the other, either side of a fireplace. There was a sink with a wooden draining board and no hot running water. Out in the back yard was a coal house and an outside toilet. My mother tells me this was considered a luxury, your own flushing toilet. Where they had lived when she was a very young girl they shared a toilet with several of their neighbours. On the first floor there were two bedrooms. The front one was my grandparent’s. There was also an attic room.

However I digress. On the 1939 register in the house in Gordon Street was grandad who worked as a Radial Driller in the aeronautical industry, grandma who is described as an unpaid domestic servant, my three uncle’s (the oldest two also working in an aeronautical factory and the younger one at school) and my mother. I recall hearing stories as a child of my grandfather spending time in Kendal , up in Cumbria during part of the war. I know he was working for Hawker Siddeley who produced such planes as the Tornado, Typhoon and Tempest. However I can find nothing to support that they moved part of their production away from the Midlands.

Grandad saw two of his sons marry during the war years and in 1949 both my mother and her youngest brother married. That attic room in Gordon Street became home to my parents for the first five years of their marriage. When I came along in 1954 they were still there. So much of Coventry had been destroyed during the war and after it was over the city council were intent of getting the factories and infrastructure back in place. This meant no houses were being built. Luckily not long after my birth land was released for residential development and when I was 6 months old we left my grandparents for our own new home.

Me and Grandad outside my new home

Grandad saw out his working life with Hawker Siddeley. I am the very proud owner of his long service clock presented to him for 25 years loyal service. The inscription inside unfortunately does not carry a date. He retired in 1963 aged 70 but did not have a long retirement.

Being presented with a present on his retirement

I have many more memories of John Jones but they will have to wait for another time. Grandad died on the 16 July 1971. I was 17 years old and it was the day I broke up from school for the summer holidays. I remember arriving home and the curtains being closed as I approached the house. It was tradition then to do this on the death of a family member. I was heartbroken at the thought of never seeing my beloved grandfather again. A strange thing happened that day though. Remember that clock hanging on the wall that no one other than grandad touched, it stopped. Apparently this is not an unusual occurrence, I believe, as a clocks mechanism does get used to being wound up a certain way. However grandad had suffered a stroke several months before his death and couldn’t wind it, so my father had been given that privileged job. My father took ages getting it started again. The only way it would tick away was being on a slight angle. Eleven years later on the death of my grandmother the clock passed down to me and now has pride of place on my wall.



Lest We Forget -Charles Barnacle

This is the story of my Great Uncle Charles Barnacle my maternal Grandmother’s brother killed in action at Ypres during World War 1.


Charles Barnacle was born in Birmingham on 21 September 1897. He was the youngest son of Frank Barnacle and Esther Barnacle nee Green. At the time of his birth he had 4 older siblings (2 brothers and 2 sisters). His parents had 3 more daughters after Charles. His father was a Machinist in a Cycle Works.

Charles spent his early years in Birmingham and I found the family on the 1901 census in Hatchett Street, Birmingham. By 1905 the family are living in Coventry where Charles’s 2 youngest sisters are born. In 1909 when Charles is just 12 years old, Frank one of his older brothers dies. On the 1911 census Charles at 13 is at school and the family are living in Walsgrave, Coventry.

Charles Barnacle

At the outbreak of World War 1 Charles is working for Hillman’s Motor Company as a Fitter. He enlisted in early 1915 (I have found a will for him written while in service dated 4 April 1915) at the age of 17, one of the many underage recruits. He was a Driver in the 21st Divisional Ammunition Column of the Royal Field Artillery part of the 21st Division. The Division had arrived in France in September 1915.

Charles Barnacle in uniform with his mother Esther (Great Grandma) sitting centre and his sister Clara (my Grandmother) seated left.

During 1916 the 21st Division served in many of the Battles along the Western Front. This included several of the Battles of the Somme (Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Flers-Courcelette, Morval where the Division captured Geudecourt and Transloy Ridge). Between March and April 1917 the Germans withdrew to the Hindenberg Line and the Division saw action in the 1st and 3rd Battles of Scarpe and were involved in flanking operations around Bullecourt, all of these were phases of the Arras offensive.

By the end of July 1917 it became important to reach the Belgium coast to destroy the German submarine bases there. On the 31 July 1917 the 3rd Battle of Ypres or Battle of Passchendaele started. It became one of the most infamous battles of World War 1 not only because of the immense number of casualties but the awful rain, some of the heaviest for 30 years, turned the ground into a quagmire. Tanks became bogged down and the mud became so deep that men and horses drowned in it. Part of this offensive was the battle at Polygon Wood which started on the 26 September 1917 and lasted until 3 October 1917. It was here that Charles Barnacle was killed in action on 2 October at just 20 years of age.

Just some of the Memorial Panels at Tyne Cot.

Charles is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West Flanders, Belgium. In his will he left all of his effects to his mother Esther Barnacle.

Roll of Honour in the Midland Daily Telegraph.


Charles Barnacle’s Will

Photo of Tyne Cot Memorial from Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org

Newspaper extract copyright Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Lest We Forget -William Henry Jones

Yet another Great Uncle who was killed during World War 1. William was my maternal Grandfathers brother. Here is his story.anzac_day_poppies

William Henry Jones was the eldest of 6 children. He was born on 24 April 1879 and was baptized at St.Michael’s, Coventry on 16 May that year. His parents were William Jones and Sarah Ann Jones nee Davis. His father was a Watchmaker and they lived in Much Park Street. William would live in Much Park Street for all of his childhood years, for it is here I found him on the 1891 and 1901 census.

On the 1901 census William is listed as being a Cycle Fork Builder. It is during this year on 26 May at Christ Church in Coventry that he marries Annie Cook. By the 1911 census the couple, living in Whitefriars Street, have had three sons, William, Lenard and Percy. Before the outbreak of war William was working as a Mechanic at the Humber Works.

William was a member of the 1/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. This was a peace time Territorial Force and were on summer camp when they were recalled to their home base on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914. As a Territorial Force they were not obliged to serve overseas. However the Battalion was mobilised on 5 August as part of the Warwickshire Brigade, South Midland Division and William, along with most of the men in  the Brigade, volunteered for Imperial Service. After many months of training in England in March 1915 the men of the now named 48th (South Midland) Division were told to expect overseas service. Later that month William along with the other soldiers in the Division were on their way from Southampton to Le Havre landing there on 22 March 1915. By 3 April 1915 they were concentrated near the town of Cassel, France.

Over the following year William would have been involved in the fighting in the trenches. It was on the 24 June 1916 that the allies started a week long artillery bombardment of German defensive positions in preparation for what was to become the Battle of the Somme which started on 1 July. It was on this day that William was killed in action by shell fire when leaving the trenches for rest. He is buried in Hebuterne Military Cemetery, Plot 2 Row C Grave 9.

Hebuterne Military Cemetery, France

In his will, which appears to have been written while fighting in France, he left all of his belongings to his wife Annie Jones.


Photo of Hebuterne Military Cemetery from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org