Miss E. A. Seward – A valuable obituary?

Elizabeth Ann Seward is not a direct ancestor of anyone. She never married. Yet we can learn so much diverse information from the newspaper report of her funeral, a transcription of which you can find below.

She was well respected, and at the grand old age of 87 years, many attended her funeral. Nowadays, sadly, many of us will spend our last months in a care facility, often many miles from our friends, associates and neighbours (FANS). Perhaps by virtue of being ‘out of sight’, and perhaps because those FANS don’t know about the funeral until too late, perhaps because families are much more spread out geographically and tend to be smaller, funerals may be poorly attended. Covid of course adds another level to that, with many social activities being curtailed, and numbers attending funerals restricted in recent times.

The newspaper gives useful genealogical details including her full name, age, address, and a number of relationships such as nieces and nephews. Often, particularly for men, occupation is included. In fact we learn here that her cousin John was church warden for many years.

Hints at character are often included – ‘A prominent member of the Women’s Institute’ (WI) she was ‘closely associated with the social activity of the village’ somehow implies lady-like activities, not that she was down the pub every evening or a loose woman!

Church was clearly important, to her cousin if not Miss Seward herself, since she donated a stained-glass church window in his honour.

I was aware of the WI, though we now know it was already going strong in the village in 1939. However, I learn of the ‘Belstone, Sticklepath and Sampford Courtenay Nursing Association’, of which she was President for many years. Their floral tribute tells of her ‘generosity and kindness’ to the nurses and association. We also find the secretary is called Miss Reynolds. Further research shows 156 donors to the association and that Albany Finch took over as the President (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Friday 04 August 1939).

I spot another floral tribute was sent by my great grandmother, widow of an Ag Lab, and wonder what the connection there was. Perhaps consider which of your ancestors was a contemporary too.

There is mention of the vicar being Rector of ‘Belstone with Sticklepath’, which might alert us to the fact that responsibility for the Sticklepath residents was passed from one vicar to another in different parishes over time.

There is also a hint about funerary customs – the bearers are listed, which is not surprising, but mention is also made of ‘A number of neighbours’ who ‘acted as relief bearers’. The coffin must have been carried a reasonable distance to require one or more teams of relief bearers. Her house, Sunnyside, pictured above, lies about mid-way between the church and cemetery, which are about 100 yards apart. Even a fairly wealthy woman was carried then, not taken by hearse.

My point? It is worth reading about funerals and other events taking place where your relatives lived, even if they were not themselves present. You may just pick up something that helps to put their life in context. Like any source, information should be confirmed where possible and often many new research questions arise – why, for instance, did she come to the village as a child? Where did her money come from to allow such generosity? Who benefitted after her death?

(Although I have used the tribute below, a fuller account can be found on her memorial on Findagrave using the Western Times 3 February 1939 report).

Western Morning News – Tuesday 31 January 1939 accessed via BritiishNewspaperArchive.co.uk

STICKLEPATH FUNERAL Last Tributes To Miss E. A. Seward.

Many mourners attended the funeral at Sticklepath Church yesterday of Miss Elizabeth Ann Seward, of Sunnyside. Sticklepath, aged 87. Miss Seward went to Sticklepath to live in her early childhood, and during her life had been closely associated with the social activity of the village. She was president for many years of the Belstone, Sticklepath, and Sampford Courtenay Nursing Association, and a prominent member of the Women’s Institute. Some time ago she was the donor of a stained-glass window to Sticklepath Church, in memory of Mr. John Cook, her cousin, who was a churchwarden for many years.

The service was conducted by Rev. C. Lister James (rector of Belstone-with-Sticklepath). Family mourners were Miss B. W. Seward and Miss M. W. Seward, nieces; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Tucker (Crook-Burnell), Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Hawkins (Waterslade), Misses Ada and Elsie Colwill (Hatherleigh), and Mr. Ashley Hopper (North Tawton). Mr. Frank Seward (nephew) was unable to attend.

Bearers were Messrs. J. Cooper, G. Brooks, J. Newcombe. A. Bowden. T. Holman, and G. W. Hellier. A number of neighbours acted as relief bearers.

THE MOURNERS. Among the mourners were Com G. Aldwell R.N., Mr J J. Newcombe (clerk to Okehampton Town Council) and Mrs. B. B. Newcombe (Okehampton). Messrs. C. Counter. Wright, Sleeman. J Cook. Harvey. Bowden. Wonnacott. Brook, R. Finch. E. Heggador,. C. Bowden. J. Newcombe, E. Hull. R. Bennett. A. Hopper. F Richards and A. G. French Mesdames E. C. Maynard. E. Heggarion, Simpson-Grey. M A Bowden. E. Tucker, F. Wonnacott. Cooke. Lethbridge, E Bowden. E Tucker. A. Bowden. S. Bowden. Jones E. Jones. Mr. and Mrs A. J Crews (Plymouth), ard Mrs. S. Yeo, Mr. and Mrs. F Fielder. Misses Alder Brown, Stewart. Mesney. E. Ireson. Warn. H. Heggadon. E. Cobbledick. Reynolds (secretary of the District Nursing Association). Littlejohns. and Nurse Gator.

Floral tributes were sent by Frank and May, Bessie and Mary; Margaret and Cary: Annie: Mrs Sloman and Miss Hockaday (Honeychurch); Mrs. Minnie Tucker and Lena (Mitcham. Surrey); Mrs M A. Bowden; Miss A. C. Watson (Plymouth); Dr. and Mrs Maynard: Elderton ar.d Miss Stewart: Mrs and Miss Miss A. C. Hastie, Mr. and Mrs Freeman (Berryfield. Mrs. and the Misses Colwill Hatherleigh; Mr and Mrs. Edgar Hawkins (Waterslade). Com. and Mrs Metherell (New Milton): Miss Reynolds: “In grateful memory of much generosity and kindness to the Nursing Association”: members of the Women’s Institute.

3 Coronations and a Christmas card   #OnePlaceCelebrations in #Sticklepath 

#OnePlaceStudies Society has monthly blogging prompts. #OnePlaceCelebrations is the prompt for December 2021

In 1953 the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was celebrated throughout the Commonwealth. Sticklepath had a television in the village hall so all the villagers had the opportunity to watch the innovative broadcast.  

Gracie Fildew and Muriel Bowden Commemorative Tree Planting 1953

I believe there were two trees planted to commemorate the coronation.  One in front of St Mary’s Church, which was lost when the road was widened, plus this one in the burying ground. Muriel Bowden, president of the Women’s Institute (WI) is holding the spade and the youngest member of the WI, Gracie Fildew, is helping.  Unfortunately this tree was also lost, destroyed by fire.  

Church bells would have been rung in the villages all around and the sound carried to Sticklepath on the wind. For certain something would have been done for the children as well as everyone else to celebrate, perhaps a lunch or tea.  I remember my Grandmother and Great Aunt making huge muslin tea bags to go in the extra large teapots used for such events.  All the extra sugar bowls would have been washed and polished in advance, alongside crockery and cutlery.  Elaborate plans would have been in place for sandwiches, cakes, and scones with clotted cream and jam, mainly by the ladies of the Women’s institute. 

Sticklepath WI tableau of Queens – Can you name them?

This tableau would have been part of an afternoon or evening entertainment, with readings and poetry, singing and other musical interludes as well as the National Anthem whilst everyone stood to attention. I can recognise some but not all of the queens and the actors!

It would have been a happy and exciting but long and tiring day.  You can imagine all the washing up, clearing and cleaning and moving of chairs and tressle tables afterwards.  

Tressle tables set up for a Christmas party in the Village Hall, perhaps late 1950s

The flag on the hill looking down over Sticklepath, next to White Rock where Wesley preached, would have been flying high.

The Flag Pole above white rock looking down over Sticklepath

Looking back to 1937 the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette tells us in April that permission had been given for a bonfire on the common above White Rock to celebrate the Coronation of George VI and his Queen Elizabeth.  Latex balloons became popular in the 1930s so it is likely there were balloons at the village celebration.  I wonder if anyone has any photographs?  This was the first coronation to be filmed live for television and the first outside broadcast. However no cameras were allowed inside Westminster Abbey.

For the third Coronation we take a step further back in time again: 22 Jan 1901 Queen Victoria died.  The Coronation of Edward VII and Alexandra was planned for 26 June the following year.  Local events too were all planned and booked, but at the last minute the King got an appendicitis-type problem, so everything had to be delayed until 9 August.  Imagine the committee members stress and the concerns for the King!  Many sued for loss of rental income from those who had booked at high prices to stay in London for the event. 

On 12 August The Western Times reports that the Coronation celebrations in Sticklepath were carried out in “loyal manner”, commencing with a service in Sticklepath Wesleyan Methodist Chapel conducted by the Rev James Finch at 2.30. I am sure the children would have all sat still under his beady eye!

Rev James Finch just 5 years later when Superintendant Launceston Circuit.
Originally a Sticklepath boy, this photo was a Christmas greeting card, documenting all Rev. James Finch’s chapel appointments as a minister.

The itinerary at Sticklepath continued: At 3.30 there was a distribution of Coronation medals to all children under 14 with tea for them at 4pm.  All adult parishioners also had a free tea at 5pm.  At 6pm a wide range of sports took place.  Finally at 9pm the large bonfire was lit and a grand firework display finished the evening in style. I am sure there would have been parades and the very successful Sticklepath Brass band would have been in demand for events across the area.  Decorations for the celebrations may have included flags, banners and bunting. 

I was interested to learn that a staged representation of the coronation was filmed.  Following the postponement however, some of the planned details of the day itself had to be altered. 

A few days after the actual coronation, the film was screened for the King.  Edward VII is said to have commented: “Many congratulations! This is splendid! What a marvellous apparatus cinema is. It’s found a way of recording even the parts of the ceremony that didn’t take place.”

Many thanks to Wikipedia and The British Newspaper Archive for background information.

Quote is referenced on Wikipedia as

Ezra, Elizabeth (2000), Georges Méliès, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 66–68, ISBN 0719053951

FROM DEVON TO YORKSHIRE – a migration story

South Yorkshire Times and Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 30 March 1940 (Transcript adjusted by Helen Shields November 2021, with thanks to British Newspaper Archive)




Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Osborn: A life partnership of forty-odd years founded on the background of a boy and girl courtship in Devon reached a bittersweet ending yesterday when the couple were laid to rest, side by side in Wombwell Cemetery. 

The couple were Mr. Albert Thomas Osborn (66), and his wife Lucy Osborn (67), of 25, John Street, Wombwell. Mr. Osborn died on Saturday and his wife on Monday. Mr. Osborn formerly worked as a deputy at Mitchell Main Colliery where his brother, Mr. William Osborn, of 23, John Street. Wombwell, is also employed in a similar capacity.  In August, 1938, however, he met with an accident In the mine, and had not worked since. 

The inquest was opened at Wombwell on Monday. Mrs. Osborn had made all the arrangements for her husband’s funeral, and had chosen the spot in Wombwell Cemetery where, in the ordinary course of events he would have been interred on Wednesday. Within four or five hours of the opening of the inquest she was dead, and Mr. Osborn’s funeral was deferred a day so that they could be buried side by side in the same plot. 


Mrs. Osborn had been in poor health for some time, but it is said that her husband’s death was a great shock to her. The news was conveyed to her as feelingly as possible by an old friend, Mrs. Williams. Mrs. Ada Osborn, wife of Mr. William Osborn, told a “Times” reporter: “On being told of her husband’s death she was broken-hearted and gradually sank.’ Mr. and Mrs. Tom Osborn were known as a very devoted couple and with their death a shadow of personal bereavement has fallen on the district in which they lived. Mr. Tom Osborn was born in the little Devonshire village of Sticklepath, near Okehampton, and his wife, whose maiden name was Lucy Hill, in the neighbouring hamlet of Thrawley. As a boy, Mr. Osborn was employed in a tin mine, ‘ his father also being a tin miner. 

It chanced that during a period of slack trade a James Friend and his son left the Devonshire village to try their luck in Yorkshire, and worked first at the old Lundhill Colliery and later at Mitchell Main. Apparently Mr. Tom Osborn was impressed by their stories of big money to be earned in the Yorkshire coalfield, because when Mr. Friend’s son was returning north from a holiday in Devon, Tom Osborn was persuaded to come back with him, as also was Tom’s father, who worked at the sinking of Cortonwood Clliery. The Friends ultimately returned to Devon, but Mr. Tom Osborn and his brother, Mr. William Osborn, remained in Yorkshire. 

Mr. Tom Osborn was a deputy for eleven years, but for the greater part of the time prior to that was a contractor in stone. Mr. William Osborn has been a deputy at Mitchell Main for 23 years. 


Mr. William Osborn told our reporter that Mr. Tom Osborn and his wife Lucy had been sweethearts since they were boy and girl and, true to promise, Tom made a home for his bride as soon as possible. On his 22nd birthday, he returned to Devon, married Lucy, and brought her back to Yorkshire. “They have always been lovers,” he said, “and have always lived for each other. As a youth. Tom never wanted anyone else.” Mr. Osborn spoke of many touching evidences of the deep devotion the couple entertained toward each other. 

Mr. and Mrs. Osborn leave nine Children (five sons and four daughters), seven of whom are married. Their youngest son. Albert Osborn, whose photograph was published in the “Times” last week, is at present serving with the B.E.F. in France, and it was stated during the week that if he could be got home in time the whole of the nine children would be present at the funeral yesterday, together with five grand-children. 

For 34 years Mr. and Mrs. Osborn have lived in the same house in John Street, Wombwell, and prior to that they lived in Melville Street, Wombwell, Mr. Osborn has been a member of Wombwell Reform Club for many years, but apart from that association his interests have been centred in his home.  His mother, Mrs. Martha Osborn (84, is still living at Sticklepath, Devon. For a long time she lived with her two sons at Wombwell, but being on holiday in Devon at the outbreak of the war she decided to remain there for the duration. She was too trail to travel to the funeral. 

The family circle of Mr. and Mrs. Osborn was completed in pathetic circumstances at Wombwell Cemetery yesterday, when all their nine children followed them to the grave where they were laid to rest, side by side. The ninth and youngest child, Private Albert Osborn (22), turned up at the last moment after a dramatic dash from France. where he has been serving since January. He had come home to attend the funeral of his father, not knowing that his mother had since died, and that it was to be a double burial. The method of burial was unique for Wombwell, and had been achieved by the reservation of a double grave space near the Summer Lane entrance to the Cemetery. 

Large crowds gathered along Barnsley Road, at the entrance to the Cemetery, and at the graveside. Mr. R. Rowley, of Barnsley Road Methodist Church, Wombwell, conducted the service. The ages of the nine children present at the funeral ranged from 43 to 22. They were Mrs. Minnie Palmer (and Mr. Oswald Palmer), Wombwell; Mr. William Osborn (and Mrs. Osborn), Sticklepath, Devon; Mr. Irving Osborn (and Mrs. Osborn), Wombwell; Mrs. Lydia Read (and Mr. V. Read), Wombwell; Mr. Wilfred Osborn, Wombwell; Mrs. Florence Wolsey (and Mr. Harold Wolsey), Brampton; Mr. Edgar Osborn, Cornwall, whose wife could not attend because of another family bereavement; Mrs. Lucy Utley (and Mr. Herbert Utley), Wombwell; and Private Albert Osborn. 

Other family mourners present were: Mr. and Mrs. William Osborn, Wombwell; Mrs. Thornhill, Miss Joan Osborn, Miss Florence Osborn. Miss Dorothy Read, and Miss Marian Wolsey. Among the numerous wreaths was one from Mr. Osborn’s mother, Mrs. Martha Osborn. of Sticklepath, Devon: and others were from Mrs. Osborn’s twin sister, Mrs. F. Harper, of Bishop’s Taunton, N. Devon, and another sister Mrs. Annie White. South Zeal, Devon. Mr. Osborn’s sister, Mrs. Hilda Endacott, who lives in Toronto. Canada, cabled for a wreath to be sent. There was another from Mr. Willie Endacott. of South Zeal. All the children, and the families of the married ones, sent wreaths. 

Workmen and deputies at Mitchell Main Colliery were bearers for Mr. Osborn, while members of Wombwell Reform Club acted in a similar capacity for Mrs. Osborn. The former were Messrs. A. Mosley and R. Honing, representing the Yorkshire Deputies Association; J. Sykes. W. Bashford and A. Wood (deputies): B. Sherridan, W. Thomas. J. Haywood, W. Chapman and C. Cooper (workmen). 

Mrs. Osborn’a bearers were Messrs. Walter Turner. George Oldfield, Horace Schofield, Charles Cooper. George Martin. Frank Salter, W. Stenton and Harry Moore. The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Messrs. M. Charlesworth and Son, funeral directors. 3. York Street, Wombwell. (‘Phone. Wombwell 208).