Private Joseph Harrison, who died on 31st January 1916 serving as a Private with the 1st Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, was born in Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire in 1887. Apart from his war service, he seems to have lived in Baddesley Clinton for his whole life, as did many of his family, who seem to have had a long association with Baddesley Clinton Hall as servants.
On the 1891 census, all four of the live-in female servants (housekeeper, cook, housemaid and kitchen maid) were members of the Harrison family – the sister of Joseph’s father, and three of her nieces.
In 1891, aged 4, Joseph Harrison was living in Baddesley Road with his parents, siblings, and widowed grandmother, 77-year-old Ann Harrison (née Louch), who was recorded as a farmer. Originally from Tardebigge, Worcestershire, she had married William Harrison at Baddesley Clinton in 1830. William, a gamekeeper, died at Baddesley on 30th November 1877, and it seems that she continued to live at their farm, with their youngest son and his family.
Stephen, her youngest son, was also recorded with her in 1881, helping to farm their 8 acres. Stephen married Anne Cuff in 1881, and they went on to have at least nine children, of whom Joseph was the third eldest.
In 1901, 14-year-old Joseph was recorded as a footman at Baddesley Clinton Hall. Other members of the Harrison family also working there as servants were two of Joseph’s first cousins – 27-year-old Cecily, a housemaid, who had risen from being a kitchen maid there ten years earlier, and 43-year-old Ann Harrison, who had been cook at the hall since at least 1881. Also there in 1901 was widowed Elizabeth Blake (née Harrison), housekeeper, who married William Blake, the butler at the hall, towards the end of 1880. At the time of the 1881 census, she was in London as servant to her mistress, Rebecca Dulcibella Ferrers, who was visiting Edward Heneage Dering, widower of her guardian, whom he’d married after an apparent mix-up when he went to see her in 1859 to ask for Rebecca’s hand in marriage. Elizabeth was aunt to Joseph and to Ann and Cecily, being the sister of their respective fathers, Stephen and John.
By 1911, Joseph was no longer living at the hall, but was still at Baddesley Clinton village, working as a general labourer and living with his four younger siblings and their widowed father, Stephen. The census notes that Stephen was blind, and had been for 12 years.
It ‘s not known when Joseph enlisted in the Army, although he joined at Hereford. He arrived in France on 8th April 1915 as a Private with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. His medal index card notes his death on 31st January 1916 and is annotated: “committed suicide”. The same statement appears on the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, where Joseph’s is one of 47 such entries. It hasn’t been possible to find any more information about this – his service record appears not to have survived, there doesn’t seem to be any information in contemporary newspapers, and the Battalion war diary for the date (on Ancestry) makes no reference to any casualties or any incidents on that day, during which the Battalion was at rest in Camp C, Wood A30, Poperinghe, Belgium.
Joseph Harrison is buried at Poperinghe New Cemetery and is also commemorated locally at Baddesley Clinton, and Chadwick End.
Interestingly, Joseph’s name is not included in the list of names printed in the Coventry Herald, 26th March 1915, of those men serving from the parishes of Balsall and Baddesley Clinton. He must have been serving by this date, which is less than a fortnight before he arrived in France. However, there is a John Harrison from Baddesley Clinton listed as serving with the 3rd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Some of the Harrison servants received bequests under the will of Rebecca Dulcibella Dering (1839-1923), widow of “the Old Squire”, Marmion Edward Ferrers (1813-1884), who had married his widowed friend, Edward Heneage Dering (1826-1892) in 1885. Baddesley Clinton Hall was sold to the Government in 1980 and subsequently conveyed to the National Trust.
If you have any more information about the Harrison family of Baddesley Clinton, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977