Previous articles have been written in this journal about Arthur George Linfield, fruit grower and nurseryman, of Worthing in Sussex and his younger brother, Frederick Caesar Linfield, corn merchant of Worthing and local politician who eventually became a Liberal Member of Parliament. In this article, I intend to write about their elder brother, William Henry Linfield and his family, who lived in Lyndhurst Road near Worthing Hospital.
William Henry Linfield was born on 5 April 1854, the eldest child of William Linfield and Annie Caesar, who were married in Brighton on 30 September 1850. I have related in a previous article the rather mysterious circumstances of their marriage,1 since it would appear that they married in secret. Their sole purpose for staying in Brighton was to satisfy the three-week Banns requirement to enable them to marry in the local parish church of St. Nicholas. The proof of their deception is shown in the 1851 Census, taken on the night of 30/31 March, some six months after their wedding – for both of them falsified the Census by declaring they were ‘unmarried’. Annie had returned to her home area in Surrey, where she was apparently keeping house for a widower brother at Farncombe. Her husband, meanwhile, was a hotel guest at the Spaniard Inn in Worthing. The rather amusing part of this story is that many years later William became a census enumerator himself; he must have felt uneasy about his past deception.
At some time between William’s visit to Worthing in March 1851 and the birth of their first child in 1854, William and Annie decided to move there. William was a tailor by profession and his earlier visit to the town may have been made to ascertain the desirability of setting up there in business. They duly moved to 2, South Place, just to the side of the Old Town Hall. Perhaps the business wasn’t such a success after all, for in 1870 William was appointed ‘Assistant Overseer’ for the parish of Broadwater at a modest salary of £30.2 By the time of the 1871 Census, the Linfields had moved to 4, South Place – presumably vacating the tailoring premises at number 2. William was now ‘Collector of the Town Rates’ for the Local Board of Health, while his son William, now 16, had become ‘assistant to his father.’
William married Elizabeth Howard on 30 December 1877. Lizzie, a dressmaker was the daughter of William Howard, contractor of Chawton near Southampton. William’s profession is recorded as ‘house agent’ on their marriage certificate, and his residence at the time of marriage is also recorded as Chawton. Like his parents, he also married in secret but the reason was more to do with sibling rivalry than anything else. According to Mary Ellmore,3 whose grandmother was Annie Kate Linfield (1857-1902):
‘when my grandparents were married at St. George’s Church, Kate’s brother, William Henry and Elizabeth were at the wedding and my grandmother jokingly said to them “Well we beat you after all”. “Oh no you didn’t”, they said, “We were married yesterday!” They had gone off and married quietly.’
They returned to live in Worthing after their marriage, and their first child Lizzie Matilda was born in 1880. William was now Relieving Officer at Worthing, and in 1881 they moved to 123, Lyndhurst Road where they raised a typically large Victorian family of 3 boys and 6 girls. Their last child, Harry was born on 25 August 1895. Like his two brothers, William was a Methodist and all the children were brought up in a fairly strict Methodist tradition at their local chapel. In this capacity, William played his part during the catastrophic typhoid epidemic of 18934 when the Methodists set up temporary hospitals to care for the large numbers of sick. With his brothers, William helped to fetch the sick from their homes and convey them to the many hospitals set up at the time.
William was Relieving Officer at Worthing, in the service of the East Preston Guardians, for over 40 years. He also held the post of Registrar of Births and Deaths, and during his long career as a public official he apparently never had a single day’s holiday! He also had a small nursery, which was attached to their house, with a number of glasshouses in which they grew tomatoes and other early season produce for which Worthing was nationally famous. This venture was presumably managed by his family, no doubt with occasional advice from his younger brother Arthur, who was one of the Worthing pioneers of the glasshouse industry. No doubt one of the advantages of having nine children was the ready availability of a ready and willing workforce during the busy periods of the growing season!
In 1903, William, Arthur and Frederick, all of them respectable and upstanding figures in the life of the town and the Methodist church, were faced with a situation of considerable personal embarrassment. Their wayward cousin, Emily Frances Linfield (1847-1931) visited the town to try and find her mother, who was staying in lodgings in Warwick Street. Emily had fallen upon hard times, having previously had a good job as a hotel manager in Lewisham, Surrey. William’s second daughter, Ethel Kate (‘Sis’ Cave) related the story in a letter to her cousin Alice, 5 daughter of Arthur Linfield:
“Our Grandfather William Linfield was born 1822 . . . on his tombstone at Broadwater, it has of Croydon. Grandad had a brother Henry, that is how my father was named William Henry Linfield. Henry’s daughter Emily Frances came to Worthing with her old mother of 90 whom she knocked over when drunk and she was committed for trial and a charge of manslaughter and served a prison sentence, after which the relief office saw her no more.”
She adds rather quaintly at the end of her letter: “Please make sure and burn this infamous part of genealogy.”
I’m glad she didn’t or we may never have found this story! By trial and error, I eventually tracked down a newspaper report of the case, which took place in 1903.6 Emily was arrested on a number of occasions for being drunk and disorderly and had served time in Lewes Prison. Elsewhere Ethel related how she saw Emily Frances in the Relief Office (she would have been about 22 at the time), and how her father “refused to own her”. Luckily for the Worthing Linfields, she soon went back to Brighton after her mother’s death and the family dignity was saved.
Sadly for William and Elizabeth, however, their own family was struck by personal tragedy. Their unmarried daughter Evaline Clara became pregnant, but in the moral climate of Edwardian England this was regarded as a shameful and ruinous predicament. When Evaline found out, her boyfriend Tom Butler had already left her for someone else. Her mother Elizabeth insisted they get married, which they did, and they went to live at a house in Wemban Road where their son Eric was born. But this proved a terrible mistake: Butler was never there, preferring the company of his new girlfriend. Mary Ellmore’s Aunt Ella remembered visiting Evaline on a very cold day, to find her hanging out the washing without a coat, even though she wasn’t well. Mary continues the story in her letter:
“Auntie said she would catch her death and (Evaline said) she wished she could die as she was so unhappy. A few days later Auntie saw her being carried to the Hospital where she died at the age of 21 years. Eric was brought up by his Aunts Nellie and Mabel who kept a lovely sweet shop in Chapel Road; Eric took over the business later on.”
According to Mary’s aunt, Elizabeth spent much of her time drinking in the nearby Queen Alexandra Hotel, and cared little for the family, but whether she had a long term problem or sought the solace of the bottle after the tragic death of her daughter is not revealed. She certainly had a hard life bringing up so many children, and spent most of her time in the kitchen. Sadly she died within three years of Evaline at the early age of 59.
Another sister, Elsie Violet, trained as a teacher and worked at Davison’s School in Worthing. She later left England and went to Canada; apparently it was a rough voyage, and she arrived in Canada minus her teeth! She eventually returned to live in England at the family home in Lyndhurst Road.
Of the three sons of William and Elizabeth, the eldest, William Howard Linfield (1887-1962) worked for Worthing Motor Services before the First World War. There is a wonderful photograph of him driving one of the first charabancs in the town, which set off from Worthing seafront (see below). These were tried out in Worthing for the first time in 1907, to take people on various day trips. We can date this photograph to some time between 1909 and 1914, since Worthing Motor Services wasn’t formed till 1909. A careful look at the board on the front of the bus describes William’s route as the “Long Furlong Circular Trip”.
In 1915, a new company was formed called Southdown Motor Services Ltd which took over the assets and services of Worthing Motor Services. After war service, Will joined them as engineer-in-charge at the Ivy Arch depot in 1919. He married Dorothy Norris and they had two children, Anthony William (Tony) who was born in 1922 and Jacqueline (Jackie). They lived in King Edward Avenue, near to Will’s place of work.
In 1928, the family moved to Washington when Will bought the Chanctonbury Garage business, which he developed and managed until he retired some thirty years later. In this capacity, he serviced and maintained many of the works vehicles belonging to his cousins’ nursery business at Thakeham. He was a kind and generous man, and my aunt recently told me how he gave her £10 to buy a pram for her first child in 1942. When on leave during the war, he also filled up my father’s petrol tank – way above his coupon entitlement! Once he had a huge win on the St. Leger with a horse called Tehran; such was his generous nature that he kept a little notebook to help him remember so that everyone in the village had a share!
Just prior to the Second World War, Will’s son Tony Linfield decided he wanted to work in the aircraft industry, and one of his father’s customers arranged an apprenticeship for him at Vickers. When war broke out he joined the RAF, and was sent to Canada and Florida to do his training. Subsequently, he became a flying instructor himself and wrote a fascinating account of his memoirs, which he finished in 1974. Entitled “Moments Quickly Flying”, it has never been published but his daughter Sally is currently editing the manuscript with a view to possible publication in the near future. Approximately 65,000 words in length, Tony also had a photograph album of some 500 photos to support the text. As Tony says in the introduction:
“It is an interesting piece of ‘auto-biographical history’; a little known, or rather little publicised, activity during the last war when RAF pilots were trained in America by American civilians, under the fatherly eyes of the US Army Air Corps, with guidance from a handful of RAF officers . . .”
Unfortunately, Tony mentions very little about his early life or his family in the book, although there is an amusing anecdote about his father and the Washington garage during the war. Here it is:
“It was easy to lose sight of the War, the raison d’etre for our Florida trip, we were so far away from England. America was at war too but one hardly noticed. There was a kind of food rationing which did not affect us, gasoline and tyres were short but it scarcely made any difference to the official car user. There was, of course, no blackout. By listening to the BBC short wave broadcasts from London at night, with the chimes of Big Ben tortured by static, one could rejoin the family and relations in spirit.
“One had dreams of returning to start an orange plantation after the war was over. And nightmares, why go back to England at all?
Where had that fighting spirit, that so filled us when we boarded the boat, gone? We had been led astray by the bewitching spell of the tropical Circe and the false bright lights of Miami. Nevertheless, there were those who had brothers killed in action, parents bombed in the blitz, who needed no reminder! Every day for them was one step nearer their return.
“I had no brothers. An only sister helped my father run his garage, draining out the petrol hoses to the last drop of ‘Pool’ for those who had the necessary coupons and watching Army Bren-gun carriers tear up our concrete forecourt. My father did his best, he couldn’t have made a living, but as all the garages had been closed for miles around he performed a very vital service. We were very near the coast and the petrol in the underground tanks would be of value to the enemy should he land on the Sussex beaches. There was a secret instruction to be implemented in such an emergency. On receipt of a telephone message, great wads of lead wool and filling were to be rammed down filler the pipes and the site evacuated. My father was a sergeant in the police ‘Specials’ and the garage was the local HQ. I vividly recall one night in the summer of 1940. It had been a tiring day and we sat down in the large inspection pit around a stove which held a cocoa jug simmering on the top, as the evening chill set in. Father was a big man and made an impressive, if incongruous, figure in his blue tin hat, his police serge tunic and brown corduroy trousers – he was still waiting for
is official uniform to be tailored to his rotund stomach.
“Two of his constables – a farmer and a local tradesman- and I sat with him listening in the dark to the old McMichael radio and the terse messages through on the Dunkirk evacuation. The glow of cigarettes pinpointed mouths. We were silent. It was as if we were the only ones left. Everyone else had gone to the War.
“The ‘phone jangled shrilly in the outer office. Someone dashed up the wooden steps, knocking over our double-barrelled shotgun. This was it. The Germans were on their way. We could hear Jim Vaughan’s wrangled voice through the half open door. “Yes, I see. Right . . . I’ll tell him.” I looked at the mountain of ‘Pratt’s petrol tins in the corner. What on earth were we going to do with that lot in a hurry?
“Jim Vaughan scurried back, breathless from his exertions “It’s OK, Bill” he wheezed to my father, “it’s alright, they’ve got your trousers.”
Jackie, Tony’s sister, also has some fascinating memories of her time helping their father run the garage during the war:
“After Tony joined the RAF, I had left school and took over his role. There were certain garages left open, ie the Cissbury at Findon Valley and one at a crossroads near Horsham. We got a pennyhalfpenny on a gallon of petrol and a penny went to the garages that were closed. Taking the recordings on the pumps first thing and when we closed, subtracting and the number you got was to be matched by the number of coupons. An inspector could call in at any time – take stock and count! So if a lorry only had a 10 gallons coupon and took say only 7 gallons, we were able to occasionally help out (your father) and many service people on “leave”.
“. . . one day, just a few yards from the garage, an army ammunition lorry had a tyre blow out and sparks from underneath set the tarpaulin cover alight! Two chaps ran in and warned us the lorry was carrying live ammunition!! Dad rushed to stop the traffic at the corner of the road and someone went to stop traffic coming from the other direction – Mother and I and the dogs took refuge under the stairs (so we had our own mini Blitz!) Shells seemed to go over us but the small stuff was a real nuisance – talking of full petrol tanks, the army had one of our pumps and filled tins to take away. About 12 of these were lined up outside and a stray bullet went in one end and through all of them and out the other!!”
L. to R. Back row: Evaline, Mabel, William, Elsie Violet. Sitting: Ethel, Lizzie, Nellie, Harry and Arthur.
On his return to England in 1945, Tony went back to working for his father, and, among other things, he introduced a modern accountancy system with proper invoicing on headed paper – all sadly neglected by his father! He also got married – to Pat Lewis – and they had two daughters, Sally and Tessa.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the working relationship with his father proved somewhat difficult, and they parted company after a few years. In the mid-Fifties, he and Pat decided to embark on a completely new venture when they purchased a bookshop in Storrington. It proved an enormous success, and they subsequently bought another shop in Worthing and eventually had several bookshops along the South coast. Tony was also a founder member of the Storrington branch of the Lions Club, organising all sorts of fund-raising events and exchanges overseas, mainly to Holland where they made some life-long friends.
Very sadly, for his family and friends, and all who knew him, Tony died suddenly from a heart attack in August 1975 at the early age of 53. He had just returned from an Open University summer school; he had been reading for a degree in the Humanities.
From L. to R: William Howard Linfield, Harry Linfield and Arthur Frederick Linfield
The other two sons of William Henry and Elizabeth Linfield were Arthur Frederick (presumably named after his two uncles) and Harry. All three brothers joined the army at the outbreak of war in 1914, and the picture below makes a wonderful group photograph. Miraculously they all survived the carnage of the trenches, returning to England in 1918 – although Arthur and Harry both endured awful experiences which affected them for the rest of their lives.
Registrar of Births and Deaths, Worthing
Arthur Frederick, who never married, was born in 1892 and became a public official, like his father. When his father retired in 1920, he took over as Registrar of Births and Deaths in the office at Ashdown Road, Worthing. Badly wounded in the First World War, he gave much of his time to helping others. He was an Associate of the Royal College of Organists, holding the post of organist at St. George’s Church for 25 years. In this capacity, he played the organ at the funerals of his two uncles, Arthur in 1938 and Frederick in 1939. Sadly, he died in 1943 at the age of 51.
Harry, the youngest son, was born in 1895. Harry was training to be a lawyer before the First World War, with a very promising career ahead of him.
Unfortunately, the war not only interrupted his training but it destroyed his career prospects for ever, since he never recovered from the horrifying experience of being buried alive for several days after being blown up in France. After the war, he went back to live at the family home in Lyndhurst Road where he remained until he died in 1975 at the age of eighty. The small nursery probably kept him occupied for much of the time, whilst his long-suffering sisters did their best to look after him, for he could be cantankerous and difficult at times. He also kept an aviary. The shell shock from which he suffered meant he couldn’t bear the dark or enclosed spaces; loud noises were also particularly bad for his nerves.
Sally remembers her father taking her and her sister to visit “Lyndhurst Road” one Christmas – “always at tea time, therefore all very dark, especially with the unchanged Victorian interior in shades of brown, enlivened only by a wonderful dresser displaying a full set of blue and white willow pattern china in the outer kitchen. Aunt Vi and Uncle Harry would both talk at once, so it was difficult to know which one to listen to!”
Besides being the youngest, Harry was the last of his generation in the family, but only just – his last surviving sibling, his sister Ethel (Sis Cave), died nine days before him on 13 November 1975 at the grand age of 94. He was buried in his parents’ grave at the Broadwater Cemetery in South Farm Road.
I am particularly grateful to the following people who have provided me with most of the information I have used in this article: Mary Ellmore, Jackie Blunt and Sally Reid. It is always a bonus to include some nice photographs, and I am indebted to Jackie for the superb pictures I have been able to use throughout this article.
2 Broadwater Minute Book, record of Vestry meeting, minutes taken on 4 April 1870 by H.E.Snewin. Worthing Reference Library. Another interesting entry is recorded for 12 July 1877: ‘Arthur Linfield rescued child 3 years old from drowning in sea.’ Arthur would have been 18 years old.
4 ‘The Worthing Typhoid Epidemic of 1893,’ by Malcolm Linfield in Longshot Vol 4 No 2, December 1995.
6 A number of reports appeared in the Worthing Gazette during May 1903, and a detailed account of the story was published in Longshot Vol 1 No 2 (November 1992), ‘Family History from Old Newspapers, Part 2’ by Malcolm Linfield.