Friday, 28 November 2014

The Unstoppable Ethel Lees Shorthouse: part 9 - Home, love and duty

On 21st April, 1919, at St John’s Church, Horninglow, Burton-on-Trent, the marriage was solemnised between Arthur Charles Bowker, 42, bachelor, labourer, and Ethel Shorthouse, 33, spinster, no profession, both of 18 Balfour Street. One of their witnesses was Ethel’s sister Harriet, aged twenty-two. There were at least two falsehoods in the details on the marriage certificate: Arthur was, in fact, 46, and he was not a bachelor – he was still married to his first wife, Alice. Anne Wariner, Arthur’s granddaughter from his first marriage, has provided some revealing data about Ethel’s new ‘husband’. He was born on 4th April 1873, one of fifteen children of blacksmith William and his wife, Ann, in Claverley, Shropshire. His army record describes him as fresh-complexioned, with grey eyes and sandy hair; he was just short of five foot ten inches in height, with a chest measurement of about 33 inches: although Ann Wariner has not yet come across a photograph of him, we can picture a slight man of not particularly striking features. Other details of Arthur’s life are not always easy to ascertain. The Census reveals he had worked as an agricultural labourer and a shepherd, but in between he had twice signed up as a private in the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the Shropshire Infantry. However he had no illustrious military career, being recorded as absent from duty, presumably without leave, on several occasions, and was eventually discharged as medically unfit in 1903. Even his first marriage has not yet been verified by Anne Wariner, but the partnership resulted in six births by about 1910. Some time between 1911 and 1919 he had abandoned his family, and eventually set up home with Ethel.

In the Spring of 1919 Ethel was happy, so happy that she penned the following birthday message to Arthur on the reverse of the above view of Burton-on-Trent:

Meant for April 4th 1919
Loving Thoughts and kind Remembrance for your Birthday
“With all the good wishes a card can express
Good health and good tidings good cheer and success.”
Happy times and joyous hours, Life a track of thornless flowers,
Love’s bright sunshine light your way; this my Wish for you today
With fondest love from Ethel to dearest Arthur x x x x x x x x

Another reason for her happiness was that she was to be a mother for the first time: from the known data she was probably already carrying their first child, Eric. And seventeen days after writing her birthday greetings she had thrown in her lot with Arthur Bowker. The new family set up their first home at 18 Balfour Street, Horninglow, Burton-on-Trent.

The door on the right is that of Number 18

The unstoppable Ethel Shorthouse had, for the time being, come to rest.


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