William (Willoughby) Wood has been something of a challenging mystery. As far as I can be I feel I have the correct man, proper certification would confirm this further, but I have cross checked sources and am confident the information below is correct.
William Wood doesn’t appear on any census records until 1911.
What is known about William is that he was the brother of Ellen, Florence, Fred, Emily and Harriet Wood. However, on the 1881 census the brother of the above is listed as Willoughby. (By the time of the 1881 census Emily had left home and was working and Harriet appears on the census elsewhere), and the family are living at High Street.
Willoughby also appears on the 1891 census and by now he and Florence are the only Wood children still at home. The family are still living at High St and Willoughby is listed as a scholar and Florence at 15 is classed as a housekeeper. Sadly, Elizabeth had died (Willoughby’s mother) in 1888 and presumably Florence now had the job of looking after the family.
Then William/Willoughby’s story starts to get more complicated.
On 9th August 1898 William Wood from New Whittington signed up to serve with the Third Derbyshire Regiment. His Regimental number was 6453. His description records him as 19 years and 11 months old and his occupation was Collier, working for Sheepbridge Coal and Iron Company at Glapwell pit. He was 5ft 91/2 inches tall and weighed 151lbs. His complexion was dark, his eyes brown and his hair dark brown. Unfortunately for William he was found unfit for Military service as he was suffering from ‘Morbuscordis’, this is an old term for unspecified heart disease, and was dismissed on 10th August 1898.
Although this is William not Willoughby, I feel taken with other evidence this is more than likely the same person. Willoughby could have been changed to William or Willie by the family and just continued by Willoughby.
Presumably Willoughby returned to continue his life as before in New Whittington and on the 1901 census there is a Willie Wood (Could be a family name for Willoughby) lodging with the O’Brien family at High Street Whittington his occupation – coal miner hewer and his age would fit with Willoughby!
Joseph Wood (his father) had died in 1893 perhaps this is why Willoughby was tempted to leave home and embark on an army career and why he was in lodgings in 1901. His sister Ellen had married in 1894 and was living with her husband John and her children at Barrarat Houses, High Street New Whittington. Perhaps Willoughby wanted to live close by to his family and the area he was familiar with. Florence had married a fireman, John Fulwood, in 1899, Harriett had married Joseph Bradbury in 1891 and Emily had left home some years earlier.
By 1911 there is a William Wood boarding at the Royal Hotel London Street New Whittington. (Co-incidentally a few years before this census was taken my great grandfather was licensee of the Royal Hotel), virtually the same age as Willoughby and a coal miner.
Perhaps Willoughby had now decided to call himself William full time, this is only an assumption with no documentary evidence. Below is a picture of the Royal Hotel around the time William/Willoughby would be living there. Note the licensee’s name – Bingham as on the 1911 census. Williams sister Ellen by this time was living on London Street too.
The next record for our William Wood is a surprising document. In 1914 a William Wood aged 28 years and 304 days enlisted in the 13th Battalion Sherwood Foresters. He was from New Whittington, was a coal miner and his father had died. All information fitting with Willoughby/William. His service number was 13469.
He was attested on 24th August 1914. Sadly, on 23rd March 1915 William Wood died of heart failure. When William tried to join the army previously he was declared unfit due to heart problems! Perhaps in 1914 the tests of fitness weren’t quite so stringent as they had been in 1898!
William collapsed and died of heart failure at Lostwithiel, where he was at training camp, consequently there is no medal record card for him as, although he was more than willing to, he never got a chance to enter the theatre of war.
To confirm this is the correct William the Record of personal effects for William lists:
Sister Ellen, sister Florrie, Brother Fred.
Fred at this time was on a hospital ship and it was left to Williams sister Ellen to deal with the correspondence with the War Office.
Ellen was to receive news of a second death when her son John William died on 25th July 1917, and he is remembered on New Whittington Memorial together with his uncle William.
William Wood was buried in Lostwithiel Church Cemetery.
The cemetery entrance
The headstone erected by his comrades.
Pictures Rachel Taylor November 1918.
The grave registration clearly states that William was the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Wood.
My daughter lives in Cornwall and last year when I started research on William I asked her to take a trip to Lostwithiel to investigate William Wood. She arrived on the weekend before the 100th anniversary commemorations and luckily bumped into the lady who had been helping with the display in the church hall. She was delighted to see someone had visited William on the 100th anniversary (by co-incidence) and kindly took Rachel to visit the grave. She then took her on a tour of the display. She said that Williams name would be read out with all the other men of Lostwithiel who lost their lives, and they always remembered him on Armistice Day.
Listed with the other men of the United Benefice of Lostwithiel – men who had a connection with the parish on 11th November 2018
Even though William/Willoughby knew he had a heart problem he was determined to ‘do his bit’ and that ultimately cost him his life.
Although there are a lot of question marks with William/Willoughby Wood, I think there are too many similarities that ultimately make me think they are one and the same man.
The picture of William Wood below kindly supplied by Trevor Nurse, Williams great nephew.
William is remembered on Old Whittington and the Brushes Memorials along with New Whittington Memorial.
Pictures of the Sherwoods in Lostwithiel taken from the Lostwithiel 100th Anniversary display 2018 by Rachel Taylor (with permission).