I’ve found a significant number of births on the Island that I was unaware of so I thought I’d do a brief list whilst I still research their back stories. The information on their place of birth comes from a variety of sources, the Censuses, Military records, various registers of births and birth certificates. The Censuses and military records are self declarations, in other words they are just answers to questions and proof was not required. Whilst people are unlikely to have lied, the information comes from the 1800’s and could potentially be unreliable especially if the information was passed on orally from parents or grandparents. For some individuals the census does show the birth place as St Nicholas or Drake’s Island but a later census may list it as Plymouth. The Register of births are relatively reliable but often record a district, Plymouth for example rather than an exact place such as Drake’s Island but Drake’s Island does feature. Birth certificates are reliable but didn’t start until 1837 and weren’t compulsory until 1875 so not all births were recorded and not all new babies had a birth certificate issued. So for example Alice Maud Lamb is shown in the register as being born in Plymouth but her birth certificate shows Drake’s Island. Similarly the Census didn’t start until 1841 but of course people born before 1841 would still be recorded. The information on censuses (done every 10 years) became slightly more detailed as time progressed was very basic and some people would be missed. This also means we are likely to discover more births listed on the Island as more records, especially military records become digitised.
I am going to list the births chronologically by date, what the source is and where they were last recorded. There are 33 in total including the 9 I was previously aware of. Some I have more information for than others. All the births took place in the 1800’s a period of great change on the Island. The Barrack blocks to the west of the Island were completed, the guns changed from smooth bore to rifle muzzle loaded and finally to breech loading guns, the gun emplacements at the top of the Island and around the outer walls were replaced by the casemates and Upper Battery of 25 ton guns which were in turn replaced by the Eastern, Central and Western Batteries, searchlights would have appeared on the Island and the Lower and Upper levels of underground magazines were built as was the sea wall on the south of the Island. The way the soldiers and families were treated changed with army reforms in the 1870’s and 1880’s and almost all the children would have seen ships either wrecked or stranded on the foreshore of the Island one father was behind the failed attempt to smuggle brandy onto the Island and others would have witnessed a mutiny.
John Bowring b 1816. Listed in 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881 Census as living in Nottingham giving his birth place as St Nicholas Island. He worked as a lace maker and then as a machine operator presumably as the industry industrialised. His wife Ann gives her birth place as Nottingham so it seems likely he moved to Nottingham when his father was discharged from the military. He is recorded as having died in 1888.
John B Williams b 1821. Listed in 1861 Census in Merthyr Tydfil and gave his birth place as Drake’s Island.
Frank Kelly b 1839. Listed as a hospital patient in the 1911 census for the Union Infirmary, Greenwich, London. Birth place given as Drake’s Island.
John Williams b 1839. The only record for John is the 1871 census which shows him living as a boarder in Merthyr Tydfil working as a labourer. He gives his birth place as Drake’s Island, Plymouth.
George Woodhead b 1847. His military record when joining the 11th Regiment of Foot in 1860 shows his birth place as Drake’s Island and his age as 13. The 1861 census shows him at Portsea Island in Hampshire as part of the 11th. His military record shows he was discharged in 1896 in Dublin.
James Edmonds b 1848. There’s a register of birth for James Rowland Edmonds in Plymouth in 1848. As a minor he is living with his Mother and Father in the 1851 Census at Lee in London and 1861 in Exeter. His Father, David, is listed as a Master Gunner in the Royal Artillery but retired. James appears to be the son of Master Gunner David Edmonds who was discharged and jailed for 6 months because of a failed attempt to smuggle brandy through the Island in 1850. Later censuses show James living at various addresses in London until his death in 1917.
Catherine Holdaway b 1848. Catherine is registered as a birth the military records of 1848 to Gunner Edward Holdaway and his wife Catherine on St Nicholas Island.
Margaret Wilson b 1848. In the same military register of births and on the same page as Catherine Holdaway there’s a registered birth in 1848 to Gunner William Wilson and his wife Margaret on St Nicholas Island. They are shown at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, London in the 1851 Census.
Mary Wilkinson b 1854. The 1901 Irish census for North Dock, Dublin lists Mary Wilkinson, born on St Nicholas Island as the wife of Francis Wilkinson. Unfortunately there is no maiden name but whilst there are numerous St Nicholas Parishes in Ireland there is no St Nicholas Island.
Richard Dargan b 1861. Richard’s father, another Richard was serving in the Royal Artillery when Richard was born on the Island in 1861. The 1871 census shows him living in Woolwich with his mother with them receiving an allowance from his father. His father was discharged in 1869 and Richard followed him into the Artillery enlisting at Woolwich in 1875 but was discharged as medically unfit in 1878.
Frederick William Thompson b 1864. Frederick who gave his birth place as Drake’s Island is listed on Censuses at Bromley, Kent in 1901 and Stratton, Cornwall in 1911.
Hugh Livingston O’Hara Hosking b 1865. The parish birth records list Hugh’s abode as Drake’s Island at the time of his birth. The first census that he is recorded on is in 1891 where he is listed as pharmaceutical student living with his mother and father in Strood, Kent. His father being in the Army means the family may have bee abroad during previous censuses. He married in 1896 and in the 1901 and 1911 censuses he is recorded as living in Snodland, Kent with his wife. He died in 1911 and is buried in Lower Birling, Kent.
Margaret George 1868. Margaret’s birth certificate shows her being born on St Nicholas or Drake’s Island in 1868. Her father, Rees George, was in the Artillery. The 1871 Census shows the family living at Fort Bovisand. A little later Rees must have retired and the family are recorded as living in Epsom during the 1881 and 1891 censuses. Rees must have died between the 1881 and 1891 censuses as his wife is shown as a widow in the 1891 census. Margaret is listed working as a school mistress in the 1901 census. Margaret’s mother possibly died sometime after 1891 as Margaret has moved to Cambridgeshire alone and is recorded as a boarder still working as a school mistress in 1901. The 1911 census shows her working as a Head Teacher at a Girls County School in Rayleigh, Essex and living as a boarder. There is o record of Margaret having married.
Griffith Evans b 1868. Griffith was the son of Evan Evans who was served in the Royal Artillery until 1870. Evan’s military record shows he was serving with the 13th Artillery Brigade in 1868 and the Brigade was providing the garrison for the Island. After Evan was discharged the family moved to Widnes where they were living during the 1871 Census. During the 1881 census the family is living in Runcorn, Cheshire and Elizabeth, Griffith’s mother, is listed as a widow. Griffith followed his father into the Royal Artillery enlisting in 1886. He married Bridget in 1896 and served abroad in Gibraltar for part of his service before being discharged at his own request in 1898. The 1901 census shows the family living in Runcorn and Griffith had two children with Bridget by the time she unfortunately died in 1905. In 1911 Griffith and his two children are living as boarders in Cheshire. On the outbreak of World War I Griffith volunteers and is re-enlisted in the Royal Artillery. He serves as part of the coastal defences in the Roya Garrison Artillery on the Isle of Wight until July 1918.
Mary Butler b 1871. The 1871 census for Drake’s Island shows Mary having been born on the Island to Gunner Samuel Butler and his wife Mary. Unfortunately this is the only record I have for Mary currently.
John H Allen b 1873. John Henry Allen is registered aged 7 with his twin brother Edwin Charles in the 1881 census as living in Portsea. Both are baptised at the same time showing they are twins and the baptismal record shows they are born on the same day, 23 February 1873. Their father Abraham is shown as the Barrack Sergeant and their mother was Amelia. In both the 1901 and 1911 censuses John is shown as living in Southsea, Portsmouth giving his birth place as Drake’s Island.
Edwin Charles Allen b 1873. The twin brother of John Henry Allen, Edwin followed his father into the Army enlisting in the Royal Artillery in 1888 but was discharged the following year on the reorganisation of the Royal Artillery. In 1901 he is married and living in Portsmouth as a general labourer.
Alice C Garrod b 1878. Alice is listed in the British Armed Forces Births and Baptisms as being born on the Island but there are no details of her parents except that the father served with the Royal Artillery.
Martha L Lyons b 1878. Like Alice Martha is merely listed as being born on the Island in the Armed Forces Register but with no other details than the regiment was the Royal Artillery.
John J Thomson b 1878. John is another birth from 1878 that is just listed in the Armed Forces Births and Baptisms Register. Like Alice and Martha the Regiment is listed as the Royal Artillery. It is highly likely all three had fathers serving in the same unit so it is possible that all three families ended up abroad for their next posting which may account for the lack of further records.
Harriet Hunter b 1883. Harriet was the eldest of three children born to Master Gunner William Hunter and his wife Sarah on the Island although they had at least six children in all. William was discharged from the military by 1891 when the family was living in the Mount Edgecumbe Inn where William was the publican. Harriet was still with the family for the 1901 census but I can find no record of her in the 1911 census, it is quite possible she had married by this stage.
Marian Hunter b 1885. Marian was the middle of the three born on the Island to William and Sarah. She is listed on the 1911 census living with her father William working as a Dairymaid on his farm in Norfolk and was unmarried.
Ernest Hunter 1886. Ernest was the youngest of the three. He was with the family in 1891 and 1901 but by 1911 was married to his wife Myrtle and working as an insurance salesman in Southsea, Portsmouth. On the outbreak of World War I in 1914 he volunteered for the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was deployed to France and Flanders in 1915 and was unfortunately killed in action in June 1915.
Joseph James Clarkson b 1886. Joseph is listed as born on Drake’s Island in the 1901 and 1911 Censuses. In 1901 he is living with his parents in Battersea, London working as a sign writer. By 1911 he is married to Anne and has moved not far away to Lambeth.
Kathleen J Allen b 1889. Kathleen is registered in the Armed Forces Births Register as being born on Drake’s Island. The 1901 census shows her aged 1 living with her father William, a Gunner, and mother Jane in Rame, Cornwall. The family was in married quarters at the Brennan Torpedo Station at Piers Cellars.
Vincent Drake Spice b 1890. Vincent is intriguing. His father, Alfred Thomas Spice was definitely serving with the Royal Artillery when Vincent was born. The Register of births has the abode as Devonport and the family home was given as Mount Wise Barracks when he was baptised. However his middle name seems to be have been given in recognition of the Island, his mother’s maiden name was Godwin and not Drake. It is quite possible Vincent was born on the Island if the family were detached to Drake’s Island or if they moved back just after the birth. Either way it appears Alfred left the military soon after Vincent was born and the 1891 census shows the family living in Southampton with Alfred living on his own means, in other words looking for work after his discharge. This and subsequent censuses, the 1939 Register and Vincent’s military record all show his birth place as Drake’s Island. The 1901 census shows Alfred was employed as a Railway Clerk and the family still living in Southampton. He died in 1910 by which time Vincent had followed him into London and South Western Railway also as a clerk living with his widowed mother in Southampton. Vincent was called up in 1916 aged 26 when conscription became compulsory and served in the Army with the Devons and later with the Royal Army Service Corps until discharge in 1919. The 1939 Register, a World War II register shows Vincent still working as a Railway Clerk in Southampton. The register shows him cohabiting with Cora Physick who he eventually married in 1947. Vincent passed away in Southampton in 1956.
Alison E Payne b 1891. Charles Sampson Payne and his wife Annie were Alison’s parents. Although it appears Alison was born after the 1891 census Charles is listed on the Drake’s Island return as the Battery Sergeant Major, Annie and their 3 other children are also listed showing the family was living on the Island. The family was in Tynemouth by 1893 but may have been abroad for the 1901 census. Charles was discharged in 1903 and the next information I have is the 1911 census which shows the family living at Alverstoke in Hampshire and Charles is registered as a military pensioner. He did however reenlist aged 60 for World War I and served on the home front in the Royal Garrison Artillery throughout the war, It appears Alison married Frederick Turner in Portsmouth in 1917 but I have no further information.
Milly Cocking b 1892. Milly’s parents were Henry and Elizabeth Cocking. Henry was serving in the Royal Artillery and the family was in Devonport when Milly was born. Henry was discharged in 1894 and the 1901 census shows the family living in Plymouth living off Henry’s pension. The 1911 census shows Milly still in Plymouth working as a servant and living with the Archer family.
Caroline Ann Cross b 1892. Caroline is also a little intriguing. The 1901 census shows her living with her widowed mother Ellen and her older brother Edward in Plymouth. Caroline’s birth place is listed as Drake’s Island. Her brother Edward is working as a Brewer. The 1891 had a family called Cross running the Canteen on Drake’s Island. The wife’s name was Selina E and one of their sons was Edward. Both their birth years and birth places match Caroline’s mother and brother in the 1901 census. There is also the possibility that Selina’s second name is Ellen and that was her original christian name, perhaps her husband John preferred to use Selina or that Selina was just a pet name used by John and put on the census and Ellen reverted to her original name after John passed away. The other link is the son Edward becoming a brewer. The 1911 Census has Ellen, Edward and Caroline still living together in Plymouth. By now Caroline is working in a factory as a skirt hand. Caroline married in 1921 to Francis Goodwin with whom she had one son also named Francis. The 1939 Register shows the family still in Plymouth.
Alice Mary Somerville b 1892. Alice and her brother Harry were born on the Island according to the 1911 Census. Their father was Ralph who was a Master Gunner 3rd Class serving on the Island when the pair were born. Their mother was Charlotte who passed away between their births and the 1911 census when Ralph is listed as a widower. The family is living in London where Ralph who was discharged in 1903 was working at Hampton Court Palace. Alice was unemployed. I can’t find the family on the 1901 census which suggests Ralph may have been serving abroad.
Harry Frederick Somerville b 1894. Harry was working as a clerk with the London and South Western Railway in 1911. He married Geraldine Frost in 1926 in Croydon. The 1939 Register shows Harry and Geraldine living in Caterham with harry still working as a clerk and Geraldine as a housewife. Harry passed away in 1967 still married to Geraldine in Ringwood, Hampshire.
Alice Lamb b 1897. Alice, later better known as Geraldine and who founded the Geraldine Lamb School of Dance in Plymouth. Her birth certificate and the 1901 and 1911 censuses both show her birth place as Drake’s Island. I have written about Alice in a previous blog so won’t go over old ground here.
Lillee May Irving b 1899. Lillee which has been spelt Lily and Lilly on various registers was born on the Island according to the 1901 and 1911 Censuses. The family is living in London during both censuses. Her father was Frederick Irving who is shown as a messenger for the War Office in both censuses and additionally as an army pensioner in the 1911 census.
That is all I have for now. I am still researching and will give an update on the lives of the children and their parents at some stage in the future. I am also looking at the families and individual soldiers that were on the Island for the censuses from 1841 to 1911 and also of any individuals I know through other reports were on or associated with the Island especially the ordinary men, women and children who saw and helped create so much history.