Private Ernest Purton, Royal Engineers; 46501 Leicestershire Regiment
Born on 4th March 1883 in Frithsden, near Berkhamsted
Died on 19th July 1941 in Little Gaddesden
Ernest Purton was born in Frithsden near Berkhamsted, the eldest of the 4 children of James Purton and Sarah née Godwin. His father was a Domestic Gardener.
His brother Bertie Purton was born 22nd January 1886, his sister Violet Ethel in 1892 and his younger brother James on 26th May 1900.
Ernest Purton entered Little Gaddesden School on 3rd May 1886 as an infant, only 3 years 2 months old. it therefore looks likely that the family moved to Little Gaddesden shortly after his brother Bertie Purton was born.
The 1891 Census shows the family living at 8 Little Gaddesden.
Little Gaddesden School had an annual Diocesan Inspection, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. Ernest Purton is listed among the children who distinguished themselves in this examination in 1895, 1897 and 1898.
The Little Gaddesden School Log Book entry for May 9th 1898 notes that Ernest Purton, Standard 7, had gone to work in the Carpenter’s Yard. He gained his Labour Certificate two years earlier but stayed at school.
The 1901 Census shows 18 year old Ernest working as a Carpenter’s Apprentice; he still lived with his parents and siblings at 6 Hudnall. His father was still a Domestic Gardener. His 15 year old brother Bertie Purton was a Domestic Garden Labourer’s Boy, while his sister Violet, 9, was at school. James was then a 10 month old baby.
Next door at 5 Hudnall lived his uncle and aunt, Heber and Elizabeth Purton, and his cousins Ellen, 13, who was at home, Edwin Purton, 11, Reginald Purton, 9, Frederick Purton, 6 and Daisy, 3, who were at school and Lizzie, 8 months.
The Family in 1911 2
In the 1911 Census, 28 year old Bertie is a Carpenter on the Ashridge Estate, still living at 6 Hudnall with his parents and three siblings. Bertie Purton, 25, was a Bricklayer on the Ashridge Estate, Violet, 19, a Dressmaker and James, 10, at school. Their cousins still lived next door at 5 Hudnall.
In the first Quarter of 1913, Ernest Purton married Florence Minnie Rance in Berkhamsted. Their daughter Nora Minnie Purton was then born on 6th November 1915.
The original Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour lists Ernest Purton serving in the Royal Engineers. His obituary notes his service in that Corps and records that he was gassed while serving overseas in France. However, his Absent Voters’ list entries for Autumn 1918 and Spring and Autumn 1919 show him as a Private in the 11th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, Service Number 46501 but his date of transfer is not known. That Battalion was formed at Leicester in October 1915 and served in France from March 1916. However, the following month it became a Pioneer Battalion in the 6th Division, so was involved in engineering and construction tasks. Ernest’s trade as a Carpenter made him well suited to that work. For his War Service, Ernest was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Ernest Purton is named on the original Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. His unit is given as Royal Engineers. However, the only records found show him serving in the 11th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment. On the Centenary Revision of the Roll, both these units are listed. His brother Bertie Purton, Royal Engineers, has been added to the Centenary Revision of the Roll. His cousins Edwin Purton, (recorded as Edward on the original Roll), Frederick Purton R.I.P. and Reginald Purton are also named on both Rolls.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
There is a small discrepancy between the address given on Ernest’s Absent Voters’ list entries and his Electoral Register entries. However, that may be the result of handwriting being difficult to read on the original submissions for Absent Voters’ lists. They record his home address as Cottage, Ashridge Workyard. However, Electoral Registers for Ernest and Florence show their address as Cottage, Ashridge Woodyard, where they lived until Autumn 1922.
In 1921, Ernest Purton, a 38 year old married man, joined the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, Cabinetmakers & Joiners. He was a member of the Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted (Composite) Branch. His obituary states that he worked for Messrs. Honour of Tring and then, for many years, with Messrs. East and Son Ltd. of Berkhamsted.
In 1923 Ernest and his family moved to 22 Shrublands Road, Berkhamsted. While living in Berkhamsted he was, according to information in his obituary, organist at Potten End Baptist Chapel. However, in 1930 they returned to 5 Hudnall, previously Ernest’s uncle’s house. They therefore moved back next door to his mother, who still lived at 6 Hudnall.
Ernest’s entry in the 1939 Register of 29th September 1939 reads: “Joiner, Timber, Wheelwright etc Factory”, which would have been East & Son Ltd. in Berkhamsted. Florence had “Unpaid Domestic Duties” while Nora was a Bookkeeper and Cashier.
However, on 19th July 1941, Ernest Purton of 5 Hudnall died suddenly aged 58, having been in failing health for the previous three months. Two days later, following a funeral service at Hudnall Methodist Chapel, he was buried in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden. According to a copy of his obituary, believed to have come from “The Hertfordshire, Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser” for the week ending 26th July 1941, he was “most regular in his attendance” at the “fine new Methodist Church in Hudnall-lane”, where he was organist, having previously been the organist at the old Hudnall Methodist Chapel.
Ernest’s widow Florence later moved to 2 Nursery Terrace, Potten End. She then died aged 80, on 20th December 1960, in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead. On 24th December, she was buried with Ernest in Little Gaddesden churchyard.
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
6. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Great Berkhamsted Rural
13. Little Gaddesden Burial Register 1941, 1960
14. Press cutting from “Daisy Thorn’s Scrapbook”. A miscellany of village information now held in the village archive.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson