Charlotte Whiting 1867-1943

Parents: Caroline Whiting and Isaac Argent.
Born: 1st September 1867 in Haverhill. (1)
Baptised: ?
Married: John Claydon, 21, batchelor, factory hand, of Crowland, Haverhill, son of Samuel Claydon, on 22nd June 1889 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill. Witnessed by H F Thake and Alice Maud Mary Argent.(2,3)
Children: Dorothy Caroline Claydon b.1891, William Isaac Claydon b.1893, John Claydon b.1895, Gladys Irene Claydon b.1897 died aged 15, Cecil Transvaal Claydon b.1900, Alfred Claydon b.1904 and Ernest Claydon b.1907
Died: 25th December 1943 at 130 Churchbury Road, Woolwich.(7) Buried on 31st December 1943 at Eltham Cemetery. Grave C/521.(8)

Bio: Charlotte was the illegitimate daughter of Caroline Whiting, born on 1st September 1867 most likely in Burton End, Haverhill, where her mother was living around this time. Caroline was only 16 at the time, and married Isaac Argent soon after the birth of Charlotte. DNA evidence that has come to light as a result of research by John Orchard indicates that Isaac was the father of Charlotte. His great grandmother was Caroline Whiting, and he has established significant DNA connections with both the Argents and the Gardener family, who Isaac's mother was a member of.

Charlotte is on the 1871 census aged 5 living in Burton End with her mother and step-father. Isaac is listed as a brewers labourer, and Caroline as a trousers finisher. She appears to have assumed the Argent name after her mothers marriage for census purposes at least.

On the 1881 census they are living in Camps Road. Isaac is still a brewers labourer, Caroline a factory hand finisher, and they have four daughters living with them; Charlotte, Alice, Martha and Lillie.

In 1889 Charlotte married John Claydon. Her name was given as Whiting, and she was still living in Camps Road at the time. John Claydon was the son of Samuel Claydon and Eliza Coote and had been born on 31st May 1868 in Crowland, Haverhill. He was baptised at St Mary's Church on 21st June 1868.(4)

Sadly, both Charlotte's parents died in quick succession after her marriage. Isaac died on 18th November 1889 aged 42 after an asthma attack, and Caroline died the next year of uterine cancer aged only 39.

On the 1891 census, Charlotte and John are living at 39 Burton End, Haverhill. John is working as a mat weaver. Also living there are Charlotte's sisters Lily Ethel Argent, 10, who is at school, and Alice Argent, 19, who is working as a domestic servant. There is a visitor, Mercy Wise, 22, born in Thatcham, Berks., also a domestic servant.

Charlotte and John had several children over the following decade. Dorothy Caroline in 1891, William in 1894, John in 1895, Gladys Irene in 1897 and the delightfully topical Cecil Transvaal Claydon in 1900, named after the region in South Africa which would have become well-known because of the war there at that time.

The 1901 census sees the family still living in Haverhill, but this time at 11 Chauntry Road. John is working as a hair brush weaver, and Charlotte as a coat finisher. All the children previously mentioned are there too.

At the time of the 1911 census, Charlotte, John and children William, John, Gladys, Cecil Transvaal, Alfred and Ernest are all living at 11 Chauntry Road. The parents jobs remain the same, whilst William and John are warp winders and Gladys is a basting puller at Gurteen's.

Gladys Irene died soon after this, aged only 15, and was buried at Haverhill cemetery on 19th April 1913.(5)

The family moved to 6 Vine Cottages, Haverhill, sometime just after the 1911 census. We know this from the Military Service Records of John and his eldest son William Isaac, which provide us with a great insight into the Claydon's experience of the First World War.(12,17)

Although he would have actually been 46 at the outbreak of war, John Claydon attested at Haverhill for the 5th Battalion Suffolk Regiment as Private No.2724 on 16th November 1914. Seemingly eager to join up, he gave his age as 35 years!

John's address was 6 Vine Cottages, and we see from a medical inspection that he was 5ft 7ins with a 36 inch chest, good vision and physical development.

Whether giving a false age played some part is not clear, but John would eventually be declared unfit for service on 16th September 1916 having served at home up until this point. He was eventually discharged on 29th September 1916. The medical report states he was in 64th Provisional Battalion, 2/5th Suffolks, had previously been a factory hand, and this time his age is correctly identified as 48. The disability that is given as a reason for discharge is described thus: 'Patient states that in 1910 he noticed the veins in his right leg getting bigger; they have got worse lately...patient has varicose veins in his right leg, they have been getting worse lately, and cause him considerable pain and discomfort on standing or walking about for long'. This was deemed to be a permanent condition.

John got a pension upon discharge, and an allowance for his youngest three children. We get to see their birth-dates, here, too. Cecil Transvaal was born 1st November 1900, Alfred on 27th February 1904 and Ernest on 17th February 1907.

It is of interest that correspondence dated 19th January 1917 shows that John and his family were currently living at 76 Roydon Road, Plumstead. This appears likely to be a misspelling of 76 Roydene Road, Plumstead.

The military records for John's son William(12) show that he relocated to London in 1912 and found work as a Butler for George Cecil Whiteley, barrister, at 42 Argyle Road, Kensington.

He had signed up as Private 1348 at Kensington on 29th October 1912 for 4 years service with the Territorials, not knowing that war was just around the corner. We see he was 5ft 7ins with a 33 inch chest and he was given a clean bill of health.

When war came, William was called up with the 1/13th (Kensington) Battalion London Regiment on the 5th August 1914, and embarked at Southampton for France on the 3rd November 1914. He was in France for a month before getting frost bite and being sent home on the 5th December aboard the Hospital Ship Carisbrooke Castle. William was transferred to the 3/13th London Regiment and was then on home duty for some time.

Tragically, it was during this period that Charlotte's second son, John, who served as Private 15736 in the 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment was killed on 9th May 1915 fighting in France. His parents address is given as 191 Well Hall Road at this time(10), although this may have referred to a later date. In his book 'Letters from the Front', Roy Brazier says 'Mr & Mrs Claydon of Vine Cottages had also been notified that their son Pte J Claydon of the Berkshire Regiment, was discovered dead in a British trench just north of Fromelles, by a German patrol. He was officially declared as dying while a POW.'(11)

On the 3rd March 1916 William was sent back to France, most likely aware by this time of the fate that had befallen his younger brother.

It was during this second tour in the front line that William suffered shell-shock as the result of a near direct hit by enemy bombardment on Friday 21st July 1916. 'Letters from the Front', features an extract of the letter he wrote to his mother Charlotte at Vine Cottages describing his experience: 'No doubt you are worrying about me, but there is no need for you to worry now as I am getting on pretty well now.I do not know if I shall have the luck to get back to England with my complaint. I hope I shall, as I think I have had my share, but in case I do not get home I shall be quite alright. I suppose you have received the letter and postcard that the chaplain sent you. I was too bad to write when I came into hospital. I think I must consider myself very lucky now after what I went through last Friday morning. I shall never forget it. We had just come out for a rest. It was the second morning after we came out and we had just finished breakfast when they started bombarding the village that we were billeted in. Of course we all had orders to run to the nearest trenches when a shell burst five yards from me, and I was blown up and remembered nothing more for three days. How I escaped any injuries I do not know, but thank God I am safe. I do not want another experience like it. My nerves are all gone, but do not let this worry you because I am getting along fine now. Do not write to me until I know for certain where I am going. I might have the luck to get to England.'(13)

William was indeed lucky, and returned to England on 28th August 1916 with a diagnosis of shell-shock and a sprained ankle. He spent 70 days in the 1st Birmingham War hospital from 31st August to 8th November 1916 and never returned to France, instead serving on home duty with the 13th Battalion London Regiment. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 1st May 1917, then Corporal on 23rd January 1918. He was compulsorily transferred to the 426th Agricultural Company Labour Corps, as acting Lance Corporal no.648104, on 12th September 1918.

This seems to be due to health issues that may have resulted from his shell-shock. He was diagnosed with epilepsy, and given a medical classification of 'B3', which was 'only suitable for sedentary work'.(14)

William Claydon was demobbed on 19th February 1919, and his address was given as 191 Well Hall Road which appears to be where his parents had moved to at some point during the war. He received 'Pip, Squeak and Wilfred' - all three war medals.(15) William lived in Fulham after the war and died at Fulham hospital in 1938, possibly as a result of health problems caused by his wartime service.(16) He was buried at Brompton Cemetery on 20th May 1938.(17)

The London Electoral Registers show Charlotte and John were living at 191 Well Hall Road, Woolwich, from 1918 to 1934 and then at 130 Churchbury Road, Woolwich, from 1936.(12) John Orchard (great grandson of Charlotte and John) says that in the years around 1919 John Claydon was working as a stores labourer at Woolwich Arsenal, and that the accomodation at Well Hall Road was used by its employees at this time.

Son Ernest and his wife Florence lived with them at the address at Churchbury Road in the later years of their lives and remained there afterwards.

Charlotte died on Christmas day 1943 at 130 Churchbury Road, and was buried at Eltham Cemetery on 31st December.(7,8)

John died on 17th July 1951 at the same address, and was buried alongside Charlotte on 21st July 1951.(9,8)


(1) Birth Register. 3rd Quarter 1867, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 418. (D.O.B from birth cert, courtesy of John Orchard)
(2) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p28 of 37
(3) Marriage Register. 2nd Quarter 1889, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 856
(4) SFHS, Suffolk Baptism Index, Clare Deanery, 1813-1900.
(5) Haverhill Cemetery, burial records,
(6) London Electoral Register, 1832-1965,
(7) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1943, Woolwich District, Volume 1d Page 1154
(8) Burial Register Entry, Eltham Cemetery, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Grave no. C/521,
(9) Death Register. 3rd Quarter 1951, Woolwich District, Volume 5d Page 665
(10) CWGC, Casualty Details,,%20JOHN
(11) 'Letters from the Front' , Roy Brazier, 2010, Romary Books, p.69
(12) British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, National Archives WO363,, name: cla, starting image:203692.
(13) 'Letters from the Front' , Roy Brazier, 2010, Romary Books, p.111-2
(15), British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index, 1914-1920
(16) Death Register. 2nd Quarter 1938, Fulham District, Volume 1a Page 331
(17) British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, National Archives WO363,, name: cla, starting image:71617.