Ephraim Whiting 1849-1927

Location of the grave of Ephraim Whiting.

Ephraim's grave at burial ground opposite Leverington Church. Click to enlarge.

Parents: Henry Whiting and Mary Scott (1)
Born: 28th March 1849 in Burton End, Haverhill. (1,2)
Baptised: 16th April 1849 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill.(1)
Married: Caroline Beard, 19, of Hardwick, Cambridgeshire, daughter of William Beard, on 11th May 1871 at St Mary's Church, Hardwick. Witnessed by Mary Ann Beard and William Barringer.(3,4,7)
Children: Ellen Whiting b.1872, Emmelina Whiting b.1876, Agnes Whiting b.1877, William Henry Whiting b.1881, Alfred Arthur Whiting b.1884, Percy Walter Whiting b.1886 and David Charles Whiting b.1889.
Died: 7th February 1927 at Mayes Lane in Leverington.(5,7,8) Buried at St Leonard's Church, Leverington on 10th February 1927.(7,8)

Bio: Ephraim is on the 1851 census living with his parents and siblings in Burton End. Here we find him again at the time of the 1861 census, in Burton End living with a large family and working as an agricultural labourer. At some point in the next decade Ephraim must have decided to leave home and find work outside of Haverhill.

On the 1871 census, Ephraim is living in Coton, a village just west of Cambridge. He is an agricultural labourer, and lodger in the household of Eliza Elsome(?), 58, laundress and widow. Her son Joseph Elsome, 21, also a labourer, is living there along with a daughter Emily, 16.

Shortly after this census, Ephraim was to marry Caroline Beard who was from Hardwick, the next village to the west of Coton on the St Neots Road in Cambridgeshire.

We do not know how they came to meet; but it appears that they moved around a bit after their marriage - maybe Ephraim was always relocating to find work. According to the 1881 census, his first daughter, Ellen, was born in Comberton, his second Emmelina was born in Trumpington, his third Agnes was born in Gazeley, before it appears the family settled in Teversham. Here is where they are on the 1881 census, where Ephraim is working as an agricultural labourer. And believe it or not, living nextdoor is another family from Haverhill - his brother Thomas Whiting, a few years his junior, with his wife Louisa (nee Plumb) and their three children.

Sons Percy and David were both born in Teversham. Percy was baptised there on 19th July 1886, and David on 23rd June 1889(10).

For the 1891 census, Thomas Whiting has moved on, but Ephraim remains in Teversham, living with Caroline and their four sons, the girls having left home.

The family moved again sometime over the next ten years, because the census of 1901 finds them living in Gorefield Road, Leverington, near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Ephraim is listed as being a groom and gardener, and interestingly the box for 'Deaf and dumb, blind, lunatic or imbecile, feeble-minded' is ticked beside his name - haven't seen this on any of the other censuses, mind. Their eldest daugher, Ellen is back living with them - she is a dressmakers assistant. The other children still at home are Alfred, Percy and David.

On the 1911 census Ephraim and Caroline are still living in Gorefield Road, and Ephraim is now a fruit grower. Their son David is the only child still living at home.

Ephraim lived for another 16 years after this, and remained in Leverington, dying there at Mayes Lane in 1927.(5,7)

I happened to be passing Leverington recently, and stopped off at St Leonards church to try and locate Ephraim's grave. It is a big churchyard with a lot of headstones, most of which seemed either too old or too recent. The likely location seemed to be in a burial ground opposite the church, but I had no joy looking there either.

Afterwards I got in touch with one of the churchwardens, Julia, who was incredibly helpful. Not only did she provide a map of the burial ground with burial details, but she also managed to locate the grave and take a photo for me.

The grave plot (see picture) commemorates Ephraim, his wife Caroline, who died on 25th February 1927(8), and their son Percy Whiting who was killed on 12th April 1918 serving as a Private No.31442 with 11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers during the First World War. Prior to the Lancashire Fusiliers, Percy had served in the Royal Field Artillery. He married Clara Miller in 1915 (12).

The War Diary of 25th Division, 74th Infantry Brigade (of which the 11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers was a part) still exists (11) allowing us to get an idea of the circumstances surrounding Percy's death. A famous person serving in the very same battalion was Lieutenant J.R.Tolkien, author of 'Lord of the Rings'. He was removed from duty as unfit for service on 8th March 1918, about a month before Percy died.(9) 11th Battalion were in France in April 1918, involved in the Battle of Lys which saw the Germans make a last desperate attempt to break through the British lines.

At 2.a.m. on 10th April 1918 the 11th Battalion were ordered to secure the hamlet of Croix-du-Bac, 3.5 kilometres south of the village of Steenwerck. It was an incredibly dark night, and after initial success their soldiers became bogged down in street fighting and attacks by snipers and enemy machine guns based in houses. It seems the Germans may have been expecting this kind of situation to develop because the War Diaries show they seemed well prepared and were able to inflict heavy casualties on the British troops. As day broke, the enemy attacked in strength astride the Bac St Maur - Croix du Bac road, and also around both sides of the village of Steenwerck in the afternoon. On the 10th, in total 8 ordinary ranks were killed in action and 89 wounded, with 4 wounded & missing.

On the morning of 11th April, and advance was ordered to clear the outskirts of Steenwerck, and the battalion succeeded in capturing the outskirts of Steenwerck after much hand to hand fighting with heavy casualties on both sides. The battalion then withdrew from this position and dug in on a line following a nearby light railway. 2 ordinary ranks were killed this day, and 51 wounded in action.

There is every likelihood that Percy was one of the soldiers wounded on the 10th or 11th April and subsequently died on the 12th as there were no casualties reported on that day.

If you are a descendant of Ephraim or Percy and would like the grave cleared, the church said they'd be happy to do this.


(1) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p11 of 37
(2) Birth Register. 2nd Quarter 1849, Risbridge District, Volume 12 Page 441
(3) Ancestry.com/Genealogical Society of Utah, Place:
Hardwick, Date Range: 1871 - 1876; Film Number: 1040481.
(4) Marriage Register. 2nd Quarter 1871, Caxton District, Volume 3b Page 767
(5) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1927, Wisbech District, Volume 3b Page 856
Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 6th August 1861, issue 4128. C19th British Library Newspapers.
(7) Cambridge Family History Society, parish registers, CD/PR/082
(8) Grave photograph, records and map courtesy of Leverington churchwarden Julia King.
(9) Ancestry.com, UK, Soldiers who died in the great war 1914-1919.
(10) Cambridgeshire Baptism Transcriptions, Findmypast.
(11) UK, WW1 War Diaries, 25th Div, Piece 2246: 74 Infantry Brigade (1915 Sep - 1918 Aug).
(12) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1915, Wisbech District, Volume 3b Page 1877