Joseph Whiting 1869-1943

Parents: Jesse Whiting and Ellen Smith (1)Born: 18th December 1869 in Burton End, Haverhill.(1)
Baptised: 28th February 1880 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill.(1)
Married: Emma Jane Beck, on 29th July 1893 at Woolwich Registrars Office.(2,3)
Children: Dorothy Ellen Whiting b.1898 died in infancy, Winifred Ellen Whiting b.1900, Jack Whiting b.1903, Elsie Kate Whiting b.1905, Robert Whiting b.1907, Jesse Whiting b.1909 and Kathleen Margaret Whiting b.1913
Died: 2nd December 1943 in Withersfield. Buried at St Mary the Virgin, Withersfield.(5)

Bio: Joseph was the youngest child of Jesse and Ellen on the 1871 census, and the family are living in Burton End, where he was born. Joseph was baptised at the relatively late age of ten, and next year on the 1881 census Joseph appears as a scholar still living with his parents and siblings in Burton End.

At this time the most common occupations for a young lad to gravitate towards would be farm work, a job connected with the burgeoning textiles industry, or perhaps another craft such as shoemaking - his father's trade. There was, however, another option for those who wanted to see more of the world and maybe undertake a different sort of challenge. The armed forces. This was the path Joseph took, and thankfully his service records(3) remain intact providing us with a valuable insight into how his military career progressed.

At some point prior to March 1887 Joseph had decided to join the Suffolk Regiment. He served 56 days with the 3rd Battalion, but we do not get to learn why he stopped after just short of two months.

Most likely it was to transfer to the Royal Field Artillery, for on 30th March 1887 at Colchester he signed up for 12 years service with them, after having been attested before the Justice of the Peace for Suffolk on 28th March at Long Melford. Joseph made his mark, as he could not sign his signature. We also see he had been a labourer before he signed up.

Next Joseph had to undergo an army medical at Ipswich, and we get a description of him. He was 5ft 5 ½ inches, weighed 128 pounds and had a chest measurement of 34 inches. He was of fair complexion, with grey eyes and light brown hair. He had a scar in front of his right knee.

Joseph was No.60629 in the 2nd Brigade of Royal Field Artillery and he was a driver. In those days guns and equipment were transported by horses, so this meant that essentially he would be performing a lot of the same tasks as a groom, coachman, or horse-keeper like his sister Jane's husband, except in a military context.

His discharge notes sum this up well, describing him as a 'good groom, coachman - understands care and management of young horses'.

He served over four and a half years in the Artillery based in the UK until 24th September 1888 when he was posted to India. Without looking at Royal Artillery records we are unable to say where he was stationed in India, or indeed if he saw action over there. We do know that he was there for just over three years, and he returned to England on 17th November 1891.

On 31st December 1891 Joseph was transferred to the Army Service Corps, a new body that had been formed in 1888 from two different Commissariat and Transport departments which had dealt with transport and supply for the army. Joseph became a private, no. R10628, in this new organisation, and he would have been familiar with aspects of his new role from his days as a driver.

In 1893 Joseph married Emma Jane Beck in Woolwich.(2) She was orginally from Scottow, a village south of Cromer on the Norfolk coast.They had a daughter, Winifred, in 1900. After his initial period of 12 years service ended, Joseph was re-engaged and gained promotion to 2nd Corporal and Corporal in May 1900. He also gained a 2nd Class certificate of education in this year.

We see Joseph, Emma and Winifred living at 4 Red Lion Lane, Woolwich, on the 1901 census. Joseph occupation is given as 'soldier', and he is living in the same house as John Woodgate, a sergeant in the Army Service Corps.

On 1st November 1904 Joseph was promoted to Sergeant and was awarded a medal for long service and good conduct the next year.

When his second period of engagement ended, Joseph was discharged from the Army Service Corps on 27th March 1908 at the age of 39 years 6 months.

His conduct was described as Exemplary, with 'no offence in the whole service of 21 years' and 'no instance of drunkeness in the whole service of 21 years'. From what we know of the Victorian military, the latter was some achievement!

Upon his return to civilian life, Joseph already had a job lined up for himself. He was to be the publican of the Duke Inn in Withersfield, the village adjacent to Haverhill to the north.

The 1911 census shows Joseph as publican of the Duke Inn, where he lives with his five children Winifred, Jack, Elsie, Robert and Jesse. His wife Emma is assisting him in the business, and also living with them and performing a similar role is his sister Kate Whiting. They have a servant, Harriet Evered, a widow of 65.

According to an account by a descendant of Joseph, the pub was eventually renamed Rosehill Farm after Joseph bought 70 acres of land to go with it and 'They produced agriculture, turkeys, chickens, pigs and horses. They made hurdles for sheep, ground ash for tennis rackets, willow for cricket bats, thatching stakes were made from hazel. The chippings were burned for wood. The farm was sold when he died.'(4)

Although the pub no longer exists, it is most likely to have been at the site of The Dukes Cottage, Rosehill, Withersfield.

Joseph died on 2nd December 1943(5) and he is buried in Withersfield churchyard. The grave is situated to the north of the church, on the other side of it from the road. It is in the north west corner of this section of the graveyard. The lettering is quite hard to decipher, but it is just possible to make out the date on which he died and Emma Jane's name below his to show they are buried together. It looks like his wife Emma survived him by five years and died in 1948.(6)

Joseph's obituary appeared in the South West Suffolk Echo of 11th December 1943:
'The death occurred with unexpected suddenness on Thursday of last week, of Mr Joseph Whiting, of Rose Hill Farm, Withersfield, at the age of 74 years. Deceased came to the village some thirty-four years ago, when he became licensee of "The Duke" Inn, and during that time made many friends in the district. Some years ago he retired from this work to take up farming. Previous to coming to Withersfield, deceased was a member of the Plumstead Lodge of Freemasons. He leaves a widow, three sons and two daughters to mourn their loss.'

photo of Joseph and Emma's gravestone from Withersfield Churchyard. Grave is behind the church, in the north west corner of the graveyard. Click to enlarge. Thanks to Judy Stratford for the obituary.


(1) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1812-1900
(2) Marriage Register. 3rd Quarter 1893, Woolwich District, Volume 1d Page 1998
(3) National Archives: Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents, WO97 / 6229 / 68
(4) Account by Norm Whiting.
(5) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1943, Newmarket District, Volume 4a Page 1225.
(6) Death Register. 3rd Quarter 1948, Newmarket District, Volume 4b Page 728.