Walter Sweet’s WW1 Grave

As part of the World War 1 centenary the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) have been erecting new signs and replacing old WW1 headstones around the country as well as encouraging communities to write up the stories of their war dead.

GD has written up and spoken about our WW1 War Dead in Chitterne, including one, Walter Henry Sweet, who is not buried here in the village, nor on the battlefields abroad, he is buried in a Welsh village called Bryngwyn in Monmouthshire.

bryngwyn church
Bryngwyn St Peter church and graveyard

The Parish Council of Bryngwyn has also been trying to piece together Walter Sweet’s story. It has not proved to be an easy task for either our parish or theirs, as Walter is quite an elusive character. The entry in the Bryngwyn burial register states that he was a soldier who died ‘on the road’ and was buried on Sunday August 25th 1918.

Sweet, Walter Henry burial 1918

There are questions that immediately arise from this entry: What was Walter doing in Wales, how exactly did he die and why was his body not brought back to Chitterne?

Walter was a farrier by trade who worked shoeing horses at Chitterne Racing Stables in 1911, and in WW1 as a driver in the 2nd Reserve Horse Transport (RHT) section of the Army Service Corps based at Woolwich. Sadly his army records appear to have been lost, at least, they have not come to light, but presumably as a serving soldier he was in Wales on a mission. H of Bryngwyn PC has suggested that he was acquiring horses for the army, which sounds a reasonable assumption especially as he was staying at Little Cross Farm in Bryngwyn.

As to how he actually died, again H has asked around her community and says that:

CWGC could not help in the circumstances of his death but one of the Grand Dames of the village recalls from her youth (which would have been 20/30 years after his death) that he had been walking along the road and had been hit by a car which killed him (I knew there was a car accident but not how it caused his death).  I can only presume he was in the area on war business (obtaining horses).

The third question of why his body was not brought back is probably a question of economics and the time of year when his death occurred. He and his second wife Emma, whom he married in 1911, lived at 10 Townsend, with Emma’s two children, Harry and Gladys, by her first husband Henry Grant. Emma lived for another 20 years, she passed away in 1938. Walter was survived by his two sons John Harold and Walter Henry Sweet from his first marriage in 1899 to Alice Elizabeth Prince in Bromley, they remained in Kent. Walter’s local nickname was ‘Sugary’ for obvious reasons. It was the fashion in Chitterne in those days for the men of the village to be nicknamed, but that’s another story.

White, Edith; Smith, Elsie; Sweet, Emma; Smith, Isabel & Pearce, Sophia 1927
Emma Sweet, Walter’s widow is the woman in the centre of this photo taken in Townsend in 1927. The others are L to R: Edith White, Elsie Smith (on the horse), Emma Sweet, Isabel Smith and Sophia Pearce.

The good news is that CWGC are to replace Walter’s old headstone in Bryngwyn, which wrongly named him as W A Sweet, with a brand new one in the next 9 to 12 months.

 

 

 

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Walter Sweet’s WW1 Grave

19 Townsend

19 Townsend small
Honeysuckle Cottage, 19 Townsend

This cottage has a horsey history. A farmer’s groom lived here in 1871, he was Joseph Mabbitt and his boss was Edward Gibbs of Chitterne Farm. Joseph lived in the cottage until he died in 1888 aged 58 years and his wife Elizabeth lived here until at least 1901.

townsend 1882 map small
1882 Corn Rents map, 19 Townsend is plot number 200, Joseph Mabbitt is listed as tenant on the schedule

By 1911 things had changed a little, Elizabeth Mabbitt had moved out to live with her niece a few doors away and Chitterne Farm had a new owner, but still with horses, racehorses.

Ronald Farquharson, bought the Chitterne Farm estate, which included Chitterne Lodge, from lord of the manor, Walter Hume Long in 1906. Farquharson, having made his fortune in rubber, now fancied a new career training and breeding racehorses. His plan was to breed horses at Tilshead Lodge, which he bought at the same time, and train them at Chitterne. His new estate in Chitterne included 19 Townsend, the groom’s cottage.

By 1911 Farquharson had installed (no pun intended!) nine of his workers at Chitterne Racing Stables in 19 Townsend. They were all young men and came from far and wide:

  • John Henry Hemming aged 21, straper, from Leamington, Warwickshire
  • James Walsh aged 19, stableman, birth place unknown
  • William Every aged 18, stableman, from Chester
  • Herman Trathen 21, jockey, from Yorkshire, birth place unknown
  • L Clever aged 17, stable lad, from Birmingham
  • John Gilly aged 28, stableman, from Bigbury
  • Walter Winn aged 38, stableman, from Rochdale, Lancashire
  • Robert Arnold aged 15, stable lad, from Earls Court, London
  • Harry Bond aged 24, stableman, from Bath, Somerset

Farquharson’s enterprise lasted until 1937 when the War Department (MoD) bought the whole of his estate including 19 Townsend, bringing an end to the horse connection. Troops replaced the horses at the stables in the second World War, and widower Ernest Ayres and his six children replaced the stable workers at 19 Townsend, followed by Walter and Florrie Lacey a couple evacuated from Imber in 1943.

I wonder what happened to all those stable workers? And how on earth did they all fit into number 19?

19 Townsend