Surname: Burnham

Frank Burdett Burnham (1879-1958)

In 1879 Queen Victoria was on the throne, Benjamin Disraeli was Prime Minister and it was the 3rd coldest year on record at the time. It was on Sunday, 12th October, of this year that baby Frank Burdett was born to parents Frank and Emma Caroline Burnham (nee Burdett) at 26 Museum Street in St George, Bloomsbury, Middlesex. Baby Frank’s unusual middle name came from his mother’s maiden name, Burdett and Frank himself would, in time, pass this middle name down to his 3rd child (his 2nd son), John Burdett Burnham.

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Birth certificate of Frank Burdett Burnham – https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates

Museum Street, opposite the British Museum in the West of London, runs North to South between Great Russell Street and New Oxford Street. Charles Booth would, in 1889, list this street as ‘fairly comfortable’.

Frank Burdett Burnham’s parents had married in Maidenhead, Berkshire in February 1879 and both were shown as living there, with their respective parents at the time. By the 1881 census the family were living with Emma’s parents, in Bridge Street, Maidenhead, so why little Frank Burdett Burnham was born in Bloomsbury will probably remain a mystery. Did they have a short period of living in the area before returning to Maidenhead?

His birth certificate shows his birth was registered by a C. L. Abbott, who was present at his birth. In both 1871 and 1881 censuses, a George and Caroline Abbott are living at 26 Museum Street with their family. Looking quickly into a marriage for this couple I found a marriage between George Abbott and Caroline Lucy Bennett, in 1846, whose ages fit with the census information. Unfortunately, no connection can be found to Frank’s family at this time.

It appears that Frank Burdett would be Frank and Emma’s only child.

Finding Frank Burdett in 1891, at age 11 is difficult. His father, Frank, a Printer by trade, had died in March 1888 of Typhoid Fever complicated by Pneumonia. He was only 34 years old. Frank Burdett was then just 8 ½ and it must have been a traumatic time for him, especially as his father had been ill for a month with this highly infectious disease.

Where was young Frank Burdett when his mother re-married, rather hastily, to Henry George Warren in the June of 1888 and where was he when the 1891 census was taken?

  • Was he at the Home for Little Boys in South Darenth, Kent as a Frank Burnham can be found in 1891
  • Is he living with married Emma Burdett, 29, in 1891as her son but with his surname as Barnham (possibly misheard from Burnham) and with her using her maiden name
  • Or is he with his mother, now Emma Caroline Warren, yet to be found?

All these are purely speculation as I cannot be certain which if any are my Frank Burdett Burnham.

On Wednesday, 6 February 1901, now 21 years old and working for the Electric Company Service, Frank Burdett Burnham married Annie Leaver by licence at the Register Office in the District of Windsor. The address given for Frank Burdett is 9 Alma Terrace, Arthur Road, Clewer Without (now 93-97 Arthur Road), this is just outside the town of Windsor, Berkshire.

Annie is shown as living at 19 Victoria Street, New Windsor, Berkshire, however, this may be an error as, in the 1901 census, Annie’s parents are living with her at 19 Victoria Street, Maidenhead. The Superintendent Registrar, co-signing the marriage certificate, is living at the time in Grove Road, Windsor close to Windsor’s Victoria Street which may account for the error in stating New Windsor. Witnesses at their marriage were Thomas Leaver, probably Annie’s Father, and a Michael Woolven.

In the 1901 census Michael Woolven was a Licensed Victualler at the Two Brewers Inn, New Windsor, about 10 minutes walk from Alma Terrace where Frank Burdett Burnham was listed as living at the time of his marriage. Maybe he enjoyed a walk to the lovely 17th century pub on the edge of Windsor Great Park.

Coincidentally I visited this lovely pub in Windsor about 11 or 12 years ago unknowingly stepping in the footsteps of at least Michael and his family, if not my great grandfather. I must try and get back and take photos.

Frank Burdett Burnham is living at 13 Rayfield Terrace, Maidenhead, in 1901,  as head of the household and single, although this is almost 2 months after his wedding. Boarding with Frank at this time is his aunt, Frances, and her husband Arthur Creed. Also visiting is an Emma Burdett, not his mother, as she is only 27, but more than likely to be another relation who is proving difficult to find. Curiously, his wife Annie is living with her parents in Victoria Street, Maidenhead, has his surname and is stated as married. It is difficult to know the reason for the disparity in their marital status and locations.

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1901 census for Frank Burnham at 13 Rayfield Terrace, Maidenhead – www.findmypast.co.uk
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1901 census for Annie Burnham (nee Leaver) at 19 Victoria Street, Maidenhead – www.findmypast.co.uk

Although their daughter, Gladys Irene, was born in March 1901 there is no sign of her in the census either at her place of birth, 15 Lower Boston Road, Hanwell, Middlesex, or with either of her parents in Maidenhead, in fact, she is nowhere to be found in 1901 despite being born 3 weeks before census night. Looking at the 1901 census for the address where Gladys Irene was born, we find Matilda Smith, a Monthly Nurse. This is a woman who cared for a mother and her new baby after childbirth. I can find Gladys V Burnham in 1901 who is only a month old, also born in Hanwell and is showing as ‘adopted’ with a family in Reading, Berkshire. This could be my Gladys Irene, as I cannot find a birth record for a Gladys V at all, nor in further censuses or death records. It is possible that bad handwriting from the original schedule led to the enumerator recording Gladys’s middle initial as ‘V’ rather than ‘I’ into the census book.

During these years, they had seen Queen Victoria die and her son succeed her to become King Edward VII. The 2nd Boar War, which had begun in 1899, was to end in 1902.

Electoral registers show that Frank Burdett Burnham was still living at 13 Rayfield Terrace Maidenhead in 1902 and by 1905 he had moved to 37 Kings Stable Square, Eton in Berkshire. Kings Stable Square still exists and is close to the River Thames, therefore, a possible opportunity of work for Frank. As Annie was not qualified to vote at this time, and therefore not on the register, it can only be presumed that she, and little Gladys, were living at both these addresses with him.

By 1909 the family were living at 9 East Road, Maidenhead, and this is also the address given for their daughter, Gladys Irene in the admission register for Gordon Road Council School, Maidenhead in 1910.

King Edward would die in 1910 and they would see his son, King George V succeed him.

The family were still at East Road by the 1911 census where Frank Burdett had given his occupation as Waterman (Thames). This was a good size semi-detached house with 6 rooms including the kitchen. The layout was likely to be two ‘living rooms’ downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs. Frank would now have had a longer journey to get to work on the River Thames at Maidenhead than he had from their previous addresses. They had a son, Francis Malcolm, born the following year and remained at East Road until 1915.

The age for conscription for WW1 in March 1916 for all single men was 18 – 41 years and, in the May, the government had extended conscription to married men. Frank Burdett was already 36, had a wife and two children. For whatever reason, Frank did not go to war. Whether Frank he did not want to go and sought an exemption, or it was his employer who needed him to remain in his occupation, is not fully known, but there is a report of tribunals for exemption for Frank Burdett Burnham in the Reading Mercury newspaper. The first was in June 1916, when his employer, Mr Rose, had given evidence that Frank Burdett ‘was an electrician, and did general work with the launches and boat lettings’ He also explained that he had already had his son called up and Frank was needed at the boatyard. An exemption for three months was allowed and, on 2 September of that year, the same paper reported on the second tribunal, where Frank Burdett had applied for a conditional exemption, but this was disallowed and he had the real prospect of leaving his wife and two children, aged 15 and 4, to go to war.

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June 1916 report of Tribunal – Reading Mercury – https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
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September 1916 report of Tribunal – Reading Mercury – https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

Regardless of this, it appears that Frank Burdett had already enlisted in the Royal Engineers (RE) reserves in December 1915 and then was called up, after the tribunal, to serve in the first world war. He was posted as a Sapper in the Inland Waterways and Docks Division on the 20 September 1917.

Interestingly, the second newspaper Tribunal report, in 1916, states that he was ‘of Bell Street’ but the address given on the Attestation form for Frank Burdett’s next of kin, Annie, was Riversdale, Riverside, Maidenhead and, on his Enlistment Report, this was address was crossed through and Cleive[?] View, Boulter’s Lock, Maidenhead was added.

Frank was quite a slight man with the details from the Royal Engineers (RE) describing him as 5 ft 6 ½ ins, 116 lbs (8st 4lbs) and a chest expansion from 31 – 34 ins.

At 38 years old, on 23 Oct 1917, Frank Burdett embarked with the British Expeditionary Force and would remain in France until returning home to the reserves on 15 May 1919. During this time the Spanish Flu epidemic would sweep through the country, killing over 50 million people worldwide, over 3 times more than the war itself. Thankfully, as well as surviving the war himself, his family would survive the epidemic.

Frank had been well regarded in his time with the RE as he was awarded several pay increases. In January 1918 his original ‘Proficient’ rate had been re-assessed to ‘Skilled’ and he had progressed through ‘Superior’ to ‘Very Superior’ rates of pay by January 1919.

It appears that during this time, Annie, with 2 children, had moved to live with her parents, as a letter, of unknown date, was sent to the RE giving a temporary address of 58 Bell Street, Maidenhead. The 1914 electoral register shows her father Thomas Leaver was registered at this address. By the time Frank Burdett was demobbed, in June 1919, they were living at 19 Bell Street. across the road from no. 58.

With two children, and by the end of June 1921 another son, John Burdett, this smaller terraced house with only 2 bedrooms would have been a lot less spacious than Frank and Annie would have been used to at East Road. Frank’s occupation was given as an Electrician Wireman on John’s birth certificate and the 1921 census, 10 days earlier, shows that Frank was working at a Motor Car Manufacturer in Maidenhead.

Two years later his daughter, Gladys Irene married Alfred William Levi Ridgley and in 1938 his eldest son, Francis Malcolm, married Priscilla Gladys Mary Pibworth. Francis and Priscilla would eventually move their young family of two sons to Australia. This must have been quite a wrench for Frank and Annie. Australia was a long way away but with good prospects for this young family so they would most likely have had mixed emotions at the time.

In 1936 King George V died and was initially succeeded by his son, Edward VIII, until his abdication later that year an event that shocked the nation. This meant that his brother, Prince Albert, was unexpectedly succeeded to the throne as George VI for which he was not really prepared.

At some point, by the time of the 1939 register and still living at Bell Street, Frank Burdett had become a House Painter and Decorator. His father-in-law, Thomas Leaver, was himself a House Decorator and, therefore, Frank was possibly working for him. He would also see the world at war again, which would not end until 1945.

Frank’s youngest son married Violet Dorothy Quelch in 1941 and in February 1949, less than a year after The National Health Service was established, and just 2 days before their 48th wedding anniversary, Frank’s wife Annie died of a Pulmonary Embolism at their home, aged 68. She was buried 5 days later, in St Michael’s Cemetery, Bray, Berkshire. 

In 1950 Frank would again see a war develop, although fought mainly by the United States, this time the Korean War which would not end until 1953. During which time, in 1952, the reluctant monarch, George VI, would die and this time a queen would succeed, Queen Elizabeth II, the sixth monarch in Frank Burdett Burnham’ life.

Frank’s wife, Annie, didn’t live to see their granddaughter, Gladys Mary marry John Patterson, known as Jack, in 1953, but Frank Burdett did and he also saw his great grandchildren Julia Margaret and David John, born in 1955 and 1958 respectively.

Frank Burdett died just over two months later on Wednesday, 14 May 1958, from Broncho Pneumonia with Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema. He was 76 years old. He was cremated on 19 May 1958 at the Henley Road (Caversham) Crematorium, Reading, Berkshire and his ashes were taken away for burial and, although his ashes are probably buried with his wife, I cannot find a record of this at this time.

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