William Ernest and Emma Sowter (née Carroll)

William Ernest and Emma Sowter (née Carroll)

The early years of William Ernest Sowter and Emma Carroll
William and Emma were born at Litchurch, Derbyshire. William lived at 106 High Street and Emma lived at 71 Nelson Street. They both went to St. Andrew’s School, Litchurch. It is most likely that William and Emma’s families were known to each other. Their fathers were Samuel Sowter and John Carroll who both worked at the same time at Litchurch Railway Station.

Emma Carroll was born on the 10th May 1869, and was one of the ten children of John Carroll and Sophia (née Litchfield). John was born in 1841 at Elstow, and Sophia was born in 1840 at Greyfriars Walk, Bedford. At the age of 21 years Sophia was a live in servant for Samuel and Sarah Ballard who lived at 26 Ampthill Street, Bedford. Samuel Ballard owned a drapery shop in the High Street, Bedford.

Sophia subsequently moved to Derbyshire where she married John Carroll on the 13th September 1863 at St. Alkmund’s Church, Duffield in Derbyshire. At the time of their marriage, they lived in the village of Ambergate, Derby. In 1880 John and Sophia with seven of their children, moved to Swinton in South Yorkshire where he became the Station master at Swinton railway station. The family lived at 1 Station Street, Swinton.

William Ernest Sowter was born on the 9th February 1870, and was one of the five children of Samuel Sowter and Elizabeth (née Coleman). Samuel was born in 1844 at Quarndon in Derbyshire, and Elizabeth was born in 1834 at West Buckland in Somerset. In 1866 Samuel began working for the Midland Railway at Stamford station in Lincolnshire. The following year he moved to Melton Mowbray station in Leicestershire.

The 1861 census records that Elizabeth was one of the nineteen servants who were employed by Captain Alexander Adair of Heatherton Park, Bradford-on-Tone, Somerset. Captain Adair was The High Sheriff of Somerset.

Samuel and Elizabeth were married on the 24th February 1868 at Derby. The following year they moved to Litchurch, Derby, where Samuel became the guard and platform foreman at Litchurch Station. He subsequently became the Station master at Peartree and Normanton stations in Derby.

William Sowter starts his journey to a successful career with the Midland Railway
On leaving school William attended the City and Guilds London Institute at Nottingham University College, where he gained a 1st class certificate in telegraphy (the long -distance transmission of written messages) and telephony (the working or use of telephones). In 1884 he started work on the Midland Railway as a telegraph operator. In 1898 he became the relief inspector at Derby.

The Marriage of William Sowter and Emma Carroll
William and Emma were married on the 21st August 1895 at St. Margaret’s Church, Swinton Yorkshire. After their marriage they lived at 8 Park Villas, London Road, Osmaston, Derbyshire. In 1902 William moved to Bedford to take charge of the entire block signalling of the London to Leicester line and all the branches. William and Emma and their two daughters, Dorothy and Kathleen lived at 154 Ampthill Road, Bedford. By 1910 the family had moved in to 11 Ampthill Road.

The funerals of John and Sophia Carroll
John died suddenly on the 19th September 1905 while he was visiting Emma and William at their home in Ampthill Road. His burial took place at St. Mary and St. Helena Churchyard, Elstow. Sophia survived John by 15 years. She died on the 15th March 1920 at 1 Station Street, Swinton. Her funeral took place at Swinton Churchyard.

The funerals of Samuel and Elizabeth Sowter
Samuel died on the 29th October 1912 at 49 Bateman Street, Derby. His burial took place at Nottingham Road Cemetery, Derby. Elizabeth later moved to Bedford and lived the rest of her life at 110 Denmark Street. Elizabeth died on the 27th December 1916. Her burial took place in the grave with Samuel.

William Sowter’s final years with the railway
In 1912 William supervised the running of the old London, Tilbury, and Southend Railway. In 1923 he became the District Assistant to the Chief of the Department, when the London and North-Western and Midland Companies merged with the London Midland and Scottish Railway (L.M.S.). He retired in 1930. He had been an Associate member of the Institution of Signal and Telegraph Engineers and also of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

Public Life
William began his political career when he stood unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in the November 1910 municipal bye-election in the old West Ward, which covered half of Bedford. In the November1911 municipal elections he was voted the Conservative candidate in the newly formed St. Mary’s and St. John’s Ward. He was also elected to the Bedford Town Council. From 1919 to 1943 he was Alderman of the Borough. He became a Justice of the Peace in 1925. William and Emma were Mayor and Mayoress of Bedford in 1919, 1920, 1936, and 1937, and Deputy Mayor and Mayoress in 1917, 1932, 1933, 1934, and 1938.

William was a Governor of the Harpur Trust, and Chairman of the Electricity Committee from 1917-to 1927 and from 1935 to 1949. He was a Freemason and was Worshipful Master of the Stuart Lodge 540. He was also Chief Ranger of the Ancient Order of Foresters.

William receives Special Awards for Political and Public Services in Bedford
On the 3rd June 1936 William was created a Member of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) In April 1944 he received the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Bedford in recognition of his 33 years of public service. This is the highest award that the council can bestow. Since 1902 William was the third person in Bedford to have received this award.

Emma Sowter
During the First World War Emma did much work for St. Leonard’s Church, the Red Cross and St. John. She received two certificates, one signed by Queen Alexandra and one from the Red Cross and Order of St. John, for her services.
In August 1945 William and Emma celebrated their golden wedding anniversary at the Dujon Restaurant. The Dujon was above Dudeney and Johnston the grocers at 34 36 High Street, Bedford.

Emma died on the 3rd November 1946 at her home, “Quarndon”, 28 Beverley Crescent. Her funeral service at Holy Trinity Church, Bedford, preceded her burial at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Section G7. 160



Dorothy Mary Sowter
William and Emma’s eldest daughter, Dorothy was born on the 5th July 1896 at Litchurch, Derby. Her christening took place on the 12th August 1896 at St. Andrew’s Church, Litchurch. Dorothy was 6 years of age when she moved to Bedford with her parents. Dorothy attended the Bedford Girls’ Modern School (now known as the Bedford Girls’ School).On leaving school Dorothy went to Hockerill Teacher Training College at Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire. Her first teaching post was at Clapham Road School, Bedford, (now known as the Livingstone Primary School) and then at the Harpur Central School (now occupied by Harpur Shopping Centre).

She then went as the Head Mistress of London Road Girls’ School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. She subsequently became the Head Mistress of the Chesterton Girls’ School, Newcastle.

Dorothy was an artist and musician of considerable talent, and was a member of Staffordshire Arts Club. She was one of the founders of the Victoria Homes for Aged Teachers and was the first Chairman of the Home in the Newcastle area. She also represented the Homes on the Central Committee in London.

On the 19th August 1935 Dorothy and her youngest sister, Winifred were among the 620 passengers on board the Cunard White Star passenger liner S.S. ”Laurentic” when it was in collision with the Blue Star freighter “Napier Star” in the Irish Sea. The passengers were asleep in their cabins when the crash happened. The crew awakened the passengers and asked them to put on lifebelts. Unfortunately, six seamen lost their lives. The liner sailed back to Liverpool. There were no injuries caused to the passengers.

Dorothy died on the 28th May 1949 in Stoke-on-Trent Hospital. Her funeral service at Trinity Church, Bedford, preceded her burial in the grave with her mother at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Section G7. 160

William’s burial and his final gift to his daughters
William died on the 16th February 1953 at “Quarndon”, 28 Beverley Crescent. His burial took place in the grave with Emma and his daughter Dorothy. Section G7. 160.

William had expressed in his Will. “My thanks to almighty God for the blessing of a happy fifty-one years of married life and for the gift of three true and loyal daughters, two of whom are still left to me”. He left the casket, presented to him by Bedford Corporation when he was made an Honorary Freeman in 1944, to his daughter Florence and the scroll then presented, to his daughter Winifred.

Florence Kathleen Sowter
Florence was born in Derby on the 2nd July 1902. The year she was born the family moved to Bedford. Florence was known as Kathleen in her professional life. On leaving school Florence went to the the Jerome Academy of Dramatic Art, at 83 London Road, Leicester. The Academy was founded in 1921 by Margaret Jerome and Winifred Crawford. In 1925 Florence received her final Diploma for Elocution and a further distinction of gaining the Academy’s Gold Medal. A few months later a branch of the Jerome Academy opened at Conduit Street, Bedford. Florence was in charge of the Bedford branch.

On the 2nd April 1929 Florence married Frank Clarabut Jackson at Holy Trinity Church, Bedford. Frank was born on the 7th September 1898 in Cambridge. During the First World War he had served as 2nd Lieutenant with the South Staffordshire Regiment. On the 2nd May 1918 Frank suffered from the poison gas, which was probably the most feared of all weapons in World War One. Two days later he was transferred to a hospital at Le Touquet, France.
Frank was the younger of the two sons of Edwin Jackson, a watchmaker and Annie Blaxland (née Clarabut). By 1928 Edwin Jackson was director and the chairman of his own firm of silversmiths and goldsmiths, and his sons, Frank and Edwin were the managing directors.
After their marriage Florence and Frank lived at The Beeches, Cambridge Road, Trumpington, Cambridge. By 1930 they were living at 33 Luard Road, Trumpington, Cambridge. Florence continued to give private elocution lessons from their home in Cambridge under the name of Kathleen Sowter.

Florence and Frank both died in 1983 at Cambridge.

Winifred Margaret Sowter
Winifred was the youngest daughter of William and Emma. She was born at Bedford on the 31st October 1910. Winifred attended the girls Modern School. On leaving school she attended Miss Gertrude Mary Brooks Myers Secretarial Training School at 20 De Parys Avenue, Bedford. At the age of 20 years, Winifred passed her typing exam, and achieved 80 words a minute.

On the 15th November 1943 Winifred married Captain Gilbert John Young Dickin at the Holy Trinity Church, Bedford. Both Winifred and Gibert lived at Beverley Crescent. Gilbert lived at No. 4 and Winifred lived at No. 28. Gilbert was born on the 21st May 1910 at Derby. He was the only child of Horace Croxall Dickin and Clara Ellen (née Young). Horace was an assistant railway telegraph inspector.

After leaving Bemrose School in Derby, Gilbert attended Derby Technical College, Nottingham University College, and the Bedford Technical Institute. He moved to London after leaving college where he began his working life as a Signal and Telegraph Engineer for the London Midland Scottish Railways. In July 1941 Gilbert joined the Royal Corps of Signals as a Lieutenant. In January 1943 he was promoted to the rank of Captain. At the time of their marriage, he was on leave from Italy.

Horace and Clara Dickin lived the rest of their days at” Yeaverley” 4 Beverley Crescent. Horace died in December 1963 and Clara died in September 1973. Their cremations at Foster Hill Road Cemetery preceded the burial of their remains in the Gardens of Remembrance. A plaque in remembrance to Horace and Clara is on the West Wall at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. (Plaque No Before A)

Gilbert and Winifred lived the rest of their lives in St. Albans, Hertfordshire. Gilbert died in 1984 and Winifred died in 1989.

Researched by Linda S. Ayres
Photography Linda S. Ayres

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 21st September 21st Sept 1905
Derbyshire Advertiser 8th November 1912
Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal 9th November 1912
Cambridge Daily News May 11th 1918
The Leicester Mail November 26th 1921
South Yorkshire Times and Mexborough and Swinton Times 20th March 1920
Aberdeen Press and Journal 19th August 1935
The English Provincial Trade
Bedfordshire Times and Standard 5th Sept 1930 and 8th January 1943 and 16th November 1943 and 24 August 1945 and 3rd June 1949 and 23rd May 1953
Beds Times and Independent 16th October 1925 and 23rd October 1925 and 5th Sept 1930 and 23rd August 1935 and 27th Sept 1935 and 5th April 1929 and18th Feb 1949
Elizabeth Sowter Death Certificate
Census 1841-1911
Family Research
Free BMD