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Walton Street Methodist Chapel: Reuben NICHOLLS (1890–1916)

Reuben Nicholls was born in Oxford in 1890 (reg. third quarter), the son of William Nicholls (born  in Hinton, Wiltshire in c.1830, the son of William Nicholls senior, another umbrella maker) and his second wife Ann Elizabeth Edwards, also known as Elizabeth Ann (born at the Plume of Feathers pub, 73 George Street, Oxford in 1854/5 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 2 February 1855, the daughter of the publican James Edwards).

Reuben's father's first wife was called Lettice, and was born in Wiltshire in c.1832). She is probably the Lettice Guy who married a William Nicholls in the Clifton district of Gloucestershire in 1858. They had one son:

  • William Thomas Nicholls (born in Abingdon in 1869, reg. third quarter).

By the time of the 1881 census William Nicholls (50) was an umbrella maker, living at 92 Cardigan Street with his wife Lettice (48), and their son William (11). Also living with them were William senior's nephew Thomas Nicholls (19), who was an Oxford-born cutler; his niece Lettice Austin (17), who was a hawker born in Lechlade, Gloucestershire; and his nephew Charles Austin (6), born in Abingdon.

William's first wife Lettice Nicholls died at 47 Cardigan Street in 1883 at the age of 47 and was buried in St Sepulchre's Cemetery on 1 April (St Paul's grave ref. Q.36).

On 30 September 1883 at St Paul's Church, Oxford, William Nicholls, described as a widowed umbrella maker, married his second wife Ann Elizabeth Edwards: they were both then living at 92 Cardigan Street, and both signed their name with a cross. They had seven children children (of whom five were still alive in 1911), including:

  • Penelope Nicholls, known as Nellie (born in Oxford in 1884, reg. second quarter)
  • Sarah Nicholls (born in Oxford in 1886, reg. third quarter)
  • John Nicholls (born in Oxford in 1889, reg. second quarter): died 1899
  • Reuben Nicholls (born in Oxford in 1890, reg. third quarter)
  • George Nicholls (born in Oxford in 1892, reg. second quarter)

On 2 January 1889 at St Clement's Church, Reuben's half-brother William Thomas Nicholls (19), an umbrella maker of of 92 Caroline Street, married Ada Frances Griffin (18): William signed his name with a cross. At the time of the 1891 census William Thomas Nicholls (21) was still working as an umbrella maker, living at 2 Gordon Row, St Clement's with Ada (20), who was a laundress.

Reuben himself was born in 1890, and at the time of the 1891 census he was five months old and living at 92 Cardigan Street with his father William (62), who was an umbrella maker, his mother Ann (35), and his older siblings Penelope (7), Sarah (4), and John (2).

Reuben's older full brother John Nicholls died at 92 Cardigan Street at the age of ten in 1899 and was buried on 4 December (recorded in the burial register of St Paul's Church).

In 1901 Reuben (10) was still at 92 Cardigan Street with his father William (71), who was still working at home as an umbrella maker, his mother Ann (45), and his older sisters Nellie (16) and Sarah (14), who were respectively a hawker and an umbrella maker, and his younger brother George (9).

On 17 January 1904 at St Paul's Church, Oxford, Reuben's sister Nellie Nicholls (19) married Christopher Jackson (25), a labourer who lived nearby at 103 Cardigan Street, and they settled at 12 Worcester Street.

In 1906 in the Brentford district his sister Sarah Nicholls married the watch & clock repairer Frank William Dunn, and they settled at 236 Banbury Road.

Reuben's father William Nicholls died at 106 Cardigan Street at the age of 79 in 1909 and was buried on 3 April (recorded in burial register of St Paul's Church).

By the time of the 1911 census Reuben Nicholls (20) had joined the army and was a Gunner based at Fort Purbrook Barracks in Cosham, Hampshire. His mother Ann, a widow of 56, now described herself as a chair caner and umbrella maker (working on her own account at home), and was living at 106 Cardigan Street with her son George (19), who was assisting in the business, her granddaughters Annie Jackson (6) and Daisy Dunn (4), widowed brother Alfred Edwards (66), who was a coal labourer, and her married niece Jane Parsons (36), who worked as a servant. She also had a boarder.

Reuben's mother Ann Elizabeth Nicholls was still listed as an umbrella maker at 106 Cardigan Street in the commercial section of Kelly's Directory for 1914/15. She died there at the age of 60 in 1915 and was buried on 4 August (recorded in burial register of St Paul's Church).

Poppy In the First World War Reuben Nicholls served as a Gunner in “D” Battery, 25th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery (Service No. 63976). He died in France at the age of 26 on 29 July 1916.

He is buried in the Dantzig Alley British Cemetery in Mametz (grave ref. VIII.D.1), and his family paid for the additional inscription UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN to be added to his headstone.

As well as being listed on the Walton Street Methodist Chapel memorial, he is also listed on the St Paul's Church war memorial.

After the war

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the early 1920s described Reuben's parents as living at 43 Aston Street, east Oxford, but in fact by 1915 they had both died and it was his sister Mrs Sarah Dunn (presumably his next of kin) who now lived there with her husband.

See also

© Stephanie Jenkins

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