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Selected biographies

T Beck
G S Jones
W G Lewin
W Lewin
E Lewin
G Peck
A Swift
H Vercoe
G Waite
W Watkins
F C Watkins
J W Watkins

Four stationmasters have been identified during the Midland Railway period and and three links between the wars between the wars. Because of the nature of the sources there is less information on the second group. In summary:

a. Midland Railway period:

Thomas Beck, c1850-c1861. Son of a button-maker in Birmingham, described variously as stationmaster and railway clerk during his tenure in Ashchurch. Moved away and later left railway employment. His sons did not follow him into the railways.

George Peck, c1861-1875. Origins not known. There were two sons, one of whom joined the Midland Railway but who may not have progressed beyond clerk.

William Lewin, 1875-1900. Son of a lime burner in Leicestershire. He also carried on a business as coal/coke/lime/salt merchant while stationmaster at Ashchurch, and bought a house in a nearby village. One of his sons joined the Midland Railway as a clerk, the other may have had a job with railway associations, but the detail for both is sketchy.

William Watkins, 1900 to at least 1918. His father was an innkeeper in Herefordshire. Both his sons joined the Midland Railway, starting as clerks at Ashchurch. One became stationmaster at Malvern, the other must be the great success of the railway fraternity at Ashchurch. After distinguished and decorated service as a soldier in World War 1 the son worked his way up the railway hierarchy to become a director of British Railways and a member of the British Transport Commission after World War 2.

The post of assistant stationmaster was created in 1864 and was filled first by G Hill, who had been a clerk at Bromsgrove. He was succeeded the following year by J Clarke who had been the machine lad at Ashchurch since mid-1864. The post had disappeared by 1871, perhaps replaced by (booking) clerk.

b. Inter-war years (LMS Railway)

See biographical details below:

Anthony Swift. 1923-1928.

Henry Frank Vercoe. 1929-at least 1931.

George Stanley Jones. 1933 to after World War 2.

Thomas Beck

Thomas Meeson Beck was born and baptised in Aston, Birmingham in 1819, son of a button-maker. In 1841 he was still at home in Aston, working as a clerk (no detail given). When he married in late spring 1851, again in Aston, he was living in Ashchurch and working as an office clerk. But he has not been found in the census of that year. After marriage he must have returned to Ashchurch with his wife, for children were born and baptised there between 1855 and 1859. He became stationmaster there in March 1960. During his stay in Ashchurch Thomas was described as stationmaster (baptism of son Frederick in 1855 and daughter Mary in 1856, and in the railway employment records of 1857-66) and as a railway clerk (baptism of son Henry in 1859 and the census of 1861). His successor was in post by April 1861 and he himself had left Ashchurch by 1862, when the first of two daughters was born in Wolverhampton, where he would remain until his death in 1888 at the age of 68. He did not remain with the railway. He was a railway clerk in 1871 but a builder's clerk ten years later. His sons did not follow him into railway employment.

George Peck
and son Henry George, railway clerk

George Peck was stationmaster at Ashchurch from 1861 to 1875. He was born in Leicester in about 1832. He was in Tamworth, Staffordshire, in 1855 and Lincoln in 1857, where children were born. He was in post at Ashchurch in 1860, living at Ashchurch station in 1861 and in one of the "Broad Row Cottages" in the village in 1871, presumably the Midland Railway houses. He had come from Thorpe in Northamptonshire where he had been stationmaster. Three more children were born in Ashchurch between 1862 and 1865, one of whom died soon after birth. Shortly after the birth of the last, who was given a private baptism, George's wife Elizabeth died at the age of 37. In 1869 George married again in Kidderminster and a son would be born in 1880, after the family had left Ashchurch.

The family had left Ashchurch by April 1875, and there followed short spells at Evesham in Worcestershire and at Tewkesbury, before transfer to Southwell in Nottinghamshire, where George would remain as stationmaster until his retirement. He had retired by 1891, still in Southwell, and died in Kings Norton, Worcestershire in 1899 at the age of 67. He had been well enough off to have kept a servant in his latter years, and after his death his wife Jemima was living in Birmingham on private means. On her death in 1911 she left an estate of some £1300.

There were two sons, one of whom (Henry George) had a career with the Midland Railway, though not at Ashchurch. He started in 1882 at Southwell, where his father was stationmaster, first in the goods depot, then as a machine youth and finally a clerk. In 1884 he moved to Walsall as a parcels clerk and then to Keighley in Yorkshire, where he resigned in 1889. In 1891 he was still in Keighley, boarding, and working as a photographer's assistant. But by the turn of the century he was back as a clerk in Midland railway, now in London, and was still there in 1911.

There is no evidence that George's second son, George Alfred, worked for the railways. In 1901 he was living in Edgbaston, Birmingham and working as an auctioneer's clerk. In 1911, still in Edgbaston and still living at home, he was a self-employed estate agent and insurance broker. When, now married and still living in Birmingham, he attested for army service in 1915 he gave his occupation as 'estate agent, rag merchant, cartage agent'.


key to column 2 (sources): cen=census; gro=General Records Office; rly=Midland Railway doc; par=parish; prob=probate record; var=various
c1832varbirth in Leicester
1841cenat home in Knighton, Leics, father Samuel a woollen hosiery worker
1851cenat home in Wigston, Leics, with widowed mother, age 19, occupation details unreadable
1855grobirth of daughter Elizabeth registered Tamworth, 4th quarter
1857grobirth of daughter Emma registered Lincoln, 2nd quarter
1860rly3 Apr, stationmaster at Ashchurch from Thorpe, Northants.
1862gro,parson Henry Worrell born Ashchurch, birth registered Tewkesbury 2nd quarter, baptised Ashchurch 20 Jan, father stationmaster, buried Ashchurch 26 Jan
1863gro,parbirth of daughter Clara registered Tewkesbury, 4th quarter, baptised Ashchurch 28 Nov, father stationmaster
1865gro,parbirth of son Henry George registered Tewkesbury 3rd quarter, private baptism at Ashchurch 31 Jul, father stationmaster
1865gro,pardeath of wife Elizabeth registered Tewkesbury 3rd quarter, burial Ashchurch 6 August, age 37
1869par,gro21 Feb to 3 March, banns read Ashchurch for marriage to Jemima Bourn of Kidderminster, marriage registered Kidderminster 1at quarter
1871cenat home at Broad Lane Cottages, Ashchurch, with wife, four children and servant. 39, stationmaster, born [Knighton] Leics
1875rly20 April, stationmaster at Evesham, Worcestershire
1875rly5 Oct, stationmaster at Tewkesbury
1878rly19 Feb, stationmaster at Southwell, Notts
1880grobirth of son George Alfred N registered Southwell, 1st quarter
1881cenat home at Station House, Southwell, Notts, with wife Jemima and two children, 49, stationmaster, born Knighton, Leics
1891cenat home at The Manse, Southwell, Notts, with wife, son and servant, 59, retired stationmaster
1899grodeath registered King's Norton, Worcs, age 67
1911gro,probdeath of wife Jemima registered King's Norton, Worcs, age 70, probate to sons George Alfred Neale, estate agent, and Henry George, railway official

William Lewin, stationmaster
and sons William George, Ernest Arthur, clerks, and Archibald

William Lewin was born in 1844 in Leicestershire the son of a lime burner, also William. He was at home in the county until at least 1861 when, aged 16, he was working as a clerk - no further details. In 1868 he married Louisa Adams in her home county of Bedfordshire, and the birth of a son followed in the next year. By 1871 he was stationmaster at Bitton in Gloucestershire at the early age of 26. Bitton was a small station with a goods yard on the Mangotsfield to Bath branch line. Two children were born there, in 1870 and 1872.

In 1873 he moved to the Midland Railway Superintendents Office at the Midland Railway headquarters in Derby with the rank/grade of inspector. One of his sons died there. In the summer of 1875 he became stationmaster at Ashchurch. Perhaps he had moved there a little earlier for a son was born there earlier in the year. Ashchurch was a bigger station than Bitton, a junction with far more staff. Here he would remain as stationmaster until he retired in 1900. He seems to have added a few strings to his bow, for in 1891 he is described in the census as stationmaster and coal merchant, and in Kelly directories of 1889 and 1897 as stationmaster, and coal, coke, lime and salt merchant at the station. At first he lived at the stationmaster's house, but in 1889 he was the owner of a house in the nearby hamlet of Housedowns, where he may have gone to live from the early 1890s. He resigned in 1901 and went to live at Eckington, near Pershore in Worcestershire, though still owning property in Ashchurch. In 1909 he is described on the marriage certificate of his son Archibald as 'gentleman'. He died there in 1918 at the age of 74.

At least one of the children had an extended education. When daughter Rose was confirmed in the church she was 16, still a pupil at Tewkesbury High School.

sons William George, Ernest Arthur and Archibald

Two of William's three surviving sons followed their father into railway employment and started their service in Ashchurch. A third may also have had railway-associated employment. First and second sons, William George and Ernest Arthur started as goods clerks at Ashchurch when they were 15, Ernest taking over from William when the latter was posted elsewhere. William was at Ashchurch from 1884-1886, Stonehouse 1886 to probably 1891 and Worcester from 1891, a booking clerk throughout. Railway records show that he absconded from there in July 1891. Nothing more is yet known.

Ernest Arthur was at Ashchurch 1886-1888, Sharpness to probably 1893, Ilchester in 1893 and Market Harborough to at least 1901 and possibly at least 1908. He was variously a goods clerk and booking clerk throughout. Again there is as yet no further information.

Archibald, had moved to London by 1901, when he was working as a harness maker. This same description was given on his marriage certificate in 1905. In 1911, still in London, this was modified to harness maker for a Railway Company. In 1939 he was still a saddler/harness-maker, now in Marylebone in London, where he died in 1962.

Background (William)

key to column 2 (sources): cen=census; er=electoral register; GRO=General Records Office; Kel=Kelly directory; mil=military document; rly=Midland Railway doc; prob=probate record
1844GRObirth registered Leicester, 4th quarter
1851cenat home in Barrow Road, Sileby, Leics, with parents and siblings, 7, schoolboy, father William lime burner
1861cenat home in Barrow Road, Barrow-on-Soar, Leics with parents and siblings, 16, clerk, father William lime burner
1868GROmarriage to Louisa Adams registered Bedford 3rd quarter
1869cenbirth of son William G, Spargrave Yorks
1870GRO,cenbirth of son Ernest Arthur at Bitton, Glos, registered Keynsham 3rd quarter
1871cenat Wellsbrigg, Bitton, Gloucs, 26, stationmaster, with wife and two children
1872GRO,cenbirth of son Gilbert Henry, at Bitton, Glos, registered Keynsham 2nd quarter
undatedrlystationmaster at Bitton, Gloucs, salary £85
1873rly19 Aug, to the Superintendents Office from Bitton, salary progression £139, £140 (31 Mar 1874), inspector
1873GROdeath of son Gilbert Henry registered Derby 1st quarter
1875GRObirth of daughter Rose Marion at Ashchurch, registered Tewkesbury 2nd quarter
1875rly5 Oct, to Ashchurch from Superintendents Office, stationmaster, salary £150
1879GRO,censon Archibald born Ashchurch, birth registered Tewkesbury 3rd quarter
1881cenat Northway, Ashchurch, Gloucs, 36, stationmaster, with wife, four children and servant
1881GRO,censon Cecil Harry born Ashchurch, birth registered Tewkesbury 4th quarter
1885-88erliving at Ashchurch, near the railway station
1889,1897Kelcoal, coke, lime and salt merchant, railway station
1889-1901erliving at Homedowns
1891cenregistered at Stationmaster House, Ashchurch, 46, stationmaster and coal merchant, with wife Louisa and three children
1892par20 March, daughter Rose, 16, confirmed at St Mary Tewkesbury by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, "daughter of the stationnmaster Ashchurch, High School"
1894Kelstationmaster at Ashchurch
1896-1903erliving near station at Ashchurch, also owned house at Housedowns
1897Kelcoal, coke, lime and salt merchant, Ashchurch railway station
1900rly30 Nov, resigned as stationmaster at Ashchurch, to be replaced by W Watkins
1901cenat home in Church Street, Eckington, Worcs, with wife and daughter, 56, retired stationmaster
1903-09erliving at Church Street, Eckington, Worcs, but also owned house at Housedowns
1911cenin Church Street, Eckington, nr Pershore, Worcs, with wife and two unmarried children, 66, retired station master, married 23 years, 6 children, 5 still living
1912-14erliving at Southville. Eckington, Pershore, Worcs, and owner of "freehold houses and land" at Ashchurch
1916milDecember, living at Eckington, Worcs, as next-of-kin of son Claud Harry called up for military service
1918GRO,probdied 3 December, address Southville, Eckington, Worcs, age 74, death registered Pershore 4th quarter, probate 11 April 1919 to William Adamson Gall, marine surveyor and Louis George Badham, solicitor, effects £3202 16s 10d
1920GROdeath of wife Louisa registered Pershore 4th quarter, age 74

William Watkins, stationmaster
and sons Frederick and James, clerks

William Watkins, Station Master, Ashchurch Junction

A railway family, with one son achieving great success in his career.

William was born in 1858 in Herefordshire, son of an innkeeper. He did not follow into the family business but at the age of 14 was working for the Midland Railway as a clerk at the local railway station. Within a decade he was working as a railway clerk in Derby, presumably at the headquarters of Midland Railway which was located in the town. He was in Gloucestershire during the 1880s, at Stonehouse, where he was stationmaster in 1891. In 1898 he was stationmaster at Bromsgrove, near Birmingham and by 1901 he had been appointed stationmaster at Ashchurch junction. Here he was living in a house called West View, perhaps the stationmaster's house, newly named, that William Lewin had abandoned. This would be the residence of following stationmasters. William remained there until his death in 1922 at the age of 65. His wife had died the previous year.

There were four surviving children, two girls and two boys. The girls both married. The boys followed their father into salaried posts on the railways. Frederick Charles, the elder, worked as a clerk at stations in Gloucestershire until at least 1927. The younger boy, James, started as a clerk at Ashchurch where his father was stationmaster. He rose through the ranks at Derby, the headquarters of the railway company, finally occupying one of the senior posts in British Railways and a seat on the British Transport Commission. He also had a very successful military career during the war as an infantry officer. Details of all this are given in an appendix to this site.


key to column 2 (sources): cen=census; er=electoral register; GRO=General Records Office; Kel=Kelly directory; par=parish; rly=Midland Railway doc; prob=probate record
1858groone of three of his name whose birth was registered at Presteigne, Herefordshire, in the first and second quarters of the year
1861cenat home at the ?Train? Inn, Eardisley, Herefordshire, with parents and siblings, 3, father innkeeper
1871cenat home in Eardisley, Herefordshire, with widowed mother (innkeeper), 13, schoolboy
1872-4rlyJoint staff list, Eardisley, "clerk, [salary] 6s, 8s, paid servant 1/7/74, wages paid from 1/10/74. 3/9/72 apptd by Mid, pay increased 3/2/73, 3/2/74
undatedrlyclerk at Eardisley station, pay 18 shillings "see joint staff list"
1881cenboarding at Morleslaw St, Derby, 23, railway clerk
1886par,gro(perhaps) 14 Jan, marriage in Stonehouse to Mary King, see detail below
1886gro,cen,parson Frederick Charles born Stonehouse, birth registered Stroud 4th quarter, baptised Stonehouse 5 Dec, father stationmaster
1888gro,cen,pardaughter Elizabeth Ellen born Stonehouse, birth registered Stroud 4th quarter, baptised Stonehouse 2 Dec, father stationmaster
1890gro,cen, parson James William born Stonehouse, birth registered Stroud 4th quarter, baptised Stonehouse 6 Sep, father stationmaster
1891cenat home at Stonehouse in stationmaster's house, with wife, sons Frederick and James and daughter Elizabeth,33, stationmaster
1898rlystationmaster at Bromsgrove 17 November, salary £165, to Ashchurch date not shown
1900gro,cendaughter Kathleen Mary born Ashchurch, birth registered Tewkesbury 2nd quarter
1901rlystationmaster at Ashchurch, salary advanced from £165 to £175
1901cenat home at Ashchurch in stationmaster's house near the church, with sons Frederick, railway clerk and James and daughters Elizabeth and one not yet named, 43, stationmaster
1901-07rlystationmaster at Ashchurch, posted from Bromsgrove 14 Mar, pay £175, rising to £185, £195 1 Aug 1903 and 1 Aug 1907
1911cenat home in Ashchurch with wife, son James (railway clerk) and daughter Kathleen, 53, stationmaster, had five children of which four still living`
1914er,rlyin Ashchurch and in post, salary £200
1914-23Kellyvarious dates, stationmaster
1918par25 Nov, identified as stationmaster on documentation at wedding in Ashchurch of daughter Elizabeth Ellen
1918-20erregistered with wife at West View, Ashchurch
1921grodeath of wife Mary registered Tewkesbury, 1st quarter, age 57
1922-23erregistered living alone at West View, Ashchurch
1922grodeath registered Westbury-on-Severn quarter, age 65
Marriage in Stonehouse 14 Jan 1886 after banns:
William Watkins, 27, bachelor, stationmaster, address Stonehouse, father James innkeeper
Mary King, 22, spinster, no occupation, address Stonehouse, father Charles, innkeeper
witnesses George King, Ellen Watkins

Anthony Swift

Following the death of William Watkins Anthony Swift occupied West View from 1923 to 1928, the Kelly directory of 1927 identifying him as stationmaster. He was born in Shardlow, Derby, in about 1866. His father was a stationmaster and Anthony followed his father's example, joining as an assistant porter at his father's station in Hazlewood, Derbyshire. His progression was fast, railway foreman when he married in 1889, aged 23, then stationmaster at Willenhall, Staffs, in 1891, at Defford, Worcs in 1901 and at Beckford, Worcs, in 1911. After his five years in Ashchurch he moved to Cheltenham in 1929, where his wife Catherine died the following year and he died in 1938 at the age of 72.

Henry Frank Vercoe

Henry Frank Vercoe was stationmaster in January 1929 at the time of the accident when a mail train collided with trucks at Ashchurch. He was mentioned, almost in passing during the public enquiry as being in his house next to the railway buildings when the accident occurred. He was certainly there with his wife Alice at West View in Ashchurch in 1931, but by 1933 he had moved to Bedford. In 1939 he was in Alfreton, Derbyshire at the LMS Railway Assistant Controlling Authority. Little more is known about him at present. He may the Henry Vercoe who was born in Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, in 1886, who married Alice Glenister in Nuneaton in 1923 and who died in Berkhampstead in 1957, probate to widow Alice.

George Stanley Jones

George Stanley Jones was the next occupant of West View, from 1938 to beyond World War 2. The 1939 record confirms that he was stationmaster. He was been born in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire in 1889, his father an innkeeper. He was a railway booking clerk at Lydney, in the Forest, in the immediate pre-war years and was still living there in the 1920s. He married in Tewkesbury in 1933 and was in Ashchurch as stationmaster by 1938. He was still there after World War 2. He died in Tewkesbury Hospital in 1963 at the age of 74, still living in Ashchurch but at an address other than West View.


This data has been researched and produced by Brian Harringman. Comments, additions, and especially corrections would be gratefully received.