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Telegraph Clerks/Telegraphists

There was a telegraph clerk post in Ashchurch from at least 1871, increased to two posts in about 1898. These clerks do not appear in the station listing of the railway's Coaching Department, but in that of the Signals and Telegraph Department, of which the lists for 1877 to 1911 have been seen. The pattern is the same for other junior employees, a stream of young men, unmarried, passing through, each for a couple of years or so, and then moving on to the next station posting. Only when they marry do they settle down for longer postings. This applies to all those seen in Ashchurch, with only Philip Griffiths falling into the second category. These were salaried posts.

Read in three columns, top to bottom in each

Cranham C 1888,1889Hurst G 1898-1901 Vale C E 1902
Thacker W L 1890 Venables W F 1899Leyden A 1902-1903
Pledger B G 1891 Smith A K 1900-1901Law F J 1904-1905
Stockden H G1893-1894 Wright W 1901O'Hanlon G 1909-1911
Colborn H S 1894-1898Smith A H 1902  
Ravensdale A 1898-1899 Griffiths P J 1902-1911  

This is from railway sources. In addition:

Walter Thacker, George Hurst and Thomas O'Hanlon also appear in censuses in Ashchurch, 1891, 1901 and 1911 respectively, all young men, aged 20, 21 and 29 and boarding in the village. There is also George Grainger, 16, in Ashchurch in the 1881 census.

Frederick William Trapp, son of John Trapp who worked in the Provident Stores, was listed in 1901 as a telegraph clerk, but he has not been seen thus in railway documentation. If this were true, it did not last long as he was to take over his father's post in the Provident Stores.

Wilfred John Shorley was a telegraphist in Ashchurch in 1914, after the end of the available Telegraph Dept records, but retrieved from other sources, see below .

Edward Heard in 1891 was in Ashchurch in 1891. He was the son of an Ashchurch signalman but was working as a telegraph clerk in Gloucester and is not relevant here. He could have been visiting his father on census night, or perhaps living with his parents and travelling to work in Gloucester, four stations down the line.

Philip James Griffiths, the one man known to have spent some time in Ashchurch, was born in Gloucester in 1882 and was at home there in 1891 and 1901, his father James a shipwright. He was still in Gloucester in 1896 and 1897, first as a messenger with the Midland Railway Telegraphic Department, then as telegraph clerk; in Worcester later in 1901 and Ashchurch in 1903, where he would remain. In 1907 he was lodging with Norman Bending, railway signalman, at one of the railway cottages, in 1909 with William Kingston, railway goods guard, at Aston Cross. He married at the Methodist Chapel in Gloucester in 1909. In 1911, still a railway telegraphist, he was resident at 12 Newtown Cottages in Ashchurch, though staying with his father in Gloucester on census night. This would be his address until he left Ashchurch in about 1925. After that he was in Swansea in 1928 where he died the following year at the age of 46. There are no details of his post-war occupation, though it can perhaps be assumed that he continued to work for the railway while still living in Ashchurch.

Philip served in World War 1 as a telegraphist with the Railway Troops of the Royal Engineers in the Middle east. He was released at the end of the war as partially disabled and unfit for further service, presumably due to wounds or sickness, and with a pension. Details here.

Wilfred John Shorley was born in Bath in 1888. He joined Midland Railway in 1904, took an 8-month apprenticeship at Bath railway station, and between then and 1911 served as a telegraphist in King's Norton, Whiteacre and Nuneaton. He was a railway telegraphist in Ashchurch in 1914 when he enlisted in the army, a volunteer, and he carried with him a letter of recommendation from the Ashchurch stationmaster. He was placed in the Royal Engineers, not with the railway troops but as an office telegraphist. He served in France and was gassed but survived. Details of his service found here. After the war he returned to Bath. He is next seen when he married in Leckhampton, a suburb of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in 1923. The documentation describes him as a Railway Official living in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, his wife from Leckhampton. They presumably lived in Burton, Worcestershire, where daughters were born in 1924 and 1932; later in the Shardlow district of Derbyshire where the daughters married in 1947 and 1958. Wilfred died in Aston-on-Trent, in 1974 at the age of 86. Aston is some 7 miles southeast of Derby and in the Shardlow registration district.

There are three items in his military documents that may have wider interest. The first shows that the apprenticeship for a telegraphist, or at least for Wilfred, was eight months and was provided at his local railway station. Secondly, and something which may also have affected others like him, in spite of carrying a letter of competence from his stationmaster, he could not obtain a certificate of proficiency in his trade after enlistment because he was skilled in the railway's Bell and single needle telegraph system, which the army did not use. Finally, salaried railwaymen earning less than £160 a year were exempt from National Insurance [contributions] because they had certain benefits through the railway's terms and conditions of employment. This correspondence is quoted in full in the military service file here.


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