Friday, 1 June 2012

Edward Armitage (1839-1880), police constable

Edward Armitage was an elder brother of Robert Melton Armitage (1846-1910), my great grandfather.

Edward was born in 1839 in Leeds. He was the second of five boys born to Thomas Armitage and his wife Elizabeth (nee Woodward), who were married in Leeds in 1835. The 1841 census shows Thomas (aged 35, an agricultural labourer) living in Regent Street, Leeds with Elizabeth (30), Martha (10), James (5), Edward (2) and William Armitage (1 month). This census doesn’t state family relationships, so it isn’t clear whether Martha is their daughter. If so, she would have been born four years before her parents got married.

In 1849, Thomas and Elizabeth had a daughter, Phoebe, who died in 1850 aged 1. Elizabeth died in 1850 aged 43. The 1851 census shows Thomas Armitage, a widower aged 46, living at 4 Pendulum Street, Leeds with his sons William (aged 9), Joseph (6) and Robert (3). Edward would have been 12, but is not recorded at this address.

Edward enlisted in the army in September 1857 aged 17 years 10 months, giving his place of birth as Leeds and his trade as collier. He joined the 36th Regiment of Foot at Salford. In 1860 he married Mary Willcocks in the Stoke Damerel registration district. This includes Devonport in Plymouth – perhaps Edward was stationed there ? He was aged 20, she was 22. Mary’s maiden name is spelt as Willcox in the marriage record, but as Willcocks in the birth registrations of all her children. She came from Polruan near Fowey in Cornwall and is shown as a soldier’s wife aged 23, living at 5 Tinker’s Hill, Polruan with her father Thomas (aged 61, a former mariner) in the 1861 census.

The National Archives have a record of the discharge of Private Edward Armitage from the Army on 8th April 1861 at Dublin. The medical report says “This man is considered unfit for the performance of his military duties by an abscess on the chest and incipient Phthisis Pulmonalis” (meaning pulmonary tuberculosis). The form states that his conduct has been good and his total service was 3 years 149 days. His age at discharge was 21 years 4 months, height 5 feet 5 inches, complexion fair, eyes grey, hair light brown.

Edward and Mary had a daughter, Mary Emma, in 1865. The birth was registered in Falmouth. The 1871 and 1881 censuses show her living in Devonport with her aunt Angelina Herd nee Willcocks.  

It seems that Edward and Mary later lived at Saltash (near Plymouth), as their children Angelina and Thomas Edward were born there, in 1868 and 1870. They then moved to London where Edward joined the Metropolitan Police. The 1871 census shows Edward, aged 32, a police constable, living in Tottenham with his wife Mary (34) and children Angelina (3) and Thomas (7 months). Edward and Mary’s child Ellen Maud Willeyfed Dick Armitage (what a name !) was born in 1872 and Isaac John Armitage in 1874, both in Edmonton (which includes Tottenham).

In about 1875/6, Edward and his family moved to Hackney where Florence Kate was born in 1877 (and died the same year) and Ernest Henry in 1879.

Metropolitan Police records (in series MEP 4/2) held at the National Archives show that PC Edward Armitage died on 6 January 1880 of heart disease in Hackney. He was aged 41. The 16 January 1880 edition of the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette contained a description of his funeral

Funeral of a Police Constable

A much respected member of the Hackney Division of Police (Edward Armitage, 547), died rather suddenly in his garden, on the 6th inst., from rupture of a blood vessel, and on Tuesday the final obsequies were observed at the Manor Park Cemetery. The cortege, which started from the deceased's late residence, 26, Pratt Road, Clapton Park, consisted of hearse and mourning coach and the mourners included four inspectors, 11 sergeants, 110 constables; the Band of the Division and four officers of the Volunteer Fire Brigade, with engine also being present, and attracted considerable attention en route. The ceremony was a most impressive one, the officiating divine deducing from the sad event the awful uncertainty of life. The deceased, who leaves a widow and seven children, had fortunately taken the precaution of insuring himself and family in a society which very many of the men of the N and other divisions have also joined, viz., the Royal London Friendly Society, and thus spared the bereaved ones the pangs of poverty which invariably follow the demise of the improvident husband and father. There are certainly benefits to be derived by the families of deceased P.C.’s., still too much provision cannot made to enable a widow with a family to meet the stern realities of the world; and the above painfully sudden case should prove a stimulus to others to make a like provision.

Cemetery records show that Edward was buried in Manor Park Cemetery grave 100/328, which is shared with three other people not related to him.

The 1881 census shows Edward’s widow Mary (aged 43, a laundress) with her children John (6) and Ernest (2) living at 5 Gainsboro Square, Hackney. His daughter Angelina was an orphan scholar at Cumberland House Orphanage, Greenleaf Lane, Walthamstow. His daughter Ellen was living in Hull with her aunt Emma Dick nee Willcocks and Emma’s husband Josias.

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