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John Wesley Woodward (1879–1912)


John Wesley Woodward

 

John Wesley Woodward (known as Wesley) was one of the eight musicians who continued playing as the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912. When not on board ship, he lived with his widowed mother in Windmill Road, Headington.

 

There is a brass plaque commemorating him in All Saints’ Church, Headington (below).

Plaque to Woodward at All Saints'

TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN MEMORY OF
JOHN WESLEY WOODWARD
BANDSMAN ON THE S.S. TITANIC
WHO WITH HIS COMRADES
NOBLY PERFORMED HIS DUTY TO THE LAST
WHEN THE SHIP SANK
AFTER COLLISION WITH AN ICEBERG
ON APRIL 15 1912.
BORN SEPT: 11, 1879.
“NEARER MY GOD TO THEE.”

John Wesley Woodward

John Wesley Woodward (right) was born in West Bromwich in Staffordshire on 11 September 1879, the youngest of the nine children of Joseph and Martha Woodward. As his middle name implies, he was brought up as a Methodist, so he may in fact have attended the Methodist Chapel in New High Street (now the hall of Lime Walk Methodist Church) rather than All Saints’ Church.

His father was the manager of an iron foundry that made holloware, and the 1881 census shows the family living in West Bromwich at 24 Hawkes Lane, with all the children still at home: Mary (18), Joseph (15), Martha (14), Thomas (12), Frederick (10), Herbert (8), Samuel (6), Roland (4), and John (1).

John’s father died at the age of 49 in 1884, and initially the family remained in West Bromwich. At the time of the 1891 census his widowed mother Martha (52) was at Hawkes Lane with eight of her children including John (11), who was still at school.

In 1891 John’s brother Thomas William Woodward had been working as a moulder, but later in the 1890s he led the way down to Oxford when he became a professional singer and lay clerk at Magdalen College. From 1899 he was listed as the householder at 265 Cowley Road, and his mother and two of his brothers, including John, came down to Oxford to live with him in that house.

In the 1901 census Mrs Woodward (62) is described as the head of the Cowley Road household, and three of her sons were at home with her on census night: Thomas (32), who is described as “Professional Singer & Lay Clerk”, Herbert (28), and John himself (21), who was now himself a professional musician.

Wesley Woodward (as John called himself) became well known in Oxford as a ’cello player, and following a period working at Eastbourne, he joined the White Star Line as a musician in about 1909, and was probably at sea at the time of the 1911 census. His mother, Mrs Woodward, was staying in Walsall with her son Samuel and his family at the time of that census, probably on holiday, as her home was now in Headington. She lived in Windmill Road at No. 2 The Firs in the parish of All Saints’ Church: this appears to be the present 15 Windmill Road.

In September 2011 Woodward was on board RMS Olympic (the sister ship of the Titanic) when she collided with the cruiser HMS Hawke in the Solent off the Isle of Wight.

Titanic band

 

On 10 April 1912 John Wesley Woodward joined the Titanic at Southampton for her maiden voyage, taking his best ’cello with him for the first time. On his return he was due to perform in Oxford at Magdalen College’s May dinner.

When the Titanic hit the iceberg on 15 April 1912, the musicians famously continued to play as she went down, and they all drowned. The body of Woodward was not recovered.

He was 32 when he died, and and was engaged to a girl in London. His address at probate was given as Windmill Road, Headington and his estate was valued at £1,195 3s. 5d.

 

 

Left: Poster showing the eight musicians who died on the Titanic. John Wesley Woodward is on the right of the middle row.

The following obituary (including the photograph shown at the top of this page) was published in the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 24 April 1912:

Among those who lost their lives on the ill-fated vessel, is Mr. John Wesley Woodward, of Oxford. Mr. Woodward was the youngest son of Mrs. Woodward, of Headington, and a brother of Mr. T. W. Woodward, the well-known tenor singer of Magdalen College choir, living in Oakthorpe-road, Oxford. Mr. Wesley Woodward left Oxford about a fortnight ago to join the Titanic as a member of the ship’s orchestra. He had previously made several journeys across the Atlantic, and three across the Mediterranean, so that he was quite a seasoned sailor. He was on board the Olympic, sister boat to the Titanic, when she collided with H.M.S. Hawke, and had a narrow escape of losing his life, for he was in the cabin with three colleagues just where the Hawke struck, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that a rescue was accomplished. He was well-known as a ’cello player, having appeared in several solos and string quartettes, notably with the Misses Price and Mr. H. M. Dowson. A few years ago he left Oxford to take up a position in the Duke of Devonshire’s band at Eastbourne. When that enterprise fell through some three years ago Mr. Woodward became attached to the White Star Company’s liners, and has been with them ever since. He was recognised as one of their most able musicians, and is exceedingly popular with everyone with whom he came into contact. He was 32 years of age, unmarried, and devoted to his mother, who lives at The Firs, Windmill-road, Headington.

The following words were added to the headstone in West Bromwich of his father Joseph (who had died in 1884) and two of his brothers, namely Joseph Woodward junior (who had died in 1888 aged 23) and Roland Ernest Woodward (who had died in 1893, aged 16):

ALSO JOHN WESLEY WOODWARD
BELOVED SON OF THE ABOVE
WHO WENT DOWN WITH THE TITANIC PLAYING
“NEARER MY GOD TO THEE”, APRIL 15TH 1912
AGED 32 YEARS.



Other memorials

Memorial to all eight musicians at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Memorial at Liverpool

  

THIS TABLET IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY
  OF

W. HARTLEY

OF

DEWSBURY

BANDMASTER

W. T. BRAILEY

OF

LONDON

R. BRICOUX

"

LILLE, FRANCE

J. F. CLARKE

"

LIVERPOOL

J. L. HUME

"

DUMFRIES

G. KRINS

"

LIEGE, BELGIUM

P. C. TAYLOR

"

LONDON

J. W. WOODWARD

"

HEADINGTON

MEMBERS OF THE BAND ON BOARD
THE “TITANIC”; THEY BRAVELY
CONTINUED PLAYING TO SOOTHE THE
ANGUISH OF THEIR FELLOW PASSENGERS
UNTIL THE SHIP SANK IN THE DEEP
APRIL 14TH 1912.
COURAGE AND COMPASSION JOINED
MAKE THE HERO AND THE MAN COMPLETE.

Photograph by kind permission of
the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

Memorial to all eight musicians at Southampton

Southampton memorial

Individual memorial to John Wesley Woodward in Eastbourne

In 1914 Arthur Beckett, a newspaper publisher and Chairman of the Woodward Memorial Committee, had a granite memorial put up to John Wesley Woodward in the Eastbourne bandstand. This memorial (which is now Grade II listed) has three panels: one shows the Titanic sinking, the second shows a portrait of Woodward, and the third has the following inscription:

THIS TABLET IS ERECTED AS
A TRIBUTE TO THE SELF
SACRIFICE AND DEVOTION OF
JOHN WESLEY WOODWARD
(FORMERLY A MEMBER OF
THE EASTBOURNE MUNICIPAL
ORCHESTRA
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE’S
ORCHESTRA
AND THE GRAND HOTEL EASTBOURNE
ORCHESTRA),
WHO WITH OTHERS OF THE
HERO-MUSICIANS OF THE
SHIP’S BAND PERISHED IN
THE ATLANTIC THROUGH THE
SINKING OF THE WHITE STAR
LINER “TITANIC”

ON APRIL 15TH 1912.
“FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH”

John Wesley Woodward’s family

John’s mother, Mrs Martha Woodward
Martha Woodward died in the Headington registration district (which included Summertown and east Oxford) in the third quarter of 1926, aged 87.

John’s brother, Thomas William Woodward
Early in 1904 in the Wolverhampton district, Thomas married Elizabeth Constance Mansfield and brought her back with him to Oxford, where his first daughter Eleanor Mansfield Woodward was born in 1904/5, and his second daughter Phyllis Barnett Woodward in 1908. At the time of the 1911 census his wife was at their home at 44 Oakthorpe Road, Summertown with their two young daughters, but Thomas was staying in Wolverhampton with his father-in-law, William Mansfield, with his occupation given as “lay clerk” (indicating that he was still with the Magdalen College choir). He is described in the commercial section of Kelly’s Directory as a teacher of singing at 44 Oakthorpe Road (with Mrs Woodward, described as a teacher of music). From 1925 to 1943 he is described as a teacher of singing at 14 Norham Road, Oxford. His daughter Eleanor Mansfield Woodward married William C. Lester-Smith in the Headington registration district (which then included north Oxford) in the first quarter of 1931.

John’s brother, Herbert Edward Woodward
At the time of the 1911 census Herbert was alone in the family home at 15 Windmill Road and working as a gardener. From 1914 to 1945 he is listed as the head of the household at Lynwood, 24 Windmill Road.


See also:

The other two Oxford passengers on the Titanic

The other two passengers featured in the article in the Oxford Journal Illustrated about John Wesley Woodward are:

© Stephanie Jenkins

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