Poppy

First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Eric Joseph WOODS (1895–1917)

Eric Joseph Woods was born at Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire in 1895, the son of the Revd Francis Henry Woods (born at Sully in Glamorgan on 22 May 1850) and Frances Edith Pritchard (born in South Luffenham, Rutland in 1859). Both his parents were from clerical families.

Eric’s parents were married on 2 August 1883 at Christ Church, Cheltenham and settled in Oxford, where Eric's father had been a Fellow of St John's College since 1976. They had the following children:

  • George Constantine Woods (born in Oxford on 9 January 1885 and baptised at St Giles's Church on 8 February)
  • Katharine Seymour Woods (born in Oxford on 17 September 1887 and baptised at St Giles's Church on 24 October)
  • Olga M. Woods (born at the Vicarage in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire in 1889, reg. second quarter)
  • Frances Alice Woods (born at the Vicarage in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire in 1891, reg. second quarter)
  • Eric Joseph Woods (born at the Vicarage in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire in February 1895).

Eric's parents remained in Oxford until 1888, when his father was appointed Vicar of Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire.

At the time of the 1891 census Eric's father was living in the Chalfont St Peter vicarage with his wife and their first three children: George (6), Katharine (4), and Olga (1), plus a cook, housemaid, and nurse.

Eric  first appears in the 1901 census, aged six, living at the vicarage with his parents and sisters Olga (11), Frances (9), and their governess, cook, and Swiss nurse. His two eldest siblings were away at boarding school: George (16) was at Winchester, and Katharine (15) was at the Corran Collegiate School in Watford (run by Eleanor Frances Jourdain, who was later to become Principal of St Hugh’s College).

In September 1907 Eric went away to board at Uppingham School, where he was in Meadhurst House.

By 1911 Eric’s father had been appointed Rector of Bainton near Driffield in Yorkshire, and he and his wife can be found in the Rectory there on census night. All of the children were away on census night: George (26) was a master at a boarding school at 50–52 Torrington Square, London, where his sister Frances Alice (19) was then boarding as a pupil; Olga (21), who was a kindergarten teacher, was paying a visit to the Vicar of Royston in Yorkshire; and Eric himself (16) was boarding at Uppingham School. Katharine (25) seems not to be recorded in the census, and may have been abroad.

In July 1913 Eric Woods left Uppingham School and in 1914 matriculated at the University of Oxford from St John’s College, where his father had been a Fellow.

On 1 February 1915 Eric's father Francis Henry Woods died at Bainton Rectory in Yorkshire at the age of 64. His effects came to £8,239 14s. 11d., and his son George, who was now a schoolmaster, and his daughter Katherine were his executors.

Rogate, London Road

 

 

Eric's widowed mother then moved down to Headington, primarily so that his sister, Katharine Seymour Woods, who was now aged 27, could also attend the University of Oxford, but probably also to be near Eric..

 

The family lived at Rogate at 110 (formerly 36) London Road (left). Their house is on the right of this pair, both of which were demolished to make way for the Iceland block.

Poppy In the First World War Eric Woods volunteered for action and commenced service on 10 April 1915 as a lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own). (The Commonwealth War Graves Commission states that he was in “B” Company of the 9th battalion, while the University Roll of Service states that he was in the 17th battalion.)

He was killed in action at Poelcapelle near Passchendaele in Belgium at the age of 22 on 9 October 1917, but his death was not confirmed until January 1918.

He is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing (Panel 42 to 47 and 162) in Belgium; at Uppingham School on both the memorial board in his boarding house (Meadhurst) and on the First World War Memorial in the chapel; and on the roll of honour of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington.

His mother put the following notice in The Times of 29 January 1918:

WOODS.—Killed in action, on the 9th Oct., 1917, previously reported missing, Eric Joseph Woods, Lieut., West Yorks Regt., beloved younger son of the late Rev. F. H. Woods, B.D., Rector of Bainton, Yorks, and formerly fellow of St John’s College, Oxford, and of Mrs. Woods, Rogate, Headington, Oxford, aged 22.

Administration was granted in London to his widowed mother, Frances Edith Woods, on 2 June 1919. He left £910 15s. 6d.

Woods in St John’s
Above: Woods’s name on the roll of honour
of St John’s College, Oxford

Below: E. J. Woods’s name on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium, kindly supplied by British War Graves.

Eric Woods on Tyne Cot Memorial


Postscript

St Andrew's memorial board

Eric’s mother
  • Mrs Frances Edith Woods bought a plot of land running between Stephen Road and Osler Road and built a new home for herself facing Stephen Road which she called Hunsdon House: she is listed there in directories from 1922. She died at Hunsdon House the age of 69 on 20 December 1928. Her effects came to £1,820 17s. 9d., and her executor was her daughter Katharine
Eric’s sister
  • Katharine Seymour Woods started a school at her mother’s home in Stephen Road soon after the war, and by 1929 had opened Hunsdon House Garden School in the back garden facing on to Osler Road, and this garden school still survives today. She lived at the school in Osler Road, and was also the author of several books, including Rural Crafts of England (1949). She died at St Luke's Nursing Home (which was then in Linton Road, Oxford) on 30 December 1980. Her effects came to £19,983.

See also

Back to St Andrew’s Church, Old Headington roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website