First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Edwin Frederick Bryant (1898–1916)

Edwin Bryant

Edwin Frederick Bryant was born at 2 Wyatt's Yard, St Aldate's, Oxford in 1898. He was the son of Francis Bryant (born in Oxford in 1865) and Elizabeth Ann Butler (born in Brize Norton in 1864 and baptised there on 1 May).

At the time of the 1881 census Edwin’s mother Elizabeth Ann Butler (17) was working as a general servant at 47 Friar’s Street, St Ebbe’s, where her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Butler (42), who was described as married was the housekeeper of the widower Alfred Ashfield (50), who was a general labourer

In the second quarter of 1881 in Oxford, Edwin's mother Elizabeth Ann Butler married her first husband Henry Thomas (born in Besselsleigh in 1853). They had five children, who were Edwin’s half-siblings:

  • Albert Henry Thomas (born at 19 Victor Street, Oxford on 24 May 1882 and baptised at St Barnabas's Church on 12 July 1883)
  • Henry Thomas (born in Oxford in 1883/4)
  • Emily Matilda Thomas (born at 19 Victor Street, Oxford on 30 September 1887 and baptised at St Barnabas's Church on 20 October)
  • William Thomas (born at 4 Plough Yard, St Aldate's, Oxford in 1889 and baptised at St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 2 October)
  • Francis George Thomas (born at Chaundy's Yard on 9 March 1893 and baptised at St Ebbe's Church on 24 May).

At the time of the 1891 census Edwin Bryant's mother Mrs Elizabeth Thomas was living at Dingle’s Yard in Castle Street with her first husband Henry was a labourer and she was working as a charwoman, despite having four young children aged from one to eight to look after.

Elizabeth’s first husband Henry Thomas died at the Radcliffe Infirmary the age of 39 in 1892 and his funeral was held at St Ebbe's Church on 3 August. His youngest child Francis was born seven months after his death. Although Francis was baptised as Henry Thomas's son, there is a strong suspicion that he was in fact the son of Francis Bryant.

In the third quarter of 1897 in Oxford, Mrs Elizabeth Ann Thomas married her second husband Francis Bryant, and they had two children:

  • Edwin Frederick Bryant (born at 2 Wyatt's Yard, Oxford on 19 January 1898 and baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 19 October 1898)
  • Sidney Bryant (born in Oxford on 7 February 1899 and baptised at the age of seven at St Andrew’s Church, Headington on 3 June 1906).

Edwin’s father Francis Bryant was a painter and decorator, and at the time of Edwin’s baptism in 1898 the family was living at 2 Wyatt’s Yard, St Aldate’s.

At the time of the 1901 census Edwin (3) was living at 9 Waterloo Buildings, Blackfriars Road, St Ebbe’s with his father Francis Bryant (37), who was described as a painter & decorator; his mother Elizabeth (37),;his younger brother Sidney (2); and three of his Thomas half-siblings, namely Emily (12), William (11), and Francis (8).

By 1906 the Bryant family had moved up to Headington and were living at the house now numbered 63 New High Street in Highfield parish.

At the time of the 1911 census Edwin (13) was still at school (almost certainly Headington National School) and lived in New High Street (probably No. 63) with his father Francis (47), who was still a house painter, his mother Elizabeth (48), and his younger brother Sidney (12). Francis (18), who was born seven months after his mother's first husband had died, was working as a jobbing gardener. The census form implies that he was indeed Edwin's full brother: Francis Bryant senior listed him with the surname Bryant, stated that there were three children of the present marriage, and upped the number of years he and Elizabeth had been married from 13 to 19, presumably to make him appear legitimate.

On 6 September 1913, at the age of 15, Edwin emigrated on his own to Canada, sailing from Bristol to Quebec on the Royal George. His occupation was described as “farming”. By mid-1915, however Edwin (17) had volunteered to fight with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was sent back to Europe.

Edwin’s father, Francis Bryant, died at New High Street at the age of 52 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 13 January 1916.

All five of Edwin’s brothers and half-brothers back home in England had also volunteered to serve in the war. The picture below was published in the “Patriotic Families” section of the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 16 June 1915. The caption, which clearly spells out that Francis Bryant was not her first husband’s child, reads:

The six sons of Mrs. Bryant, High-street, New Headington. (Left to right),
Pte. H. Thomas (son by first husband), 1st O.B.L.I. (invalided);
Sergt A. Thomas (son by first husband), R.W.R. Regiment (wounded);
W. Thomas, A.B. (son by first husband), H.M.S. Formidable (died at Chatham);
Trp. F. Bryant, Q.O.O.H. (wounded);
Pte. S. Bryant, 1/4th O.B.L.I.;
and Pte. E. Bryant, 54th Battalion Canadian E.F.

Heroes of the War: Mrs Bryant’s children

Poppy Edwin Frederick Bryant served as a Private in the 54th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (the Oxford local press states that he was a Corporal, which may be wrong).

He died in Belgium between 2 and 14 June 1916 at the age of 18 from wounds received at the Battle of Mount Sorrel on the Somme.

He is missing from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s database, but is recorded in the Canadian “Six Books of Remembrance” and is remembered on the All Saints’ Church roll of honour.

All Saints' board


Edwin’s mother
  • Elizabeth Bryant is probably the woman of that name who died at the age of 68 in 1932 (death reg. fourth quarter in Headington District). She does not, however, appear to be buried in Headington Cemetery with her second husband.

See also
  • Oxford Journal Illustrated, 16 June 1915, p. 6: “Patriotic Families” set of photographs;
    and 20 December 1916: Photograph of Corporal E. Bryant, Canadian Regiment, Headington, who had died of wounds
    (both shown above with kind permission of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire History Centre)
  • Canadian Book of Remembrance: Listing of Private Edwin Bryant
  • Battle of Mount Sorrel

Back to All Saints’ Church, Highfield roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website