First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Harold Thomas GRAIN (1898–1917)

Harold Grain

Harold Thomas Grain was born in New Headington in 1898, the eldest son of Thomas Grain (born in Headington in 1872 and privately baptised by St Andrew’s Church on 30 May) and Ada Martha Coppock (born in Headington Quarry in 1873 and baptised at Holy Trinity church on 6 July).

His parents were married at St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington on 10 March 1894 and had the following children:

  • Harold Thomas Grain (born in New Headington on 26 December 1897 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Old Headington on 6 February 1898)
  • Ernest Frank Grain (born at London Road, Headington on 19 February 1900 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Old Headington on 15 April)
  • Florence Nelly Grain (born at 133 Cowley Road, Oxford on 12 November 1904 and baptised at Cowley St John Church on 1 December)
  • Dorothy Stella Grain (born at the Butcher’s Arms, Headington on 9 July 1909 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Old Headington on 12 September)
  • Bernard William Grain (born at the Butcher’s Arms, Headington in 1912 and baptised at All Saints’ Church on 3 November).

Harold’s parents initially remained in Headington, where his father worked as a leather cutter or clicker. At the time of the 1901 census Harold (3) was living at 1 Belle View Terrace (which was on the corner of the London Road and New High Street, on the site of the present Buongiorno e Buonasera). with his father Thomas (28), his mother Ada (27), and his younger brother Ernest (1).

They then moved down to Oxford briefly: Kelly’s Directory for 1904 lists Harold’s father at 76 Princes Street, St Clement’s, and the family appear to have been at 133 Cowley Road by November that year.

Butcher’s Arms



In 1906 the Grains took over the Butcher’s Arms in Wilberforce Street (then called William Street). This pub (right) was originally this was just a beerhouse, and at first Harold’s father continued to work as a shoemaker there. The street was taken into Highfield parish in 1910.

At the time of the 1911 census Harold (13) was at school (almost certainly Headington National School) and living over the Butcher's Arms with his family. 'the pub business was evidently expanding: his father Thomas (38) simply described himself as a licensed victualler and his mother Ada (37) stated that she was aiding her husband in the business. They employed a domestic servant, who probably looked after Harold and his younger siblings Ernest (11), Florence (6), and Dorothy (1).

It appears that he joined the Post Office after leaving school.

Poppy In the First World War Harold Thomas Grain served as a Private in the 1st/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No. 203370).


Grave of Harold Grain


He died of wounds in France at the age of 19 on 27 August 1917 and is buried in the Wimereux Communal Cemetery. (II. R. 15). The photograph of his grave (right) was kindly supplied by British War Graves. The inscription reads:

203370 PRIVATE
27TH AUGUST 1917

[Emblem of the OBLI]



This is one of the 40% of war graves that bears a personal message at the end (for which the family had to pay 3½d per letter


Harold Grain is remembered on the Roll of Honour of All Saints’ Church, Highfield and on the Post Office War Memorial at Royal Mail House, Oxford.



The grave (below) of Harold Grain’s parents in Headington Cemetery has the following words added:


AUG 6. [sic] 1917. AGED 19 YEARS.

The Grain grave in Headington Cemetery


All Saints' board

Harold’s parents
  • Thomas Grain died at the Butcher’s Arms on 31 July 1927 at the age of 55 and was buried at Headington Cemetery.
  • Mrs Ada Grain took over the licence on her husband’s death and continued running the pub for another 26 years until her own death at the age of 79 on 9 March 1953.
Harold’s siblings
  • Ernest Frank Grain (born 1900), described as a clerk of Highfield, married Ada Louisa Arnold at Cowley St John Church on 22 August 1925. Their daughter June M. Grain was born in that district in 1928 (reg. second quarter)
  • Florence Nelly Grain (born 1904) married Leslie Patterson in the Headington district in the third quarter of 1932. Their daughter Gwenda J. Patterson was born in 1935 (reg. first quarter)
  • Dorothy Stella Grain (born 1909) married Herbert J. Woodcock in the Headington district in the fourth quarter of 1930. (He had lost his sister in the First World War.) Their son David J. Woodcock was born in the Oxford registration district in 1933 (reg. fourth quarter) and their daughter Jennifer M. Woodcock in 1939/40 (reg. first quarter of 1940)
  • Bernard Grain (born 1912) married Rose M. Hawes in the Oxford district in the third quarter of 1933. Their daughter Barbara H. Grain was born in 1933 (registered third quarter) and their son Harold T. Hawes in 1935 (reg. third quarter). Bernard Grain took over the Butcher’s Arms after his parents’ death and ran it until the 1970s.

See also

Back to All Saints’ Church, Highfield roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website