First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

George Herbert VYLES (1883–1918)

George Herbert Vyles was born in New Headington on 25 September 1883, the son of Richard Vyles or Viles (born in Marston in 1843/4 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church on 14 January 1844) and Maria Thurza Nutt, known as Thurza (born in Plantation Road, Oxford in 1848 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 10 September).

In 1871, the year before her wedding, George's mother Thurza Nutt (22) was working as a servant at the Roebuck Hotel in Cornmarket.

George's parents were married at Ss Philip & James’s Church in north Oxford on 29 September 1872: his father, who was a general labourer, could not sign his name, but his mother could. They had the following children:

  • William Richard Vyles (born in Marston in 1873 and baptised at St Nicholas’s Church, Old Marston on 27 July)
  • Emily Elizabeth Vyles (born in Headington in 1875 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 3 October)
  • Mary Vyles (born in Headington in 1877 and privately baptised by St Andrew’s Church on 25 November);
    died aged four months and buried in St Andrew’s churchyard on 13 December 1877
  • John Vyles (born in Barton on 19 November 1878 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 25 May 1879)
  • James Arthur Vyles (born in New Headington on 22 June 1881 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 28 August);
    died aged 4 and buried in St Andrew’s churchyard on 24 August 1885
  • George Herbert Vyles (born in New Headington on 25 September 1883 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 25 November)
  • Frederick Ernest Vyles (born in New Headington on 27 February 1886 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 25 April)
  • Annie Clara Vyles (born in New Headington on 7 November 1887 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 25 December)
  • Thomas Arthur Vyles (born in New Headington on 15 February 1891 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 5 April).

George's parents began their married life in Marston, but had moved to Headington by 1875. Their address was given as Barton by the end of 1878.

By the time of the 1881 census they were living in New Headington village, somewhere near the Butcher's Arms in Wilberforce Street, with their three surviving children William (7), Emily (5), and John (2). George himself was born in New Headington on 25 September 1883, probably in that house.

By 1891 the family had moved to a brand new house in Lime Walk: it was then numbered 66, and appears to be the house now numbered 50. George (7) was living there with his father Richard (47), who was a mason's labourer, his mother Thurza (42), and his six surviving siblings: William (17), who was a gasfitter's labourer; Emily (15); John (12), who was an errand boy; and Frederick (5), Annie (3), and Thomas (one month).

By 1901 the family had moved to the present 30 New High Street, which was taken into All Saints’ parish in 1910. George (17), who was now a gardener, was living there with his father Richard (57), now described as a general labourer, his mother Thurza (52), and three of his siblings: Frederick (15), who was also a gardener, and Annie (13) and Thomas (10). His three older siblings were all still single but working away from home: William (27) was now a constable with the Metropolitan Police and lodging at New Scotland Yard, Emily (25) was now a laundrymaid at Shotover House, and John (22) was working as a gardener in Bromley, Kent.

George’s father Richard Vyles died in 1908 at the age of 64, and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 21 September.

At the time of the 1911 census George (27) was a nurseryman, and as he stated later that he was a rose grower, he almost certainly worked at the nurseries of John Mattock to the south of Wilberforce Street. He was still living at 30 New High Street with his widowed mother Thurza (62), who was described as a housekeeper. Also living with them were George's sister Emily Elizabeth Brooks (36), a laundress who had been married three years but had no children, and his brother Thomas (20), who was a gardener. His brother John (32) and his wife Ada (30) were living nearby at 21 Windsor Street, where Mrs Vyles ran a shop for many years.

George’s mother Thurza Maria Nutt died at New High Street in 1914 at the age of 66 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 28 December.

George was still living at New High Street when he volunteered to serve in the war on 4 May 1915. As both his parents were already dead, he gave the name of his brother John Vyles as his next of kin, and he must have moved him with him after going to fight, as his probate record gives his address as Windsor Street.

Poppy In the First World War George Vyles served as a Gunner, first in the 132nd Oxford Heavy Battery (Service No. 444) and then in the Royal Garrison Artillery (Service No. 291817). He was sent overseas on 20 March 1916.

He was killed in action in France on 8 April 1918 at the age of 34.

Administration was granted in London on 25 September 1918 to his brother, William Richard Vyles, who was a police constable. He left £125 15s. His army record says that his medals were despatched to the deceased soldier's widow, Mrs E. Vyles, but this is an error: his brother William had died on 27 October 1918 (just a month after getting George's will proved), and the medals were sent to William's widow in London.

George Vyles grave


George Vyles is buried in the Roye New British Cemetery (I. AA5). The photograph of his grave (left) was kindly supplied by British War Graves. The inscription reads:

291817 GUNNER
8TH APRIL 1918

[Emblem of Royal Garrison Artillery


He is remembered on the roll of honour of All Saints’ Church, Highfield.


All Saints' board

William’s siblings
  • William Richard Vyles (born 1873) married Eliza Hayward at St George’s, Hanover Square, London in the fourth quarter of 1906 and appear to have had one child who died. At the time of the 1911 census William (27) was a police constable living on his own in London at 56 Gainsborough Buildings, Millbank; he oddly described himself as a widower even though his wife was still alive and paying a visit to her family in Brentwood. William died at Charing Cross Hospital at the age of 45 on 27 October 1918. His effects came to £236 18s. 8d., and his wife Eliza was his executor.
  • Emily Elizabeth Vyles (born 1875) married Ernest Richard Brooks in the second quarter of 1908, but was back living with her parents in 1911 and working as a laundress. They do not appear to have had any children. She may be the Emily E. Brooks who died in Oxford in 1962, but the age given (83) is slightly wrong.
  • John Vyles (born 1879) married Ada Warwick (born in Criggleston, Yorkshire) in the Dewsbury registration district in 1908, and their first child, who was stillborn, was buried in Headington Cemetery on 6 August 1909. By the time of the 1911 census they had moved to 21 Windsor Street, and John continued to work as a gardener while Ada ran a shop there. They bought the premises for £210 in 1916. They had three more children: Robert J. Vyles (born 1912), Kathleen M. Vyles (born 1914), and Florence M. Vyles (born 1917/18). John Vyles died in 1925 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 7 December. His widow continued to run the shop until 1949. She still lived in the house in the late 1960s, and died in 1968.

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