First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

John TOLLEY (1886–1916)

John Tolley was born in Headington Quarry in 1886, the son of Samuel Tolley (born in Old Headington in 1850 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 8 September) and Mary Ann Brown or Browne (born in Forest Hill in 1853 and baptised there on 26 June).

The 1871 census shows John’s father Samuel Tolley as a shepherd of 19 (but actually 21) living with his parents William and Eleanor (Helen) Tolley at Tileworth Cottages on the Marston Road. These cottages were on the east side of the road immediately to the north of Jack Straw's Lane: there was no New Marston at this date, and this area was then in the parish of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington.

His parents were married at St Andrew’s Church on 9 September 1872, and both were described as labourers in the marriage register. They could not sign their names, so it is unsurprising that throughout the censuses there are discrepancies in their ages, the names of their children, and Mary’s place of birth. John's parents were in fact 22 and 19 at the time of their wedding.

John's parents had the following children:

  • Harriet Ann Elizabeth Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1873 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 3 August)
  • William George Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1876 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 25 June)
  • Elizabeth Mary Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1878 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 29 September;
    died age 14 and buried in that churchyard on 7 September 1892)
  • Martha Sarah Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1881 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 28 August)
  • Samuel Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1884 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 30 November)
  • John Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1886 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 25 July)
  • Alice Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1888 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 29 April)
  • Mary Ann Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1890 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 30 March).

John's parents settled in Headington Quarry. after their marriage, and at the time of the 1881 census they were living in The Square there with their first three children: Harriet (7), William (5), and Elizabeth (2). Five more children were born before the next census, including John in 1886.

At the time of the 1891 census John (5) was at school and living at 2 Vine Cottages in Quarry with his father Samuel (40). who was still a shepherd; his mother Mary (39), who was worked for someone else as a laundress, and his seven siblings: Harriet (18); William (15), who was now working as an agricultural labourer; and Elizabeth (13), Martha (9), Samuel (7), Alice (3) and Mary (1). Elizabeth died at the age of 14 the following year.

Quarry School
Quarry National School, which John Tolley would have attended

In 1896, when John was aged nine, his mother Mary Tolley died at the age of 42 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 8 January.

The following year, on 21 August 1897 at Holy Trinity Church, John’s father Samuel Tolley married his second wife, the widow Mrs Emily Edwards (née Shorter, born in Wheatley), and again neither could sign the marriage register. They had three children:

  • Percy Reginald Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1900 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 31 January)
  • Violetta Joy Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1902 and privately baptised by Holy Trinity Church on 30 July)
  • Winifred Lucy Tolley (born in Headington Quarry in 1906 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 24 June).

At the time of the 1901 census John (14) and his older brother Samuel (16) had both already left home and were butcher’s assistants, lodging at the home in New High Street of another butcher’s assistant, Robert Edwards (29), and his wife and two children. Meanwhile his father Samuel Tolley (49) was working as a carter on a farm and living with John’s stepmother at New Inn Cottages, which were in Quarry parish at the south-east end of the London Road (just to the west of the New Inn, which stood on the site of the present 282 London Road). This house had only three rooms including the kitchen, so it is not surprising that John and his brother moved out, as his two youngest full sisters, Alice (14) and Mary (11), were still at home with his father in 1901, in addition to the first two half-siblings from the second marriage, and three children from his stepmother’s first marriage. As for John’s other siblings, Martha (20) was living at Iffley vicarage, where she was employed as the cook; William (25) was lodging in Swindon and working as a general labourer; and Harriet (28) was married.

By the time of the 1911 census John Tolley had joined the army, and was then stationed in India, at Wellington, Nigiris. His father Samuel Tolley was still living at New Inn Cottages with his second wife and their three children. He died there in 1914 at the age of 63 and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 21 June.

Poppy In the First World War John Tolley served as a Private in 1st Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No. 8324).

He died of wounds at the age of 29 in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) on 3 April 1916.

He is buried in the Kut War Cemetery (J.24).

John Tolley is remembered on the stone plaque in the porch of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry.

John Tolley had four second cousins who also died in the war: George Tolley and his cousin Arthur Tolley of St Andrew’s parish, and Harry Smith and his brothers William Smith of Headington Quarry. They were all descended from Samuel Tolley, who married Sarah Turner at St Andrew’s Church on 12 October 1812.


Quarry memorial

John’s full siblings
  • Harriet Ann Elizabeth Tolley (born 1873) married Silvanus Silvester of Swindon at Holy Trinity Church on 4 September 1892. Their son Silvanus William Silvester was baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 31 December 1893.
  • William George Tolley (born 1876), sometimes named as George William Tolley, married Frances Harriett Silvester (the sister of his sister Harriet's husband) in Oxford in 1901. At the time of the 1911 census William was working as a GWR boilermaker's labourer and living in Swindon with his wife and their children Cyril (9), Irene (7), George Francis (5), and Evelyn (4).
  • Samuel Tolley (born 1884) was a labourer living at 16 Magdalen Road when married Alice Phoebe Jones at St Clement's Church on 24 April 1905. At the time of the 1911 census he was working as a coal heaver and living at 2 Vine Lane, Warwick with his wife and four children: Doris (5), James (4), Mary (3), and Elsie (1).
  • Alice Tolley (born 1888) married Frederick Samuel Paintin at Holy Trinity Church on 26 November 1910. Their began their married life in Windsor Street, and their son Frederick John Paintin was baptised at All Saints’ Church on 15 October 1911.
  • Mary Ann Tolley (born 1890) married William Trafford in the Headington registration district in the fourth quarter of 1910. At the time of the 1911 census they were living at The Pitts in Headington Quarry with their first child, Cyril Trafford (2).

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