First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Arthur WRIGHT (1882–1918)

Arthur Wright, also Arthur John Wright (known as “Dusty”) was born in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire in 1882, the son of Benjamin Appleby Wright (born in Bledlow near Aylesbury in 1852/3) and Emily Louisa Webster (born in Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire in 1858).

His parents, who were from gipsy families, were married in Leighton Buzzard in the third quarter of 1876 and had eight children:

  • Edith Emily Wright (born in Leighton Buzzard in 1877, reg. third quarter)
  • Ellen Wright (born in Leighton Buzzard in 1879, reg. third quarter)
  • William Wright (born in Leighton Buzzard in 1880, reg. last quarter)
  • Arthur Wright (born in Leighton Buzzard and possibly the Henry Arthur Wright whose birth was reg. there second quarter of 1882)
  • Emily Louisa Wright (born in Leighton Buzzard in February 1884 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church when she was seven years old (at the same time as her younger brother Harry) on 30 August 1891)
  • George Wright (born in Leighton Buzzard in 1886, reg. third quarter)
  • Harry Thomas Wright (born in Headington Quarry in 1889/90 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 30 August 1891)
  • Daisy Wright (born in Headington Quarry in 1892 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church on 25 December).

At the time of the 1881 census Arthur’s parents were living in Heath Road, Leighton Buzzard with their first three children. His father was described as a general dealer and his mother as a straw-plait maker. Arthur was born there the following year.

The family was still at Leighton Buzzard in 1886, but by 1890 had moved to Headington Quarry.

At the time of the 1891 census Arthur (8) was at school (almost certainly Headington Quarry National School) and living at Beaumont Terrace in Quarry with his father Benjamin (36), who was described as a “Dealer (shop)” and as neither an employer nor employed; his mother Emily (34); and his siblings Edith (12), Ellen (10), William (9), Emily (6), George (4) and Harry (1). His youngest sister Daisy was born the following year.

Arthur’s father Benjamin Wright died in 1893 at the age of 39 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 21 November.

At the time of the 1901 census Arthur (18) was in Towersey, living with and working for the general dealer William Wright (who may have been a relation, although he was born in Tring): this must have only have been a short-term arrangement, as Arthur evidently came back to Quarry. Meanwhile his widowed mother Emily Wright was working as a charwoman and living in The Pits with five of Arthur's siblings: William (20), who was a brickmaker; Emily (16), who was a charwoman; and George (14); and Harry (11) and Daisy (8), who were still at school. The two eldest girls, Edith and Ellen, had already married and left home.

At the time of the 1911 census Arthur Wright (28), described as a former bricklayer’s labourer and still single, was an inmate of Oxford Prison in New Road. His widowed mother Emily Wright (50) was then working as a charwoman at Headington Workhouse and living at Beaumont Road (then called Post Office Road) with two of Arthur's brothers: George (23), who was a bricklayer, and Charles (20), who was a brickmaker’s carter.

Arthur Wright is remembered by P. Phillips in Raphael Samuel, Village Life and Labour (page 242) as “just a rough and ready bloke … straight as a die … a little bit of a gypsy”, who “had a way of getting about without work”. When the First World War broke out, Wright was in Oxford jail for “either poaching or fighting”. Phillips recalls:

There was two inside, in jail, and when the war broke out they volunteered to go straight over. They let ’em out to go. They never come back. Old Dusty Wright, as we called him, and Ferret Taylor. Never come back. And they was blokes like – that when they was out there fightin’ – if they see a German, they’d be after ’im – wouldn’t wait to be told – they was that type of feller, and they both went west.

As he was let out of gaol to fight when he joined up on 6 January 1915, his war record states that he was resident in Oxford rather than in Headington.

In Memoriam Oxford Mail

Poppy In the First World War Arthur Wright first served as a Horsekeeper in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (Service No. S.E./2431), and then as a Gunner in the “C” Battery, 50th Brigade of the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery (Service No. 179066). He died in France at the age of 36 on 1 November 1918.

He is buried at the Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille (VI. F. 17), and his war grave there has the added words “GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN”. (Only 40% of war headstones bear an inscription such as this near their base: the main inscription was free, but families had to pay 3½d per letter for a personal message.)

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


Right: In Memoriam notice inserted by the Wright family in the Oxford Mail of 1 November 2018 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the death of Dusty Wright


Quarry memorial

Arthur’s mother
  • Mrs Emily Louisa Wright died at 22 Beaumont Road at the age of 74 and was buried at Holy Trinity churchyard on 3 December 1932 with her grandson Thomas Wilkins. The grave has an inscription to them both, and to Emily’s daughter Edith Wilkins.
Arthur’s siblings
  • Edith Emily Wright (born 1877) married William Wilkins in the Headington registration district in the second quarter of 1896. Their son Thomas Arthur Wilkins (born 1901) was accidentally killed at the age of 23 and buried in Holy Trinity churchyard on 10 September 1924). Three more children were baptised at Holy Trinity Church: Nellie Wilkins (baptised on 29 January 1905), Joseph John Wilkins, born on 19 March 1907 and baptised on 19 May), and Victor George Wilkins, born on 3 February 1911 and baptised on 7 April 1912). Edith Emily Wilkins died at the age of 74 at 9 Pitts Road on 16 April 1952 and was buried in the same grave as her son Thomas and her mother.
  • Ellen Wright (born 1879) married Charles Massey at Holy Trinity Church on 9 June 1900. They had six children baptised at Holy Trinity Church: Nellie Mahala Massey (bapt. 24 February 1901), Arthur Charles Massey (bapt. 30 November 1902, Emily Sarah Massey (bapt. 26 March 1905), Laura May Massey (born on 19 March 1907 and bapt. 19 May), George William Massey (bapt. 27 February 1910), and Evelyn Daisy Massey (born on 30 January 1918 and bapt. 31 March).
  • William Wright (born 1880) married Ada Massey at Holy Trinity Church on 25 April 1903. They had twelve children baptised at Holy Trinity Church: William Charles Wright (bapt. 22 May 1904); Elizabeth Emily Wright (born 9 May 1905, bapt. 25 June); Doris Lily Wright (born 26 December 1906, bapt. 31 March 1907); Florence Nellie Wright (bapt. 27 February 1910); Thomas George Wright (born 11 December 1911, bapt. 25 February 1912); Benjamin John Wright (born 4 August 1913, bapt. 28 September); Charles Arthur Wright (born 2 February 1915, bapt. 13 March); George Wright and Henry Arthur Wright (twins, born 30 December 1919, bapt. 4 April 1920); Edith Marjorie Wright (born 22 March 1921, bapt. 28 August); Joan Wright (born 4 October 1924, bapt. 7 December); and Patricia Mary Wright (born 18 May 1927, bapt. 25 September).
  • Emily Louisa Wright (born 1884) married James William Webb at Holy Trinity Church on 23 September 1905. They had five children baptised at Holy Trinity Church: James William Webb (born 27 March 1907, bapt. 19 May); Arthur George Webb (born 27 December 1908, bapt. 28 February); Victor Stanley Webb (born 4 January 1911, bapt. 26 March); Daisy Webb (born 13 April 1913, bapt. 29 June); and Colin Webb (born 10 January 1918, bapt. 31 March).
  • Harry Thomas Wright (born 1889/90) was living at 22 Beaumont Road when he married Elsie May Lilian Jones at Holy Trinity Church on 17 January 1929.
  • Daisy Wright (born 1892) was living in Beaumont Road and working as a nurse when she married Walter Titchen Gunner at Holy Trinity Church on 6 June 1925.

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website