Poppy

First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

James Jonathan BLAKE (1884–1918)

James Jonathan Blake
“A gentle, quiet man”
(description of James Jonathan Blake by a
relative who remembered him) Photograph
supplied by James's grandson Jeff Blake

James Jonathan Blake was born at 95 Vincent Street, Westminster, London on 5 July 1884. He was the youngest son of Thomas Blake (born at Boarstall, Buckinghamshire in c.1837) and Eliza Simmons (born at Boarstall in 1844). His parents were married in the Bicester registration district near the end of 1865 and had seven children (two of whom died in infancy). The ones who survived were:

  • Mary Ann Blake (born in St John’s parish, Westminster, London in 1869/70)
  • John Thomas Blake (born in Westminster, London in 1873, reg. third quarter at St George’s, Hanover Square)
  • Walter Joseph Blake (born in Westminster, London in 1876/7, reg. first quarter of 1877 at St George’s, Hanover Square)
  • Elizabeth Blake (born in Westminster, London in 1879, reg. second quarter at St George’s, Hanover Square)
  • James Jonathan Blake (born at 95 Vincent Street. Westminster, London on 5 July 1884).

The 1871 census shows James’s father, who was working as a labourer, lodging in London with his wife and their first child Mary Ann (1) at 119 Regent Street, the home of another couple (a modeller and laundress) who also had a baby.

In about 1879 James’s mother started to suffer from severe arthritis, and the 1901 census records that she had been “paralysed” for 21 years.

By 1881 the Blakes had a home of their own at 3 St George’s Place, Westminster, and there were now four children: Mary Ann (11), John (7), Walter (4), and Elizabeth (1). John’s father, however, was not at home on census night: he was a patient in the Metropolitan Convalescent Institution at Walton-on-Thames. James himself was their last child, born in London in 1884.

By 1891 the family was living at Binsey in Oxford. On 30 March 1891 at Binsey Church, his sister Mary Ann Blake (22) of Binsey married William John Calcutt (25), a baker of Lee, London.

At the time of the 1891 census James (6) was living with his family at Binsey. His father was a farm labourer and his two older brothers were now at work: John (17) was a grocer’s assistant, and Walter (14) was an errand boy. His sister Elizabeth (11) was still at school.

On 2 August 1897 at Binsey, his sister Elizabeth Blake (18), who was then in domestic service, married Frederick Jenkins (19): both were then living in Binsey.

In 1901 James (16) was an apprentice to a vellum bookbinder, living at 64 Bessborough Place, Westminster with his father Thomas (63), his mother Eliza (55), and his brother John (28). His father and brother were both bricklayer's labourers.

On 17 September 1910 James began work in the bindery of Oxford University Press.

At the time of the 1911 census James (27), described as a bookbinder, was living at 104 Bridge Street, Osney with his his father Thomas (73), who was now a pensioner, and his mother Eliza (66). Miss Emma Jesse Howell (22), described as a cook, was paying a visit, and James was to marry her just two weeks later:

♥ On 17 April 1911 at St Frideswide's Church in West Oxford, James Jonathan Blake married Emma Jessie Howell, who was born in Westminster, the daughter of the furniture remover Frank Howell. They had the following children:

  • Christina Frances Eliza Blake (born at 60 Littlegate Street, Oxford on 3 February 1912 and baptised at St Aldate's Church on 23 June)
  • Elizabeth Jessie Blake (born at 104 Bridge Street, Oxford in 1913 and baptised at St Frideswide’s Church on 1 May)
  • Robert William Blake (born in Headington on 10 March 1915 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 16 May)
  • James Thomas Blake (born in Headington on 29 September 1916 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 20 December).

James and Emma evidently began their married life in Oxford, and were presumably living with James’s parents in 1913, but in about 1914 they moved up to Headington and lived in Old High Street (then called High Street, Old Headington village). When Robert was baptised on 16 May 1915, James was described in the register of St Andrew's Church as a bookbinder, but he enlisted just two weeks later, and when his youngest child James was born in 1916 he was described as a soldier.

Poppy In the First World War James Jonathan Blake enlisted as a volunteer on 31 May 1915, and served as a Lance Corporal, for a few months in the Oxford & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No. 201792), and then in the Labour Corps (Service No. 346609). He was retained on Home Service throughout. He suffered from heart-strain when serving in the west of England in 1916, and again in Northumberland in 1918. He was discharged, incapacitated, on 11 October 1918 and died in Headington of heart disease ten days later on 21 October at the age of 34. His widow was granted a war gratuity of £4 8s.

Blake's grave

James Jonathan Blake was buried in Oxford at Botley War Cemetery in Oxford (I1.131). His headstone (right) reads:

[Emblem of Labour Corps with motto
LABOR OMNIA VINCIT]

346609 LANCE CPL.
J. BLAKE
LABOUR CORPS
ATTD. OXFORD & BUCKS. LIGHT INF.
21ST OCTOBER 1918 AGED 34

AT REST

Only 40% of war headstones bear an inscription near their base: the main inscription was free, but Mrs Blake would have been charged 3½d per letter for the personal message “AT REST”.

As well as being remembered on the roll of honour of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington, he is listed on the Oxford University Press war memorial (below).

Blake on OUP memorial

 


Postscript

St Andrew's memorial board

James’s parents
  • Thomas Blake (born 1837) died at the Cowley Road Hospital at the age of 85 and his funeral was at St Frideswide's Church on 29 December 1923.
  • Eliza Blake (born 1844) was living at 30 East Street, Osney when she died at the age of 81 and her funeral was at St Frideswide's Church on 27 April 1927.
James’s widow
  • Mrs Emma Blake was back living in Westminster in London just after the First World War (at 65 Pulford/Lupus Street).

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website