First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

George TOLLEY (1895–1916)

George Tolley

George Tolley was born in Barton in 1895, the son of Edward Tolley (born in Headington and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 23 October 1859) and Mary Jane White (born at the White Horse on the London Road and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 28 August 1861).

Edward’s father George grew up in Old High Street, the son of a shepherd and a laundress. He and his wife were aged respectively 20 and 19 when they were married (three months before the birth of their first child) at St Andrew’s Church on 9 May 1880. They had ten children in all:

  • Edward Albert (also known as Albert Edward) Tolley (born in 1880 and privately baptised by St Andrew's Church on 13 August); died aged 2½ and buried at St Andrew’s churchyard on 6 January 1883
  • [The most likely other child reported in the 1911 census as having died is Mary Emma Tolley, born around end of April 1882, who died aged four months and was buried at St Andrew’s churchyard on 30 August 1882]
  • Percival Charles Tolley (born in Old Headington 12 March 1883 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 29 April)
  • Amy Jane Tolley (born in Old Headington in 1885 and baptised at St Andrew's Church on 28 June)
  • Sarah Maria Tolley (born in Old Headington on 4 May 1887 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 11 September)
  • Edith Tolley (born in Barton on 19 December 1889 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 11 May 1890)
  • Thomas Tolley (born in Old Headington on 9 October 1892 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 27 November)
  • George Tolley (born in Barton on 23 August 1895 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 24 November)
  • Alice Tolley (born in Old Headington in 1898, reg. second quarter)
  • Edward Tolley (born in Old Headington on 14 January 1904 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 6 March).

Old White Horse


In the 1881 census George’s parents and their first baby Albert Edward (8 months) are listed between the entries for Barton and those for Church Lane in Old Headington, with the street not specified (but likely to be Larkin’s Lane). George’s father Edward was then working as a brewer’s drayman, which may explain how he came to meet his wife, as she was the daughter of Daniel White, landlord of the Old White Horse on the London Road (left). George’s mother was then working as a dressmaker.

By 1891 George’s parents were living in Larkins Lane (which along with St Andrew's Lane was then called Church Lane) with Amy Jane (5), Sarah Maria (3), and Edith (1). Percival (8) was staying with his widowed grandmother Maria Tolley (68), who lived in Old High Street and was employed as a laundress, and whose husband George had died at the age of 63 and was buried in Headington Cemetery on 20 March 1886. George himself was born in 1895.

By 1901 the family had moved again, to one of the cottages between the Priory and the Black Boy in Old High Street: George (5) was at home with h’s father, who was now a mason’s labourer, his mother, who was still a dressmaker, and four of his siblings: Sarah (14), who went out to work as a domestic servant, and Edith (11), Thomas (9), and Alice (3), who were all at school. George would almost certainly have attended Old Headington Infant School, which had recently moved into an old building behind the present St Andrew’s School. The family was still in Old High Street in 1904, the year their last child Edward was born.

George’s widowed grandmother, Mrs Maria Tolley, died at Old High Street at the age of 81 and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 10 February 1904. Her son and George’s father, Edward Tolley, died in Old Headington just two years later at the age of 46, and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 24 February 1906.

The 1911 census shows George (15), who was now a printer's labourer, living at Holyoake Road (then called Western Road, the east side of which was in St Andrew’s parish) with his mother Mary Jane (49), still working as a dressmaker, and three of his siblings: Edith (21), who was still a domestic servant; Thomas (18), who was also a printer's labourer; and Edward (7), who was at school. Also living with them was Gladys Henrietta Tolley (7), the illegitimate daughter of George’s sister Sarah Maria (24), who was lodging at the Radcliffe Infirmary where she worked as a ward-maid.

By 1916 George Tolley was on the kitchen staff at Brasenose College.

Poppy In the First World War George Tolley served as a Private in the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service No: 3022). He was aged only 20 when he was killed in action in France on 19 July 1916.

He is buried in the Laventie Military Cemetery, La Gorgue (II. D. 6).

He is remembered on the roll of honour of St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington. He is not on the Brasenose College war memorial, but he was remembered in the University of Oxford's Twitter memorial of the University of Oxford men who died at the Somme.

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


St Andrew's memorial board

George’s widowed mother
  • Mrs Mary Jane Tolley (born 1861) died at 1 Holyoake Road at the age of 81 and was buried in Headington Cemetery on 30 October 1942.
George’s sisters
  • Edith Tolley (born 1889) never married, and is listed as the main occupant at 1 Holyoake Road in 1962. She died at the age of 74 in the Oxford registration district in 1963 (reg. second quarter).
  • Sarah Maria Tolley (born 1887) gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Gladys Henrietta Tolley, at home in Old High Street on 21 March 1904), and had her baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 1 May 1904. She left the child with her parents to bring up, and was working as a cook when on 22 May 1915 at St Andrew’s Church she married Ernest Arthur Dear, a stocker from Frimley. Gladys was still living with her grandmother at 1 Holyoake Road when on 14 July 1928 at St Andrew’s Church she married Sidney Thomas Ottaway Washbrook (a railwayman of 33 Hayfield Road, Oxford).

See also

Back to St Andrew’s Church, Old Headington roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website