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Frederick John COOK (t) 1879 - 1940

April 8th, 2009 (11:44 pm)


Frederick was my great-grandfather. I need to add in the births of his children to this narrative.





Frederick’s eldest daughter, my grandmother Violet May Cook, told her niece, June, that Frederick came from Canterbury, and that his father kept a shop. Frederick was apparently the black sheep of the family, and ran away to sea, fetching up in Poole. At this stage he met Eliza “and the roaming had to stop”.


Vi told me on several occasions that she had lived with her maternal grandparents, Edward Cole and Matilda Oxford. She told me this was because there wasn’t enough room in the family home, so she moved next-door to her grandparents, who lived in a place that used to be The Coach and Horses. However, June was under the impression that Vi was handed over to “Grandma and Grandad Cole” straight away “to give them some time on their own before the next one came”,


Vi told me once that her father’s mother was called “Strens or something”, although I didn’t remember that until I had already found Frederick’s mother, Clara Carter Stent.


Vi told June that at some point while Vi was quite young, Frederick took her to Canterbury to meet his family. Because she lived with her grandparents, “she was the only one dressed decent enough” to be taken. While she was there, her grandfather Alfred Cook told her a story which really frightened her about one of the doorways to the Cathedral. This turned out to be one of the Ingoldsby Legends, which is still told on the tourist trail around Canterbury. Not only that, but I have written proof that the story was current in Canterbury way back in the 1840’s.


At some point - no date given - Frederick disappeared for several days without a word. When he returned home, it transpired that he had walked all the way to Dorchester and back, although why he did this is unknown. I don’t know whether he told Eliza why he had done it.


June Minnett’s mother, Florence Cook, told her that Frederick worked for the gas works, and often had to dive under Poole Bridge (Hamworthy Bridge) to make repairs to the pipeline. One day the gas exploded while he was down there, and he was blown up. From June, Frederick died after Florrie married, which was apparently 1938. He died before Eliza, and she died in February 1944.


Somewhere I have some notes on Florrie’s memory of her father, which I need to add here.




I started with no idea at all of the names of Vi’s parents. I knew from information she had given me directly that her date of birth was 23rd May 1901, and that she had lived in Lagland Street in Poole. At the time I started researching Frederick I didn’t even know the date of the 1901 census, so I didn’t know whether Vi would be on it. I hoped to be able to identify Vi’s parents in the census quite easily because I knew she was the oldest, and this might even have worked had the page they were on not been missed in the indexing.


I moved on next to Vi’s birth certificate, using the information I had from her, and that gave me her parents’ names - Frederick John Cook and Eliza Cole.


At the time, only the 1901 and 1881 censuses were available, so then I searched for Cook families in Canterbury who had a Frederick of the right kind of age.




Frederick John Cook was born on Tuesday 1st July 1979 at 25, Black Griffin Lane, St Peter’s, Canterbury. Oddly, this doesn’t seem to have been the family home, as all of Frederick’s siblings were born in [the parish of] St. George’s. From his birth certificate, his parents were Alfred Cook, in 1881 a Flyman aged 28, and Clara (nee Stent), mistranscribed as aged 38 in 1881. Both were born in Canterbury.


1881: CENSUS


The 1881 census was my start point, and it has only one Frederick Cook in Canterbury in the right age range. He was less than two years old, and had 5 siblings, of whom the oldest was only 7. His younger brother was 10 months old. The full list of children is: Annie (7) scholar, Alice M. (5) scholar, Kate (4), Alfred G. (2), Frederick (1) and Walter (10m), all born in Canterbury.


The 1881 census had two Stent households, both of which were headed by Clara’s ??brothers??




Frederick’s mother Clara died in childbirth in May 1885, leaving nine children. There is no record of the baby having survived, and having discussed the cause of death with a midwife, her opinion was that the baby would have died first. When Clara died, Frederick was not quite six years old; It is therefore quite possible that he didn’t remember her at all. 


At the time of his mother’s death, Frederick had 4 older siblings and 4 younger ones; presumably a nearly-six-year-old with 4 younger siblings would have got very little attention. I have followed these siblings forward through 1891 and 1901, and it looks as if the children might have been split up and farmed out to relatives when their mother died.




Frederick’s father Alfred re-married in November 1889, when Frederick was 10. I’m guessing that he was almost totally independent by this time, having had to be since he was six years old. Alfred’s second wife was only 20 years old, and she had her first baby in July 1890, three weeks after Frederick’s 11th birthday. It’s difficult to imagine he found anything worth staying at home for.


1891: CENSUS


Frederick is with Alfred and Harriet at number 7, St George’s Lane, and Alfred is a Fly Driver. Frederick is listed as John, but there is sufficient overlap with the 1881 children to be sure that this is in fact Frederick John. Alfred jr, [Frederick] John and Walter in 1891 tie up with the youngest four children in 1881. There is also a previously-unknown ten-year-old called Charles. (When was he born?) 9-year-old Clara is not with the family. (Where was she?)


1891 (?) - 1900: WORKING AT SEA


From Vi, via June, we know that Frederick ran away to sea, although I have not yet identified any of the ships he was on, or indeed where he went to join his first ship. Faversham was a busy port at the time, but possibly the most likely candidate is Whitstable, which had the benefit of a passenger railway link to Canterbury. Frederick’s grandson, my father, ran away to sea when he was fifteen, but I have no information on how old Frederick himself was. Fourteen to sixteen seems probable, as being old enough to work.


I have found two Crew Lists for Frederick on www.findmypast.com, both in 1898. He is listed as John or J. Cook, born Canterbury.

The first, reference NG/SC/PL/36/13/1, places him on the Queen Victoria [81432] of Whitstable, and says that his previous berth (also in 1898) was on the Herbert [89861] of Faversham. The second, reference NG/SC/PL/36/13/2, has him still on the Queen Victoria, and states that his previous ship was the Queen Victoria.

 In both Crew Lists, Frederick is given as an Ordinary Seaman, aged 20, and he is one of five seamen, which presumably does not include the Master. The Queen Victoria was owned by F.Griffin, timber merchant of Salisbury, and her Master on both voyages was H.Wheeler of 70, Canterbury Road, Whitstable.

1900: MARRIAGE (add link to certificate)

Frederick John Cook married Eliza Cole in Poole on 25th December 1900. Vi was therefore on the way when they married.


1901: CENSUS


I looked for the family at 31 Lagland Street, as that was where Vi was born 5 weeks later. Their page, and probably the 2 or 3 around it, have not been indexed, but the images exist, so I located them by searching for Lagland Street in the descriptions of Enumeration Districts. Their page has now been indexed.


Frederick John is listed as John, aged 22, “Labourer - Gas House”, born Kent, Canterbury. Eliza is shown as aged 25, born Hants, Bournemouth. No-one else was in the house that night.


Violet May Cook was my grandmother.








1911: CENSUS


In 1911 Frederick and Eliza were at number 2, Alma Terrace, a house which apparently had five rooms. They had been married for ten years, and there had been eight children of the marriage, all still alive. Frederick was a gas-pipe fitter; no-one else in the family has an occupation stated. I would expect the children over five to be listed as Scholars, but they are not.


With Frederick and Eliza are seven of their eight children, ranging in age from 7 years to 8 months. Vi, of course, was with her grandparents at number 30, Lagland Street; she was nine years old and there were only the three of them in the house.


Joe was a cobbler, with a shop at the bottom of the High Street (in Poole). I can just about remember going in there to say hallo. As I didn’t really understand who he was, I was presumably quite little! The shop was only a few doors away from Earl Barry’s the barbers, and I remember it as being tiny and rather dark. My grandfather Edward Charles Tilsed was a bootmaker, and I wonder if this was the link: did he work for Joe? (Or vice versa, of course.)


Florrie was the sibling I heard most about, because Vi kept closely in touch with Florrie, and her daughter June Minnett. I never met Florrie, or indeed any of Vi’s siblings apart from Joe.




1921: CENSUS






1931: CENSUS


1940: DEATH (link to certificate)


Frederick’s death was registered in the June quarter of 1940 in Poole. Volume 5a, Page 680. According to his certificate, he didn’t get blown up under the bridge at all. On 24th April 1940, Frederick John Cook died at number 5, Alma Terrace, Green Lane in Poole, of Carcinoma of the Stomach; I cannot read the name of the certifying doctor. Frederick’s age was given as 61; in fact he would have been 61 two months later.


The death was registered on 25th April by A.A.Cook, who is given as Daughter-in-Law, present at the death. Her residence is given as ?Khan Hing?, Blandford Road, Hamworthy. This could well be Anne, wife of “Dodge”; during the 1970’s they definitely lived in Blandford Road, just below the railway arches.





1) When did Frederick leave home, and where did he take ship? How long was he at sea before settling down in Poole with Eliza?


2) Is there a newspaper account of a gas explosion under the bridge?

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