For this month’s blog we will take a look at what an amazing amount of information you can glean from a memorial inside a church when you look at the wider context. We will go inside St. Margaret’s church, Fletton and take a look at two memorials which commemorate father and son Henry William and Edward Elgie Page.
Henry William Page was Station Master at the Great Eastern Station from 1884/5 to 1900 and churchwarden at St. Margaret’s from 1889 to 1900. His memorial, which was erected by the staff at the G. E. R Station as a tribute of their ‘esteem and respect’, reads:
‘To the glory of God and in memory of
Henry William Page
was Station Master G. E.R. Peterborough
1884-1900 Churchwarden of this parish 1889-1900.
Born 14 Dec 1839. Died 9 Jan 1900.
This tablet was erected by the staff of the G. E. R. Station
Peterborough as a tribute of esteem and respect.’
Little is known about Henry’s early life except that he was born on the 14th December 1839 in Springfield, Essex and spent his early years living with his grandmother Sarah.
Henry married Sarah Georgiana Elgie on 23rd May 1859 in Whitechapel, London, at St. Mary’s, London and at this time Henry, like his father James, was a builder. However, the diverse occupation opportunities and job security that the railways offered were strong. By 1861, when their first child Herbert was born, Henry and Sarah were living in Newport, Essex and Henry was a railway signalman.
Henry was ambitious and by the 1871 census he had achieved promotion to Railway Station Master in Linton, Cambridgeshire. Henry and Sarah had six children and by looking at their birthplaces you can see that the family had already moved several times in the eastern counties, perhaps to aid this promotion: Herbert was born in 1861 in Newport, Emily 1863 in Wisbech, Helen 1865 in Stonea, William 1866, Edward Elgie 1867, and Laura 1870 all in Linton. Henry and Sarah would have two more children, again with varying birthplaces: Fred 1872 in Linton and Walter 1873 in Chatteris.
Unfortunately, in 1875 Sarah died leaving Henry with the care of eight children under 14, a daunting prospect for anyone. It is perhaps unsurprising that Henry married Elizabeth Carter in 1876. It was not long before the family were once more on the move to March where Henry and Elizabeth would have four children: John was born in 1877, Edith in 1878, Leonard in 1882 and Mina in 1885.
With such a large family under one roof the older children made their own way. In the 1881 census 15 year old Edward Elgie is lodging at 3 Butts Row, Cambridge working as a boiler smith’s labourer while the rest of the family are living at the March railway station where Henry is Station Master.
Henry gained promotion and was appointed Station Master at G. E. R. Peterborough in 1884. He was held in high regard at the March railway station, where he had served for 11 years, and was given ‘a purse of money’ by the inhabitants of March as ‘a mark of appreciation, not only of your official merits, but of the uniform courtesy you have shown the public’.
As Station Master the family lived in the Peterborough Station Yard, which was situated between Peterborough football ground and the river Nene. Henry became involved in the local community and from 1889 to 1900 was churchwarden at St. Margaret’s.
Henry died in service on 9th January 1900 while living at 1 Nene View, Great Eastern Station Road, Fletton. He was buried in St. Margaret’s churchyard on 12th January 1900. The funeral, conducted by Reverend Dowman was a spectacular affair. ‘A large number attended to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of the deceased’ including family, friends and 100 ‘local railway staff in uniform’ who ‘lined the path to the porch’. Unfortunately, the exact location of the burial plot is currently unknown, but on the day ‘the edge of the grave had been outlined with moss and white chrysanthemums’.
Following her husband’s death Elizabeth remained in Fletton, moving to The Yews on what is now Fletton Avenue, by the time of the 1901 census. Living with her were sons John and Leonard who both followed their father into the railways, working as locomotive firemen.
The memorial to Edward Elgie Page is perhaps one of the more intriguing and striking ones in the church. The memorial is a brass shield topped with a cross, mounted on black slate. The engraved letters are in black and red. The maker was T. Pratt and Sons, Tavistock Street, London and it reads:
‘In loving memory of
Edward Elgie Page
Of her Majesty’s Royal Marines.
Son of Henry William Page
Churchwarden of this Parish
Who was murdered by a
Band of Roumanian soldiers
At Kustenjeh Roumania
March 10th 1890
Age 22 years
Death cometh as a thief
in the night’
Many visitors have wondered what the circumstances were that surrounded Edward’s ‘murder’.
As we have seen above, Edward was born in Linton, in 1867, to Henry William and Sarah Georgina Page nee Elgie. Aged 17 Edward enlisted into the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 11th July 1884 at Chatham. It would appear that Edward served mainly on HMS Cockatrice.
On 10th March 1890 Edward had shore leave in Romania and on his return was stabbed in the back three times by three local soldiers. The men were court marshalled and acquitted. There were questions asked in Parliament in June 1890 by Mr. Broadhurst, MP for Nottingham West. He enquired: ‘I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action the Government proposes to take with regard to the case of the Marine, named Page, belonging to Her Majesty’s Ship Cockatrice, who was recently murdered by some Roumanian soldiers?’ Following this the men were re-arrested. They were sentenced to 65 days imprisonment for being out of barracks without permission. The whole incident was widely reported in both national and local newspapers.
Edward’s father Henry received £198.00 from the Romanian government as compensation for his son’s death. It can only be presumed that part of this payment was used for the distinctive memorial plaque.
https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/68089 (Accessed 17/5/2021)
Peterborough Standard, 31st March 1900.
Cambridge Independent Press, 3rd January 1885.
The Peterborough Advertiser, Wednesday, January 17,1900.