Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Well Hall Estate: The Allen Family (of Well Hall Road)

Original post: ww1greenwichwomenatwar.org/2016/07/19/the-well-hall-estate-the-allen-family

In August 1916, Annie Allen reportedly wrote to her husband’s uncle in Bolton talking about the holiday the family were about to take at the seaside. The holiday was never taken, as about ten days later in the early hours of Friday August 25th, Annie, her husband Frederick and her daughter Gladys were dead, killed by a zeppelin.

The inquest on the victims in The Kentish Mercury describes in some detail that night of raids; it resulted in eight deaths on the outskirts of London of whom four were killed in the Allen house at 210 (now 290) Well Hall Road.  The bomb exploded on contact with the roof of the house and the family were killed by the explosion itself.  Their lodger, Ellen Funnell, (wrongly named as Annie Tunnell in the newspaper) was killed by the falling debris.

What do we know about the family? Ann Gabbott and Frederick Thomas Allen were married in Bolton in 1903.  At the time of their daughter’s baptism on 15th March 1905 the family were living in Bethnal Green where Frederick was a mechanic. Annie had been born in Bolton, Lancashire into a wire worker’s family as their sixth child. Frederick’s origins are a little harder to untangle, but he might have been born in Derbyshire although clearly spent time in Lancashire and at the time of the inquest was described by his uncle, a witness in the court, as a native of Lancashire.  More research needed!

Clearly, he was an Arsenal worker and aged 37 at the time of his death. Presumably the family had moved into their Class 2 house in 1915 and Gladys had been enrolled at Gordon School. Their lodger seems to have joined them earlier in the summer, having been with them three months. This is perhaps another example of an informal arrangement of subletting.  She was renting two rooms from the family according to the inquest.

Their lodger, Ellen Elizabeth Funnell, formerly Standen, had married her husband, Owen Eugene Funnell at St James, Hatcham in June 1915 at the age of 26.  He was a trooper in the Second Lifeguards and it is likely that the couple had had very little time together before her death.

The family are buried at St John the Baptist church, Eltham, the gravestone being erected as a memorial by fellow Arsenal workmen and scholars of the Gordon School.  Not far away is a small memorial stone for Annie Funnell.

I am grateful to Margaret Taylor, former Hon Archivist of St John the Baptist, for her help in identifying the location of the graves, solving the puzzle of the lodger’s name and providing much other interesting information.

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