Tom's Story 1894 - 1918


 Tom Swinburn 22nd July 1894 - 29th May 1960

photograph c 1918 aged 24

This volume is the story of Tom Swinburn who was 6 years old in the year 1900 and his close family (see family tree below). It covers the period from Tom's birth on 22 July 1884 to his marriage on 1st August 1918. It is not related in the form of a diary as I do not have any personal oral history on which to base it. The story has been reconstructed mainly from online sources such as census data and military records.

Birth of Tom Swinburn - Sunday 22nd July 1894

Tom Swinburn was born on 22nd July 1894 at 2, Alexander Street, Boulton, Derby. His mother registered the birth some time later on 18th September 1894.

The Swinburn Family - c1897

After the birth of Annie in June 1896 the family of Alfred and Annie Swinburn was complete. The following registrations are to be found on FreeBMD.  (Esther born 1891 lived only for 19 months. This accounts for the 4-year gap between Margaret and Edward).


The exact date of this photograph is unknown but the baby in Annie's arms at the back is under a year old which probably puts it in 1897.

The photograph shows Alfred and Annie with their 6 children. George (b1886) is standing on the left and Alfred (b1887) on the right. Margaret (b1889) is standing in front of her mother who is holding the baby Ann (b1896). Seated on Alfred’s knees are Tom (b1894) and Edward (b1893).

I have only this poor quality photocopy of this photograph and would very much like to see the original again if anyone knows who has it. However, it may be that even the original is very faded with age.

Alfred & Annie Swinburn - 1901 Census

In 1901 Alfred and Annie were living in Hastings Street, Crewton, Derby and the registration of the births of the last 3 children as having been born in Crewton shows that they had been here for at least 6 years. The house number is not clear on the original record. Hastings Street is a cul-de-sac leading to Normanton School in the area of Derby where the Swinburn family was to remain for the next 50 years. Other key addresses in this area include Stenson Road, Ainsworth Drive, Belvoir Street, St James Road and also Clarence Road where the Sparkes family lived at this time. It is conceivable that Tom and his future wife, Margaret May, were at school together.

Alfred had a new job. On previous census forms his occupation is recorded as cabinet maker but now he is putting his skills to work as a Railway Carriage Builder. The ‘ditto’ indicates that his son George was an apprentice in the same trade.

All surviving 6 children are still living at home 

Esther Swinburn - 1901 Census

Alfred Swinburn was the illegitimate child of Esther Swinburn and was brought up by his grandmother, Anne, while Esther spent her life unmarried and working in service in various households in Scarborough from 1861 until the turn of the century. The full story of Alfred's upbringing is told in the separate section on the Swinburn family pre 1900. 

For several decades Esther had worked in the service Robert Fenwick. However by 1901 she was no longer with him - he had been 81 years old in 1891 and so may well have now died. Esther was now was working as a nurse, looking after the youngest child of the Ashley family, owner occupiers of a hotel in Scarborough. The precise address is not clear but is close to St Nicholas Cliff - a cliff top road with many hotels.

The Family of Alfred and Annie Swinburn - 1907

The document below is dated 21 April 1907 and is signed by E Swinburn (almost certainly  Edward - see below). It lists all the children of Alfred and Annie – including Esther Fanny Swinburn who does not appear on any census records as she died at the age of 1 year.

The listing reads:

The list is written on Midland Railway headed notepaper. The 2011 census shows that by that date both George and Edward were working for the Midland Railway. Edward in particular, was working as a clerk and so would have had access to such paper. 

  I have only a photocopy of this document and would very much like to see the original again if anyone knows who has it.

Confirmation of Edward’s employment comes from a database of Railway Employees released through the National Archives in 2013. This has him listed amongst “Messenger Staff’ beginning work in 1907 at the age of 14 for 6/- (six shillings) per week.

I have a copy of the image of the ledger page with Edward’s details but it is probably copyright and so is not published here.

Tom Swinburn - Apprenticeship - 1910

On 10 November 1910 Tom and Alfred signed the papers for Tom to serve as an apprentice at Rolls Royce in Derby to learn the trade of ‘Turning’. The papers are signed again on the back page five years later (28 July 1915) after the apprenticeship was completed.

Tom's employment at Rolls Royce may have saved his life as he was excused military service in WWI because of his essential war work as a turner (lathe operator) at RR, which during the war made tanks, aircraft and other military equipment. As the story below shows, his brothers were not so fortunate.

At the time of the agreement the family were living at 136 Brighton Road Derby. Key elements of the agreement as shown in the document below were:

The employment commenced on 10 April 1910 and would last for a period of 5 years and 100 days.

1) Tom’s working hours were:

Mondays: 8am – 5.30pm with 1 hour interval from 1pm to 2pm

Tuesdays – Fridays: 6am to 5.30pm with ½ hour interval from 8am - 8.30am and 1 hour interval from 1pm to 2pm

Saturdays: 6am - 12 noon with ½ hour interval from 8am - 8.30am

2) His holidays were:

Good Friday, the following Saturday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and every Sunday.

3) His pay was (exclusive of holidays and intervals):

 6/- [six shillings] per week of 54 hours with an extra 25% for all overtime. The agreement included an annual raise of 2/- per week.

6) He was forbidden to marry during the term of his apprenticeship.

7) His father agreed to provide board and lodging for him


Alfred & Annie Swinburn - 1911

In 1911 Alfred and Annie were living at 136 Brighton Road, Derby, as they were when Toms indenture papers were signed in 1910. They were to remain at this address for many years.

Margaret, Tom and Annie were still living at home but the three eldest sons, George, Alfred and Edward had left.

As he did not serve in WW1 there are no further records of Tom Swinburn until his marriage in 1918. The remainder of this story will focus on the fates of his grandmother (Esther) and his 5 siblings (George, Fred, Margaret, Edward and Nan).

136, Brighton Road, Derby

Name and Surname

Age last Birthday

Particulars as to marriage

Profession or Occupation

Where Born

Yrs married


Alfred Swinburn (head)



7 (1 died)



Annie Swinburn (wife)






Margaret Swinburn (daughter)



General Servant


Tom Swinburn (son)



Turner Motor Car Works


Annie Swinburn (daughter)



Dress Maker


Number of rooms in this dwelling (count kitchen as a room but do not count scullery, landing, lobby, closet, bathroom): 6

The 1911 census form is considerably different from that of earlier years and each sheet holds only one household and is signed by the head of family.

Esther Swinburn - 1911

In the 1911 census Esther Swinburn (Alfred's mother) was staying with her sister Mary Ann at 4, Aberdeen Terrace Scarborough. This is the house next door to number 6 where Esther was Housekeeper for Robert Fenwick in 1881 and 1891 (see Swinburn line <1900 for details).

4 Aberdeen Terrace, Scarborough

Name and Surname

Age last Birthday

Particulars as to marriage

Profession or Occupation

Where Born

Yrs married


William Snow Whelpton (head)




Journeyman Tailor

Gainsborough, Lincs

Mary Ann Whelpton (wife)





Pickering Yorks

Esther Swinburn (sister to the above)




Glaisdale, Yorks

Number of rooms in this dwelling (count kitchen as a room but do not count scullery, landing, lobby, closet, bathroom): 4

According to Margaret Swinburn (daughter to Alfred & Annie - see above) who wrote to me in 1965, Esther lived with Alfred & Annie and family at some time in the early years of the Twentieth Century. As Esther’s death is recorded in 1915 this must have been sometime between 1911 and 1915.

Death of Esther Swinburn - 15th July 1915

Esther Swinburn died at the age of 77 on 15th July 1915 at 136 Brighton Road Crewton, Derby. This was the home of Alfred and Annie and confirms the anecdotal evidence from Aunty Margaret that her grandmother, Esther, lived with them for a time. Alfred registered the death.

There is an error on the certificate that has been crossed out. Under ‘Occupation’ the registrar first wrote:

Widow of Alfred Swinburn ????? (I cannot read this last word which presumably states the occupation of the supposed Alfred Swinburn). It may be that the registrar simply assumed that Esther was Alfred’s widow or perhaps there was a lie here (as on Alfred’s marriage certificate), which was later discovered!

When & where




Cause of death


Fifteenth July 1915

136 Brighton Road Derby U. D.

Esther Swinburn


Widow of Alfred Swinburn B?????


Housekeeper Domestic

1. Senile Decay

2. Cardiac failure

Certified by

C F Druit MRCS

Alfred Swinburn


136 Brighton Road, Derby

There is a probate record for Esther.

Esther Swinburn Biography - 1839-1915

Esther was born on 31st March 1839 and Christened in Glaisdale on the following day, 1st April. She was the third child of Michael & Ann Swinburn and had a twin brother Thomas.

Perhaps because of the general poverty of the family, Thomas was not brought up with Esther, but by his maternal grandparents. After the death of her father in 1848 when Esther was only 9 years old the circumstances of Ann and her children must have been especially difficult.

On 14th January 1859 Esther gave birth to an illegitimate son, Alfred. The father is not named on the birth certificate. Esther never married and spent the rest of her life working in service:

·     In 1861 (aged 22) she was a servant in the household of William McBean, a jet ornament manufacturer, and his wife and daughter at 34 St Nicholas Cliff Scarborough

·     I could not find her in 1871.

·     In 1881 and 1891 she was at 6, Aberdeen Terrace, Scarborough, initially called a ‘domestic servant’ and later a housekeeper’ in the household of the elderly Robert Fenwick, retired Shoemaker

·     In 1901 (aged 62) she was working as a ‘nurse’ for a family that owned a hotel in Scarborough. The precise address is not clear but was close to St Nicholas Cliff where Esther has worked when she was a young woman.

·     By 1911 (aged 72) she was retired and living with her sister Mary Ann and husband William Whelpton back in Aberdeen Terrace - now at number 4.

Until his marriage to Annie on 5th September 1885, her son Alfred lived near by and so Esther may have been close to him although it was his grandmother who brought him up.

Esther Swinburn died at the age of 77 on 15th July 1915 at 136 Brighton Road Crewton, Derby, the home of Alfred and Annie. This confirms the anecdotal evidence from Alfred’s daughter, Margaret, that her grandmother, Esther, lived with them for a time.

There is just this one photograph of Esther taken when she was in middle age – perhaps c1890.



The Swinburn Boys (Tom's brothers) - 1911>

Alfred and Annie’s oldest 3 boys were not living at home at the time of the 1911 census but all have been located and their 1911 census records and subsequent life histories are given below.

George Samuel Swinburn - 1911-1936

In the 1911 census George, Tom's oldest brother, was in digs in Sheffield with a number of fellow railway employees working for the Midland Railway.

The photocopy of the census form is poor quality and I cannot make out the name of the road or the precise nature of the work.

148 ? Road Sheffield

Name and Surname


Particulars as to marriage

Profession or Occupation

Where Born

Yrs married


William Field (head)


married  - 20


Telegraph ? Midland railway


Susannah Williams (housekeeper)


married - 37




Joseph Williams (son)



Telegraph ? Midland railway


George Swinburn (lodger)



Telegraph ? Midland railway


Number of rooms in this dwelling (count kitchen as a room but do not count scullery, landing, lobby, closet, bathroom): 7

George Swinburn - 1914-1918

I cannot find a WW1 Military record for George Samuel Swinburn. The best I can find is a reference to him in the Medal Rolls Index Cards. This shows that he was awarded a Victory Medal (awarded to all soldiers) and that he was in the Nottingham and Derbyshire Regiment of Royal Engineers – Regimental Number 18542, 128328.

The photograph shows Samuel around the time of WW1 - I have no photograph of him in uniform.

George Swinburn Death - 1936

George remained unmarried and died in 1936 at the age of 50 of TB. I was told by my Dad - R D Swinburn, that his Uncle George spent his last months in Derby Sanatorium and that when his TB was diagnosed all the family had to go to be tested. Fortunately they were all clear of the disease.

Alfred Victor (Fred) Swinburn - 1904-1915

The 1911 census record for Alfred Victor (known to the family as Fred, I understand) tells the most interesting story. He had joined the army and was serving in India, at Fort St George, Madras.


Marital Status


Where Born


Swinburn Alfred Victor



Yorkshire, Scarborough

Private 2 Leicestershire Regt

Military records list all the soldiers in a particular barracks with the details of the regiment etc given at the beginning. For Fred these are:


Institution name



2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment,

Fort Saint George, Madras, India





Overseas Military


The photographs shows Fred - perhaps at the time of enlistment. The exact dates of the photographs are not known and I do not have the originals.

Alfred Victor (Fred) Swinburn - Enlistment in 1904 at the age of 16

The story of Fred’s life and death comes from inspection of his service record. This document runs to 10 pages and the printout is very faint so I have not shown it here. However the key data is reproduced below.

The document was started in 1904 with the enlistment details. There are discrepancies in these and also in Fred’s age on the 1911 census. He was born on 18th June 1887 so by 1911 would have been only 23 (before June) or 24 - not the 26 recorded on the census. However, I have checked that there are no other Alfred Victors born in Scarborough in this decade and so I am fairly confident that this is our boy – and that the lies he told on enlistment account for the discrepancies.

Fred joined the army in 1904 when he was only 16 years and 11 months. The minimum age for enlistment is 17 so to be on the safe side he added 3 years to his age. More dramatically, he clearly had no parental consent and so lied that both his parents were dead!The service record page 4 gives some detail of Fred’s service. He enlisted at Market Harborough on 20th August 1904 and was examined at Leicester on the same day. The dates in the following service table are not all clear but it gives some indication of where he served.

The RIMS (Royal Indian Marine Ship) Hardinge was an armed troopship later to see action in the Suez Canal in 1915.

Page 5 of the service record has a table of admissions to hospital. Much of this is hard to read but the dates confirm some of the details of where he was when. The Gonorrhoea diagnosis is clear enough although I cannot read the Remarks.

Death of Alfred Victor (Fred) Swinburn - 2 March 1915

The record of Fred’s death shows that he died in action in Flanders on 2 March 1915. Britain had declared war on Germany on August 4 1914 and by October trench warfare, with its high death rate, was dominating on the Western Front. (The box shows the movement of the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment indicating that they had been in France since September 1914.) The regular army would have been the first into the fighting and the first to suffer casualties - there was no conscription until 1916. Alfred’s death is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Hainault, Belgium (panel 4).

The Leicestershire Regiment

Battalions of the Regular Army

1st Battalion
August 1914: in Fermoy, Ireland. Part of 16th Brigade, 6th Division.
Moved on 19 August 1914 to Cambridge and landed at St Nazaire on 10 September 1914.
17 November 1915: transferred to 71st Brigade in same Division.

France; Rue de Vaux, Bohain.



I have additional documents showing what happened to his effects and commemorative scroll after his death. Although he had lied that his parents were dead when he enlisted, the Army had clearly managed to locate his next of kin as there is a letter to them dated June 3 1915. The quality of these documents is poor and they have not been reproduced here.

Edward Swinburn - 1911-1919

In 1911 Edward was also working for the railway and living in digs in Corby, Kettering.

Corby Kettering

Name and Surname


Particulars as to marriage

Profession or Occupation

Where Born

Yrs married


Emma Spendlove (head)


widow  - 46



Denethorpe, Northants

Joseph William Spendlove (son)



Organist Church of England

Stanion, Northants

Charlotte Spendlove (son)




Corby, Northants

Edward Swinburn (boarder)



Railway Clerk, Midland Railway


Number of rooms in this dwelling (count kitchen as a room but do not count scullery, landing, lobby, closet, bathroom): 5

Edward Swinburn - 1914-1918 Military Service in WW1

Edward appears to have joined up in 1914 at the very start of WW1. The 8-page document of his service record is very faint and difficult to make out so the image is not reproduced here. The key data from the front page is as follows.

Edward enlisted in 1914 - presumably as a volunteer as there was no conscription until 1916.

The photograph shows Edward later in the war after his promotions with the insignia of a Staff Sergeant.

Death of Edward Swinburn - 20th February 1919

It is very difficult to make out what is written on the Military Record Form and the notes below are just some of the items I can read. I think that Edward sustained wounds on 8th March 1917 and was transferred out of active service - perhaps working as a Clerk in France.

But he died in 1919, not of war wounds but from the influenza pandemic that killed more people than the war – between 20 and 40 million people. This pandemic was the most devastating in recorded world history, killing more in a single year than died in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.

Edward was transferred to England on 9th February 1919 - perhaps because he was ill - and he died on 20th February 1919, at the age of only 26, of influenza and resulting pneumonia. I have  copy of his death certificate. The death was certified by the same family doctor who had certified Esther’s death 4 years previously. What a terrible additional tragedy for his parents to bear! Edward is buried in the churchyard in Boulton St Mary, Derbyshire.


Destinies of the Swinburn Family 1918-2011highlight shows direct line ancestors

Annie Swinburn (nee Brown)

Alfred and Annie continued to live in Crewton. Annie died on 6th June 1924 at the age of 70.

Alfred Swinburn

Alfred survived his wife by 23 years. In later years he lived at 19 Severn Street, Crewton. He died on 4th March 1947 at the age of 88.

By 1919 Alfred and Annie’s family had been reduced to four children:

Samuel George Swinburn        

Samuel remained unmarried and died in 1936 at the age of 50 of TB(see above).

Margaret Anne Swinburn        

Margaret married Alfred Domleo and had one son Robert.

Annie Swinburn

Annie married Sidney Pearson and had two daughters Nancy and Dorothy.

Tom Swinburn

Tom was married, on 1st August 1918, to Margaret May Sparkes. They may well have been childhood sweethearts, both originally living in Alvaston, but they could have met later in their teens when both were working for Rolls Royce.

Margaret May bore him three sons, Tom Raymond, Ronald David and *********. When the first two were small children, Tom scratched his thumb on a lathe at work and contracted septicaemia, which almost killed him. He spent a long period in hospital and then over a year slowly convalescing at home - missing a total of 18 months work.

After his illness, Tom returned to Rolls Royce ultimately becoming an inspector (checking parts made at other factories and filing to fit RR specifications). Although he would have been due f or retirement in 1959, at the age of 65, Tom stayed on, at the request of Rolls Royce, to help them over a busy period, and aiming to complete his 50 years of service for the company. However his death in May 1960 cheated him of that honour by just 6 months

Although Tom remained in good health for most of the rest of his life, the septicaemia had probably weakened his heart and he died suddenly, of a heart attack. On the morning of Sunday 29th May 1960 he awoke with a pain in his chest and thinking it to be 'wind' he went downstairs to make a cup of tea. Taking a cup up to his wife he collapsed at the foot of the stairs and although Margaret May jumped out of bed at the bang and ran to see what had happened, by the time she reached him he was dead.

The story of Tom & Margaret May and their family is told in the separate

Swinburn Family Story 1918 - 1946.