The Captain: Wiliam Oliver Tyers (1871-1940)

The tradition in many families in bygone days was to give children the same forename as their parents or a close family member. This can be a nightmare for anyone investigating their family history; so too is people swapping their first names around or changing their surnames. As there are so many people named William below I will refer to William Oliver Tyers as 'WOT' though he was known within the family as 'Captain Will'. My own family was not immune to this habit as both my father and grandfather were named 'Reginald Arthur'. At least WOT's surname was not Williams - I have worked on another family history where there were a whole host of people called 'William Williams'!

I describe this as a brief history but this page has grown far longer than I had planned. The reason is my personal interest in the social history of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, particularly in the treatment of the poor and the use of workhouses, after finding that several of my ancestors had ended up in such ghastly institutions in a time of wonderful improvements in industry and technology that were not matched by improvements in the social conditions of those that created the wealth - the workers. I have therefore spent a lot of time investigating the fate of WOT's family when his parents died.

Brief Family History

WOT was born in Nottingham on 23 May 1871 to a long line of carpenters and joiners but did not become one himself. A strange fate as Nottingham is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK. A full history of WOT is being produced by his great-nephew Michael Wood and I will add the details when he has published it.

William Oliver Tyers: colourised image [28]

Below is a simplified diagram of WOT's family going back for three generations:

Family Tree
William Oliver Tyers: Simplified Family Tree [8]

Paternal Great-Grandfather: John Tyers (1794-1834)

WOT's great-grandfather John Tyers was a carpenter born at Uppingham in Rutlandshire. He remained there all his life living and working at Beast Market. I have not been able to pinpoint the exact location of Beast Market but it seems to have been close to the main Market Place in the centre of town and near to the church. John married Ann Tyler (1797-1852) in Uppingham on 2 May 1816. They had at least 7 children.

John Tyers died on 21 July 1834 and was buried in Uppingham. Ann died on 25 April 1852 and was buried in the village of Greetham about 10 miles away on the far side of Oakham, close to the border between Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, and the very furthest village in the huge area I used to cover as a Visiting Officer working for the Department of Health and Social Security in the 1970s.

Uppingham is a pretty market town in what is now a very desirable upmarket area which has a public school founded in 1584. To John Tyers it was just the place he grew up and probably never left in his lifetime. Below is a modern image of the Market Place and an old map showing the site of the market and Beast Hill where animals would be gathered prior to being sold in the market.

Uppingham Market Place
Uppingham Market Place in 2020 [23]
Uppingham Map
Extract from Ordinance Survey 25" map of 1885 [24]

Paternal Grandfather: William Tyers (1820-1881)

WOT's grandfather William Tyers was also born in Uppingham but had moved to Leicester by 1841 when the census records him as a Joiner living in Chatham Street near the market - long since redeveloped. He married local girl Caroline Tebbutt (1820-1850) on 17 March 1839 at St Margarets Church in Leicester - a 13th century building which at that time had not been ruined by Victorian restorations including one by George Gilbert Scott who had cut his architectural teeth designing workhouses and lunatic asylums. Scott was also responsible for the ghastly Albert Memorial but he can be forgiven all of this as he also designed St. Pancras Station in London.

William and Caroline had three children and moved to the Sherwood area of Nottingham but Caroline died in 1850. In 1852 William married Martha Antliff (1829-1917) in Newark; she had been born there and they had a further 6 children. William was recorded as a carpenter on the 1851 census, a builder with employees in the 1861 census and a carpenter and joiner on the 1871 census. William was admitted to the Nottingham B County Asylum and Hospital on 1 Dec 1880 and died there at the age of 61 on 23 Jan 1881. Martha survived him and lived until 1917.

Father: William Tyers (1841-1885)

WOT's father, yet another William, was born in Leicester on 11 October 1841 and appears on the 1851 census living with his parents in Nottingham and working as an errand boy at the age of 10. By 1861 he had become a Journeyman Joiner - still living with his parents in Nottingham, and most likely learning the trade from his father. In 1870 William married Rosa Wafforne (1842-1884), who had also been born in Leicester. Rosa had moved from Leicester to Nottingham by 1851 and at the time of her marriage was a Lace Finisher. They lived in the St Margaret's area of Leicester near the uglified church mentioned earlier.

The term 'journeyman' was used in the past to describe a person who had completed an apprenticeship in his trade but was paid by an employer rather than being self-employed. The origin was 'journée', meaning 'day' in French.

By 1881 William was employed as a Master Joiner and living in Enfield - now a suburb of London. He moved to different addresses in London over the coming years including 793 Commercial Road, Limehouse in 1883 and Falcon Grove Battersea.

The family was living at the Battersea address when Rosa was taken ill and died on 3 February 1884 at the London Hospital (now the Royal London Hospital) in Whitechapel from uterine cancer and peritonitis. She was buried in a 'common grave' at the privately owned Manor Park Cemetery Company cemetery at East Ham which is still operational. The company website currently stipulates that graves are sold for 50 years from the date of purchase. Presumaby if you pay a further fee your 'remains' are allowed to remain - otherwise you are maybe evicted? The company website is not entirely clear on this point but it may explain why I could not find the block of plots in which Rosa was buried on their cemetery map [25].

William was left a widower with 7 children and it is perhaps not surprising that he didn't waste time in marrying Emma Woodhead (1851-1933) on 21 June of the same year. Emma was from Nottingham and was herself an orphan who had been taken into the household of businessman Benjamine Hine who in 1871 was the chairman of a hosiery company employing over 1,000 people. She was given work as a lady's maid. We have no idea how Emma became known to William but their marriage took place at Heene Parish Church near Worthing in Sussex - an hour's train journey away from London and with the church just half a mile from the railway station. The reason for marrying at a remote location is unknown but they obviously wanted to marry in private.

On 21 March 1885 they were living at 4 Holdernesse Road Tooting, just around the corner from Balham High Street, and near the current site of Tooting Bec underground station, when Emma gave birth to Emma May Tyers - about 9 months to the day after they had married. Unfortunately William had died a month earlier on 24 February 1885 of 'malignant thoracic growth' - presumably lung cancer - at the Consumption Hospital in Fulham Road and had been buried on 24 February 1885 in a common grave at the West of London and Westminster Cemetery at Old Brompton - near to the hospital and close to where the Earl's Court Exhibition Centre would be built 50 years later. This enormous, and initially privately owned, cemetery was opened in 1840 and provided many options for disposal of mortal remains ranging from a grandiose monument or crypt to a shared hole in the ground which was where poor William ended up. I have passed its gates many times but never ventured inside. It always looks very peaceful.

Brompton Cemetery
Brompton Cemetery in 2020 [26]

Baptism records of four of the children from 1884 describe William as a Timber Merchant so he may have had business premises. A photo of No 4. Holdernesse Road from 2020 is below but I am not sure whether this is of a later building. If there were business assets, they would have been used up pretty quickly when William's illness took hold and I can find no probate record.

Holdernesse Road
4 Holdernesse Road in 2020 from Google Street View [12]

Breakup of the Tyers Family

So after less than a year of marriage, poor Emma was left a widow with 7 step-children as well as her newborn child at a time that ideas about a Welfare State only just beginning to be discussed in Britain. The reality in 1885 was the miserly provision made under the Poor Law. I can sympathise with her plight as my great-grandmother was left in exactly the same situation just a year later when my great-grandfather died; the outcome was very similar and it was probably not uncommon.

The alternatives available for a widow with children at that time were very limited. With a baby she would only have been able to do part-time work at best - her only previous employment had been as a lady's maid and the income from that wouldn't feed 9 mouths. Being unable to pay the rent would result in rapid eviction and, unless you had private means or relatives to help, you would probably end up in a Workhouse – which is indeed what happened to my ancestors. Living in Tooting, the most likely one for Emma would have been that of the Wandsworth and Clapham Poor Law Union which had been established in 1836 soon after the enactment of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

The Wandsworth and Clapham Workhouse [13]

The Victorians liked to keep society tidy and were keen builders of institutions; large prisons for criminals, large lunatic asylums for those with mental health problems and large workhouses for the poor. Whatever else may be said about them, workhouses were very solid buildings and a great number of them have survived. I can thoroughly recommend a visit to one of the workhouse museums and there is a list of them at [35].

The Victorians also believed that everybody should know their place as exemplified by the 3rd verse of Cecil Frances Alexander's otherwise excellent hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful. The 3rd verse is rarely sung now but it was when I was at primary school and annoyed me even as a child:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

In the early 1960s I worked at a benefits office in London that catered for the homeless and hostel dwellers and sometimes worked shifts at Camberwell Reception Centre at Gordon Road to get a bit of extra money. It was used as the place of last resort to send those that had already been paid benefit and used it on drink or drugs so they at least got food and a roof over their head at night. It had formerly been a workhouse for the 'able-bodied' and was still known to the inmates as 'The Spike'.

On arrival those sent there would be required to strip and shower in the sight of attendants, be sprayed with anti-louse powder, and have their clothes inspected for vermin under bright lights. Infested clothing would be taken for washing and clean clothes provided. A simple meal of bread and cheese was then offered. In the morning they were required to perform some kind of manual work like cleaning before they left. At least this was an improvement over the stone-breaking and wood-chopping that was required before the institution was taken over by London County Council in 1930. My role was just interviewing them and filling in claim forms I am pleased to say! [15] paints a bleak picture of what Emma would have encountered:

Under the new Act, the threat of the Union Workhouse was intended to act as a deterrent to the able-bodied pauper. This was a principle enshrined in the revival of the ‘workhouse test’ – a poor relief would only be granted to those desperate enough to face entering the repugnant conditions of the workhouse. If an able-bodied man entered the workhouse, his whole family had to enter with him. Life in a workhouse was intended to be as off-putting as possible.

Men, women, children, the infirm and the able-bodied were housed separately and given very basic and monotonous food such as watery porridge called gruel, or bread and cheese. All inmates had to wear the rough workhouse uniform and sleep in communal dormitories. Supervised baths were given once a week. The able-bodied were given hard work such as stone-breaking or picking apart old ropes called oakum. The elderly and infirm sat around in the day-rooms or sick-wards with little opportunity for visitors. Parents were only allowed limited contact with their children – perhaps for an hour or so in a week on Sunday afternoon.

By the end of the 19th Century, the Wandsworth and Clapham Poor Law Union was the largest Union in London. It is obvious why the Tyers family would do almost anything to avoid submitting to a regime like that.

The children were too young to work for a living apart from WOT and he had only just reached 14. And so the family was gradually dispersed as shown in the table below with more details in the sections to follow. Mercifully two of the boys ended up at the same institution as did two of the girls - though a different one. We don’t know to what extent the authorities were involved in making these arrangements – they would have been more interested in keeping costs down than concern for the family. The dispersal may have been eased by using money generated by disposal of the family business assets assuming there were any.

No records of admission to London workhouses have been found for Emma the widow, Florence Jane Tyers or Emma May Tyers so maybe they avoided that fate. I do hope so but it may be that the relevent records are not available online. It is possible that there may be a reference in the folder MH 12/12719 held at the National Archives at Kew but it will require a visit to check this.

Person Dispersal
Caroline Tebbutt Tyers & Jessie Tyers To the Orphans Home, Grove Road Marylebone later to Canada
Arthur Ernest Tyers To the Royal Albert Orphan Asylum, Grove Road Marylebone 30 May 1885 and later to Canada
Henry Wafforne Tyers & Frank Herbert Tyers To Mullers Orphanage Bristol and later to businesses in the UK
Emma Tyers (widow), Florence Jane Tyers, & Emma May Tyers To Canada 28 September 1886
William Oliver Tyers Apprenticed to Brocklebanks 26 September 1885

Caroline Tyers and Jessie Tyers

Huw Jones found an 1891 census record for Caroline living at the Orphans Home, Grove Road, Marylebone. Although Jessie could not be found on this census return we know that she was there as well but we don't know what date the girls were admitted.

This institution started life in 1786 as The School of Industry for Female Orphans with the objective to provide an asylum for poor orphan girls who have lost both parents, and to clothe, board and instruct them. It was later renamed Home for Female Orphans Who Have Lost Both Parents. Girls had to be between 6 and 11, born in lawful wedlock, given a clean bill of health and have full documentation of birth, parents etc. with preference given to those of respectable parents [14]. So you might say a better class of orphans for a better class of orphanage.

Grove Road Orphans Home
Flyer for the Grove Road Orphans Home [14]

After their time at the orphanage, during which they would have been taught 'useful' skills, Caroline (18) and Jessie (16) left Liverpool on 4 May 1893 bound for Montreal via Quebec on the Allan Line vessel Parisian. They arrived at Montreal on 13 May 1893 - a 9-day crossing but possibly stopping off at Scotland and/or Ireland to pick up further passengers. The arrival document says they were going on to Portage la Prairie via the Canadian Pacific Railway and that they were in a party arranged by a "Mr. Wallace of Belleville".

Caroline and Jessie were emigrating under what we now refer to as the Home Children scheme.

Allan Line passenger vessel Parisian [13]
Home Children

The arrival of both girls is recorded on the Canadian Government’s ‘Home Children,’ database which has the comment ‘Mrs. Walton’s party for Mr. Wallace, Belleville, Ontario' [16]. There were 12 children in this party as shown in the screenshot below.

Children in Mrs. Walton's party [16]

The images below show the details recorded about the two girls in the 'Home Children' database.

Parisian Parisian
Records for the Tyers girls [16]

The image below is extracted from the passenger list for the crossing. You can see all the children in the party listed together and with no ticket numbers

Extract from Passenger List [27]

The organisation British Home Children in Canada [17] describes how the dispatch of children to Canada and other parts of the British Empire got started:

Ellen Agnes Bilbrough, born November 21, 1841 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, became concerned with the plight of London’s youth while teaching in the Whitechapel district of London. Despite her best efforts, she realized that a basic education alone was insufficient to change the prospects of her students. It was during her work in London that Ellen became acquainted with Annie Macpherson, the noted child welfare activist. By this time, Miss Macpherson had established the Home of Industry in Spitalfields, London, an institution devoted to housing and educating indigent children. For a brief period, Ellen worked in the Home of Industry as an assistant to Miss Macpherson.

In 1869, Annie Macpherson planned to send some of the home’s children to Canada. After the funds had been raised to pay the children’s passage, Miss Macpherson, accompanied by Ellen Bilbrough, escorted 100 boys to Belleville, Ontario. Annie opened two homes in Canada, Marchmount in Bellville and a home in Galt, placing Bilbrough in charge of Marchmount. She turned the home over to Bilbrough in 1877 to focus on her work in Galt.

In 1882, an evangelical missionary, Robert Wallace, travelling in Canada, attended Marchmont staying on to help Bilbrough with her work. In 1877 they were married and continued to run Marchmount together.
Marchmount Marchmount
Views of Marchmount 'Receiving Home' Belleville Ontario [17]

The British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association has publicised the darker side of the practice of sending children abroard:

From the late 1860s right up to 1948, over 100,000 children of all ages were emigrated right across Canada, from the United Kingdom, to be used as indentured farm workers and domestics. Believed by Canadians to be orphans, only approximately 12 percent truly were. These children were sent to Canada by over 50 organizations including the well-known and still working charities: Barnardo’s, The Salvation Army and Quarrier’s, to name a few.

CEO and founder of the British Home Child Advocacy and Research Association (BHCARA) Lori Oschefski says, “Barnardo’s sent over thirty thousand children here and was by far the largest organization sending children to Canada. Many BHC became known as "Barnardo Home Boys" despite the fact many came from other organizations. For the most part, these children were not picked up from the streets but came from intact families, who, through sickness or even death of one of their parents, had fallen on hard times. Because there was no social system in place to help them get through these difficult circumstances, the family had no other way than to surrender their offspring to the organizations.

Sometimes this was meant to be a temporary solution until the family got back on their feet and there are cases on record where some parents went back to pick their children up, only to find that they had already been sent away. Sometimes the parents received an ‘after sailing’ notification, informing that their children had been emigrated a week before.

Once in Canada, the children were sent to receiving homes right across the country until farmers picked them up or they were sent on to their destinations with a cardboard sign around their necks. There were at least seven applicants for every child shipped to this country.
Arrival in Canada

Marchmount at Belleville, Ontario was one of the receiving centres and where Caroline and Jessy had been sent prior to dispatch to their placement on farms. Checking it out on Google Earth I was astonished to find that it is a small town inland from Prince Edward County and I have spent several holidays within a few miles of it. The location of Belleville was convenient being on the Canadian Pacific Railway between Montreal and Toronto with connections to most parts of Canada - including Portage la Prairie in Manitoba which is slightly to the East of Winnipeg on the modern railway map below.

Canadian Pacific Railway map [13]

Places had been found for the girls in the Portage la Prairie area. We don't know whether they were placed together or with different families or what their duties were but this was an agricultral community so probably some kind of farm work. Until 1850 Portage la Prairie had been inhabited by First Nations people then Europeans began to arrive – initially involved in the fur trade. Gradually land was purchased from the First Nations people, then the railway arrived and a town developed in this area of richly fertile soil. Growth of the town accelerated through the 1870s and 1880s.


Caroline died from Pulmonitis at Portage la Prairie on 1 October 1897 about 4 years after her arrival in Canada. This disease is now known as pneumonitis. There are two main causes of this disease – radiation and inhalation of organic particles (hypersensitivity pneumonitis); in 1897 it would most certainly not have been caused by radiation. The British Lung Foundation [18] has the following to say about the disease:

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) happens if your lungs develop an immune response – hypersensitivity - to something you breathe in which results in inflammation of the lung tissue - pneumonitis. One example is farmer’s lung. This is caused by breathing in mould that grows on hay, straw and grain. Another is bird fancier’s lung, caused by breathing in particles from feathers or bird droppings. Many other substances can cause similar disease patterns. In many cases it can be very difficult to find the exact cause.

The symptoms include cough, shortness of breath and sometimes fever and joint pains. They can come on suddenly after you’ve been exposed. This is called acute HP. It goes away - without leading to fibrosis of the lung - if you can recognise and completely avoid the substance that caused the attack. Other people may get symptoms of breathlessness and cough more gradually, perhaps over many years, because their lungs are permanently scarred. This is called chronic, or long-term, HP. Often a specific cause cannot be found.

The illness could well have been the result of her working conditions but we really don't know. Nowadays the condition can be treated with steroids but it is still necessary to 'avoid the substance that caused the attack'. I can't imagine any approach to a farmer along those lines would have got much sympathy.


I can find no records of Jessie after her arrival in Canada so we really don't know what happened to her. We know that she was not mentioned in the Will of WOT or in the obituary of her sister Florence in 1935 so must assume she died some time before 1935. It has not been possible to locate a death certificate.

Henry Tyers and Frank Tyers

Huw Jones located Henry Tyers and Frank Tyers at the Ashley Down orphanage No. 4 in Bristol on the 26 May 1886 in the orphanage records. Frank is also listed there on the 1891 census. Ashley Down had been founded by the Prussian evangelist George Müller - who incidentally was also one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren. Müller was very devout and eventually completed five 'orphan houses' that held 2,050 children at any time and 17,000 of them passed through the doors before the homes were transferred to the City of Bristol in 1958. Orphanage No. 4 is shown in the image below. The quality of the buildings is shown by the fact that they all still exist – some converted into private accommodation and some now part of the City of Bristol College.

Ashley Down
Ashley Down orphanage No. 4 [22]

Emma Tyers (the boys’ stepmother) signed them over to Müller in a document that went into the history of how they had become orphans and details of the closest relatives who also had to sign the documents. Admission had been supported by a Miss Allcard of 7 Randolph Crescent Maida Vale, London. The censuses around this time do not have anyone of that name living at that address and I suspect it held the offices of a religious organisation of some kind. This lady could well have been Helene Allcard who was married to a stockbroker called Edward Allcard who lived in Teddington. Maybe arranging the emigration of orphans was her contribution to society? The image below shows the Maida Vale property which is in what is now a very exclusive area.

Randolph Crescent
No. 7 Randolph Crescent in 2020 [12]

On 27 September 1893, at the age of 14, Henry was sent to live with W.W. Williams a Bootmaker at Ystradgynlais in Powys, Wales, where he would learn the trade and eventually become a Master Boot Maker. He had two marriages, five children and died at Ystradgynlais in 1945. Ystradgynlais was an important mining and industrial town in the Swansea valley.


On 8 March 1897, also at the age of 14, Frank left the orphanage to join a Mr. H. Barrow a tailor of Loxhore near Barnstaple, Devon. Frank was living in Barnstaple in 1909 where he married Edith Jenkins. In 1911 Frank had his own tailoring business in Llangiwg near Swansea and only about 4 miles from Ystradgynlais where his brother Henry was living. He served in the South Wales Borderers during WW1 and was listed as a Tailor living in Cardiff on enlistment. Frank and Edith had 8 children; he died in Cardiff in 1943.

Arthur Ernest Tyers

Arthur Ernest seems to have drawn the 'short straw'. He was placed in the Collingwood Court Royal Albert Orphan Asylum, Camberley on 30 May 1885 at the age of 9 and appears on the 1891 census though recorded as Albert Ernest. He was placed completely separated from his siblings which seems particularly cruel - especially as the Ashley Down home where his brothers Henry and Frank had been sent took children of that age.

However I am sure that Arthur would have drawn great comfort from the fact that the institution had been named after Prince Albert and that the inauguration ceremony on 29 June 1867 had been attended by Queen Victoria who planted a tree which is apparently still there - unlike the building itself. The school amalgamated with the Royal Alexandra School in 1949 becoming the Royal Alexandra & Albert School. It then became a WRAC college for a while before being demolished. Like similar institutions, it provided a mixture of learning and hard work with boys being trained in skilled trades like carpentry, tailoring and shoemaking. [19]

Collingwood Court
Collingwood Court front entrance [19]

Like the Grove Road orphanage to which Caroline and Jessie had been consigned, Collingwood was selective with its intake. Children had to be between 6 and 12 years old and "admission was by a twice-yearly ballot conducted amongst the charity's subscribers. A list of candidates and a short description of their circumstances was circulated prior to each election" [20]. I am sure the case for the Tyers family was a strong one.

In a manner wholly distasteful to modern eyes, the Asylum published the results of its ballot in the Evening Standard and, as can be seen from the cutting below, Arthur got a respectable number of votes and was admitted. Collingwood was not alone in doing this as the same page of the newspaper has a similar announcement from The Royal Hospital for Incurables. These announcements were placed between adverts for carpet sales, death notices, the Battersea Dogs Home and forthcoming theatre performances.

Collingwood Ballot Results - Evening Standard 30 May 1885 [21]

We don't know exactly when Arthur left Collingwood but on 19 June 1891, at the age of 15 , he left Liverpool bound for Montreal via Londonderry on Circassian and arrived 25 June 1891.

He may have been part of a party as there is a partly legible reference on the passenger list that might be 'Church Engl. Set' (the first word is relatively clear); there were certainly no relatives on the passenger list and he seems to be the only young man of around his age on the list. I can find no reference to him on the 'Home Children' database and it is not clear how his fare was paid but I would presume it was by the Collingwood Home.

Circassian was getting on in years having been built in 1872 and would be taken out of service in 1896. We don't have the departure date so the duration of the voyage is unknown.

Allan Line passenger vessel Circassian [13]

Huw Jones who has been tracing the family history in depth, discovered newspaper cuttings from Winnipeg that describe how Albert died as a result of a shooting incident at the Winnipeg Industrial Exposition. He was in charge of the shooting gallery at the fair and was accidentally shot by a small boy who was playing with the rifles on the counter. Another report says "he was accidentally shot in the stomach while attending to business and about to load a rifle, walking in front of a customer just as the latter was firing".

His death certificate describes him as a Labourer and says that he died on 31 July 1897 from 'shock following gunshot wounds with perforation of the bowels' at the Winnipeg General Hospital. It also mentions that he lived in Portage la Prairie - the same town as his sisters - but there is no address quoted.

Emma Tyers (widow), Florence Jane Tyers and Emma May Tyers

Although Emma, Florence and baby Emma - indeed all of the family - may have been admitted to a workhouse, no record has been found of this. However the three of them left Liverpool together on 23 September 1896 bound for Quebec and Montreal - and indeed on the same vessel Parisian that had conveyed Caroline and Jessie three years earlier. The final destination shown on the passenger list is High Bluff Manitoba - about 7 miles from Portage la Prairie where Caroline and Jessie had gone.

Emma Tyers

On 6 Apr 1889 Emma Tyers married Hugh Walter Smith - a clerk and book-keeper from England. In 1891 Emma, her new husband and baby Emma Tyers were all living at Portage La Prairie according to the 1891 census of Canada.

Emma seems to have been unlucky with her husbands as the 1901 census shows her as a widow living at Kootenay, Yale and Cariboo, British Columbia with Emma May. Her occupation is unreadable on the census return. I have not been able to locate information about the fate of Hugh Walter Smith. Emma was living with her daughter Emma May and her husband in Spokane in 1910, and was with Emma May and her new husband in California in 1920 and 1930, dying there on 25 September 1933.


Florence married a William Henry Douche - an Englishman who had emigrated from Worcester - at Portage la Prairie on 20 August 1900. It later transpired that this was in fact a bigamous marriage as Douche had married a Mary Ann Bodin in Dudley, Staffordshire on 21 July 1890 and had a child with her before deserting her and taking off for Canada. Mary Ann was granted a divorce by the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand on 28 July 1902 on the grounds of bigamy and adultery. Florence ("Nurse Tyers" on the divorce papers) was cited as co-respondent. One can only wonder what was said when the divorce papers were served but Florence must have decided to stick with Douche.

The couple did not have any children. Florence entered the nursing profession and on her retirement was presented with a gold watch and an illuminated address.

There are records that suggest Florence made at least two trips to the UK.

  • On 7 October 1905, a Mr. and Mrs. Douche arrived at Quebec from Liverpool on Virginian
  • On 13 October 1920 a Mrs. Florence Tyers arrived in Quebec on Metagama giving an address in Vancouver with the comment 'returning home from visiting relatives'.

When Florence died on 12 February 1935 at Nelson British Columbia her obituary said she had resided in Nelson for 33 years and had been head nurse, then matron, of the Calgary General Hospital before moving to Nelson and that she 'gave freely of her efforts to the Red Cross during the Great War and organised a flu nursing service during the time influenza was sweeping the country'. Her obituary mentioned that she was survived by a sister in Atlanta and three brothers - one in England and two in Wales. The brothers would have been William, Henry and Frank. The reference to a sister is more puzzling. There are no records suggesting that her half-sister Emma May Tyers ever lived in Atlanta and this is believed to be a misprint and should have read Santa Anna (California). We have no information about the fate of Jessie.

Emma May Tyers

Emma May married Osmond Somerville in Spokane, Washington on 22 July 1903 and had one child by him. Osmond died on 22 July 1907 and Emma May married Frederick William Innes on 9 August 1909 in Nelson, B.C. and had three children by him. The family then moved to California, Emma May became a naturalised US Citizen and died at Santa Ana, Orange County on 16 May 1959. As already noted, her mother lived with her for many years until her death.

Life of William Oliver Tyers

And so we come at last to William Oliver Tyers - 'The Captain' to John Hilton Davies the diary writer, and 'Captain Will' to his family much later on. He had been born in Nottingham on 23 May 1871 and moved with his parents to various addresses in London as his father moved for his work. At the age of 10 the family were living at 773 Commercial Road, Limehouse, London - which I will return to shortly. WOT was just 13 when his mother died and 14 when his father died at their house in Tooting.

We have already seen what happened to WOT's step-mother and his siblings. On 26 September 1885, WOT became an apprentice with Brocklebank Line - a shipping company based in Liverpool. The reason for WOT joining the shipping industry is not known; there was certainly no precedents within the family that I can find. It is also not known whether WOT was given any choice in the matter or simply told he was being apprenticed and told to 'make the best of it'.

I would like to think he did have some part in the decision and it may be relevant that, when the family lived at Limehouse, WOT attended the Dalgleish Street School near many ships and shipping activities at the nearby Shadwell and Regents Canal Basins and the docks on The Isle of Dogs now occupied by Canary Wharf. He must have had friends with parents working aboard ships or in the docks and it would be surprising if the youngsters had not explored the locality. Maybe he became interested in shipping way back then ... but we will never know.

School Admission
Extract from London School Admissions and Discharges 1840-1911 for Dalgliesh Street School Limehouse [27]

Nearly 30 years after he lived there, the King Edward VII Nautical College would be constructed at 680 Commercial Road - very close to his old house and school and attended by several people known to me.

King Edward VII
2020 photo of the former King Edward VII Nautical College [29]
2020 view of the Limehouse area from Google Earth [12]

When Charles Booth carried out his survey of the distribution of poverty in London at the end of the 19th Century he classified the population of Commercial Road as primarily being 'Middle Class - Well to do' people but Dalgleish Street was classified as 'Poor'.

Extract from Booth's Poverty Map [30]

WOT's great nephew Michael Wood has delved into the Brocklebank archive in Liverpool and found out a great deal of information about WOTs career. As already mentioned, Michael is writing a book about Manipur and his great uncle 'Captain Will' and has kindly shared some of the information he discovered. This includes finding out that WOT's first ship was Khyber - an iron built sailing vessel for which there is a short history in the Benjidog Ship Histories website HERE. Brocklebanks were slow to adopt steam powered vessels and didn't purchase their first ocean-going steamer until 1899 when they acquired Ameer.

Entry for WOT in the Register of Apprentices Indentured showing apprenticeship to R. Brocklebank Jr [27]

Ralph Brocklebank had become a partner in the Brocklebank Line in 1843. He was Chairman of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board between 1863 and 1869 and Brocklebank Dock was renamed in his honour in 1879; it had previously been named Canada Half Tide Dock.

Brocklebank Dock
Postcard from about 1901 showing sailing vessels in Brocklebank Dock [31]

The terms of Indenture documents were apparently fairly standard. Although we don't have a copy of the document signed by WOT, it would have been similar to another endorsed by Hull Trinity House in 1871 which states that the Master "shall use all proper means to teach the said apprentice, or cause him to be taught the business of a Seaman, and provide the said Apprentice with sufficient Meat, Drink, Lodging, Washing, Medicine, and Medical and Surgical Assistance, and pay to the said Apprentice the sum of £xx". The payment would have been very small.

In all probability, on arrival in Liverpool by train, WOT would have made his way to Brunswick Dock to join Khyber to start his four year apprenticeship. As far as I can discover, the Brocklebank vessels didn't use Brocklebank Dock and tended to use the Birkenhead docks once they had been extended early in the 20th Century.

Brunswick Dock
Old photo of Brunswick Dock believed to date from about 1865 [32]

With no further ado Khyber set off on WOT's first trip which was to Calcutta under Captain Robertson. It would have been the long route via the Cape of Good Hope as Brocklebanks did not use the Suez Canal until nearly the end of the 19th Century. What a massive change in lifestyle for the son of a joiner!


It is clear that WOT didn't waste the opportunities offered by his apprenticeship and on 1 January 1892 he obtained his 2nd Mate certification in Liverpool - it applied to square-rigged vessels and not steamships as that was the limit of his experience at that point. The certificate noted his previous unsuccesful attempts at certification in 1890 in Calcutta and 1891 in Liverpool due to failing the navigation examination.

He was either very self-motivated or pushed forward as he was only 21 years old in 1892. The second page of the document shows the ships in which he had served and in what capacity. You can see that as an apprentice he had served in Khyber, Talookdar, Majestic, in Holkar as an AB (able-bodied seaman) and in Majestic as 3rd mate.

Certificate Certificate Certificate
WOT Application for Second Mate Certificate [28]
WOT Second Mate Certificate [28]

Just over two years later on 6 September 1894 WOT was issued with a "Certificate of Competency" as First Mate by the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade.

WOT First Mate Certificate [28]
Seagoing Career

Here are some of the ships WOT served on:

Ship Owner Built Propulsion GRT Notes
Khyber Brocklebank 1880 Sail 2,026 First ship served on as an apprentice. Wrecked 1905
Talookdar Brocklebank 1885 Sail 2,120 Served on as an apprentice. Wrecked in collision 1890
Majestic Brocklebank 1875 Sail 1,875 Second ship served on as an apprentice - later as 3rd mate then 2nd mate.
Holkar Brocklebank 1888 Sail 3,072 4-masted steel ship rigged with double top and topgallant sails and royal sails. Served on as AB
Cardiganshire Brocklebank 1889 Triple expansion steam engine 4014 Originally named Ameer and Brocklebanks first ocean-going steamer. Served as Master
Manipur Brocklebank 1906 Quadruple expansion steam engine 7,654 Vessel featured in the diaries. Served as Master
Macharda Brocklebank 1918 Quadruple expansion steam engine 10,464 Served as Master
Orealla Sandbach Tinne 1882 Sail 1,843 On board this vessel for 1901 census for some reason. The company had been paid the 2nd greatest payment as compensation to slave owners in 1833. £150,452 - equivalent to £18 Million at 2019 values.
Anchoria Brocklebank 1911 Triple expansion steam engine 5,430 Vessel originally built for Anchor Line
Mahsud Brocklebank 1917 Triple expansion steam engine 8,077 Served as Master on this vessel in 1932. Vessel continued in service under other owners until 1959

WOT married Edith Mary Fewkes at the church of St. Simon and St. Jude in Anfield on 14 September 1907. The couple had two children - Marjorie Frances in 1908 and Hilda Beatrice in 1912.

Hilda died at the family home at 54 Manor Road in Wallesey on The Wirral on 15 January 1925. The cause of death is shown on her death certificate was 'pneumonia which had lasted just 36 hours'. It must have been a very virulent form of pneumonia - or possibly Hilda was already in poor general health. The death was registered by Antliff Tyers from Derby. WOT was presumably away at sea and Edith probably in a state of shock.


In 1933, and at the relatively young age of 62, WOT retired after a long career with Brocklebanks with the Executive Committee of the company awarding him a pension of £400 per annum - a not inconsiderable amount in those days. Unfortunately he was not to enjoy his retirement for long for reasons stated below.

Personal Tragedies

Around 1935, WOT and Edith became estranged from their remaining daughter Marjorie as a result of the latter's affair with a married man. There was a legal dispute regarding the divorce of the married man and the story was splashed all over the media with the Daily Mail in particular taking great joy in reporting the case.

On 15 April 1939 Edith died from carbon monoxide poisoning. There was an inquest which concluded that she had taken her life … 'when the balance of her mind was disturbed owing to ill-health'. We don't know what had led to this but the loss of her daughters must surely have been part of it.

In July 1940 WOT changed his will cutting Marjorie out of it. Shares of the estate went to his surviving brothers Harry and Frank, his housekeeper and other close relatives. John Hilton Davies, the writer of the diary which started this research off, was named as an Executor.


Liverpool was the most heavily bombed area of Britain after London during WW2 with about 4,000 people killed during the Liverpool Blitz. Liverpool, Bootle and the Wallasey Pool were targeted due to their importance in supporting Britain's links to North America. The area also had various industrial complexes adding to the potential list of targets.

Map showing locations in the Liverpool area hit by bombs in WW2 [33]

It is not well known but about 8,500 chilren, parents and teachers were evacuated from the area in 1939 - it wasn't just London that sent evacuees. During the so-called 'phoney war' during which air raids failed to materialise, the evacuees started drifting back with an estimated 40% of them having returned by January 1940. Which is unfortunate as air raids on Liverpool started in August 1940 with a 160-bomber raid on 28 August 1940 and the following three nights and sporadically throughout the rest of the year.

There was a large air raid on 28 November and this was followed by what became called 'The Christmas Blitz' with 365 people being killed in the Liverpool area between 20 December and 22 December with several direct hits on air raid shelters. On 20 December 1940 one of the bombs landed on Manor Road destroying WOT's house at No. 54 killing him and his housekeeper Elsie Denvir. The record of probate gives WOT's date of death as five days after the air raid on 25 December 1940 so he was presumably pulled from the ruins and died in hospital.

Blitz Blitz
Photos showing Manor Road after the air raid. WOT's house was at the far end of the damaged area on the first photo and on the far right of the second [34]
Photo showing Manor Road as in 2012. WOT's house had been where the house behind the car now stands [28]
Obituary and Memorial

The following obituary notice appeared in the Liverpool Daily Post on 28 December 1940. It includes an interesting text stating that he died 'suddenly'. In fact I found a total of 71 people on the same page who all died 'suddenly' and presume this was shorthand for 'killed by enemy bombs' - something the authorities would prefer not to be stated too clearly given the numbers.

Obituary notice [36]

During his research, Andrew Moore visited Liverpool and found the grave of the Tyers family in Rake Lane Cemetery, Wallasey and noticed that neither WOT nor his wife's name were inscribed on it. He had at that point not been in contact with any family members but decided to have their names added and paid for this himself - a very kind gesture. Photos of the grave before and after are shown in the photos below.

Tyers Family Grave Tyers Family Grave
Tyers family grave before and after additions [28]

In such a sad and arbitrary way ended the life of a decent and hardworking man who I would have loved to have met.