When the Trinity Methodist Church War Memorial (now sited at Frodsham Methodist Church) was restored in 2015 as part of the work of the World War I Commemoration Group marking the centenary of the First World War, one of the names originally engraved on it was almost illegible. The group set about checking records to see if there was information about who this might have been. After a great deal of photo taking and discussion, the group decided that the renovated memorial would have space for the unknown name and that one day someone might trace it and we could then inscribe it in its rightful place.
Looking for the missing name was difficult, though the group was fairly sure that the engraving looked like ‘Effie Saxon (Nurse)’. Searches of the World War I archives showed that there were two E Saxons who died during the Great War. Of the two names, Ethel Saxon seemed the most likely, though the group still could not link her directly with Frodsham. It was known that her grandfather was a primitive Methodist minister and further research revealed that the family lived in Runcorn during part of his ministry, although the family later moved to South Wales.
When the Territorial Forces records for nurses became available in 2016, it was possible to acquire copies of her service records. Normally these are about 2 or 3 pages long - Ethel's ran to 147 pages. It transpired that her father had bombarded the War Office with letters about her effects and missing salary and had also asked whether the authorities were prepared to erect memorials to the nurses who had been killed or had died during the conflict. In the paperwork, there was reference to a Mrs E Thornton of Frodsham as the person to whom all mail should be directed. Further searching established that Mrs Thornton was Ethel's aunt and that she lived at Deyne Court, the large Edwardian house next to Trinity Methodist Church. When Ethel was sent to work as a nurse she went to Liverpool, not to Cardiff, so perhaps she had come to Frodsham then. Ethel’s name was duly inscribed on the War Memorial in the spring of 2016 and this is her story.
Ethel’s links with Frodsham exist because her grandfather was a Primitive Methodist Minister whose ministry brought him to Runcorn in the 1880s. Revd Joseph Morton and his wife Jane lived at 17 Waterloo Road, Runcorn at the time of the 1881 census. They had seven daughters and four sons. By 1991 the family had moved to Llangattock in Breconshire. This was where Ethel’s mother, Adelaide, the fourth of the seven daughters, met and married builder Henry Saxon. Henry’s own family had originally come from Warrington. He and Adelaide brought up their family in South Wales. Meanwhile, the Revd Morton’s eldest daughter, Charlotte Evangeline, had remained in Cheshire, married local insurance company manager William Thornton and lived for some time in Frodsham.
Ethel was born in 1890 in Abertillery, when her parents, Henry and Adelaide Saxon, lived at 38 Oak Street. By 1901 they had moved to 104 High Street, Abersychan and now had three daughters - Ethel, Mary Augusta and Lucy. By the time of the 1911 census, Ethel and her sister Augusta were listed as living with their grandfather, Aaron Saxon, retired Assistant Superintendent of Assurance at Park View, Pontrewynydd. Ethel’s occupation states that she was a ‘mothers’ help’. Whilst Adelaide and Henry Saxon remained in South Wales and eventually retired to Kingsland in Herefordshire, Mrs Saxon’s sister, Charlotte Evangeline spent her life in Cheshire. She had been born in Preston in 1860 and married William Ebert Thornton in 1884 in Warrington. In 1891 the Thorntons lived in Padgate (Warrington) with the three eldest of their children - Francis Harry, Ella, and Nellie. Mr Thornton was an insurance agent. The two youngest children, Eric and Phyllis, were born in Frodsham, which places them here from about 1895, though Mr Thornton’s business (Insurance Agent) is listed in Kelly’s Directory for Warrington of that year. 10 years later they had moved to Liscard (Wirral) and lived with the now retired Revd Morton and only Eric was at home with them. Other census records suggest that the girls were away at school. On the 1911 census, Eric, was a boarder at the Groves School, Wrexham. This is where the census records become something of a mystery. In 1911 Mr Thornton gives their address as Deynecourt, Frodsham (High Street) next to Trinity Methodist Church. However, the address given on the outside of the census form is 14 Dunster Gardens, Kilburn, NW and they also had the youngest Morton sister living with them. Meanwhile their elder son, Francis Harry and his sisters Ella and Nellie are shown separately at Deynecourt, where Francis was ‘in charge’.
No doubt as a Methodist family, the Thorntons attended Trinity Methodist Church. Charlotte Evangeline died in Headington, Oxford in 1925 and her husband at Edzell Lodge, Iverleith Terrace, Edinburgh in 1939, though he was buried at Warrington cemetery. Eric’s war service records show that he joined the Royal Air Force in 1915. When he died in 1973, his address was given as ‘Deynecourt, Storrington (Sussex) - so the name of the family’s home in Frodsham had gone with him into later life. As we have seen, Ethel trained as a nurse, and was sent to work in Liverpool, not in Cardiff as one might expect. Given that the younger members of the Morton and Saxon families lived variously with their grandparents or with other relatives, it is quite possible that Ethel may also have lived with, or at least frequently visited, her aunt at Deynecourt. After the outbreak of World War I, she was posted to India with the Territorial Nursing Force, where she served in Karachi. The Karachi Port Trust Building was converted into a 500 bed hospital in 1915 and Ethel seems to have been working there at the time of her death. She died of acute appendicitis on 3 September 1917 and is named on the India Gate, New Delhi. She is also named on nurses’ memorials in Liverpool Cathedral and York Minster, and on the war memorial in Kingsland, Herefordshire, her parents home after their retirement. Her family wrote many letters in an attempt to retrieve her belongings and it was to her aunt Charlotte Evangeline in Frodsham that these were eventually returned after the War.
Given that she is honoured in so many places, we are privileged that she is also named here in Frodsham.
Written by the Minister & Members