Reverend Ernest Atherton Cartwright – from criminal to preacher and Army officer.
On page 24 of Laurie Milner’s book ‘Leeds Pals’ there is a photo captioned ‘The Reverend E.A. Cartwright’. He is in uniform and his ‘Pals’ cap badge shows clearly. In the accompanying text it says:
Two unexpected recruits to the battalion were the Reverend E.A. Cartwright, former Minister at Camp Road Baptist Chapel, Leeds, who was known for his ‘sturdy, muscular Christianity’, and Mr Jogendra Sen (q.v.)
There is no further mention of Reverend Cartwright in the book and he does not appear on the list of applicants to join the Pals, or on the full roll. The only Ernest Cartwright we have found at all amongst the Pals joined the Bantam Battalion and was killed in action in 1917. The Bantams did not wear the Leeds Coat of Arms as a cap badge. Assuming the photo is correctly captioned, what happened to him?
Ernest Atherton Cartwright is quite a distinctive name, and it is given in full on the 1911 Census, filled in by him. He was living at 15 Regent Park Avenue, Leeds, with his wife Adah Etruria, and her sister Helena Wedgwood. They married on 9th February 1899 at the Parish Church in Manchester, he a 20 year old bachelor and she a 40 year old spinster. (Marriage Register 1899). They had one child, which sadly did not survive. As Adah was now 51, 19 years older than her husband, it is probable that there were no further children. Ernest’s occupation was given as Baptist Pastor, and he had been born in Salford, his birth being registered in 1879. (Birth Register March 1879). I don’t think there can be any doubt that this is the same man. (Find My Past). In 1881 his family were living at Buxton, Derbyshire and were listed as his father William, mother Jane and siblings Maud and Sydney. (1881 Census). By 1891 the family had increased by a further three children, Emily, William and Elsie, and were still living in Derbyshire. William was a Manufacturing Chemist. (1891 Census).
The mystery begins with the next census. By 1901 the family had moved to 49 Plymouth Grove in South Manchester, although Ernest was not shown. However, an Ernest Atherton Cartwright is listed on the census as a prisoner in Cheetham Prison, Manchester. His age was given as 23, still within the bounds of possibility, married, place of birth Salford, and occupation clerk, which could have a wide range of meanings. According to the 1st February 1901 Leeds Mercury and many other regional newspapers he had been found guilty in Manchester that year of an assault on two women on a North-Western Railway train from London and sentenced to 7 years penal servitude. If there was no remission he would have been released in 1907. His wife-to-be, Adah, who was born in Manchester in 1859, and her parents, Josiah and Nancy Wedgwood, were living at 2 Bellevue Terrace, Fairfield, Derbyshire in 1891. (1891 Census). I have not found her on the 1901 Census but she appears on the Electoral Register in 1902 and 1903, living at 12 School Lane in the Heaton Norris Ward. It was in Heaton Norris in December 1899 that Ernest Wedgwood Cartwright was born, and christened the following month in St Thomas’s Church. Sadly he lived for only a matter of months. (Family Search)
It seems unlikely that this Ernest was a different man, but he could have undergone conversion in prison, and started a new life as a minister on his release.
The next reference to Ernest Atherton, apart from Milner, is in 1915, when, on 11th March, he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the 17th Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers (Army List 1915). Is this the same man? If it is, what happened to his volunteering for the Pals, what was he doing during the intervening months, and how did he, with a criminal record, obtain a commission? The officer shortage had not become that acute that quickly. Some time later, possibly in 1918, he was attached to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, but when his Medal Card was prepared, around 1920, he was listed as a captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers, with his address as c/o The Government of Palestine. (Ancestry: Medal Index Card). He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, the card also showing that his first theatre of war was Egypt, which he entered in April 1917.
Adah Etruria is also an uncommon name, but she seems to have come from an ordinary English family, her father being Josiah Wedgwood and her mother Nancy Tattersal. Some research gives her death as 1929 in Dudley, when she would have been 71. But there is also a record of a death in 1938 in Erongo, Namibia, making her 80. Neither is impossible, and there is evidence of a second wife for Ernest, Jessie Cicely Phyllis Gawn, who was married in Hampstead in 1942, and who registered the probate on Ernest’s will when he died, in 1953 in Canberra, Australia. (Probate Report 1954).
In all, still a rather confusing story, some of which has been supported by some family members. What we need now is for another member of the family to appear and say, ‘This is what actually happened.’ If you are that person, please get in touch.
Researchers: Peter Taylor and David J Owen
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
- Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.