Walter Davies was born in 1878 the son of William and Sarah (nee Wardle) from Peggs Green. He was one of 7 children, Elizabeth, John J, William & Eliza (twins), Herbert (Walter’s twin brother) and Joseph.
Two of Walter’s brothers, William Davies junior and John J Davies, were tragically killed in the 1898 Whitwick Colliery Disaster at the age of 29 and 32. William junior is buried in Griffydam Wesleyan Methodist graveyard with his father, who died in 1895 at the age of 59. John J Davies body was never recovered.
The family were strong Christians and Walter and his brother Herbert were prominent Griffydam Methodists. Walter was a lay preacher and Sunday School superintendent at Griffydam Wesleyan Methodist Church. Both Walter and Herbert were known to have attended all of the Griffydam Lovefeasts for more than 60 years.
Walter married Sarah Wilton, the daughter of William and Bessie Wilton from Peggs Green. They had 4 children Walter junior, Elsie, Emmie and Gerty.
The following has been transcribed from notes written by his son Walter Davies junior and gives a fascinating insight into his family roots and the social and industrial history of that time. We would like to thank his granddaughters Sally Nicholls and Vicky Eggleton for giving permission to share this account of his life and for providing the family photographs.
Walter Davies on the right, his brother Herbert centre and brother Joseph on the left
Walter Davies on the left at the opening of Griffydam Wesleyan Methodist Chapel Sunday School In 1932
William Davies married Sarah (Sally) Wardle. William was I believe a Welshman possibly from Carmarthen. He and granny lived in Peggs Green, near Coleorton, Leicestershire. They had 8 children, I know their names.
William was a farm worker in his early days, but became a Coal Miner later, possibly because his wages were a slightly better, and worked at Whitwick Colliery. He was a strong Christian and I met an old man who worked with him in the mine as well and said grandad would have a prayer for their safety before starting the job.
I did not know grandad William but I used to know his grave at Griffydam Wesleyan Graveyard and according to the gravestone was only 56 years when he died. We all knew Granny who lived to be 80 years. She was a strong character and was one of a very small few girls in the village probably in 1840’ish who had any Education, she went to the Mr Barkby’s school which I believe was held in a room in his house. Sarah was an only child and her father William Wardle was a trained Carpenter. He worked some of his time for Sir George Beaumont, Baron on the Coleorton Hall Estate which lies on the Ashby De La Zouch Newbold Road. William also worked as a Shaftsman at the local Califat Mine. Coleorton Hall was purchased after World War 2 by the Coal Board, there were acres of land involved but the Hall with its spacious rooms and staircase was used by the Coal Board Secretary, Typists etc.
Walter Davies being my father, was the younger by a few minutes of Twin boys, his brother was Herbert, and they were the youngest of the 8 children.
My father Walter married a local girl, everybody did in those days of close community villages when any place further than walking distance was almost like another country, I digress.
Walter married my mother Sarah Wilton who was the child of a family of 10 children of William and Bessie Wilton. All lived in Peggs Green. William Wilton, my grandad, maternal, worked in the mines from an early age probably 12 years, and retired when he was 72 years and I knew him very well.
Walter Davies my father was an Engineer at Stablefords Wagon Works in Coalville, Leicestershire until it was closed down in the 1930’s Depression, dad was getting near retirement. He spent some time then working for a firm which was experimenting with taking oil from coal at Newbold. It was largely a flop, I believe because a way of oil from the earth and sea was more viable.
Dad lived to be 80 years of age and died in Loughborough Hospital. He is buried in Griffydam Wesleyan Graveyard as also is his wife Sarah my mother who died in her 39th year leaving myself and 3 sisters Elsie, Emmie + Gerty. Walter married a second wife, Sarah Morley, who was a very good Step mother to my sisters and myself. They had no children.
Walter Davies, junior, myself. I married Doris May Clarke eldest of 10 children, of Whitwhick, Leicestershire. We married at Whitwick Wesleyan Chapel, North St. This Chapel is not in use any more. We married Sept 1930.
I went to Griffydam Wesleyan School and Griffydam Council School, both are now non-existent. I left at 13 years of age and went to work with some pals at Coleorton Colliery. I worked on the surface pushing trucks of coal around and packing coals in Wagons like bricks in order to avoid smashing in transport by Rail to all parts of the country. At the age of about 15 years I went to work in the Blacksmith’s shop at the same Colliery doing striking with a sledge hammer and helping the Blacksmith shoeing Cart horses and also down the mine with Pit ponies. After a time I was promoted to the Fitting Shop, engineering working on every part of the Plant, Boilers and 2 Locomotives, Surface Screening Plant, Underground Water Pumps, Compressors, Coal Cutter, Coal Conveyors, until 1933 when the mine was closed and I was unemployed with about 600 others.
After a debilitating time on the “Dole” with Jeff 6 months or so of age, through a relative I heard of a job in Cambridge. This came out of the blue or by God’s grace and was to transform all our lives. It was in a Dry Cleaner Works, I went as Maintenance Engineer. After learning about the business I was appointed Works Manager over about 50 employees. Eventually the firm took over Bedford Dye Works And Dry Cleaning. I went as Works Manager and worked there for 12 years travelling daily until we closed down and I went back to Cambridge which itself was taken over by a London firm and then I retired at 65 years
My wife Doris parents were William and Maria Clarke. William Clarke her father, came of a mining family of Coalville. His wife Maria was a native of Whitwick and worked I believe in a local shoe factory. They lived all their married life in Whitwick.
The Gravestone of William Davies Senior and his son William who are buried in Griffydam Cemetery
The Wilton Family Outside The White House
on the corner of Clay Lane and Zion Hill
Back Row: William, Herbert, Tom, George, Joe, Sarah(Walter's wife), Emmaline
Middle Row: Maryanne, William senior, Bessie, Jack
Front Row: Arthur, Henry
Walter Davies junior with his sisters Elsie, Emmie and Gerty (sitting)
St Georges Hill
Note: Although Walter refers to 8 of his grandfather's children, records indicate that there were 7 children and also show his wife Sarah Wilton was one of 11 children. The gravestone inscription reads he died aged 59. Walter junior's father-in law William Clarke died collecting coal at Whitwick during the miner's strike of 1926.
Samuel T Stewart's publication about the Whitwick Colliery Disaster in Memory Of William and John James Davies can be found here>> You can also find out more about the White House and the Wilton Family in Samuel T Stewart's publication Turning Back The Clock In The Area Of Zion Hill, Pegg's Green here>> or go directly to his website https://samuelstewart940.wixsite.com/mysite
3 Generations c. 1949/50
Left To Right:
Walter Davies Junior, Walter Davies,
Jeffery Clarke Davies (son of Walter Davies junior)