Leonard Hughes

In August 2019 we were contacted by Susan Martin whose grandfather Joe Hill, and great uncle, Len Hughes had a long family association with Yapton.

Susan kindly provided the following information about Len's family.

Len Hughes was mentioned in Alan Redman’s article on World War I on this website. Len was my great uncle and people might be interested in finding out more about him. In his life he was quite a presence in Yapton.

Len, full name Leonard James, was born in Walberton on 4 March 1894 and baptised on 11 June 1894 in Walberton parish church. In July 1896, when he was one, his family moved to Eastergate. In January 1897 the family had another move to Yapton, where it was to stay.

Len was the second son of John Hughes, a native of Walberton and Elizabeth Bessie, known as Bessie, born Wild. Len had a brother John, born 1892 and also three half brothers and two half sisters from his mother’s previous marriage to Henry Hill in Harting, which had ended with Henry’s premature death in 1889.

These siblings were Bessie born 1882, William John (Bill) 1883, Joseph. (Joe) 1885, Rosa (Rose) 1886 and Robert 1889. On 13 December 1897 Len had another sister Ethel Charlotte, born in Yapton.

Len and Bessie Hughes

Bessie Wild

Len was admitted to Yapton school on 23 April 1898 (or possibly 24 May). His father John’s occupation was given as a horseman. John had a variety of other jobs, agricultural labourer, woodsman, steam engine attendant and finally bricklayer. The family was very hard up in the early years, Rose could remember being so hungry that they pulled vegetables rom the fields to eat on the way to school.

The family first lived along the Bilsham Road but by 1911 has moved to Black Dog Cottage, also known as Rope Cottage, a low long building. The 1913 Lloyd George Land Valuation survey described it as a cottage and garden, owned by Mitcham & Cheam Brewery. It consisted of three bedrooms and attic, two living rooms, large scullery, and woodhouse, with a rent of 5s 6d a week.

[GJW : This building previously formed part of the Yapton Workhouse, prior to the building of the Black Dog. It was called Rope Cottage because it's where the inmates of the workhouse were put to work making rope for ships.]

It was, of course, next to the Black Dog Inn occupied by E. Caiger, owned by Mitcham & Cheam Brewery (Mitcham, Surrey). The four cottages on the other side, also owned by the brewery were two-bedroomed with a rent of 3s 6d a year.

After 1930 Bessie and John moved to 8 Victoria Villas, and family members lived there until 1957.

Rope Cottage in the early 1900s


Victoria Terrace, 1905
(renamed in 1919 to Victoria Villas)

Black Dog PH, 1899

During his early childhood Len experienced a number of comings and goings in the family. Sister Bessie went to live with and work for her aunt Ellen Terry in Odiham in the Terry’s bakery.

By 1911 she had returned to Westergate as housekeeper and assistant to George Terry (her uncle’s brother) who had opened a bakery there. Rose spent some of her childhood back in Harting with her uncle Frank Wild and then, after leaving school, worked as a barmaid in Bognor. Bill left Yapton in 1900 to join the Royal Navy. Of the Hill children he was the only one who took the surname Hughes. He returned to civilian life early 1914. Finally in 1905 brother Robert enlisted with 1st Battalion Royal Sussex regiment and was, shortly afterwards, sent to India, returning to Yapton in 1913.

On the 8 April 1908 now aged 14, Len was withdrawn from school to work as a bricklayer. As well as his father, his brothers John and Joe, and Rose’s husband William (Bill) Wakeham were bricklayers. Just as the Rockefellers gained their fortune from oil so the Hughes family seems to have eventually achieved a reasonable standard of living from bricklaying.  Many of the houses in Yapton, Walberton and Barnham were built by the family, from this time to the second World War, for example Nursery Cottages on the road to Barnham.

The outbreak of World War I had an immediate effect on Len and his family. Bill and Robert as reservists were immediately mobilised, Bill to HMS Victorious II (also called Myrtle), and Robert the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. By the end of 1915 Bessie Hughes had five sons serving. Did any parent in Yapton have more same serving at the same time? Joe had joined the Queens West Surrey Regiment, and John the 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment.

Len himself was in the 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (regimental number 4/1730). This was a territorial battalion based in Horsham. His unit, D Company, was formed of the pre-war F & G Companies. F Company had covered Arundel and Storrington, and G Company Chichester and Bognor. He might have therefore been a Territorial although his army isn’t prefixed with a T.  Men enlisted in the Territorial for periods of four years. Each company had a local drill hall where parades and regular training sessions were held. An annual camp was also held every summer (usually August). As the Duke of Norfolk was the Honorary Colonel of the Battalion, this camp quite often took place in Arundel Park.

The Battalion began its war in Horsham as part of the Home Counties Division. 24 April 1915 saw it transferred to 160th Brigade in 53rd (Welsh) Division and moved to Cambridge, and in May 1915 on to Bedford.  On 17th July 1915 the men embarked at Devonport on HMT Ulysses to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF). On 28th July it arrived at Alexandria, before leaving for Port Said on the 30th, where it arrived the next day. Departure for Gallipoli was on 4th August 1915, with arrival off Mudros Bay on 7th August. The men disembarked at Suvla Bay on 8th August 1915, and this was where they stayed.

Len by now was a corporal. He appeared on the 30 November wounded list. There was no particular action leading up to this date but considerable sniping. The main problem was the weather. Heavy rain turned to snow blizzards, called ‘the great storm’. Men froze to death and flooding of the trenches at Suvla Bay was catastrophic.

Evacuation from Gallipoli took place in  December 1915 and the battalion returned to Egypt, where, from 4 to 5 August 1916, it took part in the Battle of Romani. In 1917 the battalion moved into Palestine, and took part in the operations there: First Battle of Gaza, 26-27 March; Second Battle of Gaza, 17-19 April; Third Battle of Gaza, 27 October - 7 November; the capture of Beersheba, 31 October; capture of Tell Khuweilfe, 3-7 November; capture of Jerusalem, 7-9 December; and defence of Jerusalem, 27-30 December. During this time Len appeared on the wounded list a second time on 2 May 1917. He was now a sergeant (regimental number 200111).

In May 1918 the 4th was posted to France. It left Palestine and arrived at Alexandria on 17th June, and moved to Taranto (Italy) on 22 June. From here it went via Marseilles to the Western Front, joining the 101st Brigade, 34th Division at Proven, near Poperinghe in Belgium. Its battle honours here were the Battle of Soissonsais and The Ourcq, 22 July - 3 August and Capture of the Beugneux Ridge, 1 August, both in the Marne region.  The 4th absorbed a large draft from the 13th (Southdowns) Batallion Royal Sussex Regiment, on 14th August 1918. Then in Flanders it was involved in the Fourth Battle of Ypres, 28-29 September; Battle of Courtrai, 14-19 October; Ooteghem, 25 October; Tieghem, 31 October.  On Armistice Day the battalion was west of Courtrai. In 1919 it formed part of the Army of Occupation on the Rhineland, stationed at Wahn Barracks.

Len was demobbed on 7 March 1919 and returned to Yapton. His brothers Joe and John also returned safely, both had ended their war in the Labour Corps. Bill’s war in the Navy had been spent relatively quietly in the Mediterranean.  On the 21 June 1919 he was stationed at Scapa Flow and would probably have witnessed there the scuppering of the German Fleet. The missing brother was Robert who is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. Robert had been twice wounded before a third wound to the head in December 1915 had given him a blighty. He was deemed fit for active service again in February 1916, but instead of returning to the 2nd Battalion he was drafted into the 7th which was very short of men. On 8 April he was blown up during the fighting on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. Hopefully he had been reunited with brother John, also in the 7th before.

Len found a wife in a year.  On 13 April 1920 he married Elizabeth Moody in Yapton parish church. Len’s address was Black Dog Cottage and Elizabeth’s 2 Elm Cottages. Elizabeth was a war widow, She was born 24 October 1891 in Hascombe, Surrey, to Edward and Elizabeth Geatrell. Edward Geatrell was a Sussex man and his job as a gardener meant in the early days he and his family had moved frequently until, between Elizabeth’s birth and 1895, they settled in Yapton. Elizabeth had an older brother Ernest (born 1889) and younger brothers Wilfred, (1895) and Edward Victor (1898), both born in Yapton. Elizabeth’s mother Elizabeth Greatell was buried in Yapton 9 February 1907 aged 44, and on the 1911 census Elizabeth is living with her father and brothers in 2 Elm Cottages, presumably their housekeeper.

Elizabeth’s first marriage had taken place in Yapton parish church, like her second. On 18 September 1915 she wed William John Moody, described as a soldier on the marriage certificate. William John Moody was born 1883 in East Meon Hampshire the son of John and Eliza Moody. On the 1911 census he was living in East Meon with his parents and working as a carter, but he enlisted in Arundel in 1915, so he must have moved to the Yapton area to work, rather than Elizabeth meeting him in Hampshire.  He joined the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards (number 16221) and did not leave England before 1916 as his medal card has no embarkation date and he was not awarded the 1915 medal.

William’s headstone (on which he is incorrectly named William James) in Delville Wood Cemetery says he died on 14 September 1916. However his record of Soldiers Effects says 14/16 September presumed dead. He is not the only Coldstreeam Guard whose exact date of death is open to question at this time. The Coldstreams were involved in very heavy fighting during the Battle of Fleurs-Courcelette. On the 14th they moved to Ginchy and in the early hours of the 15th made a very costly assault towards the German held village of Lesboeufs. According to the Battalion’s war diary, on emerging from Ginchy Wood they came under very heavy fire from machine guns and rifles despite our artillery barrage. Casualties were very heavy. Two lines of trenches were captured and 1000-2000 yards taken by 7.15 am. The assault on Lesboeufs was resumed on the next day, the 16th. Elizabeth received £4 2s 10d in pay owing to him, but not until September 1917, and on 20 October 1919 she was sent his £5 death gratuity.

Elizabeth’s brothers had also served in the war. Elizabeth’s brother Wilfred Geatrell attested at Chichester 21 October 1915, and at Aldershot on the 26 October was made 3rd Hand Baker, 10th Field Bakery  with the ASC. He had been a baker before joining up. His service record includes a letter on headed paper from his employer F W Peacock, 49 & 60 High Street, Bognor: "Wilfred Geatrell has been in my employ about four months assisting with bread and cakes. During that time I have found him most suitable for the trade, good dough-maker and moulder. F. W. Peacock". He was sent to the Mediterranean on 14 November 1915. From Alexandria he went via Port Said to Basra disembarking 2 March 1916. Well over a year was spent in Mesopotamia, during  which he was laid up with a hernia for a couple of months. From there it seems he went onto India. Demobbed 3 July 1919 he married Florence Annie Austin, widow on 30 July 1921 in Yapton parish church.

Elizabeth’s brother Ernest’s service record has partly survived. He was a labourer before joining (probably conscripted) August 1916 and put in the Northants Regiment. In January 1919 he was transferred to the 143rd Labour Corp. He had flat feet, which perhaps was one of the reasons he was classed as B2 for fitness. He married Lillian Farncombe in 1920 and their daughter Elizabeth Ellen Geatrell was baptised in/1934 in Yapton Church, from 7 Council Cottages.

Edward Victor Geatrell may have served in the 12th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (SD/2273)

On the 1939 National Register all three brothers were still in the area. Ernest and Lillian were living in West Corner, Yapton Gardens. He was working as a builder’s store keeper, possibly for his brother-in-law Len. Wilfred also in Yapton was living at Betna, Bilsham Road and was a manager at a joinery works. Edward Geatrell was definitely working for Len. He was living with Len and Elizabeth when the 1939 National Register was taken and working as a builder’s clerk. He died in 1941.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives William Moody as being ‘son of John & Eliza Moody, husband of Elizabeth Moody of “Sunnymead” North End, Yapton’ and Sunnymead became Len’s next home. Sunnymead was on the North End Road near to the railway line. As Elizabeth’s father Edward Geatrell was buried from North End on 30 october 1927 it is more than likely that he was living with Len and Elizabeth, The bungalow was destroyed by fire in 1963 when Mr Vokes a pest destroyer was out with his wife, shooting at Pulborough, and the electric cooker caught fire. Their 14 year-old daughter was lucky to escape. Two locals rescued the animals.

Len built up a thriving building business between the two wars. As I have already mentioned he employed members of both his own and his wife’s family. By 1939 he and Elizabeth had moved to Ramallor, Acton Lane, Middleton. I think this was probably a new house, which he may have built himself. By September when the National Register was taken he was also an inspector with the special constables. His brother Joe was also a special constable.

The Bognor Regis Observer newspaper mentioned Len during the Second World War. The issue of 3 October 1940 reported how Len had seen some of his bricks in a Yapton garden, and James Triggs (haulage contractor) of Kimberley, Walberton was charged with stealing 600 bricks from Len, some of which had since been used to build an air raid shelter. Triggs was found guilty and bound over. Len said he would finish building the air raid shelter for Mr Birmingham.

On 2 August 1941 and 6 November 1943 the WVS and the paper thanked him for lending his trailer and his horse and cart for the collection of salvage essential for the war effort.

Despite being an inspector he did find himself on the other side of the law when, according to the paper of 15 February 1941, he was charged with failing to immobilise his car and with leaving it otherwise than with the left side close to the edge of the carriage-way. He was fined £1 for each offence.

By 1950 he and Elizabeth had moved to Midway, 16 Priory Road, Arundel. Elizabeth was buried in Yapton churchyard from there on 8 February 1950. It caused a stir in the family (and I am sure Yapton) when in the summer of the same year he remarried. The second Mrs Hughes was another Yapton inhabitant. Kathleen Bartley and her twin sister Phyllis were well known in the village as their father William, a master baker, had a bakery in the village centre. Phyllis was a confectioner and cakemaker and Kathleen a bakery saleswoman.

Len and Elizabeth had been childless, but Kathleen gave birth to a son James Francis John (Jimmy) on 7 May 1951. The new family’s first Christmas however did not go well. The West Sussex Gazette of 21 February 1952 had an item entitled ‘Christmas Day Rumpus on Torton Hill Arundel’.  During the rumpus the windows of Midway were smashed which led to cross-summonsing. Mrs Ella Maud Bartley (of London, SW2) summonsed Leonard Hughes and his wife Kathleen, her sister-in-law, for assault. Leonard and Kathleen cross-summonsed her. It appears Kathleen had sent 10s to her brother for Ella’s children and Ella had not liked the spirit in which it was sent and travelled to Arundel the next day to return it. There was a scuffle and Ella admitted she had smashed one or two windows. Both parties were bound over for a year to keep the peace.

Len appeared in court again, this time in Bognor in 1959. The Bognor Regis Observer of 18 December reported how a former Bognor solicitor, Andrew Cutts, had been charged with six accounts of defrauding clients, including converting to his own use £1548 10s 6d, part of money received by him on account of the administration of the estate of late E C Hughes, who was Len’s sister Charlotte who had died 27 October 1957 whilst still living in 8 Victoria Villas. Len had to give evidence, after which Cutts was committed to trial.

Len died on 9 March 1965 at his home Midway, 16 Priory Rd, Arundel. His estate after probate was valued at £30,236.

Sister Ethel had been the last of the family to live in Yapton. Their mother Bessie had been the first of the family to die in Yapton, on 14 June 1938. Her monument in Yapton churchyard also has an inscription to her son Robert.

Len’s brother John was buried at Yapton on 19 February 1944. He died in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, but had been living in Yapton. The 1939 National Register shows him with his wife Louisa and daughter Lillie at the Beverley Guest House Yapton, working as a plasterer. John Hughes, Len’s father died on 16 March 1949 at 8 Victoria Villas.

Interestingly Len’s future wife Kathleen was one of his executors. Bill, who had continued to live with Ethel in 8 Victoria Villas, passed away there on 8 August 1956.

Len's mother, Bessie Hughes

The Hughes family was only in Yapton for sixty years but during those years helped shape the village by building many of the houses still standing in the village.

©Susan Martin, 2019

Some of the older old Yapton inhabitants might remember Len, or Bill and Ethel. If so then please get in touch, especially if you have any stories you can share, and we will pass them to Susan.

GJ Westcott
September 2019


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