Mr George Pelham
Mr George Pelham was born on 28th January, 1873 at 7 Castle Square, Bethnal Green, London 1, the son of Thomas and Ann Pelham (née Povey). Thomas was a shoemaker by trade and Ann was a housewife 2.
George married Elizabeth Agass on 4th September, 1892 at the Holy Trinity Church, Bethnal Green, he was 20, she 18. His address at the time of marriage was 4 Ware Street, Kingsland Road, Bethnal Green 3. George and Elizabeth had at least two children, George (born 13th March, 1894) and Thomas (birth date unknown). At the time their children were born they were living at 19 Ware Street.
Family members believe that George went to sea to escape an unhappy marriage. He signed on as a Trimmer for the maiden voyage of the Olympic on 10th June, 1911, at Southampton. He gave his age as 36 (though he was, if fact 38) and his address as 36, Dover Street, Southampton 4.
George was transferred to the Titanic as a Trimmer. He signed-on in Southampton on 6th April, 1912. His age was given as 37, but he was really 39. For his address he gave simply the Sailor's home, Southampton 5.
Pelham survived the sinking on the 15th April, 1912, he is believed to have escaped in Lifeboat 16 6. His paid service on the Titanic ceased when she sank and the balance of his wages, £3: 9s 8d, was paid on 1st May 1912 7.
It is believed that George went on to serve aboard another ship during World War One and that this ship was torpedoed and sunk. Documentary evidence of his service in the First World War or details of any ships he served on after Titanic has yet to be found.
George survived this sinking, but, so the family stories go, as a result of surviving two sinkings, he suffered a breakdown. On 22nd January, 1935 he was admitted to Horton Psychiatric Hospital, Epsom, Surrey. His previous occupation was given as General Labourer 8. On 28th August, 1939 he was transferred from Horton Hospital probably because of the outbreak of World War Two, when Horton Hospital became a general hospital serving the armed forces. He was admitted on that day to Long Grove Psychiatric Hospital, Epsom, Surrey 9 and died there 42 days later at 1 am on the 9th October, 1939 10. He was buried at the Horton Estate Cemetery, Hook Road Epsom on 14th October 1939 in plot 1576A
The cemetery had been opened in 1902 for the interment of patients from the Epsom Cluster of Mental Hospitals, administered by the London County Council. Burials were still taking place there up until the 1950's 12. The cemetery exists as such in name only, and is actually a large field. It was mainly used for people who were unable to afford a proper burial. The field is still there today, but there are no markers to indicate that it ever was a burial site, it just appears to be an area of waste land. The site is now owned by a potential property developer who appears to have bought himself a piece of land that no one will ever buy, due to its history. Despite extensive searches no plan of the cemetery has been found to show the location of the plots.
His burial was not the end of George Pelham's troubled saga. During the Second World War, there was an RAF base in Epsom and on one occasion a bomber was returning from a mission having failed to deploy his payload over enemy territory. The crew were instructed by their control tower to ditch their bombs on waste land before returning to the airfield as landing with a full cargo of bombs was extremely dangerous. The crew duly jettisoned the bombs over waste ground, and at least one of them detonated on Horton Estate Cemetery, supposedly blowing dismembered body parts into the surrounding trees 13.
Ongoing ResearchPaul Webb is the great great nephew of George Pelham. He and his wife Amanda are researching the life of George Pelham and are still trying, with limited success, to find out more about his service record with the Merchant Navy. Please e-mail them if you think you can help fill in some of the gaps.
References and Sources
Philip Hind (Editor)
Amanda Webb, UK
Paul Webb, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA
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Name: Mr George Pelham
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