Henry Swaffin Wotton

   Hide Ads

Henry Swaffin Wotton boarded Titanic in Southampton, and disembarked in Cherbourg. Hardlly surprisingly, less attention has been paid to most of the cross Channel passengers and he is no exception; he may not have lived through the tragedy that was about to unfold, but he nevertheless had the privilege of experiencing a few hours on the greatest ship afloat.

He was born in Liverpool in 1858 (birth registered in March quarter). He was the son of Devon (Brixham) born parents William Thomas Wotton, a wheelwright, and Emma Phillips Swaffin, who had been a servant at the imposing Berry House overlooking Brixham harbour. For reasons which are presently unclear, they married in Liverpool in the December quarter of 1856. At the time of the 1861 census, three years after young Henry’s birth, the family had moved south and were living at 96, Crescent Road, Plumstead in London.

Ten years later in the 1871 census, Henry Wotton was living back in Liverpool with his aunt at 18 Marsh Lane, Bootle. There is no knowing how long he remained there, as the next time he appears is in the 1881 census, where he owned a butcher’s shop in Croydon Road, Streatham. He seems to have lived alone on the premises though he had a visitor, one William Carver, a marine engineer.

In the June quarter of that year, Henry travelled to Monmouth, Wales, where he married William Carver’s sister Annie and brought her back to Streatham. Over the next ten years, they had a large family:

Arthur Henry C, Dec 82; Edith Amelia, March 84; William Hector, June 85; Elsie May, June 86 who died aged 6; Blanche Lavinia Olive, Sept 88 and Violet Isabel A, March 91.

In 1891, the family were living at 12 High Road, Streatham. Henry was still running the shop and they now had an apprentice living with them, Frank Deverson from Ramsgate in Kent. Katie, Henry’s 19 year old sister was also living with the family. The business must have been doing well, as they had two servants - one an American lad from Cincinatti, the other a young general servant girl.

By 1901 the family had moved again, this time into a much larger and more substantial property - the impressive 12 roomed Park Lodge in North Drive, Streatham (which was demolished to allow for the construction of Streatham Baths some years later). Annie was living in the house with the children (the oldest boy, Arthur, was working in the family business). Henry’s stepmother Emma Turner was there too from Brixham, and a servant. William Hector, who chose to be known as Hector, was at Mill Hill boarding school in Hendon. Elsie May was living at an address in West Ham recorded as ‘feeble minded’ and died soon afterwards in 1906. There was no sign of Henry Swaffin Wotton.

In 1911, most of the family were still living at Park Lodge. Arthur had married, and Hector had qualified as a dental surgeon, but yet again there was no sign of Henry Swaffin Wotton.

A search of the shipping records between Britain and New York reveal his whereabouts at least in 1901 - he was on a business trip to America, having travelled there on 13 March on board the Oceanic.

In fact, he seems to have made at least eight trips, travelling alone and mostly in First Class, between the UK and the US between 1892 and 1909. It is often the US arrival records which provide evidence that the passenger listed sometimes as only ‘H Wotton’ is the right man. All attempts to prove that the ‘Henry Wotton,’ or ‘H Wotton’ on corresponding inbound lists to the UK will be frustrated as there is rarely sufficient information to allow more than an educated guess. Some trips appear to have been brief with a stay of only about a month, but if the transcriptions of UK arrivals are to be believed, he seems to have had several longer stays. Unfortunately the records are known to contain errors - one ironic omission is that his name does not appear in the indexes of passengers for Titanic either on

Find My Past nor Ancestry. An explanation for the missing voyages may be that he travelled to or from the United States via Cherbourg, or another Continental port, as some passengers did. Perhaps he was heading to Cherbourg on business in 1912. A number of his trips to America show him destined to Riverside, California and often on business, but whether the Wottons also resident there at the time were relatives is yet to be revealed. There is no photograph at this stage of Henry Wotton, only the description by the United States immigration department which records him as 5 feet 8 inches tall, with dark hair, dark complexion and blue eyes.

Money, clearly, was not a problem for the Wotton family despite Henry’s modest origins. Henry had put Hector through boarding school and University, set him up in a W1 dental practice and had taken multiple luxury crossings to America, so there must have been money in meat! By 1906 there were three shops - Streatham High Road, Streatham Hill and Balham, and a large house in Streatham, all trading as Wotton & Dean butchers, or ‘Purveyors of Meat, ’ with resident managers and staff. Later, a fourth shop opened briefly in Cheam.

By 1921, British directories suggest that Henry had retired from the business and had moved to 42 Prentis Road, in Streatham and the following year the shop in Streatham Hill closed its doors. The other shops continued, with son Arthur managing the original shop in Streatham High Road.

Henry Swaffin Wotton died on 4 September 1925 aged 68 in the Victoria Nursing Home, Bournemouth. Probate was granted to his sons Arthur Henry and William Hector and he left 32,838 pounds. [Probate record information inc address and death date kindly provided by Geoff Whitfield, Liverpool 2013). The telephone number disappears from the directories at the end of 1924, suggesting that the Wottons had left their Streatham address during that year.

The shops continued trading for a few years, but the telephone directory entries ceased in 1937, and in July 1939 the London Gazette carried reports of the voluntary winding up of Wotton & Dean, Ltd.

Annie died at 57 Firsby Avenue, Croydon on 1 May 1946 with probate granted to William Hector, dental surgeon, Blanche Lavinia Olive Gilbey and Isabel Violet Annie. Annie left 2803 pounds.

Unfortunately, whilst this research has revealed a great deal about the life of Henry Swaffin Wotton, there is nothing to suggest why he disembarked in Cherbourg nor what his intentions were, but it was undoubtedly the luckiest decision of his life. Are his descendants even aware of their ancestor’s brush with death? There is more work to be done on the Wotton family - any additional information that sheds any light on his reasons for travelling to France, and his life between 1912 and his death in 1925 would be welcomed.


Indexed registration of birth, death and marriage from General Register Office records; British census records 1841-1911; British Board of Trade Inbound and Outbound Passenger Lists, from www.findmypast.co.uk with their kind permission.

British Telephone Directories and Street Directories, British probate records, New York Passenger Arrivals www.ancestry.co.uk and Ellis Island Foundation at www.ellisisland.org

Share on FaceBook Twitter

Related Biographies:

Henry Swaffin Wotton


Debbie Beavis


Encyclopedia Titanica (2013) Henry Swaffin Wotton ( ref: #19476, published 8 May 2013, generated 4th August 2021 01:51:45 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/henry-swaffin-wotton.html