Mr George Pelham was born at 7 Castle Square, Bethnal Green, London 1 Bethnal Green, Middlesex, England on 28 January 1873.
He was the son of Thomas Pelham (1841-1905), a shoemaker, and Anne Povey (1839-1908), both native Londoners who had married on 1 April 1866 in St Mary's Church, Lambeth. He had five known siblings: Walter Thomas (1867-1904), Ann (b. 1869), Caroline (b. 1871), Elizabeth (b. 1875) and Emily (b. 1878).
George appears on the 1881 census living at 8 Castle Square, Bethnal Green and later at 61 Squires (?) Street by the time of the 1891 census when he was described as a general labourer.
George was married on 4 September 1893 at Holy Trinity Church, Bethnal Green to Elizabeth Mary Agass. His address at the time of marriage was 4 Ware Street, Kingsland Road, Bethnal Green and his profession was as a carman. Elizabeth was born in Bethnal Green in 1875, the daughter of a hawker and she and George had two sons: George (b. 1894) and Thomas Walter (b. 1896). 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 10 June 1911 at Southampton. He gave his age as 36 (though he was, if fact 38) and his address as 36, Dover Street, Southampton.
George was transferred to the Titanic as a Trimmer. He signed-on in Southampton on 6 April, 1912. His age was given as 37, but he was really 39. For his address he gave simply the Sailor's home, Southampton.
Pelham survived the sinking on the 15 April, 1912 and is believed to have escaped in Lifeboat 16. His paid service on the Titanic ceased when she sank and the balance of his wages, £3, 9s, 8d, was paid on 1 May 1912.
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 22 January, 1935 he was admitted to Horton Psychiatric Hospital, Epsom, Surrey. His previous occupation was given as General Labourer. On 28 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 and died there 42 days later at 1 am on 9 October 1939. He was buried at the Horton Estate Cemetery, Hook Road Epsom on 14 October 1939 in plot 1576A.
Long Grove, Hospital
Long Grove Hospital (K Ward)
© Amanda and Paul Webb, UK
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 1950s. 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.
What became of his widow Elizabeth is not entirely certain although it is believed that she remained living London and died in 1954 aged 78. His son George died in Cumbria in 1957 and his son Thomas in Woolwich, Kent in 1967.