Encyclopedia Titanica

Henry William Sparkman

Mr Henry William Sparkman was born in St Mary, Southampton, Hampshire, England on 1 April 1876.

He was the son of Henry William Sparkman (1850-1923), a mariner and shipyard labourer, and Jane Emily Cozens (1855-1937), Hampshire natives who had married in 1873.

One of ten children, Henry’s siblings were: Charles Henry (1873-1939), Isabella Ruth (1878-1958, later Mrs James Browning), George Henry (1880-1881), Alfred William (b. 1881), Frank (1884-1955), Walter (1886-1949), Charlotte Mary (1888-1955) and twins William (1890-1973) and Rose (1890-1890). Both his brother George and youngest sister Rose lived only months and did not reach their first birthdays.

Henry first appears on the 1881 census when he and his family were living at Church Road in Hound, Hampshire and they would be listed as living at 7 Church Park in Hound by the time of the 1891 census, Henry aged 15 and having already left school and working as a telegraph messenger.

He apparently went to sea as soon as he came of age and he joined the Royal Navy on 1 March 1892, first serving aboard the St Vincent. He would go on to serve aboard Australia, Grafton and Resolution, among other vessels, before finishing his service aboard Victory I on 9 April 1897 after which he was invalided. Of differing conduct, he was shown to have spent several periods in the cells. A small man, he stood at 5' 5" and had brown hair and eyes and a fair complexion, sporting numerous tattoos on his left arm. 

Later joining the merchant service, by the time of the 1901 census Sparkman was listed as a ship's stoker and still living with his family, then at Buttsash, Firgrove Road in Sholing. Later that same year he was recorded as working as a fireman aboard the SS Orient on the Glasgow-Cape Town-Sydney run.

Sparkman was not recorded on the 1911 census, apparently at sea, but his family were by then residing at Spring Road in Sholing.

Henry signed on to the Titanic in Southampton on 6 April 1912; he gave his address as Spring Road, Sholing and his previous ship as the Olympic and as a fireman he could expect to earn monthly wages of £6. Two days later, on 8 April 1912, Henry was married in Christ Church, Norwood, Lambeth, London to Ida Lilian Chambers1 (b. 1884 in Lambeth, London), daughter of dairyman James Chambers and the former Mary Ann Gatland.

Marriage record between Henry and his wife Ida, 1912

Another two days later, on 10 April 1912, Henry bid farewell to his new bride and joined the Titanic at Southampton. His time aboard the ship remains largely obscure but he survived the sinking, escaping in an unidentified lifeboat; he was not called to give evidence to either the American or British inquiries into the disaster but is recorded to have received expenses of £11, 10s in compensation for his detention with regards to the latter. 

Henry returned to Southampton and continued to work at sea and served for the duration of WWI, facing numerous personal tragedies over the following years.

He and his wife Ida would go on to have two children, with son Edwin Henry James being welcomed in 1913. In early 1916 their second and last child was born, daughter Lilian May. Sadly though, not long after the arrival of the second child, wife Ida died aged just 31 following complications of childbirth whilst further tragedy was to strike when baby Lilian died in 1918 aged just two years.

Henry was remarried in 1927 to Olive Bessie Ward (b. 1888 in New Forest) and they had a son named William Alfred Michael the following year on 13 March 1928. Olive Bessie passed away aged 39 only a few months after the arrival of their child, leaving Henry a widower for a second time.  

Henry never remarried and by 1939 had left the high seas and was working as a general labourer in land-based jobs and living with his sister unmarried sister Charlotte, an office cleaner, at 188 Spring Road, Sholing. 

Remaining a resident of Spring Road in Sholing for the rest of his life, Henry died aged 71 on 15 October 1947 following a protracted illness. He is buried in Sholing Churchyard.

His son Edwin married in 1934 to Sybil Monica Bevis (1913-2009) and had seven children2. He died in 1950.

Henry’s son William by his second marriage was married in 1959 to Christine Redwood and had two daughters, Heather and Elaine. He died on 16 August 2015 aged 87.


  1. Ida’s birth was registered in Lambeth in the last quarter of 1884; she was baptised in Christ Church in Gipsy Hill, Surrey on 3 May 1885.
  2. Their children were: Edwin (b. 1935), Raymond (b. 1938), Lilian (b. 1939), Sylvia (b. 1941), Ian (B. 1946), Ian (b. 1947) and Sandra (b. 1948).


Craig Stringer (2003) Titanic People (CDROM)
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  1. Bea Gardner

    I am the great granddaughter of William Henry Sparkman and the Grandaughter of William whom you mention towards the end of your piece.Thank you very much for writing the above- it is very accurate and informative. I can confirm that William Sparkman born 1928 died Sunday 16th August 2015, aged 87 years. He is succeeded by two daughters and three grandchildren. The youngest of whom is also a William.

  2. Sarah Young

    Hello Bea! I am Henry William Sparkman's Second Cousin three times removed! Thank you for adding this information for the extended family and posterity. :-)

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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr Henry William Sparkman
Age: 36 years and 14 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married to Ida Lilian Chambers
Last Residence: at Spring Road Sholing, Hampshire, England
Occupation: Fireman
Embarked: Southampton
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Wednesday 15th October 1947 aged 71 years

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