Mr Denzil John Jarvis

Denzil Jarvis

Denzil John Jarvis
(Courtesy of Andy Jarvis)

Mr Denzil John Jarvis was born on 17 June 1864 at the Lion Inn, Caerleon, Monmouthshire, Wales. He was baptized on 5 July 1864 at Llangattock, Caerleon.

Denzil's father Matthew was from Hay, Breconshire (now Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire) where Matthew George Jarvis was born on 18 August 1841. Matthew married Elizabeth Powis from Wigmore in Herefordshire in 1859 and their first son George Oscar was born in 1860. In 1862 and following the traumatic loss of his own father, Matthew moved his family to Caerleon, Monmouthshire where his mother’s family came from. Being involved in the day-to-day running of the Lion Inn, Caerleon, Matthew’s occupation was described as carpenter, joiner and victualler. Matthew and Elizabeth had a daughter Penelope who died in infancy followed by their second son Denzil John in 1864.

The family did not remain in Caerleon for long – moving on for reasons of work to join other members of his father’s family in Birmingham where another son, Matthew, was born in 1867. Soon after the family moved on again to 143 Cobden Street, Leicester where they remained for the next 20 years. Sister Olivia May was born 1868 followed by brothers, Sydney Harrold (1870), Francis Percival (Frank) in 1873, Leslie Powis (1875), Bazil Vivien (1877), Rodney Talbot (1881), and William Victor (1883). Records suggest that at least 15 children were born to Matthew and Elizabeth, 5 of whom died in infancy.

Matthew became a master carpenter, running his own business in Leicester: Matthew Jarvis and son joiners, builders and staircase builders.  When he was 14 years old Denzil became apprenticed to his father.  Denzil was ambitious and sought to further his education gaining qualifications in freehand drawing, building construction drawing and design and winning a first class award in building construction.

Denzil married Margaret Burrows at St Saviours Church, Leicester on 7 February 1889.  Margaret (born 19 September 1869) was the youngest daughter of Benjamin Burrows and Mary Ann Harper. Having an older sister Emma (born 1864), brother Benjamin (1867) and twin sisters Martha and Janie (1867).  Margaret’s nephew would become the renowned composer Benjamin Burrows.

The couple’s first home was at 12 Wimbledon Street, Leicester and it was there that their first child, daughter Margaret Annie was born on 13 March 1890 unfortunately she died in infancy.

Denzil and Margaret moved shortly after to 8 Brunswick Street, Leicester. Their first son also named Denzil was born at Brunswick Street on the 1 July 1893 followed on the 15 August 1895 by their second son Wellesley.

Over the following years Denzil developed his own business Denzil John Jarvis and Co shop fitters and shop front builders at Crafton Street, Leicester.  His skills in freehand drawing and in producing construction drawings and plans for various buildings in Leicester were in increasing  demand and the the business quickly expanded.  It soonoutgrew the premises at Crafton St. and, in 1893, Denzil moved his business into 77 Humberstone Gate merging and taking over his Fathers business.

Joseph WadkinThe family move to Spa Place, 40 Humberstone Road, Leicester. From 1895 Denzil became increasingly involved with his brother-in-law Joseph Wadkin (pictured right). Joseph was married to Margaret’s older sister Emma Burrows. He had establishing his own company Wadkin in Leicester, manufacturing woodworking machinery.  Denzil and Joseph Wadkin collaborated, drawing on Denzil’s engineering skills and his father Matthew’s knowledge and experience of practical woodworking machinery.  There is reference to Denzil being responsible for the new design for a railway signalling system however no patent records appear to exist.

Disaster struck overnight 12 August 1899 when a huge fire broke out in the workshops at 77 Humberstone Gate. It would seem that in less than two hours the whole building went up in flames with machinery collapsing through the various floor levels. Denzil’s extensive steam joinery and shop fitting workshops were destroyed by fire. Some firefighters battling the blaze were injured but fortunately there was no loss of life.  The damage was valued at £12,000.

Denzil then moved to Wadkin full time as a managing partner in that business with Joseph Wadkin and Thomas Scott-King.  Denzil’s father Matthew aged 70 years was still working as a master carpenter but was now being financially supported by his son1 and his younger brothers Leslie, Rodney and William were also carpenter tradesmen within the company.

The development of Wadkins is evidenced by their application for Patents. The design work being completed by Denzil.

Patent no 690732, applied for 8 July 1901, issued 7 January 1902: A new design for a glazing bar. Applicants listed as the three managing partners in Wadkins: DJ Jarvis, JW Wadkin, and engineer Thomas Scott King.

Patent no 692295, applied for 16 July 1901, issued 4 February 1902: Apparatus for Providing Bars or the like with a covering of extruding material.

Patent no 885408, applied for December 12 1905, renewed Sept 14 1907, issued in April 21 1908: A ‘woodworking machine’. In the names of DJ Jarvis and JW Wadkin.

There was disagreement over the development plans for the Wadkin’s company. Denzil wanted to expand the company towards a wider engineering manufacturing base perhaps with the emerging motor industry in mind and Joseph Wadkin wanted to continue woodworking tools manufacturing, the results was that the partnership ended.  The London Gazette (21 December 1906 issue 27978 page 8990) shows Denzil as the managing director of Wadkin, formally accepting full responsibility for the company.

Joseph Wadkin and TS King  left the company and set up another company manufacturing woodworking machinery.  The two file a further patent (934484 on 22 August 1908) for a woodworking machine granted 21 September 1909. Clearly they are all still on good terms as Denzil completes the design drawings for this patent application.

On the 27 April 1907 Denzil was on board SS Lucania and arrives in New York on business. He was there again on the 7 March 1908 having sailed aboard SS Lucania again. According to the immigration documents of the time Denzil described himself as Welsh and stated his occupation as Engineer.

Back at home in Leicester, Denzil was now also collaborating with Engineer Alexander George Ionedes who on the 26 January 1909  filed a patent no 1,011,960 for a ‘Carburettor’. This was issued 19 December 1911.

The Crest

The Jarvis Home in Leicester

By 1912 Denzil had emerged as a high profile business man in Leicester and his family had moved to The Crest, 360 London Road, Leicester a twelve roomed property. This property has since been amalgamated with no 358 London Road to create what is now known as The Regency Hotel, London Road, Leicester.

Both of his sons Denzil and Wellesley were apprenticed to him at Wadkins.  At the time Denzil was described as 5 ft 41/2 inches tall with short brown hair and brown eyes.

Jarvis' sons Denzil (18) and Wellesley (16) in 1912.

On 10 April 1912 Denzil boarded the Titanic he paid £13 for a second class ticket no 237565 and was going back to New York on a six week business trip for two reasons.  1. He had in his possession the prototype carburettor of Ionedes' patent. This had been manufactured by his company and he had appointments with Henry Ford and the General Motor Company in Detroit Michigan. 2. He also took with him blueprints and patent documents of the patent issued in April 1908 and was seeking to take legal action against a manufacturing company in Grand Rapids Michigan for patent infringement.


Ionedes patent carburettor

There are two known sightings of Denzil on board the Titanic, initially on the afternoon of Sunday 14 April 1912 when he is overheard asking Steward Kellard for advice on exactly how he should describe the patent on the carburettor on the Baggage Declaration Slip and then again in the second class smokers lounge when survivor Lawrence Beesley comments upon the iceberg. Denzil is quoted as saying ‘Well I am accustomed to estimating distance and I put it at between 80 and 90 feet’

Denzil died in the disaster, his body if recovered was never identified. 

Celtic CrossAs an indication of the esteem Denzil was held in Leicester at a memorial service was held in his memory the parish Church at Knighton. The church was packed with many people standing outside. The memorial was attended by all of Wadkins employees at that time.  His widow Margaret raised a granite Celtic cross memorial to Denzil in their Parish church yard at Knighton.

Denzil’s entire estate £7704, 16s, 8d, was administered to his widow Margaret on 30 May 1913 and the British Titanic relief fund recognised that his parents Matthew and Elizabeth had been dependent upon their son and they were awarded a weekly pension of 7 Shillings.

Following the loss of his Father – in 1913 older son also Denzil, having completed his Engineering apprenticeship at Wadkin sailed to Canada where he worked as an Engineer. With the declaration of war in 1914 he enlisted with the 20th Battalion (Central Ontario Regt) Canadian Expeditionary Force in November 1914 following training he returned to England on board the SS Megantic. He remained on active service in France through 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918.

Tragedy struck again in 1917 within one month of each other both youngest son Wellesley aged 22 a corporal in the 17th Bat West Yorks Regt on 31 October 1917 and his cousin George William Victor Hughes aged 18 a 2nd Lt in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on 27 November 1917 were killed in action in France. George Hughes was the second son of Denzil’s younger sister Olivia May and her husband John Hughes also of Leicester.

Denzil’s widow Margaret added a stone memorial to her son Wellesley under the Celtic Cross memorial to her Husband and both men are remembered on a memorial tablet within the Parish Church at Knighton Leicester.

In 1919 Denzil’s widow Margaret married boot and shoe manufacturer and Leicester alderman James Wedgewood Heath (1856-1935), who was a recent widower with several adult children.  Husband and wife lived at Bronavon, Springield Road in Leicester and in 1921 became Mayor and Mayoress of Leicester.

Margaret passed away on 1st May 1934 and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard alongside the memorial to her husband Denzil and son Wellesley.

"Erected to the Beloved Memory of Denzil J. Jarvis who was lost in the wreck of the Titanic 15th April 1912 aged 47 Also of Margaret Heath the devoted wife of James Wedgwood Heath who fell asleep May 1st 1934 and is interred in this place."

Denzil and Margaret's eldest son Denzil survived the war and was demobbed from the Canadian Infantry in April 1919. He returned to Leicester but,  unable to settle and suffering the effects of gas and other wounds suffered during the war, took medical advice and emigrated to the warm dry climate of Rhodesia in 1926, followed by his bride Phyllis Taylor also from Leicester.  They bought a farm near to the central town of Gwelo (now Gweru, Zimbabwe), and set about building their home, developing the land and raising their family of two sons and a daughter. Owing to his wounds and the horrors he had endured in France his life ended perhaps prematurely in 1961 his widow Phyllis in 1972. The two are buried together in Gwelo.

Owing to the deteriorating political situation the family returned to England in 1985 where it remains.

The firm the Jarvis built up: Wadkins, continued to develop and grow.  It enjoyed substantial orders from the war ministry for wooden aircraft propellers and then, following the war, with a large order book full in the early 50’s the company moved to purpose built premises at Green lane in Leicester.

Andy Jarvis  (great grandson of Denzil and Margaret)
Gavin Bell, UK
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Photo coutrtesy of Jarvis family, Michael Poirier

  1. Matthew George died aged 79 years on the 24 April 1921 and his wife Elizabeth in 1929 the two are buried together in Welford Road cemetery Leicester.
References and Sources
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Marriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)


Denzil John Jarvis



The Crest, Stoneygate



Articles and Stories

Memorial to Denzil John Jarvis


Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund (54)



Denzil John Jarvis General Information


Reminder of a sea disaster

Leicester Mercury  (1982) 


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