Reverend Ernest Courtenay Carter was born in Compton, Berkshire, England on 17 February 1858.
He was the son of George Carter (b. 1813) and Catherine Courtenay (b. 1827). His father, a clergyman, hailed from Coventry, Warwickshire and his mother from Tunbridge Wells, Kent and they had married in Devonshire in 1851.
His father had previously been married to a lady named Elizabeth 1 (b. 1816) and had two children from that union: George Frederick St John (b. 1842 in Northamptonshire) and Elizabeth Joanna Louisa (b. 1845 in Kent). He was widowed around 1848. His remarriage to Catherine Courtenay resulted in four more children besides Ernest: Evelyn Howard (b. 1852), Charles William (b. 1855), Catherine (b. 1867) and Wynell Henry (b. 1869).
His family had moved to Berkshire around the early 1850s and Ernest first appears on the 1861 census living in Compton Beauchamp where his father was the rector. The family show up at that address through to the 1881 census.
Ernest was educated at Charterhouse, Holborn, London - where he appeared on the 1871 census2 - and Leamington College. In 1880 he went to St John's College, Oxford 3, showing up on the 1881 census as a lodger at Dudley Cottage on Kingston Road, Oxford when he was described as an undergraduate. He graduated with a BA in 1884 and from 1885 to 1888 he was Assistant Master at Godolphin School, Hammersmith, London. In 1888 he took Holy orders, being made deacon and taking up a position as curate of Christ Church, Mayfair. He was made priest in 1889 and between then and 1896 he was curate of Chieveley. In 1899 he moved to the East end of London to be vicar of St Jude, Whitchapel, a largely Jewish community. Between 1910 and 1911 he was president of Sion College, a London-based college, guild of parochial clergy and almshouse.
He was married in Chester in 1890 to Lillian Hughes (b. 1867), herself the daughter of a clergyman, Christian socialist and politician, Thomas Hughes. The newly married couple appeared on the 1891 census living at the Vicarage in Chieveley, Berkshire before they settled in London, appearing on the 1901 and 1911 censuses at St Jude's Vicarage, 26 Commercial Street, Whitechapel. The couple had no children.
Carter and his wife boarded the Titanic at Southampton as second class passengers (ticket number 244252 which had cost £26). During the voyage he was troubled by a cold and Marion Wright, whom the couple had befriended, found some medication that helped him.
On the evening of 14 April, Carter presided over a hymn service for about a hundred passengers in the second class dining saloon and he preceded each hymn with a history of the hymn and its author. Robert Douglas Norman played the piano and Marion Wright sang a solo of Lead Kindly Light. Among the other hymns sung were Eternal Father, Strong to Save (also known as For those in peril on the Sea), On the Ressurection Morning, There is a Green Hill Far Away (for which Marion Wright again sang solo) and the final hymn was Now the Day is Over.
Around 10 pm a steward began to lay out coffee and refreshments and Reverend Carter drew the proceedings to a close by thanking the purser for the use of the Saloon and added that the ship was unusually steady and how everyone was looking forward to their arrival in New York. 'It is' he said 'the first time that there have been hymns sung on this boat on a Sunday evening, but we trust and pray it won't be the last.'
On the night of the sinking it is believed that the Carters made their way up to the boat deck during the evacuation and were offered a space in a lifeboat together. They chose to remain behind and Mrs Carter refused to leave her husband. They both died in the sinking and their bodies, if recovered, were never identified.
A brass memorial tablet dedicated to the couple was later unveiled in St Jude's Church, Whitechapel:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
ERNEST COURTENAY CARTER
BORN 17TH FEBRUARY 1858 AND VICAR OF ST JUDE'S,
WHITECHAPEL FROM NOVEMBER 1898 TO APRIL 1912
AND OF LILLIAN HIS WIFE
DAUGHTER OF THOMAS HUGHES THE AUTHOR OF TOM
BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS. BORN 3rd MARCH 1867
WHO AFTER 14 YEARS OF SELF SACRIFICE IN THE
CAUSE OF RELIGION AND HUMANITY IN THIS PARISH
MET DEATH WHEN THE TITANIC FOUNDERED IN
THE ATLANTIC AFTER COLLISION WITH AN ICEBERG
ON THE 15TH OF APRIL 1912.
"LOVELY AND PLEASANT IN THEIR LIVES
IN DEATH THEY WERE NOT DIVIDED"
SHE REFUSED TO LEAVE HIM WHEN OFFERED
A PLACE IN A BOAT
The tablet was later moved following St Jude's demolition to St Mary's village church in Longcot, Faringdon, Oxfordshire where Lillian's uncle John Hughes had previously served as vicar (photo copyight Brian Marshal,CC BY-SA 2.0).