Encyclopedia Titanica

Harry Bristow

Harry Bristow
Harry Bristow

Mr Harry Bristow was born at Shutta, East Looe, Cornwall on 26th April, 1873 the son of John Bristow (a railway labourer) and his wife Mary Ann 1.

Harry was married to Ethel Elliott (born 25th September 1887) and together they had two children: Vivian John Henry 2 and Philip Harry.

Ethel Bristow
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 Ethel Bristow
Vivian Bristow
(© David Bristow, UK)

On 8th April 1912 Harry posted a card to Ethel:

 Southampton Docks 10pm
 April 8th 1912.

 Dear Love,

 Arrived here after a very slow journey at 9.15pm. I'm stopping at Temperance Hotel.... was very hungry had tea at Waterloo before departing.....several stopping here for Titanic to sign on tomorrow morning before 8am.
Much love dearie self and boy. I will try and write a line tomorrow or Wednesday before sailing.

8 - APR -12   11 PM  

 Mrs Bristow,

 1 Station Parade,


 Bromley, Kent

He signed-on to the Titanic, on 9th April, 1912 giving his Shortlands, Bromley address. The Titanic was his first ship. As a first class steward he received monthly wages of £3 15s.

The next day he wrote again to Ethel.


Southampton 9-4-12

Dearest Et

I have earned my first days pay on the Titanic 4/- & been paid & I may say spent it do you know dearie. I forgot about towels, also cloth brush so I've to buy two, the brush I need tomorrow ..........my uniform will cost £1-17-6, coat plus waistcoat and cap and Star regulation collars and paper front (don't laugh dearie it's quite true) two white jackets etc. so it won't leave me very much to take up, my pay is £3-15 plus tips. I'm in the first class saloon so I may pick up a bit. I've been scrubbing the floor today in Saloon, about a dozen of us. I lost myself a time or two, she is such an enormous size I expect it will take me a couple of trips before I begin to know my way about here. I believe we're due back here again about the 4th next month I am not sure though - but if I can manage it & the tips turn out alright, I shall have to leave again Sunday night. I shall try and come Saturday night but I expect I shall have to leave again Sunday night to report 8o/c Monday morning, but of course dearie I'm not sure, its only what some of the old hands told me..................I haven't had a talk with Bert Dodds yet...he's what they call 2nd Steward not 1st but very nice I've heard and liked. I've to be aboard tomorrow morning 6 o/c sharp, means turning out at 5am.........you might send a letter to me addressed as envelope enclosed a day before we're expected in so that I could have it directly I come ashore, now dearie with fondest love to boy and self & be brave as you always are, your ever loving Harry

His final letter was written on RMS Titanic notepaper 3 on the evening of 10th April and posted to Ethel from Queenstown the following day (postmarked Queenstown 3.45pm). In this letter, Harry states that he is 'scribbling this in bed 11.30pm' and that:

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... I had a table with two old ladies for lunch, & another table tonight for dinner but no people, bad luck. I hope I shall get a permanent table tomorrow, when most of the passengers come aboard or else it will mean nil for me as tips are concerned........I think about you very much dearie....fondest love dearie self and boy your ever loving Harry xx'

Harry Bristow died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

Ethel and his children received financial aid from the Lord Mayor's fund. Several entries were made in the Relief Fund records between 1912 and 1923 but perhaps the most poignant was made in June 1913 when a grant of £5 was given so that Mrs. Bristow could take her children to the seaside 4.

Ethel, never remarried, she died in 1972.


1. A the time of the 1881 census Harry was living in East Looe, Cornwall with his parents, older sisters Harriet and Ellen, younger brother Fred and three lodgers.
2. Vivian John Henry Bristow was born on 13th August 1910 in Bath, Somerset. He became an antiquarian bookseller and dealer in manuscripts, trading as 'Henry Bristow of Ringwood', he died on the 17th June 2000.
3. This letter was sold at auction in March 1999 much to the regret of family members who sought without success to regain it.
4. Hyslop et al (1997), p.257 list the sum as £25. This is probably a mistake.

References and Sources

Workmens Compensation Act 1906 - Award to Ethel Elliott Bristow (1, 2, 3)

Documents and Certificates

Agreement and Account of Crew, National Archives, London; BT100/259
Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund Booklets and Minute Books, London Metropolitan Archives (COL/MH/AD/06/009)


Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
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Comment and discuss

  1. Steve Coombes

    Does anyone have a note of the date of birth, birthplace and parentage of this Cornish crewman? Thanks Steve

  2. Steve Coombes

    I have now found that Harry Bristow's birth was registered at Liskeard, Cornwall in 1873. The registration district of Liskeard covers the town of Looe and so I am fairly confident this is the correct person. I have now uploaded the family information I have found for Harry's parents etc and this should be appearing on his biography page in a few days time. Steve

  3. Stephen James Berry

    There are a number of incorrect stories in circulation regarding Harry Bristow's family. I am descended from his elder sister Ellen (my great grandmother)and am presently trying (with much frustration and little success!) to discover our common ancestors before his parents. Harry was born on 26 April 1873, the son of John Bristow and Mary Ann (nee Blight). No marriage has yet been traced, though the couple appear in the 1861 census for Liskeard as husband and wife, John being 40 and Mary Ann 17. This ties in with the family traditions as they were passed on to me. However, John gives his... Read full post

  4. hugh bristow

    Dear Stephen, Harry Bristow was my grandfather, I have full details of his life and family tree. I would be very interested to learn of any details concerning his sister Ellen Ann Bristow. Harry was born in Shutta East Looe on the 26 April 1873, he married Ethel Elliott and had two children Vivian John Henry, and Phillip Harry (my father). I have a direct family tree of Harrys ancestors back to Moses Bristow born in 1773. However, I have no trace of Ellen Ann b.1870, and would be very happy to exchange family details. Kind regards Hugh Bristow

  5. Stephen James Berry

    Hello Hugh, How good to hear from you! Ellen Bristow (no Ann, though his other sister was Harriett Ann) was my great grandmother, whom I knew well, since she died in 1964 when I was 15. I have unfortunately some information which might upset you somewhat! The connection to Moses Bristow, although published elsewhere on the web, is not in fact correct and seems to arise from picking up the baptism of a John Moses Bristow in 1821 at Bromley in Kent. In fact, our John Bristow was born at Wivelsfield in Sussex in 1820. I live in Newport, South Wales, and some 12 years ago,... Read full post

  6. Robacis

    I just wonder if the parents of Harry are correct Certainly John is right, however my research shows that he Married Mary Ann Blight  in January 1861 in Bristol

  7. Stephen Berry

    Unfortunately a number of the family details given for Harry are incorrect. He was my great great uncle and I have researched the family extensively. The corrected information reads as follows: Harry Bristow was the elder son of John Bristow and Mary Ann (nee Blight). He was born on 26 April 1873 at the south Cornwall coastal town of East Looe in that part of the town known as Shutta. His father, John Bristow, worked for the Cornish Railway. He was born at Wivelsfield in Sussex in 1820 (of a family that has been traced back to the late 1500s in Surrey) and was one of the early... Read full post

  8. Maida and Jim Gibson

    Thank you for filling in this gap in family history. Ethel Bristow was one of my grandmother's older sisters; I had heard that Aunt Ethel's husband had gone down in the Titanic, but never knew any details.  Jim Gibson (grandson of Newton and Mary (nee Elliott) Gibson).

  9. Shani Phethean-Hubble

    Hi - I am related directly to Mary Blight via my mother - I think there is confusion between two families with similar spellings in the area. My grandfather died in a railway accident before my mother was born.

  10. Ruth Abrahams

    I, too, am directly related to Mary Ann Blight through my mother (in fact I have a photo of her in my bedroom, along with one of Harriet and her family). She was my grandmother's grandmother.

  11. Edna Grignon

    Hi Jim, I am married to James Grignon. His great grandfather was Harry Bristow. Harry left behind two children Viv and Philip. My mother in law is Judith Bristow Grignon, the daughter of Viv. My mother in law is from Bristol England, and her sister Wendy is still alive as well and lives in England. It is nice to read a post from another relative

  12. Sacheverell Bristow

    Hi I’m Sachie (Sacheverelll), I am the son of Viv’s son David. My children are fascinated by the story of the Titanic and their great great grandpa Harry Bristow. I look forward to when they can tell their kids about it in the future.

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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr Harry Bristow
Age: 38 years 11 months and 19 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married
Last Residence: in Bromley, Kent, England
Occupation: Saloon Steward
Embarked: Southampton
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body Not Recovered

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