The re-imagined story …
Gran loved a good funeral. She especially liked the ones held at St Mark’s where Canon Ponsonby officiated as he had such a lovely voice, she said. But she wasn’t adverse to attending services at one of the many non conformist churches or chapels across town, or even the little cemetery chapel itself.
And afterwards she would come round to our house and over a cup of tea she would recount the events.
Mr Brittain’s funeral ranked as one of the best she had attended, she told us. The list of mourners read like a Who’s Who of Swindon railway royalty, she said.
As a child I accepted Gran’s funeral fascination as just one of the funny things old people did. Most things about the elderly were pretty incomprehensible to the young. It wasn’t until Gran died that I began to understand.
Gran had been born at a time when death was very much a part of life. Before she was ten years old she had lost her own mother and several siblings. Today we tend to think people must have become used to all that death and dying. One child died and the next one born received their name. Perhaps people didn’t invest so much love in their children then as we do now. Of course once I had my own family I realised what a ridiculous notion that was and I came to understand the loss Gran continued to mourn throughout her life.
Mr Brittain’s funeral was one of the best she’d ever seen, Gran told us.
The facts …
Death of Mr E. Brittain – We regret to announce the death of Mr E. Brittain, which took place almost suddenly at his residence in Wellington-street, New Swindon, on Thursday morning. Deceased left his work as usual the previous night, and retired to rest in fairly good health, but died about 4.30 a.m. Mr Brittain was a very old employe of the GWR Co., and had been a foreman in the works for many years. He was a member of the Council of the Mechanics’ Institute, but was best known perhaps as chairman of the New Swindon Industrial Society; he presided at the last half-yearly meeting of the society held a few weeks since.
The Swindon Advertiser, Saturday, June 29, 1895.
The Late Mr E.T. Brittain – We gave a brief account in our last Saturday’s issue of the sudden death of Mr E.T. Brittain of Wellington-street, New Swindon, the esteemed foreman of the R. Shop (Loco. Dept.) of the GWR Works.
Mr Brittain, who was 65 years of age, was well-known in New Swindon. For many years he occupied a seat on the Council of the Mechanics’ Institute, and for 17 years he was a director of the New Swindon Industrial Society, and during the last 12 years he ably filled the office of chairman. Deceased also took a great interest in political matters; he was a staunch Conservative, and at the time of his death was treasurer of the North Wilts Conservative Association.
His position in the GWR Works was unique, as he was the oldest foreman in the Works. He commenced as assistant foreman in the R. Shop, the principal fitting and machine shop, under the late Mr James Haydon. Upon that gentleman being appointed as Assistant Works Manager, Mr Brittain continued in the same capacity under Mr E.J. Davies. When some 20 years ago, Mr Davies obtained the appointment of the managership of the Engine Department of Messrs Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies, Limited, Ipswich, Mr Brittain was appointed to the chief foremanship, a position which he held and worthily filled to the day of his death.
We understand that for many years nearly all the fitter, turner and erector apprentices received their early training under Mr Brittains’s management and we are sure that his lamented death will come as a great shock to engineers who have been trained under him, and who are to be found at most centres in the world where engineers are employed.
The funeral of deceased took place on Monday last, and was the occasion of a striking demonstration of respect on the part of the officials and workmen of the GWR and the various bodies with which deceased was connected, as well as the general public.
The funeral cortege left deceased’s late residence in Wellington-street at half-past four, and proceeded to St Mark’s Church, where the first portion of the service was conducted by the Vicar, the Hon. And Rev. Canon Ponsonby, who also read the concluding service at the graveside in the Cemetery.
There were five mourning carriages, and the chief mourners included deceased’s three sons and brother-in-law. Deceased being an old Volunteer, eight members of the New Swindon Companies attended as bearers. Nearly 400 persons followed the remains from the church to the graveside, and the route was lined with spectators, besides which a vast crowd assembled in the Cemetery. Some idea of the extent of the procession may be gathered when we state that it extended from the Cemetery entrance throughout the whole length of Radnor-street.
The coffin was covered with an immense number of beautiful wreaths and crosses and other floral offerings. Amongst the mourners, besides deceased’s relatives, we noticed Mr. D.E. Marsh (Loco. Dept.), Mr J. Fordyce Stevenson (district engineer), Mr F.C. Kent (district estate agent), Mr Webb (representing Mr Carlton), Messrs. T.B. Watson, A. Adams, W.H. Ludgate, E.L. Pugh, Theo Wright, R.B. Pattison, W. Mole, W. Hunt, T. Veness, W.H. Lawson, J. Ireland, T. Stone, T. Money, H. Green, G.M. Butterworth, R. Baker, A. Nash, W. Booth, W. Harvie, R. Affleck, H.J. Southwell, F. Tegg, W. Sewell, D. White, J.D.R. Phillips, T. Spencer, H. Morris, R. Chirgwin, H. Wright, L. Dyer, H. Andrews, J. Christelow, E.Y. Westlake, E. Harvie, R. Hogarth, W. Morrison, R.N. Sutcliffe, E. Burns, W. Clark, J.S. Protheroe, W.J. Greenwood, C. Fox, T.C. Morgan etc. etc. The funeral arrangements were satisfactorily carried out by Mr H. Smith. Mrs Brittain and family desire to thank the many kind friends for the expressions of condolence and sympathy in their recent bereavement.
The Swindon Advertiser, Saturday, July 6, 1895.
Edwin Thomas Brittain was born in the parish of St Pancras on November 21, 1829, the eldest son of Henry James Brittain, an undertaker, and his wife Charlotte.
He married Louisa Elizabeth Hooker at Trinity Church, St Marylebone on January 11, 1852 and the couple soon moved to Wolverton in Buckinghamshire where Edwin was employed at the London & North Western engine works. Their son Thomas is born in Wolverton but by 1853 the family have moved to Swindon.
Edwin Thomas Brittain entered the GWR Service on July 26, 1853 working as a Fitter in the Loco factory. He was made Assistant Foreman on October 7,1865 and Foreman on January 12, 1867.
At the time of the 1861 census he was living at No 6 King Street with Louisa and their five children. The couple had nine children in all, moving to Wellington Street where they lived at No 18 and No. 39 at various times over the next twenty year period.
Edwin died at his home at 39 Wellington Street on June 27, 1895. He left effects to the value of £181 5s 2d. Louisa survived him by eighteen years and is buried here with him.