Gloucestershire and the Titanic – how the county was hit by one of the world’s worst maritime disasters


On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail, bound for New York. On board was passenger Francis William Somerton of Cheltenham. Twelve days later this story appeared in the Gloucestershire Echo.

“All hope for the safety of Mr Francis William Somerton, the young engineer from Cheltenham, has been abandoned. Mr Somerton, who was only 30, was from this town and the eldest son of Mr Mrs Somerton of Petersham, Gloucester Road.

‘He was educated at Christ Church Schools and then took a course to train as an engineer at Whitehead’s Torpedo School, near Weymouth. About 11 years ago he went to America and got a good job at
Canastota, NY.

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“Last December he returned home and brought his young American wife with him. For a short time he worked at Rugby, but these works were closed by the coal strike. So he accepted a good offer from the American company where he was previously employed and was about to take up his post. back to Canastota when the Titanic was wrecked and he lost his life”.

Francis Somerton was born in Tewkesbury Road, Cheltenham, and baptized in nearby St Peter’s Church, an area known as Lower Dockem which today would be described as deprived. He was one of four children and his father was a gasworks clerk, who
stood where Tesco is now. He was married to Mae and the third-class ticket he bought to travel on the Titanic cost £8.05 (£8.05), or more than £800 in today’s values.

Two other locals were lost in the disaster. Ewart Sydenham Burr, 28, born in Westgate Street, Gloucester, was the son of a coal miner. Burr was a member of the refueling crew aboard the Titanic. His wife Ethel, with whom he had a son, received a brief telegram. “Much regret Burr not saved”.

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Crewman Ewart Burr

Ewart Sydenham Burr

Henry Price Hodges was a second class passenger who paid £13 to travel on the Titanic. He was 50 and had been a pupil of Tewkesbury Grammar School. Oddly enough, he was supposed to go to America several weeks earlier, but the trip had been delayed due to a coal strike.

Claimed to be unsinkable, the Titanic, flagship of the White Star Line and the most powerful ocean liner in the world, plunged to the bottom of the North Atlantic after colliding with an iceberg, taking 1,500 of the 2,340 passengers and crew members on board.

The world was surprised by the disaster, but the news must have been greeted with a special sense of loss by Mr. Moss and Mr. Isher. These gentlemen were neighbors in Rose and Crown Passage, off Cheltenham’s High Street and together they carried out contract work for HH Martyn, the Sunningend Works company which had an established reputation for fitting out many
most luxurious ocean liners in the world.

Mr. Moss built himself a lathe capable of turning tubes up to 15 feet long and the gigantic machine was driven by a gasoline engine, which belonged to Mr. Isher next door.

MM. Moss and Isher were commissioned to produce the ornately turned wooden tubes that covered the cast iron pillars of Titanic’s public rooms. Imagine how their sense of pride must have given way to discouragement when they heard the bad news.

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