Joseph Stickley was born in North Moreton, Berkshire, in 1877 and was baptised at the village church on 20th November. His mother was Martha Stickley but there was no father’s name in the baptism register, meaning that Joseph was born illegitimately. However we know that his father was a North Moreton man called Joseph Warwick because it was reported in the local newspaper that Warwick was ordered to pay 1s 6d per week towards his son’s support.
The 1881 census shows that by the time Joseph was 4 years old he was living in Wallingford Union Workhouse with his mother and older sister Elizabeth. By the time of the next census in 1891 they were living apart; Joseph’s sister Elizabeth was still in the workhouse and had an illegitimate child of her own; their mother Martha had married and moved out of the workhouse; and Joseph had been sent to the training ship Formidable at Portishead.
Training ships took boys aged 12 – 17 years of age who were deemed to be paupers and gave them basic training for the navy. It was used as a kind of overspill from the workhouse and although it was not an easy life, contemporary reports indicate that most boys thought it was preferable to the workhouse. Some boys were sent to training ships by magistrates so it is possible that Joseph had been involved in some kind of petty crime or it could just have been because he was a pauper. It must have been tough for boys like Joseph who were sent some distance from their home. The regime was strict and Joseph would not have seen his mother or sister for long periods of time.
By 1901 Joseph was 24 years old and had become a Private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. At the time of the census he was visiting his step-sister and her family (the Whitehorns) in St John’s Road, Wallingford. Joseph stayed with the Royal Berks Regiment for 12 years. During his time with the regiment some units were deployed to Gibraltar, South Africa (for the 2nd Boer War) and Egypt so it is possible that Joseph went to one or more of these places.
When he left the army Joseph worked as a labourer and in 1911 he married Ada Emmons and settled in Goring (about 6 miles from Wallingford). Ada’s family came from Goring and she already had a young daughter when they married.
In the spring of 1915 Joseph enlisted in the army to fight in the First World War. He was 37 years old and was put in the Labour Corps which suggests that he wasn’t fit enough to join a front line unit. Some parts of the Labour Corps were sent to the various theatres of war where the chance of death or injury was high. Other Labour Corps units provided support services in the UK. Joseph was demobilised in January 1919 and returned to his wife and step-daughter in Goring.
Sadly, Joseph didn’t have long with his family after the war and he died in March 1922 of pulmonary tuberculosis. He died at a hospital in Worcester and his death certificate notes that he was an army pensioner so it is possible that this was a military hospital and the army was paying for his treatment there. Joseph’s body was returned to Goring and he was buried there on 14 March. He was 45 years old when he died and I think he’d had a tough life.
Royal Berkshire Regiment cap badge by Dormskirk [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D
HMS Formidable By Captain George Pechell Mends – http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/150793, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64836470
View of Goring on Thames – by Timo Newton-Syms from Helsinki, Finland & Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK – Goring on Thames, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73004088