Ernest Arthur Cartlidge

Some photographs deserve investigation. They draw you in. Perhaps its a look of happiness on an engagement, or pride in a child, or even a family group. Then you have the photos that are a bit … odd. And that brings us to my husband’s great-grandfather: Ernest Arthur Cartlidge and the photo below.


“Yours Ernest Cartlidge in By The Way”


Suffice to say, Ernest wasn’t a Cossack from the lower Dnieper basin. He was born 05 January 1888 in Battersea, Surrey. His baptism took place on 12 February 1888 in St Pauls Clapham, and gives his parents as Arthur Edward and Alice, with Arthur’s occupation as ‘sawyer’. Their address was 569 Wandsworth Road.


Ernest first appears on a census in 1891, with his parents and younger brother Alfred Edward who was just 2 months old at the time of the census. The family have moved from Wandsworth Road to Hanbury Road.

1891 UK Census

1891 England Census

In 1901 he is still at home with his parents and brother, but have been joined by his 12 year old cousin, Ethel Maud Fisher (the daughter of one of Alice’s brothers). The family has moved again, this time to Mallinson Road – between Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common.

1901 UK Census

1901 England Census

Whilst searching for records, I decided to search the Discovery catalogue of the National Archives – and I’m very glad that I did! I discovered that Ernest had served in the military – something my other half knew nothing about! After a small payment of £3.30, I was able to download his service history.

On 18 November 1903, 15 year old Ernest joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman, and was sent to the training ship HMS Boscowen (originally the 1841 Caledonia class 120-gun ship of the line HMS Trafalgar) for his initial training. By November 1904 he had moved to the HMS Hercules, an ironclad that was launched in 1868. January and February 1905 were spent on the HMS Firequeen, a ‘Special Service Vessel’ that was used as a general depot ship at Portsmouth for several years, and was also a tender for HMS Victory.

Following this, he moved to HMS King Edward VII. The ship was commissioned on 07 February 1905 and Ernest started his service on her only a couple of weeks later on 22 February. Two months later he was moved to the HMS Prince George (after being “recovered from desertion”), and probably served as part of the Atlantic Fleet. He served on board until October 1906 – although the last two weeks of September were spent in cells.

HMS Prince George

HMS Prince George

He was transferred to HMS Victory (despite the name, it was more than likely one of the shore establishments that were so named) on 08 December 1906, and served until 20 December. I assume at this point he was sent home for Christmas, and he returns to HMS Victory on 1 February 1907 and stays for one week. However, in the notes of his Royal Navy service record, it states that:

14.02.07 Approve discharge, services no longer required after 42 days <unreadable> for breaking out of barracks.

Despite his time in the cells, and his two incidents of desertion, his character is given as “Very Good” or “Good” for most of his naval career.



In the 1911 census Ernest is found one road south of his previous address, living on Bennerley Road with the Row family, and is listed as a painter’s labourer. The other two young men in the household are also employed in the building industry (a plumber and a builder’s yard assistant) so it is conceivable that they worked for the same employer.

1911 England census

It is also – presumably – through this family that Ernest met his future wife, Edith. The head of the household in 1911 was a widow, Sarah. She had been married to William Row. He passed away in 1890 aged just 26. His elder sister, Elizabeth, had married William George Winterbourne and had 2 children – George Henry in 1885 and Edith Annie in 1887. In fact, in 1911 they lived in the same building – 55 Bennerley Road. The two of them married on 8th July 1911 in St Michael’s church, Battersea.


Ernest’s father’s occupation here is given as Verger, and on the 1911 census he is enumerated as “Verger and Caretaker”. Given the proximity of Arthur’s street address (Darley Road, Wandsworth Common) to St Michael’s, it would be sensible to assume that this was the church in which he served as verger.

Ernest appears in the 1920 Electoral Register, still living at 55 Bennerley Road. Edith is also listed as present, as are William Row and his mother Sarah, and two members of the Winterbourne family – Elizabeth and William Henry.

Ernest passed away in 1921, aged 32 years. It doesn’t appear that he left a will as he doesn’t appear in the National Probate Calendar. Edith went on to marry a Harry Thomas Wright in 1934, a widower with 5 adult children.

But what of the mysterious outfit?

So far evidence is evasive. However, family lore has him pegged as a ‘singer’. I can’t find any play or musical entitled ‘By The Way’ (apart from the recent one!) so for now great-grandfather Ernest and his amazing eyebrows will remain somewhat of a mystery …