Life after the Workhouse

This article was contributed by Howard Wilson.

Initial interest in this topic was sparked when I discovered a Jack (John) Waller (one of five brothers who served with the British or Commonwealth forces during WW1) had served with the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F). A search of the National Archives of Australia (N.A.A). revealed a John Clarke Waller, born 1885 in Gisborough, England serving in the A.I.F. No record was found of him leaving the U K but one showing a Mr J Waller arriving 7th February 1912 in Freemantle, on board the ship “Gorgon”, from Singapore was found on the N.A.A. His occupation was given as Miner.

John Clarke Waller signed up with the A.I.F. on 6th March 1916 giving his age as 31 yrs 5 mths, birthplace Gisborough, England, and occupation butcher. He was given the service No 3693 in Tunnelling Company No 4.

An attempt was made to try and track the family down in Guisborough. The 1st record found was the 1891 census return which gave a John Clarke Waller, born 1885, living with his father George, mother Annie, and his six siblings in Church Street, Guisborough. The next census in 1901 showed the family had broken up. The five eldest children, aged from 14 to 19, were in local employment. Martha Ellen, aged 10, and William George, aged 12, were in Guisborough Union Workhouse at 66 Northgate, Guisborough along with 93 other  inmates and 4 Vagrants. The two youngest children, Arthur Sylvester, aged 7 and Robert Ernest, aged 4 were boarders with the Atkinson family at 102 Dale Street, New Marske. What had brought about the break up of this family?

It was quickly established that the mother, Annie, had died in the 2nd quarter of 1898. George, it would appear, had done a “runner”. It was reported in “The Police Gazette” dated Friday, July 27, 1900.

“Yorkshire (North Riding) Guisborough (county) – For deserting his children – GEORGE WALLER, age 38 to 40, height about 5ft. 8in., complexion fresh, hair brown, heavy long moustache light, eyes blue; dress, black jacket suit, black felt hat. An iron-stone miner, or labourer on public works; native of Hitchin, Herts.

Warrant Issued

Information to Supt. Clarkson, Guisborough.”

The presence of Martha Ellen and William George in the workhouse was now explained. Would it be possible to pick up their trail after they left the workhouse?

Martha Ellen Waller

The 1911 Census shows her employed as a cook in Guisborough Union Workhouse.

In the 3rd quarter of 1917 she married George Flan(n)ary (b. 1891 in Guisborough) at Guisborough Parish Church.

The 1911 census shows George Flan(n)ary living at 131 Westgate Guisborough. His father is named as Henry, and his mother as Dorothy Jane.

George Flan(n)ary 200382 enlisted in the 3rd/4th Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment at Northallerton (date unknown). He died at home, 15 Auckland St. Guisborough, on the 19th Feb 1918 presumably from wounds received whilst on active service. He was buried in Guisborough Cemetery on the 22nd of February 1918 and is commemorated on the Guisborough War Memorial.

The lists of passengers leaving the UK between 1890 and 1960 include a Martha E Flannary aged 29, leaving London on 29th April 1920, travelling 1st class on board the Nelson Steam Navigation’s ship the “Highland Piper” to Buenos Aires, Argentina. This would seem to be our Martha Ellen Flanary (nee Waller)

  • The timing is reasonable (she lost her husband George in early 1918)
  • Her occupation is given as “Poor Law Officer” (The 1911 census, showing her employed as a cook at Guisborough Workhouse, gives her relationship to the Head of the household as “Officer ”)
  • Her age, 29, and birth year of 1891 are both correct.
  • There are no records of a Martha Ellen Flanary re-marrying or dying in the UK.

And what about that Harry Flanary on the memorial? Is he a relation? The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database records a Harry Flanary 200236, 4th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment dying on the 23rd of April 1917. He was the son of Henry and Dorothy Flanary of 131 Westgate, Guisborough. Harry  was George`s brother!

William George Waller

He was born on August 3rd 1889 at Guisborough – 3rd son of George (b. 1862) and Annie (b. 1863) one of 9 children. He was baptised on the 6th Nov 1889 at Guisborough Parish Church

William enlisted with the Northumberland Fusiliers on the 3rd of June 1907. His uniform at that time would have looked like that of the soldier illustrated below.

The 1911 census gives him, aged 21, serving as a Private, service no 2067, with the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers at West Ridge, Rawalpindi, India. The 1st Battalion was a regular army battalion, stationed at Peshawar in 1905, Bombay in 1912 and Portsmouth in 1913. At the outbreak of World War I, it was assigned to the 9th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, where it remained throughout the war. It landed at Le Havre on 14 August 1914 and served on the Western Front until the Armistice.

William survived the War and was discharged on the 2nd of June 1919 after serving for 12 Years. He was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. In addition, he was given a Silver War Badge No. B297136

A William G Waller (aged 28) married Ivy Ord (aged 18) during the 1st quarter of 1918 in Guisborough. There is one possible record of a child born to this marriage – Arthur S Waller b. 3rd quarter 1919, Mothers name Ord, – Guisborough. (William George Waller’s younger brother was Arthur Sylvester, remember?) Ivy Waller (nee Ord) died during the 1st quarter of 1934 aged 34 in the Middlesbrough district.

A William G Waller (aged 45) married Doris Metcalfe (aged 33) during the 2nd quarter of 1935 in Guisborough. The 1939 Register gives a William G Waller living at 35 Park Lane, Guisborough with his wife Doris. It gives the correct birth day and month, although the year is one out.

William George Waller died during the 4th quarter of 1971 in Cleveland. Doris Waller died during the 1st quarter of 1989 in East Cleveland.


Records suggest that Martha Ellen emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1920, following the death of her husband, George Flan(n)ary.

William George survived the War, being discharged on the 2nd of June 1919 under Para 392 xvi. Kings Regulations. He was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal; and issued with Silver War Badge no B297136 on the 24th of September 1919.

What`s next?

Five brothers of this family (including John Clarke Waller, A.I.F.) served in the armed forces during WW1. It is intended to trace their service careers sometime in the future.

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