Harding, John William

The story of John William Harding begins with his first appearance on a census in 1901. He was in Hawarden, living at the Orphanage with his brother Frederick James, they were ages 10 and 8 respectively.   They had both been born in Middlesex, (Frederick in Willesden according to the 1911 census).   The Orphanage was run by Catherine Gladstone and was in a house in the Hawarden Castle grounds.  They were 2 of 16 children who were living at the Orphanage on the 1901 census.

The Orphanage Hawarden 2

Photo with kind permission of the Hawarden Record Office

I tried to find out more about the family and the reason why the children were in the Orphanage and wrote to City of Westminster Archives Centre. – They confirmed that John William Harding and his wife Alice Jane Harding were on the 1901 census and Electoral Roll, living at Peterborough Road, Fulham    The 1920/21 electoral Roll shows they were living at 13, Irene Street, Fulham.    They also told me that Fulham generally was quite a working class area at the time, but is now one of the more affluent areas of London.    I also found John William Harding (Snr), 49, and a Lift Attendant, (H.M.O.W.) and his wife Alice J Harding, 48, born Blaisdon, Glos. on the 1911 census living at 3, Ringford Road, Wandsworth.   They tell us that they had been married 13 years and no children had been born to them.

Gillian McGrandles, Senior Library Assistant at Wandwsworth Heritage Service also commented on the boy’s being at Hawarden:-

“I’m sure you have already checked with Flintshire Records Office but they are the best source of information for that particular orphanage and may have some information regarding their admission criteria. If it was similar to a workhouse, parents would sometimes place their children there because they couldn’t afford to keep them, go away to work for a while and then sometimes return maybe years later to take them home again.”

I have found a possible Birth Certificate of a John William Harding in Fulham, London, which is the area, John’s father , also John William Harding, stated he was living in 1920.  The 1891 census was taken on the 5th April 1891 and this birth certificate is for the April- June quarter, so it might be the right one and with a little bit of luck he may show on a census return for that year. ( Reg. Dist. :- Fulham, Volume 1a, Page 275), but up to now, he is like the Scarlet Pimpernel!

Also there is a possible sighting of John William’s father on the 1939 Register, living at the address which is shown on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Certificate, 4, Salisbury Road, Gloucester.

I now believe that John William Harding and Alice Jane married in 1897, so she would have been his 2nd wife and would explain why she was not next-of-kin on the CWGC Certificate.   By then the boys would have grown up and out of the care of the Orphanage.   So the photograph of John William, his father and who we thought was his mother could be his stepmother Alice Jane BOWKETT.   The marriage I found was for a John William Harding and an Alice Jane Bowkett in the December Quarter of 1897 (Wandsworth Vol.1d Page 1294)      Alice Jane, incidentally had been born in Gloucestershire.

I still have no clue to the mother of John William (Will) and Frederick, so any help would be appreciated.  I would have to purchase the Birth Certificates of both John William and Frederick to find out the name of their mother.

Circumstances had in fact made it impossible for their father to look after the two boys as we learn if we follow the link further down this page.

Mr. Bill Pritchard, in his book ” A History of the old Parish of Hawarden” , describes the  relationship the village and it’s people had with the children of the Orphanage and some of the letters that pupils wrote after they had left and gone out into the world. The letters suggested that the children had appreciated their lives at the Orphanage, especially how William & Catherine Gladstone made sure that they were not institutionalized.  They were allowed to go to the local schools with the other village children, as John William did to the Hawarden County School where his name is on the Roll of Honour in the Hall.

The entries for the Hawarden County School (where he is remembered on their “Roll of Honour”) show that they did well in school and made it to the school in the area.  Please click on the link.

The 1911 census tells us that John William HARDING, was a Pupil, age 20 at the Chester Diocesan Training College, Parkgate Road, Chester as a Schoolmaster Student born Fulham, London.

John William went on to attend the Chester Diocesan Training College leaving in 1911 to teach at St Mary’s Primary School, Liscard, Wirral and he lived in Parkside Avenue, Birkenhead.

Kindly researched by Pat Ransome – The school diary for that period records entries relating to John William noting that on 1st April 1912 …”Mr J W Harding took control of Standard IV.”

and on 13th April 1913

…”Mr Connell and Mr Harding have a Physical Exercise Examination in Chester this evening. I have,      therefore, allowed them to leave school at 3.30pm.”

By August 1914 on the 27th the diarist records

….”Mr Harding, my Standard V teacher has volunteered for foreign service and has been accepted. He ceases work here today.”

His master at Liscard wrote of him, “the soul of our dear Will was committed to the care and keeping of our Creator at our Communion Service yesterday morning. He was always a faithful and devoted colleague, and was in the truest sense a refined and Christian gentleman. We can still pray for him. May the everlasting arms enfold him and perpetual light shine upon him.”      WBJ

The St Mary’s Primary School diarist records on August 28th 1916…

“Mr J W Harding, Assistant Master at this school was killed on August 9th.”

The following day it records :- “There is an unusual darkness this afternoon and close work is impossible.   Thank you Pat.                    

The UK Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 accessible on confirms the regimental information as above and tells us his residence was Liscard, Cheshire and he enlisted in Liverpool. John William’s Medal card, also on ancestry, tells us that his first Theatre of War was France and he entered it on the 23rd January 1915

John William’s Army Service Records survive and are accessible on . He attested in Liverpool on the 29th August 1914. He gave his address as 23 Parkfield Road Liscard. His medical took place on the same day. He was 5 ft 10 ins tall with a chest measurement of 38ins which expanded by 3 ins. His vision and physical development were deemed to be good and he was pronounced fit for the Territorial Force.  He was allocated to the 10th (Scottish) Bn of The King’s (Liverpool Reg). He named his brother Frederick James Harding as his next of kin and he was serving in the Navy on HMS ‘Electra’.

John William served ‘at home’ from the 29th August 1914 until the 22nd January 1915. He embarked for France as part of the Expeditionary Force on the 23rd January 1915 and served there until  his death in August 1916. Altogether he served for one year and 346 days.  His records show that he spent some time in 1915 hospitalised with jaundice. He was Killed in Action

There was one incident recorded on a Conduct Sheet. He was accused of ‘Neglect’ because he had lost his entrenching stick. He lost a day’s pay for that crime’.

There is a relatives form in the records that tells us his mother was deceased and that his father was John William Harding of 13 Irene Road, Fulham, SW6.   His only sibling was brother Frederick James Harding who was in the Navy.

The Shallcroft Family is an important part of the story of the Harding boys.  George Shallcroft was listed as an ‘Armature winder electrical’ in the 1901 census and he was recorded living  in the Castle Lodge with his family, ( his wife Hester and two sons Leslie E who was 5 and Frederick B who was 1). It was the eldest son Leslie, who after John’s death signed for his medals. It was Hestor (Hettie) that signed for John William’s personal property  which were sent  c/o her for his brother Frederick J Harding. (John William’s personal property was:- 1 Safety Razor, 1 Nail Brush, 1 Pr. Flashes and 1 Wallet).

In the records are the receipts signed by Leslie Shallcroft for John William’s medals. There is also the communication addressed to Mrs Shallcrost asking her to pass on John’s worldly possessions to Frederick his brother. His commemorative scroll and plaque, however, were sent to his father in Fulham.

Hawarden Magazine had a comical remark about Leslie Shallcroft.

Another entry for Leslie Shallcroft

Mrs Shallcroft

Mr Shallcroft

There is no doubting that the Shallcroft family were significant in the lives of John  and Frederick Harding .  The relationship between the Shallcroft family and the Harding boys is wonderfully detailed on the  ‘Buckley at War’ website by George Shallcroft’s grandson/daughter. It goes a long way to explain the story of the two boys. Follow the link to read more and to see photographs

There is an index card for John William Harding in The Flintshire Roll of Honour at the County Record Office in Hawarden. The address quoted is The Castle Lodge, Hawarden.

John William Harding left a Will – Harding, John William of Castle Lodge, Hawarden, Flintshire a private in the 10th battalion Liverpool Scottish regiment died 9 August 1916 in France.   Administration (with Will) St. Asaph 19 October to Frederick James Harding, Stoker on H.M.S. “Thames”*.   Effects £187 11s.(England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966)


HARDING, John William, County Herald 8th Sept 1916 - 2

Someone remembered John William in the County Herald 8th September 1916 in the Obituaries – Roll of Honour – ” Harding, – Killed in action, Private John William Harding, of Hawarden.”    Did the Shallcroft family put this in the paper?

I think that William John HARDING may have been studying in 1911 (RG14; Piece: 21900; Page: 2) at the Chester Diocesan Training College, Parkgate Road, Chester, as there is a John William HARDING, age 20 a Pupil, his occupation stated was a Schoolmaster – Student and he had been born in Fulham, London, he was single.

His brother, Frederick James, went to sea and on the 1911 census he was aboard the Steamer “Charing Cross” docked at Barry, South Wales, age 18 and a member of the crew as an Ordinary Seaman.

Frederick James’s Flintshire Index Card – L101 (Living) Harding, Fred. James. Castle Lodge, Hawarden, K.11497 R.N. H.M.S. “Ambrose”.   Stoker, period of service:- from August 1914, still serving.   Remarks:- 4 years Submariner.   Card not signed or dated, but most cards were signed circa 1919/1920, which probably was right as Frederick stated he was “still serving”.

(See   Frederick was also stated to be on H.M.S. “Electra”* on John’s Army Records, as next of kin. * Google H.M.S._Electra_(1896)

The Absent Voter’s List of 1919 lists Fred. James:- BROADLANE TOWNSHIP – 1562   HARDING, Fred James   Castle Lodge, Hawarden   K 11497 Lge.  Stk., R.N., H.M.S.”Ambrose.”   His listing on the 1918 Absent Voter’s List was 2858.

Also listed on the 1919 Absent Voter’s List was one of the Shallcroft boys – 1567   SHALLCROFT, Leslie Edgar The Lodge, Broad Lane  C334 Cpl., (Cadet), 16th K.R.R.C. att. 17rh Officers Cadet Bn. (Inf.) (Discharged 25/6/18)     2863

Excerpts from the Hawarden Parish Magazine regarding Mrs. Scott’s father Leslie (see her story below) – different years.


SHALLCROFT, Leslie -PRINGLE, Edward - 2

SHALLCROFT, Leslie - 2

Taken from the Hawarden Parish Magazine, August 1916.

Hawarden Parish Magazine 1916


On August the Ninth another of our lads laid down his life for his friends.   Willie HARDING was known to most of us as the bright-faced high-spirited boy, for many years a chorister of our Parish Church.   He adopted teaching as his profession, and when war broke out he was on the Staff of S. Mary’s School, Liscard.   He at once enlisted in the Liverpool Scottish, and was sent out to France in January 1915.   Twice he came home to Hawarden from the trenches, a typical soldier of the new armies, happy and cheery, like a boy home from school, but with an underlying seriousness which deepened each time he came back, and a growing resentment that he would be called on to make the great sacrifice.
A few days before the end, as he was going into the trenches for the last time, he wrote to one who had been a mother to him, ” I know you have always prayed for me, pray harder now than ever you have done before.   I feel I shall sadly need them.”   He died fighting, firing his machine gun, when a shell exploded near him, death being instantaneous.       His master at Liscard wrote of him, “the soul of our dear Will was committed to the care and keeping of our Creator at our Communion Service yesterday morning.   He was always a faithful and devoted colleague, and was in the truest sense a refined and christian gentleman.    We can still pray for him.   May the everlasting arms enfold him and perpetual light shine upon him.”   W,B,J,

In August 2016, I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Mrs Scott, her father was one of the Shallcroft brother, Leslie, and her husband, who said she would allow me to have copies of some of the photo’s and papers of the Harding boys and also told me about her Grandparent’s, the wonderful Shallcroft family, and how two families became one when Mrs Gladstone asked if the boys could have a home with her grandparents when they needed one, after they left the Orphanage.

This story Mrs Scott wrote out in longhand and gave it to the creator of the website, “Buckley at War,” which he transcribed and added to the website, as can be seen on

When I started to research the story of William John HARDING, when his name was just another one of the many young men who had fallen, among so many others, I began to feel that this was a special family, as Mrs Shallcroft’s name came out on many documents relating to the Harding brothers, Willie & Fred.   The visit to Mrs. Scott confirmed my feelings, as even now, I could feel how the grief of Willie’s passing all those years ago had affected the Shallcroft family so acutely.

Mrs Scott allowed me to take copies of the photographs and I have added them onto Will’s page, below.

Thanks so much to Mrs. Scott for adding another dimension to the Harding boys story.

The Commonwealth War Graves Website gives details of the burial of John William Harding and it appears that he and another soldier, 4968 Pte. John Edward WILLIAMS, from the 1/10th Bn King’s Liverpool Regt were buried together, both men were Attd. to the 116th Coy M.G.C. and both died on the 9th August 1916.

They were then exhumed and reburied at Serre Road Cemetery, possibly on the 7th December 1931 and with both bodies they recovered  personal property, which is listed on the Burial Return.  (see the CWGC Burial Return)


HARDING Brothers 029 - 2

Castle Lodge where the Harding boys were to call home and gain 2 more “brothers.”

HARDING Brothers 031 - 2

John William Harding in his Uniform

HARDING Brothers 035 - 2

Will’s brother Frederick, polishing his shoes.

HARDING Brothers 037 - 2

Two brothers together

Mrs Scott told me that Will went to visit his parents, the family situation really is a mystery.  I now believe that the lady in the photograph was Will’s stepmother, Alice Jane Harding (nee Bowkett)

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Hawarden Memorial

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