Harding, John William

John William Harding’s life from the age of 10.

He was recorded 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.

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”)

When it was time for the Harding brothers to leave the orphanage, Catherine Gladstone asked the Shallcroft family if they would take them into their own home.  The Shallcrofts lived in a house on the Gladstone estate.  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).

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

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 in Fulham, London. He left the college in 1911 to teach at St Mary’s Primary School, Liscard, Wirral and he lived in Parkside Avenue, Birkenhead.

St Marys school diary includes some references to John William Harding. (Kindly researched by Pat Ransome)

1st April 1912”Mr J W Harding took control of Standard IV.”

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.”

 27th August 1914  Mr Harding, my Standard V teacher has volunteered for foreign service and has been accepted. He ceases work here today.”

28th August 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.

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

William John Harding  ( Possibly taken from Hawarden Parish Magazine ?)

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 life in the Army

The UK Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 accessible on confirms the regimental information as above left 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.

It was the eldest Shallcroft son Leslie, who after John’s death signed for his medals. It was Hestor (Hettie) Shallcroft 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.

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)


Frederick james Harding (The younger brother.)

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

There is an index card fro Frederick in The Flintshire Roll of Honour in the County Record Office in Hawarden,  Index Card – L101.   The address given was  Castle Lodge, Hawarden, K.  His service number was 11497 R.N. H.M.S. “Ambrose”.   Stoker. He served from  August 1914 and was still serving at the time the card was completed. (Probably 1919 or 20) sHe spent 4 years as a Submariner.

Frederick was also stated to be on H.M.S. “Electra”* on his brother John’s Army Records, as next of kin.

Fred survived the war and made the Navy his career. He died in 1939 after contracting TB. He was buried in St Deiniol’s Churchyard Hawarden in an unmarked grave.

John William and Frederick james Harding’s early lives and why they were in the orphanage 

This is a complex family story. Although I have discovered some facts, there remain many questions and some speculation.

There is a possible Birth Certificate of a John William Harding in Fulham, London dated Qtr June 1891 in Fulham

I wrote to City of Westminster Archives Centre to try to find out more about the family and the reason why the children were in the Orphanage.   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.    The 1911 census recorded a John William Harding (Snr)  49, a Lift Attendant,  and his wife Alice J Harding, (48, born Blaisdon, Glos). living at 3, Ringford Road, Wandsworth.   They had been married for 13 years and no children had been born to them.

Gillian McGrandles, Senior Library Assistant at Wandwsworth Heritage Service also commented on the boys 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.”

There is a probable listing of John William’s father on the 1939 Electoral Register, living at the address which is shown on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Certificate, 4, Salisbury Road, Gloucester.

I believe that John William Harding (Snr) and Alice Jane Bowkett  married in 1897. She was his second wife and the stepmother of John William and Frederick James Harding. At the time of the wedding, John William would have been 6 and his brother was 4.  Were they already in the orphanage by then?

I still have no clue about 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. Presumably she died when they were very young.

It seems that Circumstances had  made it impossible for their father to look after the two boys. (The link to the Shawcross family above suggests there was a drink problem)

A personal note (researcher Mavis Williams)

In August 2016, I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Mrs Scott. Her father was Leslie Shallcroft one of the Shallcroft brothers.  Her husband,  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 had written  out in longhand and had  given it to the creator of the website, “Buckley at War.” He transcribed and added to the website. There is a link to this above.

When I started to research the story of William John Harding’s 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. Mrs Shallcroft’s name appeared  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 Regiment were buried together. Both men were Attached. 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).

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Hawarden Memorial

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