Henry George Gilham  1889 – 1973

Henry was born on 6th December 1889 at Eastling, a village about four miles away from Faversham and was baptised on 12th January 1890 at St Mary’s in Eastling. His parents were Henry George, a labourer, and Alice (née Hayward), and he was one of five children. 

In the 1891 Census, the family are living at 2 Hockley Hole Cottage in Throwley, and Henry senior was employed as an agricultural labourer. It is not clear what happened to Henry senior as he seemed to disappear between this census and the 1901 Census when Alice was living with William Foster, a farm bailiff, at Pineham Farm in Whitfield, using his surname and claiming to be married. No record of this marriage has been found to date. 

Three of Henry senior’s children were also living with her and William Foster, using the Gilham surname, and there was another daughter named Beatrice Foster, aged four. 

By 1911, William and Alice had moved to Coxhill in Shepherdswell. Alice claimed 25 years of marriage and six children, and Henry had the surname Foster on this census. His little sister Beatrice was also with them. Henry was employed as a gardener and his place of birth was described as Barham. 

Following Banns, Henry married Florence Elizabeth Williams on the 23rd September 1912 at St Andrew’s, Shepherdswell. His father was apparently deceased. The directories show that they lived first at Woodbine Cottage, then Oak Close and finally Coxhill, before disappearing from the village around 1920-21.

No War records have been found with certainty for Henry using his first name/s, initials and surname at birth, or (as a long shot) the surname Foster. The Dover Express of 30th June 1916 reported Mr Higgs appealing to Dover Rural District Tribunal for an exemption for Henry, who was by then a waggoner with two horse teams, employed on Coxhill Farm. He was given a conditional exemption at this point, but nothing else has been discovered to date.

William Foster died in March 1914, a ‘well-known resident of Coxhill’. Alice appeared to remain at Coxhill, calling herself Mrs W Foster, until 1925, according to the directories. Research for Beatrice showed that she was registered at birth as Beatrice Maud A Gilham, in the second quarter of 1897, and it seems likely that William and Alice were not married, as they had claimed. Alice died in 1937 in Barham with the surname of Gilham.

Henry and Florence appear to have had five children between 1914 and 1926, with the 1939 Register showing them living at 2 Oak Cottages in Coldred. Henry was working for KCC as a ‘roadman’ and was an ARP rescuer. His father, Henry senior, was found on this register in the Kent County Mental Hospital at Chartham and was described as ‘incapacitated’. Prior to that, initials only had been used to identify patients, so he had possibly been here since the 1890s. 

Henry junior died on 23rd January 1973, at 2 Coldred Cottages, and was buried at St Pancras, Coldred on the 29th, aged 83.