Carisbrooke Harry's father, George Cooley, was born in 1844 in Gunville, a part of Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight. At the age of 16 he was a general labourer, like his father and younger brother but, ten years later, in 1871, he was a mason and married with a baby son. Another ten years saw him as a 'warder in the convict service', living at Parkhurst.

George married Vashti Wearn at St John's, Ryde on 25 December 1869. Over the following 17 years they had 7 children. The eldest, George Edward, has been mentioned elsewhere and will be dealt with in more detail below. The second oldest child, Vashti Louisa, born in Ryde in 1872, married Edward Burridge, another prison warder (pictured below with an impressive white moustache). The Burridges carried the name Vashti onwards with their daughter, Vashti Winifred, who married Francis G Murrell in 1927 (below). They were both very interested in Moral Re-Armament and some of their friends from that period can be seen in the photo on the Family Album page.

Marriage of Vashti Winifred Burridge to Francis G Murrell 1927Vashti Louisa Burridge nee Cooley is beside the bride, her daughter, Vashti Winifred Murrell, nee Burridge

William Charles was born in 1874, also in Ryde, and by the age of 26 was a shoemaker.
Henry James was the 4th child and then came Frank Victor in 1881, who was a harness maker living in Winchester in 1901 but died in 1904 of TB.

Edgar John, born in 1884, joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and was a Lance Corporal when he was killed in action with the 10th Battalion, Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) on the 17 November 1917 in Flanders. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, near Ieper in Belgium, which "bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known...." He died towards the end of the Third Battle of Ypres: "an offensive mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge had been a complete success, but the main assault ... quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele". (

Evelyn Walter had a similarly tragic fate. He was born in 1887 and he was the son who followed in his father's footsteps, becoming - briefly - a warder at Parkhurst prison. Before that, however, he had worked as a carpenter, as this is how he is described in the 1911 census, living with his widowed mother and his older brother, Edgar, on Horsebridge Hill, Parkhurst. Like Edgar, he was a Lance Corporal when he was killed in action on 23rd August 1916. He was serving with the 1st Hampshire Regiment and was buried in Cambrin churchyard extension. "Whilst the lesser-known sectors may not have seen the very large set-piece battles of the Somme and the Ypres Salient, there were battles fought here and in some cases particular sectors were loathed by the soldiers who spent time there" ( This is an area close to that described by Robert Graves in 'Goodbye To All That'. There is also a memorial to Evelyn outside Camp Hill prison, Parkhurst, but this does not seem to be accessible to the casual visitor.

Union Road, Ryde

To return to the Isle of Wight...Vashti Wearn was 3 years younger than her husband and was born in Ryde. Her father, William, was a labourer (working as a porter at the time of her marriage) and gardener but died of heart disease at the age of 45. His father, James, was an ostler but nothing else is known of the Wearn family. Vashti's mother, Emily Read, came from Wiltshire to work as a servant and after her marriage worked as a laundress - which presumably means taking in washing. Vashti had a sister, Emily, born 1844 and a brother, William, born 1845, who was working for a chemist by the time he was 16.They all lived at 23 Union Road in Ryde in 1851, which is only a two minute walk from the sea.

George and Vashti's youngest child, Evelyn, was only 11 years old when George died. He (George) had been invalided out of the prison service - though not, so far as I can ascertain, due to assault by a prisoner as the family story tells - and died at home in 1898 of Locomotor Ataxia, a disease with similar symptoms to Parkinson's Disease.

The eldest son, George Edward Cooley, followed a similar career to his younger brother, Harry - though less distinguished on most counts, it seems. He spent 6 years in India before returning to Colchester and marrying Alice Mary Osborn, Het's older sister. He also spent 18 months in South Africa, though in different areas from Harry: George was at the battle of Laings Nek and the relief of Ladysmith. From 1902 to 1908 he and Alice and their children were in India again, at Secunderabad. He seems to have left the Army after they had moved to Leek in Staffordshire and worked as a grocer for some time. He was at home and in the reserve for most of the Great War.

George Cooley Snr's family were well-entrenched in Carisbrooke: the Cooleys were chiefly agricultural labourers, with some of them being described as market gardeners. George's grandmother, Susan (born in Weymouth, Dorset in about 1788) seems to have done well enough at this to have had property ("a piece of Freehold Land...and a Cottage or Tenement and small stable") to pass on at the time of her death in 1856 (even if the Net Annual Value of the fifth inherited by her son James Cooley only amounted to £1.7.5!). Her achievement is all the more impressive as she seems to have been hindered by her wastrel husband, Benjamin Cooley, who features several times in the Quarter Sessions. The most serious of these was

"on the Tenth Day of August in the Fifty sixth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord GEORGE the THIRD, at Newport aforesaid, in the Borough aforesaid, in and upon one George Richards, Clerk then and there being in the Peace of God, and of our said Lord the King, with Force and Arms, an Assault did make, and him the said George Richards then there did beat, wound, and evil ill-treat, and then and there to him other enormous Things did to the great Damage and hurt of him the said George Richards to the evil Example of all others offending in the like Kind, and against the Peace of our said Lord the King, his Crown, and Dignity"
For what sounds like an 1826 version of GBH, Benjamin was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment "in the Common Bridewell" for 14 days and was bound over to keep the peace for a year. He had been indicted for poaching 10 years before this offence and in 1828 was indicted for an assault on a PC Chalk.

In 1834, with 5 of his children still under the age of 10, he was on the parish list of paupers and lodging with Emmanuel Kimber, his eldest son William's new father-in-law. Benjamin died in 1838 at the age of 53.

Calbourne church

William's wife, Charlotte Kimber, would have been used to behaviour like Benjamin Cooley's. Her father, Emmanuel, who was born in the same year as Benjamin, had a similar record. Between 1829 and 1837 he appeared at the County Petty Sessions twice for poaching, twice for assault and once for disobeying orders. He was fined sums between five shillings and five pounds and was committed to jail for 3 months in default of a payment. He was also on the 1834 list of paupers.

Emmanuel's father, Joseph, died in the Newport House of Industry in 1818, so perhaps he was born with more than average disadvantages. However, his maternal great grandfather, Anthony Groves (born Newchurch 1711), had been a miller at Calbourne. (Calbourne church pictured left). Anthony's line can be traced back to his great, great grandfather, Edmund Grove, born in the late part of the 16th century.

Returning, briefly, to some Cooley gossip from the archives: two of Benjamin's sons (William's much younger brothers, Henry and James) sired children by a woman called Sarah Coster of the House of Industry. On a more wholesome note, one of William's sons - another James - carried on the market gardening tradition with his wife Louisa. They had a daughter, Louisa, and a son, James. This younger James, born in 1887, joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker, leaving his wife to run the Flower Pot Inn at Northwood, and he died in 1914.