A Hull Telephone Clerk’s Last Swim

This post’s title was the sub head to a report in the Driffield Times, 25 June 1904.

Drowning Fatality in River Hull

Mr Herbert Brown, Deputy Coroner for the East Riding, held an inquest on Tuesday night, at the Three Jolly Tars Inn, Wilfholme, near Driffield, as to the death of Frederick Stanley Elsom (16), son of William Henry Elsom, of 157, Walton Street, Hull, engineer and ship-smith. The deceased was a telephone clerk in Hull.

The father stated that the deceased left home on Saturday evening with a friend, their intention being to spend eight or nine days’ holiday in a houseboat on the River Hull. The deceased had been in a boat for two or three days last summer. He was a fairly good swimmer, and he was in the habit of bathing every morning in one of the Hull docks.

Harry Pegden, of Olive House, Southcoates Lane, Hull, stated he was with the deceased on the houseboat. They arrived off The Three Jolly Tars Inn, on Sunday, and moored for the night. On Monday morning they got up about .30, and soon afterwards the deceased remarked that he would like to go for a swim, but the witness endeavoured to dissuade him. He, however, undressed and plunged into the river. He swam half way across and then turned, and swam down one side until he arrived about thirty yards from the houseboat. Then the deceased suddenly sank, and coming up again he made a gurgling noise. Witness threw him an oar, and unfastened the boat’s moorings to run down to where the deceased was but the wind carried his craft across the river. The deceased was then under the water. The witness ran his boat ashore, and went for assistance to the inn. The landlord (Mr Cooper) and witness searched for the body, and found it in about fifteen minutes; it  had drifted some distance. The body was taken into the boat, artificial respiration being unsuccessful.

Robert Cooper stated that the depth of the water where the body was about 15 feet. A strong undercurrent was running at the time.

The jury found that the deceased was accidentally drowned while bathing.

Frederick Stanley  is my second cousin twice removed and I only learned of his existence a few months ago. (My thanks to fourth cousin David for the information that gave me the connection.)

20170620NoSwimming1_1mToday is the anniversary of the drowning. I caught the 121 to Watton and walked the road to Easingwold Farm, then took the footpath south that became a shoulder high forest of umbels and grasses overflown by flights of kingfisher blue damselflies and meadow brown butterflies. At the Watton Beck Sluice the Environment Agency issued warnings 113 years too late.

Access to the Moorings at Wilfholme is discouraged. I met Mr Harrison in the yard outside what used to be the Three Jolly Tars Inn and he kindly took me up to the bank of the River Hull. He told me graphic and interesting tales of his sixty years farming here and renting the moorings; below us a houseboat that may well have been of the type hired by Frederick and Harry.

Unable to photograph the moored craft to my satisfaction I settled for this view looking north towards the Waterworks, now a Nature Reserve.


It is getting late. I will update this post with a few family history words tomorrow.

Today’s image (previous post) was made on the walk along Wilfholme Road to Beswick – and given Van Gogh I treatment in Topaz Impression 2. I didn’t feel  Monet I or II cut it.

Update 21 June 2017

The most recent common ancestors that make me a second cousin to Frederick Stanley are George ELSOM and Mary Ann, my 3rd great grandparents. Until this morning I didn’t know Mary Ann’s birth name – and I’m still not a hundred percent confident to proclaim her a ROBINSON. There is a marriage in Thornton Le Moor (Westwold Deanery), Lincolnshire between George ELSOM and Ann ROBINSON on 24th December 1835, (source Lincolnshire Marriage Index via Find My Past), that fits the birth pattern of census enumerated offspring. From other records “Mary Ann” would have been 29 years old at marriage and George 46 but the 1841 Census has mother and three daughters but no father George – and “Ann’s” age is given as 25. There seems to be a 20 year old sawyer in the household called Thomas ELSAM but he is at the bottom of the list. Enumerated in Cottingham, Yorkshire all claim to have been born in that county which is not supported by other records. The GRO record of my second great grandmother Caroline’s Lincolnshire birth gives her mother’s maiden name as ROBINSON.


The Ann of 1841 is 36 year old widow Mary Ann in 1851. In the next decade she gets twenty years older but her children’s ages progress  consistently. John Henry, 4 in 1851 is 15 at the next census and his nephew Fred, my great grandfather, is three.

The GRO record for John Henry’s birth omits his mother’s maiden name.


The family story is that  John Henry took on the care of Fred after his mother Caroline died in 1869. (Mary Ann died in 1868.) It was clearly a difficult job because at the 1871 census Fred was in a reformatory. John Henry was, I think, a successful self-employed gardener, 58 years old and a widower when his grandson Frederick Stanley drowned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was a little disappointed yesterday that I couldn’t find a peaceful – and beautiful – patch of riverbank to contemplate my distant relative’s death. One consoling thought I have had since is that Frederick was likely spared a longer and more painful end ten or so years later. He was the right sort of age for cannon fodder. I know this doesn’t make much sense but one must grasp at anything in an attempt to make sense of bad stuff that happens.

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