Whilton Locks Trail

Finding out about the men of our parish during the First World War is an on-going project.  Our population was small and the records are variable for those who served.  In 1940 there was a World War Two bombing raid on the War Office in London where the records were held. During this raid, a large portion (approximately 60 percent) of the 6.5 million records was destroyed by fire. The surviving service records have become known as the ‘Burnt Documents’.  Following the bombing raid many of these records suffered water damage.

It is usually easier to identify men who died than those who survived.  In Whilton all survived and this increases the problem, although we must be thankful for them and their families.

Besides this there were many men of the same name, and without extra details, it is very hard to identify those from Whilton.  We hope that as a result of our walks and website, more information may come to light.

Map of the sites in Whilton Locks

The map shows the site of the houses, or where they used to be.

Although Whilton Locks has changed much since Harry Reynolds and the other heroes of the First World War lived there, this trail guide will show you where they lived and provide an insight into their lives.

Please note - there is no access to Whilton Lodge, as it is a private residence and Whilton Mill is only viewable from the road.

Guided Walks

The Whilton Local History Society organises guided walks for the Harry Reynolds Trail; please see our calendar for details of our next walk. 


1. Wharf House (now Whilton Carpet Shop)

This was the family home of Harry Reynolds, winner of the Victoria and Military Crosses in 1917. He was born here in 1879 and lived in the house until about 1910. He worked in the family farming and coal business, and also dealt in corn, salt, lime and other commodities using the canal, the railway and horses and carts.  His first two children were born here before he moved for a short time to Norton and then to East Haddon.

The Wharf House was bought by Frank Litchfield, a Boer War veteran. He and Harry had both served in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry as young men. He was a horse- breaker and trainer, with a good reputation. He was posted to France on 6th November 1914.   He became a Second Lieutenant in the 1/1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry, but on 8th January 1915 he was reported wounded.  He recovered and in March 1916 was enjoying a short leave after many months in France. When he came home for leave in September 1917 had been promoted to Captain.

In May 1919 the Litchfields sold up in Whilton and moved to Brixworth Grange where Frank held an office with the Brixworth Grange Prisoner of War Centre.  His interest in horses continued and when he died in 1946 he was still at the Grange, where he was Secretary of the Pytchley Hunt .


2. House near the site of Canalside Restaurant

When war broke out Frank Mercer was the Canal Toll Clerk.  It seems likely that he lived in the house, now demolished, near the present Garden Centre.  Frank Grover Stuart and Charles Alexander Mercer were his two oldest sons.  By February 1915 both had enlisted, Stuart being about 19 and Alexander 18.  Stuart may have dropped the name Grover for his Army career, making it impossible so far to identify him. Alexander may be the Charles A Mercer who was a driver in the Royal Horse Artillery.  If so, he went to France in May 1915 and was awarded the Victory, British and 1915 Star medals.

The family had moved from Whilton by the end of the war.  Frank Grover Stuart Mercer died in London in 1980, aged 84.


3. Whilton Lodge

Richard Maxwell Cozens probably arrived in Whilton as the employee of Sir Kay Muir.  He had been educated at an orphanage and choir school in Streatham and had risen to become the butler at Whilton Lodge.  His baby son Richard Harding Cozens was baptised at Whilton Church on 26 March 1916. He  was a private in the Essex Yeomanry GS/19357, Company  of Dragoons: D/15877, and was awarded the Victory and British medals in 1919.  

He died in St Thomas Hospital, Surrey in October 1921 aged 40.


4. The Laundry (Brooklyn)

Arthur William Ariss was the stepson of William Marks of Whilton, born about 1891 in Great Barford, Deddington, Oxon. Before the war he was living in Stenson Street, James’ End in Northampton and earned his living as a gardener. He was married to Violet Louisa Townley, daughter of Tom Townley, the thatcher, who lived in  Brooklyn and later at Muscott.  Arthur’s daughter Violet Alice was baptised here in July 1916, and another daughter Winifred May in October 1919, when Arthur was still listed as a soldier, before being demobilised.


5. Wheelgate House

Albert Cattell Clarke was a boot clicker, who had been born in Long Buckby. He was a drapery and grocery shopkeeper with his wife Emily Jane assisting in the business at Whilton Locks.

For the first years of the war many in the boot and shoe industry were considered to be in reserved occupations. This changed in 1917. Only those with “special reasons” were to be exempted. The Northampton Appeals Tribunal had to consider a number of persons engaged in the trade. In the case of Albert Clarke, 37, married,  a clicker and sorter, who  carries on a provision business at Whilton Locks, the Military Appeal was adjourned for ten days for a further medical examination.  

After this, by October 1917, the examination had classed Albert as C1. It seems that the appeal was successful.  He remained at the Locks until his death in 1958.


6. Spotted Cow (Foursquare Farm)

Oscar Woodhams enlisted  at Northampton on 1st  September 1914 when he was 19, working as a wheelwright and living with his family in Long Buckby. He had  a fresh complexion, grey eyes, and brown hair.

He served as a private in the Northamptonshire Regiment (13288) and went to France on 15th April 1915 as part of the British Expeditionary Force.  He suffered gunshot wounds in his back in 1915, his hand in 1916 and his thigh in 1917 and was returned to hospitals in England for treatment. He had numerous postings, and could write in 1920:  “My late number was 13288. The corps I belonged to I cannot remember as I was in so many.”

By October 1916 his address on leave was The Spotted Cow Inn, Whilton Locks, where his parents, Fred and Eliza, were running the pub. He was awarded the Victory, British, and Star medals.
On demobilisation he gave his address as Whilton Locks.  He married in 1919 and then lived near Stony Stratford.  He died in Northampton Hospital in 1946.


7. Windlass Cottage

Tom Adams and his family lived here before the war. Tom was a canal lengthsman and looked after the maintenance of the canal between Whilton and Weedon.  He served as a driver with the Royal Army Service Corps. He embarked from Southampton on the SS St Pancras on 18th February 1915 and landed in France the next day. 

During the war the family moved up to the village, but there was a labour shortage in agriculture. In November 1917 he was given leave to return  for duty as a ploughman probably at Roughmoor Grounds, and stayed throughout the winter. We can only imagine his feelings in April 1918 when he had to embark from Southampton again. He had another year of service in France before he was able to come home in April 1919.

He had served throughout the war and was awarded the 1914/15 Star Medal, the British War Medal and the Victory medal.  He spent the rest of his life in Whilton.  In old age people remembered him as gruff, old fashioned and still wearing a smock, using a yoke to carry his milk pails, and very sharp with children.  Was this part of the legacy of his wartime experience, or was that his natural inclination?  We can only guess.  He died aged 78 in 1959.


8a/b. Whilton Mill and Locks Cottages

Alice Rose Taylor of Whilton had been in service in Wellingborough.  There she had met and married her greengrocer husband, John Horace Clements. Their first two children were brought back to Whilton for baptism.

 Once the First World War began, John  enlisted on 11 December 1915 and Alice was left on her own with two small children. On 4 February 1916: the headline in the  Mercury read: “Zeppelins raid the Midland Counties: Heavy casualties.”  This event had so terrorised Alice that it helped her make the decision to come home, where she took a cottage at Whilton Mill. 

John was a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery . He left England from Devonport on 1 May 1917 and was on his way to join the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force in extreme heat sometimes rising to 120ºF.  He was north of Basra when he suffered from sandfly fever, a very unpleasant condition caused by an infected bite.  He left Basra on the “Hyperia” which six months later was to be sunk near Port Said.

As the war ended JF Ashby of the Mill wrote requesting that John should be released to work for him. “ I am short of labour and having to plough more land.  I want someone to plough and he is a man that has been with horses all his life.”  When John came home in 1919 his address was Whilton Mill near Daventry, but the Clements family later moved into the Locks Cottages.


9. Unidentified houses at Whilton Locks

Charles William Morris had been born in 1894 in Stanground near Peterborough.  By 1911 he was living with his aunt and uncle at Fletton Rural near Peterborough and was employed as a clerk to the Railway Company.

In 1914 he married Hannah Warner, from Buckby Wharf, who worked as a shoe hand. Her father was a bricklayer from Leicester and her mother had been born at Buckby Wharf. By 1918 Hannah’s parents, James and Mary Ann Warner, were listed on the Whilton Register of Electors, and so must have moved into Whilton Locks.

Charles’ and Hannah’s daughter Mary was born in Whilton Locks and baptised in Whilton Church on 11 August 1918.  Hannah may well have lived with her parents during the war, as the baptism register records Charles William Morris as “soldier”. There were many of this name in the Forces and no record has yet been found to identify a Regiment for him.  
Charles and Hannah had five children in all.  He died in Daventry in 1949, aged 55.

At another property in Whilton Locks lived Isaac William Kilsby. He was listed as a military voter at the Locks in 1918.  He was the son of railway platelayer Henry Richard Kilsby and Mary Ann Kilsby, born and baptised in Weedon in 1891.  By 1901 the family was living in 2 Railway Cottages, Muscott Lane in Norton parish.  In 1911 he was still living with his parents, as an estate carpenter, but in September 1913 he married Sophia Eleanor Mawby.  It seems possible that the family continued to live at Railway Cottages, but referred to this as Whilton Locks.  He died in Flore in 1959