Wordsworth, J Lionel

Captain J Lionel Wordsworth, taken from de Ruvigny's Roll of Honour 1914-20

Captain J Lionel Wordsworth, taken from de Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-20


John Lionel Wordsworth

Captain, 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers

Born 21 April 1882 in Manningham, Bradford

Killed in Action 4 November 1914

Age 32

Commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Panel 5


J Lionel Wordsworth was the second son of John Wordsworth, a coal agent of West Ardsley and Caroline Bates,  daughter of a stuff (cloth) merchant.  John (50) married Caroline (36) in 1879 in a service conducted by Revd James Laycock,  husband of her sister Ruth.  Brother William Henry Laycock was born in June 1880.  Lionel’s father died the day before his first birthday, leaving an estate worth over £5million** in today’s money.

Three years later his mother remarried John Wood, a 51 year old wine merchant of Westbourne Grove, Scarborough.   In 1891 Lionel (8) and his brother William (11) were living   at Westwood with their mother and step-father in the home of their aunt Ruth, now a widow.  Also living with them was their Governess Edith Allen, from Wakefield.  Caroline died in 1893 at the age of 50.  In the April 1901 Census William (21) and Lionel (18) were living at Glen Park, later called The Glen, on Hay Brow Crescent, Scalby with Edith Allen (now their housekeeper), a cook, two housemaids and a groom.

The Glen, Nov. 2013, now divided into separate dwellings

The Glen, Nov. 2013, now divided into sepa


The former stables of The Glen, Nov. 2013

The former stables of The Glen, Nov. 2013

Lionel went to Caius College, Cambridge that October and rowed for the college for 3 years.  In 1906 William married Ethel Rudgard, daughter of Richard Rudgard of Scalby Hall.  William, ‘a pillar’ of the local community, was a Churchwarden at St Laurence’s, a Parish and County Councillor, J.P., District Commissioner for the Boy Scouts, and member of the local Hunt.  He provided a ‘miniature range’ for the Scalby Volunteers platoon in 1915.  Knighted in the King’s birthday honours of 1937, Sir William and Lady Wordsworth lived at Glen Park until their deaths in 1960 and 1952 respectively.  They had no surviving children.  Her ashes were buried in her parents’ grave at St Laurence’s; his were scattered on top.

Lionel joined the 1st West Riding of Yorkshire (Western Division, Royal Garrison Artillery) Volunteer Militia on 7 August 1900, aged 18.  By March 1906 he had decided to make the army his career and passed the Competitive Examination to become a Second Lieutenant in the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers.  From 1 August 1909 to 9 November 1911 he was A.D.C. to General Sir Lawrence Oliphant.

On 15th August 1914 the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers sailed from Dublin to Le Harve, as part of eighteen cavalry regiments of the Cavalry Division, totalling 9,300 men and 9,800 horses.  Lt Wordsworth sailed with ‘C’ squadron.  They were present at the Battle of Mons, took part in the gruelling retreat and fought a rear guard action, followed by skirmishes at the Battle of the Marne, where the retreat ended.  It was then the Germans’ turn to retreat north into Belgium and towards Ypres.   Lionel Wordsworth also saw action in the Battles of the Aisne and Messines in the Autumn of 1914.

In his history of the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers, ‘The Harp and the Crown’, Ciaran Byrne describes how “by early November 1914 the regiment, along with the rest of 3rd Cavalry Brigade, had moved to Croix de Poperinghe in support of 1st Cavalry Brigade in trenches at Wulverghem.  The line was quite exposed and subjected to regular shell and sniper fire.  A section of dismounted French cavalry attacked from this point on 4th November and brought down a heavy bombardment on the trenches, forcing 4th Hussars to evacuate their positions.  The 5th Lancers remained where they were, just behind the trenches from whence the French had launched their unsuccessful attack.  This bombardment resulted in a number of casualties within the regiment, most notably that of Lieutenant J Lionel Wordsworth who had received promotion to Captain just two weeks previous.  (This promotion was not Gazetted and as such he remained officially at the rank of Lieutenant).”  Lionel’s body was not found and he is remembered on the Menin Gate.

The telegram that was sent from the War Office on 5 November to William H L Wordsworth at The Glen, Scalby, said, “Deeply regret to inform you that Lieut J L Wordsworth 5 Lancers was killed in action 4 November.  No further details.  Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.”

The Scarborough Mercury of 13 November 1914 reports “Captain J L Wordsworth, brother of Mr W H L Wordsworth of Glen Park, Scalby, has been killed in action at the front …. A month before his death he was promoted to the rank of Captain … He went out with the Expeditionary Force at the beginning of the war.  He was a good horseman and a well-known fox-hunter.  He was a member of the Yorkshire Cavalry and Bath Clubs.” 

  On 12 December 1914 William Wordsworth wrote to the War Office asking, “If it is possible for me to recover the kit” of his brother since he was “especially anxious to recover his sword but naturally would like to have as much as possible”.  The National Archives’ records do not contain a reply.

On 30 April 1915 the War Office wrote to Mrs Wordsworth at The Glen, asking if she would like to have Princess Mary’s Christmas Gift, to which her late brother in law was entitled.  This was a decorative brass tin containing one ounce of pipe tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a pipe, a tinder lighter, Christmas card and photograph of the Princess http://archive.iwm.org.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.994  William replied promptly that he would “greatly value this gift” and would be obliged to have it forwarded to him.

On 4 February 1916 The Scarborough Mercury reported that “Following a Communion service at the Scalby Parish Church on Saturday morning at eight o’clock, the dedication took place by the Vicar (Revd. W Hesmondhalgh) of the memorial placed in the church last week by Captain W H L Wordsworth to the memory of his brother …. the window is that facing south, next the main entrance to the church.  The design is of a chaste and beautiful character, subdued and delicate in colouring.  Four life-size figures appear, representing St George and St Michael in the centre and St Peter and St John at the sides.”  Mr Norman Bogie, a member of St Laurence’s Church, has put forward the plausible theory that the face of St George, the second figure from the right, is based on the face of Lionel Wordsworth.  The figure has a faint moustache!

St George. Is this the face of Lionel Wordsworth?

St George. Is this the face of Lionel Wordsworth?

On 26 March 1916 the paper reported the details of Lionel Wordsworth’s Will.  His estate was worth £45,711 14s (equivalent to £3,336,000** in 2013).  He left £100 to the Scarborough Hospital and a life annunity of £250 (£17,000**) for Edith Allen as a token of friendship and esteem and of his appreciation of her services and, from her decease an annuity of £50 (£3,000**) to her sister Mary Allen; £100 each to his butler Austin Edward Jopling, and Mary Cosgrove, former servant to his mother.  Lionel also left “£50 to Emma Webb, wife of his coachman” (and mother to Corporal Arthur Webb who was to be killed in action in April 1918 and is also remembered on the Scalby war memorial).  Further amounts were left to his solicitors and former guardians Arthur Harrison Stamford and Percival John Metcalfe and to fellow officers in the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, Lieuts. Brian Winwood Robinson, Edwin Winwood Robinson (killed in action 9 days before Lionel Wordsworth), the Hon. Herbrand Alexander (who later became a Lt. Col.) and Captain Edgar Sleigh.  The residue of his property was left to his brother William.  Should his brother leave no issue (which occurred) one-eighth was to go to his sister in law, three eighths to Edith Allen, and two eighths each to Arthur Stamford and Lieut. Brian Robinson.

The Scalby Urban District Council (UDC) Minutes of 30 May 1917 state, “ Letter dated 28 May 1917 received from Mr WHL Wordsworth, asking the council “ to accept from Mrs Wordsworth and himself a gift to the village of a War Shrine and suggesting if the offer were accepted that a small Committee be appointed to compile a list of names of men from the village who had served or were serving their country in the present war and to consider other matters”.  A design of the proposed shrine was enclosed in the letter.

Mr Wordsworth offered to “maintain and keep up the War Shrine provided the Council agreed to put the ground and hedge round it in a proper state of cultivation, and keep up and maintain the same” and by 31 October the names of 190 men and 2 women had been agreed.   The war shrine was placed on the High Street opposite what is now St Laurence’s vicarage, next to the Jubilee fountain.  It was described in the Scarborough Mercury as, “A handsome shrine in woodwork, appropriately decorated in an ecclesiastical design”, and was the work of a Birmingham firm that specialised in such items.  It was unveiled in January 1918 by Mrs Ethel Wordsworth in the presence of a large number of villagers and others, including the National Reserve Band from Scarborough, and dedicated by the Bishop of Hull.  In 2014 one or two older members of St Laurence’s remembered the shrine but its fate is unknown.

The war memorial in Scalby churchyard was unveiled in April 1921 “amidst every manifestation of respect for the dead” the Scarborough Mercury of 22 April reports.  At the end of a long article about the ceremony it describes “A large number of wreaths and flowers” placed at the foot of the memorial, including one from Mr and Mrs Wordsworth and Miss Edith Allen, Lionel Wordsworth’s former nanny, governess and housekeeper.

Lionel Wordsworth left his medals to his brother.  They were sold at auction in June 2013 for £980.  It is not known who sold or bought them.

Memorial window to Lieut. J L Wordsworth, St Laurence's Church, Scalby

Memorial window to Lieut. J L Wordsworth, St Laurence’s Church, Scalby

Inscription on memorial window

Inscription on memorial window

Inscription panel 2

Inscription panel 2

** http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/


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