An employer’s letter of reference for a WW1 Cavers soldier

I’ve blogged before about finding unexpected gems on eBay related to my Cavers one-name study. Recently I was able to buy another, this time a letter of reference dating from 1916. The letter was written by a hop merchant in London, England.

1916 letter of reference for soldier Harold CaversTranscribing the letter it reads as follows:

9 Southwark Street, London
December 7th 1916

This is to certify that Harold C. Cavers, now a private in the 1/7th Battalion London Regiment (No. 8234, Lewis Gunner), has been in our service since 1907 and will, we sincerely hope, return to our service when the War is over. We have always found him truthful, faithful, attentive to business, most punctual and as honest as the day, and from our knowledge of him during the time he was with us, we know that under no circumstances or under any temptation would he wittingly commit any breach of trust.

(Signed) Arthur Morris Co.
of Arthur Morris & Co., Hop Merchants

I was curious about the circumstances in which such a letter might have been written for a serving soldier. Sadly this soldier’s detailed army service records don’t survive. Many soldier records were lost in the bombing of WW2. But another record reveals that he received the Silver War Badge, given to invalided soldiers to wear to show what had happened to them. This record also reveals that he enlisted in the 7th London Regiment on 15th November 1915, and was discharged on 11th July 1918, due to “Wounds”. At this time he was 26 years old, and had served overseas. An army pension record notes that he was living at Redcar in the northeast of England.

Harold Charles Cavers belonged to the large London Cavers family, probably of Scottish descent originally. He was born at Camberwell in 1892, son of licensed victualler (publican) Augustus Cavers and his wife (and cousin) Alice Fussell. In the 1891 census, the year before Harold was born, this Cavers family appear running the Black Raven pub in Bishopsgate, London.

Harold’s father Augustus Cavers died in 1895, aged just 39. By the 1901 census Harold, now aged 7, was living at the Licensed Victuallers School in Upper Kennington Lane, Lambeth, S.E. London.

By 1911 he was back living with his widowed mother Alice at 23 Cavour Street, Kennington, S.E. London. His occupation was noted in the census as “Junior Clerk, at Hop Merchant”. He was only 18 at this point, so must have started working for the hop merchants when he was 14 or 15, if the date in the letter is accurate.

Harold Charles Cavers survived the war, and in 1921, now aged 29 and a commercial traveller, he married 26-year-old Florence Winifred Elsie Davies. Both were living at 181 Dalling Road, Hammersmith, London.

Harold Charles Cavers died on 9th December 1935 at Hounslow Hospital, Hounslow, Middlesex. At the time he was living at 52 Paddenswick-road, Hammersmith, Middlesex. His wife Florence survived him.

London Poor Law school registers

Ancestry.com regularly adds new datasets, usually with indexes, transcripts and often linked images. I keep an eye on the new additions, and check any that might be promising for Cavers references. Usually that would need something Scottish based or UK wide. But when I spotted London Poor Law School Records I was hopeful, given the London Cavers family, which pops up in the poor relief records as well as records reflecting better times.

The new records online are the Poor Law School District Registers for 1852-1918, held by the London Metropolitan Archives. Only two Cavers names appear in the registers: brothers Edwin George Cavers (b. 1858) and Ernest Frederick Cavers (b. 1859). Note the older brother here is recorded in the school register as “George Edward Cavers”.

I’d found the brothers before in the Cleveland Street Workhouse in 1869 with their parents William and Sarah as well as younger siblings. The new school admission records date from the same period. Both brothers were admitted to Edmonton Schools on 27th March 1869. The admission register noted that neither had been in a workhouse school before, but both had been in another school or schools.

By the time of the 1871 census this large Cavers family were living at 4 Market Street, St Anne’s parish, Westminster. William was again noted as a gun maker, and together with his wife Sarah nine children were living in the household. This included Edwin Cavers, aged 14, and Ernest, aged 13.

I haven’t properly traced the brothers forward in time, but Ernest shows up in the 1939 Register, taken on the outbreak of war, a “Printer – Press” living in Great Percy Street, Finsbury, London, with a birth date noted as 7th October 1859. Noted as unmarried.

It is likely that other Cavers children in the nineteenth century received some form of poor relief, still to be uncovered.

A Cavers girl winning prizes at school in 1874

Again in the Southern Reporter back issues I found this reference. It’s from the 1874 August 6 edition, and is a prize list for Selkirk Grammar School. Elizabeth Cavers won two prizes: Recitation for Class IV, and the second prize for Writing in Class IV.

I’ve looked to see who she might be, and think she was probably the 1862-born daughter of William Cavers shoemaker at Lilliesleaf who I blogged about the other day. By the time of the 1881 census Elizabeth and her father and brother were living in Selkirk. She was recorded as her father’s housekeeper, aged 18. A decade earlier she was recorded in Edinburgh, as 8-year-old Lizzie Cavers, in the home of her older sister Margaret, Mrs Wood. Perhaps Lizzie moved back to live with her widowed father a few years later, and attended the local school in Selkirk for a while? There are no other likely candidates for Elizabeth Cavers in the prize list, so I’m fairly confident the identification is right. For more information about Elizabeth’s life see the Cavers family web page created by her relative.