The Picton family, of whom the Revd David was killed by a hand grenade in 1916
Notes by Janet Gyford, updated September 2013
Essex County Chronicle, 8 October 1915
page 8 (see xerox). ‘Soldiers’ concert’ Congregational Schoolroom. Lieut Col Seymour Williams presided. Singers ‘included Mrs Seabrook, Lance Corporal Webber and Pt Brooks. Miss Picton played the violin’. (Essex Weekly News, 15 October 1915 )
page 8. ‘Maldon Division Liberal Council. Presentation to Mr W Pinkham. Yesterday the annual meetings of the Maldon Division Liberal Council were held at Witham … afternoon meeting … Mr Sydney Velden, the new agent, was introduced to the members. After tea a general meeting … they were met in a social way and not to discuss party questions. The Government were doing their best, and he thought they were unanimous in according them hearty support … appreciation of Mr Tweedy Smith’s services in continuing his connection with the party in that Division … Resolution … supported by the Rev D M Picton and Mr D B Smith.
Essex County Chronicle, 26 November 1915
page 8. ‘Congregational School, Mrs Picton presented a dressing case to Mr J W Jones, treasurer of the clothing club, and a set of brushes to Mr A Rudkin, librarian of the school, on the departure of each for the Army. The Rev D M Picton gave the men a pocket testament each’.
Essex County Chronicle, 18 February 1916, page 8
‘Congregational Church’. Second anniversary of settlement of Rev Picton. Preaching.
Essex County Chronicle, 16 June 1916
Including a full-length photo of the three Pictons). ‘Witham Bomb Tragedy. Inquest and funerals’. Deaths of Revd D M Picton Congregational minister, and Lieut James McLagan, R E, and serious injury to Mrs and Miss Picton’. Lieut billeted at the Manse with them. Showing a hand grenade at ten on night. The two of them killed outright. Mrs Picton injury to foot and Miss Picton to eye and arm. 17 panes of glass blown out of window.
Rev Picton 52, Lieut 22, of 3/1st Highland Field Co., attached to the 1/3rd Lowland Field Co. RE. Walter Coker chair of jury. Inspected scene etc. and viewed bodies. Jacob Marsden Picton, draper of Westminster Bridge Road, his brother. Lots of detail. The Lieut an expert.
‘Remarkable demonstration of sympathy’. Cortege from Manse, ministers etc. Down High Street to church. Flags half mast and blinds closed. Interment in All Saints. ‘It is long since such a general scene of mourning was witnessed in the town’. Rev E M Edmunds of Hadleigh, formerly of Witham, there. Address. Miss Winifred Drake at organ. Relatives from all over.
Sunday services described. Also ‘Capt Yuille, CF, at his open-air service, made an impressive allusion … also loss … McLagan’.
Letter of appreciation by WCW of Witham. Tragic. Loveable, happy knack of making friends.
Essex Weekly News, 21 July 1916
page 6, col 6. The Picton Fund. The Picton Memorial Fund, the appeal for which was generously responded to by all classes, has now been closed, the sum contributed being £320. Mrs and Miss Picton are both making steady progress towards recovery from their injuries and shock.
Info from emails from the late Alan Smith. His mother was Gwyneth, nee Picton, Reverend David Picton’s daughter, and his father was Leslie Smith.
11 December 2002.
Just a few words on them to amplify what you have about the bomb accident and their part in the family.
Grandpa David Picton was Welsh and, I think, was born in Cynwyl Elfed, a small village near Carmarthen. He was, again I think, a grand -son or -nephew of a brother of the General Picton who commanded the 3rd Division for Wellington in the Peninsular War and was killed at Waterloo and has a statue in Carmarthen. (Certainly his purported general’s sword came down to me but that is another story.)
Rev. David was pastor at Halesworth in Suffolk where he married Elizabeth Rignall and where my mother was born before they came to Witham. As a result of the accident my grandmother had various metal plates and tubes in her legs and my mother lost an eye and had bits of shrapnel in her legs. After the accident they both went to live with the Misses Butler who lived at Hollybank in Guithavon Valley.
Having been head girl at Milton Mount College (for the daughters of Congregational Ministers) then at Gravesend, she went on after the accident to the Royal Academy of Music where she won the medals for her years in piano and violin. Having married my father after WW1, her music as a farmer’s wife was limited, but much enjoyed, to running the Women’s Institute Choir and playing the piano at home.
Granny Picton moved to a new house, Conwyl (?English version of Cynwyl) at 7, The Avenue at Witham in the 30’s where I stayed frequently as a boy. In the 50’s my first wife, Susie, and I lived in Conwyl and where my eldest daughter and son were born and where Susie sadly died. (My present wife, Jo, was a great friend of Susie’s and was good enough to take on me and two small children – we have had 5 ever since!)
8 Jan 2003
‘What I do know is that when my father, Leslie, came out of the army and decided to be a farmer, grandpa Ernest sent him to the Writtle Agricultural College to learn the business and then bought Mounts Farm at Rayne for him to run. My father and mother [Miss Picton] were married (1921) and lived at Mounts Farm where I spent most of my first two years. (Mounts Farm is miles from anywhere so I was born (1923) at the Misses Butler’s house, Hollybank, Guithavon Valley, Witham where granny Picton was then living)’.
Summary of various info about Leslie Ernest Walter Smith who in 1921 married Gwyneth Picton, dau of Rev Picton
Born c. 1895 Witham. In army 1919. Farmer afterwards; his father sent him to Writtle Ag Coll and then bought Mounts Farm, Rayne, for him
In 1921 married Gwyneth Picton, dau of Cong min who had been killed in accident with hand grenade at the Manse in 1917.
In 1925 went to father’s farm at Moulsham Hall (though also contin to run the Rayne farm). Joseph Ernest’s four farms put into partnership of Leslie and Esmond, probably in 1920s. In 1937 was of Moat farm and Whiteheads farm
Obit says till not long before 1954 farmed Moulsham Hall Gt Leighs with his brother and also at Rayne and at Whiteheads farm Witham Sold the first two not long before 1954 and moved to Littlestones, Avenue Road, Witham, and cont to farm Whiteheads,
Died August 1954 aged 59 when of Littlestones, Avenue Road
1930 electoral register
Elizabeth Mary Picton at Conwyl, The Avenue.
Mrs Ena MacPherson, nee Beard, born 1915
“But the Manse, oh, did you hear about the Reverend Picton that lived there? (Q: Oh yes, with the hand, the hand grenade, yes. [killed 1916]. And I was the last one he held. My mother went there to tea that day, and he nursed me, I was one. And I’d just gone home, mother had taken me home, and that happened. (Q: Oh dear.) Dreadful. Mrs Picton used to sit behind us in the chapel.”
Gerald Palmer CBE, born 1910
“That same minister, a Reverend Picton, had officers billeted on him in the Manse, now 2 Newland Street. One evening, I think in June 1916, one of the officers took a grenade in to show them. He evidently mistakenly thought it was a dummy, and as he was explaining how it worked, he took out the pin. The officer and the minister were killed outright, his wife and daughter seriously injured. My parents somewhat foolishly took me next day to see the shattered windows of the house, and I remember being terribly upset by the affair.”
Mrs Annie Ralling, nee Baldwin, born 1900
“Then we had the Reverend Picton and he was killed during the First World War. A bomb went off near the War Memorial, you know. That first house there was the Manse at one time and there was a young officer and I think he was engaged to Mr Picton’s daughter and he was there describing the workings of a hand grenade and it exploded and blew the dining room. Miss Picton lost the sight of one eye and I think Mrs Picton was hurt in the foot and this young officer was killed and so was Mr Picton. Oh it was dreadful for the town. It was indoors in the dining room. The whole of the front of that house was blown out. [2 Newland Street]. Shelley’s, yes that’s right. He was ever such a nice man Mr Picton. He taught Connie Wright that I spoke about, and me, taught us to sing Aberystwyth, you know, Jesu, Lover of my Soul. We had to sing that to the Welsh tune because he was Welsh you see. He taught us how to sing it. Oh he was a wonderful man for singing. A very nice family. Miss Picton she married one of the Smiths, Leslie Smith. They used to live at Earlsmead.”