Fireman Arthur Charles Hodges, Mercantile Marine Reserve, was born in Acton, West London, in December 1877 to Charles and Mary Ann Hodges (née Barber), both Londoners. He was the eldest of their 12 children.
His father was born in St Pancras in 1855 and grew up in Marleybone and Hammersmith, working in a variety of jobs before settling into a job as a dock worker. His mother was born in Whitechapel in 1858. When the couple married on the 12th of August 1877 in All Saints Church, South Acton, Charles was working as a ‘Carman’ (a delivery driver). South Acton had remained a rural area until a large area of land was sold for development in 1859. Building developed rapidly with people moving into the area from all over the country, together with people, like Charles and Mary Ann, moving out of crowded inner-city areas.
They didn’t stay in South Acton for long however. The couple moved to East London at some point after their second son Frederick was born in 1880. By the time the census was taken in April 1881 Charles and Mary Ann were living in Leicester St., Poplar, with their two boys. Charles was now working as a Railway Goods Porter. Their third child William Henry was born in August 1884 but died in 1886, before he was even 2 years old.
By spring 1891 the couple had moved home again, to Lawrence St., Canning Town, just north of the Royal Victoria Dock, and Charles was working as a Labourer. They had six children: Arthur, Frederick, Charles, Annie, Ellen and Albert. Young Albert died of measles the following year when he was only 16 months old. Most people moved to Canning Town to work in the docks, or in businesses related to the docks. It had seen rapid growth after the opening of the Great Eastern branch railway line in 1846, and the opening of the Royal Victoria Dock in 1855. The fastest phase of growth came after the 1880s, in the heyday of the Royal Docks. But the industries around the dock were often unhealthy and dangerous and, as trade unions and political activists fought for better living conditions, the dock area became the centre of numerous social reform movements. Arthur’s brother Charles Reuben was only 27 years of age when he lost his life from inflammation of the lungs no doubt as a result of working in the local rubber factory.
Arthur married Sarah Fairbrass in 1907 in West Ham, at the age of 29. His daughter Annie Eugenie was born in 1908 and his son Arthur William Charles in 1910.
In 1911 Arthur and Sarah were living at Scott St. Canning Town with their two children. Arthur was a Dock Labourer.
That same year Arthur’s parents were living at 25 Brent Rd, Canning Town, Victoria Docks. According to the census Charles and Mary Ann had 12 children, 9 of whom were still living. Their children Frederick, Walter, Albert, Henry, Helen, Elizabeth and Mary were living at home. Charles was still working as a Dock Labourer.
Arthur’s daughter, Rosina Eleanor was born in 1913 and died in the autumn of 1914, the same year Arthur went to war. In 1915 his son Frederick was born but sadly he died, at 3 years of age, the year after the Laurentic sank.
Arthur’s brother Walter was also a casualty of WW1, dying in December 1918, in Armentières, Nord, France, at the age of 23. He is buried in Cité Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.
Arthur Charles Hodges’ body was recovered from the sea and is buried at St. Muras Church Yard, Upper Fahan, Donegal.
Census Returns of England &Wales, 1881, 1891 & 1911: The National Archives of the UK
General Register Office: England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission – http://www.cwgc.org/
Canning Town Folk – http://www.ju90.co.uk/ctfolk/ctfolk1.htm
Photograph of Arthur and information about the Hodges family kindly supplied by his great niece Janice Hobbs.