Sadly this is all that remains of a once magnificent memorial to the Ellis family in Radnor Street Cemetery. Thieves armed with cutting equipment removed the ornate metalwork and with it all reference to the family buried there.
William Ellis was one of the first members of the New Swindon Local Board, a director of the Swindon Building Society, Chairman of the New Swindon Gas Company and a director of the Swindon Water Company. A devout Methodist, he was described as being ‘a most acceptable lay preacher widely known in Wiltshire and South Wales.’
Expansion at the GWR Works in 1861 saw the building of new Rolling Mills. Once established the rail mill produced an estimated 19,300 tons of rails a year with the workforce consisting mainly of Welsh iron workers.
Thomas Ellis was the first manager at the Rolling Mills and was responsible for building the cottages along Cambria Place to house the Welsh workers.
William came to Swindon with his two young children and took over as manager in 1863. The family’s first home was at 4 Church Place, before moving to the Woodlands, a GWR manager’s house.
When William died on May 25 1896 the Advertiser published a lengthy obituary in which he was described as having the ‘esteem of the large number of men who were under his control.’
“The first portion of the funeral service was conducted at 8 am on the lawn in front of the Woodlands by Revs A.A. Southerns and G. Osborne. Portions of Scripture were read, and hymns No. 680 and 940 from the Wesley hymn book were sung at the close of the beautiful and impressive early morning service,” the Advertiser reported. “The cortege then proceeded to a saloon, which was placed near the house, and the family left by the 9-5 train for Abergavenny where a hearse and carriages were in waiting to convey the remains and family to Lanelly church, where a large number of friends from neighbouring places had assembled.”
William’s son Ernest followed his father into the Rolling Mills where he worked as Assistant Manager. He and his wife Catherine lived at the old Ellis family home at 4 Church Place. Two of their children who died in infancy were buried in the Radnor Street plot, Olga Louise in 1897 aged 2 years and 2 months and Louis Robert in 1890 aged just six months.
Ernest died in 1915. The Advertiser published an account of the Memorial Service held in the Wesley Chapel, Faringdon Street during which Ernest was described as a man who ‘hoped for the best, and believed of the best in people,’ ironic considering the vandalism of his family's memorial.
Ernest’s wife Catherine who died in 1931 aged 78 and his sister Louisa who died in 1944 aged 89 were both buried in the family plot. The names of William and his wife Emily were included on the family memorial.
Fortunately there are photographs of the distinctive monument preserved on Duncan and Mandy Ball’s website. Without this record the memory of one family who made such a large contribution to 19th century Swindon would be lost.
Photograph of the memorial is courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball. Visit their website on www.oodwooc.co.uk